Friday, May 27, 2016

Early Lessons in Container Gardening

This post has been in the work for weeks.  Due to the nature of our land, traditional gardening is not really in the cards for us.  I had my heart set on being able to make and can tomato sauce to last us through the year this year as last year's haul from the farmer's market and my parent's garden only last us through the middle of April.  So, I decided to take on the project of container gardening despite my poor results the one time I tried to raise a tomato in a pot when I lived in an apartment.  To be fair, I didn't kill the tomato despite almost always being in the shade and my not doing the best job of remembering to care for it.  It did eventually produce three whole tomatoes.  They were still better than just about any I could get in a grocery store.

With everything going on with our family including having two members in the hospital at one point with one being an hour and a half from home, time has not been on my side.  Then, we got hit by almost a month straight of rain with at most 2 days a week without rain.  So, work on my container garden has taken place in fits and spurts.  Often with just a couple plants getting planted a week.  While I have made some mistakes along the way like leaving some young seedlings outside in hopes of getting them some sun not realizing we were going to be hit with a large downpour, I wanted to post here about my journey to encourage others to consider container gardening as well.  So, this will be my first post with hopefully many updates throughout the summer and eventually autumn as I am hoping to plant some fall crops as well.  I know if I can be successful despite everything working against us, there is hope for anyone.

These were the first bloom of a blue potato.  I adore the purple hue the leaves have when they are this tiny and just erupting from the soil.   The blues were grown from seed potatoes, but all the rest of my potatoes are from scraps.  As of this week, all 9 of my potatoes have erupted through the soil.  Hopefully, since they were all planted at different times due to my time constraints, they will all be ready to harvest at slightly different times allowing me to continue to work just a bit at a time on them.

A week later, here is the same potato plant.  As you can see, sadly they do not retain that gorgeous color to the leaves.  I can't wait to see them flower.  

Here is the one tomato seedling that I thought had survived my unintentional drowning of the tomato seedlings.  This is a green zebra from the foodie lovers pack I received from Uncommon Goods.  I highly recommend their site for purchasing gifts especially and will be posting about them soon.  Please check them out.  
Luckily, once I was able to dry them out, about half of the other seedlings eventually perked back up.  The remaining tomato seedlings are all Black Krim.  Sadly, none of my Roma tomatoes made it.  I was so looking forward to using them for tomato sauce.  

This picture was taken 2 weeks ago.  The picture at the top of the post is an update taken today.  

To cut down on time, I used a mixture of plants grown from seeds myself, plants I purchased, and plants I grew from scraps.  We were limited on space, so the majority of our plants are growing on a makeshift plywood table.  In fact, I only have two large pots on the ground; one tomato on the deck and one potato by the office door.  Most of these are in small plastic pots,but I am planning on transplanting the potatoes seen here to 5 gallon buckets as I can acquire them.

So far, I have 3 different types of potato, 2 different types of eggplant, 6 different types of tomatoes, 2 types of pepper, 1 zucchin, thai basil, sweet basil, dill, garden sage, rosemary, and lavender.  I still have several veggies and herbs I plan on adding.

So, I have a few lessons thus far.

1. Even just being able to carve out 20 minutes of time, you can get your garden started though it will be slow.

2. Spacing out planting will allow you to space out harvesting.

3. Using a variety of planting methods whether it be seeds, scraps, or seedlings can save time as well as give you early feelings of success which will provide you incentive to keep going.  

4. Plants can survive our mistakes. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why You Should be Taking Your Infant to the Library

I am sure we all want our kids to take joy in reading and see the benefits of taking our kids to the library once they are old enough to read or at least to sit still to be read to.  However, I would argue there are benefits to taking little ones who are just months old to the library, now.  Many libraries have changed and evolved beyond places you merely check out books.

1.  Many libraries now have story time specifically geared to infants.
My local library breaks down their story time by age bracket offering a Mother Goose story time for the under 2 bracket.  Even I was a bit skeptical of how much my daughter would get out of a story time that I wasn't doing at home by trying to read everything I could to her out loud even labels on cans.  Well, it's not just story time.  They incorporate music and movement in addition to stories.  So, a typical Mother Goose story time which is only 20 minutes usually begins with an opening song that involves hand movements like Itsy Bitsy Spider, then moves to a story either in the form of a short book especially a flap book the older kids can help open, a felt board story, or a puppet show, then there is music and movement time which lasts for generally 2 to 3 songs, and ends with a closing song also with hand gestures.  During the music and movement portion, librarian passes out egg shakers or bells for either the kids to play or for the parents to play for them when they are really little.  Several centers in my area offer similar classes usually for $20 or more a class.  Getting it at the library for free(through taxpayer dollars, I know) is quite a bargain.  I've taken my daughter to a free trial of one of these classes and can tell you the only notable difference was that they also have a parachute time.  As my daughter has grown, she has enjoyed participating at different levels in the activities.  The librarians often even include handouts especially at holidays with books and activities specifically for their age range.
My little one dressed up for the costume parade during Halloween story time.

2. The library is a great place to meet other moms and babies.
I don't think I realized the importance of having mom friends with babies until I had a kid of my own.  Things are ever changing when it comes to babies whether it is car seat recommendations, where to take mommy and me swim lessons, pediatricians taking new patients, etc.  If you happen to be a stay at home mom, I found it super helpful to be able to talk to other moms who were in the midst of the same trying times as I was especially when it came to sleep regressions and teething or even my own hair falling out. Being a stay at home mom, I find the chance to talk to other adults necessary for my sanity. Plus finding other tots for your little one to play with is helpful these days.

3.Libraries now often have tot rooms specifically designed for the age 5 and under crowd.
Ours has wooden puzzles, a magnetic board, activity cubes, cardboard blocks, foam puzzles, and other toys designed for the younger set.  Both my little one and her cousin who is 4 love playing there.  I usually have to argue with them to get them to go even after an hour or more of playing.  It's especially nice free retreat on a rainy day, when you just need to get out of the house, or even a good time to play with the other littles after story time.

My little one playing with a bead maze in our local library's tot room.

4.Many libraries now have book sales as fundraisers where you can get books for all ages for uber cheap or even free.
 The libraries in my area have different sales.  I've posted before about the semiannual sale the library where I used to live has where the last two days you can fill a large box with books all for $1.  The books are either donated or books the library is removing from circulation often due to more copies than necessary anymore.  I used to be able to fill the box with 60-80 adult books.  You can imagine how many children's books I could have fit.  The library closest to where I now live does something similar once a month where the last two days you fill a plastic grocery bag for $1.  The times I've gone, I've averaged 20-30 children's books per bag.  Then, after the sale is over, the remaining books are available for free. Very few if any children's books make it past the sale, though.  My best luck with scoring children's books was last July when the sale occurred over the Fourth of July weekend.  Since they were closed for the Fourth and had less than usual visitors for the holiday weekend, they had lots of books leftover by the dollar days.  I picked up an almost complete set of the Sweet Pickles books along with several other books for just a dollar.

5. Libraries offer special events for babies and toddlers.
The local libraries have several events throughout the year for the under 5 set.  

One we particularly enjoyed was a holiday open house last December I have pictured above.  LB and I are in the back right.  You can find me by looking for my big blonde hair.  One of the high school choirs performed both traditional Christmas carols as well as kid songs like Frosty the Snowman.  They had a snack break with cookies and pretzels.  Then, they read two holiday stories while families could take turns taking pictures with Santa for free.  Even better than the free part was that when it wasn't our turn to take pictures, the girls were entertained with a story.  I dread the idea of waiting in line at the mall with my little one for pictures with Santa or the Easter Bunny that I've only done pictures at events like this to avoid the frustration for her.  We meet up with one of a friend and her little one who is a couple of months younger than my little one.  The girls loved seeing each other though neither were fond of this Santa.

The best picture I could manage with the library Santa.  Thankfully, we had better luck with the Santa at Walmart, so I was still available to avoid lines to get a picture of her with Santa.

6. There are meeting rooms you can utilize for not for profit meetings.
Several groups I participate in hold their meetings at the library.  I have even checked out rooms to hold sample demonstrations of products to other moms.  We don't have many community centers left in our area, so the meeting rooms are great meeting spots that are safe to have your kids with you.  The particular room I used below had all the outlets for the room in the center of the table which made it easy to keep little hands away from them.

I'm demonstrating the Neil Med Naspirator for a local moms group I participate in.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tangy Honey Mustard Marinated Brussel Sprouts

Meatless Monday

Sadly, the first time my daughter had brussel sprouts. I was not the one who cooked them.  She was offered some by a relative and rejected them.  My daughter had never turned down trying a new food, so I was a bit concerned.  As a kid, I refused brussel sprouts after having some at a holiday dinner prepared by my aunt.  My mother tried to convince me my disdain was due to my aunt's poor cooking skills.  I refused to believe my mother on the topic and spent years avoiding brussel sprouts.  However, after my aunt made mashed potatoes one fateful Thanksgiving that had a consistency closer to wallpaper glue, I, thankfully, began to reconsider my position on brussel sprouts.  Now, they are one of my favorite veggies.  I try to make sure they are at all holiday meals myself now to ensure they are not ruined.  So, I decided to taste the offending brussel sprouts my own daughter was rejecting.  Well, no wonder she was having none of it.  They were freezer burnt.

I was a bit nervous reintroducing brussel sprouts to my daughter after she had a negative experience.  So, I decided to use two ingredients in my preparation I knew are universally popular with toddlers; lemon juice and honey.  Not only did she eat all of her's the first time I prepared them, she began stealing ones off my plate.

1 lb brussel sprouts
1 tbs brown mustard
1 tbs honey
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tbs minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

1. Combine the honey, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to make the marinade.

2. Cut each of the brussel sprouts into quarters.

3. Toss the brussel sprouts in the marinade and place in the fridge for a minimum of an hour though overnight is best.  If necessary, you can cook just a portion of the brussel sprouts at a time and keep the remainder in the fridge for up to 3 days.

4.  Saute the brussel sprouts in olive oil until they are slightly crisp