Friday, August 11, 2017

Garden of Chaos

Heihei survived a fox attack, now she takes nobody's flak.

Garden of Chaos

This is King Snow. He has to go.

Garden of Chaos

Oh, but he is handsome. On his head, there is a ransom.

Garden of Chaos

Eggs every day, cooked every way.

Garden of Chaos

Wisteria finally climbing, such peculiar timing.

Garden of Chaos

Morning Glory vines compete, wants to cover fence complete.

Garden of Chaos

In back, thanks to soil so loaming, every which way squash are roaming.

Garden of Chaos

Squash blossoms curled like fingers, soon suddenly zucchini lingers.

Garden of Chaos

Mother says, "Quick! Go on, now pick!"
Before too big, get that squash!
We'll take it in and we will wash."

Garden of Chaos

Hidden deep we then find, a pure white pumpkin beneath the vine.

Garden of Chaos

When it comes to all our carrot, we're not so sure we want to share it.

carrots of chaos

But zucchini we have way too much, best give to friends for soup and such.

zucchini bowl

And now so patiently we wait, for tomatoes red enough to plate.

Garden of Chaos

And sometimes we all start fights, for who gets carrot-picking rights.

Garden of Chaos

Oh, here is something I did sprout, to make our beloved sauerkraut!

Garden of Chaos

The dog looks up and says, "No beef? In this garden full of leaf?"

Garden of Chaos

But look! I grew onions right from seed. They have been a pain to weed.

Garden of Chaos

Finally tomatoes blush so red, canning salsa lies ahead!

Garden of Chaos

Infant in all the flora and fauna, buds future eggplant parmigiana.

Garden of Chaos

Here a pretty cabbage grew, I captured it with pretty dew.

Garden of Chaos

If plump and orange this pumpkin plan turn, he will be our jack-o'-lantern.

Garden of Chaos

Now see how grows our morning glory, this the end of our garden story.

Garden of Chaos


Cheers,
Heather

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jalapeño* Crack Puff Corn (*optional!)

Are you ready for the most addictive, amazing, easiest snack you've ever tried?! It's like puffs of toffee with a hint of heat on a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

The jalapeño is optional. You can make this without any heat, and it will be just as addictive. There's even a few variations I'll list at the end, because you can really do so much with additional flavors.

So we were visiting a friend at his work recently and we toured a nearby boutique with him because he knew I'd love it, the kind with all the crafty vendors, and on sample was the most AMAZINGLY ADDICTIVE snack I've ever had. I bought two bags. Then we went back a few days later and bought two more bags. But they weren't cheap, and so I realized that if we were going to keep enjoying "crack corn", that I needed to learn to make it myself.

But believe it or not, this is one recipe that Pinterest hasn't kicked around the world five times over yet. It was a little hard to track down the right way to do it, and no one had recipes that included jalapeños. I had to trial and error it and figure it out myself. So here I go...here's my recipe:

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Even finding the puff corn was a bit tricky at first. This is NOT popcorn. It's like what Pirate's Booty is made out of. But you want to get either plain unflavored, or butter. Either will work just fine. But I couldn't find it at regular grocery stores around here, like our Kroger store. I eventually found two varieties at Walmart. Either Great Value or Chester's. Just don't buy the cheese flavor. Unless you're into that kind of thing...

Also needed is baking soda, butter, jalapeños*, corn syrup, and brown sugar.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

It's easy as pie, you just melt 1 cup of butter with 1/2 cup of corn syrup and 1 cup brown sugar.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

If you like a hint of heat with your sweet, chop up two jalapeños (seeds discarded of course) and toss that in there too.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

This will give you MILD heat. Trust me, it's not much at all. You can even add more pepper flavor by tossing a bit of a green hot sauce in there. It's up to you. I like a lot of heat, but my kids are still sensitive to it.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Bring it to a boil and boil for two minutes. When two minutes is up, add in one teaspoon of baking soda and stir it in. It will foam up on you, this is good. This is what we want.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Pour it all over the puff corn, which you should have ready in a roasting pan.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

And toss it really well to coat.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Pop it in the oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. IMPORTANT: toss it every 10 minutes or so until it's done. The caramel will drip to the bottom a bit, and pieces left up at the top heat will become darker with a toffee-like finish if it's not well tossed occasionally.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

When it's done, immediately turn it out onto wax or parchment paper on your counter. It cools quickly, so break up any large pieces stuck together pretty quickly.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

And then watch it disappear.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Or, before it has a chance to disappear, bag it up cute to give it away. I gave it as teacher's gifts at the end of our homeschool enrichment program year.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

It makes a great gift. In fact, it's better to give it away before you can inhale it all yourself. Because you will, if given the chance. You will.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

I mentioned flavor options so here are some I've seen that might be just as yummy as jalapeño!

- Sea salt, lightly sprinkled on at the end while cooling
- Sriracha, a squirt or two into the melting butter and sugar
- Cinnamon sugar, tossed on at the end
- Maple, syrup or extract added during the melting butter phase
- Toffee, let the stuff bake a little longer, tossing a little less
- Peanut butter, google this, because I know I saw it somewhere

OR, just go plain old caramel flavor! It's delicious either way. The crunch combined with the melt-in-your-mouth puff corn is such a treat.
Jalapeno Crack Corn

RECIPE:

8 oz puff corn {Great Value brand is 4.5 oz/bag, so just shy of two bags is perfect}
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 jalapeño, diced (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Pour corn puffs into roasting pan or large oven safe dish.
2.  Melt the butter, sugar, and corn syrup together in a saucepan. Add the jalapeño while melting, and any additional desired hot sauce. Bring to boil and boil for two minutes.
3. Add baking soda and stir in until combined and foamy. Immediately pour foamy caramel all over puff corn. Toss well to coat as much of the puff corn as possible.
4. Bake puff corn in oven for 30 minutes, tossing every ten minutes until done. Pour out onto parchment or wax paper and cool, breaking up large pieces stuck together.
Enjoy!

Cheers,
Heather

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Confession: I want to be a photographer now.

I am a portrait photographer wannabe. 

Lark & Lola Photography

After our trip to Orcas Island last fall, Justin decided it was time to update our camera. We replaced our trusty old Nikon with a more compact, mirrorless Olympus E-M5MarkII. Three lenses is all I have to work with, but I have my heart set on another one, a Panasonic 42.5mm I tested out last week at Mike's Camera. Doesn't everyone want more bokeh in their life?

Lark & Lola Photography

The other day my girlfriend's daughters came to stay with us for a sleepover, and since said girlfriend recently had a birthday, and since I'm always looking for cute kids to hone my photography skills on, I sneaked them over to the Museum of Outdoor Arts at Fiddlers Green to shoot them. With my camera.

I hope you don't think it's pretentious of me to add watermarks to my photos already. But I've had people steal my photos and reproduce them before, so for photos going on my blog like these, it's a small deterrent. 

violet headshot

Not those kids, those kids above are mine. These pretty girls below.

Sisters

I keep looking at their photos and thinking how I could have done more in Photoshop to perfect them. I suppose photography is very much like painting, you can mess with it until the cows come home, but there has to come a moment where you decide, I've done enough.

Sisters

These girls are my kids' besties. And they were SO GOOD about being dragged around and photographed. I say it was a gift for my friend, but really it was a treat for me. I love photographing babies and kids. 

Sisters

Anyway, after Justin got our new Olympus, I've been slowly accruing other photography supplies. I have a basic lighting kit. I got Adobe Creative Cloud {basically, ALL the Adobe programs, from Photoshop to Lightroom to Dreamweaver} for an affordable monthly fee {thanks to them recognizing homeschooling families as educators}. I would still like to get some backdrop kits, a light meter, and a couple other lenses, but...

Sisters

All this to say, I sort of love photography. I have for a while.

Lark & Lola Photography


But as of now, I'm considering working toward making a little bit of a career out of it. Maybe.


P6092860 

Above is the unedited JPEG version of this photo that my camera does automatically, and below is the edited version of the RAW format after I photoshopped it. What do you think? Too much blur?

Lark & Lola Photography



I just have to master camera settings {I am so left-brain-dead} and more photoshop skills.
Also, finding a decent printer, because Walgreen's and Mike Camera's print services aren't cutting it. I'm thinking of taking classes, if I can find an affordable one. 
Any tips? Do you think anyone would pay me a beginner's fee for photos like these? 


And I do worry about things like colors being off. I just calibrated my computer screen. You should too. Make sure you're seeing things right, you know? That first one at the top is one of my favorites.

Happy Spring,
Heather
{Did you know it's still Spring?}

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Luther



This morning while the kids were entertaining themselves, I found myself drawn back to my bed to finish waking up {the struggle is real} while I checked out the news and weather. My cat, Luther, was there on the bed. He is pretty much every morning. And night. And day. 

As I passed him, I reached out to pet him. My heart sank. He was bony skinny, and so suddenly. I swear two days ago he wasn't like that. His collar was loose, his vertebrae protruded and he was weak. The most troubling part, if you know my Luther, is that his meow was pathetic. 

Luther was born almost 13 1/2 years ago to my cat, Luna. I watched him be born in my bedroom. He was in a litter of 3. The other two were blah gray tabbies. But Luther was a dark, almost black tabby. He was huge compared to the other two. And he was LOUD. Right from the start. While the other tiny blind kittens gave pathetic "mews" Luther was alerting the neighborhood with his loud "WAAAH!!!" 

He still to this day has a loud, grumpy, whiny "WAAAH!!!!" 

Of the three kittens, I kept Luther. Gave him a fitting name, after the theologian, based on his temperament, and he's been a part of our family ever since. Never gave us a bit of trouble other than a bad attitude and demands for pets every morning. 


I called Justin and told him Luther was wasting away all of a sudden. Justin thought it was because he'd moved their food dispenser up to the counter in the basement laundry room so the dogs would stop raiding it. Maybe Luther hadn't been able to find it for a few days? Sounded reasonable enough. 

So Justin stopped home on his lunch break with fattening wet kitten food and Luther did eagerly eat some and I thought, well that's that! Poor guy was just really hungry and hasn't eaten a proper in a couple days. 

But as the day dragged on, I began to feel in my gut that something wasn't right. Calories weren't perking my Luther up. Feeling a little silly, I finally did the kids hair and loaded Lu up in his cat carrier and headed off to a new vet everyone has been recommending on Nextdoor. {Our regular wasn't returning my calls.}

I was pleased with the facility and that they take walk-ins. 

I won't beat around the bush. The vet asked the basic questions while he palpated Lu's tummy. He then told me he felt a mass in his belly about this {he held his hands up making a baseball sized circle} big and thought it'd be wise to x-ray. I agreed, x-ray away!

About 5 minutes later, the vet came back in the room and turned on the computer where an x-ray immediately filled the screen. 

"Well, first of all," the vet said. "The x-ray revealed a pellet in Luther's abdomen."

I tried to make sense of that right away, What's a pellet exactly? An owl pellet? What?

The vet went on to explain, they see this sadly too often. Luther had--at some point in his life, who knows when--been shot by a pellet gun. 

Sadness flooded me. I looked at my sweet cat, resting peacefully on the exam table. Who would do that kind of a thing to someone's pet??? Who treated "my boy" that way??? I was so sad. I started to cry. I'd never noticed any injuries on him. Luther knows how to use the dog door, but most of the time he stays inside, content to either eat or sleep on my bed. "Someone shot my cat?" "Yes, at some point. Who knows how long it has been there. Obviously it hasn't caused much trouble and is far enough away to seem unrelated to the mass, so I wouldn't worry about having it removed at this time."

But it got worse. 

The x-ray also revealed a decent sized mass in his abdomen. Near or in his small intestine. 

I mean, you have to assume cancer. Luther is around 70 years old in cat years. It was probably bound to happen some time, if he lived long enough. 

Justin showed up around this point, off of work now. We had to decide. 

Do we try and get a better idea of what it is with an ultrasound? But that was $500. 

Do we assume it is lymphoma and put him on trial drugs or see an oncologist for chemotherapy? But that is such a long shot and expensive and we don't even know exactly what the growth is, and he's 70, so how long will be really be extending his life and what quality will that life be on drugs?

We decided for the option that would give us the most answers. We felt we owed old Lu that much. He's been a part of our family since before our family was founded. Exploratory surgery tomorrow {Thursday}. It's twice the cost of the ultrasound, but still very inexpensive as this popular vet is well known for their low pricing. I've been Googling, and some people say their cat's exploratory surgery cost $3,500-$5,000! 

But we'll get more answers. The vet will either be calling me to say the growth was found and successfully removed and we could pick up Luther the next day and await biopsy results, or he'd be calling me before finishing the surgery to tell me it was impossible to remove. The latter would mean I'd be making a decision whether or not to wake Lu back up, or to let him rest in peace and avoid a drawn out death. Luther loves eating. And drawing out a death by cancer in the stomach would mean his life would be void of that one joy that is food. 

So I already know what my answer will be. 


And either way they will biopsy and test the growth so that we'll know for certain what it is. 

But still, we're praying that the vet will call after removing the growth, and that maybe Luther might still have a bit more time left to annoy me in the morning with his demands to be pet and have his chin scratched. 

I just want to leave this, though, with a thought about animal companions that has already been on my mind lately...

I was recently studying the life of David in the Bible. David was said to be a man after God's own heart. But David sinned when he took the beautiful Bathsheba for himself, and had her husband killed in battle by putting him on the front lines. 

David didn't really feel bad about this until he understood his sin through another man's loss. Just go with me on this:

2 Samuel 12:1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

 Anyway, David saw what he'd done, that it was just like what the rich man had done to the poor man and he felt bad about that. But that's not my point. I somehow took comfort, in light of our recent mass animal losses, in reading this and seeing that the Word of God acknowledges our possible bonds to our pets. One might think, it's a sheep in a world of starving hurting people, who cares?

But David cared. And David, remember, was a man after God's own heart. So you can be sure, when you're grieving the loss of a pet, that even though it's just a pet and not a person, God cares. I take comfort in this, yes I do. The Bible does not mock that man when it says that ewe was like a daughter to him.

I believe He made companion animals for our benefit and joy. And I'm so thankful for Luther, that he has been my annoying morning companion for so many years.

He's at the hospital and I'm missing his presence on my bed. I'll miss him in the morning. I feel bad that I used to get annoyed at his head-butting me for attention in the morning. I hope he gets to head butt me again.


Heather


P.S. The rich man who took and killed the ewe = the person who shot my Lu with a pellet gun.



Blogging tips