Monday, March 30, 2009

Puddles Unite!

Could there possibly be a political future for my daughter? Maybe she'll be an activist, or perhaps a minister like her Grandfather and Uncle.

The day after the big rain Byron came in and informed me that Talia was saving the puddles.

She filled buckets with water from the water hose and then poured it dramatically into the shrinking puddles.
All the while yelling, "I'll save you!"
After doing this for quite a while she decided it was time to rally the forces. To arm the mindless puddle masses with their torches and pitchforks.
To bring them together with the rallying cry of, "we will not evaporate!"
She stood on high upon her trailer platform and gave her stirring speech.
"Oh most magnificent puddles! I will not let you evaporate! Come to me!"
The stirring passion that was behind each moving sentence!
The deep heartfelt gestures toward the menacing hot sun and heaven!
Then the closing that had all of the puddles quivering with the desire to jump up and throw Talia upon their crest and flow through the streets echoing her passioned cry....
Now, Time to go rub with the common puddle that made this movement possible.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Longer Afraid Of Zippers

Armed to the teeth with books, manuals, and even the little paper that came in the pack, I confronted
my greatest sewing fear.
Head on without wavering....
I confronted....
and conquered.....THE ZIPPER!!!
Just a few notes for other beginners.

* Patterns aren't sized like store sizes. They are smaller. At least the pattern I had was smaller. When I tried it on Tera for the first time it was too small. So, look at the measurements for the size of a pattern.

*I managed to salvage the too small skirt since it was way too long for Tera. The yoke was already sewed on. I cut the yoke and a couple of inches off of the top of the skirt carefully following the curve. Then I drew a pattern for a larger yoke and facing using the top of the skirt as a guide. I read in a book that if a waist was a little too small you could carefully trim the top to make it larger. They said a little goes a long way.

* I used tape to secure the zipper in place while I sewed it in.

*Putting a zipper in was really easy looking back on it. You stop sewing the seam right at the point where the zipper will be and clip the fabric 1/4 an inch at a 90 degree angle. Next baste (basting is using wide stitches that are easily removed to hold fabric closed or together) the zipper opening closed following the seam line. Then iron the basted seam open flat like a butter fly. Line up the zipper along the opening and tape in place. Turn over and sew the zipper in place, about 1/4 an inch on either side of the zipper opening. Sew a little line across the bottom of the zipper. Put and eye and hook at the top. Voila...You're done.

Friday, March 27, 2009

This Morning......

I'm like my chickens in the morning. I have to stagger around bleary eyed as I wake up in stages. Byron wakes me at 5:30 to give me my medicine. Synthroid...I had graves desease. I turn around, curl back up and sleep until 6:00 when Byron announces...."It's six Kristi....It's six Kristi....IT'S SIX KRISTI!"

Then I stagger to the uniforms, stagger to the girls room, throw the uniforms at them, and then stagger to the sofa where I collapse until the girls emerge at 6:20. By then I'm a little more awake....just a little more awake....this is all to explain why I didn't get a picture of the lake in my front yard before the pumps caught up....four inches of rain in 90 minutes. We were the lucky ones. Other areas received 12 inches of rain in as much time! It's spring.

The pumps are capable of pumping out an inch an hour, so when it rains like this the pumping stations can't keep up. My home is built close to the Mississippi River on a natural levee. During Katrina I didn't get flood water even when my neighbors closer to the highway but further from the river did. This was the opposite of what all of the neighbors thought would happen.

Anyway....this is expected to go one for most of this weekend. If the lake happens again I'll take a pic. There I am right at the toe of the Louisiana boot south of New Orleans. See me?
Since sludging through water and scouting for water moccasins doesn't appeal to me, I'm going to stay in and make my daughter a summer skirt. Yep, one complete with a zipper. Zippers are something I fear.
I think this fabric is just cuteso. Luckily so does my 13 year old daughter who currently likes nothing. This is the book that has been building my confidence and courage. So much so that I am going to skip my faithful elastic and go for the zipper.
My .99 cent sale pattern. Now wish me luck. Um....the rain just started again. Maybe I won't lose electricity even though it just flickered a couple of times.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Around The House and Garden

Look what greeted me when I stepped out of the door this morning.
In just a few days the corn and the....
peas have grown by leaps and bounds.
Here is a the three new beds Byron built this past weekend. We're going to build three more this coming weekend. The second phase of the potager will be finished when these beds are filled with soil. This picture shows the stages of my garden. As I cover the paths thickly with cardboard, I am covering the cardboard with leaves and mulch.
The long beds are 40 inches wide and 16 feet long. There are four sets of two with 20 inches between them. There are two sets on each side of the main axis with 52 inches between them. Eventually there will be arches over the 52 inch paths covered in climbing plants. These beds are going to hold beans and tomatoes this year. I am considering making a southern pea patch in another area using the no till method.
There are visitors on my parsley. Thankfully my parsley is robust and beautiful. I can share a little!
Vibrant yellow calendula.
The first little sprout of Tropicanna canna poking out.
So, how does your garden grow?

Friday, March 20, 2009


A gahgootzuh? A what? That was my response when Byron asked me if I had ever heard of a gahgootzuh squash. My Mother in law wasn't as un-informed as myself and knew immediately, "Oh yeah! I know what a gahgootzuh is. The Italians on my street loved them!" After Googling "Italian squash" I came up with the correct spelling of this Italian favorite. It's CUCUZZA. No wonder Byron couldn't find anything on the net about it.

A friend of his at works grows them every year and saves the seeds year to year. Of course I just had to have some. So the nice man at Byron's work sent me some....actually a lot! Here it is a big ol dried up cucuzza squash.

The top is broken off and slid back into the thick dried skin. (By the way I painted my coffee table myself free handed all by my lonesome.)
Hmmmmm.....shake, shake, shake....

There they are some cucuzza seeds! I've been told you pick them when they are still young and are around two feet long. The dried squash makes a great little dried gourd too. So this year it's Gahgootzahs for me!

If you want to know more about cucuzzas here is a link to the "World's largest cucuzza plantation". Which just so happens to be in Ruston Louisiana.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Potholders...What to do with...

...old stained ugly pot holders that still work? Once you've decided to live a principle, it's not always easy to stick to it. Numerous times I've walked past the kitchen aisle at Tuesday morning and picked up, held, put in the buggy, taken out of the buggy and put back up, brightly colored crisp new potholders.

But no I couldn't buy them, My old ones still worked. I had to stick to my promise. Do not buy anything unless we need it or for a very special occasion. In my defence, all but three of my pot holders I received as wedding presents almost 16 years ago! Purchasing a few trendy new pot holders wouldn't break the monthly budget.....but....I didn't NEEEEEEED them.

Take a look at these things though! Who would want to look at these every time a beautiful loaf of bread needs to be removed from the oven? It was getting a little depressing. So...
I had some bright squares of fabric left over from my Sister's baby shower decor.....and a little pink crochet thread left on a spool.....
a few pins and a pair of scissors....
a small steel crochet hook....and.....
no more depressing! Bright and adorable!

First cut two pieces of fabric 1/2 an inch larger than the pot holder. Place the potholder between the two pieces of fabric like a pillow case (pretty sides out). Then pin the potholder in place by pinning around the very edge of the potholder leaving an over hang. Trim the overhang even to about 1/4 of an inch.
Next using a small steel crochet hook, crochet around the edge with a contrasting cheerful colored thread. I've read that some people use their sewing machines to make the holes around the edge first before crocheting. (I'm either too impatient or to lazy to drag out my machine!) I just poke a hole in the fabric with the crochet hook as I go. It goes through most fabrics just fine.

If you don't crochet and would like to, don't be intimidated. The basics are very easy to learn. Get a kid's book on how to. The kid's books break it down in simple terms and usually have great drawings or pictures of how to. Or just go HERE to learn!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Strawberries, Canning, Seedlings & Fig Trees

The cheapest we've found strawberries this year is $12.00 a flat. In the spring the farmers from the Northshore of Lake Ponchartrain set up roadside stands from the backs of their cars or pick-ups or at farmer's markets. Usually at the beginning of the season they get as much as they can for them about $30.00 a flat. Who can blame them?

After a few weeks of strawberry season passes you can get what I consider quite a deal on them. The local berries are sweet and delicious. After stuffing ourselves with as many fresh berries as we could, I made jam with the remainder.

Making jam is simple. Cook down fruit, a little lemon juice and sugar to gelling point, put in prepared jars, then can in boiling water for about ten minutes. I've bought a couple books, and while I had all the canning stuff out I decided to try out this recipe....
I'm going to attempt to make Thai food soon just so I can try out this sauce I made :) Very very spicy. Should go great with spring rolls.
Here are my seven jars of jam and nine jars of Thai dipping sauce. I think I'm going to give some of the Thai sauce away, but the strawberry jam......? I'll think about it.
Here is a view of the seedlings I planted previously. My front porch becomes a seedling nursery every spring. Once they developed their first set of true leaves, I scooped them out, separated them and planted them in their own little cell. Hmmm... Sounds like prison. Anyway, There are better ways than these little plastic pots, but these are recycled from other people. I'll use them over and over as long as they hold up.

In the front I have seven Japanese plum seedlings that sprouted under my plum tree. They'll be planted here and there around the place. In the very back I have the Alma fig cuttings! It's been a month and they've been planted, growing tips pointing upwards, in their very own little pots.
We'll see how many take. This is something I really hope works. There are a couple great fig trees I'd like a few more of!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Eating Thistles

The first picture is a thistle. It's really a very beautiful "weed". Around here people work diligently to eradicate them from their lawns. I on the other hand am constantly scandalizing my Father-In-Law and neighbors with my shoddy lawn maintenance! I happen to think clover is prettier than foreign lawn grass.

I'm a little dismayed at the majority's opinion on how to keep a yard. For many many years my Father-In-Law has kept seven acres of land in pristine lawn condition. He would often cut the grass twice a week in the summer to keep it in it's most tidy condition. Every year he would weed and feed, spread ant poison and round-up the ditch and the driveway edges. To him it was a great feat of dedication and labor worthy to be commended. To me it is a waste of precious time and money.

Admittedly, keeping the lawn as I do subjects me to a few askance glances from the more serious lawn keepers that may occasionally drop by, but most run straight to the chickens or garden and hardly notice the huge mounds of clover, thistle and various wild flowers swaying in the field.

It's not as if I live in a neighborhood were wanton seeds may blow over and desecrate the virgin lawns of the diligent urban grass keeper. I live in an area that is zoned AGRICULTURE! Therefore I do not feel compelled to spend hours of my time weekly tending an unused golf course. Land shouldn't cost you. It should give to you. Wild thistles is one of the many fringe benefits of not keeping a golf course.
My husband has lived in Louisiana all his life and has never noticed a thistle. Most likely because of his Father's fastidious lawn grooming. Since we recently took over the care of several acres of land, he noticed a large perfect rosette of leaves with thorns in the side field. Excitedly he called me over, "What is this?" "It's a thistle" Byron has dutifully tended to his thistle plant since it's discovery. These are pics of "Byron's thistle". The girls even yell, "We're going to look at Daddy's thistle!"

Besides being a simply beautiful plant, you can eat thistles. The thistle stalks pictured in the salad bowl below were gathered from an empty field that was to be a housing development before Katrina. I can't say I'm sad it's not filled with houses.

Once you identify the thistle, which is fairly easy, you cut the stalk, remove all leaves and buds, and then peel the medium green outer layer off. Inside will be a pale green hollow stalk that tastes fresh, cool and crisp. Somewhat like celery. You can eat them plain, with salt and pepper, with vinegar, with peanut butter, or in a salad!

We ate ours in all of the above ways, but we especially enjoyed it with our fresh picked salad.
My last bottle of blackberry balsamic vinaigrette was dropped broken by one of my daughters, so I threw together some ingredients in an effort to create my own and was thrilled by the results. Here is the basic recipe:
Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
Balsamic Vinegar 1/3's (about 2/3 cup)
Olive Oil 2/3's (about 1 and 1/3 cup)
Minced garlic (around 2 cloves)
Dried Parsley (1/2 teaspoon)
Black Pepper (1/4 teaspoon)
Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
Sugar (1 heaping teaspoon)
Blackberry preserves (about 2 heaping teaspoons)
Mix all together in jar, seal and shake.