Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Christopher Newport

Pierce is in third grade, and one of the big projects they did this year involved choosing a famous American to study.  Pierce chose Christopher Newport.  He wrote a biography report on him, did a painting in art class, and had to dress in costume for the PTO meeting.  I confess I had to google pictures of Christopher Newport so we could figure out what he looked like.  I don't think he typically wore a backpack....but in this picture "Christopher Newport" was waiting for the bus. 
At the PTO meeting, they had a wax museum.  The students stood in costume in the halls with the portrait they had painted of their historic person.  Each kid had a button on the wall, and you could "push the button" and they would tell you all about their person.  It was really fun and the kids did an excellent job. 

Readers, who would you choose to study if you researched a famous American?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Why You Should Plant Blue Hubbard Squash

Last year I planted one blue hubbard squash start in the garden.  I didn't know anything about this type of heirloom squash, but had picked it up at a garden center and wanted to try something new.  It grew some of the ugliest squashes I had ever seen.  Bulbous.  When they fully mature, they turn a weird gray color and are massive in size.  Most of mine reached 20+ pounds.  I was a little scared of the first one, but was delighted when I tasted the creamy flavor.

The blue hubbard squash stores very well in the winter.  I put mine in the basement in September, after a brief cure in the sun.  I just roasted my last one.  It was just as firm as the day I picked it, even after six months of storage.  And when I cut into it....glorious rich orange and just as much flavor as the ones I roasted last fall.

Blue hubbards produce a lot of food!  I roasted this last squash at 375* for 45 minutes, then put all the flesh in a blender to make puree.  I filled up one 2 quart casserole dish to make as a side for dinner, and then froze another 10 cups of puree.  The shell went into the compost bin.  I always save some seeds to use for next year. 

I like to use the purees to make my version of pumpkin bread.  Or maybe I should call it hubbard bread.  You can find the recipe HERE - just sub hubbard squash puree for the cushaw squash.  This time, I cooked the bread in my sun oven.  It does a nice job baking breads - they just turn out slightly crooked because of the angle I have to put the oven on to maximize the sun exposure. 

The blue hubbard squash is win/win - you get a ton of food, it stores for a very long time, and it has excellent flavor.  You only have to buy it once - it's an heirloom so you can reuse the seeds from year to year.  If you haven't grown this before, it's my top recommendation for you to try in 2016.  Happy planting! 

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Problem with Nancy Drew

For the past year, I've been reading the boys some of my favorite books from my childhood.  Books like Superfudge, The Pink Motel, and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Recently I decided to read them my favorite Nancy Drew book.  As a kid, I think I read every one of them.

The Clue in the Crumbling Wall started off well enough.  By the time the boys' Spring Break rolled around, we were about halfway through the book.  We headed off one morning to run some errands.

I was unsuspectingly browsing through Dollar Tree when the boys started getting worked up.  They were certain they had seen a shoplifter.  Someone had stolen some pens!  They were quite insistent on reporting the matter to the manager.  But they didn't just report it.  They made all sorts of suggestions to the manager about how to catch the crook, including fingerprinting throughout the store and using hidden cameras.  They even suggested that the cashier had been hypnotized by the criminal, which was why she didn't see him leave.  Luckily, the manager seemed to find this amusing.

I dragged them away.  They insisted they could describe the thief for a profiler.  I decided I was going to need some coffee before we went anywhere else.  In the drive thru line, the boys saw a dad with a toddler.  The boys decided this dad was the thief!  He had magically appeared at Starbucks!  I asked where the toddler was during the theft, and they said at first that the toddler was an accomplice.  It didn't take them long to reason this out though....the dad was really a kidnapper!  I asked why there was no Amber Alert and they said that people didn't know yet.

I was pretty nervous about what might happen in the grocery store, as the whole way there the boys insisted that a black car with the thief/kidnapper was following us. 

I banned any further reporting of criminal activity before we went in to the grocery store.  But there were a lot of suspects in there.  The grocery store was just full of crooks that day.

The next week I got to go grocery shopping and errand running by myself.  It was so nice and quiet. 

Maybe next we'll read another Little House on the Prairie.  That seems a little...safer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bobby is a Weirdo

Bobby is a strange little cat.  He's nearing his first birthday this June.  You may remember he was dropped at the end of our driveway towards the end of last summer, covered in fleas, and we took him in.  He is the first manx cat we've every had.

Since then we've discovered he has many quirks.  He loves to hike up the mountain with us.  It's a steep trek, around a mile, and he happily follows along and hangs out until we hike back down.  This seems to me to be more of a dog-type behavior.

He prefers kids to adults.  Wherever my boys are, there he is.  Right in the midst of all the chaos.  Cats usually seeks out quiet areas, but not this one. 

He likes cold weather and snow.  Remember the picture I posted this past winter of him playing in 18 inches of snow?  Very suspicious behavior for a cat.  Surely he must have some collie mixed in somewhere?

And then there's this.  Apparently Bobby has decided he wants to go for rides.  I took this picture with my cell phone last week.  I suppose he feels he should go to the grocery store with me.  Maybe supervise the choosing of salmon and shrimp.
We never know how Bobby will surprise us next.  But it's always fun to watch his unusual antics.  And he's turned into a magnificent hunter.  He catches a mouse or mole almost every single day while waiting for the bus to come (yes, he always walks down to wait for the bus with us).

Readers, do you have any animals that behave strangely?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Magic Eye

When Paul and I were dating in college, a Magic Eye store popped up in the mall.  Once in a while we'd go in and stare at the pictures on the wall.  It took me a dozen trips before I figured out how to make my eyes relax enough to see the hidden pictures pop out.  I remember being irritated that Paul figured it out before I did.

At a recent yard sale I picked up several Magic Eye books for a quarter a piece for the boys.  It's been more than twenty years, but I still remember how to relax my eyes to see the pictures.  I guess it's kind of like riding a bike - once you figure it out you never forget.  Still, it was exciting when the 3D eagle popped out of the first picture I studied.

The boys desperately want to be able to see the pictures.  So they have spent a lot of time sitting on the couch trying different techniques in hopes of revealing the images hidden inside.  Pierce came the closest - and then when he started to see the picture shifting shape he got so excited he jumped off the couch, and of course, lost his concentration.

How about you, readers?  Did you ever frequent the Magic Eye stores in the mall back in the early 90s? 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Pressure Canning Chili

I got a really good deal on ground beef at the store the other day, but it had to be used up within a day.  How to use up 5 pounds of ground beef?  Well, I made beef stroganoff with a pound of it for lunch.  And then I decided to be brave and as Paul to use the pressure canner again.  So I fixed a big pot of chili.

I didn't take notes so I don't technically have a recipe, but I browned the beef with 5 cloves of garlic and drained it (I would've added onions but I was out).  Then I added one of those huge cans of tomato juice, two chopped green peppers, a bag of dry black beans, a bag of dry kidney beans, 1/2 can of chipotle pepper sauce, 1/2 cup chili powder, a couple tsp. cumin, 1 tbsp. salt, and about 5 cans of diced tomatoes.

I simmered this concoction for 20 minutes to let the flavors mix (the beans cook during the pressure canning, so no worries about that).  I got 13 pint jars filled up and Paul took them outside to supervise.  He doesn't seem to worry about blowing up the house as much as I do.

The jars were processed for 75 minutes, which is the guideline for ground beef.  I did pint jars because I thought they'd be handy to do things like chili to top baked potatoes or hot dogs.  For larger meals, we could do a couple of pints at a time (and to stretch them, add in elbow mac and a can of corn if needed). 

The next day, I made Cincinnati chili (chili over spaghetti noodles and topped with cheddar cheese).  The chili turned out so good!  It was a hit and Cort already asked when we would have it for dinner again.  And the best part?  It only took ten minutes to toss together this home cooked meal, as the chili was already made. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fiddlehead Ferns

This is the time of year when fiddlehead ferns start popping up all over our land.  You can see where they get their name.
For a plant, they're marvelously cute this time of year. 

You can eat them (but need to cook them first, and peel off the crinkly stuff).  They are supposed to taste like asparagus.  Once they unfurl, they are inedible, so there is a narrow window of time for you to be whipping up crème de fiddlehead soup. 

I'm thinking about roasting some up for dinner one night.  I bet the boys will get a kick out of it!