Thursday, August 27, 2009


What I did today was not on my agenda. I was trying to lay low and relax and prepare for starting school next week. Wrong. When I was out with Patchy I was looking at one of the tomato patches and realized that I need to pick them NOW.

So pick them I did. Sadly, I lost 8 of them to the compost bin. We left them on the vine too long. I posed them for a lovely picture:
A huge haul of orange tomatoes.

Here's when the funny thing happened. I had a total brain fart. I got them inside and knew that I needed to deal with them ASAP. They were really ripe. I ran for a couple of my books. Do I can them whole? Do I make sauce? Do I attempt to use my pressure canner? Ack. What to do, what to do. After a few minutes I calmed down and decided to blanch them, peel them, run them through the mill and then Tim could make sauce when he got home from work.

I set up a nice little line in the kitchen. First I boiled them one or two at a time. Some of these tomatoes were bigger than my hand. I dropped them in then water for a minute until the skin started to crack:
Boiling for a minute.

I then fished them out of the hot water and plunged them into ice cold water. The skins for the most part just slid right off.
You can see the skins pulling away from the tomatoes.

The skins went to compost as did the cores. The tomatoes were so large that I had to cut them in quarters before I could run them through the mill.
Waiting to be quartered.
A very large pile of scraps to go out to compost.

Now the tomatoes are ready to be squished. I am pretty sure this is what a mill is, if not, I apologize. It's like a big mortar and pestle in that you squish the tomatoes and it separates the juice from the seeds.

A very large pile of peeled and quartered tomatoes.
The mill...I think. =)

I ended up with a very large pot of tomato juice. I called Tim at work and told him he was making sauce when he got home. He ran by the Farmer's Market and picked up some onions and garlic.
Big pot of juice waiting to be spiced up and cooked down.

So, Tim is home. He chopped up a bunch of garlic and onions and sauteed it in olive oil. He then dumped it all in with some oregano and it's currently reducing as I type. In the end, Tim is going to add some Parmesan cheese. We are going to fill up freezer bags and freeze the sauce. There was a lot of confusion (on my part) about if the orange tomatoes would have enough acid in them to use a water bath canner or if I had to use the much feared pressure canner. We are taking the easy way out (this time) and just freezing it.

We still have one more very large patch of tomatoes that need to be picked ASAP. I'm hoping that I can hold off until Saturday, but then again, I don't want to lose a bunch to compost. Tomorrow might be a repeat of today.

Well, I'm going to go enjoy some gluten free peanut butter brownies and finish my Dead Until Dark. Connor finished his first 39 Clues book last night and is bugging me to go get him the second book. It is gearing up to be a busy weekend. Have a great night everybody.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Sorry faithful readers for my lack of posting. There really is no excuse except for laziness. I'm trying to figure out the direction I want this little blog to go. I originally set it up to keep track of my garden experiments and keep family members in the loop with the craziness we call life. I'm not sure if I should limit it to just gardening. Or include everything else. Maybe I'll make a daily schedule like Monday will be news about kids, Tuesday will be gardening news, etc. Of course that means that I will have to do something daily and I'm not sure if I can commit to that right now.

I think for this post I will break it up into topics.


Where did this summer go? It boggles my mind that next week we start school again. I am going to do another year of homeschooling with Connections Academy. I like the ability to work at our own pace and the curriculum provided. I like that each of the kids has their own teacher that I can touch base with if I need help. I like spending time with my kids because I know soon enough they will be out on their own and I like being able to mold them into decent human beings while I have the chance. I also like that I get to see them progress through the years. If they were in public school I don't think it would be as noticeable. Their teachers would change from year to year and the new teacher would not know what giant steps the kids make each year. I get to see them mature and learn every year. I learn too, which isn't a bad thing. So, school is back on as of next Tuesday. I have the classroom 95 percent ready to go. The kids have all of their books and I have the first week of lesson plans already organized and ready. Tim has to make sure their computer is up to date with all of the software they need. I am also going to try and make something to put on their desk to separate their work areas so there will (hopefully) be no fighting/arguing. I am hoping this year will be better than last. There were a lot of things going on and I wasn't as focused as I should have been. There were also some serious extended family issues that we had to deal with but all seems to be calm for now. I did learn that I am not going to give my power over to anyone to adjust how I feel or make me feel like I'm not doing what I think is best for my family.


This is a gardening blog, is it not? I like to call my garden the half-assed garden this year. We planted our things into the ground and have occasionally weeded and that is about it. I'm not too proud about it and I am already starting to plan out next year. We had a rough start to the season with an inordinate amount of rain. I thought that perhaps we had turned into Seattle. The high amount of rain had it's ups and downs. We didn't really have to water anything this year...but I think our tomatoes suffered early on because of the amount of water. We have had a couple of large harvests so far and I think we will probably pick most of our tomatoes this weekend and then make them into sauce and can. I will say that the tomatoes that we have picked already have been so amazingly tasty. They are insane too. They are big and meaty. When you cut into them there is very little seed goop. It's all meat. We have also been very successful with peppers this year. I'm going to do some reading about pickling some peppers later today. The cucumbers have been so-so. For the amount of cucumber plants that got planted I haven't really seen a lot coming off the vine. I was hoping to make some pickles, but no such luck (yet).
An assortment of peppers picked before vacation.
Tower of tomatoes picked before vacation.
Tomato picked yesterday.
Tim's haberneros are starting to turn orange. His four plants are covered with peppers.


Yes, this is now a big topic in our house. I've been gluten free for a month now. At first I didn't see any real big changes in how I felt. I do think that I am starting to feel better and I know that I have more energy. Tim says he can see a big difference in how I act so that is something. It's been a huge adjustment though. I love to bake. I mean I reallllllly love to bake. It's not so easy do to when you have to do it gluten free. Instead of using all purpose flour, you have to use a mix of other (expensive) flours. I have been successful in making cakes and bread and I even tackled a pretty good pizza crust. It's harder though. The pizza crust for instance is a pain in the arse to get rolled out into the pan. I also miss kneading. I used to take pleasure in kneading dough for ten minutes. I could feel the elasticity of it and I could feel it getting warm in my hands. I miss kneading. I have also decided that I'm going to have to break down and buy a KitchenAid stand mixer. I only have a handheld mixer and it barely cuts it for the mixing. I haven't gotten one yet because I haven't decided if I'm going to just abandon my love of baking. I'm sure around the holidays I will change my mind because the kids and I really do enjoy the tradition of cookie weekends.

The other problem that I've run into is gluten hiding in things that I don't expect. I've always been a pretty good label reader. You have to be when you are vegan (as we were for a year), but gluten takes on so many names that it's confusing. I find myself cheating and just buying things specifically labeled gluten free. That is all well and good until you travel. Let's just say we had a very packed cooler of things safe to eat. So, we are still trying to adjust to the new GF lifestyle. I find that I'm not as interested in food as much, which is probably a good thing. I'm just replacing it with liqueur. Just kidding (I think).


Ah, vacation. The one time a year that I look forward to and dread all at the same time. Don't get me wrong. I love to travel down to Florida and spend time with my family. That is not the part I dread. It's the drive. 18 hours. Long hours. This is the first year that we took it easy on ourselves and didn't drive all the way through. We splurged and got a hotel for the trip down and the trip back. Not an easy task when traveling with a dog either.

We left on a Friday afternoon and drove 12 hours and ended up in South Carolina the first night. We rolled into the parking lot at almost midnight and before we got out of the car we were approached by a woman and her two children begging for money. Tim talked to her because I was trying to get the kids to pack up all of their electronic equipment into their backpack to take inside. The woman told Tim some story about how they were staying in a nearby hotel and that they needed (she sized him up to see how much she could get away with asking for) 22 dollars. Huh? You are going to approach a very tired family at midnight in a dark parking lot with your kids and ask for money?! I think not. Tim said he got a weird vibe and was pretty sure it was a scam so we didn't give her anything. It was weird. I didn't sleep all that well that night because of that and because it takes me a while to unwind from driving 12 hours to actually go to sleep. Everyone else passed right out.

Then comes Saturday. We were all up and showered and on the road by 8 am. Yay us! I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts to get Tim and I a coffee and get the kids each one donut. This is where our day turned sour. I don't know if it was something in the coffee, or if it was the fact that I touched the donuts as I handed them to the children (and then proceeded to eat my watermelon) but an hour later I knew I was in trouble. I was driving along the highway at about 75 mph and I got sick. I had a sudden stabbing pain in my gut and then I felt like I was going to get sick and pass out. I was attempting to find a rest area to pull into but I knew I was a minute from passing out. I very quickly pulled off the highway (scaring Tim) and got out of the sick and then passed out. We were on the side of the road for about 2o minutes. It was terrible. I am so thankful that I knew that I was going to pass out though. My ears kind of went dull and I had the cold sweats. It's happened before. I don't even want to think about what would have happened if I had passed out while I was driving. Probably wouldn't be sitting here typing about it now. I am also thankful that when I pulled over it was really cloudy and windy but not yet raining. The breeze helped me slowly come back. Tim took over driving for a while and sure enough five minutes back into the drive it started to rain really hard. Good timing, eh? Well, that little incident kind of wore me out for the rest of the day. Tim drove for a couple of hours until I felt better and then I took back the driving duties until we got to my parent's house. I was beat and not very sociable when we got there but was much better by Sunday. Like I said, I'm not sure what set my episode off. I still am a tiny bit skeptical if I am in fact celiac or at least intolerant to gluten. I don't know if the fact that I handed a donut to each child and then ate my watermelon did it or if it was just something in the coffee. I may never know what happened...but it seems to have convinced Tim that I cannot eat or be around gluten.

The rest of the vacation was nice. We had an amazing day at the beach. I mean AMAZING! We got there early before it was filled with people. It wasn't too hot. The tide was on the way out and the kids had a blast in the water. We saw a lot of small white fish with each wave that came in and receded. We also saw a lot of little live conch shells. The kids were fascinated with them. I was also amazed at how much Connor has grown up. In the past, he has been terrified of the beach. The waves were always too loud and too rough for him. This trip he strapped on a boogey board and hit the waves with Tim. Aidan, as usual, showed no fear of the water at all. He went right in, got knocked over, got back up and did it all over again. I kept freaking out because there had been rip tide warnings because two separate tropical storms were off the coast, but everyone survived. I also scored one of my classic beach sunburns which I enjoy. I know, it's crazy, but I can be bright red one day and the next day it's nice and brown. It was awesome.
We could not have asked for a nicer beach day. It was perfect!

Aidan showing his no fear. This was like two minutes after arriving to the beach. Everyone else was laying out blankets, putting on sunscreen, etc and Aidan was running towards the water by himself.

The only other major thing we did was take the kids out to Downtown Disney. Aidan got jipped out of a trip to the Lego store last year so we had to do it this year. He was beside himself with excitement. He looked at everything. He spent a lot of time on the wall where you can pick out certain pieces. He spent time playing on the table where they had legos out to play with. He scored a bunch of stuff. It was a great trip. We then ate at the T-Rex Cafe. If you've ever been to the Rainforest Cafe, it's the same thing instead of having Rainforest scenes and animals it was all prehistoric scenes and dinosaurs. It was really good. The chef came out and talked to me about the whole gluten thing and helped me pick out what I could eat and was a great help. The food was tasty and the meteor shower stopped the kids in their tracks. We shot a video of Aidan with a spoon halfway to his mouth and him just staring at everything happening during the meteor shower. Highly recommended if you happen to see one.

The rest of the vacation was just spent hanging out with family and spending a lot of time in my parent's pool. The visit was somewhat bittersweet though because I think my parents and my brother and his family are going to be moving out of Florida within the following year. I basically grew up in Florida and I have a lot of memories there. It will be sad to not go down there and see things and spend time in the pool anymore. Of course, I guess there is nothing saying that we can't go down and get a hotel and do was just nice to not have to worry about the expense of that.

Aidan an d Connor hamming it up in the pool.

Oh well, we are home now and Tim is getting back into the work routine and I'm getting back into my routine and trying to plan for the school routine for next week. We are glad to be home all safe and sound. Tim has 8 days of vacation left that he needs to use before the end of the year and we are trying to decide what to do. Neither one of us really want to go anywhere. There are a couple of things I would like to do before the end of the year and maybe he can take a day here and there to do that. I know that I want to go to Knoebel's again in the fall when it's cooled off. I want to go to the county fair next month and the Sheep and Wool festival in NY is quickly approaching. Beyond that, he will probably just take a day here and there and do nothing.


Well, I don't really have all that much more to write about right now. I have a kitchen sink full of dishes waiting to be tended to and some folded laundry that needs to be put away. I think I will spend the rest of my afternoon trying to finish my book as I know reading books for pleasure will be a luxury once school starts. I will probably try to do a summer wrap up in the next week or so.

I hope everyone else is doing well and enjoying the winding down of summer. Personally, I'm ready for fall and all that it entails.