Monday, December 14, 2009

Winter Greens

We have a few things growing in the garden right now. I am amazed at how little sun gets to the back yard during this season. Either I forgot, or just never noticed, that the winter sun is so low in the sky that we hardly get any sun. We have also had tons of rain this season and everything is soaked, always. Most things we planted in the late summer are doing well though.

Here are the collards, some cabbage and brussels sprouts.

Chard, onions, and garlic.

Dino Kale--my favorite.

We are proud of the broccoli this year. It is the best we've ever grown with nice thick, tight heads. The broccoli fresh from the garden has an unbeatable flavor. It is another one of my favorites.


The cabbage is still growing. We haven't harvested any yet. We are waiting to see how big it will get. This is another crop that is growing better this year.

This is a new bed down in the bottom of the yard with some chinese cabbage that we bought as starts from a local nursery.

We love our broccoli:)

You can see from some of the pictures that we've put up our row covers again. It has only dropped below freezing one night but we are covering the plants some nights even when it is not freezing just to keep them warm.

Daniel is still making and applying gallons of compost tea every week. Ellen and Arianna are usually out there helping him mix and pour. If anyone wants a more detailed list of ingredients or directions for compost tea let us know.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I'm back with a new camera

I got my Christmas present a few weeks early this year. Instead of replacing the old point and shoot digital camera I decided to upgrade to a digital SLR. I'm so excited and can't wait to explore all the options on the new camera.

The girls  asked to take the first pictures so here's a sample. You'll have to pardon me for the next few months. I'm sure I'll be posting lots of pictures as I figure it all out!

Here's the Christmas village we inherited from my grandmother and the girls love setting up every year.

Here's our Norfolk Island Pine that we use for our Christmas tree every year. I asked Daniel and the girls if they wanted a bigger tree this year, but they shot the idea down and looked at me like I was crazy! They love this tree. I do too.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanks Jennifer King

Here's some photos from the Nutcracker taken by my friend Jennifer. Going to see the Nutcracker has become a family tradition. This year we went with a group of friends to see the show put on by Carolina Ballet.  Both of the girls really want to audition for this production next year. Arianna said that all she wants for Christmas next year is to be in the Nutcracker. She has already started practicing some of the moves.

Here they are all dressed up for the event.

True smiles.

They were all so excited and had been talking about it for days. They loved it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

No photos to post

Last week we went to see the Nutcracker, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Daniel's beautiful family in Charlotte, and we came home and put out all the Christmas decorations. Those are all things I would have blogged about, but...

My camera is completely gone now. Daniel tried to take it apart but we can't even get inside the lens to attempt to fix the problem. I found out that it will be at least $175 for the local camera shop to take a look at it and that is more than the camera is worth.

So, I may be taking a bit of a break from blogging. I should be getting some pictures from friends and family that I can post soon. I might be posting things that don't need personal photos, or I might just use this time to take a break from the blog. I do need the extra time to search for the perfect camera!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vegan Tofu Spinach Lasagna

I found a new recipe for veggie lasagna. This one from is from  The Vegan Table (by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. © Fair Winds Press 2009). This lasagna turns out beautiful and it is very versatile. I change the recipe a little every time depending on what veggies I have in the fridge and in the garden that I want to use. I usually saute onions and mushrooms and add that in one of the layers. I also like to use roasted eggplant in another layer. In addition, I use 1 large bunch of fresh greens from the garden (kale, chard, or collards) instead of frozen. One other thing I do is add a hefty sprinkle of nutritional yeast to the tofu mix. The recipe says to put tofu in blender and process until smooth, but I don't like to dirty extra equipment so I just mash it up with a fork and it turns out fine.

I brought this to a potluck where we were the only non-meat eaters and it was a big hit. Everyone loved it (especially my kids who ask for it often) and a few people asked me, "What makes it taste so cheesy?" They didn't realize that the white stuff in the middle was tofu.  Don't be nervous about making this veggie dish--you are going to love it!

Vegan Tofu Spinach Lasagna

1/2 to 1 pound (225 to 455 g) lasagna noodles
2 packages (10 ounces, or 280 g, each) frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 package (16 ounces, or 455 g) firm tofu (not silken)
1 tablespoon (13 g) granulated sugar (optional)
1/4 cup (60 ml) nondairy milk (such as rice, oat, soy, almond, or hazelnut), or as needed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 peeled garlic cloves
Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons [30 ml])
2 tablespoons (5 g) minced fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
1 teaspoon (6 g) salt (or to taste)
4 to 6 cups (980 to 1470 g) tomato or pasta sauce of your choice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; (180 degrees C, or gas mark 4).
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions or use "no-boil" lasagna noodles. Drain and set aside.
Squeeze as much water from spinach as possible and set aside. (If using fresh spinach, blanch first.)
Place tofu, sugar (if using), milk, garlic powder, lemon juice, basil and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. The tofu "ricotta" should be creamy but still have body.
Transfer to large-size bowl, and stir in spinach. Continue tasting until you get amount of salt just right.
Cover bottom of 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles (use about one-third of noodles). Follow with half the tofu filling. Continue in the same order, using half the remaining tomato sauce and noodles, and all remaining tofu filling. End with remaining noodles, covered by remaining tomato sauce. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until hot and bubbling.
Add meatless meat crumbles to your tomato sauce for more texture and body. For more cheesiness, add shredded nondairy mozzarella cheese to each layer.
This recipe is also great for making stuffed shells. To do so, stuff pasta shells with the tofu ricotta from this recipe, place them in a baking dish, pour on tomato sauce and bake in a 350 degrees F (180 degrees C, or gas mark 4) oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Kruidenier Visit

Daniel's siblings are spread out across the country so when one of them comes to Charlotte we try to make it up there to see them. Stephen, Daniel's younger brother, lives in Los Angeles and we hadn't seen him in 2 years. I think California has been good to him:) he looks great!

Here's Daniel and Stephen.

We had lunch at Grandmother Gail's house. Here's Daniel, Stephen and their sister Anna with the girls on the couch.

After lunch we took a walk around the lake and relaxed outside enjoying the beautiful Fall weather and some good quality family time.

The cousins had fun playing together outside. They stopped running around for just a minute to take a picture!

I love all my in-laws and I feel lucky to be a part of their family. I read on a blog or something where the author referred to her in-laws as "in-loves." I think that is more appropriate in my case too!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies and Egg Substitutes

This chewy chocolate chocolate chip recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen is the best tasting and easiest recipe I've tried in a while. The cookies turn out absolutely delicious and only take 10 minutes to bake and about 10 minutes to mix.

I'm not going to post the entire recipe since it is all at the website I posted above, but I will say that it calls for ground flax seeds as an egg replacer. I have used this substitution before except usually recipes say to add 1 tablespoon of ground flax to 2 tablespoons of water. This one uses 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of flax combined with 1/2 cup of soy (or other alternative) milk.

I read in another vegan baking book (The Joy of Vegan Baking) that in order to get the best results when using this kind of egg replacement it is important to really mix/whip/whisk whatever you are using. For example, you can use a whisk and stir for 2 minutes or what I like to do is use my handy-dandy stick blender for a minute or so.  Since I started using this technique I have noticed a change in the consistency and texture of my muffins, cookies, and cakes.

I'll leave you with a quote and this link  for a nice article on vegan baking substitutions from Post Punk Kitchen.
However, like a bad boyfriend, they (eggs) can be replaced, and with pleasing results.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Alley cats in the garden

I'm combining more Halloween photos with a garden update. I got my camera working again thanks to Do it yourself digital camera repair blog. I'm afraid it's a temporary fix so I sent Daniel and the girls out to take some pictures while it was working yesterday.

The garden is just beautiful these days. Daniel works hard out there and his work is paying off extremely well. We are still eating from these huge eggplant. (Arianna is holding one of the smaller Japanese eggplants but we have the globe variety also.) The lacinato, or dinosaur, kale that is in the front of this picture is so big. We have been harvesting from it for about a week now and loving it.

The cats are hiding behind the lettuce that are providing fresh salads every day!

They are standing in the middle of the garden and you can see the large broccoli that is forming some nice little heads. The cabbage is in front of them. The tall plants with stakes behind them are our second try at tomatoes.

Collards are in front of Arianna and lupine cover crops just starting out in front of Ellen.

Here's the whole crew dressed up and ready for trick or treating last night. We enjoyed a lovely potluck before heading out  in  our friend's neighborhood in the 78 degree temperature. Thankfully it was not raining yet, but we were all sweating by the end of the night! I love the South.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Spooky Halloween Story by Ellen

First of all, my camera broke this week and so Ellen has been taking pictures with her camera for me. I also wanted to post this story that she wrote for her writing class. She came up with it all by herself and I helped her with spelling and punctuation. They had been learning about how to write conversations and spent last week sharing Halloween stories with each other in preparation for writing their own. We carved pumpkins last night and this is a picture of hers. She hasn't come up with a title yet but here is her spooky Halloween story.

One October evening on a Halloween night I was getting into my costume for trick or treating. My parents and sister were across the street talking to our neighbors. When I was done getting dressed I suddenly heard the back door creek open. I went to see what it was. I saw nothing but I heard a deep scary voice. It said, "Follow me." I asked, "How can I follow you when I can't see you?" He told me "follow my voice!" So I followed his deep voice. While me and the voice were walking I was trying to think who or what this voice was. I thought that it might be a ghost. But before I could think about it any more the voice said, "We are here." I looked up and there towering above me was what looked like a haunted house. It had creepy vines winding in and out of windows and bats flying around the top. I asked, "Do I have to go in there?!" It said, "Of course you have to go in there. Isn't it beautiful!" I thought, "He is definitely a ghost!!!!!!!" Then suddenly I found myself off the ground and sailing through the air. Before I knew it I was in the haunted house! A witch had carried me through the air and set me down in the Haunted House.

It was very creepy inside. There were spiders hanging from slimy walls. I saw vampires making evil potions. I saw skulls all over the ground. Four vampires were sitting around a table drinking blood. They said, "This blood is good! Come have a drink with us!" I said, "No thank you," and I walked on. Soon I came to a big group of ghosts watching tv. My Halloween costume was an alley cat. When they looked at me they thought I was a real alley cat. They whispered, "Here Kitty Kitty." I don't have any idea why, but I went to them. Then suddenly a werewolf chased me out of the haunted house and back to my home.

So, if you don't want to see a real haunted house with creepy things inside it never listen to a scary voice on Halloween.

Monday, October 26, 2009


The girls had the flu last week, or at least that's what I think they had. First Arianna started feeling bad with a headache and fever, then she got nauseous and started coughing. She was sick with a fever for about 3 days. Ellen came down with the exact symptoms 2 days after Arianna and had it about 4 days. I watched them closely and kept them home to rest. I gave them these natural remedies:

Starting from the left, I gave them echinacea and elderberry syrup. They are both immune boosters and elderberry is specifically good (studies show it shortens duration) for colds, flu, and bronchitis. Then there are the vitamins--the regular dose of multivitamins and the zinc and vitamin C combo for extra immunity support. I also gave them an assortment of homeopathic remedies. We also sat outside in the sun for Vit. D and had them drink tons of water. I told them to drink water even though they weren't thirsty. I believe that probably helped them more than anything.

The girls really did not like taking all these remedies, or drinking all the water. It is nice that they are old enough to understand that when you're sick you just have to do things you don't want to do. I'm not sure what if any of these things helped them get better. I'm just glad to be through it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Renaissance Festival

Last week we drove to Charlotte for the Carolina Renaissance Festival. We met up with our good friends who drove in from Chapel Hill. The girls were so happy to see their old friends and they had a wonderful time together. This was our second trip to the Ren Fest. The last time we went was 2 years ago. I was a little disappointed in the "educational" aspect of the event. Between the rides (which all cost extra money) and the circus type shows (that were taking tips) there wasn't much room for learning about the Renaissance time period. For example, the falconry show was really good but it was more like a zoo program. They told us all about 3 different beautiful birds of prey but didn't talk about how they were used or related to the Renaissance theme. Here's a picture of the great horned owl who was amazing to see anyway.

I loved all the musicians that were wondering around. They would stop and play a tune and then speak to us in accents and language that was appropriate for the Renaissance time period. The costumes were all beautiful of course.

The jousting tournament is always really well done. They are all dressed up in armor and the king and queen are there presiding over the event. The crowd is very involved and cheers for the knight on their side.

The other entertainment was certainly a lot of fun! Here are all the girls on the camel ride.
This juggler guy had chosen Arianna and her friend Rose to be a part of the act to hold spinning plates.
I didn't get a picture of the man powered rides, the maze, or the other circus shows. The whole event was worth the trip this time although I don't think we'll go back.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall break Topsail Island 2009

This was our third year in a row to spend Fall Break at a NC beach with our good friends Lesley, Jason, Alder, and Heath. The weather was perfect--warm enough to play comfortably in the water with beautiful sunny skies. We shared a small house at the end of the island where we enjoyed wonderful home-cooked meals together and had a blast hanging out talking and laughing late into the night. We spent 2 full days playing (well, Daniel played but I was mostly relaxing) at the beach. Our girls LOVE the beach and stayed out running, swimming, building as much as they could. We saw an amazing rainbow after a quick rain shower on Saturday night. It really was a perfect way to end a perfect weekend. I've put together a slide show but the pictures are out of order and the captions don't make as much sense. Missing Les and Jason and the boys already...

A little more background to the story--Lesley and I have been friends since her family moved to Baton Rouge when we were in the 6th grade. We went to highschool together, were roommates in college, and bridesmaids in each other's weddings. I am so thankful for her friendship and that our husbands/families get along so well together. We are separated by a few states for now but I'm hoping to be living a lot closer one of these days. Annual beach trips will have to do for now!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fall Garden 2009

We are growing a lot of the same things that we did last year but we've added lots of new stuff to the soil. Over the past few weeks, Daniel has added many bales of hay, another load of free wood chips, and a load of municipal compost to the garden. All the plants in these beds we started from seed indoors a few months ago.
Here is a batch of compost tea brewing. Daniel made and applied 2 batches to the garden so far. We were inspired by this gardener in Alaska who sells tea brewing kits and grows amazingly huge veggies. Here is the youtube video about his product--we didn't buy it but made something similar of our own.

The lettuces are looking beautiful and just about ready to harvest.

This is the biggest cabbage we've had. Still has a bit of growing to do.
Here is a bed of kale that has been hit hard by slugs.

Here is a close up. Once Daniel figured out what was destroying these greens, he started going out "slugging" after dark with a flashlight (picking off the slugs). There has been a lot of caterpillars on most of the greens so he's also been on the lookout for those guys during the day. He also sprayed some BT, an organic pesticide. A few of the transplants didn't make it but most of them are starting to come back with new leaves.
Here is a bed of lacinato kale that we've already been harvesting from. In the back of the row are the huge eggplants that are still producing. Behind the eggplants are a few small brussels sprouts that you can't see.
Here's broccoli.
Collards, sweet potatoes and other left over summer veggies.

Our weather is finally cool enough so we can enjoy a fire in the evening. It was a nice way to finish our weekend.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More reasons for a Plant-based diet

William Kruidenier posted an article on his blog a few days ago about cancer and a plant-based diet. The article that he is talking about explains that there are highly respected doctors who believe that a plant-based diet can stop and reverse cancer along with many other diseases that we are facing today. I do a lot of reading on blogs and veggie websites that point out the many benefits of a vegan diet, but it is not often that information like this is published in the mainstream media. You can read his blog entry here.

If you want to take five minutes to read the full article on the Huffington Post, here is the link for the article by Kathy Freston A Cure for Cancer? Eating a Plant-Based Diet. You can find her other article on transitioning to a plant-based diet from that link also.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Dog Party

Ellen wanted to have a potluck/sleepover party to celebrate her birthday this year. We invited our group of friends to come over Friday night. They all brought vegan side dishes to go along with the big pot of chili that I made for dinner. (I had separate dog bone shaped pb and js, tings, and fruit for the kids.)

We have a tradition of making a pinata for every birthday party. I posted instructions here last year on how to make a pinata with kids. I got this year's design from a picture of a puppy pinata online. The girls and I started on it about 2 weeks ago and worked on it a little bit every few days until Friday morning. The girls wanted it to look like our dog Blue and I think it came out pretty nice! Ellen said next time she wants to make a simple pinata so that we don't have to destroy something that we love:)
The kids played dress up, watched the movie Hotel for Dogs, played in the dark on the trampoline with glow sticks, and stayed up late. Most of the kids/families left between 10-11pm. We only had one sleep over. They've been playing quietly all morning.

I love having parties mostly because I know how much the kids enjoy it. They have the best time with all their friends over. There are toys everywhere and I've washed a ton of dishes, but it is all worth it to see those big smiles on Ellen's and Arianna's the entire time.