Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cats and Mice

This weekend, the boy and the man had their first Boy Scout campout ever. I was nervous for them. It rained Friday night and they had frost warnings both Friday and Saturday night, but when they called last night, it seemed everything was going well. The boy couldn't stop playing to talk and the man seemed like he had teamed up with some of the other dads and caught the Georgia/Florida game on the radio. GO Dawgs!

I asked the girl what she wanted to do when the boys were gone:
G: You could paint my nails.
R: Yes, I could do that.
G: Then we could vacuum.
R: I suppose we could.
G: OOH! Can we do laundry?!

That's when I decided an intervention was necessary. Instead of domesticated chores (which we completed when we got home regardlessly) we picked up her grandmother and went to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. They have a whole Jim Henson museum with an entire Big Bird, Ernie and several other puppets. My favorite was Dr. Teeth, oh yes it was. We went to see a production of "Silly Hollow." It was cute, but I think she got rather bored in parts. They wouldn't allow pictures there at all, so all of our pictures came later when we met her grandfather for lunch at a local 50's style diner.

She loved the juke boxes at each booth.

Here's her best Popeye imitation.
No lunch is complete without trying on Grandma's earings.
We got home and found the man had sent a picture of the boy camping. It looks cold, but he also looks like he was having a great time.
Such it is. We're on our last hour or so of manlessness as the boys will be home soon. Guess I better finish that housework I ignored yesterday.

The morning comes early. Stay warm, my friends.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nothing Like a Good Rivalry!

Everyone loves a good football rivalry. Within a county of 18 high schools, not including alternative high schools, rivalries are plentiful and not so hard to come by. Some, however, reign above all others.

Such it is with this Friday's game between the Grayson Rams and Brookwood Broncos. These two teams have taken spirit and rivalry to another level with amazing results.

Both schools have taken to YouTube to showcase their school's prowess in video and song. Grayson issued the challenge with their video "Brookwood, Where You At?" and Grayson answered this week with "Grayson, Step Your Game Up." Both teams' songs are now available on iTunes and they're giving the proceeds to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

The kids at my school are so impressed by these songs, and honestly, so am I. I'm most likely going to jump on the interest and have the kids break down the songs to study them for alliteration, assonance, consonance, allusions, similies, metaphors, etc, for whether they know it or not, rap is a literary form that we've yet to fully recognize the power of.

Check out their videos - I promise you you won't be dissappointed.

Grayson's film: "Brookwood, Where You At?"

Brookwood's resonse: "Grayson, Step Your Game Up."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sir Gawain and the Green....Tomato?

We knew it would likely happen. Yesterday while I was in the Foods lab preparing to teach for the day, an administrator brought in a ton of green tomatoes. You know, I thought...I have a lot of green tomatoes sitting out there as well.

The day went on and the foods teacher talked about doing a demo on fried green tomatoes. Yummy! Then, she said, I wonder if we could can them.

Why, yes. Yes we can.

I started the process today during my planning period, but it became obvious rather quickly that I wasn't going to get done in time for my last class. It just so happened, that my last class was during her planning period. I relocated my class to her room and we finished up Sir Gawain and the Green Knight while canning the green tomatoes. It made for a nice change of scenery.

Here are two of the tomato jars - I can't wait to try them to see if they're as good as the ones I had this summer. I also snapped a shot of one of the roasted garlic jelly jars from yesterday.
I've come to the conclusion that powdered pectin doesn't work worth a can fill in the blank. I've never had a problem with anything using liquid pectin, but recipies that call for powder usually stay runny. Can I just substitute the two bags of gel for the one box of powder each time or do I have to stick with the variety the recipe calls for?

The morning comes early. Sweet canning dreams.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Changing Hats

I'm so lucky that once a year the foods teacher at our school allows me to come in and teach the kids about home canning. I just love it. The foods teacher was kind enough to be the best sous chef there could possibly ever be and she had absolutely everything chopped, measured and ready to go the class before we needed it.
You can see on the counter I also brought a sweet potato, peppers and the dried (desicated - vocab word for this week) tomatoes and basil. Poor woman took several pictures throughout the day, but even said herself that she couldn't get one of me without my mouth running.

I always bring things for the kids to try. Usually, each class gets to try two different things from jams and jellies to pickles. They're always very appreciative and are surprised at how flavorful things are. One kid said he was never buying store grape jelly again and several each period asked if they could buy cans. When I told them I couldn't sell them, they asked for them as Christmas presents.

We try to stick to the crowd favorites as we can. We like to do grape jelly, banana jam, and apple conserve. Last year we also did pickles and salsa. Each year we try to do something new. Last year it was onion jelly. I thought it was gross; she loved it. This year we tried roasted garlic jelly. This is where she was a life saver. She started roasting the garlic, steeping it and draining it while I was doing the easier batches of grape jelly and banana jam in the morning. By the time we were ready to do the garlic jelly in the afternoon, everything was ready to go. She's amazing.

We tried some of the garlic jelly that we had left over and it was really rather good. I can picture it would be great on a bagel with swiss cheese. I pour the apple conserve over brie and serve it with graham crackers. Does anyone know a good soft cheese that would be good with the roast garlic jelly? I'm looking for something I can just pour it over and people can scoop out some for crackers.

Here are some of the cans when we were done. There's not a picture here of the garlic jelly since we did that last. It's a beautiful light amber color.

It's always fun to take a break from literature and put on a different hat. That.....and I got to add great things to my lecture about the Botulism Broad (had to make it alliterative somehow) from the festival a few weeks ago.

Still...talking about her makes me want pumpkin butter all the more. I may make some and freeze it. I hear it holds up pretty well. Any good recipies out there?

The morning comes early, and my cupboard is full. Sweet gardening dreams.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cold Start, Great Day

It was a very cold start to the morning, but it turned out very nice. We were out most of the morning, but when we came home I decided to pull some of the sweet potatoes. The ones in the corner yard did very well. I got about three huge ones, but they all have some sort of worm damage. I'm going to try to use whatever parts of them I can. Sadly, the pots in the front that did so well for me last year didn't pan out this year. Actually, I only emptied one of the pots, but I expect the same from the other. They only had finger length and width potatoes. Looks like it's planting in the back for me from now on...but I have to keep moving them around because of the beasties in the beds that keep getting at them.

I did take one of the potatoes and chop it up and make some roasted sweet potatoes with honey, lemon and cinnamon. They turned out very well. The man came downstairs and said it smelled like Thanksgiving. I suppose he's right!
We spent the morning and afternoon out at a park helping with our county's Law Enforcement Appreciation Picnic. One of the guys (Joe) in one of the man's bands works for the sheriff's department so their band played and I sold keychains. We had a blast which was only made better by a visit by one of my old students who recognized me. He's gone through college and has now been working for the department for about a year now and knows Joe well. Very cool, very small world.

Added some more ribbon for Keychains for a Cause since we've been doing some festivals in the area. They've sold pretty well. I was just able to cut the school's relay team a check for $470 and I'm already positive again on the year. It's wonderful how everything is going! Anyway, here's what I've added:

Phew! That's a lot for now. We've added a few more things as well. Our next stop is a 5K being held to help another local family. I'll head there in a few weeks and see how we can help out.

The morning comes early and I'm thinking about getting the garlic in. Sweet gardening dreams.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind

We had a cold front come through, and what a cold front it was. This isn't like your GA summer cold front where you go...Really? This was impressive. Along with fierce wind we sheparded in a 45 degree day. This wouldn't be bad if the temperatures the day before weren't in the mid 80's. We all knew it was coming. The news was a broken record and talked about nothing else for days, but I still sent my kids to school without heavy jackets. That's how I roll. No mother of the year nomination for me yet again.

When we got home, I braved the wild winds and went outside to gather what I could. We've got a frost warning out for tonight. Some of you may know my deal with peppers. I can't grow them. I've tried and failed for an umpteen number of years. Ok - Two, but that's good enough. This year, however, even though the peppers were planted in stinkin' April, I've just now started getting peppers out of the deal. I couldn't be more excited.....and....I hate peppers. Hate them. The man likes them and I try to grow them for him, but now I've got all these peppers and the man is out of town. I kept three of the largest and put the others in the mailroom at school.

But let it be known that I grew them; yes I did. I grew them and someone else ate them, but I grew them. Took durn long enough, but I grew them.

Last night I decided to 'trim' my basil plants. I've five basil plants in the other corner yard that really have remained diminutive and rather embarassing. I planted two in the main corner yard and have gotten three batches of pesto, numerous daily meal cuttings and two batches of my favorite creamy tomato basil soup, yet I still put 'trim' in quotation marks. This may look like a butchering, but I promise you that if the frost doesn't kill these plants tonight, I'll harvest another load like this in a few days.

I'm going to bust out the dehydrator later tonight and see what I can do with the rest of this.

I just love the tomato basil soup I made earlier this year. I honestly think the heirloom tomatoes make it a bigger success than otherwise. My friend (Auntie Daddy from posts of yore) came over for dinner and we jointly made a succulent dinner.

Looks nice, doesn't it? You missed the preparation. Everything went as planned. The veggies stewed, the tomatoes boiled, the basil was fresh and the mixture smelled heavenly. Then came the blending and all is well. Everything churned up according to plan, however...and you knew that word was coming...when I removed said glass chalice from the mechanism, the bottom remained on the contraption and the soup went everywhere. Everywhere, my friends. I wish I was exaggerating. Friday the 13th had nothing on my kitchen last night.

Auntie Daddy, who was reading the kids a story for bed, came downstairs right at the pinacle moment. I shouted, "Don't come down here!" and she dutifully made an about face and went back upstairs. God I love friends who understand and recognize a fragile disposition and don't question the absurdity of a barked command. I cleaned up the calamity, salvaged what I could (thank goodness for quick thinking and dragging the pot under the deluge midway) and just threw the second batch back into the pot, carrot and onion chunks be damned.

Auntie Daddy would have been none the wiser if I hadn't cracked and 'spilled' all. Get it? Yeah, I'll just go ahead and wrap up the post now.

Such is life.

In other news, the most important day of an elementary school student's life (besides the winter holidays) is right around the corner. The boy is rather unnerved by my lack of innitiative in making him his Harry Potter glasses that he so desperately needs NOW even though Halloween isn't for another week or so, that he made himself glasses out of Legos.
What is they say about invention and necessity?

The morning comes early. Sweet -if the frost doesn't do you in- gardening dreams.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And Poof! She Was Gone

Showed up for day two of the festival and the jam lady had packed up shop and busted out.

Odd, that.

She made such a big deal of being alowed into the festival after the deadline date because she knew so many people on the organizing committee and she'd done it for years in a row. When we all left, she'd already shut down for the night and everything was stored right on site. She must have come back later that night or in the morning and just packed up with no one around.

It was most likely because she couldn't find someone to watch her kids for a second day, but I did find it rather odd.

However, I'm sure the people that will now not get ill from her improper canning will not have their feelings hurt.

DID have some chicken and waffles at the festival yesterday. Nothin' says southern love like chicken and waffles. I made just about $200 in profits for Relay for Life yesterday - and when that's coming from 4-6 dollar keychains, that's not too bad. Yesterday I also finished an order for 14 Bus Driver Appreciation keychains for a local elementary school. I love making people happy and raising money at the same time.

The morning comes early. Can your jams and jellies right, my friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Festivals and My Mouth

This weekend I'm doing a two day fall festival with Keychains for a Cause. Yesterday we did fairly well. Not as well as I would have liked, but our assigned booth space is rather facing the wrong way and at the end of the stretch. Most visitors won't venture that far down. Even so, we sold 21 keychains and still have today to go back. Most of the regulars say that Sunday is much, much slower, so we'll keep our fingers crossed.

You know, however, that you're at a fall festival in a Georgia town when the kids are walking around with balloons tied to pork rind bags instead of cotton candy.

It's of the woman in the booth next to me that I mean to post about today. She sells jams, jellies, salsas and chow-chows that she makes herself. I tried. I tried really hard. REALLY hard to keep my mouth shut. She maintained all day she had her certification from UGA - which I now highly doubt. First, she doesn't use two piece jar tops - she just reuses baby jars, pasta sauce jars etc. I tried to maintain my equanimity, but then I saw she had pumpkin butter. I love pumpkin butter. My mouth was screaming to buy a jar, but my head said ask more questions and when I noticed the two inch gap of air in the bottom and middle of half of the jelly jars I stepped up my questioning on processing and head space. In regard to the headspace, she said it was there - just at the top of the jar because when she inverted it to seal the jars it's all up at the top. Sorry - it's still two inches and not a quarter inch as required for jams and jellies. That, and she doesn't process at all. None of it. All she does is invert the jars for she feels she gets it 'hot enough' when she cooks it.

I tried to keep my mouth shut, I really did, but I told her I was surprised she said UGA would approve of her methods and talked about bacteria etc. She started back peddling pretty quickly and said she understood my concerns and had a few batches spoil on her before 'for no reason.' Yup. That was all it took. No pumpkin butter for me.

I didn't do or say much more, but I did manage to steer my mom and neighbor away from her booth. I'd always heard you shouldn't purchase home canned goods from a local fair as you don't know how they'll be processed and boy, is that right.

I'm likely going to print some stuff out from the UGA page and bring it with me today. I won't change how she processes things, but at least I can make sure she understands the risks she's taking.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October Happenings

It seems like the sweet potatoes want to harvest themselves. The last few days that I've been out to the garden I've found one or two sticking their faces out of the ground, begging to be harvested. I pulled this one yesterday. Although it came from the same bed as the first one with all of the little beasties inside of it, this one seems to be unoccupied, and a good thing that is because I can't wait to try it.
The tomatoes are cracking on the vine and just not turning red. I don't think it's warm enough. I've brought them inside, but they're mottling instead of turning color nice and uniformly. I'll give them a bit before I write them off completely, but it doesn't look promising as of now.

The garlic has arrived. Sadly, a lot of my garlic rotted away after the first month or so once harvested. I had them in a dry place, but it just wasn't to be. There's such a vast difference in the taste of the garlic from the garden and the store garlic that it's worth it to try over and over again, even if it doesn't store as I would like. This year I may try to dehydrate some of it so it can store longer. I've been enjoying the dehydrated tomatoes so much in soups, eggs etc. It's amazing that they maintain their tart flavor.

This weekend we had two heartwrenching emergencies. We went down to my mother's house Saturday - about 45 minutes south - and had just pulled off the highway on our way home when the girl screamed out she forgot her teddy there. We go nowhere without teddy. Nowhere. And now we were four miles from home. She did a good job of calming down when Mom texted back a picture of Teddy having a 'sleep over' with some of her other toys there and the boy gave her a teddy of his to substitute and told her of the times he left things at Omi's. She calmed down nicely then. She did. The boy snuck up to me later and said he wanted to cry as well because he was having a "dramatic flashback." I asked if this flashback was 'replete with onomatopoeia" (something he's said before). It wasn't, according to him, so I maintained it couldn't be that bad then, and they both went to sleep. Today we'll likely meet up for lunch and exchange the goods being that we have no school and the children don't have the sense God gave them to sleep beyond 5:30 AM, even on a federal holiday. UnAmerican, I tell you.

Then, I had an emergency of my own. I just finished reading The Winter Sea on my Kindle yesterday - good read, by the way. Very good read. The next book I wanted to read was on my Nook....
and BOTH of them needed charging. BOTH of them. Thank goodness after a 15 minute boost, the small one was ready to read on while the other contined charging. *phew* crisis averted here as well. There's got to be an e-reader's anonymous to join. There really has to be, but if forgotten teddys and uncharged e-readers are the biggest worries I have, my life is pretty good I must say.

The custom ordered scotty dog ribbon came in this week and I was able to finish the lanyard order from last week. I don't know about where you guys are, but it seems like everyone around here is lanyard crazy. I got so many requests for Keychains for a Cause to start making them, that I started a while ago and the orders keep coming, which makes me very happy!

This weekend I also shifted hats from fundraising for Relay for Life to attending a local 5K and selling keychains to help raise money for a local child's medical bills. I was only there for four hours, but it was nice to be able to hand the father all of the proceeds from sales right then and there. Here's two that were special ordered at that event that I'll ship out tomorrow.

Next week is our first two day festival in Auburn, GA. I'm optimistically hopeful that we'll do well.

The morning comes early - even on a federal holiday. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Breaking Records

Because every kid's first catch on his first fishing trip
is a whopper, no matter the size!

The man is the boy's boyscout troop den leader. At their last meeting he brought all the fixings for the boys to make their own fishing poles out of bamboo and yesterday they tried them out at the local park. Every child caught at least one fish which was nice. As with every first fishing trip, someone had to fall in the drink. That would be my boy. He was so disheartened that it seemed to almost overshadow the joy of his first catch, but he was secretly thrilled and showed us his pictures with his trademark goofy grin.

Man, you did good by those kids. Thank you for being their den leader.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Behold the Awesomeness X3

*Booming voice* Behold the awesome peppers! Some may say, "Oooh aren't they quaint." To those naysayers, I respond - They're the first dratted bells I've grown in three years! Quaint my tuchas.
Not awesome: I love the way my cantaloupe decides to sprout now.....instead of in the early summer when I planted them. October? Really? Idiot seeds.

To continue: *clears throat for booming voice* Behold the awesome battle between good and evil....

and then I ask the girl if she was princess Leia and she responds, "What would I want to do that for?" Poor misguided child. However, last night we introdiced the boy to the first thirty minutes of Monty Python's The Holy Grail and when it came down to burning the witch the boy says, "I think their hypothesis is flawed." *Booming voice* Behold the awesomeness!!!

In the last, most awesome of awesomeness, in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the first four orders this month at Keychains for a Cause receive a FREE breast cancer awareness key fob. Help support Dacula High School's Relay for Life! If you don't want to order keychains yourself, 'Like' our facebook page and share this offer.

There is the update on the awesomeness that is the Ribbit household. Can't ask for much more, can I.

The morning comes early. May the force be with you in your dreams.