Friday, March 31, 2017

Take Your Crayons Back!

When I was a little kid, one thing I always had a lot of were Crayola crayons and coloring books.

I loved my colors...

Have you ever felt like the above?

I did... and I got my crayons back.  Not just crayons either.  I have colored pencils, markers, ink pens, and watercolor pencils.

I'm not the only one who has felt this way.  Adult coloring books are everywhere now.  You can find free pages on the Internet and I've even been sent little ones from organizations soliciting for donations.

I've found coloring pages in newspaper pull-outs.

The Dollar Tree has some fairly nice ones too.

One of my favorite artists (Alisa Burke) has a line of coloring books she sells.

There are artist who do very elaborate coloring books with great detail like this Johanna Basford page.

It is so relaxing to just sit and lose yourself in the coloring.

Yes, it is!

By the way... today is Crayola Crayon Day.  And they have 'retired' one of the old faithful colors from the 24 count box.  I wonder which one it is?  

My bet... white.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Yard Tool Bucket

With Spring finally deciding to show up, it's time to work in the yard.  And that means it's time to put together another home maintenance kit!

A few years ago I won this bucket liner as a door prize.  It got "put away" (aka 'lost') and I just recently found it.

It fits in a 5 gallon bucket, something we have many of.

The outside pockets hold all the small tools I need.

Inside the bucket is room for my larger digging and whacking tools.  There are also some small pouches in the black strip.

This is everything I've fit into it ... so far.  If I need anything else, there is room for it.

Now let the yard work begin!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Drinking a Shrub and Eating Some Wine

My "Food In Jars" challenge for March was jelly and shrubs.  Yes, 'shrub' but not like the evergreens in your front yard.  Whole different thing but first let's see the jelly I made.

I really did not feel like fooling around with fruit.  But someone in the group mentioned making jelly out of wine.  Hmmmm... that got my attention because we have a lot of wines from various wineries we have visited.  Problem is... we don't drink a lot of wine.

I did an Internet search for wine jelly and came up with dozens.  Wanting to keep it simple I picked "White Wine with Herbs" jelly.  Herb of choice ~ thyme from my herb bed.

Cooking up the batch.

And in the jars.  It is very pretty and smelled wonderful.

Tasted great too.

However, I did have a problem with the set.  Basically... it didn't.  Well, maybe a little.  You could call it a very thick syrup or a very thin jelly.  So I'm going to reprocess the batch and see if I can get it to thicken up.  The kinks will definitely be worked out because it is so good.

OK, now the 'shrubs'.

A shrub is a syrup used to flavor drinks of many kinds; sparkling water, clear soda, or alcohol.  It's made with a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit - sugar - vinegar.  Yes, vinegar.  It's origins are in ancient Persia.  It was popular in England (and eventually the United States) from the 1500s to the late 1800s.

It's popularity waned during the 1900s.  But in the last 7 years it has made a comeback as a drink mixer.  (I'll stick with the club soda, thank you.)

There are two methods to make a shrub.  First is the hot method.

You heat your fruit (these are some black berries I picked) with the sugar.

Mash them up to release all the juices.

Cook down a bit and add the vinegar.

I used 2/3 of a cup apple cider vinegar and 1/3 cup honey ginger balsamic vinegar.

It's then strained of the fruit.

I poured the liquid into a canning jar for ease of storage.

Honey Ginger Blackberry Shrub.

It's taste?  Oh. My. Goodness.

The second method of making a shrub is the 'cold method'.

You mash up some fruit with sugar and let is mellow on your counter for a few days.  Then you add your vinegar, strain, and bottle like with the hot method.

The above is my 'pre-shrub'.

They are strawberries I picked and didn't get processed into jam.  This shrub will be ready Thursday and will be Strawberry Balsamic Shrub.

I'll let you know how it tastes...

EDIT:  Thursday has come and we finished the strawberry shrub.

I didn't think it was possible but Balsamic Strawberry is better than the Honey Ginger Blackberry!

I had about 2 tablespoons of a very good balsamic left in a bottle, so I added it to the apple cider vinegar.  MMMMmmmmmm...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Birds in the Hand

Spring is in the air... and the birds are turning into airheads!

Our first little dummy was so busy chasing another Titmouse that he/she failed to notice the kitchen window.


Himself went out to check on the situation.  Usually they just fly off to the nearest tree where they shake their head like "Dang!  That hurt!"

But sometimes they knock themselves loopy (thankfully we rarely have a fatality).

While he was rescuing, I was preparing the 'recovery pitcher'.  We have a designated yellow pitcher just for holding 'critters'.  Many birds have rested safely in the warm or cool of our house until they were ready to go back outside.

After about a half hour this cheeky bird was pecking on the side of the container wanting OUT.  When I turned the lid to see her, she made to come out of that hole.

Yep, she was ready to fly!  We took her out the front, opened the lid, and she flew straight up like a hummingbird then she was gone.

Our next rescue was not so cute...

A dang starling pushed its way into our chimney.

Persia let us know about the intruder.

We let her have a bit of fun with it for a while.

You know... it is a shame they are such disgusting sky rats.  They really are quite pretty.

They absolutely glow.

This one was so scared he was holding his own leg!

GOOD!  Maybe he won't come back!!
(Can you believe I rescued a starling?!?!)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Altered Card Deck Swap is In!

Remember a few weeks ago I showed you the 56 tiny watercolor paintings I did for a swap?

Here are the cards I received back for the swap!

These nine are my favorites.

Handmade stamp on fabric, then hand colored.

Multi layered.


Handmade flower.

Mixed media

Sewn fabric pocket

Glitter in netting

Mixed media photo

So dainty!

Mixed media

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mediterranean Diet Meal for a Luncheon

I had another lesson luncheon for my Extension Homemakers Club.  This time the lesson was on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

There are a zillion studies - opinions - definitions of just what a Mediterranean Diet is, and as many opinions of what country's cuisines represent the diet.

It boils down to this: the Mediterranean Diet is plant based and generally low protein.  It is vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains (usually NOT wheat), nuts, and seeds.  It is minimally processed.  Herbs and spices are stars in this show.

Proteins found in the diet are chicken (and eggs), seafood, sheep, and goat.  Cheese is from sheep and goats.  Yogurt is a staple ~ but we are talking the "Greek" style yogurt which is higher in protein and lower in sugar than what Americans consider as yogurt.

White sugar is not common.  Honey is the sweetener of choice.  Snacks are often dried fruits and nuts.

A huge different from an American diet is that in a Mediterranean diet proteins are part of a dish... NOT the main course.  Two chicken breasts can feed an entire family.  Cheese is sprinkled, not layered.

This type of cuisine comes from countries that rugged and hilly.  Hot dry summers and cold damp winters.  Lush pastures are rare; they more likely would be turned to orchards.

Now what country's cuisines represent this diet?  
North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
Middle East: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria
Turkey and Greece

Not Italy.  Think about the heavy sauces and white flour pastas, thick cheeses, and sugary desserts.

Studies show that people who follow a Mediterranean diet (as opposed to those who don't) have lower heart disease, less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and less cognitive impairment.

So of course I prepared a Mediterranean meal for lunch.

I started with a sample of common dried fruit as the appetizer (you can see the little cup to the left).  I had a fig, a date, and a dried apricot.

Hummus and pita bread was a must!  BTW folks, that flat dry cardboard like "pita" you get at a fast food place is not real pita.  Once you taste a piece of real pita bread you won't ever eat that other stuff again.  (I cheated on the hummus and bought it at my favorite local Mediterranean restaurant).

The salad came from my Extension service lesson.

For the entree I made a tangine chicken recipe.  Tangine cooking is very typical North African cooking.  The added fun for me was that I got to use the salt preserved lemons I made last month.

Here's the recipe I used:

And dessert was a simple dish of Greek yogurt (vanilla flavored) with peaches or tangerines on top, then drizzled with honey.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bringing Outside Inside

We're VERY busy with a lot of big projects so I've not really done anything interesting lately.

But I did make a bit of time to put together a new moss garden.

I found this chunk of beautiful moss the day we went out looking for trees to bonsai.  I took just a bit of it home with me.

It's a very tall moss - about 2 inches high.  I've never tried using this kind.  We'll see how it does.

BTW, my small tree from that day is budding out.  The big beech is still dormant (as are all the ones growing in the woods around us).

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hazardous Waste - What's in Your Home?

Have you ever considered all the things in your home that are considered to be 'hazardous waste'?  Things like strippers, just about anything to do with your car maintenance, adhesives, pesticides, fertilizers(!), fluorescent bulbs (all kinds), and old paint.

Friday we started our garage KonMari by going through all of our cans of paint, stain, and sealers.  Those still go were neatly organized back onto the shelf.  Those that had gone south on us were put in a basket in the car trunk.

We also gathered a few other putties and sealers that had gone bad.  We have a special place to keep old fluorescent bulbs for the collection.

We were up early today and headed into town to beat the crowds.  Our county has a pretty good response for collection day.

Once you get there, you don't even get out of your car.  Workers tote it all out and away, with a wave good-bye and a thank you for bringing the stuff in.

I found out that you don't have to go only to the one in your county.  ANY collection is open to anyone living in the state of Tennessee.  So we just did the garage this time and when we KonMari the shed next month, we'll gather the noxious stuff from there.  In early May a neighboring county is hosting a collection.  So we'll drop off the rest of the stuff then, and have a nice lunch in that town too.