Saturday, July 26, 2014

We Be Jammin'...Again

So, local fruit market has some beautiful Eastern Washington apricots for a great deal. Recognizing that I didn't get my 1/2 flats x2 of raspberries this year (gasp!), and that apricot jam is second only to raspberry as my favorite kind of jam, it was a no-brainer.
So lovely, and large too! The ones on the bottom looked a little green, so I figured we could start off by eating our fill of the perfectly ripe one, then start jamming when the others began ripening. Hubby, Middle Monkey, and I ate quite a few this week, and what you see in the box is after I took out a jam-batch worth.
So good! The picture gives them a green hue for some reason, but as I was chopping them up, I was reveling in their beautiful rosiness.

Look at the beauty there! It was a bit foamy, and I didn't put butter in, but knew hubby would be thrilled. The scum is his favorite.
My eldest comes in after I'd gotten them canned up (save for the remnant jar in front). "Oh, did you caramelize that Mom??" "Oh yeah, isn't that great?", is my response while trying not to laugh. The color is gorgeous, however, not the color I aim for while making apricot jam. After I had cleaned up the stovetop area and gotten utensil loaded into the dishwasher, I 'fessed up with this:
Not so lovely scorched spot in the pot. I had forgotten that apricots have a tendency to burn more easily than the normal berries I use (this has happened to me before), but was so very careful not to scrape it while stirring so there wouldn't be any nasty flecks in the jam. End result: Yummy apricot jam with a hint of smoke at the finish. I've been using the Ball brand classic pectin. I get more jam for the money than using the pre-measured pectin, and I get it at my favorite hardware store, where they also have jars, lids, etc. cheaper than anyone else around here. I have to admit though, I cheat a little. According to the recipe, you aren't supposed to do more than 5x the batch listed on the label. I consistently do 6x as the numbers come out a little more even for measuring, and I like that.
And, hubby likes this:
Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Very Welcome Wet Wednesday

And, we have rain:
 It has been a long time since we've had "real rain". Very light sprinkles yes, but this was an honest-to-God downpour. The rain woke me up in the middle of the night, I smiled, and promptly fell back into a peaceful sleep. Fast forward a few hours: dragged myself out of comfy bed to go on a morning walk, and enter the thunder. Hmmm...walk on. Enter thunder and friend lightning and mild rain. Walk off. Before I knew it thunder and lightning were overlapping, rain became pour...
 Here is a glimpse of the gushing gutters (there was plenty of overflow off of the roof as well), and standing water in the garden.
Here's a peek at the new garden space...the new plants seemed to be holding up okay. I was a little worried about them in the downpour.
Just ran some buckets out to catch the rain to save on watering when the rain does go away in a day or so. It looks to be in the mid-80's again by Monday.
Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.

Enjoy your welcome wet Wednesday PNWers. Hope it helps the firefighters on the East side of the Mountains.
I'm going to work and craft inside, guilt-free, today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

School Garden Weekly Update

It's still chugging away...

The garden definitely wasn't loving the heat we had the past couple of weeks, but it's still hanging in there, and the weeds haven't come back either.
Tomato and tomatillos had some blossom drop which could be attributed to the heat, or lack of pollination. I haven't seen many bees when we've visited. 
The cukes seem pretty happy, or at least pleasantly green. It's time to watch for their tendrils and get those running up the side so they don't latch onto the tomatillos. 
Onions and nasturtiums are growing well. I am really wanting those nasturtiums to go nuts and call in the bees. :) 
The rest of the seeds are still showing, but not showing a lot of development. We'll see. 
I'm chomping at the bit to get those fall/winter crop seeds in, but need to wait a few more weeks.
Still hoping someone will come in once school starts with a plan for Garden Club or for one of the classrooms. 
Until then, I'm happy to keep it "presentable". 
Have a great afternoon!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Camp Crafting 2014

The correct answer to the previous post is:
 Tie-Dye t-shirts
As the Unit Leader of 18 (!) 4th graders, I got to process their shirts. The girls (and the leaders) tied them on Monday morning (craft #1), another lucky soul dyed them, then I brought them home to rinse, wash, and dry them. We had a warm week and they dried very quickly (and prettily) on my line. One of these days I'm going to hang the camp collection on the line. After 4+ years of 3+ of us going to day camp, we have accumulated quite a collection. I'm thinking awesome tie-dye t-shirt quilt in the future... might even have enough for one per family member. :)

Check out this sweet craft I got to partake of:
Totally reminds me of these floating glitter bracelets we used to have when I was in middle school. This one is made out of new medical tubing, sparkly yarn, baby oil, metal peg, and electrical tape. I'm thinking of finding some larger diameter tubing and making these with next year's Pre-K class. Beads can be used in lieu of yarn for a different, but very fun look.


  • Soft clear tubing. Ours was medical tubing, approx 1/4" diameter from outside edges, 3/8" for inside diameter (the actual opening). You could also use tubing for aquariums. Also, a wider tubing could certainly be used, you'd need more filler. :)
  • Baby oil, or clear cooking oil. I liked the baby oil -it smelled good, made my hands soft, and was very light. However, if scent is an issue, try a cooking oil -light colored and clear works best.
  • Shallow dish for the oil.
  • Assorted yarn pieces (color is entirely up to you!) or beads. Seed beads work great with the smaller diameter, but if you are going bigger, try pony beads or those darned perler beads that get everywhere, to see how they look. Make sure to not use any liquid initially if you are using beads, they will stick to the sides of the tubing.
  • Scissors
  • Wood skewers 
  • Finishing items: we used 3/4" metal pegs that fit right into the tubing and linked them together, then sealed them with electrical tape. If you did not use any liquid in the bracelet, the peg is enough. Here, they sealed the ends with heat, I haven't tried that, but it's an option.

 Here's the how to: 

  1. Cut tubing long enough, so that when the ends are placed together the wearer can slip their hand through the hole created.
  2. Yarn: Cut yarn approximately twice the length of the cut tubing. Put small amount of oil into shallow dish, then run yarn through the oil. The oil is what enables you to easily feed the yarn into the tubing. Then, using the skewer to assist, feed the yarn into the tubing. Fill as desired, leaving a small amount of room at either end. Cut shorter pieces of yarn in several colors for a different look. Tip: You don't need a lot of oil to help feed the yarn into the tubing, however, if you have more oil, it gives your bracelet a very cool glassy look. 
  3. Beads: Fill dry bracelet with beads. Size, color, and quantity are up to your preferences. After filling tubing with beads, you may go back and add water or oil for a different effect. **We haven't tried this at home, but it was suggested to try. :)
  4. Insert metal peg into one end of tubing, then bring other end of tubing around and insert other side of peg. Push together until ends of tubing meet. If you used oil in your bracelet, wrap the matched up ends with electrical or plumbing tape. 
  5. Enjoy your fun new bling!
**Note: this is a messy project! Make sure you have something covering your work surface (we used old plastic tablecloths), and have paper towels on hand to wipe excess oil off of your hands, and to wipe off the bracelet before sealing with tape.**

Last, but not least, SWAPS. For those non-girl scouts out there this roughly stands for: Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere. There are many variations of the acronym, but they mean the same thing. A little crafted something you swap with your friends and pin on something like a hat, shirt, vest, etc.
At camp, you try to have it go with your camp name, or camp theme. We have swaps above that Snorkel, Shark Bait, and Bunny swapped at camp this year. For scale, the Shark Bait Swap is 1.5" square. Those bunnies are teeny!!

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Name That Craft!

Guess what I've been doing this week??

Tune in later this week to get the answer, and to see 2 other crafty things I've done this week!
Happy Crafting!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Sweats: Just Sweaty

Been seriously lazy around here...
Okay, lazy is not a good word. We've been lacking in the exercise for exercise sake around here.
It's been in the upper 80's since last Sunday, over 90 starting Friday and supposed to go most of the way through this coming week. In a relatively un-air-conditioned Northwest, just doing the day-to-day stuff is sweaty enough for me this week. :) Not even any yoga... boo!
We did wrap up the kids' swim season with the division champs meet yesterday -Middle Monkey PR'd in his backstroke. He had so many time improvements this season, we were all very proud of him, and he got his annual swim mohawk -his favorite part of swim season. Eldest also PR'd in her backstroke, which resulted in a first place ranking for her age group. Great way to wrap up the season.
Tomorrow kicks off day camp = much sweaty + much crafty = crafts for me to post for you this week.
Thanks for being patient.

Have an awesome week!
Happy Crafting!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

School Garden Update

Happy Wednesday!
It's starting to heat up around here -starting Saturday it looks to be in the low-mid 90's around here. Pretty warm for us. About time for us to drag the portable a/c unit in.
Because it's been warm, and about to get warmer -I've been checking in on the school garden a little more frequently. The school sprinkler system comes on about 3 times per week, but I'm concerned about those little transplants and seeds getting enough water.
I've started taking my watering can down a couple times a week to supplement.
They seem pretty happy:
The tomatillos are starting to sport some fruit and get some new growth at the base. Tomato looks happy, but no blossoms yet, same with the cukes.
 Tiny mustard and chard sprouts coming out...hopefully they won't bolt immediately.
A lone nasturtium sprout.
Happy onions! 
It's hard to see, but to the right of the onions, there are a zillion little lettuce sprouts.
So far so good.
I'm hoping with enough moisture and all this warm weather, the sprouts should be all up by next week. My plan is to do a weekly school garden update. So look for more (green!) next week. 
This little bed has definitely inspired us to look at some square foot gardening next year in our own garden beds. Maybe even do one specifically for a fall/winter crop this year -we've got room to add in one more bed. :) 
Have a great day!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sunday Sweats: Just Keep Swimming...

Okay, I just finished logging my efforts in the workout area -I got behind on the 4th of July.
So, swimming is a pretty big deal around our house this time of year. The two older kids have been on the local summer swim team for a few years now, and the little one finally was ready for lessons.
Hubby and I have always enjoyed swimming, but never did the swim team thing.
I was really good about swimming for awhile during my aquathon training, but once that finished, my lap swimming days dwindled away. The pool time I'd been getting, was bobbing the baby around in the pool -fun, good for the arms, and getting an upper-body tan, but not a great workout.
All of the kids have been working really hard in the pool this swim season; the little one has knocked out each level of class she's been in (and is really mad we're on a lesson break the next 2 weeks), the middle really has been focusing and his race times keep dropping and he's learned to do a flip-turn (Yay!), and the eldest has really become quite competitive this season, which is quite contagious. Me watching the kids swim has become kind of like me watching the Seahawks -a little loud. Anyway, it's pretty awesome fun!
This week they have their last regular meet, then their championship meet two days later. Crazy swim time!

Okay, so where does the Sunday Sweats come in?
I've been inspired by my kiddos work in the water to get back in myself. Starting slow: once last week, twice this week. Only about 10min at a time, but it's a start. Working on a new habit.
Swimming is such a great sport for anyone!
There are so many benefits:

  • Low impact -easy on the joints
  • Pretty inexpensive: Just need a suit and a place to swim
  • Increases flexibility
  • Reduces stress (similar benefits as yoga! Me likey...)
  • Great aerobic activity -gets that heart pumping!
  • Builds and tones muscle -water provides some great resistance training for this.

There are other great workouts you can get in the pool besides lap swimming. Try water aerobics, water Zumba, and water running. These are great low-impact workouts, with awesome aerobic benefits.
Here is some good reading at The Hungry Runner Girl. She has quite a few posts about the benefits (and how-to) of pool running.
In the pool is a great place to be if you are recovering from injury, or just getting started on a fitness plan.

In the great spirit Finding Nemo, and as we often hear at the meets:

**due to technical difficulties, this Sunday Sweats has been brought to you on Monday. **

Added 07/19/2014:
Check out this article at MindBodyGreen on the benefits of swimming. They've also got good articles on general good health topics. :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

School Garden Update

It's been the better part of a week since I did any significant work at the school garden beds, but I'm excited to see how it will come out.
 The top of the bed faces North. Starting from the NW corner, left to right, this is what was planted:
Row 1: Cukes x4, Row 2: tomatillos x4, Row 3: empty, unknown type tomato, tomatillos x2, Row 4: nasturtiums, empty x3, Row 5: empty, lettuce x2, chard, Row 6: nasturtiums, lettuce x2, mustard greens, Row 7: empty, onions x2, empty, Row 8: nasturtiums, carrots x3.
The first three rows utilized extra starts that were thinned from my garden, except the tomato that was a volunteer. I'm very curious to see what variety it is -we had quite a few different ones last year.
The nasturtiums I put in for color and to bring back the bees that the previous resident clover did. Also, they're edible and pretty in a salad. :)
The empty squares, I plan to utilize as fall crops, and plant seeds in about a month. Going to try: beets, turnips, cabbage, and more greens.
These are very late plantings, especially the seeds, even by Puget Sound planting standards. The spring was much drier and warmer than normal, and summer is looking the same. A lot of crops are kicking off earlier this year than they would in a "normal" year. Check my berry  post for more on early crops. I was very glad to see that the sprinkler system is working, and hoping it will carry the transplants through the warmer days.
Overall, I'm really not sure how these plantings are going to work out.
We'll call it a summer science experiment. :)
Hopefully, there will be something for the students to check out once school starts.
I would LOVE it if the fall crops come out well and a class or two could use the beets to pickle or use for dyes: science and art, two of kids' favorite subjects! If there are any NHE teachers reading this, please comment or email me if you have an idea for the fall crops (or any of the summer leftovers!). Pinterest has some good ideas for using fall veggies.
If the kids could use these to make a snack, that would be my dream come true! I think it is so important for kids to learn where food comes from and how to utilize it from a fresh and local source. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a lot of red tape where this is concerned. If you have interest in a garden for a school you work at or that your children attend, check out the Teaching Gardens hosted by the American Heart Association. They've come up with a program to combat childhood obesity by teaching children the steps of gardening: planting, nurturing, and harvesting. While it teaches them the value of being able to produce their own food and good eating habits, it's also giving them hands-on science, math, and heck, you can even work art into it!
Another thing it incorporates, is just good old-fashioned time outside, another thing many children just don't get enough of, and this subject could be another post on it's own. Until it is however, let me just give you the title of the book I'm reading right now on the subject: The Last Child in the Woods.
Before I really get going, and you stop reading, let's go enjoy the beautiful day -rain or shine!
Garden on friends...