Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Bidwell Casaba Saga

As you all very well know I purchased a seed catalog in February and happened upon a family seed. I discovered that the famous General John Bidwell was a cousin of mine, led the first wagon train to California (the Bidwell Bartleson expedition), and was a spectacular gardener towards the end of his life.

What proceeded was me spending way too much money on melon seeds that probably need a longer growing season then I have. The seed company assured me that the seed would grow here though, as long as I didn't let it get root locked. I know that I started the three little seeds too early but I was eager. Eager and gardening have never been a good mix.

At ten years of age my 9x great grandfather John Bidwell (1620) traveled from England to Connecticut with his father. The Bidwells were among the first settlers in Hartford Connecticut. In 1639, at 19 years of age he was allotted 4 acres of land in Hartford, Connecticut. To this day his name is on the monument erected in memory of the first settlers at Hartford.

(Feel free to skip ahead as a long list of who fathered who shall follow) John Bidwell (1620) was father of John Bidwell (1641) who was father of David Bidwell (1687) who was father of David Bidwell II (1720). The Bidwell's stayed in Harford, Connecticut for 100 years until my 6 times great grandfather David Bidwell II moved his family to Saratoga, New York. If you do any math you'll notice that a good deal of these boys were born when their father's (and actually their mothers too) were in their 40's. These were large families and some of the children were born later in the list but my reason for noting this is that my mom was born when her mother was in her 40's. My dad was born sixth in his family when his mom was in her 30's. And I had my first (and only child) at 32, which is considered borderline old these days. It's just a neat observation for me that even in the 1700's my family was having children late in life.

My 5 times great grandfather Jacob Bidwell (1758) was born in New York. His brother Abram Bidwell (1769) was THEE General John Bidwell's (1819) father. This all means that General John Bidwell (1819) and I share the same grandparents: my 6 times great grandfather David Bidwell II and my 6 times great grandma Esther Lawrence, making General John Bidwell of the Bidwell Casaba melon a first cousin.

After researching all of the above, three Bidwell Casaba melon seeds were sewn indoors at my house in March. Two of them sprouted almost right away and took off. The third sprouted several days later and grew slowly. The first two had roots growing out of the bottom of the little pots almost instantly. I thought it'd be a good idea to buy potting soil and move them to a bigger pot so they wouldn't get root locked. They didn't like that however and slowly wilted away. The third seed still grew slowly and I sort of considered it a dud. But I kept it around and eventually it made it's way to the small bed behind my garage (I really think it's roots were a jumbled mess by that time though).

My cousin general John Bidwell (1819) was born in New York, as was his cousin Ruth Bidwell (1790), my 4 times great grandmother. On June 4, 1833 my 4 times Grand Grandma Ruth Bidwell and her husband, my 4 times great grandfather Mishael Beadle were issued a land grant from the federal government for 53.06 acres of land in Michigan very near Lake Michigan (the grant states, "paid in full by Mishael Beadle"). The Bidwell's have been in the US for 386 years. But this line of my family has been in Michigan on the west side ever since, from 1833 to date, 183 years.

Very close to the same time that my 4 times great grandparent's came to Michigan, Ruth (Bidwell) Beadle's cousin General John Bidwell at the age of 20, in the spring of 1839, living in Western Ohio with his father Abram Bidwell had a "desire to see the great prairies of the west."

In 1839, six years after my family moved to Michigan General John Bidwell set out on foot to see the great prairies of the west with only a knapsack strapped upon his shoulders and a pocket knife for protection. He eventually found himself in the Iowa territory with a 160 acre plot. He wrote that he worked at putting up a log house on his 160 acres, "until all the people in the neighborhood became ill with fever and ague - I concluded to move on."

He moved on to Platte county of the Missouri territory. The area had just been purchased from the Indians and populated rather quickly. General John Bidwell wrote that it was rich with black dirt, there wasn't a field that wasn't fertile. You couldn't find an area without a beautiful spring of clear cold water and you'd find wild honey bees in every tree that had a hollow. It was a heavenly country.

He decided to stay, took the first job he could get as a teacher, and got a claim for a large area of land in 1839. Apart from the abundant rattlesnakes and copperheads he decided that this was precisely the "great prairies of the west" he'd been looking for and he wanted to make it his home. He planned to have his father join him there after he'd established himself. Unfortunately the following summer in 1840 he took a trip to St. Louis for supplies. He was gone for a month. He wrote in his memoir that, "This trip proved to be the turning point in my life, for while I was gone a man had "jumped" my land." Normally the locals would join together in removing such a scoundrel but the squatter, "was a bully - had killed a man in Callaway County - and everybody seemed afraid of him."

"All I had earned had been spent on the land and when it was taken I lost about everything."

Out of this bad luck he decided to go on a journey that no one had thus ever been on, to take a wagon train to the almost mythical land of California. He commented that at the time there were but 100 Americans total in that land and they were almost all wild men; trappers, fur traders, or sailors that jumped ship at port. Gold had not yet been found and so not many people were adventurous enough to make such a journey.

This year I've chosen to grow a strange orange sherbet flavored melon in tribute to this man, my cousin who went on a monumental journey filled with the unknown, founded a city (Chico, California), became a master gardener, sat on the California senate and fought for the rights of Indians but had no children and in tribute to my Bidwell line; settlers, travelers, and brave ancestors that have been in the US for almost 400 years. 

The one late blooming seed, the slow goer was planted in the back bed and started to do quite well until one day weeks ago when my dogs found a rabbit in our backyard and went on a rampage thoroughly trampling the gorgeous plant. The main shoot was severed. The leaves were all torn to bits and, well, it'd made it this far so I left it in hopes that it would stay the course.

At this point I imagine it should have long luxurious shoots all over my yard, much larger leaves, and maybe some tiny fruit but at least, and I say this with continued hope, at least it now has some flowers on it. I direct sowed a second seed in the bed next to this first plant but I really think it was planted too late. The Bidwell Casaba saga continues much the same as General John Bidwell's entire life, filled with the unknown.

This took a REALLY long time to write. I now feel the need to give a HUGE shout out to Sluggy as she writes some great ANCESTRY PIECES quite often. Oh, oh, OH AND one of Sluggy's relatives was apart of the 69 people who went on the Bidwell Bartleson expedition AND the 32 people who actually made it to California. What a super small world, right!?!?!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

This week in photos

This little dude got to watch a play for the first time, Charlotte's Web. We read the book together in anticipation. Quite fortunately most of the play was directly from the book so he completely understood what was going on the entire time. The only thing he was confused about was why the characters didn't look more like actual animals and spiders. I just had to tell him to use his imagination a few different times. But the play was fantastic, such an awesome experience, and I had the incredible privilege of watching two of my darling nieces on stage for the first time. Both of them had lines and did a stellar job.

The tomato plants I put in the ground May 17th have gotten quite big, lovely, and fragrant.  They're now covered in flowers but from what I can tell these two green bunches are the only actual fruit on any of the plants so far. What's the likelihood that the first tomato this year would be a total mutant? Look at that guy! But I LOVE it!!! That's character. That's sass. That's my kind of tomato. I hope he is able to endure the long road to red without getting bug infested or too serious of wounds. If so he'll be a real trooper.

Note to self: If you let your four year old son make a batch of puppy chow virtually on his own the recipe card will end up covered in peanut butter and powdered sugar. (He was supervised. I read the card to him, and he wasn't allowed to use the stove. But he did most of the scooping, dumping, mixing, shaking and package handling himself.)

We had a family game night this week. Now that my husband is on days things around here have changed a lot. We've never really done a family game night and despite the gross mess from the above game little Abe had the time of his life and the three of us really enjoyed each other. 

Rhubarb cordial use #3
French toast or pancake syrup

Little Abe and I tried both versions this week. I made a fruity pancake one evening and french toast one morning. Rhubarb cordial is works quite deliciously as a breakfast syrup. While not my husband's cup of tea little Abe and I thoroughly enjoyed the treat. 

Water, dirt, water, mud, water, water, and water! We've still be making the most of summer and spending lots of time outdoors in the yard. It's a darn good thing that we live less than two miles from the world's fifth largest lake (and the world's largest lake contained inside one country) because I'm pretty sure between the laundry, dishwasher, shower, and hose I've had the water running for three days straight this week.

I sincerely hope you all are making the most of summer this year (or your winter season if you're on the other side of the world). We're trying our best, that's for sure!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Backyard Edition

There's nothing really special about our little city lot; no pool, no big toys or forts, or patio, or lawn furniture (except for a camping chair I keep out back). But our yard has got to be one of mine and little Abe's favorite places to be.

Our garden is growing along nicely. It's been a bad year for the strawberries. Apparently it took the birds three years to discover them but they've been found and are regularly nibbled on now. Everything else is doing pretty great though. It stayed really cold here for a lot longer then normal but ever since the cold broke we've had the most lovely weather.

Thank the Lord that little Abe recovered from his bee phobia because our backyard is a bee paradise. First the giant 100 year old lilac bush blooms. Since it's so old the flowers don't stay long but as soon as they've fallen our six foot tall wild rose bush is covered in bright pink petals. Once the peek of rose petals passes the old honeysuckle vine starts to flower and fill half the yard with a vibrant old fragrance. It's lovely and it reminds me of a smell you'd happen upon at your grandmothers vanity. The aroma greets us as soon as we exit our backdoor and calls to the extremely elusive hummingbirds (the only time of year we'll ever see one around your yard is at honeysuckle time). The sweet peas that I'm in love with start to bloom shortly after the fragrant honeysuckle. Yep, a bees paradise and my own as well.

If you remember, I thought some of the sunflower seeds from last year's giant flower had wintered over. Nope. The little sprouts that looked identical were from wandering money plant seeds. I let one grow for such a long time, as the plant itself and the leaves looked so much like my sunflower. I have attempted to transplant that one money plant to the front yard and I've since placed a few sunflower seeds in its place. One seed sprouted about two days ago and as soon as it did a chipmunk found it, dug it out, ate the seed and then found the other not yet sprouted seeds. I planted six sprouts last year and ended up with ONE sunflower because that chipmunk kept digging up the plants to eat the seed.

I've now devised what I think is a brilliant chipmunk guard. I cut the top and bottom off of an apple juice bottle and stuck it over top of the newest little sunflower sprout. (I planted more seeds after the first chipmunk raid). Once the sprout is big enough the little furry fellow will leave it be and I'll pull the juice bottle off. This should work.

Now, if I can get this kid to stop whacking all the flowering bushes and vines in our yard with a huge stick the rest of our summer spent out back in our little simple paradise will be just perfect.

Monday, June 20, 2016

When Horrible Becomes Normal

Several people at work today asked me how I was liking the new job. My answer to all of them was, "I actually love it!" And frankly, those words were filled with sincerity and enthusiasm each time I said them.

I'm not sure that during my twenty some years of employment I have ever said, "I love my job." And yet today I said it at least four times. Work has always just been something that needs to be done for a pay check, you know. Now, don't go thinking that I've found myself some super fun, creative, dream career. Not in the least. My new job is a little weird, very busy, go, go go; it's almost exactly what I was doing before minus a lot of little awkward and messy details and all of the chaos.

Before I left my last job, before I buckled down and finally told myself that enough was enough I had completely gotten used to the disorganization, the horrible communication, and the obscene inconsistencies on a daily basis. I had gotten used to my hours being all over the spectrum. I had gotten used to constant stress and anxiety. I had gotten used to horrible. I knew that it was bad. I knew that it was getting worse. But it was my job. It had been my job for twelve and a half years, well over half of my working life and longer than all five of my other jobs combined.

Only today, after the fourth or fifth person had asked me how I was liking the new job, only after I answered with the utmost sincerity each time, "I actually love it!", only after I started to listen to myself say it and realize how refreshed, how revitalized, how excited I was to just be doing a regular job at one location for a company that strives to have all of their ducks in a row did I realize how truly normal horrible had become.

When horrible becomes normal it's virtually impossible to see it for what it truly is: not okay. I'm beyond words glad that I got out. June has truly, TRULY been filled to overflowing with sunshine!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

June Sunshine and Bees

This month has been jam packed full of adventure, sunshine, and fun; walks by the lake, a trip to the zoo, play dates galore, tons of fun in the garden and it feels like we've spent every minute of June outdoors. At this point I'm not exactly sure how I've ever survived a Michigan winter. The sunshine and warmth are so glorious and invigorating.

Last year, towards the latter half of summer little Abe got stung by a yellow jacket. A horrible bee phobia quickly ensued and it felt like this year's summer would be ruined. He didn't want to leave the house for any reason. He started to cry and shake when he heard any sort of buzzing. We couldn't even go to the playground without tears because at some point a bee would inevitably fly past.

I'm delighted to report that after the hundredth time having watched the Wild Kratts episode called "Flight of the Pollinators," and our many, MANY discussions about how most bees are nice and only sting when they're scared little Abe is not only over his phobia but he's made a habit out of watching bees work. If you look closely in the above photo you can actually see a small bee above the flower directly in front of his face. He also now spends a great deal of time watching the big fat bumble bees that continuously collect pollen from the wild rose bush out back. Thank goodness for summer and the vigor of little boys!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Empty Nest

Today, all of the bird watching/ egg watching came to a culmination and it was awesome!

One fine spring day we saw a Robin fly in and then out of the garage.
Much to our surprise she had deposited three brilliant blue gems inside.

May 20
Together mama and daddy robin started their family in our rafters.
She sat on the nest virtually around the clock for ten days straight.
All the while daddy robin stood watch.

May 30
After the two little darlings emerged mama and daddy took turns guarding their treasure
and filling these two hungry mouths.

June 8
Worm after bug after worm the babies grew non-stop.
And mama and daddy were there every minute of the way.

June 11

June 11
After 23 days of parenting the two proud robins now have an empty nest.
And two baby robins have been added to our neighborhood.

The robins have been very protective of their nest. They've hardly let it out of their sights for the past 23 days. They have a way warning tweet whenever we'd get too close to the garage and I think it's the dad that would puff up the small feathers on the top of his head to tell us we were getting too close. But today they were different. Today both the mom and dad were hovering around our backyard, tweeting out the warning tweet with force and one of them, I think the dad would dive bomb us whenever he thought we'd gotten too close.

I told little Abe that I was certain the babies would be leaving the nest today. Despite the angry parents we sort of hung around in the backyard or kept peeking out the kitchen window. I hoped that we'd get to see the babies and I thought it'd be spectacular to see them leaving the garage. I knew that the chances were so slim but I was certain they'd be leaving the nest today.

I was right and we got to see both of the babies. One we spyed hopping into the neighbors backyard. The mom and dad were coaching it and keeping us as far away as they could. But the second bird left the nest a bit later and I think mama and daddy were still trying to keep the first baby safe and tended to. The second baby we got to see peeking out from our garage. (It's the one I got the better photo of) I'm pretty sure he's still in there and I hope mom and dad come back soon to coach him too. None the less today was incredible!

We were so honored to host these little fellows in our garage and delighted to see them go. I'm thoroughly impressed at how well robins tend to their young. And I think it's safe to say I've fallen even deeper in love with nature.

*I apologize if the format on these photos is way too big. I know I'm pushing it a bit.

Schedule changes are for the birds

I think I love my new job. It's still surreal having my husband home and awake for dinner by five each night. I'm pretty sure working three eight hour days a week is going to be worlds better than working five, five-ish hour days. But I am beyond tired. I feel like I want to sleep for a week.

My husband whose worked the night shift for the past three years is now working 7AM-4:30. I've worked Monday thru Friday for over 15 years. About a year after little Abe was born I went to part time, working 25ish hours a week instead of 40, still mon-fri. Our schedule for the past three years has looked something like this:

Husband goes to work at night, just before 10PM.
Little Abe and I see him off and then we head to bed.
Little Abe and I wake up around 7:30 or 8:30 in the morning.
Hubby gets home shortly before or shortly after we wake up.
Generally I'm make him breakfast (his dinner) and then I head into work.
Little Abe goes down for a nap between 12:30 and 1:30 and my hubby goes to sleep for the day.
I get home around 2:30 or 3:00.
Little Abe wakes up around 3:30/ 4:30-ish
We eat a fairly late dinner together, Abe and I.
And repeat.

Every single thing in this line up has changed and I love it. I like going into work four and half hours earlier then I used to. I like my husband working days. I think I LOVE working three days a week instead of five. BUT I have cut out Abe's nap since I need him to be in bed by 8 now (he really still needs a nap). Going into work four and half hours earlier then normal means going to sleep much earlier, waking up much earlier, and actually setting an alarm. (you have no idea how terrified I am of being late now)

All this change feels very  much like jet lag. For the past two days I've hardly been able to hold my eyes open after the hour of 6PM. I slept great last night (not normal for me; I'm a terrible sleeper) but I woke up as if I hadn't slept a wink. We'll adjust but right now, WHOA I'M TIRED! And so is my kiddo and my husband. Our little family is happy as we've ever been but it's comical how tired we all are. If anyone happens to see a family of three wandering west Michigan looking very much like sleep walkers or the walking dead, no worries, it's just my little family going for a casual stroll.

Odd side note: Hubby just donated all of his hair.
For anyone who noticed, it was VERY long in the last photo I posted of him.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Youth, Independence, and Pop

I was one of the first of my friends to get a drivers license. And only because I got mine the day I turned sixteen and for some reason several of my friends chose to wait. The friend group I spent almost every weekend with during those horribly awkward adolescent years was made up of about ten girls. After we could drive we added about six guys to the club.

Shortly before getting licenses, at the age of fourteen and fifteen we would walk downtown in all of our independence and glory and hang out at the local coffee shop. I grew up in an uppity college town, The coffee shop we frequented was a posh college hang out and we certainly felt mature whenever we were there. A few of my friends were drinking coffee, mocha's and lattes and cappuccinos by that time but I certainly was not. My mom said it stunted growth and I thought it was repulsive. But I did have a paper route (a source of income) and I loved to order the Italian creme sodas from JP's (that was our coffee shop).

To this day I've only ever had an Italian creme soda from that coffee shop in my hometown (a neighboring town to where I live now). Maybe they made the thing up, who knows but I loved that drink. They'd take club soda and add any syrup you'd like. I always chose strawberry. They'd top it off with half and half which sounds weird but it foamed up a lot like whip cream and slowly fell to the bottom as you drank it and it was heavenly. I'm fairly certain that whipped cream was then added to the top of it all as well.

Rhubarb cordial use #2
Flavoring for a Rhubarb Italian Soda

Lemon lime soda (I just didn't want to buy club soda)
a good splash of Rhubarb Cordial
Topped off with half and half

I know it looks like an alcoholic beverage in a weird fancy glass at a picnic. It's pop in my backyard. This pink soda perfectly represents independence in my youth. A time when my friends and I were wild and free (or so we thought), when life was chaotic to say the least (adolescence always is) but simple. This is the first time I've ever tried or thought to make this beverage at home and it turned out fantastic!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lesson Learned

I've learned something new this week. I've learned that I mustn't buy clothing for myself on line. Like, never, for any reason. I just should not do it.

With all these life changes, schedule changes, routine changes, ect; I felt the need to really tackle clutter and closets and at least as much of my house as I have steam to tackle this month. It may seem like I'm piling extra onto an already big heap but I think it's the perfect time. Right now while everything is turned upside down I can see no better time in which to turn my house upside down too.

I went through my closet at the end of May. My closet isn't very large and my wardrobe isn't very extensive but I have a lot of clothes that I never wear. It's funny, at least in my situation that when you stop wearing something, either because it no longer fits, has gotten too crumby, or you just really don't like it, that article of clothing just sort of disappears. It's like it turns invisible. It just becomes a sort of wallpaper for your closet or your drawer.

Until I went through my wardrobe last month and my dresser this month I felt that I had such a small amount of clothing. It's true I have a small wardrobe but since going through all of it I have gotten rid of 55 things that either needed to be tossed or donated. I could have never dreamed before hand that I had 55 completely unwearable things in my room. I had so many clothes that I just couldn't or won't wear anymore. The sad trend that I found is that aside from two pair of lounge/ workout pants every single item I've ever purchased online I got rid of this week. It was a sad realization to come to because several of the items I loved so much while they were on the computer. I wanted to love them so much once they arrived. But without fail none of them fit right, or I felt uncomfortable each time I wore them. They all had to go. They were all just constantly hanging out in my closet or dresser acting as taunting wallpaper.

Marie Kondo, the wildly famous organizer has said that each time we get rid of something we should thank it for the purpose it served in our lives. I got rid of several practically new items of clothing this week that I ordered online and that I will never wear. One in particular, a shirt that I loved (online), that I wanted to so badly because it was so "me," I made my husband get it for me as a birthday gift last year even though he said it was ugly. I wore it once. ONE time. I had to get rid of it because it fits horribly and (little did I know from the picture online) it has a completely functional zipper running down the back of it. Like someone could literally zip my shirt right off of me from behind if they wished to be cruel. Plus who wants their hair constantly getting caught in the zipper running down their back?

I did not thank each article of clothing for the purpose it served as I put them in the donate pile or the trash but I did thank that shirt. I said as I placed it in the donate pile, "thank-you for teaching me once and for all that I cannot order clothing online." And I meant it. As much as I hate to shop, online shopping is not the easy way out for me. Lesson learned.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

New Chapters can be terrifying, but the terrifying ones are sometimes why we keep reading

10:00 PM, June 5th, Sunday night.
Right now my story has me sitting in a quite room in front of my computer. Piano music is playing softly in the background and the dishwasher and old laptop are humming along. As the sun began to set only moments ago the sky turned ferociously dark and raindrops are now tapping on the tin siding. My loved ones are sleeping, aside from the two furry children who are slowly pacing around at my feet. The smell of ginger and coffee cake is wafting through the house as an early morning treat is baking in the oven. I could hardly be more at peace. Apart from actually being asleep this is rest, this is the rest I was seeking out this month and yet my mind... I am at peace but a terrifying anticipation is swirling right at the edge of all the calm.

I just keep thinking, "twelve and a half years." For twelve and a half years I've put on a black polo and khaki pants five days a week. For twelve and a half years I've worked such a strange job, driving from store to store filling out reports, resetting sections, installing graphics and application books and pretty much anything else that might be found in a supermarket, signs, stickers, fixtures, the list is virtually never ending. For twelve and a half years I've been a wanderer of sorts, never having a concrete schedule, never really seeing my boss (or any fellow co-workers for that matter), never having guaranteed work and often times having much too much work. The people I saw each and every day weren't ever really co-workers even though I've made many friends throughout the eleven stores I called mine. For twelve and a half years I haven't worked a weekend or a holiday. For approximately 20,000 hours of my life I've been on the clock working for the same employer and for eleven of those twelve and a half years I was pretty happy with my job.

For most of those twelve and a half years I worked for a very small company that like most every small company these days was bought out by a very large company. Just recently we've "officially" been absorbed. Just recently my job has become unbearable. But, for a little over a year things have been getting worse, and worse, and worse. Tomorrow is the day that I let my company know that enough is enough. I can't do it anymore. I can't work at a place where I feel very little respect, where my voice is not heard or at least never listened to, where almost every answer I get for almost every question I ask is a total non-answer. I can't work at a place where communication, organization, and direction are going downhill at an ever increasing pace.  I've been scared to leave. I've been scared to change paths, to jump ship, to do something else. I was just holding on hoping that a better day would come. I can't hold on any longer. Enough is enough but there's a twelve year backstory and that makes me a little heart sick, a little nauseous, and a little terrified.

Tomorrow is the end of twelve and a half years. But I think this is the end of the terrifying chapter. I think new, exciting, and just a little bit different are the theme of the chapter to come. I did mention that big changes were happening this month, right?
(My husband isn't the only one starting a new job this month)

Rhubarb Fruit Leather

I apologize in advance for what looks like a never ending string of posts about rhubarb. Especially because several of you have noted that you cannot find rhubarb in your regions. Tomorrow marks the official start of my husband's new position (among other changes). These rhubarb posts may just be my way of distracting myself from the never ending onslaught of thoughts swirling around in my head about changes, changes, changes, and more changes. Between mixed feelings of excitement, thrill, wonder, fear, helplessness, and terror I'm kind of an inward mess of emotion. I'm using rhubarb to distract myself. Classic, right?

First off, the rhubarb fruit leather was a huge hit. I have a husband who... hmm... picky doesn't even come close to describing his eating habits but I'll just leave it at that. He saw the fruit leather shortly after it'd cooled and inquired as to what this freakish sheet of... "what the heck is that?" like he normally does about anything new with that same look on his face. It's sort of the look you might make if you saw a dead frog squished in your driveway. It's not pretty but I'm used to it from him.

None the less he was super intrigued and possibly very hungry because he actually tried the freakish looking sheet of brown tinged with red. He never lets on when he's actually impressed with something I make and he followed suit in this instance. BUT now hardly two days later I went to the bag of fruit leather to take a photo for you fine folks and this is all I had left. It's hard to tell scale from the photo but this is a very small bit of rhubarb fruit leather. I'd used 3 to 4 cups of rhubarb pulp to cover an entire baking sheet.

Little Abe did not like it because it was much too tough. I severely overcooked it. But the flavor was fabulous. So that if you like jerky in the least and if you like the taste of sweetened rhubarb then you'd love this. My husband likes jerky and apparently is a pretty big fan of the taste of sweetened rhubarb. This was a HUGE win for me and I will definitely be making it again.

As for the severely overcooked part, funny story. I spread the pulp from the rhubarb cordial onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet. I placed it into a 170 degree oven to be left for 6 hours. I knew, I honestly knew that I would forget about it. But because my timing was poor, I planned to set a timer and wake up in the middle of the night to remove it from the oven. I did not. 

Instead I woke up in the morning, sat down at the blog to moderate comments and virtually right away SAM asked how the fruit leather turned out. Of course I jumped up from the computer and pulled it out of the oven about six hours later then I'd planned to. You'd think it'd have been horrid but it was quite edible just very much like jerky. I imagine that six hours would not have been long enough and it needed closer to 8 or 10 so, it was about 2 hours over cooked. Haha! Figures that when I totally decimate something it's the time my husband chooses to really really like it. Whatever, win win!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I genuinely have like six or seven different blog posts swirling around in my head but they all seem incomplete so I leave you with only this:

Rhubarb cordial use #1
Swirled over top of plain yogurt (with some berries if you wish)

I always try and have organic plain yogurt in the house. I was making little Abe and myself a dessert yogurt this evening: strawberries, raspberries, plain yogurt and chocolate syrup. I left the chocolate syrup off of mine and swirled in some rhubarb cordial instead (just out of curiosity). I'm glad to report that it was very scrumptious.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Rhubarb Cordial (and fruit leather)

I only post recipes here (or links to them) when I LOVE something and want to catalog it for myself. One of my absolute favorite bloggers, a genuinely beautiful person, and a kind friend, FRUGALLY CHALLENGED posted about rhubarb cordial towards the beginning of may. I had never heard of such a thing, would have never conjured up the idea to make such a thing and I was instantly intrigued. I knew that the very first thing I would make with rhubarb this year was this fascinating sounding beverage.

Do not make this if you don't like rhubarb. But I dare say that if you don't like rhubarb then you've never had it prepared correctly. This cordial or simple syrup as it can be added to lemonade or used as a simple syrup in a summer cocktail is rhubarb at it's very finest. This stuff is AMAZING!!! I mean, I was hoping that it would be good but it is fantastic!!!

Some friends of ours have rhubarb galore so they just gave me a bunch of it. I get so giddy each year when they first offer it to me (I jumped the gun this year and actually asked first).

I simmerd approximately
8 cups of cut up rhubarb
2 cups of sugar
3 cups of water

covered on the stove top for about 25 minutes 

I poured the awesomeness over cheese cloth in a strainer catching all the pink amazing beneath and trapping all the rhubarb pulp in the cheese cloth. Whala! I actually ended up with about two jars full, like this. That's about 40 to 50 ounces.

Yes, I use Prego jars for everything!

I recommend not discarding the beautiful pulp (its actually not beautiful; it looks like poop). I spread all the pulp thin (doing NOTHING to it; it's already sweetened from the simmering process) onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet. It is in the oven at 170 degrees right now. Supposedly after 6 hours it will come out a super tasty fruit leather. I will report back.

In the meantime go and make this! It is seriously so much better than I had even hoped. Yum! Yum! Yum! Oh, and this awesome treat was virtually free for me since my friends supplied the rhubarb. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Thank-you, THANK-YOU, Thank-you to Frugally Challenged for the awesome idea!!!

Budget and birds

I have this month's spending budget set at $470. Traditionally when I have a really low spending month, like I did in May it's followed by a really high spending month.

This month is quite officially the month of drastic change in our house (at least it feels drastic to me). I'm worried that all this new and different and adjusting is going to majorly effect the budget. So no matter where I do land concerning money spent this month I need to pay really close attention to what is coming in, what is going out, and what we're spending on.

Maybe I won't be able to hit my goal this month (I'm a realist). I'm not going to lose my mind if that's the case BUT I do need to pay really close attention. It's so easy during the ups and the downs and the crazy bits of life to just plain lose attention. You know, like one minute it's the first of the month and then next minute it's the 28th and oops, you haven't looked at the bank account once or recorded any spending. That's how my $470 budget can turn into a $770 spending. Yikes!

That being said, I spent $65.22 on groceries Wednesday. The house was pretty void of food. I also spent $4.76 on garden soil. Yesterday was a no spend and today I am going to pick up a few more groceries. These three purchases will already have made a considerable dent in my budget but I'm not worried about it. One day at a time. I just have to pay attention.

I managed to get a new picture of the baby birds and it's way too interesting to me to not share. This one's not blurry. I took it one day after the last one so who knows if that third egg hatched or if it's a dud. These babies are totally one of those, "they're so ugly they're cute" situations. At least they're cute to me and probably to their adoring parents too.

Average daily spending for 2016: $18.36
$400.02 left in June's budget

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Changes on the Horizon

June is upon us. The hot days of summer are quickly approaching. The plants in the garden are still small but flourishing. I woke up early this morning to sit outside in the cool morning air and drink my coffee while listening to and watching the birds. The peace and the calm were so uplifting (I didn't say quiet; the birds made it anything but quiet).

June is going to be a month of big change in our house. Among other things my husband is starting a new position next week. He's been working third shift for, I think three years now (three quarters of little Abe's life), and him moving to days is going to drastically change my work schedule. It will also allow him to be home (during waking hours) much, much more. The changes should be mostly all good, maybe even great but they are change none the less and oh how uncomfortable it all seems. It'll be great to see him more but at the same time it's going to be a little weird (or a lot weird).

This month I really want to focus. I want to focus on smooth transitions for our family and I want to focus on rest. Yep, on rest. My mind is already so stressed out thinking about it all that while I want to make the most of the new beginnings I also want to just stop and be still as much as possible this month. I know, I have a four year old boy. I think I can still try and focus on rest. I started today with some great rest after all. One day at a time.