Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fire Pit...

Late evening tasks in the yard make us use our new fire pit more often these days. 

I needed a mental break more than a physical break the other night! After two drooling days of workshops, and had mentally drained all my energy. I could not think any more and I was tired. 

Purchasing few books from the work shop have added a new task to my agenda but  kind of looking forward to it. As the presenter explained it should be tools to aid kids in the classroom!

I sat down to watch the fire, dance, crackle of the burning wood, smoked air, buzzing of the bugs, little Nicolette’s joy, teasing her brother, inviting him to chase her, and Niegel’s swift attempts to keep the fire burning. 

Watching the wood burn adds a bit of a charm to our yard on this late evening. There is a un explainable calmness in the air! The swaying of the branches worry me sudden growth of fire might catch the branches. Feel like my brain is exercising again, which I am happy to enjoy again!

Getting use to this unusual energy. Which brings when we lit the fire place is all too new to me and to kids but, it gives us a reason to be prepared  to fast approaching school year! I am looking forward for this school year! 

How do you handle the chaos of end of Summer and the beginning of FALL!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

home made bath salts...

Summer brings a lot, working in the yard could make ones body a bit painful at the end of the day but, in an unusual way. A bit of a satisfied pain and lately I have been going through it bit more often due to weeding and cleaning. No matter what, I believe a good long soak in the tub can magically cure all aches. 

I like investing on bath salts a bit, recently I decided to make my own bath salt. With my little helper, I made couple of batches. The first batch of course for me. 

Gathering all the materials took a while but the process was fairly easy. After the initial attempt we decided to make few batches for gift giving. 

I bought culinary lavender from from amazon shop, and bought epson salt. I had lavender essential oil from a previous project. I used two cups of salt to 1/4 cup lavender seeds and then few drops of essential oil. Mix them well and stored in a jar!

I did used mason jars to store the rest of the batch for gifts! Neat gifts to teachers, friends, and baby sitters! 

I personally loved it. I feel like totally renewed after a bath! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sandyneck Beach, Barnstable 2013

I hope this is could be a place for us to take our kids for a nice getaway from the busy week. Not a very sandy beach but rather rocky/pebble beach. I bumped in to a Puerto Rican lady at the beach, she was kind enough to share her story of collecting rocks which were  heart shape. 

She explained some of the pebbles are smooth enough for her to smash garlic in her cooking. Even though it was bit harder to navigate in this rocky beach there were many occupants. There was a family reunion and a fire pit. 

The sunset was breath taking to watch. I kind of like this beach, so far we have not designated a beach as our go to beach.
I guess we are still looking, we originally are Island dwellers, and  hard to please when it comes to beaches. I know as a fact, Sri Lanka is well know to its beautiful rolling beaches. I do miss the down south landscape. 

I did kind of fell in love with this beach mainly the landscape was very calming, closer to home only takes about hour and a half so give or take, few shops to view, and the crowd was much pleasant!

I enjoyed the cool breeze, wish I had a book, and love my new beach chairs I got last year from Target!

Both my kids stroll to the beach hand in hand to wade in waves. As always, the teenager was very protective of his sister. On the other hand little Nicolette, persisting on pushing boundaries to explore the beach with her new skill of dog paddle!

She insist that I take her to the waves instead of her big brother so she could have a little freedom to play. I enjoyed her requests so I can step into the cold water to rejuvenate my tired feet!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tomato Canning Stage 3

What do you do with all this tomato? Yes, make a sauce. We could not possibly eat all these tomatoes and hate to see them go to waste. I exercise the new skilled that I learned, to make tomato sauce. It was pretty easy. 

Wash, and cut your tomatoes. Discards parts that bugs have bitten. Place them in a dutch oven. Place it on the stove on a high medium heat. 

Get all your canning gear ready. Have the cleaned jars in the water bath simmering with the rings. Place the lids in a hot water bath and have it ready. 

As the skin begins to separate from the cut tomatoes take it off from the heat and let it run through your potatoes mill with the smallest hole sieve. This will not allow the seeds to mix with the sauce

Sauté, garlic, oregano, and thyme. When this is translucent, add the prepared tomato. Let it come to a boil, add finely cut blanched basil leaves, and start canning. Next, all the jars are filled immerse them in hot water. Let it  come to mild rolling boil and time it for about ten minutes. Then turn off the heat let the jars sits in the water another five minutes. Now, take them out of the the canner and place them on a kitchen towel until cold. 

Take the rims off and check for vacuums seal. Store them in a cold dark place until you are ready serve pasta.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Eastern Peaches are on SALE for 88 cents...

The local super market had its peaches on SALE. I immediately purchased 10 pounds. Yes, They were fresh, not totally ripe, looks beautiful, and did smell like peach. I arranged them in my fruit bowl and let it sit for couple of days. I did some search and followed a recipe from sure jell site.

 I did two batches and in one batch I used liquid pectin and other I used sure jell. The batch with liquid pectin was a bit runny and loose. The sure jell was more firmer and it did set well. 

We have already opened a jelly bottle and it was amazingly sweet and we love it! In total we made about eleven jars of jam. We are well stock for this winter with a variety of jams including blueberry, strawberry, and peach. I might give few away as gifts. I have been already sending them to friends and neighbors.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our harvest Summer 2013

The cuban peppers, tomatoes, and basil are few of the first summer bounty from our  garden. I am planning to save the basil in my freezer for the long winter. I did few researchers on basil and few suggested to place them in the food processor with olive oil pulse and save them in air tight containers. 

I am canning tomatoes into a sauce hopefully, I have enough to do so. 

The cuban peppers, I have to be a bit creative to use them. I usually use them to cook and add into egg omelets, How do you use your peppers, I would like to know. 

Stocking up on Solids...

I have this thing whenever, I go to a fabric store I have a tendency to buy prints which attracts me the most. Due to habit I have acquired a bit of a collection. 

Recently I have been trying to work few quilt blocks here and there. On the course of this process I have come to realize that I do not own any solids in my collection of fabrics. All these years I have been collecting prints.

I took the opportunity when I saw the sale at the fabric store and stock up a few colors that might work with the prints I have in hand. Do you collect fabric? Do you buy solids at the same time with your prints? Do you keep a track of your prints and buy your solids later when they are on sale?

I am running out of storage space better work on a quilt soon!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New England Aquarium

We took the kids to Boston, a trip to the aquarium was FUN! Nicolette was super excited to see the octopus. I could see older one did not care much, but enjoyed being outside with everyone. The weather was beautiful and it was packed. I wished we picked a weekday for much quieter and detail walk around tanks. 

I always get excited seeing the huge tank at the center of the acquarium and the gigantic manmade corals. The sea turtle was making his way to the surface of the water to get a fresh breath of air.Their were divers feeding and another was demonstrating the marine life and the water system of the newly renovated aquarium. 

The outdoor sea lions were much fun to watch. One sea lion was hanging out by himself. However others were entertaining the spectators by racing in the water and splash landing on rocks. According to the information they were all rescued from the nearby sea shores. The feeding was super cool Nicolette was very observant, she also had her first experience in touching a Rays. 

We left Boston, entertained by fish and full bellies with Vietnamese food!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Green Tomatoes

I took these pictures couple of weeks ago. You, might wonder why I am posting them now. I want to share how I build my garden. By now most of you may have vine ripe tomatoes. I had few of them too. I will write all about my tomato harvest and what I did with it on a another post. 

I know I planted many varieties of tomatoes this year. Silly me, I did not save any of the names, I know one reason, was during planning I planted seeds early March. However, none of my seeds could not make it this year. I have a feeling it was due lack of care. However, these guys were so happy this year at this new spot. I have build two raise beds behind my kitchen this year. Which is next to the compost. I will be adding one more raise bed and that will be the only one for this yard. 

Few things to remember when planting your tomatoes are... 

Tear away few leaves from the root ball up and plant them really deep. This will aid plants to have sturdy trunks and healthy roots when they are young. This palnting method will also protect them from Spring rain and storms.

Condition your raised bed dirt with egg shells, compost, and once you plant them add a thin layer of straw to protect the dampness of soil, this will also help in weed control.

Water them when they are young, until the new leaves starts to grow. 

Plant your basil with tomatoes, they like each other, but this year I did not plant them together.

I would like to hear how you plant your garden tomatoes, if you have them in your garden.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thrift store journey...

I took a small day trip with my neighbor to a thrift store. It is always fun to go out with a gal who knows the place. My lovely neighbor knew exactly what I was looking for. It was fun we were there super early go through store. She had three boxes that she wanted to donate and I had none. Perhaps, next time I can be more prepared. 

The store was in an old house. I wish I took some pictures and it was four levels counting the basement. The volunteers were super nice and very generous to slash the prices. 

What did I score? well, few things. To begin, I was actually gravitating towards the picture frames and I found few neat pieces. 
A beautiful hand embroidery piece and it was framed, no date on it but it could add some color to my sewing room. I am thinking to paint the frame to add a bit of color to the piece. 

The other frames were, one for little Nicolette and to my sewing / creative room. 

A neat hand appliqué table cloth...

Eight bulb vases (these were quarter a piece). I love to plant bulbs with my daughter and watch them grow. This will be a cool projects for this Fall/ Spring. I am planning to do this with kids at school as well. I have been eyeing the bulb vases at the nursery and did not want to pay that high price tag.  

Four, candle stick holders once again a quarter a piece. 

Cheese dome with a board. I always wanted to get one, but keeps forgetting. We could have some cheese this Fall. 

Guess what, the total for all this was eighteen dollars not too bad. The most high tag was the embroidery piece. 

Do you make time to go to a thrift store if so, do you stay closer to your town. 
What have you scored recently from a thrift store?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Canning Mistakes

We have been using our blueberry syrup with pancakes. I have to admit it is yummy. Kids LOVE it. If I let them, they would have them everyday! Nicolette think she still needs her regular syrup with blueberry syrup. I have been trying to explain that it is our new syrup instead of the store bought. 

It was a bit difficult for her to grasp the whole concept, but we will wait till all our store bought syrup to be gone then we will have only blueberry syrup. 

She took every bite of her pancakes and nothing was left! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One Hour, Listening to Music, and Creating

Some who was close to me once asked how do I managed my time. Well, I wish I have more to say however, I try to relax, and get my work done as much as possible during mornings. I will work in the craft room for certain time just like I would work in my yard. Lately, I have created my playlist to last long just around an hour so I can get things done during that time while enjoying my favorite music. 

This is much more relaxing than using the timer. I know I need to wrap things up and move on to the next task. I find this way that I do not get bored and i can work on multiple projects. 

What works for me right now will not work for me when the school starts but I might tweak my schedule this year so i can spend more time creating and hanging around with my family!

My point is Music could help you to organize your work style when you are at home. In some occasions to motivate you as well. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Sewing Machines

I do have a story to tell,and this is how it goes. When I was just stepping towards my teenage years. My best friend made a very cool zipper pouch to store pencils in other words a pencil case. I can vaguely remember it was quilted, had an odd shape, but was made with a beautiful fabric. Don’t know much about the odd shape. This lead me to explore my mothers sewing machine. 

I made the same odd shape pencil case. During this course I manage to break few needles, learned how to change needles, learned to attach a zipper the best I can, and above all I learned to work on this project without my mother’s permission. She did had a difficult time to understand why her machine would not work properly for a while. 

Then I learned how to do patchwork for a brief time through my mother in - law. I borrowed a sewing machine from a friend during my first years in US. 

Finally, I bought one for my self. I was not happy with the machine at all. After two attempts on machines. I invested on a Viking. I was so happy with the brand and decided to up grade I have done it twice and I am doing it again this Summer. I still LOVE my current machine (which is on this picture) very much but I am ready for the next level. More to come on my NEW Machine on future posts. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dosa, The thin indian pancakes...

This is a well known, widely spread, and staple dish in South India. It is popular in Sri Lanka as well. How did I came to know about this yummy dish is through my mom. She would take the time to make this at home. I remember this is not something we made often because, it is much easier to go out to have this meal. We use to go to a special restaurant call Shanthi Vihar in Colombo, Sri Lanka it is still there but gone through many ownerships I guess. 
How I got my hands around this dish was I had a parent from North India in a school I taught in VA , she was kind enough to give the recipe, and get some of the ingredients to make the dosa. 
I have to admit with time and practice I have gotten better making this at home with an ease now. Not only that, I have made some changes to this as well. I have recently discovered that fermentation does add a twist to this pancakes. 

This is how I make them... 
1 cup Urad Dhal (skinned, white)
2 cups rice (white rice)
1/4 cup masoor dhal
1/4 cup split green moong dhal
1/4 cup split yellow moong dhal
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds 
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
non stick spray (pam)

Wash and soak all lentils, rice, and fenugreek. Add water about 3 to 4 inches above the grains and let is soak over night. Next day morning using your blender grind the soaked grains using less water to make a paste not so runny and not so thick. After all the grains are grounded add enough water to make it  pancake consistency. Now add the salt, sugar, and let the mixture stand on your kitchen counter for several hours. I usually have this for dinner. Recently, I found out if it is fermented it will add a different taste to the Dosa’s and it be comes more crispier too. 

Heat a pan, spray non stick, and ladle the mixture. (when you spoon the mixture to your pan you should hear a sizzle). Now, using the back of your ladle/spoon spread the mixture on the pan, starting from the center making a circular movement towards the rim of the pan. In other words you are spreading the mixture on the pan to make a thin pancake. Now cover it with a lid and cook it for about 30 seconds or so; until the back of the pancake becomes golden brown. Then remove the pancake using a spatular and cook the other side for few seconds and transfer it to a plate. Serve warm with sambar or potatoes. I will write a post on that later. 

I hope you will give a try to this wonderful dish. It is very light and you can make the mixture and use it several times. I make different masala’s, sambar, and curries to go with it. It does take some prep time but once you get the hang of it it is not too bad.