May 14, 2013

A Dabble in Gardening

A friend of mine, Stacy, from Stacy Lee Smith Photography and Design, asked me about our garden.  I don't consider myself an expert gardener in the least, but it is something we enjoy doing together as a family.  The girls love to check the plants for new blooms and are constantly asking me if anything is ready to pick.  I would love for our garden to get to a point where we can rely on it as a main source of produce for our family.  Hopefully someday!

A lot of what I know about vegetable gardening comes from my father.  My dad is the king of the vegetable garden, and has been growing things to eat for as long as I can remember.  Some people just have that special touch.  Even though we have been in our home for almost three years and have added something to our little garden each year, we aren't even close to touching on what my dad has established.  Again, hopefully someday!

One of our favorite gardening books is called The Backyard Homestead.  In fact, we checked it out from the library so many times, I had my sister get it for us for a Christmas gift.  It has a lot of useful information and is easy to follow.

So, what do we have growing around The Kitchen Homestead?

Strawberry Patch

Look at those blossoms!!

I moved our strawberry plants up to the side of the house last year, and they have taken off.  My oldest daughter requested strawberry plants our first summer here (June 2009).   My dad brought over six little plants - now look how many we have!!  This year we have covered them with a net to keep the birds from eating them.  I am hoping we have enough to make a batch of homemade strawberry ice cream - yummo!

Blackberry bushes

This is the third season for our blackberry bushes  The canes on these bushes are like small trees!  The berries were great last year.  My littlest was always coming out from around the corner of the house with blackberry juice dripping from her chin.  Hoping for enough to eat on and make one really good cobbler!

We also have a peach tree that will need a few more years before producing any edible peaches.  Hubby also planted a grape vine last fall.  It made it through the winter, so I am excited to see what happens with it.

We had a few plants that we put in last year that did not make it.  Two small blueberry bushes that we got at the end of the season do not seem to be coming back.  Also, two itty bitty apples trees did not make it thought the drought.  The hubby has already asked us for a nice new, bigger apple tree for Father's Day!

Red leaf lettuce is my favorite!
This spring we have two varieties of lettuce and peas planted.  You can also see our compost bin in the above picture.   It was behind our garage but it did not seem to be getting enough air circulation.  We moved it out to the far back of the yard to see if it does better.

Peas growing up around a large tomato cage.
This is my third or fourth attempt at growing peas.  Last year I started them too late and they died in the summer heat.  I tried again in the fall, but again was too late, and the cold got them.  Hoping I got them in early enough to enjoy some sweet, tender peas in a salad or two!

The hubby has gotten the seeds in for our summer garden already.  In the picture below, he has an entire row of green beans planted on the right.  The left is half a row of green beans.  If we get enough, I plan to can them this year.

Then there are two mounds - one for zucchini and the other for cucumbers.  Once the spring veggies are done, we will probably put in a few more cucumber plants in as well.  I would like to try and make pickles this year!   There is also cantaloupe planted in the box in front of the compost bin.

Soon-to-be beans, cucumbers, and zucchini
This weekend while I am away at Girl Scout Camp, I am hoping the hubby can get a few pepper plants planted.  Last, but not least, I am going to try some Roma tomatoes in pots this year.  While we do not enjoy tomatoes themselves, I use tomato sauce all the time.  I tried Roma's last year but they got bottom rot.  Try, try again!

In the fall, we will use the greenhouse boxes the hubs made to grow another batch of lettuce and greens.  We can close the boxes on days when it gets really cold to help keep the plants warm.

green house boxes
Let's hope I get to share some post of the yumminess we produce soon!

Menu Plan Monday

Monday - burgers, roasted beets, salad*
Tuesday - Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
Wednesday - Pasta con Broccoli
Thursday - Chicken and veggies in crockpot
Friday - BLT on homemade bread, corn on the cob, pineapple pops
Saturday - Veggie Lasagna (made ahead)
Sunday - Cauliflower, Bacon, and Cheese Soup

*Roasted Beets and Salad
Peel and quarter beets.  Toss in olive oil and kosher salt.  Roast at 450F until fork tender (about 30 minutes, depending on size of beets).  Prepare salad bed of baby lettuces.  Top with roasted beets.   Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Enjoy - now my new favorite salad!!

April 29, 2013

We LoVe the STL Zoo!! And, our vote for the baby's elephant name!

"Stan" the baby camel
One of my family's all time favorite places to go is the St. Louis Zoo.   With a beautiful day in the forecast, my littlest two and I couldn't resist a visit.  Of course, they were hoping to catch a glimpse of the newest edition to the zoo, a baby girl elephant born Friday night.  Even after I explained that the two-day old elephant would not be out for us to see, they were adamant about seeing her.   Thank goodness the gentleman at the desk let us know about the 3 week old baby camel.  Stan, was born on the Cardinals opening day, hence the namesake.  The cute little ball of fluff was a delight to see as he stumbled along on his wobbly legs.

The zoo is  definite must see for anyone visiting the area.   However, if you are a local, I HIGHLY encourage investing in a family zoo membership.  Above and beyond the simple fact you are donating to a fabulous organization, you get free parking vouchers and tickets for the train, carousel, and other attractions.  We also love getting our calendar every year along with the zoo magazine.  My four year old is an avid animal lover.  We make multiple trips to the zoo each year and the membership makes sure each trip is full of fun.

Hippo Harbor
Capybara going for a swim
We started our visit today by going in the south entrance and heading straight to the River's Edge.  This is where you can find hippos, elephants, cheetahs, and more.  It is a bit of walk to get through it all so it is a great place to start before you get tired from the day. 

The animals seemed to really be enjoying the nice weather today too.  Almost every animal was up walking around from the bush dogs and capybaras to the rhinos and elephants.  The hyenas were making the most of the day by sunbathing!

Hyena sunbathing
After the River's Edge we went to through the butterfly house.  There were SO many butterflies!  The next stop was the Children's Zoo where we saw a hedgehog named Bella, a couple of very hairy alpacas, some rabbits, and of course the goats!

After a quick lunch, we headed out see the bears, penguins, and ride the carousel!  Little K is usually super scared of the circular ride, but she finally rode it today.  I have to laugh because Miss M chose a "zebra" to rid on.  I didn't have the heart to tell her she chose the Wild Ass! 

Flamingos - always a favorite!

Speaking of that baby elephant, make sure to visit the zoo's website or facebook page to vote on a name.  My girls picked Violet but all the choices are really great. 

Check out this cute video of her too!! 

Menu Plan Monday

Monday - Veggie Fajitas
Tuesday - Roast with potatoes/carrots
Wednesday - Moo Shu Vegetables
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - Ham & Pineapple pizza
Saturday - Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
Sunday - Pasta con Broccoli

Are you really good about following your meal plan?  One would think after taking the time to plan a menu, I would be better at adhering to it.  Not so much.  Last week, we made it Monday - Wednesday on menu.  Then Thursday, the hubs took the girls to IHOP for a daddy date night.  (Otherwise know as: "give mommy a moment to breathe" night!)  Friday night my dad invited us to a barbeque cook-off event so we ate there.  We had the Thursday night pizza on Saturday.  And last night, well I just didn't feel like cooking so we got take-out.  Therfore, you see the fajitas and chicken thighs making another debut on this week's menu.  Oh well!

Miss M enjoying some rib tips at the bbq contest!

April 26, 2013

Friendships live on in my heart

My husband, my sister, my parents.... my family friends.

Moms I have met through my daughters' activities..... my mommy friends.

Loving members of my church's congregation.... friends in Christ.

A group of women I met online in a baby chat room.... my cyber-friends.

My list could go on and on.  Goodness, I have over 500 friends on my Facebook page.  

Yet, it seems that I often feel friend-less, with no one to blame for it, but myself.   I have made many friends, and continue to make friends, but I somehow do not do a very good job of maintaining them.  I honestly cannot put a finger on the cause of my friendship dilemma.   Other than the fact that I am very present person, caught up in what is going on at the instant, not the past or the future.  Honestly, I do not know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  I can look back at my senior year of highschool to a group of people that helped me come out of my shell.  My college years were full of friendships that meant more to me than I think the people even realize.  I made friends during my time at work that inspired me and encouraged me.  Having children brought even more amazing people into my life.  But I honestly do not know what is going on with many of my "friends" lives now that I have graduated from school, moved away from different towns, or simply stopped talking to them.  It doesn't mean I didn't value the friendship.  Sometimes, I think these people were part of my life when I needed them most, and hopefully when they needed me as well.  I think of them often, but just am not the type to send an email or pick up the phone.

If you are reading this, and we haven't talked in years.....
If you are reading this, and we live close but never see each other...
If you are reading this, and I have promised we will get together for dinner and we don't...
If I am bad about remembering to text you back or call on your birthday...

Please know that I don't treasure your friendship any more or any less....
Please know that I often feel alone and am looking for a friend too....
Please know that I will always consider you a friend...
Please know that I will listen...

April 22, 2013

Treasuring People.... and Menu Plan Monday

After a gentle nudge from a friend, I am going to try to be a more present blogger.  Life has a way of overwhelming me from time to time.  However, I need to learn to use this virtual support system of the blogging world to get through the road blocks of life.  If you are still here reading, thank you for waiting on me.

This weekend, we took a road trip to Kansas City to celebrate my nephews' birthdays.  The drive gives my darling husband and I some time to chat; that is, in between the times we are clamboring over the back seat to retrieve dropped toys, feed snacks, calm tantrums and play referee for our three daughters!

Of course our conversation led to the recent events in Boston and Texas, along with the gun control laws and other government issues.    I have a very hard time discussing these issues without getting emotional.  Any time a total disregard for human life is displayed by another human, it is almost impossible for me to wrap my head around.  I almost always come to the same conclusion, that we need to be focusing on what our purpose in life is really meant to be about.   If we are living out Christ's mission and encouraging our children to do the same, then we should be focusing on our relationships with others.  We should be TREASURING each other! 

Each time I come to this conclusion it is a wake-up call to me as a parent.  I need to stop worrying about if my daughter is the best soccer player, going to become a competitive gymnast, read at an early age or use vocabulary you wouldn't expect from a toddler.  Instead I should be encouraging her to make new friends, be kind to her sisters, and start a relationship with God.  That is what life is really about; making relationships with each other and with God. 

I want to stop there and recognize an organization that I am proud to take part in.  The Girl Scout program is such a great way for girls to get involved and make relationships with other girls and people within the community.Today is Girl Scout Leader's Day, so I want to take the time to say "thank you" to all my friends that have stepped up as volunteers within this great organization.

And, since it is Monday - I better get my Menu Plan in as well!

Monday - Veggie Lasagna
Tuesday - Cauliflower, Bacon, & Cheese Soup
Wednesday - leftover soup/lasagna
Thursday - CPK's BBQ Chicken Pizza
Friday - Veggie Fajitas
Saturday - Pumpkin Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs
Sunday - Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

Here's to a great week of building relationships and treasuring them too!

February 18, 2013

Menu Plan Monday & Scripture

Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Each new week provides us with challenges, but also with opportunities.  If we can give our troubles to God, who knows what is before us, we can ENDURE so much.  Monday's are my most difficult day.   Combined with my emotions, I feel weighted down.  If you are also struggling, hopefully this scripture brings you some comfort.  It did for me.

Monday: Subway
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Creamy Butternut Squash Leek Parmesean Sauce
Wednesday: BBQ Chicken Legs with Tugboat Turnips
Thursday: Taco Salad
Friday: Roasted Broccoli Carbonara
Saturday: Dinner at parents house
Sunday: Roast, potatoes, carrots

What's on your heart or on your menu this week?