Monday, August 26, 2013

Picture of the Week

I took these photos in my backyard early one morning.  A small stream of sunlight was pouring down through the trees showing off the beauty of summer.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Spider Tale

Chapter 1

   Ok, you are going to think I'm a pure lunatic - I don't know, perhaps I am.  Maybe I'm strange, a nerd, weird-o, kooky.    Really, I'm pretty sane.  But what I am is a teacher(for real) a bit of a science geek, biologist, zoologist, entomologist, farm girl, country girl and critter lover.  That includes bugs, insects and arachnids.  Now, I will confess that I do not want said spiders crawling on me and I was known to let out a blood curdling screech many years ago when a tan spider the size of a watermelon - ok, maybe not that big- was crawling up my collar after a war with the weeds in the garden one summer.  I just find nature and all of it's buzzing, crawling, creepiness  and crowing animals, ah... interesting. And so that is  the lead in to my story, which has now evolved into two summers.
     So, last summer I find on my foyer floor a very large black hairy spider with green eyes and white markings.  She  had apparently hitched a ride on some beach towels drying on our front porch swing.  Enter my alter ego the entemologist me.  I grab a peanut butter jar and instantly she has a new home for the night.  My  intention was to research her a bit just to see what she was and educate the family on her lifestyle.   I really was a teacher for 14 years before I had my children so the teacher in me is constantly setting up rituals such as these to "teach" my three boys about the world.
     After very little research we found out that she was a female Daring Jumping Spider.  Jumping is the operative word here, remember that.   Later that evening we decided we had better try to feed her something.  That was a great excuse to catch the flies that the boys let in the house.  So the first fly gets nabbed and into the jar it goes.  Within seconds that spider pounced - hence the jumping part- on that fly and held on for dear life.  As it turns out they enjoy the feast and leave the carcass.  Many more flies and light buzzing moths followed that night.  Seeing this as the teachable moment, the next day I fixed up a nice habitat in one of our many aquariums meant for this purpose and in she went - for the rest of the summer.  Which meant we were on bug catching duty for a couple of months.  Here's an internet photo of a Daring Jumping Spider.  It's a better shot than any of those I took.


Daring Jumping Spider

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Picture of the Week

                                                       AWWW, need I say more?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fabulous Tomato Eggplant Bake

     Here it is mid August and the tomatoes are starting to pile up.  I never have enough at one time to can but I end up popping them in the freezer and using them in chili and spaghetti sauce over the winter.  I also had an eggplant that I wanted to use as it was on the verge of turning brown.  So I searched the internet and found some other tomato eggplant bakes but they were just plain boring!  I was looking for a bit more pizazz so I came up with this recipe.  My 15 year old son ate 75% of it!  That's when I knew it was a winner!

Fabulous Tomato Eggplant Bake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

4 large tomatoes sliced in 1/4 - 1/2" slices
1 medium eggplant in 1/4 - 1/2" slices
1 large onion sliced paper thin
1 Tbl. salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic crushed
1 Tbl. fresh basil
1 Tbl. fresh parsley
1 Tbl. parmesan cheese-the powdery kind in a jar
dash of pepper

Drizzle after baking

1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbl. fresh basil
1Tbl. fresh parsley
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 Tbl. balsamic vinegar
6-10 kalamata olives(to your taste)

feta cheese
shaved parmesan cheese

Slice the eggplant, layer it in a colander and sprinkle it with the salt.  Set this in your sink to sweat and drain.  This will eliminate some of the water in the eggplant.   Let sit for about a half hour.  In the meantime, slice your tomatoes and onions.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, herbs, garlic, parmesan cheese and pepper.

Time to layer the vegetables.  Start with a tomato.  Next to it add an onion slice.  Now add an eggplant slice.  Now another onion slice.  So your rhythm will go like this...tomato, onion, eggplant, onion, tomato, onion, eggplant, onion, tomato...Layer all of your slices until you use them up.  I ended up with three rows of slices.
      Drizzle your olive oil mixture over the veggies.  Bake in the over at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until they just start to brown on the top.

While this is baking, let's make the drizzle that tops it off.  In a bowl, combine all of the drizzle ingredients.  Add a bit more olive oil, if you would like.  Let this set and ferment while the veggies bake.
      Once your vegetables are lightly browned, remove them from the oven and drizzle the Drizzle mixture over all of the slices.  Use a brush to spread this around.

Now top the whole thing with feta cheese AND shaved parmesan cheese to taste.  Oh WOW!  This is so yummy.  I could eat only this for dinner!

Variations.  I'll probably make this a few more times this summer.  These are the variations I'll try out.
I'll cut some thin fresh mozzarella cheese and/or zucchini to layer between the slices.  The next time, I'll chop some marinated mozzarella balls and top with this instead of the feta.  I'll still include the parmesan.

So give it a try and let me know what you think.  I tend to alter recipes to our taste so add more garlic, take out the basil, top with different cheeses,  whatever gets the job done for you.  Either way let's use up those tomatoes and enjoy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Picture of the Week

               My what big teeth you have, my dear Alpaca.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

New Family Members

   We have contemplated adding goats to the family for several years now.  We finally gave in!  We are now owners of two Nigerian Dwarf doelings.  They were 9 weeks old when we picked them up a few weeks ago.  To say they are too cute is simply an understatement.  That's the breeder in the first photo.

Now here they are at our home.

"Ivy", our tan/white darling is the alpha goat .  She is the first to dig in to the food, the first to greet us at the door and quick to give "Willow" her new sister a butt if she feels like it.  She has blue eyes and is "polled", which means genetically, she has no horns.

     "Willow", our black and white baby is still quite timid.  She is slow to warm up but if seated on your lap is content to enjoy some cuddle time.

We watched the goat showing at the fair this year.  I'm hoping the kids will be interested in showing these gals next year.  For the time being, though, we are just enjoying their antics and affection.

We found the cutest kids play house on Craigs List for them to stay in.  It needs a paint job as the children who previously owned it showed off their artistic talents with a wild paintbrush.  Inside, there's plenty of indoor graffiti announcing the names of little girls allowed in the house and those who are  banned(even little girls can be snarky), but  it's the perfect little home for them.

     Now, I wonder if we can talk my husband into getting alpacas...