Winter Jam

Even though we’re coming up on Spring, we’re still surrounded by huge piles of snow, crusty ice, and lots of icky mud.  We’ve got a lot of work set out for us in regards to garden-planning, seed-buying, and seedling planting.  Inside, however, is where the majority of the work is still being done (unless you count snow removal after every storm—THANK YOU CHRIS!!!).

I sewed a cute jacket for Judah out of my Sewing for Boys book.  I love the book and the jacket!


Hannah, Chris, and I made strawberry and chocolate Hamantashen for Purim.  It was a fun and yummy project this past week:


And then today I FINALLY got around to making strawberry-rhubarb jam from the strawberries Hannah and I picked last summer and the rhubarb I got from my neighbor Alice.

I used a low sugar recipe included in the Pomona’s Pectin which is my favorite pectin and allows for the most varieties in terms of type and amount of sugar.  I was a little distracted with kiddos running around and so even though I tried to be SO focused I ended up skipping the rather important step of crushing the berries.  I’m disappointed in myself because, as you may remember, last year my strawberry jam was runny and I SO wanted to have this year’s come out perfectly.  But, oh well!  The berries were very small and the rhubarb was chopped pretty small as well so it’s really just a very chunky jam.  It’s not overly sweet and tastes yummy.

ImageHannah and Judah and I took a couple of jars over to Alice while it was still warm and i was glad to finally fulfill my side of the bargain in return for the rhubarb.

But, as always, these beauties are the ones I’m most focused on raising! :)



Judah Turns 1

We had a couple of friends over last Saturday to celebrate Judah’s 1st birthday.  This was a day after he started walking and a week later he is standing by himself and walking all over!  Hannah helped me make a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing. Yummy!


My baby is getting bigger!

Then yesterday we had a lovely visit with cousins Sholom and Shana and celebrated Shabbat with them.  We played games, walked to the lake, and enjoyed each other’s company.  They left after havdalah and some guitar-playing and song-singing.

Tonight Hannah helped me make a delicious beef stew which was so simple and easy!  Even better was the fact that both kids ate it up and Hannah (who has gotten pickier as she’s gotten older) said it was “excellent!”

Here’s the recipe:

Irish Beef Stew With Guinness Stout

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 bay leaves
2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch cubes (with some fat) 
1 large yellow onion, peeled,coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, whole 
2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup beef stock
3/4 cup Guinness stout
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat a 6-quart stove-top casserole, dutch oven.  Add the oil and bay leaves. Cook the bay leaves for a moment to release their fragrance; add the meat.
Brown the meat on all sides over high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook until the onions are slightly softened.
Reduce the heat to low and add the thyme, and flour, and stir well until smooth.
Add the beef stock and stout; simmer, stirring, until the stew thickens a bit. Add the remaining ingredients and cover.

Place the pot in a 275-degree oven for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring a couple of times. Correct seasoning before serving.
Serves 4 to 6.
** To prepare in a slow cooker, reduce stock to 1/2 cup.  Place meat mixture in the slow cooker.  Layer the onions and onions on top of meat.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Recipe Adapted from Source: Guinness 

It was a great cold, Sunday evening meal.

So I’ll leave you with a picture of my tattoo with it’s new addition…I forgot to post this photo last week.  Both kids’ names and a Chai for LIFE!!!



New Year Crafts and Fun

So the New Year’s eve pasta we made with our friends was so yummy we made more the next day.

ImageIt was capellini this time and we had it with marinara and vodka sauce.  Yum!  That night I enjoyed giving Hannah and Judah a bath with the leftover Veuve Cliquot (thanks Susan for all our Grande Dame moments!).

ImageOtherwise we’ve been sledding, hunkering down in the chill, and getting ready to celebrate baby Judah’s 1st birthday!  We’re having a tiny party and making a cake and buying some helium balloons for the festivities.  Here’s a photo of him cozied up in blankies.

ImageMy big project has been finishing the puppets I promised Morah Debbie for Hannah’s kindergarten class.  They can be the all-purpose queen, king, and bad guy but are specifically Queen Esther, King Ahasuerus, and Haman.

Image It was a really fun project and I’m kinda sad that it’s done.  Next I’m making a jacket for Judah from a wonderful book I bought called Sewing for Boys:

ImageSo much fun ahead!  Now I just have to get my sewing machine fixed because I broke a needle sewing the crowns and I think I messed something up….:(

Be well everyone!

Thanks for reading!





Homemade for the Holidays

We’ve had a fun holiday time as Hanukkah came to an end and Christmas arrived.  Nana and Pop Pop visited and we all felt like our main activities were eating and playing Hello Kitty bingo.

Chris bought me a bottle of Cold River vodka which is made in Maine and I made us some good Bloody Marys.  Nothing like local spirits!  Next Spring I’ll try some with homemade horseradish from the big root we planted last Spring.  I just need to learn how to grind it up correctly.  I assume it’s not that hard.


That same night we made pesto pizza with frozen pesto from last year’s garden and local whole-wheat pizza dough.

We topped that meal off with sugar cookies–iced with Hannah Lulu’s favorite color icing and more sprinkles than mama would have liked.


I’ll try to get some pictures of the pillowcases that I made family as gifts, but until then, we wish everyone a peaceful, healthy, happy New Year!



P. S. Welcome to my new 1st cousin once-removed–Teddy! Mazel Tov to his family and may he have a long, joyous, healthy life!

Renewing Blog as New Year Approaches

I miss writing and posting and so, despite a very full plate, I’m going to attempt to make weekly short posts to get back into the swing of things.

Lots has happened around here since the last post when I spoke about pickle-making.  The garden is frosted over with a short layer of snow–I just harvested some brussels sprouts this past weekend, actually, and they were great, but everything else is sleeping.  Hannah and I planted about 175 garlic bulbs this year!!  We’re looking forward to a huge crop of garlic next fall.

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I tried a no-knead whole wheat bread recipe which is about as light as a lead brick so I won’t post the recipe and will keep trying.  :)

We still have frozen blueberries and strawberries and rhubarb in the freezer and NEED to make jam!  Maybe that will be a good project for this weekend.

The most exciting project going on here right now are the blue oyster mushrooms we are growing in plastic bags.  Chris’ friend Ron brought the bags to us pre-populated with the spores.  The medium they’re growing in is sawdust and coffee grounds and for a really cheap way to grow these expensive mushrooms it’s really effective!  We already ate a couple fried up in butter with salt and they were scrumptious!  Can’t wait to harvest and eat more!

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Judah, the dogs and I went into the woods today and saw a bunch of tracks in the snow.  Here are the turkey tracks and (I think) deer (though I’m always hoping for moose!).

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These days, my favorite treat is the paitan soup from Pai Men Miyake with their spicy garlic paste.  The soup is so warming and beautiful that I wanted to share a picture.


I’ll leave you with a picture of my favorite little boy…


Happy New Year everyone!

Pickles and Apples

We had so many cucumbers that I had to make FOUR batches of pickles.  This is not really something I wanted to do with a 5 year old and a baby taking up most of my time.  But I was not about to let the cukes shrivel up and rot.  So I made sweet pickle slices, whole dills, sweet cuke relish, and dill sandwich slices.  Honestly, we still have enough growing to make one more batch and we’ll see what I do.  I wish I ate more pickles because then I’d be happy to make more.  I suppose I can trade them at the swap so that’s something.

Dill Sandwich Slice and Kindergartener

Homemade Pickling Spice Mix

We’ve been eating lots of tomatoes too.  The yellow pear-shaped cherry toms aren’t very good and we have two types of large tomatoes.  The best are the greeny-red ones.  A mixed swirl of dark colors that’s ripe even when still tinted green.  Yummy.  I bought a large log of fresh mozzarella and we’ve been eating caprese salads with the basil from the garden.

Auntie Lala came to visit and we went to a local apple orchard and picked 1/2 a bushel.  I plan to return for more, but these weren’t organic so I didn’t want to buy too many.  I made a small batch of (unburnt) apple sauce (not enough to can) and I’ll make a lot more with the rest of the apples.

Hannah and Judah and I went on the hayride and got to hear about all the different varieties of apples they grow.  Did you know that there are 2500 varieties of apples in the U.S. and 7000 in the world!?!

It was a beautiful fall day–the perfect apple-picking day.  We had sugar-sprinkled chocolate and apple cider donuts and Judah ate grass while Hannah and I played soccer with fallen apples and Lala nursed Cora.  Then back into town for Otto’s Pizza and the train station for Lala.  Fun and lovely Fall.

We continue to eat broccoli, parsnips, beets, green beans, tomatoes, kale, and golden raspberries from the garden.  The potatoes are stored downstairs as is the garlic.  We now have to buy our seed garlic (farmers market tomorrow?) and plant that in the next two weeks.  We’ve been thinking we use too much space on the potatoes and may just grow 3 or 4 times the amount of garlic as it’s easy and fun.

Now that it’s getting chillier and we’re happy to warm up the house using the stove and oven, I’ve been back making bread and soup.  I’m ready to set aside a weekend day each for using the frozen blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb for jam.  I hope to stock up on some good stuff at the next trading post with all the canned goods I have.

I have only 4.5 more hours of volunteer work to do this year for my Master Preserver program and I’m going to knock them off doing an applesauce demonstration at Wolfe’s Neck farm in a couple of weeks.  That should be fun and tasty.  And then it will be time to close down the garden and make sure that the greenhouse is planted with greens for the winter.

Enjoy Autumn everyone!

Summer coming to a close…

Summer is winding down and we’ve done pretty well eating from the garden this season.  We’ve continued to buy some produce that our garden hasn’t provided for us (avocados, carrots (as ours aren’t stellar), some broccoli and lettuce (we should be able to grow our own lettuce all summer…we’ve been slacking in that area).  Mostly, though we’ve eaten produce we’ve grown: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, parsnips, beets, green beans, raspberries and blueberries, kale, garlic (which is curing now), peas, and basil.  The brussels sprouts are looking good and will be ready in a month or so and the tomatoes are still ripening little by little.

ImageWe really need to plant the fall/winter veggies asap.  Maybe that will be a good weekend plan for this upcoming Rosh Hashanah weekend.

Today I vowed to do something with the tomatoes gathering on the counter.  I wanted to make tomato soup and pressure-can it but I don’t have a good recipe yet so I decided to make straight juice. I didn’t preserve it because I only got 3 pints and I think I’ll just drink it over the next few days (and maybe make a mean bloody mary!).


ImageI also wanted to take care of some of our abundance of basil.  We still have pesto left over from last year so I didn’t really want to make pesto–also it’s messy and expensive to make with the pine nuts and parmesan.  I read up and decided to dry a lot of the basil. I’m trying two different ways.  I washed and gathered a couple of bunches and hung them up in paper bags in which I’d punched holes for air flow.  I also picked lots of leaves off and have been drying them in the dehydrator.  I read that using the dehydrator makes for high-quality dried herb since it dries quickly and doesn’t lose flavor.  We’ll see about the results.  It said it would take between 1 and 4 hours at 95 degrees but we’re going on 8 hours now and the leaves are still not crunchy at all.  Maybe I put too much in the dehydrator.  But I’m sure they’ll be done at some point soon.


ImageOur wood is stacked and our hot tub is clean.

Image The days are clear, warm, and gorgeous!  Here’s to the upcoming fall and the New Year! L’Shana Tova!





Coming back to the blog…

I’ve missed writing and posting.  There’s been so much to do–seeing family and friends, harvesting veggies, working, parenting, preserving, etc. that I haven’t kept it up.  I’m going to start writing again–even if I only do a quick post with a picture or two.  At least that will be something.

Basically we have cucumbers growing out of our ears.


 Tons of cukes.  I guess it’s just been a good cucumber season all around here in Maine.  So I’ve been TRYING to make a dent in my preserving but it’s been hard.  The good news is that I learned from last season not to try pickling with cukes that had grown too big.  The seeds are just too many and too hard as are the skins.  We were in Nantucket for one of the best growing weeks so when we returned I picked about 50 cucumbers which were too big but I made sure to pick the next batch at the right size.  I made a good low-sodium sweet pickle.  Then, fretting about the other 50-60 large cukes on my picnic table I spoke with Kate (from the Cooperative Extension) who reminded me that I could make relish.  I seeded a bunch of cukes (8 lbs I think) and made a batch of sweet pepper-cuke relish.  Too watery for some reason but I can drain the brine out as we open each jar.

Today I made a batch of kosher dills.  It was fun trying to figure out how to fit as many cukes as possible into the jars–like a puzzle.  Along with mustard seeds, garlic from the garden, and dill (didn’t grow that this year for some sad reason) added the brine and voila.



Chris picked a bunch of beets, carrots, parsnips, cukes, and potatoes today.  Adding to his harvest of our garlic and onions from the other day.  Now for making pesto (what else can you do with basil? I mean besides caprese or using it as an accent in salads and pasta).  If I can it, maybe I can give it as gifts this fall!!!

We’ve finished up the Kids Can Can workshop.  We taught a rhubarb jam in May, a strawberry jam in June, I missed the dilly beans in July, and we just completed tomato salsa a week ago.  It was fun and the kids seemed to enjoy it.

A Kid Stirring Salsa

Tools of the Trade

We’ve also enjoyed cooking with the summer fruits and veggies.  Last night I made an improvised salad with chopped peaches, tomatoes, cucumber, basil and wild blueberries.  I tossed it with a sweet vinaigrette made from whisked olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, and sea salt.   Yummy summer salad!

I’ll leave with you with pics of kids.  Best wishes to you all for a sweet, happy end of Summer and a delicious Fall.

Peas and beans…blueberries and beets

It’s been HOT! and Hannah has spent lots of each day at beaches with her teacher “Miss Amy” or in the little inflatable pool that our friends lent us.  She has spent hours and hours jumping around this pool and it amazes me that she never seems to tire of it.

This evening, I fought off the bugs to harvest some beans and peas.  I got a number of mosquito bites, but it was worth it.  Last year you may remember I kept speaking of how I wished we’d planted more of each vegetable.  The only thing we really got enough of was kale and garlic.  Well I feel like I learned this lesson well and did a better job at planting more of each veggie.  However, I also have a second kid now so I have less time for preserving.  We’re going on vacation in a couple of days and I did NOT want to let all the beautiful green beans and snap peas go to waste, so I forced myself do gather a big bowlful of beans and two quarts of peas.  There are still lots on the vines coming ripe, but at least I got the biggest and most ready to be picked.

Even though I still need to pack for the trip, I’m working the next two days, laundry and straightening up has to be done and we had to make dinner, I forced myself to blanche and vacuum seal two bags of beans.  The peas we’ll hopefully eat over the next couple of days as snacks.

Beans Blanching

We’ve also enjoyed recent harvests of beets and garlic scapes.  I made pickled garlic scapes and we’ll see how they turn out.  As I only had enough for one pint I didn’t put the jar in the hot water bath–it’s sitting in the fridge for a week to become flavorful.


Garlic Scapes–before pickling

We’ve also been eating a lot of broccoli–another crop I planted more of this year.  There are small green tomatoes on the vines and tiny cucumbers growing off the blossoms on the plants.  We’re munching red raspberries as the golden ones on our big bush ripen, and we’re eating the blueberries on our bushes as they ripen too.  Last weekend we had buckwheat blueberry pancakes.

But as usual, here’s what we’re putting the most effort into growing healthy and happy:

Summer’s Growing…

So we’re solidly into summer now and going about the usual activities.  We’ve had some funny weather with both a good amount of really hot, sunny days and lots of rain.  Overall it seems the garden likes this.

We went to our friend’s farm the other day and got to bottle-feed their baby goats.  It was a joy for us–though for them it’s a bit overwhelming–they had 6 babies (now 8 I believe) and each goat needs 4 feedings a day so they’ve been doing 24 bottles a day and that is keeping them busy!  They bottle feed partly to make sure that the babies get plenty of milk but not ALL so that they still have milk for their own consumption.

Hannah and I spent one of the beautiful, hot days with friends at Mackworth Island.  It’s an island you reach by causeway and there are beaches all around and plenty of fairy villages to engage in some construction work.

The other day Hannah and I were back by the swingset and I saw a couple of wild strawberries.  We decided to look out front of the house as we’ve had some growing there before and this year (thanks Chris for not mowing!) we found more than ever!  We got about 3 cups of wild strawberries and I filled a bowl for Hannah and sprinkled a bit of sugar over them and she ate them with a spoon.  Yum!!!

We then went down to Boston to meet my new niece and went out for lunch.  I just had to share a picture of a gorgeous nut tart we drooled over at the local cafe.  Laura said she tried it once (they make small ones) and it wasn’t as good as she’d hoped–but they are just SO beautiful!!

Back at the ranch, the garden is thriving in most ways.  I can’t tell if it’s the weather or the sheet-mulching or a combination of both but I feel like the plants are growing faster and stronger than in the past.  The lettuce and arugula has already gone by, but the peas are shooting up and we’ve been eating peas, greens, and broccoli.  The rose bushes have really matured and are very prolific.

I learn best by doing, and I feel like each season I’m able to tuck away a few more skills and growing tips.  For example, it’s hard to sow seeds in the spacing dictated on the seed packet.  Each packet usually says something like 1/4 inch deep and every 3 inches–but it’s hard to be that exact and what if one seed doesn’t germinate and you’re left with a gap?  Some people put the seeds in as exactly as they can–others employ the sprinkle tactic that I use and end up with too many seedlings popping up.  What to do?  I hate picking out perfectly healthy seedlings, but I also don’t want to stunt the plant’s growth by overcrowding.  A friend gave me some good advice–(for beets for example) pick the seedlings as they grow bigger and eat the greens in a salad.  You need as much room between the plants for as large you want the beets to grow.  So I can let the crowded greens grow-then pick and eat them, then let the rest grow a bit more and pick the mini-beets–then let the most widely space plants be until the beets fill in and are large for big beet-eating.  Great advice for healthy plants and MORE food.

The first of two types of snap peas…

Potato Plants



Beet greens

Parsnip greens

Cuke plants…

Green bean plants…

Last weekend we went strawberry picking with some friends and it was tough work–the two organic farms we know of didn’t have pick-ur-own this year so we went to Jordan’s farm.  They’re not organic but they do say, “At Jordan’s Farm we employ sustainable farming practices. This means that we use green manure ground covers, amend our soil with compost and use chemical pesticides and herbicides as little as possible to preserve the natural nutrients of our soils.”

A Good Picker (with a mouthful)

It was hard work for the little I picked (all that bending and rising up in the heat) but I managed to bring home enough for a batch of jam and hulled and froze the berries for a day when I have more energy.

We ended that day back at our friend’s house where Mike made us Watermelon Jalapeno cocktails.  They were so beautiful in color and tasty to boot!

So the fun’s being had and the food’s being enjoyed–please come visit us here and share!