Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coming July, 2014!

Due July 1, which means I'm 5 weeks today. I know this is considered really early to announce a pregnancy, but since we fully believe that this child is fully our baby, we want our friends and family to rejoice with us! And, in case morning sickness kicks in, you won't have to wonder why I look green all the time.

We covet your prayers, especially since we know that these early weeks of pregnancy are the most fragile.  I'm also a little bit nervous about caring for two energetic little girls while I battle morning sickness.  So pray with us that this baby will grow strong and healthy to full term, and that there won't be very much morning sickness.

Thanks be to God for this new life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Christa Moved

Bryan's dear sister Christa moved to Portland earlier this month. We are really bummed that we don't get to spend every Sunday with her, but we're really excited for her new opportunities.  It's only a seven hour drive, so it's not like we'll never see her again.

She stopped by on her way out of town to give the girls hugs.

We had to get a picture of her and Janelle, too.

We will miss you and your contagious joy, my dear sister.  We pray good things for you in Portland.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Tomato Garden

I've never had much of a green thumb, but boy do I love home grown tomatoes.  So this year I decided to put forth a little effort, and see if I couldn't successfully grown some tasty tomatoes.  I did some research, and learned that tomatoes need lots of things to thrive, including calcium and magnesium.  Egg shells have lots of calcium in them, so I saved my easter egg shells, and crushed them up. Epsom salt is actually magnesium (and not sodium), so I sprinkled crushed egg shells and magnesium in the holes where I gently planted six little tomato plants.  I had also worked some good natural fertilizer into the soil.  Meaning, alpaca poop.  Soil needs to be replenished of all sorts of good stuff, and I didn't want to plant a garden in depleted soil.  I waited until mid June, until the threat of late frost had passed.

I arranged a drip irrigation hose, and then covered the earth with a couple of black plastic trash bags.  Black absorbs heat, and tomatoes love heat, plus I didn't have to worry about weeding!  How convenient!  And with the irrigation hose in place, I just hooked the hose up every two or three days, and turned it on for a bit.  Easy, thorough watering.

Just six weeks after I planted tiny little plants only a few inches tall, I had these big, beautiful plants.  Lots of blossoms, and lots of promise of tasty tomatoes.  Although by then it was July, and well, we just don't live in the South where they get ripe tomatoes by the 4th of July.

But by late July, I was finally seeing some color.
The pants had grown so tall that they were no longer being supported by the tomato cages, and the branches started bending to the ground.  Had they been upright, they would have been six feet tall.  I almost couldn't believe how well they were growing.  If fact, the San Marzanos got so tall and so heavy, that they actually pulled the tomato cage over, and the whole plant was lying on its side.  Thankfully I was able to wrangle the thing back into an upright position, and the plant was just fine.

August was wonderful. All of my work finally paid off.  I had so many wonderful, yummy tomatoes.  Yellow pear, red pear, San Marzano, Tall Vine Rose, and the not-so-early Early Girls (and a few strawberries).

But then with September comes the threat of frost here in Idaho.  And I still had sooo many green tomatoes waiting to ripen!  I considered picking them and bringing them inside and laying them in my pantry or basement.  But I read that vine ripened tomatoes have the best flavor.  And the small green ones will continue to grow, even with cooler temperatures.

So we picked up some PCV, and made a little greenhouse.  Bryan really did most of the work.
All ready for the first frost.  The top lifted off, so the tomatoes got good air circulation and plenty of sun.  But at night, I would cover them up.  And I started watching the weather forecast like a hawk.  As soon as the first frost was predicted, I started my warm milk jug routine.  I filled up five milk jugs with hot tap water, put on my head lamp, and trecked them out to my tomato bed.  I tucked them inside the greenhouse, and then they slowly warmed the ground and air, keeping it a good 10 or 20 degrees warmer than the air outside.

The tomatoes were happy, and kept right on growing.
I read that to picking off lower branches, and snipping off blossoms and new growth would encourage the tomatoes I had to ripen, and it must have done the trick.

I had wonderful, amazing tomatoes in late September.  It was glorious.  I ate them with everything.  And sometimes with nothing more than a little sea salt.  I oven-dried some, packing them in olive oil, and later putting them on sandwiches or pizza.  I made delectable sauces, and consumed them over buttered angel hair pasta.  They were heavenly.

Then finally, when the weather was predicted to drop regularly into the 20s, I figured it was time to bring the plants inside before they met their demise.  Again I considered just picking the green fruit and bringing it inside, but if best flavor come from the vine, then on the vine they shall stay.  So Bryan helped me dig them up, and we carefully carried them into the basement, and rigged this tomato holding contraption: a 6-foot ladder, two mops and an old shovel handle. It still wasn't tall enough to keep the plants off the ground.

Update: Then I found out I was pregnant, and the morning sickness kicked in.  I couldn't stand the thought of most foods, so the tomatoes were left to ripen.  Bryan would pick some occasionally, and use them on sandwiches.  I had my mom pick the last of the ripe tomatoes the day before Thanksgiving.  They were a little shriveled, and not the best for eating fresh, but they worked great in chili. I was so pleased that all of my hard work provided fresh tomatoes at the end of November.  I never would have guessed.

So there you have the saga of my tomatoes.  Maybe my thumb is a little green after all.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I turned 30.  Which means I began my fourth decade of life.  Which is crazy.  I absolutely love my life, but still feel that strange feeling that time is passing too quickly.

Bryan took me to lunch at Nectar.  Love their food.

And we went to Casa Lopez for dinner.  Great margaritas, and good Mexican food, for being in the Inland Northwest.

Then a couple of days later, Betsy and Bryan threw me a mid-century themed birthday party.  I snapped a few photos with my trusty iPhone, but ambiance and low lighting makes for grainy pictures.
I wore a dress that used to be my Grandmother's.

Betsy made an amazing cake.

Bathroom selfie.  Yes, it happened.  I was trying to capture the big hair that took research and lots of hair product.  It was supposed to be Marilyn Monroe-esque.

So now I'm 30.  Can't wait to see what this decade has in store.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, Betsy and I drove south for an hour, and found some "local" blackberries.  The climate in the Lewiston valley is very different, so while blackberries won't grow here, they thrive down there.  So we picked lots and lots of berries.  I got eight pounds.  I saved some for pies, but some was destined for the jam jars.  I'd been freezing my raspberries all summer, too, so I was finally ready to unload my freezer.  The girls went to Betsy's house for the morning, and I made jam!
Six batches of Raspberry Blackberry, Raspberry Cherry, and plain ol' Raspberry jam.
Each batch was a little different, so I wanted to do a controlled study and see which batch I liked best.
I thought the second batch was the tastiest.
Then of course I had to make some labels. 
I've only ever made low-sugar jam before.  The pectin is made to set with half the sugar as regular pectin.  I love the full flavor of the fruit; slightly tart, not drowned out by too much sugar. 
My pantry is happy right now.