Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Election days from years gone by

I always like election day. The candidate I like isn't always the winner but I just think there is an air of excitement on each election day, even if it is only the last day of July. In honor of July 31th which is our first local election of 2012, leading up to November 6, I am sharing some images about elections from the past. All the images are from Wiki Commons.

Above, the Second Continental Congress votes for Independence. Oil on canvas, 1776, Edward Savage and/or Robert Edge Pine.

Above a light look at the first election day for women from a Country Gentleman magazine cover, from November 1922. The 19th Amendment giving all women the right to vote was ratified in August 1920. The first president women had the opportunity to vote for was Warren G. Harding who ran in 1921.

This 1868 Republican campaign poster was created by superimposing a portrait of U. S. Grant onto the Republican Party platform. I can't imagine how long it must have taken the artist to finish this poster. It is interesting, but who could read it?

"Election Day in Philadelphia," also known as "Election Scene." Oil on canvas, by John Lewis Krimmel. I like this one because it shows an air of excitement and celebration.

Mudslinging isn't a new campaign tactic. A 1900 Republican campaign poster for the US presidential election of William McKinley and Vice Presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt explains how the human race is at risk if they are not reelected. I am sure the other side's posters were just as inflammatory. They won this election and Roosevelt went on to serve out McKinley's second term, after he was killed in office. Roosevelt was then reelected, left office after that term, then ran and lost to Taft, the fellow Republican who succeeded him.

I think my favorite campaign slogan was the simple, "I like Ike!" Let's face it, those were simpler days and the slogans could be sappy and catchy. Maybe it is easy for someone like Eisenhower who was such a well-known figure to win with such a simple phrase, but cute and catchy campaign slogans seem to be a thing of the past.

I hope all of MY candidates win, of course, but I also hope we all have an exciting election day.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to celebrate team USA

If you're like me and you couldn't afford the time or couldn't come up with the money to go to London for the Olympics this year, you will have to be content to stay home and watch the events on TV.

That doesn't mean you can't have an Olympic-sized celebration at home. Here are some ideas to get you through this week and the next when your TV programs will most likely be pre-empted and you are wishing you had some appropriate treats to enjoy while watching gymnastics, basketball or sycronized swimming--while cheering for our home team.

I love the idea above from Taste of Home--a simple white cake with M&M Olympic rings. A great way to celebrate.

These muffins above are from catchmyparty.com. I think I would love these treats with a cup of Earl Grey!

 Don't forget to fly your flag or just carry it around with you. I love the bag from OpenSky.com What a wonderful way to show your team spirit! I already have a flag bag but not one as cute as this.

Another "cake" idea. These cupcakes from 2OopseyDaisyBlog.blogspot.com are perfect. I wish I had thought of baking these during the gymnastic events last night. They would have helped with my nerves during the floor exercise!

These big cookies on a tray decorated with fruit are quite an Olympic-sized treat. Find them at SaveARecipe.blogspot.com.

An Olympic torch idea was used for a birthday party at pinerly.com. It is ice cream cones with chocolate cake mix baked inside, topped with orange, flame-colored frosting. Serving these would be a great reason to throw a party!

Have you seen all the ads for tea towels? Well, I think this would make a great DIY tea towel for a decorating competition. It looks so easy! Everyone would get a perfect 10 for this one. Find it at pin4fun1502.blogspot.com.

How can you get your kids involved? Try this "kid-sized" balance beam to get them started. I found this at ICanTeachMyChild.com. They will understand a little better how hard it is to stay on that narrow beam.

After you get back in, make these Olympic cookies. All it takes is a pack of sugar cookies with holes and five tubes of icing in Olympic colors. You can see these at ActivityVilliage.co.uk.

They can then make a carricature of their favorite Olympian like these at StepIntoSecondGrade.com. I think it would be a wonderful craft if made with construction paper.

If you would like to buy Olympic tea bags, you can get them at UrbanOutfitters.co.uk. I don't know if you could get them before the games end though. These five adorable tea bags will set you back about $14.13, not including shipping. That's about 9 British pounds! Just ask someone who was fortunate enough to go to London to bring you back a set.

I think I will be in sync with the Brits tonight since I will be drinking tea when I watch the most recent events on TV--but I know I will be cheering for team USA.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My front yard straw bale garden update

In my front yard, embedded in the sea of ivy is my mini straw bale garden. I planted some of my squash there in the hopes that I would stretch my harvest throughout the summer. My goal was to see if squash vine borers could find these plants.

The results have been good. I have just recently had bugs and had to spray with Neem oil. I am not having a huge harvest but I think that is owing mainly to the extremely hot weather and drought conditions and the fact that this area does not get full sun all day.

My fruit is coming on but is pithy at times and though I have been watering, I must not have been watering deeply enough.

I have had some worms, but not the vine borers that have destroyed my regular squash crop.

I think this is a wonderful concept and when my squash are finished for the season--and I hope that is not soon--I intend to plant some lettuce there. I want to go out to my front yard and pick my salad for my supper meal. I love the garden to table concept and I believe lettuce would be a perfect late season straw bale vegetable.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An unexpected souvenir

A few weeks ago I went to Florida on a family trip and found a cookbook that I just can't wait to use. I usually find restaurant cookbooks uninspiring and find it easy to pass them by, but when we went to this famous restaurant on the gulf and waited for the restaurant to open, I thumbed through this cookbook and later dropped by the gift shop and purchased it for myself.

It includes so many good seafood recipes and they sound like something I could make at home. I appreciated the time and effort someone at this establishment took to include some favorite dishes served at their restaurant.

Some of the recipes sound good. I don't know if I will ever make their recipe, "Hush puppies for 100." I am glad they gave another recipe for a smaller crowd. It did show how interesting working in a restaurant must be. I can't imagine having to make anything for 100 people. I salute the people who can do this and make the food still taste good.

My favorite part of the book is the section on desserts. Though I have been to this coastal restaurant a number of times, I have always been way too full to try any of their pies and cakes--which always look quite delicious. (At this restaurant they don't ask if you would like dessert, they just bring around a big cart piled high with all kinds of wonderful-looking treats.) The one I want to make first is, of course, is a key lime pie. Yum!

I am just glad I bought this cookbook ($18.00) as my beach souvenir. I think it will be perfect for me because it is not made of shells and I can use it over and over.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Crossroads Garden Club Meeting Tonight

Ken Gohring of the Georgia Native Plant Society will be our speaker tonight at our July 23rd meeting of the Crossroads Garden Club. He will be speaking about the Georgia Native Plant Rescue Program The meeting will begin promptly at 7:00 pm and everyone is welcome. The address is 3072 Highway 54, Newnan.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Easy Eggplant Dish

I recently shared a recipe my husband made with squash and Parmesan cheese that was delicious. Now I will share the same recipe but using eggplant. It is equally as simple but this recipe is one I think I like maybe even better than the squash recipe--but then I really like eggplant and not everyone shares my taste for this vegetable.

To make the dish, cut the eggplant into thin slices, salt and pepper, place on a large baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes more or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Previously, he made this dish with squash slices and both are just wonderful--every time we have it, which is often during squash and eggplant season. My husband also likes to grill this dish and has become quite an expert at it. I love it. He can cook this for me anytime.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My battle with the squash vine borer, continued

Over the past few weeks the squash in my garden have finally succumbed to the squash vine borer. They marigolds I planted look MUCH better than my poor squash though some of my yellow straightneck squash still as producing. The drought has not helped it at all.

It has taken a bit longer for the squash to die than last year and I did get a better yield than in the previous couple of years but it is sad to see it happen. I know that if I would use pesticides I would not have this problem but I am not willing to do that so I am working on techniques that will give me a continuous crop without using pesticides.

 These plants were grown under row covers and were not infested until they were more mature which gave me more squash before they were overcome. This extended my season until my next plants were grown under row covers.

The new plants are looking good and we will have to see what happens. Right now they are beginning to flower and they look quite good. I am hoping for a good outcome and I will know that I have to plant in stages and protect with covers.

Meanwhile, I am freezing as many squash as I can. To do this I wash, and cut my squash into small pieces and blanch in hot water. This means I cover with water and bring the squash almost to a boil or to the point that the centers turn a little bit green. Then I pour the squash into a large colander and then plunge them into cold water and drain again. After this, I layer the squash on a baking sheet and separate the layers with parchment paper. I then cover with plastic wrap and put the covered pan of squash in the freezer until it is frozen through, usually overnight. I then transfer the squash into a freezer bag. The squash will then be good for up to six months in the deep freezer.

The reason I blanch the squash is so that the growth enzymes in the squash will prevent the squash from maturing any further and the squash will taste more like fresh squash and will not be spongy when used later. At least that is what I have read and it is a method that is recommended for freezing. Some people prefer canning, but I have always preferred frozen vegetables. Frozen squash will never be as firm as fresh squash but because of this method, I should enjoy a slightly mushier version in dishes this fall and winter.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sweet cherry tomatoes

Sweet cherry tomatoes cover our plants.
I never thought I would say this but I love sweet cherry tomatoes. We have two plants my sister planted and they are simply covered with little round sweet and delicious cherry tomatoes. We have been keeping bowlfuls of these tomatoes to snack on and lately I have dried a few of them.

Our sweet cherry tomatoes are not as green as they were because of the drought.
I was never too fond of cherry tomatoes. I don't usually even buy them in the store because even though they look pretty, they are not as tasty as other tomatoes. These tomatoes have really changed my mind about this. I don't know if I will buy them in the grocery store but I do want to raise them in our garden every year from now on.

I will admit to eating them fresh from the vine. Since we use no chemicals I feel pretty safe in doing this. I may be wrong but it is a nice reward to give yourself for picking these sweet gems.

It's better to allow some space between the tomatoes. They don't seem to dry at the same rate of speed. I don't know why.

I put some in my food dehydrator and I will be able to save them for either snacking or for recipes later on. Some of them I sliced in half and some I dried whole.

I cut these cherry tomatoes in half but it really was too much trouble.

The ones I sliced certainly did dry more quickly but it really takes too much time to dry them in halves when I can just pour the washed tomatoes in the trays and then pick the fully dried ones to plop in a baggie for later.

I will probably freeze these tomatoes until I use them but they are fully deydrated.

It's amazing this quart baggie that is now half full of dried sweet cherry tomatoes once filled three trays of my dehydrator. They will be good in salads, sauces and even eaten as is because they are almost as sweet as raisins and also tangy. By dehydrating, I am sure that none of my tomatoes have gone to waste and I love that.

I am hoping that after last night's rain, these sweet cherry tomatoes will produce even more. I will be planting this variety next year, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer tomatoes

We are now eating tomato sandwiches for the first time this year and they are wonderful! I don't know if everyone would agree, but I know that home-grown tomatoes are the best and I truly believe organic ones have even more flavor than tomatoes that are conventionally grown. Of course I certainly can't prove it.

I do know that we are having the best tomatoes we have had since we starting gardening. We have dozens of huge tomatoes that will cover more area than a  piece of bread, slathered with mayo. Many of them are larger than the palm of my hand and a few are larger than the palms of both hands.

We have several varieties. Two from Renee's Seeds, a patio variety and Chianti Rose. They were grown from seeds months ago and transplanted in two stages for (hopefully) continual production. We also have a few Brandywine tomatoes, a couple of yellow tomato plants and one San Marco, which is a meaty Italian tomato that should make great tomato sauce. The yellow tomatoes and the San Marcos are a little behind the larger tomato plants.

We did do a few different things this year. For one, I didn't pick off any suckers. I have always done this, but I am thinking the extra foliage kept the tomatoes shaded and seemed to help grow more, and bigger tomatoes.

We also heavily limed our garden last fall. I think this helped with tomato diseases. We also have used BT to prevent worms and diotomaceous earth to prevent crawling bugs and I must admit they look amazing.

One other thing--my husband found some organic Miracle Gro and he used that at the beginning of the season and that did seem to really help everything.

We also mulched and it does seem to make a difference in a season that is often too hot and dry. Even though we have had a number of challenges, our tomatoes do seem to be doing well.

You can see that I have a counter top full of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness.

Our challenges. The really hot weather, not enough rain and we have had a critter of some sort that has been getting a few of the tomatoes we were trying to let ripen on the vine (also our watermelons, but that is another story). We have picked the tomatoes a little greener than we prefer just to prevent either the rabbit, mice, raccoon or opossum that has gotten about 6 or more tomatoes, so far.

I did throw out some Milorganite which is supposed to be very stinky, is organic and reportedly will repel deer and other varmints. We didn't see any more damage but I can't be sure it will last. We will have to try and outsmart whatever animal it is. Right now I am winning but it is a struggle.

Meanwhile, we have been feasting on tomato sandwiches at my house lately--and we love it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Creative Flag Idea

I know I am a day behind, yet I thought this cute dessert idea from my daughter was easy and priceless. What a fun way to celebrate. She arranged blueberries, strawberries and marshmallows in a celebratory way.

As I looked at it I thought a rectangular platter might have been better then I changed my mind. This is perfect. She reported that it was gone in minutes! Cute and easy idea.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Green Market Baking Book

I have another new cookbook. I will tell you that a person who loves cooking and recipes, as I do can not have too many cookbooks. This cookbook however is one that is a little different from any than I own because it looks first at the benefits of locally grown foods and it also looks at the benefits of using natural sweetners rather than refined sugars--something I have long been interesting in exploring.

It is written by native Georgian, Laura C. Martin who has penned at least 24 books on gardens, crafts, recycling and even one book on tea. She also has been a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has conducted workshops on various subjects, including gardening and baking. She presently devotes much of her time to a charity that teaches Haitaiian women to become self-sufficient by recycling donated ties and other items into such decorative and useful items such as purses, dolls, angels. The website is tiesthatmatter.org and the story there is fascinating.

Though I am beginning to be tired of the "green" handle people place on products products and services, just to sell them, I am totally committed to raising organic vegetables and trying to live a safer, more chemical-free life. I appreciate all the hints and tips she gives in this book.

What I really love about this book is the fact that it opens a whole new avenue of thought for me. I already love the idea of "buying local," I just hadn't thought there were so many ways to add wholesome flavor and goodness to sweet products that just might not raise my blood sugar quite as much as corn syrup or refined sugars. It is at least opening my eyes to the possibilities.

I like that the recipes are from multiple contributors and that most of the recipes are simple, without too many ingredients. I like the recipe listing by themes, like Things Kids Like, Wheat-Free Dishes and Fancy Desserts. I also love the pretty design, clean look and the notes and tips that are highlighted so I don't miss them. Last but not least, I really love the little green ribbon that helps me keep my place in the book. I know I will use this book as a reference and I am happy to add it to my collection of recipe books.