Thursday, May 29, 2014

Recent Happenings

This past weekend was Memorial Day and as part of our observance we put up our flag as did our neighbors across the street. Took the above photo looking through our trees out front.

The squash, tomato, lemon grass, cucumber and papaya are liking this planting bed
Though we usually stay home rather than being out and about like so many others do on this 3 day weekend, we are generally busy with projects and taking some time to enjoy the lives that the sacrifices of those who serve our country allow us to have.  This included working in my side garden.  I've shown pictures of the tower and VGS systems and all their progress, but this is how my raised beds are coming along.

Took some closeups of the squash flowers and pea flowers.  Amazing how beautiful these produce bearing plants are in bloom.

This pea blossom includes some aphids that I blasted with the hose after taking the picture

Love the detail in the fringy edges

Had a little Marsh Rabbit stop by to munch on our lawn, before disappearing back into the trees.

Several plants that like heat are blooming and two of the examples of these are our large Sago Palm and the variegated Canna out front.

The second bud here bloomed the following day - pretty

Curious lizard watching me

Finally, we took advantage of the warm weather to cool off in the pool.  Kevin and the girls lounged in there until they were all quite pruny.

Hannah in signature purple with matching pool noodle : )

Lauren's quite proud that she can go under water and hold her breath

Kevin's created his own pool chair with the noodles

Life is good and we are blessed.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Unexpected Project

Cameron called Kevin the other night from his shed room saying his front window was cracking.  When Kevin walked out to see he could hear the tempered glass as it shattered.  Being tempered glass it remained in place, but was a total loss.  Nothing had struck or damaged it that could be seen, so there must have been a weak point that for some reason suddenly gave way and this is what was left of the window in his door.

The shattered glass that we taped plastic over until we could get the new panes and have the time to replace.

They added layers of duct tape prior to pushing out the pieces of glass.

We bought two panes of Plexiglas from Lowe's that we had cut to size, since the tempered glass was 1/4 inch thick and it took two of the thinner Plexiglas pieces to equal this we bought one that was tinted to help with the light and heat and the second was clear.  Once they removed all the MANY shards of glass and cleaned off all the old silicone seal, new silicone was applied and then the new panes were ready to go in.

Once, this was done the interior and exterior panels to hold the glass in were put on and tightened down carefully.  And TA DA, new window!!  Not a planned project, but think this will help with the heat and sun and is more durable than the glass was.  So glad to have handy guys who can take care of these unexpected projects.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Zuppa Toscana - Home Made

Several years ago after dinner at an Olive Garden Restaurant our son Cameron came home raving about this wonderful soup he had saying it was something with Kale.  Now that got my attention because Cameron is not a huge soup fan and in general hates vegetables.

So with all the Tuscan Kale growing on our tower gardens, this seemed the perfect time to make this soup.
I'd already found and tried successfully a copycat recipe for this soup, so decided to use it again.  Only problem was I didn't have any Italian Sausage, just the breakfast links I have loads of after my sausage and bacon purchase from Zaycon a few months ago.

One of our tower gardens and I've marked on the picture which plant is Kale

So it was back online to find a way to make my sausage taste like Italian Sausage.  Here's the recipe and here's the link for printing: Back to Her Roots Blog Recipe

1 lb breakfast sausage (mine was in links, so I simply squeezed the meat out)
1 tsp fennel seeds ( this spice is a must as it is what makes it Italian sausage)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot)

Use your hands and get it really well mixed and to get the spices evenly distributed.  Once all are mixed in it's ready to use just as you would store bought Italian Sausage.

After mixing the sausage up I then began making the Zuppa Toscana.  Here's the recipe:

1lb ground Italian sausage
1 1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbsp bacon pieces
2 tsp garlic puree
10 cups water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb diced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
1/4 of a bunch of kale

1. Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients.
2.  In the same pan, saute bacon, onions and garlic over low-medium heat for approximately 15 mins or until onions are soft.
3. Add chicken bouillon and water to the pot and heat until it starts to boil.
4. Add the diced potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.
5. Add the heavy cream and just cook until thoroughly heated.
6. Stir in the sausage and the kale, let all heat through and serve.

Here's the original link I got it from for printing and to give credit: Tuscan Soup Recipe

Here's our results - everything was absolutely delicious, and Cameron decided I needed to make this more often!!

Buon appetito!!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wedding Barrettes

Katie Beth (back/right) with girls after their recital.

The girls ballet teacher Katie Beth is getting married next month and like so many others I volunteered to help with some of the preparations for her big day.  I've joined with other women at her families home for a craft night  to make some of the receptions decorations, but most of my activities have been done on my own.

The first of these I'll show in this post are the decorated barrettes she wants to put in the back of her hair once her veil is off at the reception.  She had already purchased the clips and fabric flowers, so I simply put the pieces together to fashion her barrettes for her.

The basic pieces were the two clips, fabric flowers and I cut a piece of white felt a bit wider than the clips and the length of them.  I then sewed the flowers to these pieces of felt in preparation for attaching them to the clips themselves.

Pieces for barrette on left, sewed to felt piece center, and ready for hot gluing on right.

Then the felt was hot glued to the clips themselves and finally I added a few stitches from the edges of the felt under the upper part of the clip to be sure the flower and felt piece would remain securely attached to the clips.

Katie Beth picked these up yesterday along with the veil she was taking to her dress fitting.  I'll post on the veil later.  I may be adding a few extra details to that after she tries it with her dress.  We also are helping to prepare the canopies that will be used at the reception hall for her dance area.  It's a HUGE facility with no place to hang decorations off the massive ceiling so to create a dance space and a feeling of romance and intimacy, we've come up with the idea to use tent like canopies to decorate and define the space.  So I'll be actively working on these the next few days.

Stay tuned as I post my crafting activities, and the results of each.  After the wedding in June I'll post how these all worked out for this special occasion.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Garden Updates

With all that's been going on I've neglected any updates on our garden projects.  Kevin has his blog Project 128 that has all the step by step information and updates on these, but I keep track as part of our family doings.  We've reaped a surprising amount from the tower and vertical gardens, despite our recent attack of the pickle worm!!  It sounds like something from a B horror movie, but it did really reak havoc on our squash including all the seminole pumpkins that had been doing so well.

The 3 towers with all their veggies at the beginning of this month

All our towers and the VGS in back with some photos of what they are producing

The disgusting and destructive worms that have caused so much damage to our squash

As the heat began to come on Kevin needed to figure out how to properly shade our plants to extend the growing time, and prevent them from frying in the Florida sunshine.  Our first attempt at shade cloth over an extended set of lines that covered all the tower and vertical garden systems failed miserably, as the cloth was too heavy for the length of wire and put too much weight that caused the posts to lean.  Not good.  So we began exploring options.  While watching a video of a man's system,who had done something similar to our VGS (vertical garden system) but had extended the poles higher to create their own shade area we came up with the idea of using a pvc structure for shade.  I found several months ago online at the local Habitat for Humanity store sets of 10 sticks of pvc pipe being sold for $7.  We bought 2, wish now we'd bought more!!  With those sitting around waiting for a project this seemed perfect.  I told Kevin he could put them together like tinker toys and create a shade structure for each of our systems that we could put shade cloth on as needed.  So he got busy and created this:

Kevin begins with the sticks of pvc and cuts them to size.  He uses the connectors without glue to be able to take it apart if needed in the future. As I said earlier, it's like a big tinker toy piece.

Kevin puts the pieces together and adds the togs available for shade cloth to tie onto a surface

Once assembled he and Cameron use zip ties to hold down the shade cloth.  Because of the direction of the afternoon sun, they've added the extra on this side of this unit.

And there you are, almost instant sun protection for our tower gardens!!
Pretty handy if I say so myself.  This was just what our towers needed to help protect and allow us to continue reaping a bountiful harvest.  We need to spend some time over the next week, cutting back roots and doing the necessary cleaning of the towers to keep food production at it's peak.  I'll reposition plants that are being shaded too much by their neighbors that have just grown too big, so we continue to get growth and food from these too.

This was the very first salad we picked back on April 2cd only a month after planting the towers.  We gave this to Grandma and Poppie to enjoy and have been able to follow up with larger amounts since then.

This is the size salad I pick every couple of days.  Our strawberries are also producing more.  In the future I'd love to have one tower devoted only to strawberries!!

Some of the yellow squash, zucchini, beans and cucumber we picked.

I still have my garden beds on the side I'll post about later.  These are doing well, but the difference in the rate of growth is startling compared to what we've already harvested from our towers and vgs systems.

Stay tuned for more.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all you mom's out there.  I've been blessed by Kevin and kids on a daily basis, but today they all went out of their way to make me feel special with hand made gifts and cards from the girls,  specialty sewing items I need for current projects and a movie from Cameron and an iPod mini from Kevin and kids to help mom move into a more current means of computer use than this old, but reliable laptop.

As I type they are all out getting my standard Chinese food meal that's become tradition for this day. Looking forward to this.  Hope your celebrations make you feel appreciated as well.

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Something for Everyone

On our way to Silver Springs State Park while my family was visiting we spotted a truly unique market on a corner a few miles before arriving at the state park.  So on our return trip we just had to stop.  This place truly set itself apart by it's wide array of unique art pieces, many leaving you with the sense of "what were they thinking?". Yet here they were and all for sale.

You had giants of all sorts:
Hannah and Lauren under their giraffe

Everyone needs a giant pink rooster, right?

Atlas, and the knight on the horse we had seen one like this at the end of a driveway up the road, so we knew people actually bought these things!!

Of course your own personal Godzilla is a must

Dad, taking it all in.

You had loads of pots, plant holders, wall art and chachkies galore:

Every imaginable figurine or wall plaque could surely be found if you looked long and hard enough.

Pots, hanging art, wall pieces, stuff to attach to other things - you name it, and it's here.

Giant flamingo anyone?  Actually we thought we might take a photo and text Aunt Jen to say we found something perfect for your Florida yard - what do you think? : )

And just a few more colorful flamingos

We walked through isle after isle of stuff.  My pictures are really only a small sample of the wide variety they made and carried on site.

Finally, after our tour of this market, as we headed back to the van I spotted something I really liked.  This gazebo reminded me of the one we had in California when we first bought it, before the wisteria vines took over and covered the piece.  Hmmm, something to think about for our new place?

So there you have it, a place where there truly is something for everyone.