Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bob's Half Birthday!

Chocolate Half Birthday Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Yes, another half birthday. It's been a busy summer! This time it was Bob's half birthday yesterday, August 29th. You may remember my post about his leap day birthday 6 months ago.

We celebrated in the usual way for us, a cake ceremony, presents and dinner. Above you see the chocolate half cake, this time with chocolate cream cheese frosting. It was a dark and moist cake with creamy chocolate frosting that had a wonderful taste and consistency if I do say so myself. Bob kept asking me what my secret ingredient was. There is no secret. I'll never tell. I just followed the recipe. Notice the rainbow of beeswax candles adorning the cake. I like to use natural wax candles when I can. Beeswax are my favorite.

Pile o' Presents

There were half birthday presents from Jack and me. The artwork on the yellow envelope is my doing. Since Bob is now 64 1/2 (he maintains that he is only 16), I drew a stick figure of him walking down the road passing a sign that says "this way to medicare". Just for fun. I am not sure if he liked it or not, but he did say that the stick figure looked like him.

Bob thinks of a wish while waiting for my camera to function

Then came the flaming half cake, the singing and the wish making.

Blow Bob, blow...

Followed closely by the candles being extinguished by a big puff of air. Good job, Bob!

Opening Gobs of Gifts

Onward to opening the gifts. He received useful stuff like underwear, lemon pepper seasoning and gallon sized zip lock baggies. (It's only a half birthday after all)

Bob finally got his pickles!

In keeping with our family food gift theme, Bob received the surprise gift to match the zucchini Jack received on his recent half birthday and the dry salami that I received last week for my birthday. Bob finally got his hands on my homemade sweet pickles! Handle them gently Bob.

Dinner: Roasted Stuffed Bell Pepper, Steamed Zucchini & Garden Tomato Salad

Of course after all that singing and gift opening, we were very hungry for dinner. We had green and purple bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of rice and ground turkey meat accented with fresh garden herbs, steamed zucchini (gotta use up that zuke!) and fresh from the garden chopped red and golden tomatoes with fresh parsley and basil.

Oh, that was just the main course. We also had a first course of pureed zucchini soup! We actually had some appetizers during the gift opening consisting of cheddar cheese and crackers with some slices of that good dried salami you saw me open on my birthday. I promised to share it, and I did. So we ate a lot of food and stuffed ourselves. No room for cake?

Chocolate Cake with Rocky Road ice cream

We always can find room for chocolate cake. This time we have rocky road ice cream topping the cake. Sort of a chocolate wipe out dessert when eaten all together. It was good. Bob got to take the rest of the cake and ice cream home with him. Good thing too, I have gained weight this summer! I love my sweets. Just a little too much I think.

Jack enjoys his cake and ice cream! (his wine too)

Here is Jack indulging in the cake and ice cream. He provided a nice bottle of red zinfandel wine for our celebration which you can see in the photo.

This was not a posed shot. Bob was just really into the cake...

So another excuse to get together, eat too much and drink wine! After all the eating, we retired to the living room and watched a good movie on DVD. We even managed to stay awake through the whole thing!

Happy Half Birthday Bob!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, August 29, 2008

Last Weekend's Harvest

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Herbs & Green Beans

A few quick photos of my harvest baskets from last Saturday and Sunday.

6 3/4 lbs of Dark & Light Green Zucchini and Yellow Crookneck Squash

I picked almost 7lbs of summer squash in just one day's harvest. My little raised bed garden has produced over 30 lbs of zuke and crooknecks this season! We are eating zucchini cake, zucchini parmesan, steamed zucchini, fried zucchini, sauteed and stir fried zucchini, pureed zucchini soup, raw zucchini in salads and sliced very thinly on sandwiches. I may make some zucchini pickles or relish and can it. I have successfully given a few squashes away to my massage clients. ("if you take some of my homegrown zucchini I'll stop poking you with my sharp elbow...")

Peacevine Cherry Tomatoes, Romas & Small Burbank Red Slicing Tomatoes

The tomatoes have finally started to ripen to their beautiful red hue. Usually by late June the cherry tomatoes are ready to pick. Not this year. And the tomato "worms" have had their way with my tomato plants and even munched on a few of my Romas. When I find a tomato worm (really the catepillar of a big ugly moth) I pluck them off of the green plant and give them to my chickens to dispose of. This year however, my hens have decided that they are vegetarians. They peck at the worms and then lose interest before eating them. Go figure. Maybe the old girls have decided to watch their fat intake in their advanced age.
Peacevine Cherry Tomatoes all washed and ready to eat

Fresh in salads & as snacks, dried and vodka soaked appetizers have been ways I have enjoyed these sweet little red gems.

Bunches of Lavender, Oregano & Mint Drying on the "High Tech" Herb Line

I dry herbs for seasoning meals, making teas and for use in some homemade bath products I am thinking about concocting. Not sure exactly what I will make yet. I am waiting for the creativity muse to inspire me.

Enjoy the summer harvest!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Birthday Was Last Tuesday

Beautiful Balloons

So now I have had 48 trips around the sun as of August 19th.

I had a very nice, quiet and relaxed birthday this year. I spent the daytime alone just putzing around the house doing whatever I felt like doing. I received calls and emails wishing me a happy birthday. I heard from friends, a few relatives and of course from my partners.

Traditionally in our family, we take the birthday person out to dinner at a nice restaurant for their birthday, but this year I chose to stay home and have dinner in. I was not in the mood for driving, parking, crowds etc. So on the evening of my birthday, Jack, Bob and I gathered at Jack's home to celebrate. Jack baked me a homemade chocolate birthday cake with cream cheese frosting, and Bob provided us with his famous home cooked fried chicken and mashed potatoes dinner. I made a light garden salad to go with the comfort food dinner. Oh, and there was ice cream to go with the cake too.

I don't usually post a bunch of photos of myself on my blog, but since it was my birthday, the other two had their cameras ready and snapped photos of me right and left. I had my eyes closed in most of them, but there were a few that turned out pretty well.

This is my photo log of my most recent birthday celebration:

First thing I saw when I entered the house was the beautiful helium balloons floating on the ceiling above the dining room table. See them in the photo above. The guys know that the little kid inside of me loves helium balloons, and loves all the pretty colors, so they surprised me with a half dozen assorted pearlized pastel colored balloons. They were so pretty and fun! I still have them, but sadly, they no longer float.

Then the next thing I saw was the dining room table covered in a pile of birthday presents of all shapes and sizes wrapped in brightly colored birthday paper.

Pile 'o Presents

Again, the guys know that I like all the assorted fun colors and shapes. My Mom used to go overboard with presents on each birthday and at Christmas time. Not necessarily expensive or big gifts, mind you, just a lot of them. She dearly loved to shop for and give gifts to those that she loved. So the tradition continues.

So I was handed a glass of my favorite Merlot and sat down at the dining room table while Jack got the cake ready for the "cake ceremony".

Here is Jack walking carefully towards us with the cake on fire with all the many candles:

Fire Walk ~ trying not to set off any smoke alarms

The "cake ceremony" involves, 1) cake, 2) flaming candles, 3) singing, 4) making a wish, and 5) blowing out the candles. The fellas sang Happy Birthday to me while Jack was walking the flaming cake over to the dining room table.

Here's the beautiful cake that was set before me:

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & beeswax candles

So I had to think of a good wish before I blew out the candles:

Thinking of Wishes

I took my time and thought carefully, and then all at once I blew really hard...

It was a good wish

I had two cameras pointed at me and neither one of them caught me in the act of blowing out the flames. (Also notice that my eyes are closed in both photos.)

Then it was time open the gifts. I started with the birthday cards:

A very nice card

My birthday cards held heartfelt wishes that made me smile.

Then on to opening those beautifully wrapped presents. Here's a sampling:

My new bio-dynamic gardening calendar book

Season One of my favorite TV show addiction ~ "Heroes"

I paused before opening this package to show off the fantastic attention to detail that Jack puts into wrapping his gifts. He takes special care to make sure the ribbons match the paper. Here I am pointing that out in my mock commentary voice to Bob across the table, making Jack laugh as I went on and on:

Look at that attention to detail

Neither guy likes putting the wrapping paper on the package, but both of them do fancy ribbon and bow work, each with their own unique style. Here we are highlighting the curling ribbon bow that Jack used on this gift. Isn't it fancy?

Fancy colorful bows and ribbons

I love their ribbons and bows because they are pretty and make the gifts look so nice, but also because I am a complete klutz when it comes to making bows. I am very good at putting the wrapping paper neatly on the packages, however.

This gift just looked edible and had to be tasted before opening it.

Trying to open it with my teeth!

And did I crack up when I opened it and found that Bob had given me a giant dry deli salami all wrapped in pretty flowered paper!

What a fun gift!

He had remembered me saying that I like those dry salamis that you see hanging in the deli section of the market, but I never buy them for myself because they are not that good for you. I will share it with both of them so I don't eat the whole thing myself.

Now didn't they get me back for wrapping that huge zucchini up for Jack's half birthday a few weeks ago? You bet they did.

Here's my pile of gifts after I had fun unwrapping them all. Jack made me pose for this picture:

They both went overboard on the gifts just like my Mom used to do. They are so sweet and generous.

Books, CDs, DVDs, appliance covers, kitchen ware etc.

After the cake ceremony and the presents, we all were very hungry for dinner. So hungry in fact, that not one of us got a photo of the delicious fried chicken dinner! So you will just have to use your imagination. It was really good.

After dinner it was time for birthday cake and ice cream.

Come on Jack, sit down so we can eat our cake!

Delicious cake with ice cream

I had a wonderful birthday shared with my two favorite gifts of all, Jack and Bob.



The gifts of love are the very best!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Garden Art

My Gardening Angel

One recent morning I was in my garden enjoying the green plants, the sunshine and my various garden accents that I call my Garden Art. These are just an unorganized collection of doo-dads that I took a liking to and purchased for myself or maybe received as a gift over the years. I decided to share them with you, my blogging friends.

Above you see one of my newer accents, my Gardening Angel, keeping watch over my broccoli and my chard plants. I do think she helps them grow strong and healthy. In real life, my Mom was, and still is, my Gardening Angel.

My Gardening Rooster

Also among the veggies is another newer color spot, my Gardening Rooster. He protects the basil and the eggplant from being overrun by the squashes. Yeah, right.

Sun Faded Sunflower

Moving away from the veggie garden and over toward one of my herb gardens, we find a much older art specimen, my Sunflower & Butterfly friends. The sun has faded her petals, but she still stands among the oregano and thyme to add her muted colors to the mix.

Metal Hen and Her Chicks

In the front weed flower bed there is Metal Mother Hen and her 4 little Metal Chicks contentedly pecking the ground for bugs and worms.

Metal Quail Pair

In keeping witht the metal bird theme, also in the front bed near the porch stairs, I have my Metal Quail Pair to greet my visitors and make me smile each time I see them.

Hummingbird Solar Garden Light

Also in the bird family, and located in between Mother Hen & Chicks and the Quail Pair, is one of my pair of Hummingbird Solar Lights. These were a birthday gift to me from Hardware Bob a few years ago. They work well to brighten up the walkways at night.

Venturing onto the porch itself now, we find several frogs engaged in various activities.

Frog & Dragonfly Rocker

The first is the animated Frog & Dragonfly that rocks back and forth in balance except when the wind blows them both over with a loud clang. They were a gift from Joggin Jack's daughter many years ago.

Tiny Frog Windchime

The photo above shows what is left of my tiny Frog Windchime that lives in a potted plant. The windchime part fell off long ago, but the frog part is still cute.

Ceramic Frog Pot Waterer

This cute little froggie was a gift from Joggin Jack about 2 years ago. I spied him at a summer festival and Jack got him for me. When I fill his mouth with water, he slowly waters the plant in the pot in which he sits. The frog, not Joggin Jack.

My Favorite Windchimes

Still on my porch it's time for some aerial scenes. First above, are my favorite windchimes. They are tuned chimes and sound so beautiful when the breezes blow.

Bird Feeder and Waterer

Then my bird feeder and waterer made by a local artist who lives very near me. The birds love to visit and eat the seeds, drink the water and make a huge mess all over my porch.

High Tech Herb Drying Line

My favorite artsy garden art shot of the day is a close up view of my Herb Drying Line which is strung between two porch posts. It is functional and fun. I enjoy seeing the bunches of herbs hanging there through my screen door in the summer. The overhang of the porch awning protects the drying herbs from rain and from too much direct sunlight. Every now and then I replace the heavy duty twine that is the line. After awhile the sun weakens it.

Summer Harvest Basket

The real art in my garden is shown above in one of many ever changing versions of my Summer Harvest Baskets. Nature is the real artist around here.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In a Pickle!

Yesterday I took some nice National Pickling Cucumbers that I harvested from my garden

Pickling Cucumbers washed and ready

and sliced all 6 1/2 pounds of them

Sliced Cukes

along with some onions and mixed them together in a bowl with a lot of salt. I then covered them with ice cubes 2 inches deep and allowed them to rest in the fridge for 4-5 hours. After their salty cold rest I brought them out and started to make their sweet pickling syrup using the pickling "software" shown below:

Pickling spices, sugar and vinegar

Below is a shot of the pickling "hardware" (see also the "jar lifter" in the above photo, a very necessary tool)

Measuring cup, ladle, wide mouth funnel, cook pot and canner

After boiling the sweet pickle syrup for a few minutes I added the vegetables into the syrup pot and carefully brought the whole thing back to a boil. At that point it was time to fill and seal the hot jars and place them into the canner for their hot water bath. Processing them 15 minutes for sweet pickles at our elevation of 3000ft.

Canner filled with pickle jars at full boil (lots of steam on a hot August night!)

I am now the proud producer of 9 pints of beautiful homegrown and homemade bread & butter pickle chips. I don't always get a really good harvest of cucumbers, so it pleases me very much to have a heavy crop this year. I love to make them into pickles as well as eat them fresh. Some years I have enough to make Kosher Dill Spears too.

Bread & Butter Pickles ~ 9 Pints!

Now I need to hide them from Hardware Bob as he is addicted to sweet pickles...

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket