Friday, May 29, 2009

More bread, of course!

I tried another bread this week. This time, the oatmeal pumpkin bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. When I hear pumpkin and bread in the same breath, I think about a quick bread, whipped together with baking soda or powder, moist and soft, just like the banana bread we all grew up on. This, however, is not even a distant cousin of that. This oatmeal pumpkin bread is its own sophisticated self. Oh my, it is goooooooooooooood.
In the recipe, they mention roasting your own pumpkin around Thanksgiving time in order to get a really good pumpkin-y flavor. Well, it is May and I'm not seeing so many of those pumpkins at my market this time of the year. I had some leftover pumpkin puree from a can and needed to use it up, so I investigated this recipe.
It is a sophisticated loaf, as I said, with white, wheat and rye flours in addition to oats. I didn't have old fashioned oats, just quick oats, but the taste was lovely as can be. Due to the heavy flours in the dough, it does have to rise for a long time, almost two hours if I'm not mistaken. I tend to get a little impatient when waiting for Artisan Bread in 5 to rise, but I waited patiently for this one. I was not disappointed. It is hearty, dense, moist and perfect for sandwiches, toast or just a slice slathered with your favorite spread. It made me wish that I had a bowl of 13 Bean and Ham soup to dip it in.
You'll also see in the photo my other favorite these days: pumpernickel. I brought a loaf of it to a picnic recently with some sweet cream butter and a chunk of sharp cheddar. Wow. Dinner perfection. If you try the pumpernickel, remember that you can make your own caramel coloring and it lasts for a long time in the fridge. (I think mine has been in the fridge for 5 months and it still works great!)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Neighborly Project:: part two

The fence is super snazzy... plastic in all its glory! But actually, since the color doesn't fade and the paint doesn't chip (like our, ahem, garages....), it works well. We decided that it would be much more fun to take out a section of the fence for easier passage and to complete the "sneaky way" around our yards. The kids like to run around the back of both garages, then in between the two, or to sneak out in front of our garage. We've since cleared out most of the burrs and low-hanging branches and the kid fun factor is quite high.

Troy and Megan bought and installed a beautiful arbor/arch in the opening between the fence and garage. She planted a trumpet vine to crawl up one side and we're training the wild blackberries you see in the above photo to climb up the other side. Potentially dangerous with the thorns, but a taste treat for passers-through.
This week we're getting woodchips from the city of Minneapolis' free wood chip distribution program (the city grinds up the trees they trim, and drop off sites for people to pick up, free disposal for the city, free chips for us!). We're going to lay them thick in between the garages for a soft sneaking surface for the kids as well as a way to keep the nasty burrs from returning. We're relocating most of the plants that were in the area from previous landscape projects, and adding new ones.
In addition to the convenience of the open fence, the other reason why I'm enamored with this project is that it reminds me of my childhood. Our neighbors over the chain link fence have two daughters. Laura and Elly were our best friends growing up (Laura and I are six months apart) and we played together every day. At some point our parents were tiring of all the running around the houses to get to each others' yards to play, so they also cut a hole in the fence. They installed a simple metal gate and brick paths that lead to the fence, different bricks on either side. Throughout the years our families have remained friends... through shared elementary schools, different high schools, overseas trips, varied colleges, weddings, and now grandchildren. When Louise was born five months after Laura's daughter Luciana, we knew that they were destined to become close friends, just as their mothers are.
Do you have a story of an over-the-fence friend or shared gardening project? Please share with us.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Neighborly Project:: part one

We have great neighbors on both sides of us. Luckily for our kids, one set of neighbors has kids about the same age as ours. A few weeks ago they removed one section of the fence separating our yards so the kids would have an easier way to get back and forth. They installed a white wooden arbor in the open space where the fence once stood. We're both changing our landscaping in the area to accomodate kids in the garden and different plants. I don't know who is having more fun with the project... our combined six kids? Or us?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A tree house is growing at our house:: part three

Spring is blooming at our house. Actually, these photos were taken last week in the middle of flowering glory. We have two flowering crabs and an apple tree... each with their own beautiful color of blossom. The tree house is mostly complete, except for the roof. The kids got to hang out up there and enjoy the fun spindles Ron installed to make it safer for the little ones.
In the midst of all the building, he realized that another branch would have to come down off the apple tree, while in full bloom. Quickly I grabbed my clippers and transformed it into a monster sized bouquet for my dining room table. The scent of apple blossoms lingered in the house for days. Ahhh, spring.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Birthdays to Gus and Louise

Gus and Louise will always almost share a birthday. Gus' birthday is May 12... the big 4. I remember being in the delivery room with Louise and asking the nurse if this baby was going to have its own birthday. She dared me to make it happen. A few pushes later, Louise was born on May 11th. Now she's 2. How did that happen?

We celebrated their birthdays together with our families on Saturday. More than anything in the world, Louise wanted a Dora cake. A Dora cake? Well, I am a Spanish teacher. She's wholesome and speaks Spanish, so I couldn't really complain. Gus wanted a robot cake, a natural extension of his robot building with Uncle Erik recently.
Instead of trying to integrate the two in one, I made two. I think it was 1:45 a.m. when I finally went to bed on Friday night. Oh well, these are the things that get my blood flowing. I can't stay up that late for some reason or another doing laundry. Wonder why?
Here's the robot cake. I attached the leftover parts from his robot part shopping trip at Axe-Man and stuck his robot in at the last minute. The grey frosting was a hit.

Here's the Dora cake, though it is a little tough to see the shape of it due to the angle of the photo. It is shaped like a hill or a mountain. I took an angelfood cake loaf pan and baked the cake in it, slicing it in half horizontally before I froze it for optimum decorating texture. The frosting is brown with chopped peanuts for the winding road, colored coconut for grass, and various chocolates and malted milk balls for rocks. She loved it. The hardest part was taking away the recently acquired Dora doll and Boots, hand-me-downs from a 6-year-old friend who is moving out of the Dora stage.
When we ask them how old they are, Louise promptly starts counting, usually finishing around seven. So she's seven but really two. Gus, however, claims that he is already four. We'll let him believe that... his birthday is coming soon.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Hike to Spring?!?

The kids and I recently walked to Bachman's to welcome the spring by playing with the farm animals in the petting zoo and by each planting an impatien plug into a tiny pot.Carl, Gus and Louise got to pretend for an hour that they are indeed farm kids and not just city kids, dreaming of their farm someday. On the way home we talked about what animals we would like to have at the farm when we move there. Carl informed me that a pig would be fun because he'd like to slop the pigs. "You can feed them the food scraps that don't go in the compost, Mom." Oh... good thinking, Carl. Previously I had thought that there would never be a chance of owning a pig, but suddenly as a form of recycling, I could be game. Except of course, there reaches a time, well, unless we want to enter a 1,000 pound pig at the Minnesota State Fair someday, that well. You know. I'm thinking that we're going to be slightly wimpy farmers and won't be able to deal with the butchering aspect of rural life. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I just need to spend a little more time in the rural landscape, getting my hands dirty, my boots muddy, and opening my eyes to the reality of country life. For now though, goats and chickens are what we're thinking. A sheep or two, maybe?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Our new Farm (the CSA)

(photo from

We joined a new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, a CSA works like this: You buy a share at the beginning of the growing season that generally feeds a family of four. The farm takes the money from everyone's shares and plans their gardens and the next six months or so of their lives accordingly. If the weather is great and the pests don't take over, every week they deliver a shipment of whatever happens to be ready for harvest at the farm. If the weather is terrible and there's a sudden pestilence that takes over the Minnesota countryside, then we have all shared the risk and we shop at the grocery store instead. At most of the CSAs around, the produce is organic, though the farm may not be officially organic as the certification is quite arduous.

Our farm is called Victorian Meadows. You can follow this link to check out their site. We've belonged to other CSAs in the past but I was attracted to this one because they have goats. And they make cheese. And the cheese is part of the share! Can you see where I'm headed with this one? I contacted the owner early on and mentioned my fascination with all things goat and she assured me that I could have goat milking lessons as well as help out with the cheese making. Perfect! We split a share with my parents this year, hoping to learn a little more about just how much food comes in the boxes weekly at this farm.

Here is the latest email from our farmer Jill:

Just some quick updates on the CSA farm……
We got all the seeds into the ground and everything is planted. The gardens are ahead of schedule by almost a month! We got a little “over ambitious” for those who know me… know that it’s not hard for me to be over ambitious.
This year we decided to put in over a acre of green beans, an acre of peas and a acre of sweet corn. Along with the other gardens…. So we have a total of 6 extremely large garden fields this year and we have a huge variety, just like last year.
The only things I haven’t plant yet is the fragile produce like tomatoes plants, broccoli, peppers and sweet potatoes plants. If we even were to get a light frost they would be gone so I always wait. Next week they will go in after mother’s day.
Radishes are peeking there sprouts out of the ground and it shouldn’t be too long for them to be harvested along with small soup and salad onions!
We have organic pasture raised eggs high in Omega 3 ready to go along with goat cheese and soaps. We are going to start May 8th this Friday!
We need the egg cartons back
Organic chevre or ricotta goat cheese:
Will come in a glass jar and fresh frozen. I will need the glass jar and lids back as well.

We received our first shipment on Friday. 2 dozen eggs (brown and blue beauties!), freshly snipped chives, a tube of goat milk based lip balm and one of eye cream, and a strong scented farm made goat milk based (lemon grass... yum!) laundry soap that requires only one Tbsp. to do a large load of laundry. 1 Tbsp? Yes... so far, it is working well. I'll keep you posted on the grass stains on Gus' new dress pants. You can order the laundry soap here. Slim pickings in terms of vegetables or fruits, but this is Minnesota and the ground is barely thawed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday morning at our house

We had a lovely Saturday morning, soaking up the sunshine as it came pouring in our windows. The boys woke early and occupied themselves with their Legos at the dining room table while we slept in, well, until about 7:30. The coffee was hot, the cinnamon raisin swirl bread was actually swirly, and art projects were flowing.