Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Starting to Harvest-Zucchini Fritters Recipe

Today I noticed lots of small zucchini growing on my 2 plants. I find 2 plants given enough room to grow, produce more zucchini than we can even eat. Today I picked 3 of them for our first harvest that isn't lettuce.
I made one of the girls favorite side dishes, which Eve decided was her only dish, Zucchini Fritters. I very simple shred the zucchini and mix it with an lightly beaten egg, some bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. If I'm making a larger amount or using larger zucchini I use more eggs. Heat some oil in a pan. Take the mix and make small, 3-5 bites sized, pancake shapes and place them in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Turn them over and repeat. I like to drain them on a paper towel over a plate. Yummy yummy, veggies even the pickiest eater will eat. Can even be used as main vegetarian dish meal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Perfect Growing Weather

While lots of the country have been dealing with extremes this season I have been lucky to have the perfect growing weather. Its been warm, but not hot and rainy with periods of nice strong sunshine. This has been a blessing for my garden, especially given the late start I got. We had late frosts this year so my plants were late in the ground and on top of that this was my first time growing from seeds and it took longer than I expected. I've been anxious for flowers on my tomatoes. They take so long to ripen and started so little in the ground I even bought one larger one from a local nursery hoping I might get some early ones. Well with this perfect storm of weather you now can't even tell the difference between the bought plant and the ones I grew. They are all growing so well. Even my little Jersey Devil plant that I have been so worried about. It was so tiny when I put it in the ground. I just hoped being in the ground it would take well and catch up. Its not as big as the other plants, but it is catching up well. Today as I was pinching off the little shooters in their "elbows" I noticed something that got me so excited. Flowers, little flowers starting on my tomatoes. I can't believe how excited I get from such simple things now. I can almost taste those Jersey tomatoes now.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Growing Tomatoes

One of my favorite garden items are tomatoes. Nothing is tastier than a fresh, red (or pink or yellow), ripe tomato. This year since I live in New Jersey I decided to have a Jersey theme. We are known for our summer produce, and tomatoes tops that list. I am growing Rutgers tomatoes, my first time growing them. Rutgers also happens to be my alma mater.
I also tried the Heirloom tomato I got from the Baker's Creek catalog. Its a Jersey Devil tomato, great for sauce since it has few seeds.
dexsc I'm also growing an old stand by, Brandywine. Last summer also everyday I ate a brandywine tomato sandwich.
Growing is off to a slow start this year, it's my first year growing from seeds. Just as I did last year, marigolds surround my tomato plants. Marigolds attract all sorts of good insects to your garden, good ones that eat the bad ones. Last year a few times I notice a tomato hornworm. They are so gross looking. Their ugly horns may be harmless, but they sure aren't. They are voracious eaters and can easily eat away at your whole plant. The marigolds attracted braconid wasps that lay their eggs on tomato hornworms. I was lucky,every time I saw a tomato hornworm it was covered with their eggs and within days he was shriveled up and dead. I hope my marigolds and the companion planting helps keep my garden organic this year.
I still don't even have flowers on my tomatoes, I'm hoping this week's warm weather and rain brings some by this weekend. I'm counting down the days til I can enjoy more of our garden. Right now we are just enjoying lettuce and spinach. Its better than nothing right?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads, Step Dads, grandpas, Godfathers, and father figures out there. The unconditional love of a parent, of a father, can help guide a child in life to be strong and know what is right.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another Rainy Day

Its been the rainiest spring, today was another bad one. Thunderstorms, high winds, and flash flood warning so we spent the day inside. It was so bad I didn't even want to drive somewhere to get out of the house for a bit. Last rainy day we splashed in the puddles and looked for worms. This rainy day we spent baking banana zucchini cinnamon chip bread(I'll post the recipe later), coloring, dancing and looking at videos of the girls.
They loved watching their birthday parties and Christmas mornings. Since they are not even 2 and 4 there wasn't too much to look at, but enough to reminisce and see some wonderful memories. I'm so grateful that I bought our camera and will have some amazing videos to watch as they grow older and I grow old. I love hearing their little voices and watching how they change. We watched Eve trying to crawl, her first steps, laughing like a maniac and the first time Liv and Eve met. We watched Liv's second birthday and Christmas. It was lovely to see how she still treasures the gifts Santa has brought her. I also recorded a little bit of them today. I usually ask them the same questions. How old are you? What is your favorite color? Can you say your name? For Eve I asked her some animal sounds and Liv told me about preschool. My Aunt told me that you can never have enough video of your kids and with how fast they grow I'm already realizing that's true.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

81 Cheap or Free Ideas of Summer Fun In the Garden State or Your Own

Schools almost out for some already for others. The summer can be a time of great fun,memories, relaxing and hands on learning. It can also be a time of stress for many parents filled with longs days of emptiness and too much free time. For many kids long gone are the days of neighborhoods being filled with bike rides and playing in the woods til the streetlights come on. Playmates maybe be over scheduled or on vacation so your kids may get lonely or bored with no one else around. While I think lots of free time and free play are great in the summer it can also be a great time to do things you may not have time to do in a busy school year. 1. Free play 2. Plant a garden 3. Pick blueberries 4. Pick raspberries 5. Make some jam 6. Make some homemade bread 7. Enjoy some homemade bread with your homemade jam 8. Go for a hike 9. Get a state Beach pass (In New Jersey we have to pay for beach access, this can make family trips very expensive but you can get a state pass for certain beaches, lakes and rec areas. Its a one time fee and it covers however many people are in your car) 10. Visit the beach 11. Visit a lake 12. Go fishing 13. Go for a bike ride on a trail 14. Go for a ride in a town and get lunch 15. Visit your local library and see what fun they have for the summer. My local library usually has summer storytime, a petting zoo, puppet shows and more 16. Pull some weeds from your garden 17. Visit a nature preserve 18. Go to the zoo 19. Visit a local river and get your feet wet. With older children tubing is great fun. NJ and PA Delaware River is always a great place to do this 20. Go for a boat ride 21.visit your local park 22. Visit a different park, pack a lunch and make a day of it. One of my favorites is Colonial Park in Somerset. They have a nicely renovated children's playground, a lake, paddle boats, and several flower gardens. 23. Make a playdate 24. Board games, old school fun, great for a raining day 25. Body painting. Outside let your kids paint themselves and use the hose to wash off. 26. Visit a local pool. 27. Play in the sprinklers like you did as a kid. Play with your kids and enjoy the cool fun. 28. Play mini-golf 29. Go for a nature walk along a lake. One of my favorites is High Point in Sussex County. 30. Visit a historic monument that tells a story. Again High Point is great if you can make it up. I got too scared 31. Go roller skating 32. Put on some music and dance 33. Explore the woods 34. Play hopscotch, jump rope, jacks or other old school games. 35. Have a bonfire, tell stories, roast some marshmallows and make smores 36. Go out and catch lightning bugs 37. Have a water balloon fight 38. Wake up early and watch the sunrise 39. Go out and watch the stars, try to identify constellations. 40. Teach older children to knit or crochet a scarf for fall weather. 41. Dance in the rain 42. Have a tea party 43. Read some fairy tales in your yard 44. Have a "bear hunt" in your yard 45. Put on a puppet show 46. Make a birdhouse 47. Make a bat house 48. Make some yummy bird treats 49. Visit a children's museum 50. Fly a kite 51. Create a play with your children in your backyard 52. Have a lemonade stand, give the profits to charity 53. Visit a nursing home or an elderly relative or neighbor 54. Volunteer at an animal shelter to play with and walk the dogs 55. Go to a carnival 56. Go see some fireworks 57. Make homemade tomato sauce, from fresh tomatoes from your garden 58. Make homemade pizza, dough and all 59. Go to a AA ballgame 60. Visit some old friends 61. Have a parade around your block with homemade instruments, or if your child plays real ones 62. Watch a sunset 63. Bird watch, keep a bird book 64. Create a scrapbook of the summer or the previous school year 65. Try to find some tadpoles and see if you can "grow" some frogs 66. Play flashlight tag 67. Build a treehouse 68. Grow a sunflower house 69. Make a gnome or fairy house and leave it outside, or on the Columbia Trail. 70. Visit a site of historical significance, like Washington Crossing Park. 71. Walk barefoot in the grass 72. Play in the kiddie pool 73. Build sandcastles 74. Make mud pies 75. Teach your kids cat's cradle 76. BBQ 77. Go camping, in your backyard or at a site 78. Swim in a lake 79. Pick fresh flower 80. Go out to Stewards for a nice outdoor, cheap dinner 81. Be together and be in the moment, smile and have fun

Monday, June 10, 2013

Early Reading at home

I have an almost 4 year old who is starting to get interested in reading. She says she wants to learn how to read so I have been working with her a little bit to get her ready to really learn to read. I am a big believer in going at a child's pace and not pushing them. Learning at this age should be enjoyable and fun, not forced at all. One thing I have started doing with her is reading a story I know has a lot of a certain letter. Today we read a bird book. So I gave her a block with the letter B on it.She traced the B with her hands, lower and upper case. We made B sounds and I told her to listen for the letter b. When the letter was prominent like in bluebird I pointed it out to her. We also love the Curious George Learns the Alphabet Book. It is so wonderfully illustrated and she has for a while learned to associate letters with certain words and sounds, like S-snail or T-tomahawk We are going slow, working on a letter every few days. This gives it time to sink in and helps so it doesn't feel so school like. I want my children to crave learning, love it and really want to learn. Not think of learning as some passive experience where they are drilled with flash cards and words. While this might help an older child learn, a child who is not even 4, yes it can be taught to them, but at what consequence? And are they truly learning it or just repeating blindly like a parrot? If she is reading at 4 she will be a young reader, but I have seen it pushed on kids even younger. But do children really younger than 4 understand phonemes and language rules? This is even hard for a 4 year old to grasp which is why I am going slow with her and teaching phonics. She already has picked up some sight words but over and over again I read how the combination of whole reading and phonics the best way for a child to become a great reader. Maybe tomorrow we will read the Cat in the Hat and work on C, or maybe if the rain clears we will spend the day in the sun, digging in the dirt and listening to the cicadas. That is the wonderful thing about this age and learning at home, no pressure, just love and enjoyment.

Rain Rain Come Again

I have a love hate with rain. It helps my garden grow big, but keeps us inside, at least during thunder storms. Its makes me sleepy, which would be okay if I didn't have 2 little ones to care for. I love watching storms come in, but my current house has no front porch to sit and watch them. But my biggest love is it gives me a day to just be, be inside, clean and have fun with the girls. Its quiet time now. The day got off to a late start since everyone slept in, yeah for the rain making them sleepy too. We had breakfast, did dishes, the girls watch some Youtube video on phonics. Liv is getting interesting in reading so I've been trying to get her some prep for it. We read a book about birds. We also had some tantrums over clothes. We played hide and seek and danced to the Wiggles. We had a nice lunch. Now its time for laundry and my quiet time. The afternoon should have some more cleaning while the girls free play together. Maybe some art, painting or coloring. More storytelling and maybe one more show. I'm usually pretty strict with the tv, but for everyones sanity I lighten up a little bit on rainy days we don't leave the house. I'm hoping to get on the rain gear and check out our garden later too. I think our strawberries might be ripe. Rainy day fun on the good old homestead.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gnome Homes of the Columbia Trail

Today was a beautiful summer like day, reaching in the low 80s. So we decided to take another walk on the Columbia Trail and check out the Gnome homes.
Liv loves looking in the homes (well the ones that open) and coloring in the notebooks left for people to write the gnomes notes.

Some are simple homes other have more elaborate themes, like a school house or a gnome having fun on a slide.

The nature sites are a beauty in its own, but for anyone the homes add an element of fun. It wonderful to see the hard work and creativity people put in these homes and scenes. And its more wonderful to see my toddlers face light up every time she sees a home and runs to go explore it.