Saturday, November 12, 2011

Recent Up To Dating

Right now I am slouched in a chair with a cat on my chest, while Alex showers and the dulcet tones of Bach's Toccata and Fugue ring through the house. I remarked to Alex today that I haven't posted a blog in weeks. Possibly even months now. He said it was because I didn't have anything to say. I disagreed. I have plenty to say, I just don't know how to say it anymore.

I've had a nice week of vacation and I still get Monday off before having to head back to work at the bank. We lost two more people, and then my boss underwent a surgery, so I had a period of 2 weeks where I earned plenty of overtime. I am grateful. I really am. I just have an odd way of showing it. I love the people who come it. I have trouble with the people who work there.

The garden is completely dead now, and I haven't had a single day where I have been able to go out and clean it up. This bothers me. On the days where I have time to do it, it's either raining cats and dogs, or it's freezing cold. We had our first snow on Thursday. I finally dug out all the remaining potatoes and they were an absolute success this year. I will most definitely continue to plant that same variety in the coming years. I retrieved about 6 dozen potatoes over the course of the summer and autumn, from 7 plants. And they made the most wonderful soup I have ever produced in my kitchen.

The Etsy store has enjoyed a nice holiday rush and I've introduced several new designs to the shop in the last few weeks. I even managed to get a box of business cards printed! Definitely keep checking the Facebook fan page for promotions, coupon codes and free shipping specials.

While antique hunting in New Buffalo, MI this week, my husband and I stumbled upon an old buffet and china cabinet set. How fortunate for us that the seller had her entire booth 50% off and was taking offers! We ended up paying a total of $106 for this new piece of furniture, which will be residing in my kitchen by Tuesday of next week. I won't call it beautiful just yet. At the moment, it's quite hideous. It was filthy, covered it grime, spilled God-knows-what dripping down it's cabinet doors, painted a lovely shade of baby pink with ancient country floral wallpaper pasted into the china cabinet, but by Golly, if nothing else, I have an eye for the POTENTIAL! I see a gorgeous piece of furniture for my kitchen as soon as I slap some new paint onto it! I spent the better part of this evening washing and scrubbing, dismantling and sanding. Now my fingers are torn apart from sanding grit, my lungs are full of paint particles and I am exhausted. I can't wait to get that baby into my kitchen and start filling her up with my things.

I spent 5 hours on Thursday turning roma tomatoes into sauce. It was rather disappointing work. I only managed to get 3 pints out of all that time! Talk about irritating! I made some beef jerky as well, and as I happen to have some frozen salmon in the freezer, I am giving some serious thought to trying fish jerky. Honestly, it sounds pretty disgusting and God knows what the kitchen will smell like afterwards, but I have heard my hunter friends say that it makes a great snack and has essential nutrients.

I have been recently addicted to The Walking Dead on AMC. It's messing with my brain a little bit though. Now, instead of simply preparing for the economic meltdown, I am also preparing for the zombie apocolypse. I'm not entirely sure that they are two different things. What I do know is that I really need to add more canned goods to the pantry and make even more serious efforts in next summers garden. My 40 tomatoe plants did not produce nearly as well as I had anticipated and I got a single serving of green beans from 6 plants. Not exactly thrilling I must admit, although my potatoes and corn were magnificent and I did get a nice crop of cucumbers. I plan to make much better use of trellises next year as well.

So there's the recent news. I will be posting pictures again fairly soon, as soon as the hard work for the new furniture is complete. I am giving serious consideration to returning to school. Not college though. I have decided college was utterly useless. I am considering trade school. Whether I take technical drafting again, start some agricultural studies, or learn carpentry, I see honing my skills and passions in the near future.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Celebrating 100 sales!

Had my 100th sale on Etsy last night! We have cause for celebration!

To help celebrate this momentous occasion, there is a special coupon code on my Facebook fan page that can be used at checkout to receive 15% off of your total order.

Thanks to my amazing customers!

L.Peek Designs

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Workin' My Booties Off!!

Ahhhh.....it's so nice to be loved. :)

L.Peek Designs on Etsy has been closed for over a month. Just didn't feel like running the shop, and we went on a short vacation and I just didn't reopen it afterwards. But yesterday I got on Etsy to look for something and I realized that I was missed! I had 3 messages from 3 different customers requesting that I reopen the shop because they wanted to order! It was pretty exciting, and I now have 3 new orders to fill. I was happy.

So there are some updates of sorts.

The shop will be open on and off. I will take orders, shut the shop down, fill the orders and then reopen.

I might have a full-time job as soon as October 1st. That will affect my ability to fill orders as well, which is why I make them to order now.

I SWEAR I am working on new designs. I have been trying and trying to get them finished and listed, but seriously, between work, piano lessons, the garden and the orders for the baby Chucks, it's been challenging at best to get anything finished and posted! I have been dying to get a few new designs up, including some hooded scarves, shrug sweaters and crocheted creatures. It's just not going as quickly as I would like it to.

Fall seems to have arrived! And time marches on....

Not Really Looking

I have an interview for a full time position at a local credit union this morning.

I put in my application and resume kind of on a whim. I did not have high hopes or expectations. I wasn't frantically checking my email 3 times a day waiting to hear back from them. But after two weeks, they called and said they wanted to interview me. I agreed, because what harm could it do to interview?

It is a full time position, which I have never worked in my life. Now, there have been times where I have worked 3 part time jobs at once, but never one full-timer. That would be a new and interesting experience for me. It would also speed up our hopes for a great vacation next year and our application process for becoming foster parents.

And my interviewer's name is also Lindsey, spelled with an 'e' - the right way. :)

So send positive thoughts and prayers my way today. I am a bit anxious. I am always a bit anxious though. This could be just another notch on the block, or it could be a game changer. Either way, I know that my Father never leaves me or forsakes me, and I am quite certain that He has a purpose for me in this.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Stitch in Time

As fall quickly approaches Northern Indiana, I've been scouring the consignment shops and secondhand stores for new additions to my wardrobe. So far, my darling husband has been the genius in that situation, scoring 2 skirts and 2 blouses - 50% off too! - at our favorite little shop, Twice As Nice in Goshen, IN. She takes in the 'good' stuff - names brands, barely worn more than once, etc.

And on top of that, as it's getting to be sweater season, I decided that I needed to stitch myself up a nice little cardigan. I do more than just crochet baby booties and afghans you know!

I caught sight of this pattern on the back of a Crochet Today magazine that I picked up at (where else?) Walmart. (I do not condone shopping at Walmart, but when they're right across the street from work, and you need yarn quickly, where else ya gonna go??) It was a free pattern available from redheart.com, which I have conveniently linked you straight to. So go download it, quick, and then come back and finish reading what I have to say!

This cardigan pattern was listed as being for advance/experienced crocheters, but personally, I would have labeled it intermediate. It really only has two types of stitches - half double crochet and single crochet. The 'tricky' part, if you want to call it that, comes in the HDC F&B pattern. Half double crochet front and back. In other words, you work your HDC in the front loop or the back loop (alternating) of the row you're working in. There is quite a bit of increase and decrease as well.

I will warn you that there is an error in the sleeve pattern. You have to increase on BOTH sides of the sleeve when stitching the increase rows. Otherwise, it will come out increased on one side only and pretty wonky and ugly, resulting in the tearing out of 3 hours worth of stitches. (Experience speaking here.)

The yarn is Red Heart Sparkle, which is a pretty acrylic yarn, probably not ideal for wearing right against your skin, but soft enough. The names come from a single strand of sparkle that runs through the yarn. I chose chocolate brown - boring banker color - rather than lime green as the pattern suggests. Any of the Sparkle colors would be more than appropriate though. It all depends on your tastes. I am hoping to add blue, black and magenta to my wardrobe over the course of the winter.

I usually purchase my yarn from knitting-warehouse.com, who seem to have roughly the best sale prices, usually $1 or more cheaper than the stores, depending on what you are purchasing. This pattern only requires 4 skeins, so it's also inexpensive and economical to make. I put about $20 and a couple days worth of work into mine - minus the 3 hours of stitches I had to tear out. :)

Anyway, I'll post a picture this afternoon, when Alex comes home and can weild the camera for me. I don't find pictures I have taken of my reflection in a mirror to do justice to something I worked so hard on. Ciao for now!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Games We Play

If you've been with me for any amount of time you've figured out that I'm a total dork, and that I'm also completely okay with my dorkiness.

I occasionally play games on Facebook. Not Farmville. Actually I have never stayed interested in Zynga's games for very long at all. For awhile I was pretty interested in a game that outlined the Harry Potter stories, but then they were threatened with a lawsuit and asked to change the characters and the story line, so I lost interest in it. Didn't play anything for a long time after that.

Now I've been playing an HOG called Gardens of Time for awhile and aside from being addicted the soundtrack quality music, it's probably the best FB game I've ever played. Pretty graphics, really awesome story. Only 5 of my friends will play it with me! Those who have tried it before have more or less given up, and the others just ignore the invites.

I too, hate being invited to these games that I don't care about. For a long time there was nothing more exasperating than countless invites from your friends to come water their crops! I blocked all invites to Zynga games. Now I feel bad for doing that because I want friends to come play Gardens of Time with me!! Arrrrgh! I feel like these FB games set themselves up for failure by closing off parts of the games unless you have certain amounts of friends or only letting you buy into it. Well no wonder no one plays the game to the very end. Either you have to have a lot real money to dump into the game - and believe me, I refuse to put hard earned money into overpriced Facebook 'gold' , or you have to convince 120 other people to play it too. Computer gaming sites like BigFish will give you whole games for $6.99. Why not FB Games? At least offer a one-time subscription that allows serious players to get all parts of the game. I actually DID buy coins for this game, I'm ashamed to admit it, but they were used up far too quickly and they are much too expensive to purchase again. I'm not a millionaire and I haven't been able to find any reliable cheats (that don't contain viruses) to get out of it.

Well anyway, this game caught my attention because it's got elements of things I adore anyway. You get to design and build a beautiful garden! The theme is time travel! It's STEAMPUNK too! (YAY!) It's a hidden object game (HOG)! Even better! All my favorite things combined! Let's add more exclamation points for dramatic effect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You join the Time Society and travel through time to different eras and landscapes. You search for the hidden objects, earn coins and then go back and build artifacts and building from different time periods into your garden, which gains reputation points, which unlocks more scenes and allows you to continue the game. There is a pretty cool story that goes with it too involving a traitor in the ranks who is using Julius Caesar to change the course of history. Quite entertaining.

History lovers, steampunkers, and fans of HOGs should give this one a try. Yes, it's on Facebook, which means you're going to be bombarded with invites and updates from your friends, but try to be nice. It's a good one.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Being A Mama

This is a very quiet, much more personal post that I'm not going to link to Facebook, but would rather share with those who follow my blog.

I'm not expecting - I hope the title didn't get your hopes up. My sweet Alex has made it very clear that he is mortally terrified of having babies the natural way. But I have also been making it very clear that my biological clock is past hitting the snooze button. I want to be a mom. I want someone to care for. (My cats have been great, but they aren't kittens anymore. They're pretty self-contained. Lol.)

I think my desire got worse when I walked down to our elementary school last Tuesday. My dear friend Dana's 2 older daughters started school there this year even though they live in a different city and we happen to live a block and half away. It was a different kind of excitement and joy to see them off on their first day of school.

Alex and I have always talked about fostering and adoption. It seemed that the one thing we definitely agreed upon when it came to having a family was that we wanted to adopt. My husband's views are that if we're going to have kids, we're going to give existing children the kind of opportunities that we had as kids instead of bringing new ones into the world. And I've always felt that there are far too many children that need loving homes and the care of someone like me.

Two weeks ago I got to meet with some folks in our church that are starting up an adoption and foster care ministry. I went to that meeting because I knew it was going to be the first step in getting my family started. Alex encouraged it but didn't attend because he had a rehearsal to get to. In the meeting I got to meet several folks who feel the same way I do, some who can't have children biologically, and a few who just want to help in any way they can.

Our pastor, Edgar, gave a statistic quoted from our governor, Mitch Daniels, about Indiana's foster care system. He said, statistically, that if ONE family from EVERY church in the state of Indiana adopted ONE child, our entire Child Welfare system would be empty.

Wow. That really put it into perspective. It says two things to me - the biggest being that we are not following through as Christians with a mandate to care for the orphaned. The other is that our governor recognizes that Christians can and should be relied upon to change this situation.

So Alex and I have continued to have slow discussions since then. We agreed that we want to foster and eventually adopt. We agreed that we would like children somewhere between ages 4 and 10. We agreed that for now, we can only take one child at a time until we finally buy that big house in the country that I've been praying for. :) We agreed to begin the application process as soon as possible so that when the time comes we won't have to sit around a wait through interviews and home visits.

I think I am finally ready to care for someone like a mother should. I'm still not ready to have and care for a baby, but I would like to have a child to love on and pray for and care for. God has always brought beautiful children into my life through teaching and neighbors and friends.

So pray for me and for Alex and I as a couple as we slowly (SLOWLY) embark on this next step. I have another meeting with our adoption ministry coming up soon in September and October is National Adoption Month, so we may actually apply as soon as October. (But I'm thinking it will more likely be in January.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sun Stand Still

Our pastor, Edgar, has been teaching from the book of Joshua, regarding the praying of audacious prayers. If you recall the story, or if perhaps you have never heard it, Joshua looked up at the sky before going to battle with the Canaanites in the Promised Land and basically asked God to allow the sun to stay in one place until they had won the battle. God heard his prayer and the sun stayed overhead until the Israelites were victorious.

What this is teaching us is that we don't always have to have all the facts. We don't always have to have all the right words or sound like a professional orator for God to not only hear our prayers but come through for us in incredible, mighty ways. Sometimes you can ask God for something or ask Him to work for you and you can ask Him boldly!

I went to Baptist school as a kid. We were not taught to pray audaciously. In fact, the phrase "If it be Your will" was standard in every prayer. I'm not an audacious person anyway - I'm actually fairly quiet and my relationship with God tends to be more in a whisper than out loud. But I decided to put this to the test!

I've been struggling at work with a few things. It's better than it was, but it isn't my cup of tea. Being a bank teller requires a lot of thought, attention to detail, routine and thick skin. I pretty much lack ALL of these things. But one thing that I need to 'earn my keep' as they say, are referrals. Referrals are my point of contention! My view is that people are coming into the bank to do specific things and they don't feel like being coerced into a new benefit, product, savings or checking account or whatever! This is difficult for me! I hate asking people to sign up for a new credit card, or ID protection, or trying to convince them that they really need to upgrade that checking account to a different one. It is NOT in my personality to 'sell' things to others. I'm not convincing.

Since April, I have averaged about 3 referrals per week. Yesterday I was inspired to ask God boldly to bring me the right people. I told him I would ask EVERY customer about something, but I needed Him to bring me the right customers. The funny thing is that I did this on my break, right in the break room. I actually said it OUT LOUD - "God! I need referrals this week! I need LOTS of them!"

You know what happened? I got more referrals yesterday than I did in 5 days last week!

Now, this may not sound like something really urgent, like being healed from cancer, or having a relationship miraculously restored, but I really needed God to come through for me at work. It's hard working at a place that views you as being nice, but not really doing 100% of your job. My manager even told me that I definitely earned my keep yesterday.

Big thanks to my Big God, who cares enough about me not to leave me hanging on by threads at work!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Preview

Know what time it is??

Its time to start canning! It's true!

So in the next two weeks or so you'll be seeing plenty of recipes, old and new, and a lot of information regarding the preservation of the summer harvest.

I'll be starting with peaches, strawberry jam and cherry pie filling. After that, whole tomatoes, and then tomato sauce. Green beans and corn will come soon too, and of course, this year's newest addition to my food storage - sweet pickles!

So join me in the 2011 canning marathon! Head to your neighborhood Rural King or other Middle American general store and stock up on quart and pint jars, get your stock pots and pressure cookers out and cleaned up and don't forget the lids! It's time to PRESERVE the HARVEST!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Starting To Harvest

The gardening process is an adventure to me. Bringing tiny seeds to life , nurturing them as they grow - it's my way of being a parent.

My hubs and I spent 4 days out of town this week, but one thing I couldn't wait to get home to was all the changes that happen over 4 days time. My sister, Carrie Ann, was caring for our home and cats while we were gone and sending me texts that kept me informed. She said I had a pumpkin growing! Well, it was actually another zucchini, but there were pumpkins on the vines on the other side of the yard.

Last night I harvested about 15 Northern Delight tomatoes, which I loaded into a little basket with a few zucchini and took over to my mama's house to share with my parents. They are not quite what I had hoped for this year, but that's the idea - to discover varieties that are suitable to the needs of our family. These were easy to grow, without a doubt, had nice short plants, lovely foliage and lots of fruit. The fruit are quite small though, and even with plenty of watering and nutrients, they tend to split open if left on the vine. I've been picking them just before they are fully ripe and bringing them inside to help curb the destruction. I have not decided yet if I will cultivate these again next year, but I will throw this out there to all my garden renegades, front yard gardeners and guerilla gardeners - Northern Delights are GREAT for small containers, front yards and parkways. They do not grow much taller than 3 feet and the fruits are small enough to be considered ornamental in nature.


This shot of my firstborn pink accordion tomato was taken this morning! As you can see, it's just beginning to turn pink around the folds. My mom is calling it my 'fat Mexican baby'. (The joke behind that being that I've been asking my husband when he is going to provide me with a fat Mexican baby, and he keeps telling me we will need to be more financially stable in order to start our family.) I'm telling you, this tomato is the most beautiful thing I think I've ever seen! I never realized I was going to get this much joy out of cultivating tomatoes. Will they grow in Africa I wonder.....?



All right, and now for the corn! I know you've been dying to hear about the corn - this is the Midwest for crying out loud! Start anywhere and drive for 10 minutes and you WILL invariably find yourself in a field of corn! But MY corn is white kernaled shoepeg corn, which is an heirloom variety from the south, and as I have mentioned before, it is taller than our garage! Who knew!? I'm an Indiana girl - I spent my summers as a pre-teen de-tasseling seed corn in the farm country with my cousins and grandparents. I do not remember hybrid sweet corn ever reaching these heights! The silks on the heads of the corn are also a gorgeous color of pinkish maroon that I've never seen before. So, so beautiful.

Well it IS Sunday mornin' kids and you know what that means! It's time to go praise Jesus! And He is worth praising. Even in the rough patches of life, God has been faithful and very good to us. The future stretches out before us, but I know we are going to be just fine sheltered in His presence.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Official Hayseed

I picked my first ears of shoepeg corn last evening!

Yup, it's official! I'm a hayseed!

My Grandpa Orlin would be so proud of me. :) I sure do miss him, but I know he's in Heaven and healed.

We're having corn with dinner tonight.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Belief That We Shouldn't Believe

I was watching Penn Gilette arguing with Kevin Pereirra on Attack Of The Show last night.

Penn is a seriously militant atheist. His book, "God, No" is out now. His argument is that everyone is an atheist. Everyone, even the devoutly religious, are atheists who have deceived themselves. He says he is not anti-Christian. He is, instead, anti-faith. He doesn't believe there should be any kind of religious beliefs of any kind, including Islam, Buddhism, Judeaism, etc.

His arguement is that if we all believed in a god, like we say we do, we wouldn't need to stop at stoplights, or lock our doors, or protect ourselves, or work to feed ourselves, because a benevolent god would always stop everything bad from happening to us all the time.

At least, that's what I think his argument was. The problem is, that it was also a lot of wordplay and mind games where he would twist things around. It wasn't a very..... compelling argument. I'll put it that way. I am always inclined to listen to anyone's argument because I myself have struggled with doubts and I'm willing to hear you out if you think you've got it all sorted.

I really, really would love to get some comments on this one. Do you have any thoughts or arguments as to why or why not anyone should have faith or religious beliefs?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zucchini Pickles - Now With Pictures

Did you know that those green summer squashes that half of your family, children and friends refuse to eat are good for more than just zucchini bread? It's true! And just to prove it, I'll be posting a few of the recipes I have found over my last 5 years of intensive gardening.

This recipe is from my Grandma Betty, whom, as I've mentioned before, has given me pretty much all of my personality traits and character flaws. It's a spin on the classic cucumber and onion pickles recipe.

Needed:
2 fresh, firm zucchini
2 small onions
1/4 cup of pickling salt
2 cups white granulated sugar
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp mustard seed
3 cups cider vinegar (4-6% acidity)

Wash zucchini and slice into thin slices or strips. Peel and cut onions into quarters, then slice thinly. Add to zucchini. Cover zucchini and onions with water. Add salt and soak for about 2 hours. Drain.


Bring remaining ingredients to a boil and heat thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Combine vinegar and zucchini/onion mixture and put into a large clean container. Keep refrigerated and serve chilled.


This recipe can also be processed for canning! Seal in jars after combining hot vinegar and zucchini/onion mix and refrigerate after opening.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tomato Queen!

Can I just say that I ADORE my heirloom tomatoes, and have thusly declared myself to be Tomato Queen. :) I'm totally in love with these heirlooms that I planted this year!

I'm not much of a researcher. I can barely remember what I did two hours ago, much less remember to write down little things that I notice while meandering through the greens. But I'm noticing some really cool things, and I'm going to try to relay them to my readers who might be remotely interested in learning about heirloom variety vegetables.

When I saw the Pink Accordion in the Territorial Seed catalogue this year, I knew I had to have them. It was love at first sight. So bumpely and awkward, so big, such a pretty color! It had a to be a good choice.

It was!

These vines are absolutely enormous! They are reaching astonishing heights (for tomatoes), coming close to 4 feet tall. I have a green fruit that is probably 4 inches in diameter already, and it isn't even close to being full size. I'm guessing it still has about 2 more weeks before being fully ripe. The picture to the left is almost a month old, I'm just too lazy to go out and get a newer one right now. So imagine this same tomato, double sized.

Some people don't like the smell of tomato vines, but I actually like it. But I also love the smell of marigolds, which I'm told is very weird and most people can't stand them. I have strange olfactory tolerances I guess. Anyway, the pink accordians seem to have a more pungeant odor than some of the smaller variety and the vines are almost.... juicy. The vines are slick to the touch and leave a distinctive green stain on my fingers.

Hope to get a few more pics up of these guys as they progress and more observations when I make them. I really, really believe strongly in growing heirloom veggies though. It may be a stupid doomsday cliche, but you can't eat bars of gold when the economy collapses. You can, however, continue to thrive with heirloom variety plants!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Corn, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes

Now that I've caught up from last week's complete waste - specifically, I'm talking about 4 days wasted practicing and then going to a rehearsals for a show that I was fired from, days that didn't get any cooking, cleaning, laundry or shopping accomplished - I was able to get outside today and go on a veggie hunt. It was exciting to see all the growth I missed last week! Such beautiful things have appeared over 7 days!

The corn is a towering 8 feet tall.  There are a few stalk that have silks coming out, and where there are silks, there are ears of corn! I'll need to spray them soon to keep the worms and other wretched things out so that we can actually enjoy eating the fruits of our labor. Underneath the enormous leaves and stalks are 3 squash vines. I originally thought that I had planted pattypan squash, because that's what the package said, but strangely enough, the fruit I harvested off one of the vines today was NOT pattypan squash at all! It's a jack-be-little gourd! Well, that's just fine, because the other vines do have pattypans on them, and I love unexpected surprises.

I planted the squash because I read that it is a Native American technique that works really well. Planting corn, beans and squash all together provide all three plants with vital nutrients, supports and water retention. It has worked brilliantly! The other thing I have noticed is that my zucchini and pumpkins are struggling with powdery mildew, which I have to spray almost every day. But the squash that is planted with the corn has not had a speck of powdery mildew. Coincidence? I think not.


The tomatoes are FINALLY turning red!! Whew, I thought I was going to go out of my mind waiting! Just one so far, but the others will follow suit soon. It looks kind of funny all by itself though doesn't it? :)  The last 7 days have been insanely hot and humid - perfect tomato weather.

There are tons of zucchini and I'm going to have to make zucchini pickles sometimes this week. I've never tried them, but I'll be using Grandma Betty's recipe. I'm also going to be on the hunt for unusual zucchini recipes. There HAS to be something besides zucchini bread to make with these lovely green squashes! I'll make pickles of course, and I have been working on a recipe of my own that involves stuffing these guys with cheese and sausage. My vegan and vegetarian recipe books are about to get a serious scouring for zucchini recipes.

Last but not least, there are the tiniest starts of cucumbers now! Sweet pickle recipes to be attempted soon!

Political

I was just watching some congressman on the morning news. I think he was a congressman - I could be wrong. I'm so sick of these jokers that I kind of space out those details. Congressman (or senator maybe) Clyburn.

Anyway, every single question that the host asked him about the debt crises he turned around and said "But the Republicans are doing it too!" She asked him why Senator Harry Reid hasn't presented any changes to his plan, and his response was "Because John Boehner won't tax the rich!" And I'm sure on another channel somewhere, there was a Republican saying the same thing about a Democrat.

Okay, seriously Washington, please get over this.

Speaking as someone who made less than $5000 total last year, and someone who is in a household that makes less than $30,000 in a year, it might absolutely shock the politicians to know that I don't really care about entitlements. I do not take advantage of the 'benefits' that my job offers, although my husband and I do take advantage of his company health insurance plan. We have never applied for food stamps, although we could have when we were first married. We have never applied for unemployment, even though I could have last year. When we needed income, we tightened our belts, sold a bunch of stuff, and didn't buy anything extra. Is that really a hard concept or are we just weird?

I think we can probably leave the 'rich' alone. I don't really want their money. I didn't earn their money - I don't need it. I know a lot of folks might think they deserve someone else's money, but I'll stick with the income that I actually go to work to earn every day.

What I would LOVE to see though is our polticians being taxed. If they pass legislation that overspends, they should have to pay for it. Wouldn't that be something?

Whatever. Maybe I'm crazy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Guess Beggars Really CAN Be Choosers

I was hired to play three nights of Hairspray at the Civic Theater last week.

It's opening night and I was just fired.

So all you wannabe stars, remember this. Do NOT under any circumstances accept a job for a show that opens in less than a week. That is not an acceptable excuse for first time musical directors at the South Bend Civic Theater.

Oh, and here's a little bit of advice to you wannabe theater directors. HIRE AN EFFING SOUND PRODUCTION COMPANY AND STOP LETTING KIDS RUN YOUR SOUND SYSTEM.

That is all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Giant Corn Privacy Fence.

I don't know if I have mentioned the neighbor lady who lives behind us. I will call her Patty, which is not actually her real name, but we'll call her that anyway. I really try to be kind to my neighbors because the foundational cornerstone of my faith is "Love God and Love People". I know it's God's little way of reminding me that the world is full of nuts, flakes and fruity folk, because this can be very hard sometimes.

Well anyway, Patty complains ALL THE TIME about her health. She takes 300 pills per week and get 6 injections per week, and has migraines and seizures and so on and so forth. Seriously, this woman should be on death's doorstep and yet she persists to come over and complain to me about her health. If she is that ill, I wish she would stay in the house and stop pestering me. I do try to talk to her at least once a week, because, like I said, I am trying to be kind to my neighbors. I'm not about to be the snooty neighbor that no one wants to help or be around.

Unfortunately, Patty has become a bit of an annoyance. It's getting to where I don't enjoy going past the back door. This is bad because most of the good stuff in the garden is right outside the back door.

The funny thing is that Patty gave me some advice regarding my corn. Like me, she has problems with our mutual neighbor, Lowell, whom I KNOW I have mentioned before in exasperation. Patty's idea was for me to continue digging up my side yard and planting more of that amazing variety of corn that has grown to be higher than the gutters of our garage. "Just like a great big privacy fence!" were her exact words. So that Lowell couldn't see what we were doing on the patio.

Now that's actually not a bad idea. A great big corn privacy fence all the way around my garage and patio to block BOTH of them.

This picture was taken one week ago. The corn stalks are actually higher than the gutters now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Emergency Gig

Got a call on Thursday from our pal Conner, who is currently music director for the South Bend Civic Theatre's production of "Hairspray". His pianist quit that morning via Facebook. So I agreed to fill in a little bit.

Show opens in four days.

Didn't anyone mention that there are occasional times when I'm out of my mind? Work freaks me out every single day, so I decide to quadruple my practice load. Yeah, that'll keep me sane.

Anyway, stay tuned for updates and the review. Can't wait to get this thing started.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Well Zippity-Do-Dah to That

My little zucchini family. In the back we have Zeke and Zepher, and in the front are Zelda and Zach.
 The zucchini are delicious.
Waiting for these tomatoes to turn red is making me insane!

Green Beans!

I love this picture.

This is a Pink Accordion Heirloom variety tomato. Except it isn't actually pink yet.

The package said that it's a pattypan squash. I think it's not.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Keeper of the House

Things have perked up at my bank job. I've settled into the expectations and I've made my peace with the parts of the jobs that I hate - for now. My referrals have even picked up. I have had 3 referrals so far this week - making it my best week ever. But do know this - I am just settling for now. I am working to make money to pay off debts so that I can later pursue much better things.

It's my day off - obviously. I don't seem to be able to post very often unless it is my day off. With the bedsheets in the wash, and the rented Rug Doctor sitting by my side, it's pretty clear what my day will consist of. I've given myself 20 minutes until I get up and put on the trash clothes and get started. With any luck, maybe a friend will drop by and give me company and decorating tips. I even thought about inviting my mother in law over, but I have a feeling we would start talking and then she would talk me into a shopping trip. Not that I wouldn't love it, I just have too much to get done today.

The corn has tassles, and there are 3 green beans! The beans are so small and thin that they look like inchworms. I am sorry to say that the earwigs have completely obliterated my sunflowers. It was a good try, and I will try again next year, but I will be more prepared for those wretched things of Satan than I was this year. I put on a good show for my piano students though when one of them found an earwig on the dining table. I shrieked, ran to get a shoe and started slapping it against anything that slightly look earwiggish. HATE those nasty things.

We have plenty of tomatoes, as I knew we would, but waiting for them to be anything but green is driving me insane. My ultra-earlies, Northern Delights, have sat for 2 weeks, barely getting any bigger and staying green. They are multiplying though. One plant has approximately 25 little green spheres so far. I regret not labelling any of my tomatoes. I just planted seeds and happily let them grow. Now I haven't got the slightest CLUE as to which plants will produce which types of tomatoes. I only know the Northern Delights because they were the first to fruit, and I have identified a Pink Accordion heirloom because it has one single, solitary fruit on it - about an inch in diameter. The tomatoes in the front garden have not grown as well as the ones in the back. This winter I will need to be sure that I mulch the soil well and put some organic plant food in.

I also found a pattypan squash - cutest little thing. :) Planted autumn beets and more beans. As expected, the melons are tiny and weak. Partially because of where they are planted and partially because I simply planted them too late. The autumn peas are vining away and the cucumbers are sprouting new leaves every day.

I searched the internet for some vintage prints of WWII Victory Garden posters and I'm so pleased with what I found on Amazon! I'm going to get at least 3 prints and frame them for the kitchen.

Remember American Girl? Before Disney bought them out, I was a huge fan. My American Girl was Molly - the 1945 WWII era doll. The family's victory garden was mentioned in every story. So now you know where I got my strange adoration for these vintage prints from!

Well, my 20 minute allotment is up. The sheets have finished the spin cycle and the Rug Doctor is beckoning me get up and get to work! I've only got until 4 today.

It's so rewarding to be the Keeper of the House.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Government Overstep

http://www.oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com/

Now HERE is a cause I could champion. I don't really care about the stuff that's in the headlines, but this is something that burns me up.

From what I have read on this woman's blog, the city government of Oak Park is taking these homeowner's to court for planting vegetables in their front yard. The funny thing is that the city TORE UP their front yard for sewer work to begin with! They just happened to replant the yard with veggies. And thus began the troubles.

Wow.

This is what we've come to in America?  We're the land of the free as long as we put grass and shrubbery in our front yards like everyone else?

Visit this blog, sign the petition against the city's case, educate yourselves on your own city's laws regarding landscaping. Personally I find tomatoes, beans and squash perfectly acceptable plants for landscaping and they're edible too. But what do I know?

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Few More Images

Obviously I love my little 'farm'. I'd love it better if I could tear the neighbor's house down and expand onto their lot, but that wouldn't be very neighborly, would it?? Anyway, I dug some new potatoes last night, pulled baby carrots, clipped lavender spears, and dug weeds until dusk and I was so happy doing it. Here are a few of the pictures I took:












Monday, July 4, 2011

Facebook Down

What do you mean my Facebook profile is down for site maintenance!? I don't know what this means....

I might be the tiniest bit addicted to Facebook. I put up a status that Alex and I were at the St. Joseph County fair last night and I wanted to see if anyone had anything to say in response. I also wanted to add that a county fair seems to be the single largest collection of white trash, ghetto booty, teenage cleavage and jailbait in the county right now. That may seem to be a cruel thing to say, but it's true.

We went primarily for the food. Nothing feeds a summertime craving like carnie food - elephant ears, funnel cakes, caramel corn, cotton candy and while you're at it, ruin some perfectly healthy veggies for me and dip them in batter and deep fry the vitamins out of them please!! Love fried veggies. Mmm!

We got our elephant ear, and then went to the ticket booth where they were selling 4 tickets for $5. We gasped, unsure of how to proceed. Wristbands made sense, but they were $23 each. Sad to say, we didn't get to go on the ferris wheel, which was our one hope as far as rides go.

We did get the opportunity to go into the exhibit hall for the crafts and other projects, and I was so impressed with the quality and the talent of the kids in our 4-H, but I found myself being disappointed that OUR little town had very, very few entries. Most were from the outlying communities - not many at all from the city. Sad. City kids (and those rich snobs up North of us) could really benefit from 4-H - it is my belief that 4-H is better than forcing them into a sport or team they don't like all summer, or allowing them to stay in the house watching television and playing video games. But hey, who am I to judge? I don't even have children.




The fireworks were wonderful. I love fireworks. My favorites though are the golden-bronze or silver ones that shimmer sparks and embers. It always makes me think of the end of Peter Pan, when Tinker Bell showers Captain Hook's pirate ship with pixie dust to make it fly. I often wonder what America must look like from space on the Fourth of July? I bet it's beautiful.

I have some thoughts about our Nation's Independence Day as well. Weird ones. First of all, I'm no die-hard patriot. It wouldn't be devastating to me to move away from the US if we had to. But I do have a bit of patriotic spirit and I think we should observe and honor the amazing country we live in. But I find it a little disturbing that we honor our country by attending 'giant sales' at retail outlets that force their employees to work on a national holiday. 50 years ago, Independence Day was observed by all; everyone, every business, took the time to honor our founders, our fallen and our faithful. Now, in our post-consumeristic, legalistic society, our companies are so concerned with being open every single day and getting the extra bucks, that there is no honor, no observance. And the more we allow it, the worse it gets. I am never one to predict the future, but I would guess that Independence Day simply becomes another day in the calender, just like Columbus Day or Mother's Day, sometime in the future. I wonder if the banks will even close?

The best part of the evening was when we ran into our friends, Matt and Dana, and their 3 little girls. Bella and Jillian got to ride in the Crazy Mouse - some kind of hybrid between the teacup ride at Disney and a roller coaster, and Kailee, being only 3, had to sit out. And she was very upset about it, which was made worse by the fact that she was exhausted beyond measure. She let me carry her for a bit, but she's almost getting too big for me. She is definitely heavier than the other two girls were at her age. And everytime Mommy or Daddy came close, she would turn her face away and say "NO". Mad, cuz she couldn't go on any of the big kid rides. So Alex picked her up, MY ALEX!, and snuggled with her and carried her around for awhile. And the wild beast was soothed. Kailee loves Alex. We don't know why, but she does. And I think he likes her too. :) He was definitely working up his 'daddy muscles' last night. I may be allowed to have a baby yet!

Our day ended late, and happy, with horse poo on our shoes and the smell of carnie food on our clothing. This morning we are laying around, lazy for a little while, but I'm on my way out to get the grass mowed before it gets too hot. Besides, our jerk neighbors have made it quite clear that they've had it with our grass being the longest on the block. But you already know my feeling about our next door neighbors.... No? Let's just put it in short form - "Keeping Up With The Joneses" is their favorite game. And they've been doing it for so long that they don't know how to NOT compete with a young couple working on their first house.

Anyway, please be blessed, safe, careful and happy on this Independence Day. Take time to enjoy the life we have here in America - it's wonderful and there is no other place like it. Try not to lose any fingers, toes, eyebrows or other important limbs with firecrackers. Jump in the lake and love it. Hug a family member and honor the fallen heroes. That is all. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Honest to God Truth

It's 9:44 pm on July 2nd.

After a morning on work, I came home happy. I wanted to mow grass, pull weeds and "stare at things", as Alex calls it.

But instead, Alex told me it was too hot to mow grass, or really even be outside, and didn't I have Baby Chucks to finish that were ordered over a week ago?

So I worked on them. But then Alex said, "Don't work on those right now, work on them tonight during the race. I want us to finish the shelves right now."

And so we went to the dining room, where he had started putting together a set of wire shelving for the pantry. We finished the project and I started to get the items that I had been shoving into wherever they would fit. I even found room to store the dehydrator and the big graniteware canning pot.

Alex left to take a rented DVD back to the store, and I sat down on the sofa and immediately fell asleep. When he got home, he said "Why are you napping? You shouldn't be napping in the middle of the day! There are things you should be doing!"

Then it thunderstormed.

And the cats started fighting with each other.

We had an argument over why he's been so bossy today.

And I am bored and listless and restless and grumpy and lonely.

So Alex ordered a pizza. My second pizza today, not that I cared, but it bothered him, and we argued about who has the healthier diet because obviously I shouldn't be eating pizza twice in one day. But my boss ordered pizza for us at the bank today because it was so slow and we were hungry.

I took a walk around the garden. Found things ripening. Raspberries turning pink and bright carrots getting longer and thicker. But the sky was getting more and more yellow and the clouds became menacing and the wind picked up. It doesn't stop the neighbors from shooting off their fireworks.

The lady behind us let out her dogs and I purposely walked around the front of the house when I saw her. I try to talk to her at least once a week, but all she ever does it complain about her health and their financial problems. I'm positive, but even I get depressed after a conversation with her. She gives me books though, which I love.

Annabel is 'lost' in the dining room. She is so funny sometimes. She will sit in the dark room and cry and squeak because she doesn't know where anyone else is. It makes me laugh and I call her name and it's as if she suddenly realizes she is home and the rest of the family is in the living room. Then she will come back to the living room and crawl all over me until I get annoyed and push her off.

Then Alex says to me, "Why don't you have a glass of wine? That will help you calm down a little."

He was right. And that's the honest to God truth.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Images









Does anybody know what time it is??

I am referencing the Chicago tune, not that stupid show with Tim Allen from the 90's.

I have been reading some guides to help improve my writing skills and thus far I have been irritated and disappointed that I simply have not found the time to dedicate myself to it. I'm lucky if I manage to get a one-page journal entry put down every three days or so. It makes me feel like I am completely unable to properly prioritize. Working my job is, strangely enough, not a priority to me, but getting out of debt is one of our highest priorities, and thus, the conundrum.

Two days until July 1, and so I've been sitting at the computer, pulling up my share of the monthly bills, getting them scheduled and budgeted. I feel proud that we paid off 3 small debts last week, and proud that my individual debts are decreasing. One student loan is going to be under $3000 soon. I owe less than $7000 on my car now. We owe less than $2000 on a credit card that almost had $10,000 on it 3 years ago. I am proud of our efforts, but it's discouraging to have to set aside my passions in order to continue working on these goals.

I've been reading "If You Want To Write" by Brenda Ueland, which has been a beautiful read, but sadly, I fear I' haven't had the time to do any actual writing. It's been more like "I want to write, but I barely have the time to read!" I love her imagery and the way she reminds me that really, there is nothing wrong with ME. It's the rest of the world that simply cannot understand where I am thinking from. It's hard being a right-brained person in a society dominated by left-brained pragmatists who value productivity over creativity.

It is now about 8:22 in the morning, and I am due in at work in 2 hours. I will commence my usual morning routine at this point, showering, makeup, dressing, trying to fit in a load of laundry or wash a few dishes before I leave for the day. All the while, my right brain is begging me to call in sick (which I won't do, and never do), sit in the chair for awhile with everything silent in the house and wait for something beautiful to flow from mind to pen and paper. Then maybe drive downtown to that empty coffee bar and see how much they are leasing it for. Then go to a farm, or an orchard somewhere, and breathe in the smells of fresh fruits and earth. 

When my thoughts are full of these things, it's no wonder I'm a total failure by the world's standards.

Fortunately, I don't listen to the world. I value what God has created in me. :) 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quote of the Day - 2011 version

Today it was Sharon, who is 8 years old, who gave me this bit of wisdom.

Sharon: That's 5098 things that I've forgotten about piano lessons.

Me: Only 5098?

Sharon: Well, that's 5,098 IMPORTANT things that I forgot. I only remember the unimportant things you tell me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cars 2

Alex and I went to see Cars 2 last night.

At the very beginning, there is a big scene on some very rough water. I leaned over to Alex and said, "Huh. Looks like the Bering Sea doesn't it?" We are Deadliest Catch fans.

Suddenly, a crabbing boat appeared on the scene. It was the Northwestern! With a face! And who else voiced the Northwestern, but Captain Sig Hansen! We laughed and laughed.

It was the best part of the movie. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

We Have Food!

"WE HAVE FOOD!"

That's what I hope to say when our economy goes belly-up, the America dollar plunges to worthless and no one can afford food anymore. Or maybe I was listening to a doomsday prophet again. I shouldn't do that.

Anyway, I've been working pretty hard on the pantry and emergency food storage. I'm kinda proud! I think right now, we could probably live for a week on what's in our pantry. It will be better after this growing season. Now what we really, really need is a chest freezer. Everyone in my family had one. It's a critical piece of food storage equipment and we really need to make the investment.

I cored and sliced 8 flippin' quarts of strawberries! Good Lord, when that was over, my hands were frozen, numb and stained red, but I have 2 big bags in the freezer and one in the fridge. (One that is now half empty because I used half of it to bake a pie tonight.

I bought 3 pounds of rhubarb at the market last week, and also used about half of it to bake pie tonight. The other half I sliced up and stuck in the freezer. Vegetarian Times had a 5 recipes to try with rhubarb in the May/June issue. There has to be a use for it besides pie! Alex won't touch it of course, so it will be up to me to give the ol' college try.

Tonight I choked down a pork chop, again, and decided that I am probably heading back to my vegetarian diet. It's hard to eat in my house. Alex, my sweet hubs, is deathly allergic to poultry, so we never eat chicken or turkey. Unfortunately, he is also a picky eater, so he won't touch a veggie with a ten foot pole. (Pretty sure I've mentioned this predicament once or twice before.) But he will willingly eat carrots, when prepared right, corn, potatoes, bell peppers when served with stir fry, and celery (but only raw with peanut butter). He has occasionally been willing to try other things, but by and large, he turns up his nose and frowns at my kitchen adventures when asked to taste-test. I'm not really sure if I am craving my vegetarian ways again because the garden has been so mouth watering, or if I am truly tired of eating meat, but either way, I'm collecting my vegger recipes together and getting ready to plunge into meatlessness soon.

A few updates from the garden:

The corn is almost waist high due to more excessive rainfall. (My waist, not a normal human's waist. So the corn is about 2 and a half feet tall.) I've only actually watered my garden once this year. The rest of the time, it has rained and then I have been sure to mulch with grass clippings to keep the moisture in.

I am going to go out and dig for a few new potatoes tomorrow. No, I really just cannot wait, its THAT urgent. :) I will leave the rest for a main crop, but I think since I have 7 plants and all will produce about 10 pounds of potatoes, we'll be okay this winter minus a few.

It's been chilly again all week. The summer solstice seemed to mock us here in Northern Indiana. My tomatoes, while flowering, have stalled in their growth again. I really need four or five good hot, humid days in a row to get the growth restarted and the fruiting process going.

Got the opportunity to hand-pollinate the zucchini this morning. Hooray for plant sex! (ROFLOL) 3 zucchini plants, all flowering, only one with actual fruit, but that fruit looks like they will be real winners.

I planted a new variety of cucumber a few days ago - a pickling gherkin. I have never liked dill pickles in my life, but strangely, I will eat sweet gherkins, so that's what I'm going to go with. I also planted some large-podded shelling peas, and I planted a LOT of them. I am really hoping for several pounds of shelled peas in the freezer for the winter.

The green beans are still small and weak. This is so strange to me because beans are supposed to be so simple to grow! I have successfully grown amazing things in this garden and the easiest veggie of all is giving me trouble?? Where is the justice?

The garden will eventually be completely overtaken with several kinds of squash vines. Yes, I am aware that I 'could' go and pull them out and I will do so eventually. But right now seeing the gorgeous green leaves makes me smile. I simply cannot bring myself to pulling them out. I purposely planted the zucchini and the pattypan squash. But the pumpkins and the gourds were not intentional and they are getting quite out of hand.

I am experimenting with a type of melon. I planted the seeds - quite late I might add - and I am more or less hoping for the best. If our growing season extends into October, as it sometimes does, I will probably have a few melons. But I am not wagering any money on having prize winning melons this summer. But wait until next year....

I will have a handful of ripe red raspberries in about a week.

My sunflowers are being devoured by earwigs. Time to break out the diazanon - which is a repulsive, but effective way to get rid of them.

I pulled a carrot out of the dirt two days ago. It was still a little short, but a perfect shade of orange and quite sweet, with just the right amount of bite.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dehydrator Saves The Day!

Once again, on my day off, I have been as productive as possible. Lots of laundry loads, dishes washed, floors vacuumed and many, many errands run, all before lunch! Time to treat myself!

I've been planning on buying a food dehydrator for a very long time. My mom had one, but we didn't use it very often when I was growing up. I got one today with my Bed Bath and Beyond 20% off coupon, and I am so excited about the stuff I am going to make with it.

Today I just started simple. My garden is chock full of flowering and leafy herbs right now, so I went out with my cute little basket and gathered handfulls of chamomile flowers, dill leaves, oregano and lavender. By summer's end, I will be drying all matter of things - carrots and peas for soups, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, corn for popping, fruit for cereal, herbs for tea, and meat for jerky. I may even try my hand at fruit leather!

So here are a few pics of what I've been up to. Updates throughout the summer as I get more experimental!




Growing Happiness

Take a deep breath with me, exhale slowly, smile and imagine everywhere you look there is food growing at marvelous paces. That has been my morning thus far. Happy. Peaceful. Full of growth.

I now have two places where I am utterly happy. The first is my beautiful garden.

The second....wait for it, cuz it's CRAZY...... is our church. When did that happen?! I don't know, and if you knew me during my teenage and college years, you remember that I hated church. I used to barf on purpose to get out of going to the church I went to as a kid. But now, I find peace in the walls of our sanctuary, beauty in the stained glass and the vaulted ceiling and rest in the presence of the Holy Spirit being there. And that is the difference. The church I went to as a youth had.....issues. The one we are in now has God - the real God. :)

Last week I finally went to the farmer's market to get strawberries. We've had a bad season for strawberries. It snowed until May for example. Our local UPick went out of business. Fortunately we live near the Indiana/Michigan border, and there are plenty of Michigan farmers willing to share their harvest. I bought a 'flat' which is about 8 pints and brought them home. Today, finally, I will be able to finish slicing and freezing them. Some for jam, some for just eating with sugar and cottage cheese, and some are also going to be made into strawberry-rhubarb pie for a beach party we'll be attending this weekend.

Today I have a massive to-do list, and yet, here I sit at the computer. It's my day off for the week, and I LOVE my days off. I get to do those things at home that I love to do. Cook, garden, crochet booties and fulfill orders from the Etsy shop , fill pages of blank journal with thoughts and ideas and rest up. Well, I did get the floors vacuumed, the sheets washed, the dishes washed and the bathrooms cleaned. From here on out it's just errand upon errand. And that's okay! Some of those errands include trips to friends' houses to drop off the tomato and pumpkin plants that I have excessive amounts of.  (Did you want a few??)

Did I mention that I have a little over 40 tomato plants and about 400 pumpkin and gourd starts?

I'm going out to finally purchase the food dehydrator that I promised myself 2 years ago when I started canning and preserving. Today's plan is to harvest chamomile and dill and get them dried and sealed up for later use. Especially the cham. That has been a staple in my tea chest for some time now.

Oh! Before I forget, Alex and I have accomplished something financially that we are quite proud of! We paid off 3 small credit cards! All were carrying balances between $100 and $400 - and we knocked them out. One more credit card to pay off for us, and we will officially be out of credit card debt. Then it's on to student loans. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Trash Pile

There is a little section of my garden that I refer to as the trash pile. It is the area under a bradford pear tree (I hate this tree - it shades prime real estate, has stinky flowers in the spring and drops nasty little fruits all over the patio every fall) where I let the weeds grow rampant and where I pile up all the 'trash' at the end of the growing season.

It's not really a compost pile because I have a compost pile on the other side of the yard. This is just the place where I dump stuff. And I usually find treasures here when the new growing season starts. This year is no different than any other year.

The Trash Pile is currently home to 7 chamomile plants, mountains of catnip, and a few stray tomatoes. Truth be told, I have tomato plants popping up in such large quantities that I am giving them away to friends and family members. They have been showing up in such random places that I wonder why I bothered saving seeds from them at all.

I stepped on a thorn tonight and also ran another thorn into my thumb. Yes I know that there are things called shoes and gloves, but honestly, I just love to feel the dirt under my feet and in my hands. Even as I am typing this, I am still pretty well covered in mud.

I've been thinking about renting the church kitchen and having a 'canning' party later this season. Lord knows I'm going to have more tomatoes than I will know what to do with! As we get further into the year, I feel more strongly about preparing and helping others prepare for times to come. Maybe it's the fact that I cannot buy groceries for $50 a week anymore. ($87 this week - and I tried to get only sale items.) Maybe it's the dire economic predictions, the political scene and the state of our country in general. I don't know. But it's on my heart to prepapre and help others know how to prepare. Plus - canning in a group could be a LOT of fun.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Creative Inventory - Last Question

What time of day are you most receptive to inspiration?

I wish I had a definitive answer to this question. I wish I could say every morning I wake up with a fresh batch of ideas that came upon me in the places between my dreams.

But the truth is that I don't think I'm ever very receptive to inspiration. When it comes, it is usually haphazard and at an inconvenient moment in the day. I don't get a lot of time to just sit alone with my thoughts and allow them to flow. Even now, I am frantically trying to put together a sentance before I need to go to the post office and ship some packages and after that, go work at the bank for a few hours. If I did wake up with a good idea this morning, it is long forgotten in the rush of the morning. If I chance upon it later tonight, it will probably disappear into the exhausted folds of my gray matter while I'm falling asleep.

Part of my goal in drawing out this creative inventory is to discover when, where and how my muse reaches me. I am proud that I have gone through each question honestly and with my heart laid open like a book. I recognize that I need specific times and specific places. I realize that I am messy, disorganized and lopsided in my creative life. It's time for me to set these things right. I don't believe I'll ever fully reach my dream of becoming a full time 'artist' if I can't get the creative side of me in order.

There is probably more to be said, but the post office is waiting, and so is work at the bank.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Creative Inventory Part 8

What has been your greatest creative hurdle thus far?

Easily, my greatest creative hurdle is finishing what I start. This is even evident in the fact that I 'started' this blogging the answers to these questions, and it's been 4 days since the last time I posted. Not on purpose - I just have never had a really good drive to complete anything.

Starting projects is fun and new. It's enticing. The elements are sitting in various pieces all around the table and looking at each other, wondering how they will fit together. But once the project gets underway, it loses it's novelty and after awhile, especially if it doesn't turn out the way I intended, I will stop working on it. The poor project becomes just another of my unfinished pieces in a box. And I have a LOT of unfinished dresses and other sewing projects. A LOT of unfinished stories in Word files on the computer. A LOT of half-done paintings.

Finishing - staying interested to the end - it my greatest hurdle. It's also the reason I believe I need a partner to keep me accountable. I just haven't found the right partner yet. But I know he/she is out there!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Savory Leek Soup - Straight From The Garden

This morning was one of serious productivity. I had the grass mowed before 8:30 this morning and just now I dug up all of the onions and most of the leeks. The leeks were an interesting experiment for me from last year. They have been in my yard for almost a year now and I believe they struggled to grow almost as much as I struggled to lift them from the dirt. I unknowingly sowed their seeds in an area with heavy clay very close to the topsoil. The poor roots had nothing helping them achieve their fullest potential.

Though my leeks never got more than a half inch in diameter, they still had a fine flavor and sweet onionish fragrance. My plan all along for these babies was to make them into a savory leek soup with potatoes and freeze them for a day in the future winter when I can warm it up and think fondly back to this hundred degree, 100% humidity day in early June, when my deepest cares were simply the abundance coming out of the garden.

So this is the recipe. It would have been smart to take some pictures, but alas, I didn't think about that today. I just had digging and cooking on my mind.


Savory Leek and Potato Soup

6-8 small leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped
5 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed with a spoon
salt, pepper
two pinches of dried basil, or 4 fresh leaves chopped
3 cloves of fresh garlic
2 tablespoons butter
One can of vegetable broth (16 ounces)


In a saucepan, saute the leeks and garlic in butter until crisp tender.

After boiled and mashing the potatoes, add the broth to them and bring to a boil. 
Add leeks and garlic. Boil, stirring continuously. Mixture will be lumpy.
Season with salt, pepper and basil to taste.
Once the soup mixture is heated thoroughly, transfer the mixture to the food processor in batches and process until thick and smooth. Add milk if desired, to make the soup creamier and thinner.
Enjoy immediately, or put in freezer containers to enjoy at a later time! Especially delicious in a bread bowl, sprinkled with fresh cheese. :)

Creative Inventory Q&A Part 7

Does nature influence your creativity? How so?

In a word, yes.

But this sounds very similar to the question about whether or not there is a certain element that draws me.

I am a Taurus, and Earth-sign, and one that is definitely influenced by nature. Sometimes I am exasperating to others because I simply must stop in the middle of whatever it is I am doing to go and examine those roses over there, or the leaves of that tree, or the texture of those rocks. I am often compelled by Nature to stop and take in the beauty all around me.

I am always stunned by the amazing detail that is in the Earth. It's one of the things that leads me to believe in a Creator God and not just billions of years of accidental explosions - although I do have elements of the theory of evolution that I believe whole-heartedly. I just don't believe that it all came from nothing and will some day all return to nothing. (Call me crazy, it helps me feel like I have hope and a purpose on this waterball of a planet we call home.)

Side tangent - sort of. Often Christian ministers will remind their flocks that God is their Father, and the perfect father; the one who nurtures, and loves unconditionally and never fails, so unlike many earthly fathers, especially in our modern society. But I always had trouble finding God to be a heavenly Father because, well, my father was about as close to perfect as can be. I love my Daddy, and I don't think he has ever let me down yet. He isn't God, but he was unselfish and supportive through our entire upbringing. It's hard to replace that earthly father with God if you don't really have a reason to. It was at this point that I started identifying God as more of an Artist and source of true inspiration for me. Now of course, I recognize all the elements of Christian faith, but it was when I began to seek God for a facet of His personality that I could actually identify with, that I began to have a real relationship with him. God does fill gaps in our lives - He just doesn't fill the same gaps in everybody's lives.

Nature brings me  to my knees in wonder. Just as an example of how I draw inspiration, I will mention that I've always been a bit of a collector and still to this day I have a collection of stones and seeds and dried flowers lined up on my kitchen windowsill. The different textures, colors and patterns have incited different landscapes in my stories, specific details in my paintings and probably most importantly, make me smile during the day.

I thank God for the beauty and detail of his marvelous Art Project. Nothing brings greater joy to this artist's soul than knowing that He made it to help draw my best ideas out of me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Creative Inventory Pt. 6

"Do you have any creative rituals?"

This concept confused me. I have never had any creative rituals, and it struck me that I almost go about my creativity rather willy-nilly, simply starting and stopping whenever I feel like it and giving up on ideas that don't come out right the first time. It seems like an extraordinarily self-defeating way to work. After all, one of my greatest inspirations, Ludwig van Beethoven, couldn't work unless he dumped buckets of water over his head. There must be something to this 'ritual' thing that has never presented itself to me before.

So I am going to attempt to invent some creative rituals to help my ideas blossom and my drive to complete my work grow stronger.

Anybody know how to invent rituals? I do not.

What I hope to do is begin with the things that I know lead me into inspiration. Certain pieces of music will probably be listened to before I begin to write, and I will probably walk through the garden, enjoying my beautiful flowers and plants for a few minutes to help focus my mind. (Unless that doesn't work and instead, I begin to work in the garden.) I will try to get out of the house for at least a little bit every day, and I am going to experiment with whether creating before work, or after work is the best time of day for me.

And I'm going to be reading. Doing lots and lots of reading. I have already begun, and there are several more books on the way that I hope will help me fine-tune my skills.

I am curious to know if there are any tasks or rituals that anyone else out there might find useful? What drives your inspiration or brings out your best ideas?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Creative Inventory Part 5

What activates your creative energy? What deactivates it?

I don't think I can even list all the things that get me in the mood to create!! I am inspired always by beautiful things. Now wait, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so what can I possibly mean by that? I guess it's more complicated than simply "I am inspired by beauty".

Remember how I said I have a natural talent for seeing the possible? It goes along with that. I am inspired by blank canvasses. A raw, uncut piece of fabric. A huge open stretch of land that has nothing growing on it yet. Entire days where I have nothing that has to be done! (I can't wait for Wednesday, my day off this week!) A basket-full of balls and skeins of yarn that haven't been woven into anything yet.

Sunny days inspire my Earthiness and pull me out-of-doors into the sunshine to dig in the dirt, to design gardens of flowers and vegetables and fruits and to adore the beauty of Creation.

Stormy days bring out my 'hand-made' creativity. All things fine arts are produced on stormy days - new dresses, new crochet designs, new tales of haunted house, pirates, and best friends, new drawings and worst of all - encourage me to redecorate a room of the house. (This occasionally gets me into trouble.)

Days that are in between stormy and sunny make me want to play the piano for hours and sing. Cloudy days don't give a lot of leniency for sitting around, nor do they make me want to coax seedlings to grow taller, and so my heart begins to sing the blahs away.

BUT I begin to feel drained when the project has carried on for too long. This is my creative downfall and why I am so terrible at follow-through. I begin projects with gusto, anxious to bring the thoughts in my head into reality. Once they begin to take much longer than I originally planned - especially sewing projects if they must be ripped apart and resewn - I begin to lose my creative spark toward that project and it will become just another statistic in my pile of things unfinished. When something no longer stimulates my eye for the possible, I lose interest, and, often, move on to the next stimulus. This is something that makes me believe that I need a partner to work with - someone to hold my nose to the grindstone.

Deadlines are especially effective for me. If I promised to deliver something the next day, you can bet I will pull an all-niter to finish it!