July 31, 2011

New thoughts...

After quite some time of trying to figure out what I want to make in mediums other than ceramics, I've decided to change my direction of thought. This is one of my most recent sketches...I envision these objects/vessels made in B-mix (a white body). The surface would remain bare clay (rough in texture). The drawings would be scratched into the surface while they are leather hard. Iron oxide would take the place of glaze, rubbed only into the lines of the drawing.

July 30, 2011

Chesterfield Sofa

One day.....

This deep blue would look great in our living room!

July 28, 2011

Looking Forward to Fall

End of season garden

This growing season is coming to a close and I couldn't be happier. Instead of getting our seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds Co. I bought them at the hardware store and have had difficulty all season long. Our hot peppers are still going strong as well as our tomatoes, strawberries and eggplants. Even our beans have pods on them! However, many seeds never germinated and some began to grow but never matured.

Next up: cool weather crops for fall harvest!!! So far I've decided to plant brussels sprouts, broccoli (green and purple), kale, fennel, snow peas, cauliflower and spinach. I hope there is time for another planting of cucumbers. Our current plants have both powdery and downy mildew.

Garden scape

July 26, 2011

I Think I Can

Messy kitchen ready for canning

We have an abundance of beautiful, ripe, red tomatoes growing in our garden. This year we planted 14 plants with the intention that I would can their produce. A little over a week ago I picked a basket of plum tomatoes and they've been ripening on our counter ever since. Today I decided they were ready to be canned.

I kept it simple and canned these beauties as "crushed tomatoes"...with delicious fresh basil. When I want to make sauce I will strain them through a sieve and thicken them by cooking them and adding tomato paste.

Here are the tomatoes being blanched (back pot). Blanching is simply putting the whole tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds, and then putting them in a bowl of very cold water. This helps loosen the skins. Once the skins are loose I cut off the top nub on the tomato, peel away the skin and place them in a sauce pot on medium (front pot). I use a potato masher to crush the tomatoes in the pot.

Tomatoes blanching and crushed tomatoes simmering

When about half of the tomatoes are simmering in the pot I add a generous amount of fresh basil...we grow this basil in our herb garden.

Fresh basil drying

Fresh basil added to simmering crush tomatoes

Once all the tomatoes are added to the sauce pot I let them cook just enough for the mixture to resemble the appearance of stewed tomatoes.

Tomatoes simmering away

While these cook, I fill my canner pot with water and bring it to a boil....actually I have that water heated up way in advance but I turn it up at this point. The water (because there is so much of it) takes a good 15 minutes to reach boiling temp. While the water is between hot and boiling temperatures I place the empty jars in the water to sterilize. The lids (not the screw tops, they don't need to be sterilized) go into a smaller sauce pot of hot..but not boiling water. If these are boiled you run the risk of damaging the rubber seal.

Hot jar ready for tomatoes

Once the jars have been in the almost boiling water for 2-4 minutes I remove them (with the proper tongs). Using a canning funnel and a ladle, I fill each jar...leaving about an inch of headspace between the rim and the tomatoes. Once the jars are filled I wipe the rims with a damp paper towel in order to remove any tomato particles. Then, I place a lid on each and then a screw ring. I always make sure the screw ring is tightened so it holds the lid in place but not so tight that the ring warps.

These tomato filled jars get placed into the now boiling water that is in the canner. These jars are boiled for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, I remove the canner lid and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes. Then, using the proper tongs, I carefully remove each jar. Do not tilt the jars to remove the water that is sitting on the top. It will evaporate as they cool.

Here they are!!!

The finished product: canned crushed tomatoes!

In 24 hours I will check to make sure the lids are concave...which means the jars are sealed. My dad has been making these for years...he learned from his dad...and they never heat processed their jars. But, I do it anyway. (oh, heat processing is the boiling-of-the-tomato-filled-jars). I like to use the canned tomatoes within one year, but my dad has used ones older than that and they have been fine.

Just in case anyone is interested in doing this...or any other canning recipe/process, I highly recommend the book: Complete Book of Home Preserving (made possible by the Ball company..who also sells everything you need to can....and then some).

July 19, 2011

The Lifestyle Choices We Make

The way we live speaks volumes about who we are. After all, isn't there that delightful saying, "actions speak louder than words". Our daily choices make great impacts...again I'm taken to another saying, "Every little bit helps". I feel my most impactful lifestyle decisions include being vegan (not eating any animal products...whatsoever) and growing my own food in our organic garden. I must thank my husband here...he is incredibly supportive of my choices and is 90% vegan. Again, the saying, "you are what you eat". I have always been the "I don't care what anyone else does I just know this lifestyle fits in better with my morals and ethics".

Well, I feel myself turning a corner. The more I learn about animal cruelty, depletion of the earth and ecosystems by chemicals the stronger I feel towards enlightening others of a lifestyle my body has benefited from. I will not launch into a rant or describe the horrifying, concentration camp style situations we put animals in...or the pounds....even tons of chemicals we put on and into our bodies. I will say, please be mindful of your actions. They have consequences on your body, OUR planet, OUR ecosystem and OUR animals.

I hope the steps I've made to better my life for myself and my family will prove to be inspiring:
  • adopted/rescued both our animals, Beauie (cat) and Westby (dog)
  • reduced the amount of chemicals we put into the earth by switching to 100% plant based (not animal or chemical based) household cleaners...this includes dish detergent, laundry detergent, air fresheners, surface cleaners, etc.
  • reduced the amount of chemical we put into and on our bodies by switching to more natural, organic and cruelty free personal hygiene products (shampoo, soaps, lotions, etc.)
  • never used any chemicals in our garden, instead adopting natural remedies(YouBetYourGarden.com and Organic Gardening Magazine have been great resources)
  • evolved from a meat eating diet (birth to teenage years) to a vegetarian diet and recently (within the past few months) adopted a 100% vegan diet in order to not support cruelty to animals and the industrial methods of producing animal based foods.
  • Pledged to never support animal cruelty by avoiding zoos and the circus...I'm sure our future children will understand.
Here are a few great websites I find to be magnificent!