2012 Garden: So it Begins….

Yes, we’ve started our 2012 garden! It’s not unusual for me to start seeds indoors by mid-March; I do this most years, because we grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants from seed. It always amazes me how tiny these plants start out, and how by July they are almost as tall as I am. It’s a bit of a miracle, really. I started 5 kinds of tomatoes. I don’t know if we’ll end up growing them all, because we have limited space, but as of today, all five have sprouted and they’re growing quickly. None of the eggplants are up yet, and only one kind of pepper has so far emerged.
However, it would be UNHEARD of to have any plants outside at this time of year. This is Minnesota, people. Normally we would have snow on the ground, or just recently melted, but we freeze at night all the way through April and part of May in this part of the country. Usually.

But this year has been just WEIRD. We barely froze at all in the winter, and once March came, it was like full-on summer was here. We’ve had temperatures in the 70s and even a few 80s for the entire month of March. Well, if life is going to give us crappy winters and global warming, I am at least going to get good food out of it!

We don’t plant much in the ground, anyway, so we have more leeway against frost in the first place, but with temps in the 70s and not looking to plummet for a long time, we put out cold-resistant stuff last weekend. We planted three window boxes of lettuce and salad mix, two tubs of peas (one snow pea pods and one snap peas), and a cool-weather mixed box of radishes, green onions, and bright lights chard. This is a good month to six weeks before we would normally put even cool-resistant plants out, but this is a strange, strange year.

cool weather box – radishes, green onions, bright lights chard

the peas are coming up!
The plants are a lot of work. Not so much right now when they’re tiny little spindly things, but come summer we will have to spend a fair amount of time caring for them. And I love it! I love coming home from work and checking on all my plants first thing. Mostly I love eating them. Can’t wait for what’s in store for us this summer!!


The Ugly Quilt


Do you ever have one of those projects that you work on for-EV-er? That was The Ugly Quilt for me. I love this scrappy pattern, and there’s nothing about it that’s terribly difficult. But I thought about this quilt for a long time before I attempted it. I pieced the top fairly quickly, and then my husband and I worked on the quilting for almost a year. It’s a really large queen-sized quilt, so that was part of what took so long. We also quilted clovers along the border, and those took forever. Now that it’s finished, though, The Ugly Quilt was totally worth it!

The Ugly Quilt got its name from the scrap fabrics used to make it. I went for that ugly look. I love the navy and white background fabric, and then I just chose a great hodgepodge of colorful fabrics (some very ugly!) to make up the patchwork middle and the ring around the edge. It was supposed to have a lot of interest in the fabrics, and I think it does. When it came time to find a backing fabric, we totally lucked out. I found this perfect reddish-pinkish floral which matched the look I was going for perfectly, and it was even on sale. Then absolutely NOTHING except the green dots would do for the binding. I love the overall effect.

I made this quilt with a thin batting, and it’s one of the few quilts I’ve made for myself that’s had a definite purpose. I wanted it for a bedspread for our bed. I just wanted something colorful, yet kind of old-fashioned. I loved how this quilt turned out so much that on a whim this past summer we PAINTED OUR BEDROOM and I chose the color to MATCH THE UGLY QUILT!!!! Even now, I love to sit in bed and admire the different squares on my Ugly Quilt.

Catch Up

Happy 2012???
I’ve been a little MIA this year I guess. Suffice it to say that 2012 has not been a super-fun year so far. In between sickness and injuries and unexpected expenses and some other rather seriously not-fun things going on this year, we have managed to work on some projects and make some awesome new recipes. Let’s see if I can do a quick recap to get us up to speed, and then I promise to post here more often. I promise to try at least….In December, way back when we still thought we might have a winter this year, we decided to try cheese-making one beautiful, snowy afternoon. I love, love, LOVE squeaky cheese, also known as Finnish Leipäjuusto. I grew up eating this mild baked cheese at Christmastime. My dad knew a lady who made and sold it; you can also buy it at local seasonal fairs and locations. Even though my husband does not care for squeaky cheese (he has lost his honorary Finlander card over this), he has always wanted to make it for me. So we tried it.

curdin’ up

Making cheese was a relatively straightforward process, if a bit weird. I hate to say it’s “weird” to do something as simple as to make food, but there’s just something about having a sink full of curds and whey that is…WEIRD. Our Juusto turned out pretty well. I ate it for weeks and we also gave some to my parents for Christmas. I also bought my husband a cheesemaking book for Christmas, and he now wants to make mozzarella this summer, and maybe even more cheeses. Stay tuned for those adventures.

curds and whey in my sink

the finished product

Christmas also was a time of frenzied project-making, as we tried to think of homemade gifts and then get them all made on time. I already posted my niece’s Mini Mail Sack. I loved how that one turned out. We also made two homemade teddy bears. I fell in love with the first, and I couldn’t give him up, that’s how we ended up with two of them. They are named Watson and Bertram. Bertram now lives at my mother-in-law’s house.

My smaller niece and her American Girl doll got matching homemade pajamas. The pants were easy-peasy, but the button-down shirt with the collar and pockets was more difficult. The alternate shirt with the hexagon was SUPER easy 🙂 The doll’s jammies were kind of just thrown together (and they look like it).

We made a lot of good food. Particular favorites that have been added to our dinner repertoire include almond-crusted fish with buerre blanc sauce (to die for!!), homemade whole-wheat tortillas (we usually make cheese quesadillas with them), beef-barley stew with spinach, rosemary chicken, jalapeno coleslaw, and white bean soup with rosemary. These are just some that I can think of right now. I’m planning a post for the next time I make the white bean soup – that stuff was SOO good! Most of these recipes are real food approved, too. My husband and I have continued to eat real food most often, and for one week each month, we follow the rules strictly. The only real purpose of this is just to keep us on track, so we don’t eat out too much or get in the habit of eating too much sugar or anything. We actually don’t notice it much at all anymore unless we have to explain it to someone else! We are acutally in the middle of our March real food week right now.

Buerre Blanc Fish