July Sewing: A Little Sundress for Ellie

Chalk one up in the “I didn’t obsess over this too much and so actually completed something quickly” category!  My friend, Kristen, mentioned to me that Oliver&S had a free, easy pattern for a sundress.  So I downloaded it, and sewed it for Ellie last week!

She didn’t want to have anything to do with modeling it for me today so I’ll have to be sneaky about getting a picture of her in it!  In the meantime, the chair was a good stand in.

021 (533x800)Kona solids in two different pinks, a thrifted blue and white IKEA duvet cover which has been made into many projects (including my Easter skirt and diaper pail bags!), and vintage rickrack and bias tape that was recently gifted to me! :)

To differentiate the front from the back (and to cover up the ends where the bias tape meets), I added this cute little bow.  It turned out exactly the way I’d hoped it would, which is very satisfying to my perfectionist soul!

022 (800x533)I didn’t have enough of either pink to cut the bias straps in one continuous length (as the pattern shows) so (as I always try to do), I tried to make the seams looks purposeful by using two different fabrics, short pieces of the lighter pink with longer pieces of the darker pink, for a pieced strap.  I also didn’t have the exact right shades of pink for the rickrack or the bias tape.  So I decided to embrace the “many shades of pink” theme and went with four shades of pink for one little dress.

023 (800x533)

 The pattern goes up to size 11 so maybe I’ll make one every summer for Ellie.  It was that quick, easy, and fun!

Posted in Ellie, sewing | 2 Comments

A Little Brother-Sister Reading Time

058 (800x533) 067 (800x533)It is impossible to take round of pictures of these two without getting big cheesy grins! :)

P.S. Evidently reading is messy business and requires an apron.

Posted in Ellie, Mark | 4 Comments

Ellie Learns To Somersault

On Sunday, Ellie was in the somersault position and asking how to flip when we realized that we hadn’t ever taught her how to do it!  Probably many kids don’t need any lessons but Ellie is definitely more on the cautious side when it comes to physical movement.

006 (800x533)All she needed was a little encouragement to walk with her legs and over she went!  I wish we could have gotten the first somersault on video because she was SO excited and SO proud of herself!  The laughter was infectious and everyone was high fiving everyone else!

Mark spent much of the time on his head so it probably won’t be long before he’s doing somersaults himself.  He has the benefit of Ellie modeling everything for him, along with a generally being much more of a daredevil than his sister!

005 (800x533)

Posted in Ellie, Mark, movie | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Hydrangeas (plus some figs)

Last winter was a really harsh one (at least by Baltimore standards) and one of our two hydrangeas almost didn’t make it.  It grew back just from the roots and I had to cut off all the old growth.  This is in the back of our house.

008 (800x533)just a few inches high

In our front yard, near our rock garden/strawberry patch, we have another hydrangea that survived completely unscathed by the winter.

013 (800x533)gigantic, flowers everywhere

I was a bit mystified as to why the one almost died and the other one was fine until our morning with Cathy, one of our neighborhood master gardeners.  She explained to me that the colored hydrangeas are hybrids, having been bred for color.  The white/light green ones are the original native hydrangeas (i.e. the ones just found in nature) and are naturally more resistant to cold and better suited to growing in harsh environments.  She told me that she’d heard the same story from lots of gardeners – that their hybrid hydrangeas had died back this past winter but their natives had come through easily.

Native plants for the win!  For landscaping, we’re sticking with natives from now on!

But wait, you noticed the fig leaves in the top picture?

009 (800x533)  one Chicago Hardy and one Brown Turkey – we forgot which is which!

010 (800x533)just ignore those terribly moldy and neglected peonies on the left

Figs are decidedly NOT native to Maryland (being from the Mediterranean) but when it comes to edibles, we’re happy to coax along plants and bushes that give us good things to eat. We planted both of these last summer (terrible timing, we know) but thankfully, the root balls and the bottom few inches of the trees survived the winter.

And now look – baby figs!

012 (800x533)Nik’s favorite!

Posted in gardening | 4 Comments

More About Food Preservation (including how we did this last winter)

Near the end of last fall, I posted a tally of all that we had preserved (i.e. canned and frozen).  At that time, I promised to write another post about food preservation with lots more information about how/why we do what we do.  Seven months later, here it is!

I just sorted through our freezer and canning shelves and tallied up what we have left from last year.  We’re deep into summer produce now and what we have left is officially left over from last year.  Generally speaking, we did great on the amount of frozen vegetables we needed (although I did run out of pesto a month or two early).  I canned WAY too many peaches (but yay for me, I won’t have to do them this summer)!  I also managed to make far too many pickles so it’s going to be a light pickle summer for me.  Additionally, we have plenty of jam left so I won’t be making jam this summer at all.  Knowing that I had a bit left from last summer, I’ve been pretty lazy and haven’t preserved anything yet this year although I do have some giant zucchinis (fifty cents each!) waiting in the fridge to be grated.  See the end of this post for the specific numbers of what we preserved vs. what we actually used.

007 (800x533)totally unrelated but totally cute picture of Ellie and Mark

And now, here are some other Frequently Asked Questions related to food preservation:

  1. How do we have room for all of this?  We have two freezers: a 16-cubic foot upright and a 9-cubic-foot chest.  We buy our whole wheat flour in bulk (usually around 100 pounds at a time) and it needs to be stored in the freezer.  The flour combined with the other stuff keeps both freezers quite full.  Additionally, we have some big shelves in our basement where I keep all the canned items.  If you want to do this, you should definitely buy yourself an extra freezer!
  2. Where do we get our produce from?  We grow some of it ourselves (some summers more than others).  We pick our own berries locally and buy other fruit from local farmers.  Occasionally, we do PYO vegetables too.  The rest I get from the farmers’ market.  I wrote more extensively about this here.
  3. Is this cost-effective?  To be honest, I don’t have concrete numbers to tell you either way (if it’s less or more expensive). For example, I do buy our tomatoes bit by bit from the seconds piles at the farmers’ market and so they’re very cheap (usually around $.25/pound).  I’m sure it would be cheaper to buy other things at the grocery store (especially at Costco) but what we preserve tastes infinitely better to us (especially the broccoli) than what we can buy in the store so we don’t mind the extra cost.  See my post here about the cost of eating locally/seasonally and also what I’d do if I was more concerned about cutting costs wherever I could.
  4. Why all those plastic bags?  This is a question that I ask myself all the time.  I wish I knew of a better way to freeze stuff than in zipper-lock bags but I haven’t come up with one.  Freezing in glass is a option but takes up so much extra space.  I suppose I could buy lots and lots of plastic containers but that doesn’t work great either (and space would still be an issue).  So we do freeze in plastic bags but don’t really use them in the rest of our life (for lunches, travel, etc).  So in the end, I suppose our plastic bag use is probably still not astronomical.  (Anyone else have any better ideas to suggest?)
  5. How in the world do you find time to do this?  August to November is definitely a crazy time for me.  I’m almost constantly thinking about what food to buy, how to find the time to preserve it, and then actually doing it.  That being said, the rest of the year, life is much easier because I can go grocery shopping so infrequently.  I do benefit from my hard work!
  6. Why do you process food in different ways?  And freeze in different amounts?  I process foods in different ways depending on what’s easiest and also how they will taste the best (much of this figured out by trial and error). I freeze in different amounts because I know, generally speaking, what recipes I’ll be using the food with and so I freeze accordingly.  For example, my muffin recipe calls for 2.5 C of pumpkin puree, which almost perfectly fits in a sandwich ziploc bag so I freeze it that way.
  7. How do you know how to do all of this?  I watched my mom can salmon growing up so I was familiar with the pressure canning process.  However, in my early 30s, when Nik and I decided to start eating this way, I had to teach myself all over again how to do it (and discovered that water bath canning is definitely less stressful than pressure canning).  This website was really helpful to me.  I basically just followed her instructions.  (The website is quite cluttered but there’s lots of good information buried in the terrible formatting.)  My brother and sister-in-law gave us a canning kit (THANK YOU!) and I’d recommend that anyone interested in canning to invest in one.  It’s well worth the $15!  I’m also happy to give lessons so let me know if you want one!
  8. Why don’t you can all those tomatoes?  Freezing is so much easier, I have the freezer space, and we don’t usually use them as tomato sauce (but rather as components in other meals).  So I’m lazy and freeze them.  I don’t even skin them anymore, I’m that lazy.

Leave questions in the comments if you have any more!

***************

For those of you who may be considering preserving some food for the winter yourselves (as well as for the sake of record keeping for myself), here’s how our last winter’s food supply worked out.  This was for a family of four: two adults, one three-year-old, and one 18-month-old who sometimes eats just as much as his sister! :)

The current amount is listed first with the original amount in italics and parentheses.

Vegetables, Frozen:

  • tomatoes (15-oz bags): 5 (28)
  • sweet corn, off the cob (quart bags): 2 (20)
  • long-neck squash (like pumpkin), puree (2.5 C bags): 5 (21)
  • zucchini, shredded (2 C bags): 2 (15)
  • jalapenos, diced (quart bags): 0 (3)
  • poblano peppers, sliced (quart bag): 0 (1)
  • banana peppers, diced (quart bag): 0 (1)
  • pesto (in “cookies“, quart bags): 0 (2)
  • yellow wax beans (quart): 0 (2) (I actually just threw these away because they were overgrown when I picked them and I never should have frozen them.)
  • broccoli (gallon bags): 1 (6 plus 2 not completely full)

Fruit, Frozen:

  • blueberries (gallon bags): 0 (3)
  • strawberries (quart bags): 0 (3)

Fruit, Canned:

  • peaches, sliced (pint jars): 24 (56)
  • applesauce (quart jars): 5 (32)

Extras:

  • strawberry jam (pint): 6 (13)
  • nutmeg plum jam:  5, half-pint (12); 3, pint (1); 1 three-quarter pint (1)
  • peach syrup: 2, half-pint, canned (2); 3, pint, frozen (5)
  • apple butter: 5, pint, canned (8 plus we ate two more partial pints, frozen )
  • sweet garlic dill pickles (pint): 10 (19)
  • curried pickles (pint): 6 (16)
Posted in cooking | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Beginning of Mark’s Career as a Baker

After the last bread post, I realized that by this age, Ellie was already helping me make bread.  So this week, I let Mark in on the rolling pin action and he had so much fun!

002 (800x533) 003 (800x533) This might be my most favorite picture of him, ever.   That smile!!

005 (800x533)Fair warning – this is what happens when you let your teething 18-month-old help with the bread – drool, all over the cutting board.  And I have no shame in admitting that I didn’t even wipe it off.  I just added a bit more flour and rolled it into the bread!

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I Went To The Mountains*

We just returned on Sunday from a four-day vacation in the Shenandoah Mountains and it was lovely.  The weather was so cool, a blessed relief from the triple digit temperatures of the week before.  In true Nik and Laura vacation fashion, we didn’t manage to get pictures of all of the adults nor did we manage to take a family picture.  But here are a few to help you get a feel for our vacation.  We had the fun of vacationing with Nik’s mother, brother, sister-in-law, two nephews, and also some family friends from a very long time ago.  All told – eight adults and six kids, many of whom spoke Greek! :)

001 (533x800)enjoying the hammock in the “cabin” (an amazing place lent to us by a friend)

006 (533x800)a lovely view (to the west) as we hiked the Appalachian Trail (the AT for those in the know) or at least a mile of it!

008 (800x596)Mark and I hiking the AT (see how hard I’m working!  I’m packing a baby!)

015 (800x533)Ellie, Alex, Aunt Nikki, and Yiayia on the AT

026 (800x510)a real life thru-hiker, named “Sunshine”! (Seriously, that’s what he told us his name was.  I asked him because I said he should be wearing a shirt with his name on it so people could cheer for him as he passed them – like in a marathon.  So then we cheered “Go Sunshine!” and he hiked past, on his way to Harper’s Ferry for a friend’s wedding before he continued on to Maine.  By “we”, I really mean “I” because everyone else was quasi-pretending they didn’t know the crazy girl who likes to accost innocent hikers by asking them if they are thru-hikers and then striking up a conversation because “how cool!  a thru-hiker!  I’ve always wanted to meet one ever since I read a book about a guy who hiked the AT!” when really, please, just leave the man alone and let him hike. Sometimes, I surprise myself with my extroverted behavior!  Or perhaps I should admit to being just like my dad in this respect!)

028 (800x356)view to the east of Skyline Drive

031 (800x533)Ellie with her cousin, aunt, and honorary baby cousin

*And yes, Ryan, I chose this post title on purpose and yes, I know it’s an Indigo Girl song.  I’m not totally clueless when it comes to pop culture! :)  

Posted in family, Greece, travel | 1 Comment