Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Extra! Extra! Tomatoes Update!

I keep forgetting to get my tomato photos when it's still light out but I couldn't NOT let you know about the grand time we're having with the deck garden. Last week I had two green tomatoes. Ken and I counted them on Sunday. This week I have NINE in various stages. The two from last week were just larger than a marble. This week they're well on their way to being half the size of a ping pong ball. Others are anywhere from tiny (like a pellet from a pellet gun) to marble size. I have one cluster of three green tomatoes on the heirloom striped plant. I have no idea how much they may have cross-pollinated but that's OK, as long as they're tomatoes! I may even have a few hidden in the leaves that I haven't counted yet. And there are still lots of blossoms. I get excited each day when I come home from the office and look at them. I'm looking forward to a jar of sauce I can open this winter and recall the fun of growing the tomatoes in the warm summer months.

What Could It BEE?

I feel another sewing bee coming on. It feels like... feels like it's about two weeks away! 

I was absolutely blown away by the fabulous seam finishing that Kristine and Stephanie did on Kristine's serger when we had our sewing bee for Steph 2 weeks ago. In all my years of sewing that are somewhere greater than 45 yrs now, I've never used a serger. After I saw what it could do for seams, I started doing more research. I decided to use my bonus that I had put away for just such a day and buy one to add to my sewing room. I did my homework, decided which one I wanted and found a place that had it on sale with FREE SHIPPING - yay!

It just arrived and I haven't done more than unpack it. Poor thing doesn't even have a suitable home in my sewing room yet - just a space I cleared for temporary safe keeping. I want to read the directions and watch the video before I take my first stab at messing it up.
We'll be busy for the next two weeks with all the packing, loading and preparations for Stephanie's migration to PA and then the crew actually going cross country for a week. Kristine offered to have another sewing bee with me once she's back home and I'm excited to take her up on the offer. I'm already thinking about fun nighttime treats to keep us going!
Here's a preview of the projects I have lined up to augment my thinning wardrobe:

The plaid skirt fabric is a polyester blend and has a nice, soft flow to it. The skirt pattern has panels composed of vertical seams that I think will be flattering.

You can't tell from the photo but the red fabric for the blouse is a thin dotted swiss. And I mean it's a real dotted swiss with textured spots formed from the same fabric. It's been years since I've seen a real dotted swiss. I usually find fabric that's been flocked with the dots. I'm going to make the view that is displayed in blue. The fabric is thin enough that I think it will gather along the drawstring in the sleeve quite nicely.
This next set has a skirt fabric that I fell in love with, as soon as I spotted it. This fabric is a cotton print that is a bit heavier than the synthetic plaid so I'm going to stick with the same pattern because the vertical panels should work well with the heavier cotton. I'm quite taken with the dainty floral pattern.

The blue fabric for the blouse is the same real dotted swiss that I got for the other blouse but the pattern is different. The blue is a perfect match to the blue in the flowers on the skirt fabric:
 I'm making the short-sleeved blouse in the upper right corner of the pattern:

I also got fabric to make two pair of pajamas for Sam :-) I'm still looking for a pajama pattern with feet in it but these pj's will have cuffs at the ankles and wrists.

The red fleece has Veggie Tales characters on it and the other is covered with multi-colored mushrooms. If I were 18 months old when the cold weather started to set in, I think I'd really like my jammies made from these fun fabrics!

From my research, I learned about two books that were recommended. They sounded like good resources so I got them, also. I hope I never need the one for solving problems!

So there you have it - somewhere between thinning the household at my house, having all the repairs done from the hail storm, keeping up with my Hebrew homework, finishing the housewarming blanket and knitting three pair of felted slippers for Valerie, Amol and Sam, I'm going to get to do some fun sewing :-) I could get so much more done if I didn't have to go to work each day... darn it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Wish She Could Know

I should be in bed. I should be getting rest and ready to do more sorting and culling tomorrow. I should be studying my Hebrew if I'm not going to sleep. All these thoughts were going through my head a bit ago. Then I realized I was missing something important. My mind had been wandering exactly where God wanted it to go. And I was trying to shake it off because I didn't recognize this late night blessing that I was being granted.

Is there someone from your past that you wish could know where you are now in your life? My wandering thoughts were taking me on a time trip in reverse, kind of like a way-back machine. I was working my way back in time, smiling and rejoicing over some of the parts, regretting some others, then recalling special times that were greatly blessed and encouraging in my walk with Jesus. I finally made it back to the beginning of that story - the summer I learned about God's deep love for me and the great sacrifice for my sake. The "healing rain that becomes the fire" as Michael W. Smith has put it.

Sylvia. Just 'Sylvia'. I never knew her last name. She was my cabin's counselor that summer at Miracle Mountain Ranch a lifetime ago. I heard things at evening chapel that summer that I hadn't heard before. I knew the names God and Jesus and I connected them to a building called a church but there was nothing personal in all that, was there? There were some rules to follow and I was doing that, as far as I was able. My inner heart rebelled at some of the things I was learning in catechism class but I wasn't suffering some inner struggle. I just figured I was missing something that I would 'get' eventually. Then I was stirred deep in my heart by a message at evening chapel at MMR. I didn't fully understand it but I JUST KNEW that I wanted to, I NEEDED to understand it. Sylvia was that special person God had picked for me. She explained it all and I 'got' it! I remember that evening as well today as if it had just happened. I sobbed for an hour when I came to the realization of what Jesus had done for me. FOR ME. I'm so grateful to Sylvia for leading me to the cross that summer. I wish she could know. I wish she knew the impact she had on my life. If she's still alive, I believe she is in her 70's now. God bless you, Sylvia. Someday we'll get to rejoice together!!
And may God bless Miracle Mountain Ranch, their workers and their work. My daughter went to MMR one summer and I hope my grandson can enjoy the experience one day, too! 


That Was One Expensive Hail Storm!

Remember the post about the June 11 hail storm? I included some photos and was mostly happy that my tomato plants were protected and didn't get damaged. I did call the insurance company and request that the adjuster come and check things out because the hail took the finish right off the west end of the house. He did a thorough inspection and wrote up a claim, telling me that my roof was ruined, along with other damage to a couple rain gutter downspouts, etc. I just got an email from the insurance company, along with the adjuster's report. The damage total is $30,659.12 **gasp** That's TEN YEARS worth of insurance premiums!! I'm so glad I have good insurance coverage. One of the roofers that I'm considering for the job was here this evening to get his final inventory done so he could give me a bid. I still have to contact the person who did the staining 2 or 3 years ago so he can give me a bid to do the refinishing on the west and south sides of the house. Lots of work to do to get all of this righted again. I thank God for the good people He's directed me toward so far.

Alef Bet

Did I mention that I've started my class in Classical Hebrew? No, of course not! I've been both excited and terrified over the past two months, waiting for the classes to start. I'm now two weeks into it and neither emotion has abated. I'm taking the class through Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This is a HARD language to learn! Class is live, online, once a week. Then there's another online study session and lots of homework. I feel like I'm already behind in the course. It's not that I'm not doing the work - I am... several times over. So why is it that I finish a study session feeling like I'm making progress and the next time I open the same session it's like I'm looking at something that I've never seen before and don't remember what I thought I'd already learned?? We're learning the alef bet and vocab words at the same time. And writing the characters? Whew, what a challenge! Here's a picture of the first four letters that we learned:
 Just a comment on the complexities of remembering the pronunciations from the live lesson while looking at one of the homework images (above): the first letter, lamed, looks like it would be pronounced like 'flamed' only without the 'f' sound. No way - the line that looks like it has a long 'a' sound isn't really that. It's a transliteration mark. The lamed is really pronounced like 'law-med'. And these images above are just four of the 16 or 20 letters we've learned so far.

Another thing that my mind is having a problem grasping - Hebrew is read from right to left. Whatever book you're reading right now, try picking it up and just getting your eyes used to scanning from right to left; even when you know the words it's hard! Our lessons include reading whole words. The Hebrew part is written right to left but the English translations are written left to right, as we're used to seeing. My brain gets to hop, hop, hopping all OVER the place :-) 

Did you know there are no vowels in Hebrew? Nope, no vowels. There is the letter 'alef' which we translate as 'A' but it's not an 'a' sound, it's a guttural break like in 'ut-oh'. There are vowel sounds in the language but no letters for the sounds. The vowel sound is designated by little tiny dots and lines under the letters. As you look at the character and your brain translates it to a consonant letter, you also have to look and see what dot or line designation is under the letter and also translate that into the correct long or short vowel sound.

And, and... get this... there are some characters that are re-used and represent a totally different letter. The only difference is a daglesh - you guessed it, another little dot inside the character space. So a character without a daglesh is a 'bet' (pronounced 'bet') and represents the 'b' sound but the same character WITH a daglesh is a 'bet' (pronounced 'vet') and represents the 'v' sound. There are a bunch of letters like this.

The last, and most exciting (think REALLY confusing) thing about the letters I'm learning is that there are five letters in the Hebrew alef bet that are unique. If you are writing the letter at the beginning of a word or in the middle of the word, it is written one way but if the same letter is coming at the end of a word, it has a whole different shape to it.

My desire to read Torah, the prophets and writings in original Hebrew seems like such a daunting goal at this point in time. And, dare I say it? My goal beyond that is to learn the Greek of the New Testament. Oh well, there are nine months to this beginner course, 9 months to the intermediate and 9 months to the advanced Hebrew course. I guess after two weeks I can still be excited about what I'm learning and not get discouraged over the difficulty. 

My class is very diverse and interesting. There is a man from Paris, a woman from London, a woman from Switzerland, three women from the U.S. (besides me,) a man from Puerto Rico, a woman from Holland, a woman from Israel and one more man from an unknown country. The instructor has advanced degrees in classical Hebrew and Hebrew culture. He has written a couple books and teaches at the university. He must be a brilliant man! We all speak English during class.

An interesting aside - if you watch the old Cecil B. DeMille movie "The Ten Commandments", note that the stones with the commandments that Moses brings down from the mountain really are written in classical Hebrew. Someone was paying attention to their correct historical representations on that one!

Light plus Dark Makes Green Tomatoes, too!

Wow, talk about excited! My tomatoes are doing great and I believe I really am going to harvest some this year. I have LOTS of blossoms and two little green tomatoes :-)
Both tomatoes are now larger than a marble and the larger of the two still has the dried blossom sticking to his little belly button.
I took the photos in the dark and, for some reason, the flash washed out a lot of the detail on the 'maters. You'll have to take my word for it that they truly are handsome little buggers. In another week I should be able to see if some of the other blossoms take a lesson from these guys and start growing their own little ketchup cups. Wouldn't it be fun if I get enough tomatoes to put up a few quarts of sauce for the winter?

Light plus Dark Makes Green

It's been a wet week in Evergreen. Despite the name of our town, we're generally dry and brown by this time of the summer. Our season has been fabulous this year, though. We've had a lot of sun with judicious spells of rain that are keeping the grass, plants and deciduous trees a beautiful, healthy green. Our rain yesterday came in waves with spells of sunlight in between. By 6pm, the current wave of weather was clearing out in the west and the light was beginning to grow strong again. I love the little cloud bundles that seemed to get stuck in the nooks and crannies of the trees where the mountain undulates.
 The tail end of the storm was still well grounded to the east. Both photos were taken within seconds of one another - amazing the difference turning from west to east on the deck!
There were little cloud bundles skidding across the tops of the trees on the east side, too. Just look at all that GREEN!

Ice for the Bee

You've heard of ice for a bee sting but what about ice for the bee workers? Kristine, Stephanie and I had a sewing bee all day Saturday to make some new outfits for Stephanie before her move. In order to get an early start on Saturday morning, our caper began on Friday night with a sleepover at my house. I got a bug up my sleeve and a bee in my bonnet to make Italian Lemon Ice. It was a hot day Friday and proved to be a refreshing evening treat. The tiny flecks of yellow are pieces of lemon zest.
 I used the ice cream bowl for my KitchenAid mixer to make the lemon ice. It was quick and easy and enjoyed by all!
Here's the recipe if you'd like to give it a whirl (or crank):
Italian Lemon Ice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  1. Dissolve sugar in boiling water and cool before continuing. You can make ahead and keep in the fridge for lemon ice emergency prep!
  2. Add the lemon juice and grated lemon rind.
  3. Pour the liquid into your ice cream freezer according to your directions and let mix for about 25 minutes for an electric mixer.
  4. Finished ice will be a bit slushy on the edges but ever so delicious. If you have leftovers and freeze them, they will get harder and can be shaved easily into a bowl with a regular spoon.
  5. If you don't have an ice cream freezer, you can pour the mixed liquid into a tray, stick it in the freezer and give it a stir every so often until it freezes to your liking.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

No words needed

Sunday morning view from my brother and sister-in-law's bedroom window - this 12 point buck again decided to spend the night under the deck. The screen prevented a clear photo but this was beautiful to see first thing in the morning!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday: Fun AND Productive!

What a fun day so far. I currently don't have a blog assistant. I used to have one - of the feline variety - who kept me company at my computer while I checked email, surfed to interesting links and updated the blog. In fact, that particular assistant was with me at my desk when I checked my sister's blog update this morning. He saw the photo of her blog assistant (no- wait! Look at the exposure he's getting - there are TWO photos online!!) Well, that did it. He retired to his lofty perch and has ignored me ever since. I sent the paparazzi to check on him, thinking that would help make amends but he wasn't humored. Here's the best photo we were able to get of the recluse, as he "hangs out" and feels sorry for himself at his lofty condo getaway. Curious, get over it!

On the other hand, I have an intern of the canine variety that is currently lobbying for the open assistant position. Negotiations are going well and I'm hoping, after the next bag of chicken treats is delivered to her hang out, we'll be able to close the deal and Becca will officially be part of the blogging staff. Do you see how attentive she was to every detail of our negotiations?

Becca has several ideas for the blog that I'm not sure really fit in with the overall mission statement but I'm thinking it might be better to wait to deal with those details AFTER we close the deal. For instance, she wants to add a section with photos of her dog love, Bear and her dog cousin, Laela. She wants Smoky's photo up, too, since they get to hang out a lot. Becca wants to give more publicity to the dog park and hopes to spin off a store with treats and toys that would appeal to her acquaintances.

Once the blog drama was over, I was able to get on with the laundry. I'm only posting a photo of the first load hanging outside to dry because I get such a thrill from the smell of fresh laundry! (I was careful to make sure that the side with the "unmentionables" was turned away from the camera. But that meant that it was turned towards the neighbors so I had to get the photo and then turn it back quick :-)
There are some cactus plants in the background that are nearly ready to bloom. I hope I don't miss it this year! They only bloom for a few days and I totally forgot to notice them last summer.

With the laundry underway, and after a 2 hour phone conversation with Joel, I really got moving. I made a trip to the library to return a book and an audio set and pick up two more audio books and then stopped at Safeway on the way home.
I hit a jackpot in the fresh fish department. The Wild Keta salmon is on sale for $4.99/lb. I bought about 4.5 lbs to put in the smoker tomorrow. Here's a pic of it marinating in the brown sugar and kosher salt bath so it's ready to smoke in the morning.
I had just finished stacking the salmon - didn't even have the lid on the container yet - and it was already starting to extract liquids from the salt in the brown sugar/honey mixture. The Keta fillets are a bit thinner than the sockeye I usually use so it will take a bit of adjusting in the smoker tomorrow to get it to turn out moist.

Here's the funnest apron I've ever worn! My girlfriend, Stephanie, made 15 aprons this summer and she brought a couple of them to the office one day for show and tell. I fell in love with this one as soon as I saw it. Steph could tell how much I liked it so she took it home and finished it and gifted it to me. I think she would be hard-pressed to find another gift she's given someone that brings as much joy as often as this one does. Notice that, since the paparazzi were on a mission to get photos of Curious, I had to take my own photo. Luckily, no finger prints on the mirror are showing up here :-)

My original motivation to stop at Safeway was to pick up some crushed pineapple and flaked coconut. Kristine found a recipe for Coconut and Pineapple cake a few weeks ago. She had made it and said they all liked it. I really enjoy cake with fruit in it so it was a "must try" for me. 

It is a total success. It was cool enough for Ken, Perla and myself to try it with our late lunch. We all gave it a thumb's up and it will be a keeper recipe for sure!

I did get a bit of sorting done today, too, going through things I'll take with me when I move and things that need to go to ECHO. I didn't accomplish as much as I thought I would today but it's time to get ready for church and that's another great thing I've been looking forward to today. Have a great Sabbath, whether yours be on Saturday or Sunday! (Or even Friday, if your schedule is like that.) Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Almost too embarrassed to post...

... but, I guess, more embarrassed if I don't update and try to do better in the future.

I started out with a personal commitment to update my blog weekly. For some reason, after the last post 2 months ago, I got discouraged. It seemed like a lot was happening in my head but nothing worth sharing. And when I did do something I wanted to share, I forgot to take photos and then lacked the motivation to try writing expressively enough to create a mental image of my activities. So here I am, again committing to update the blog at least once a week.

Really, a lot HAS happened - some good and some not so good. I tried several new recipes and most turned out good enough to go in the 'save' category. I made two great loaves of Ciabatta bread and forgot to take photos. It's definitely a bread that's good the first and second days but loses it's delectable qualities after that. One recipe worth sharing is for a "10 Minute Spaghetti Sauce" although I can't vouch for the quality after ten minutes because I simmered mine for about an hour. I used my home canned tomatoes instead of store-bought chopped tomatoes so I had to reduce the extra juice. Here's the recipe:

Ten Minute Spaghetti Sauce - from America's Test Kitchen
  • 1/4 cup grated sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a saute pan. Add the onion and seasonings and saute until the onion browns, about 5 minutes.

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounces canned tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
Mix these ingredients in a saucepan and add the sauteed onion. Heat at high until simmering, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
The sauce was delicious - I think probably the best I've made at home, including some that have simmered for hours. I learned that onion sauteed in unsaturated fat becomes stronger and harsh in flavor but onion sauteed in saturated fat, such as butter or coconut oil, becomes sweeter and milder and renders more flavor.

What follows are some of the things that happened with a few photos I did remember to take.

May 18 to June 8 - Dad came to visit. Wanda took a trip to the midwest with her sister so Dad decided to use his ticket from Christmas and come to visit us in Evergreen. 
Here's a photo of Dad on the deck on May 24th. It was a beautiful day, just a bit on the cool side for Dad. He's used to the 100 degree plus weather in Las Vegas!

We had a nice visit and enjoyed Dad's time here. Dad was scheduled to return to Las Vegas on June 8th. Dad's birthday is June 10 and Ken's birthday is June 13 so we had a family birthday dinner on the evening of June 7 so we could celebrate with Dad still in Colorado. 

Perla ordered the cake and did the decorating for the birthday celebration - what a great job! Look at this luscious platter of chocolate dipped strawberries that she created!
Another exciting happening - the Evergreen Rodeo! We had beautiful weather for the rodeo this year - Father's Day weekend. We usually can count on cold, rainy weather for the rodeo. Since this may be my "last rodeo", I very much appreciated the warm weather and sunshine.

Here's a photo of one of the little guys being helped onto a sheep for the Mutton Bustin' competition.

 And these are two shots of a bull rider who drew a very nasty bull. In the second photo, the rider is still hanging on and the bull is charging a cowboy who is climbing the gate to try to escape the bull's oncoming horns:

By the way - this rider did make the eight-second ride! Only three riders that night made it to the signal. I think this cowboy came in 2nd place in the competition and earned some money and points toward the big rodeo this fall in Las Vegas.

We had a serious hail and wind storm on Friday, June 11 - one week before the rodeo. I was at the office during the storm and watched the large marble/small ping pong ball sized hail stones hitting the windows, building, ground, vehicles. The highway department had to call out the snow plows to clear the roads and there were two accidents on the slick, deeply watered road that we could see from the office. My vehicle ended up with little dimples on the hood from the hail. The insurance adjuster was here last Thursday - I need a new roof, replacement of some gutter downspouts and the west and south sides of the house need to be refinished. The bottoms of both garage doors were beat up and some pieces missing - I'm not sure yet what I'll do about those but may need to replace both doors.

The cottonwood tree at my house had just nicely leafed out so it was full and provided a lot of shade to the west end of the house with it's shiny new green leaves. Here's a picture of it after it was battered by the hail. Hardly enough leaves left to shade a bird on a branch.

And here are the remains of the hail on my deck - more than two hours after the storm had ended. And notice all the tattered cottonwood leaves amidst the hailstones...

I was quite concerned about the welfare of the birds and was encouraged to find this little guy stopping by for dinner later the evening of the hail storm.

This is all that was left of my hanging tomato planter - I guess I probably shouldn't save it for next season :-)

And speaking of tomato plants, mine survived the hail storm. The storm came from the west and pounded everything in it's path. The tomato plants were on the east side of the house and are still doing very well. This is a photo of the plants on June 11, the evening of the hail storm - not big in size but unscathed by the hail.

This photo is from tonight - strong and healthy and grown quite a bit in the past month.

I even have nine blossoms in different stages. This photo shows one blossom that's ready to start growing fruit in a few days and one that's still in full flower stage.

I'm not sure what's going on with this tomato plant. It's supposed to be a hardy Amish Canner but it didn't want to grow when I first transplanted them. After about three weeks of no change from it laying limp on the soil, I gave up and quit watering it. There was no change for about a week. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to realize that it had been abandoned and started screaming "watch me! look at me! I can grow!!!" and it did. So I've started watering it again even though it has no hope of catching up and producing tomatoes in the time left for our season. But how can I give up on it now?

And lastly, I've spent a ton of time knitting on the blanket for Valerie, Amol and Sam. I'm finally down to the last section - a cabled border. I've done one side so far and I'm about 8" up the second side. Each side is about six feet so it's going to take awhile. The project has gotten so large that I have to keep the main part of the blanket resting on this table while I hold the small working section in my lap. It's the only way I can manage the mass of it.

You'll have to check Kristine's blog to see if there is a report of the 4th of July meal at her house. She made a delicious chicken and biscuit dish and we had a very nice day. I didn't take my camera :-(