Embroidering with my great-grandmother

Embroidered fabric cutlery holder

I am one of those people who loves my “nice” dishes. I picked out a china pattern when we got married and I was grateful to receive crystal wine glasses as a wedding gift. I love pulling them out when we have a family dinner.

Some day, I hope I’m able to add a set of silver cutlery to my “nice” collection.

Even if I don’t have the silver yet, I have a place to keep them.

Rolled cutlery holders

I’m not sure what these are called. They have little sleeves for the various utensils, and then they roll up to tuck in the drawer. They protect the cutlery from scratches and keep them organized.

Rolled cutlery holder

These holders were made by my great-grandmother and me, which I think is so, so cool. (My great-grandmother died before I was born.)

A few years ago I was helping my Mom organize some things in her sewing room, and we found these holders. The spoon and fork ones were done, but the knives was barely started.

I haven’t done embroidery in years, but I liked the idea of finishing the set. I also liked the idea of having a place to store extra cutlery. While we don’t have a silver set, we do have lots of cutlery for those family dinners, and my storage technique was not ideal.

Cutlery stored in plastic cups

I especially liked the family heritage.

I tried to pick colours similar to the ones my great-grandmother chose and mimic her stitch patterns, and I’m really happy with how the set turned out.

Rolled cutlery holders

 

Do you have a silver, china or crystal set? How do you store extra dishes? Any other embroiderers out there? What craft or organizing projects have you been up to?

 

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Grapes and goodness in the garden

Red somerset grapes

We have grapes!

Three years ago I planted eight grapevines, and two years ago I added four more. Every year since then I’ve cut off any fruit that has appeared with the idea that the plants need all their energy to grow big and strong, rather than growing grapes.

This year, I let the grapes grow, and I was so thrilled back in August when they were finally ready to harvest.

Bunches of red somerset grapes on the vine

Ellie was delighted as well. Girl looooooves fruit, and grapes are a favourite.

Ellie picking grapes

It’s been so exciting to watch the grapes grow over the season. Seeing the big bunches of unripe green grapes made me feel like I’ve been doing something right.

Bunches of unripe green grapes

I have I’ve felt like I’m fumbling along with my grapes ever since I planted them. Figuring out where to plant them, how to trellis them, how to prune them, protecting them in the winter, even my decision to cut off the grapes the last couple of years were completely me winging it.

As I watched the grapes finally coming on this year, I was worried something would happen before I was able to taste them. Blight, birds, bugs. Something would get them instead of me.

But nothing happened. The grapes ripened, and they were beautiful.

Unripe and ripe grapes

In the end something did get them instead of me.

Blame it on the baby.

Ellie learned very quickly that anything purple or red in the garden was ripe for the picking. She would happily stand there and eat grapes by the bunch.

Ellie eating grapes in the garden

The flavour of the sun-warmed grapes was unmatched. They were so lovely and sweet. The pop as I bit into them, the stickiness of the juice on my hands, the sight of Ellie opening her mouth to ask for another and then the feeling of a little hand smushing a grape into my mouth in return make grapes a favourite summer memory.

Basket of sovereign coronation blue grapes

Committing a garden sin

Asparagus is a lesson in patience.

Four years ago, I laid some teeny tiny seeds in the garden and watched them sprout teeny tiny ferns.

Asparagus sprouts

My plan all along was to transplant the asparagus once it got big enough. What exactly was big enough I wasn’t sure, but this spring I thought they were probably ready. (In fact, I would have liked to do this last year, but the whole new baby thing disrupted my gardening time.)

Then I looked online for tips and everything I read said basically, “Never, never, ever, ever transplant asparagus. If you try to transplant asparagus you will be committing a massive garden sin.”

Okie-dokie. Sounds great.

I think the main concern with transplanting is delaying your asparagus harvest even further. Most of the time when people plant crowns, the recommendation is to not pick any asparagus until the second year. With starting from seed, I had read we’d have to wait four years.

We’re in our fourth spring now, so technically we could have harvested. But having grown from seed, they were very tightly spaced in two parallel rows. I wanted them to have more room to grow big and strong, so I decided to dig them all up.

Two rows of asparagus crowns

Along with dire warnings, my online research did garner a few tips. I fortified the soil with a hefty dose of compost and manure, raiding the pile that’s been behind the barn since we moved here.

Emptying the backyard composter

Digging into the manure pile

The advice on actually extracting the plants was less helpful: use a fork to gently tease the roots from the soil.

Um. No. That was not happening.

The asparagus root system is incredible. I was more than a foot away from the plants when I encountered the first thick, ropey root.

I quickly resorted to a sharp shovel. Despite my merciless hacking, I tried to save as much of the roots as possible and kept big chunks of dirt around the crowns. I consoled myself that the plants looked like they had more roots than the crowns people buy, so I was at least as good if not better than nursery stock. Plus my plants were out of the ground for less than a minute.

Asparagus crown root

I dug a deep trench and spaced the plants about a foot apart. I heaped them with soil, manure and compost and gave them a good drink. To cap it all off, I added a layer of mulch.

Watering transplanted asparagus crowns

I ended up with about 12 plants. I probably could have divided the crowns a bit more, but I didn’t want to traumatize them more than I already had. Plus, I filled the whole space I had allocated in the raised bed and was running into the grapes.

Row of asparagus crowns in raised bed

It’s been nearly a month since the transplanting. We’ve had a lot of rain and the asparagus seem to be thriving. We have some nice chunky stalks, but I’m restraining myself from picking anything.

Asparagus growing in the garden

Hopefully the patience will pay off and next year we will have our first harvest.

Have you committed any garden sins? Do you have asparagus in your garden? Or any crops that are testing your patience?

 

Green eggs in Illinois

When I first learned there were chickens that laid green eggs, I immediately made up my mind that one day I would have some. Of course, our chickens are still awhile away. So for now, I’m continuing to live vicariously through Sarah in Illinois and her expanding flock–which now includes a green-egg-laying hen.

In my last post I introduced my new chickens and mentioned that while I was expecting to get three Leghorns, I got one surprise Easter Egger. If you remember I was waiting patiently to find out what color egg it was going to lay.

I should have emphasized to Steve how excited I was and how closely I was watching every day to see what was laid. Because one night I got home late and Steve collected the eggs for me. He said nothing about them. The next morning I was opening the carton and this is what I saw.

I texted him at work and asked why he didn’t tell me that we there was a green egg! His reply was, “oh, there was?” He clearly was not as excited as I was.

A couple days later I gathered my second green egg!

The green eggs are appearing a little more regularly now and you can really see how green they are when sitting next to the pure white Leghorn eggs.

I just can’t get over how beautiful the selection of eggs is.

Nature really does have the most beautiful palette.

That is a beautiful bowl of eggs, Sarah. What a treat to have that in your own backyard.

A baby, a cat and a peck of potatoes

Basket of potatoes

Against all odds, we have a harvest this year.

The best description for the garden this year was neglected. Back in the spring, Matt planted some potatoes. That was about the last time that we went into the garden. His parents took pity on us and weeded a few sections. But I had given up on picking anything this year.

Then one grey afternoon a few weeks ago, Matt decided to see what he could find.

Digging for potatoes

Accompanied by Ralph, the potato sniffing cat, and Ellie, the potato inspecting baby, they uncovered some bounty.

Ralph looking for potatoes

(Despite appearances, the baby is not freaked out by the potato.)

Baby admiring a freshly harvested potato

We celebrated the harvest with breakfast for dinner–complete with super fresh hashbrowns.

White and purple potatoes on the cutting board

There weren’t as many as we’ve had in past years, but there are enough for a few meals and some seed potatoes for next year. Because we’re not giving up. We will try again next year and hope that we have more potatoes than weeds this time around. Maybe we’ll put the cat and the baby to work earlier in the season next time.

Garden wrap-up from Illinois

Sarah in Illinois has shared periodic updates about her vegetable garden over the summer. Now it’s time for her final report, also known as the medal ceremony.

For the third year in a row I would like to sum up how well our garden produced. Unfortunately overall our garden did poorly. While I was complaining about this to Steve he said that some years are just like that, you can do everything correctly but weather doesn’t always cooperate.

As I have in years past 2016 and 2017, I’ll rank my results in the style of the Olympics.

Gold Medal Winners

Kale – Our Kale did wonderfully this year. My step-daughter and I love kale chips and we made a few batches and could have made plenty more.

Broccoli – Steve was in question whether 8 broccoli plants were too many. The answer was no. We had so much fresh broccoli and as much as we eat, we could have used a few more plants. Side note: our favorite way to eat it is coated in olive oil and seasoning and grilled.

Tomatillos – After two years of nothing, I finally got a very productive tomatillo plant. I did learn to make salsa verde and have decided that tomatillos will now be a staple in our garden.

Sunflowers – I didn’t plant any this year for some reason but it worked out because we had several volunteers!

Silver Medal Winners

Tomatoes – Our tomatoes acted so strangely this year. They flowered and came on quickly, then they stayed green for much much longer than normal. Then they flowered again and produced red tomatoes. Not our best year for them, but we still had plenty fresh from the garden.

Green Peppers – After planting about 12 plants, I figured we would have more peppers than we could use. But honestly, we really didn’t have that many. Then when I finally found peppers on the plants they were really soft and past being ripe.

Jalapenos – I was able to gather just a couple jalapenos this year. Much different than the overabundance last year.

Cucumbers – Somehow I only planted pickling cucumbers this year, even after specifically buying different varieties. This is the first year we did not grow our vines up a fence. I would like to bring that back next year.

Bronze Medal Winners

Sugar Snap Peas – I think I picked less than a dozen pods. But stay tuned for a fall planting post from me in the future.

Potatoes – We were able to dig up two messes of potatoes. One was used for fried potatoes and one was used to potato salad for a family get-together.

Blueberries – This is literally all that I picked, but the bushes are new and I have high hopes for next year.

Radishes – I picked a few, but only a few.

DNF “Did Not Finish (produce)”

Brussel Sprouts – I think the area of the garden that these were planted stayed too wet all year. The plants looked okay but they did not produce any heads at all.

Carrots – Nothing. Not even a sprout.

Cherry trees – Ugh! Deer enjoyed my cherry trees. So much so that both trees died. That should be a post on it’s own. I will have to formulate a new plan and buy new trees in the spring.

Cauliflower – The plants looked nice and green but did not produce a single head.

Zucchini – Nothing came up at all.

Expecting to have all gold medals winners is unreasonable but I really would like to not have anything in the DNF category. I’m making notes and hope that next year is even more successful.

How did your garden do this year? Anyone else feel like this year was worse than normal?

I feel like our entire garden was DNF this year, Sarah (#blamethebaby). So I take solace from your results! (And you have my sympathies.) I’m hoping we might yet find some potatoes in amongst the weeds.

Tomatillo harvest and salsa verde

Sarah has been trying for the past few years to grow tomatillos in her garden in Illinois. This year, she finally has a success story–and a recipe–to share.

I have had an ongoing battle with trying to produce tomatillos.

Two years ago I planted seeds directly into the garden and nothing broke through the ground.

Last year, I grew one beautiful plant, but I was not aware that tomatillos need two separate plants for cross-pollination.

This year I tried one more time. I made sure to plant several seeds and two came up. They grew very close together so they looked like one plant but I made very sure that there were two separate plants growing. I marked it clearly so no one accidentally clipped it with the tiller. And I waited.

The plants looked so healthy and the telltale little lanterns started sprouting from almost every branch. This is exactly what I ended up with last year but the difference is, this year I could feel little spheres filling out inside the lanterns.

I knew they were ready when they burst trough the husks.

As soon as I had a few ready I knew I wanted to make tomatillo salsa (sometimes called salsa verde). (See Sarah’s post on how she made her harvest basket.)

I found this recipe for Tomatillo Salsa Verde. This author suggests a few different ways to either roast, boil or broil the tomatillos. I chose to broil them following her steps.

I then combined all of the ingredients in my food processor.

In my first batch I used lemon juice instead of lime only because we didn’t have any on hand. The second time I used lime juice like the recipe suggested. Honestly, I really preferred the lemon juice version but both were great.

Even though the garden overall has been disappointing this year, I feel accomplished by finally having a successful tomatillo harvest. They will become a staple in my garden planning from now on.

Anyone have experience with tomatillos? Or maybe a preferred recipe to use them with?

I have zero experience with tomatillos, whether growing, cooking or eating them. I wouldn’t mind trying though. Wanna send some of that salsa my way, Sarah?

Odds & sods

Do you guys like the round-up/links/personal posts that so many bloggers do on Fridays? I enjoy them. They usually have a few links that are interesting to me, and they give me some insight into the person behind the blog.

The Odds & Sods posts that I do every so often are kind of my version of these types of posts (odds and sods was a phrase my paternal grandmother used instead of saying odds and ends).

I’m thinking about making O&S a little more regular. Not every week, but maybe at the end of every month. What do you think? Is this something you’re interested in?

I’m going to put one out there today. Please share any feedback you have.

The Fall 2018 Canadian Bloggers Home Tour happened a couple of weeks ago. I love seeing bloggers come together and supporting each other. Plus, I am proud of the talent, diversity and creativity from my fellow Canadians. I encourage you to check out all the homes on the tour. Here are some stand-outs:

  • I love the style of Vin’yet Etc’s living room, and even more I love her hummingbird and the connection to her mom. We see so many signs that my Dad is still with us, so this resonates with me so much.
  • Beautiful neutrals, blue-green glass, flowers and one of my favourite foods (charcuterie) from So Much Better With Age.
  • Thalita from The Learner Observer is someone I connected with a looooong time ago. I’ve loved seeing how she’s built her career, her family and her lovely home. Thalita also published a real life (didn’t even put her bra away) tour.

In other home and real estate news, Justin Bieber is apparently going to be our neighbour. (What does it say about me that I didn’t recognize him in the twitter pics? And I misspelled his name when I first typed it? #notabelieber)

Ellie eating food for the first time

Ellie turned 7 months old yesterday. She’s been eating food for about a month now. She quickly began devouring her meals–and decimating my baby food stash. We’re still in the basic puree stage, but we’re looking ahead to more complex meals (and a time where dinner does not end up in her nose). Do you make your own baby food? What are your baby’s favourite foods? Do you have any good recipes to share?

  • Once Upon A Farm (with Jennifer Garner) has an interesting business model: they make organic baby food, but they also publish the recipes in case you want to make it yourself.
  • I’ve saved recipes for month of baby food–although I feel like my girl may go through this in less than a month.

Apparently I’m in a feminist kind of mood right now.

My writing elsewhere:

I hope you all have a good week. We’re wrapping up September with a date night for Daddy and Mama, hopefully a trip to the swimming pool (a test run before Ellie starts swimming lessons next month) and a very special family project that I’ve been wanting to do for years.

What’s on tap for you?

Garden update from Illinois

Happy July 4th to all of my American readers. Our resident American, Sarah, is taking a break from her Independence Day festivities to share a glimpse of how gardening is going so far this summer in Illinois.

Happy 4th of July to all the American readers! As you are reading this we should be celebrating Independence Day with a fish fry and fireworks in our back yard.

When Steve and I discussed what sides to make to serve with the catfish, I knew that my goal was to make dishes that included as many foods as possible from our garden.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that we got a slow start to our garden this year. Unfortunately, we have struggled ever since. Walking through the garden last weekend Steve said, “This is the worst our garden has ever looked.” I had to agree.

We had several heavy rains, and it seemed that every time the garden dried up enough to actually walk the rows, another big rain came. Looking up the rainfall for June, it shows that we only had one inch more than average, but I think the timing was our issue.

However, our garden may look awful and yields are down, but we have still been able to have some fresh vegetables.

We have had the best luck with our cucumbers. We have picked enough pickling cucumbers to make 3 quarts and a pint of refrigerator pickles.

Steve had never made refrigerator pickles before and after giving him a little tutorial of how to do it, he has taken over and made it his project. He has tried 3 different recipes and tweaked them to how he thinks they could be improved. The pint above is his version of a hot pickle which included a jalapeno and some red pepper flakes. Hopefully after a few more weeks of marinating and adjusting the recipe, I can share his final version.

Even though the garden is not exactly like we like it, we are still fighting through. Over the past weekend, I actually MOWED our garden rows. I can’t say that I have ever done that before.

Then I was able to pass through with the tiller and pull weeds by hand.

We have a long way to go, but it is looking more like a garden now.

How is your garden doing this year? Have you had to fight weeds? Rain? Any other adversities?

Ahem… fellow garden mower here. I’ll just leave it at that.

Garden beginnings in Illinois

Our vegetable garden is very delayed this year–and still mostly to be determined–thanks to Ellie. So I’m living vicariously through other people’s gardens. Sarah has made it through the early uncooperative weather that delayed her garden start. Planting has officially happened in Illinois and she’s sharing the details today.

If you read my last post, I mentioned that we finally made our way out of winter. Which means we had to jump quickly into planting the garden. We were about 4 weeks behind our normal planting time. As an example, we usually try to plant potatoes on Good Friday (this year March 30) and we were not able to get them into the ground until April 29.

Another problem that we are facing is that we seem to have jumped directly from winter to summer. We went from cold days and many nights of frost to 85F (29C) every day.

This is hardest on some of the colder weather crops like lettuce, kale, radish and possibly carrots. I went ahead and planted them but, they aren’t looking very hopeful.

Here are some of the other vegetables that we planted:

Broccoli

Tomatoes

Bell peppers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, tomatillos, zucchini, pepperoncini peppers and
cucumbers.

And even though they got such a late start, I think the potatoes are going to make it.

Another issue we are having is that it has been very dry. So every day after work I fill two 5 gallon buckets twice and carry them out to the garden and water each individual plant.

There has been some discussion between Steve and I on running a water line out there. If that happens, I will be sure to document it!

Have you started planting anything where you live? Are you having any struggles with your vegetables? Temperatures? Rainfall? Do you get a workout by hauling water to your garden?

That’s a lot of water lugging, Sarah! I definitely vote for a water line, but in our experience running the line is probably as much work as hauling water all season. Perhaps rent a small backhoe if you decide to put one in. We transplanted a tree this weekend, so we’ve been hauling buckets, as there’s no way a hose will reach the spot I chose. That seems to be the extent of our gardening so far, so I will continue to enjoy your updates. Good job with all of your planting!