Countdowns

It’s been fairly quiet here in central PA.

I created an Instagram account:

https://www.instagram.com/taughtthemtofly/

We had a nice Thanksgiving weekend with my parents visiting, but there was a definite void without the girls here. We did lots of talking about the future. We took some nice walks, somehow picking the same times as our good friends which meant some extra visiting time with them. We ate yummy food.

I did make a new goody, Chocolate Pumpkin Pie.

chocolate pumpkin pie

I couldn’t find the wafer cookies in the recipe, so I used chocolate graham crackers, and reduced the amount of sugar since there is sugar on the crackers. It was very tasty!

Hubby and I haven’t made much progress on the garage because once you get past the obvious decisions on what stays and what goes, there sits the pile of “what the heck do we do with that?!?” stuff. Stuff that is in good shape so it shouldn’t go in the garbage, but that you will never use. Does it go on ebay? Or get donated? Is there any monetary value to it? I do have a box full to take to a local shop, but haven’t actually made it to the shop yet.

Today begins December. The holiday month is here. It is also the countdown month for us. This blog is turns a year old in a few days, and though the past few weeks have been sparse, I plan to continue adding posts. We are almost to single digits for the eldest and her BFF to arrive and under 3 weeks for the youngest to return from abroad. I try not to wish the days away, but it’s hard.

Getting Ready for Winter (and a sweet potato recipe)

It’s been busy around here the past two weeks. We haven’t gotten much further on the garage, though that is the main project again for today. Most of the daylight hours, which are way fewer now, have been spent on outside projects.

We cleaned out the garden.

garden clean up

Hubby downed some trees, cut them up, hauled them home, split them and then I helped move the piles (this picture does not represent the piles, I had already moved them)…

wood piles

…so he could stack all of the wood. It’s almost a work of art.

wood stacking art

Meanwhile, I used the first of this season’s sweet potato crop in some African Stew, recipe at the end of this post.

african stew

Which we ate with a fresh loaf of bread (almost a year of home baked bread).

bread loaf

We added a new attachmentl to the pretty kitchen power tool. A grain mill, which seems to be heavy duty. I’m hoping to test it out today on some wheat grains I bought and I will be sure to report back on how it went. This is a terrible picture.

grain mill

The African Stew recipe I use is from a children’s cookbook the girls got as a gift years ago. I have not been able to find a replica of this recipe online, so I’m going to type it out longhand. I’m sorry that I’m not tech savvy enough to be able to offer you a “printable version.”

2 T oil (I use olive oil)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups peeled, diced sweet potato

1 can chick peas

1/2 cup brown rice

1/4 t salt

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 cups chopped kale

2 T lemon juice

1 T soy sauce (I have made it without soy sauce and it was still yummy)

hot pepper, ground or flakes (optional)

*saute garlic and onion in oil until softened, then add 2 T stock and cook 3-5 minutes longer

*add remaining stock, sweet potato, chick peas, rice and salt

*bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes

*remove 1/4 cup of liquid and mix with peanut butter, pour back into stew and mix well

*add kale, cook 5 minutes

*add lemon juice and soy sauce and hot pepper to taste

 

 

Cleaning Out the Garage

As I mentioned in my Hobby Adventures post, in order to pursue a few of the hobbies I have on my list, the garage space needs to also be a work space. Cleaning out the garage is perpetually on the “to do” list anyway, so I encouraged hubby to move it up in priority. We spent many hours on it this weekend and though I know we made progress, it is a way bigger project than I had anticipated and a way more emotional project as well.

Garages (and closets and basements) often become the repository for things we don’t immediately know what to do with, for things we think we may someday have a use for, for things we are saving for our kids to use when they get their own place, for things that have monetary or sentimental value that we don’t want to get rid of, etc. Over the years, there is a subtle encroachment on usable space, and one day, you realize that you can barely fit one car in a garage meant for two.

Some of the decisions are easy. There are things we haven’t used in years, the girls will never use them, time to go. But then the question of garbage or give away or sell arises, and that answer is not so easy.

For example, a perfectly good light fixture from our bathroom. We are not shiny brass fans.

light fixture

Or the sink from last winter’s renovation project that is in great shape (we bought a vanity with an integrated top).

bathroom sink

Believe me, there are way more things that fall into this category, but I won’t bore you. I posted pictures on Facebook and no one local expressed interest. So now what do we do? Does this stuff just go to the landfill? Or do we put it on eBay? Or a local free/for sale page? These are the questions that come up over and over again.

The next category is memorabilia/stuff from grandparents/relatives. We found a box of cassette tapes from when the girls were little. We don’t have a tape player any more. I was on my way to the garbage can to toss them all in when I stopped and thought I should just check eBay. People are selling these on eBay, so they’re now sitting in the house with the little vases and candle sticks and ceramic coasters…

tapes

coasters

bud vase

It’s out of the garage, but in the house, and I’m just not sure what to do with it all. And I’m guessing there will be more as we continue on through the garage.

We also found a journal from when one of the girls was in third grade. There are three entries, much of the entries are about what a brat her sister is (was). It choked us up a little, and made us chuckle because we could totally picture her writing it then, and maybe even writing a version of it now. It choked us up because it seems like yesterday and because even though that daughter thought her sister was a brat, and I’m sure the other daughter felt the same about her, they have become the best of friends. Their relationship is more than I ever could have imagined and I am grateful beyond words. Empty nest is hard on a day to day basis, but stuff like this amplifies the distance and lack of togetherness.

I can’t end this post about the garage without mentioning the 1972 Cub Cadet. Hubby bought the Cub Cadet around 10 years ago because it was a solid tractor, made when they still made real tractors for lawn and garden.  It would be our snow removal equipment, and it was in great shape. Ten years ago was the last time it worked.

cub cadet

I have tried to convince hubby that we should sell it, and I have teased him repeatedly about it decorating the garage, and I have asked him to get rid of it, but he is determined that he will get it running again…

 

Butternut, Black Beans and Beauty

Our winter squash crop was not abundant this year. Hubby battled vine borers in the spaghetti squash plants and the extreme wet/dry spells took a toll on all of the plants. Here is our crop yield.

winter squash

Our first spaghetti squash was part of a very pretty dinner plate a few nights ago, one of the last of the year with food almost entirely from the garden.

garden dinner plate

Last night I opted for one of the butternuts. Over the winter I made a Black Bean and Butternut Enchilada dinner, which was pretty good. Last night I put together a similar dish, but without the tortillas added. I followed the basics of this recipe.

I made it much more colorful by using red onion and the last fresh green pepper from our garden.

onion butternut

butternut skillet 1

And with the black beans.

bk beans butternut

It was delicious with cheese and chips!

bk butternut chips

On an unrelated note, I was able to catch a bit of the beautiful sunrise yesterday morning.

campus sunrise

 

Playing with the Camera

For the past few evenings I’ve been taking the camera I borrowed from the eldest outside to play. I’m still using the automatic focus, but I’m trying to get a feel for the zoom and try some different things with composition before I attempt any manual settings. Here are a few of the fairly decent pictures I’ve taken.

seed heads

fall colors

floppy ears

runnin

statuesquemums

lavender

Morning Walk

Yesterday morning was the first weekend morning in a while that we were both available to go for a walk. We took Fargo (and the squirt bottle in case he starts pulling) and had an amazing view of the sunrise.

sunrise oct 2

sunrise oct

morning walk

It was a great way to start the day. I miss the early daylight for walks like this, there is no way to fit them in before work the next few months.

Odds and Ends

I took the Rosie’s Workwear (http://www.rosiesworkwear.com/) overalls I ordered at the Mother Earth News Fair for a test run today. I LOVE them!! I had hubby take pictures when they first arrived (ignore the work shirt/socks/shoes which don’t go with the overalls).

overalls

Removable knee pads (I did not use them today).

knee pads

Lots of very cool pockets.

pockets

In other news, I started a top secret cross stitch project. And by started, I thought about how I am going to approach it. I will share pictures if it turns out as I’m hoping.

We made yogurt again, and it came out delicious again. Yes!!

I had a gingerbread disaster cake. I have no idea what went wrong, but yikes!

gingerbread disaster

I had to quick throw a baking dish underneath to catch the cascade of batter flowing over the sides.

baking sheet

The good news is that it tasted fine. Really, no idea what happened.

My friend who ran the Hat Trick with me discovered that our medals had magnets, so they could do this cool thing.

medal magnets

If I had done the Friday trail race, for a total weekend mileage of 26.2, I would have gotten the medal to attach to the remaining magnet. But even without it I think this is way cool!

First frost a few days ago took it’s toll on some of the flowers, which looked pretty in the morning.

frosty flowers

frosty flowers 2

But the zinnias did not look so good later in the day.

dead zinnias

 

 

Homemade Yogurt!!

When we were at the Mother Earth News Fair a few weeks ago, we attended a workshop on making yogurt. Hubby and I eat yogurt in our lunches almost every day. When I mentioned attending the workshop to my mom, she offered us the Instant Pot with a “yogurt” option that she bought but hadn’t used like she anticipated. Over the weekend, I used that Instant Pot and I MADE YOGURT!

I followed a combination of two sets of directions, the ones that came with the Instant Pot, and these. Most of it matched, but I just felt better reading from both of them on the maiden yogurt voyage. The first thing I needed to do was sterilize the removable pot. This was a little nerve wracking because I’d never used a pressure cooker before. When I did as instructed and vented the pot at the end of the steam clean, both Fargo and I jumped a mile at the noise that accompanied the valve release.

We get our milk from a local dairy. They still use exchangeable milk bottles, and they do not use growth hormones. Although you can use up to a gallon of milk, I opted to start with a half gallon.

half gallon milk

While the first part of the process was happening, I boiled water to sterilize the thermometer and the spoon I would be using to transfer the starter culture yogurt. The thermometer sets into the milk in order to monitor when the temperature drops to 115 degrees. According to what I read, the temperature drop could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

milk temp

I bought Trader Joes plain yogurt to use as starter culture (and to put in Fargo’s food because he LOVES yogurt). Once the milk dropped to 115, I added approximately 6 teaspoons of yogurt and mixed well. Next step is to seal the Instant Pot back up and let it do it’s thing for up to 8 hours.

Instructions I read indicated that solidification begins around 6 hours and the longer you leave the yogurt “cook,” the more tangy it becomes. I am a fan of plain yogurt, but I don’t like it too tangy. I did not time this whole thing very well and 8 hours of “cook” time, which is the standard, meant getting up at 3am. I woke on my own around 2:30 and figured that was close enough, so I dragged my butt down to the kitchen to put the yogurt in the fridge.

I cannot tell you how excited I was to pack my homemade yogurt for lunch! Look how pretty it is!!

yogurt

Hubby and I both love the taste and the texture. I added dried tart cherries, walnuts, unsweetened coconut flakes and chia seeds and it was delicious! It is way more cost efficient and we will be adding significantly fewer plastic containers to the garbage/recycle bins. I will try to time it better next time though.

 

Sweet Potato Bonanza

Right now, there are a TON of sweet potatoes curing in our basement. We planted about  1 2/3 rows in the garden this year. We had a pretty banner crop last year too and they lasted well into the winter, but I think this year handily beat last year in every way.

We have been growing sweet potatoes for a few years now, and there has been a learning curve. We found out the hard way that you can cook potatoes while attempting to cure them if you’re not careful. Even this year we’ve had a few casualties so far.

The first few years we planted two different varieties. Two years ago, our amazing 85 year old neighbor gave us a few Bunch Porto Ricos (the link is informational, we have not bought them from the site) and hubby started his own slips. It is always super cool to watch the process from beginning to end, which is why I start my own plants from seed instead of buying them at a store.

We were so pleased with them last year, and this year again they were beautiful at first glance even while still in the ground.

sw pot garden 1

Pretty color, good size and fairly blemish free.

sw pot garden 2

Since the girls don’t use their snow disc any more, it’s become a potato transport. This was the smaller row’s worth of produce.

sw potato disc

digging potatoes

Here is how hubby set them up so he could tarp them with the ceramic heater.

potato racks

And for a size reference, I had a smiling hubby stand next to the racks. The lighting in this part of the basement isn’t great, but you can get a good idea.

hubby potato

We will be doing our Forrest Gump imitation soon…sweet potato pie, roasted sweet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato scones, sweet potato casserole, sweet potoatoes in African Stew…