right now

right now

Jul 22, 2011

The relatives are coming!

Tomorrow.  Where the heck are they going to sleep?  I guess this could qualify as another in my "Living Small" series, where do you put an extra bed in a 900 sq ft place with only 2 bedrooms?  If you haven't gathered this by now, I love a good space challenge, I live for this stuff!


Go, go, gadget...bed!  


We are the new owners of what I call the "Gadget Bed"!  This is a queen size airbed by Ozark Trail that is actually on a collapsible frame, which is great for a travel/camping bed that actually doubles as a real looking guest bed, and you can make the bed without using any kind of special sheets or anything.  When you are done, the whole thing collapses down to a wheeled travel bag, so you really can take it camping or wherever.  You can see it here, it's hard to find in stock online, making me think they might be discontinued but we found it locally in a Walmart store.  I see Cabela's also sells the frame separately if you already have a mattress.  This folds up in less than a minute!

Travel Bag (it's about the size of a large duffel bag and will easily fit into a closet or under a bed)


I don't generally devote loads of time into reviewing products, but when I come across something that I really need and it does the job, is multi-purpose and stows away neatly, I feel a duty to share with anyone else that lives like they are underway on a sailboat!

I slept on it last week to try it out and it was pretty nice.  I'm not sure if that's because the bed was that good or if it was because I had the whole bed to myself without hubby and the CPAP monster mask/machine next to me :)

The surface of the bed is the wavy type air mattress with a zippered cover, so the only thing I would recommend is that if you were using this for an extended period I would recommend splurging for a quilted mattress cover that would be more bed-like.  Lucky for me, brother and sis-in law are avid outdoor people that camp and hike and I think will be fine.  Ha, are you listening L?  You'll be fine..... :)

Here it is all made up, tucked into the corner of the boys' room


So.....

If you don't mind bunking with Thing 1 and Thing 2,
come visit - we have room for you!

If you know me at all, now you know I'm not crazy when I say that I'm thinking that I should keep that room as a family "bunkroom" and turn the below bedroom into one big ol' quilting studio! The house would be one big kitchen and quilting space, haha!  


Can't you just see cubbies lining the walls and a big quilting island table back there?  Sleep is highly overrated, anyways.  I swear, it's really not the heat that is making me have crazy ideas!

I wish we had a group of dysfunctional family members thrust together in this tiny space because that's just plain fun blog-fodder and a good social experiment, but the truth is that the kids' Aunt Lauren & Uncle Mikey are just plain fantastic people, easy to please and fun.  There won't be any good dysfunction to write about LOL.  Although maybe they are a little crazy to leave the dry heat of Phoenix for our Amazonian rain forest 110º in July!


Not sure how much I'll blog the next few days, I'm a bad multi-tasker when it comes to vacation time, either mine or someone else's!


A different kind of harvest today

I made it outside for exactly 17 minutes this morning before humidity and heat chased me in.  The heat index was already in the 90's at 6:30 am, ugh.

Today's harvest was a little different looking.  I had the "winter tomatoes" I'll show you below, and also decided to pick a lucky few zinnias to spend their final days in the relative comfort of an 80º house!  


They should cheer me up on another day with all the shutters closed up tight to ward off the 118º heat index expected.


On to the oddballs!  This year I decided to try an heirloom called "Burpee Long Keeper".  Touted as a "storage tomato" expected to keep through the holidays, I was skeptical, and still am.  However, I was a complete idiot and planted these at the same time as all my other tomatoes, not thinking of course that I should have timed these towards the end of the season.  Oh, well.  I've been watching them "on the verge of ripening" for weeks now before I finally researched them - indeed they will not ripen on the vine, but should be harvested when they are a yellowish color, stored away and will ripen gradually over the next few months.  Really?  In this humidity I am not hopeful since I don't have a basement to store them in.  Although they won't come close to a real summer tomato in taste, they are purported to be better than store bought in winter.  Since we don't normally buy store bought anyways in the off-season, I thought they would be worth a try if just for pizza toppings.  The vines are loaded with them now and I'm not quite sure what's going to happen here, it's only July!


I put them in cardboard flats and stowed them away in my new curtained "pantry", more on that project later...


Stored right next to my kitchen prep table where I do everything, so if they go bad, I'll surely notice!  If these don't work for storing in my climate, I'll offer the rest of my seeds to someone who can store them in a proper environment like a basement or cool pantry - stay tuned to see what happens!

Jul 21, 2011

Blast from the past...

It's just stupid-hot, and this weekend will be even worse, we won't even guess at the heat index, but the dewpoint is at 80.  I feel like dementia is setting in.



The weather is hot enough that this post from last year is just as valid today!  I'm always looking for a good ol' redneck way to stay cool.  Thinking of sitting in a plastic kiddie pool today in the driveway with an ice cold bottle of Boone's Farm (just to complete the image) - somehow I think my kids are old enough now that they would be mortified LOL!


Anyone else getting "the crazies" in these temps?  My brain cells seem to be dying off with every degree the temp climbs.  I surfed for some new funnies to go with the old ones :)

Redneck Thermometer

via:http://hedzred.blogspot.com/


Change of season alert for the wildlife!
via: i.imgur.com

Stayin' cool on the Redneck Yacht
via:http://www.colusa-sun-herald.com/sections/article/gallery/?pic=1&id=5334


A cooling off photo from my home state, we don't look so crazy anymore, eh?

via:http://www.lybacks.com/fishrept.html


 What are you doing to stay cool?

Jul 20, 2011

What a relaxing Sewing Day!

Yeah, right!


Yesterday morning started off hot, and not just the weather!


Before you say it - I only planted THREE jalapeno plants this year, honest!  Thank you all for reminding me not to go overboard yet again :)

First I finished up the last of the big tomato days with a batch of stewed tomatoes.  This will be the end of the tomato canning for awhile, as it is too hot now for the plants to set fruit very well.


One thing led to another and...


This evolution took 2 days instead of the one I had hoped for, but I have lots of goodies to squirrel away.  I did it all the past 2 days, pressure canning, steam canning as well as refrigerator pickling and oil marinating.  For those that don't know, the pressure canner can be used as a steam canner also, a real multi - purpose piece of equipment.

Ever been so busy preparing real, homegrown, healthy food that you are too busy to "cook dinner"?  I find that's a frequent problem here.  I'm up to my neck in fresh food yet my kid gets this for dinner when I'm faced with the "I'm hungry, when's dinner?" question!
  

By this afternoon, I had squirreled away 2.5 quarts of stewed tomatoes, 2.5 pints salsa, 2 pints of mixed veggie pickles, 3 pints of pickled pepperoncini, 9 little 4 oz jars of pickled jalapenos, 2.5 pints of marinated roasted sweet peppers, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Because I'm always interested in what goes into other people's jars, I thought you might be interested in mine - or not :)  (the ingredients in my jars such as herbs and spices always change according to what I have though) 

Pickled Jalapenos


These are just a plain water/vinegar liquid, as the spice in there is quite enough!  This time I sliced them into rings since it's easier than scorching and peeling.  Sometimes it's just got to be easy.


Stewed Tomatoes


This batch was a mixture of Brandywine and Hillbilly heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, oregano & garlic.  I actually prefer to stew most of my tomatoes instead of saucing them, since we only rarely eat spaghetti type pasta sauce, but I can always find somewhere to throw in stewed tomatoes - chili, baked chicken, stews, etc.  If I do want sauce I can run a stick blender through it when I'm preparing a recipe, but you can't go backwards :)  Plus, it's easier and faster!

 Pickled Pepperoncini


In the interest of not canning next week when we are having my sister and brother in law visiting, I picked the pepperoncini while still green and tried to empty the plants as much as possible.  These were simple refrigerator pickles.  I make slits in the pepperoncini, soak overnight in the fridge in a vinegar solution with a lid as a weight so the raw peppers will "give up their air" a bit so they won't float in the jar when I pickle them the next day.  When I packed them, I added a vinegar solution, some pepper flakes and mustard seed.


Mixed Vegetable Refrigerator Pickles



Although I mixed veggies since my cukes are not producing very much this year, I also prefer to always have a few other things in there for flavor and "prettiness" as well.  These are a mixture of Japanese Climbing and Parisian Pickling Cucumbers, a few miniature bell peppers, and a few Fish Hot peppers, dill, garlic, mustard seed and red pepper flakes in a vinegar solution with grape leaves on the jar bottoms.  These keep a good long while in the fridge, so it's what I usually do with cukes, as I like them crisp.  I also like hot spicy pickles, so while the variety of peppers added may change the flavor a bit, there will always be hot peppers in my pickles!

Marinated Roasted Sweet Peppers


You can pressure can these, but they tend to get overcooked and mushy, so I did a refrigerator version again.  You can pack them in straight oil, but they will only keep 3-4 days that way, if you pack them in a vinegar/oil mix they will keep several weeks.  This day I roasted some stray Jimmy Nardello Frying peppers, Quadrato diAsti red/green bells and Sigaretta di bergamo sweet red peppers, peeled, then packed into jars with garlic cloves & oregano then filled with a vinegar/olive oil mixture.

Below is what they look like in the oil mixture - these are great for throwing on top most anything, great in pasta, on bratwurst or on sliced crusty bread dipped in some of the flavored oil.



After the past month, I found myself almost out of jars!  Bad for the bank account, but good for the pantry.  After pretty much ignoring my children for the past 2 days that I disappeared into the kitchen, I came out and announced that I was taking them for a lovely drive out in the 105 degree heat for...


Check out the size of that jar!  I've been wanting a few of those half-gallon jars for awhile :)

Hey, at least I stopped and bought them an ice cream on the way home!

After dinner tonight, I cleaned up all of my messes and informed the kids that I wanted to play a game with them.  After 48 hours of being left to their own devices, I think they were shocked!  :)


Problem is, they are both setting up a different game!  I'll be busy for awhile.


and oh, yeah, I baked 2 pretty crappy loaves of bread - I took 2 weeks off of my bread baking adventure, and it shows :(


Jul 18, 2011

The Blight-Resistant Verdict...

For having as many problems with blight and heat as I have this year, I really can't complain about the tomato harvest, can I?  I can't explain it other than I did start with about 30 plants, double what I normally grow.  I have been getting a big harvest every 3 days but now that temps are consistently in the high 90's, the fruit is not setting well, so I think this will be the last harvest this size for awhile.  I'll start doing salsas instead of canning sauce once they start to trickle down.  So far this year though, I have harvested 100 lbs of tomatoes, of which 70 lbs have been Brandywines - and from only 6 plants!  Considering that blight took out the Amish Paste completely within 2 weeks, and we had to rip out the Hillbillies last night, I'm going out on a limb and saying that my Brandywines, although suffering blight, are the most resistant ones out there, and are still going well in spite of it.  Specifically, the Brandywine seed from Baker Creek, so I will be doing that seed again next year.


Now that we have the "nice" photo out of the way, this is what was going on last night in the heat and humidity - we couldn't put it off any longer.

These are the Hillbilly tomatoes, badly suffering blight.  3 of the 4 plants were tossed, and the last is only there long enough for the large green ones to ripen a bit in the sun, then it goes out too.


This Hillbilly still had lots of green leaves, so "Blight Boy" trimmed out the bad stuff, and we'll see how long it will continue.


Below is the Brandywine bed - although affected considerably with Early Blight, it continues to pump out 1.5-2 lb fruit weather and heat permitting.  I haven't sprayed them with fungicide for almost a month, so these were sprayed vigorously after trimming last night.


Oh, yes, Blight Boy!  (or my Blight Bitch, as I affectionately call him) - some people have a pool boy, I have this...


he's just as hot as any pool boy I think, and he's cheaper!

This morning brings the first day of the return of "humidity-geddon".  I know lots of you were dealing with this all weekend, luckily we had a little reprieve from those temps for about 4 days.  It was just long enough for me to really start to improve my mood - but here it comes again, daily 100º temps.  Can you believe at 6 p.m. last night it was 1 degree HOTTER at Mama Pea's house than it was here?  How's that for a strange weather pattern?  I think her average annual temp is about 38 º (no, I'm not kidding), but yet she was hotter the past couple of days than us.  The 4 day party is sadly over for me, however, 100 degrees right through the week's forecast.

I took this last morning before it hits to get outside and finish up some more chores, trimming a few miles of unruly grapevines, tying up tomatoes & peppers, pulling a few weeds (I'm giving up on that battle), and pulling some SVB attacked/dead winter squash vines.  8 am to 9:30 was all I could manage before the sweat and bugs started to get to me!

Finally, just a wee bit more harvest ... 

Quadrato diAsti bell peppers, Jimmy Nardello frying pepper, jalapeno, cukes, bush beans, the first Chinese Red Noodle beans, and some little onions.  Those are actually "Scallions Gone Wild" as I refer to them - I can't grow onions well here at all, but I find if I leave my scallions out all year and pull them late I have enough little onions to be able to call my salsa truly my own, LOL


I think I have enough to keep me busy inside during the heat.  I'm planning on canning either tomato sauce or salsa, have even started some knitting, and am dreaming of sewing something for my little niece.  Not sure if I'll get the time, but it's nice to have dreams, isn't it?  :)

Jul 17, 2011

Scenes from camp!

Well, that didn't last long!  We picked up the kids today, they are completely exhausted, and Finnegan is having a "meltdown" kind of day, he will definitely be having an early bedtime tonight!








I'm thinking I would like this in my backyard!









 I take these same photos below every year, someday I hope it will be a neat growth chart!  Too bad Finnegan had no smiles today, he was pretty much done when I took this.



(last year's....)


Finn refused to get in the photo here...


(last year's....)


How did this photo get in here?  Oh yeah, the work waits for nobody!  


The heat is back on here so we'll be knocking out some garden work tonight after dinner when it cools off a bit.