Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gathering in July

July, one of my least favorite months, has seemed to fly by this year.  I think I've been saying that about most months lately.  Seems to be a trend for people as they get older, to make statements like that.  But the end of July snuck up on me with nary a thought of Cheryl's Gathering so I am throwing this post together at the last minute.  I know Cheryl will forgive the slap-dash efforts because she knows that it is no reflection on how I feel about this monthly post.  She's a gracious host with a generous heart. 

Usually the summer months run together as one hot and sticky blob, but our July has been quite mild in comparison to summers past.  I typically avoid the out-of-doors in summer but when your husband decides that this is the year for a garden you sorta hafta go outside.  And then when a friend says "let's swim laps in my pool for exercise" you sorta hafta go outside.  And if you sorta hafta you might as well go all in.  It is only for a season, after all! 

So gardening and swimming got me out of the house to do things that are a-typical for me.  Not grand or unusual, but different.  For me.  And that is my goal... to find contentment and joy in everyday living.  Which is more of a struggle than you might assume.

Let's get going with some pictures, shall we?  Don't worry.  It is highly, HIGHLY unlikely that you will ever see a picture of me in a swimsuit.  My muscles may be toned, but they are way down deep and that's just not something that needs to be witnessed by the masses!

Here is a picture taken from our deck of our garden area.  The plan is to do this thing little by little.  Even with that in mind, we did more than we had originally intended.  Just to give you some sort of scale, the grape arbor is about 7 feet tall and each section of fence is about 8 feet long.

A bit of a closer look...

Our zucchini and yellow squash were much more prolific than we'd anticipated but we aren't complaining!  I think one of my favorite parts of gardening is having stuff to share!  We've given and we've received. 

Our compost pile has even become a source of enjoyment.  A Seminole squash has volunteered to grow here (bringing their total number of plants to 3) along with some other squash-vine thing that isn't producing any fruit.  They do such a good job of making an eyesore less offensive.

Our neighbors have even gotten into the act.  Their children bring compostables over just about every day.  I have a separate bin for eggshells sitting on the deck. Their youngest just can't wait to be big enough to climb the steps all by himself to bring us eggshells.  So cute!   They had a city relative visiting a couple weeks ago who wanted to know absolutely everything that we were doing in the garden.  I guess even when you are a novice and know so very little about what you are doing, there is always someone who can be inspired by it.

I bought 20 pounds of green beans from a local natural farm and processed them for the freezer.  I don't have the equipment needed for canning {did my Yoder family just gasp?} but my seal-a-meal thingy came in handy for this project. 

A few little garden critters...
We took the twins swimming at the neighbor's pool.  Levi didn't hesitate for a second.  Liam was a bit more skeptical.  Here they are waving at each other...
I've been eating a lot of overnight oats this summer.  Stir uncooked rolled oats into yogurt, add some almond butter and other healthy ingredients (I came up with a pretty decent carrot cake-inspired version), cover and refrigerate overnight, throw some fresh fruit on in the morning.  I love this stuff!

You may be wondering why I am using a meat thermometer to pit cherries.  Because I couldn't find my chopsticks!  Duh!  Seriously though, several tutorials on Youtube suggested using chopsticks to push the pits into a bottle.  I really couldn't find my chopsticks so I improvised with a meat thermometer.  It didn't work as quickly as I had anticipated.  The search continues...

Have you done anything this month that may not be unusual, but unusual for YOU?

Thinking About Home

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Easy Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I haven't baked a cake in years but when your garden hands you a zucchini that is too big for your liking yet not so big that it is only good for compost, you do what you gotta do.  Right?  Riiiiight?!?

The obvious choice was to make some sort of treat.  Again, agree with me. 

So chocolate it is!  See how I made that leap there?

I got this recipe from one of the Aunties (one of my mother's sisters) a very long time ago and I knew it to be easy, quick, and delicious... all without frosting. 

And I'm all about the frosting, y'all! 

To me, cake is just the socially legit way to get the frosting from container to mouth.  Unless you firm it up a bit and make fudge.   Now you're with me.  Mhmm!

Since Hubby and I are trying to live a more healthy lifestyle and not have treats around the house much, I gave half of the cake to the neighbors.  They have 4 kids so I really should have given them three-fourths of it, but I baked it in 2 9" rounds so I technically gave them a whole cake.  But then that means WE technically ate a whole cake, too, so I'm just going to stick with "I gave the neighbors half of the cake."

Either way, I didn't lose any sleep over it and the neighbors loved us for it.

Okay, I'll quit babbling and give you the recipe.  Enjoy!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Make It New Monday 7/7/14... What Do You Do With Felt Scraps?

It's the first Monday of the month so that can only mean one thing-- Make It New Monday!  Well, it could mean a lot of other things, too, but that's what it means here at My Not-So-Empty Nest.  If you're new around here, let me explain a bit...  On the first Monday each month I host a link-up where we share our re-used, re-cycled, re-purposed projects.  They can be small and simple to huge and complicated and everything in between as long as it starts out like "this" and ends like "that".   There is no pressure to be perfect (I would be disqualified otherwise) so even if the project flopped, let us know what you might try differently if you were to try it again.

The project I will be showing you this month starts with a box of felt scraps that were my Mom's.  Much of the scraps were left over from when she made me a set of pixie dolls when I was a little girl.  Here is a picture of the dolls that have survived...

Some of them are a whole lot shabby but they were often played with, moved around the country, had an invasion of bugs, and packed away for many, many years.  They all had complete outfits in the beginning.  Who knows where some of the bits were lost?  My favorites were the fairies...

So I had a box of felt scraps leftover (loved-over?).  Why?  Can you ever fully explain why such insignificant things seem so important at the time you are disposing of your loved ones' earthly possessions?  Maybe it is because in the recesses of my mind I knew that it would bring me such comfort to run my hands across something that my Mom had handled while she was thinking of me?  Perhaps.  Or maybe I was just desperate to cling to any bit of her that I could.  I really don't know.  But I think she would be very pleased by what I did with what she had left in that box of felt scraps.

I stumbled across this picture on Pinterest.  The link took me to a photo only.  No directions, no ownership that I could find.  Nothing but a photo.  So whoever did this, thank you for the inspiration.  I'd like to give them credit for their work...

Photo credit: unknown

I'd never done any needlework other than cross-stitch so I took my materials with me to Florida to visit my Aunt Betty for her to show me how to do the embroidery. (YOU can visit her through her blog... My Crazy Quilt Life)  She was a very patient teacher, and very encouraging.  She has more of an artistic way of looking at things than I do (my inclination would be to line those birds up like proper soldiers!) so I knew she would help me be a bit more random.  Intentional randomness.  Oxymoron, anyone?

Aunt Betty allowed me to take over her dining table...

I pinned and stitched one row at a time so as to avoid excessive pin stabs...

I gave it my best shot to finish sewing on all the birds while I was in Florida but I had to finish up after I came home.  Not perfect, but a good first effort if I do say so myself.

And here's the finished product...

My sewing was a little wonky on one side but I didn't notice until after it was all finished.  I'm not like my mother and my daughter.  They would've taken it apart and sewn it again.  Not I.  It is finished.  I have enough shapes cut out to make another pillow.  I will make an effort to be more precise, but I think I will put it on a white background.  If I get around to it. 

I used to have this notion that unless my abilities exceeded someone else's abilities they were without value and when you grow up in a family where the women are extraordinary at most everything they do, well that's just a crippling notion to have.  So I have decided to give up that notion.

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang except those that sang best.
~Henry van Dyke

Okay, now it is your turn to show us what you've been up to!

My Not-So-Empty Nest