Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gone to the birds!

Our big beautiful sunflowers are spent and Kyle harvested the heads yesterday for our birds. The heads were full and heavy with seeds and it should save us some $$$ in buying prepackaged birdseed for our feeders for the next couple of weeks.

We tucked them into tree nooks...

In window sills...

And near our feeders to see which ones the birds prefer!

Eat up little birdies, before you know it there will be a chill in the air!
You'll have to wait until next summer for little Danny to plant you some more sunflowers!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Handmade kitchen

Spent the weekend whittling away at my fabric stash to make some useful things for the kitchen. A pretty little dish mat made with vintage towels and scraps:

I even made applique leaves in coordinating fabric.

How nerdy is that?

I made two different mats from one towel so when one gets grody I can toss it into the wash and pull out a clean fresh one to use! I really love kitschy look of them. It doesn't give me any strong urges to do the dishes...but it does make me happy!

I also put together quite a few hand towels from scrap fabric and dove into my vintage button collection.

Although, I think I may regret using white towels.

With four boys in the house, they aren't staying white long!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meatless Fridays

This week's meatless meal sounds soooo decadent but couldn't be easier to make! Doug really loves artichokes and I can't wait to make this for him.
This week's Meatless Friday meal is:

Creamy Artichoke and Garlic Spaghetti

Spaghetti for 4
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
4 scallions, finely sliced
1 cup of canned artichokes, drained
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, and extra to serve
4 tablespoons of whipping cream
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, place a pan on medium heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the garlic slices and leave untouched for 2-3 minutes. Add the scallions and stir. Cook for another 2 minutes and add a good drizzle of salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop the artichokes and add to the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cream and stir. Add one tablespoon of the pasta water - the starch from the pasta in the water will help thicken the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Stir so all the ingredients mix in with the spaghetti. Add the parmesan, a pinch of salt and pepper, the lemon juice and stir again. Serve immediately, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!

Office Space

We are going on our ninth year of homeschooling this year!
A few changes are being made for everyone's sanity.

In year's past everyone just sat at the kitchen table...and I liked it that way! I would go through Ryan and Kyle's notebooks with them, review each lesson, then set them to work independently. Then I would call JP to the table and we would do his lessons together. When Danny came along, he wanted to sit with the big boys too, so he would get some busy work or a puzzle. It got to be really distracting for Ryan and Kyle, and I can't say I blame them. So this year everyone gets an independent work station or an office.

I set Danny up in the living room. He'll have some DVD's to watch a couple of times a week and that's where the TV is. He also has his own basket of books and manipulatives. I'll start him off first each day while the older kids finish up breakfast. Dan is definitely a morning person!

Kyle will be at the kitchen table. He likes it there because of the light and he likes to spread out! He also likes to be around Doug or I...doesn't matter where we are, he eventually gravitates there. The only drawback is that he'll have to move all of his stuff for lunch time. Hopefully, as the weather gets cooler, we can go outside to the picnic table for lunch!

JP is stationed in the den. John is very task oriented and usually gets his work done pretty fast so he can go roller blade. John will also get started first thing in the morning because his distractability increases dramatically as the day wears on (which is why he is facing a blank wall there. I'm hoping a small prayer to St. Anthony and St. Joseph will help him stay focused!)

Ryan likes to do his homework in his room. He has major issues with distractions and the solitude of his room is the only place that works for him.

I also set up a new schedule for our schooling and housekeeping. The grunt work will be done right off the bat! Math, spelling, English get done while they are fresh in the morning. It also assures that if we have errands to run in the afternoon that at least the basics are done. After a long break for lunch, we'll finish up history and science and work on scouting projects (and driver's ed. for Ryan!) Chores are a part of every day as well as their own free time to play, watch tv, or do whatever they want!

Family dinner together is a MUST! We are also implementing a nightly Bible and Catechism study after dinner. Religion as part of their school work was difficult because I had to prepare four different lessons. By making it part of our daily family life I think it will become part of their nature and lead to some really good discussions!

I'm really excited about everyone having their own office!
I will be centrally located in the kitchen and within close ear shot if anyone has questions. It'll also allow me to prep for meals and get the laundry done while they are working...so I'll actually be productive, too!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Morning Glories

I've always loved Morning Glories. I even put packets of their seeds in our May baskets that we handed out. I planted several thinking that I would have these gorgeous lush vines dotted with beautiful blue flowers growing along the house by our back porch. I had visions of morning solitudes, sipping a cup of tea on the porch while enjoying the flowers...like my very own personal English garden.

Instead, I got THIS:

Not very impressive, is it?

Funny thing is is that I can now walk out to my overgrown summer garden and see THIS:

Yup, Morning Glory vines are covering the entire garden! I never planted one darned seed out there but there they are, blooming and thriving!
Ironic, huh?

Guess I'll just enjoy these beauties from AFAR!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weekend sewing

This weekend was too hot to do anything but stay inside in front of the fan with a huge glass of sweet tea! I set up shop in my sewing nook and made this little quilted table runner from my scrap pile.

It went together in a day. I pieced long strips on the machine and cut them to make the smaller squares. I used a free form stitch to quilt the front to the back.

It's colorful, rustic, and totally NOT perfect....but I love it!

I wonder how long it will take before the boys rip it off the table and use it as a cape or blanket for Abby.....*sigh*

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anybody know what day it is?

I'm in the middle of a night shift stretch and not quite sure what day (or night) it is! I never sleep well doing this...you just can't get it dark enough in your room to convince your body to get restful sleep! So taking a break from blogging til Monday when (hopefully) I'll be recovered!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Planning for the Fall

Let's face it, if you're a gardener in Texas your crops are done with! Even with intensive watering there isn't much that can survive heat indexes to 120 degrees! So I've resigned to let the earth reclaim the summer garden and turn my sights to the Fall...

Fall gardening begins in late September here in south Texas. I've decided to let my garden plot "rest" for a year while I feed the soil and just garden out of the raised beds Doug built for me.

This year our Fall garden will consist of:
collard greens
brussels sprouts
swiss chard
green onions
a LARGE variety of lettuces

and three new things I've never planted before:

leek (which are already growing)
kohl rabi
bok choi

I am sooooo over summer and ready for crisp, cool Fall weather to begin!

Ahhh, rain!

We got a much needed rain and break from the 115 degree heat indexes yesterday! The back of our home faces north and we can see these storms moving in.

It's awe inspiring and a little bit scarey!

Monday, August 16, 2010

More leaf castings

Kyle and I made a few more leaf castings with plants from the yard. I think this week we'll venture out in the woods for some exotic finds. Our caladium leaves turned out so beautifully, I don't know whether to paint them or not!

Here is our elephant ear birdbath:

And one of two banana plant leaves:

We tried casting some of our fig leaves but the surface was rather "scratchy". Whatever that "scratchy-ness" is adhered to the concrete and we didn't get the smooth detailed finish that we got with the other leaves.

I guess in art or in life it's ALL trial and error!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Meatless Fridays

This week's meal is simple and filling and another great way to sneak veggies into the kid's diets. We usually keep a big bowl of cheese tortellini in the fridge for snacks but this recipe dresses it up a little. It's a wonderful summer meal!
This week's Meatless Friday meal is:

Greek Tortellini Salad

2 bags of cheese tortellini from the freezer section
1 pt. of cherry tomatoes
sliced olives
1 cucumber seeded and sliced
feta cheese
1 tsp. oregano
salt & pepper to taste
Balsamic dressing

Cook and drain tortellini according to package directions. Mix all ingredients except feta and allow to chill for one hour before serving. Sprinkle salad with feta just before serving.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Make a splash!

A little too much 'Shark Week' for John Paul, perhaps?

When it's too hot to play outside...

Puzzles, checkers, marbles, and books.

What do you do to stay cool?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Leaf Casting

I first saw leaf castings in a garden specialty store many years ago. They had a huge elephant ear leaf cast sitting atop a cement base being used as a bird bath. I was really taken aback at the beauty and intricate details of the casting. While being made of cement, it was still very fragile and delicate looking.
For years I've had dreams of filling my backyard with small gardens and art made by my children or my own hands. I was looking online for some simple art projects for the boys and I stumbled upon how to make leaf castings. It's easy and inexpensive and our first try at it gave us an exquisite art piece for the garden!

First of all you need some damp sand or dirt. Mound up the sand into the form you'd like your finished project to be. I wanted our elephant ear leaf to be "bowl" shaped so I heaped the sand into a small hill.

When you've finished shaping the sand, cover the mound with plastic. This keeps the sand from getting onto the concrete. Next, lay down the leaf onto the plastic. Make sure you choose a leaf that has nice veining on the back and is not marred with insect holes or rips. Remember, you are casting the BACK of the leaf!

Now it's time to mix the concrete! We used Quickrete (approx. $5 a bag at Home Depot). Mix the concrete and water a little at a time until you get a brownie batter-like consistency. You do not want the mixture to be too soupy as the slurry can get under the leaf and make for an unattractive leaf casting. If the mixture is too dry,you won't see the vein details of the leaf. You want the mixture to sit on the mound of sand and not slide off.

Be sure to pat, pat, pat! This gets the concrete into all the fine lines and veins and releases minute air bubbles. Go about 1/4 to 1 inch to the edge of the leaf.

Place a plastic bag loosely on top of the leaf casting and do not move it for at least 24 hours. This is very important to avoid breakage. The air temperature should be on the cool side, but not below 40 degrees. If you are experiencing hot temperatures, make sure you prepared it in the shade and it can be misted a few times a day if you think it’s curing too fast, but the bag alone should keep it from curing too quickly.

After 24 hours you can gently turn your piece over and peel away the leaf. Place your finished project some place safe to continue curing for up to 72 hours. At that time you can paint or seal the finished piece!
I think I'm going to place our first casting on a large stump under a particular eave of our house where water runs off pretty fast during rainstorms. I even think I may cast several other large leaves to make a cascading "down spout" for the rain water.
This is such a beautiful and easy project for the whole family and I think these last few weeks of summer will be filled with creating works of art for the garden ~ and maybe a few gifts for friends and family as well!

For more tips and tricks from the garden check out
An Oregon Cottage: Tuesday Garden Party

More crafty ideas at:
Creative Jewish Mom