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Sunday, July 29

A Naturewalk With the Huntsman

The children in our neighborhood came across a rather large spider yesterday.  They were keen to "squish" it, but I talked them out of it and put it into a large mason jar along with a bit of lettuce stem from our container garden.  After a bit of research I determined that it was most likely a breed of Huntsman spider. 


His leg span was wider than the mouth of the mason jar.

 Doodle Bug wanted to keep the spider as a summer pet, much the way we had kept a pair of female wolf spiders last summer.  We had fed them crickets and watched as their eggs sacs hatched and their babies climbed on their backs.  We soon let them go into my mother's garden and they were on their merry way.  I decided that our Huntsman would not be comfortable in that situation due to his sheer size.



So this morning Doodle Bug and a friend of his went on a leisurely nature walk with me where we let the Huntsman go.   

Doodle Bug saying goodbye.

Our Huntsman is a little hard to see, but he's the leggy grey blob in the grass.

We spent the rest of our walk exploring along side a creek near a cabin we spend the autumnal equinox at most years. 

Ground webs around a telephone pole.

Leaves of a sassafras sapling.

A hole in an old tree that insects seemed to be living in.

Doodle Bug and his friend Jazmine conquering a stump.

Beautiful image of splintered wood.

Noble tree roots.

The kids spent 20 minutes throwing rocks into the creek.

Doodle Bug's back side as he scouted for stones.

Bright red berries.

Doodle Bug throwing a dead branch in the creek.

An odd face in the broken root of a tree.

Large stones alongside the creek.

The kids wasted no time.

Doodle Bug offers "peace".

Berries growing along an old stone wall.

A very hairy plant.

An oddly curved stem.

A ring of moss.

We found a funnel web spider!
Mulberries along the stone wall.

Doodle Bug practicing his swing.

He didn't want to give me a smile... he was playing too hard.

A shady part of the creek.

Beautiful saw-tooth edging on this leaf.

Doodle Bug peeking through a natural hole in an uprooted tree.

We had a lovely time! 


Saturday, July 28

A New Book in the Mail!

When I lived with my mother, I was constantly renewing this book from the library there. 


"A Slice of Organic Life" is just the most visually stunning book to me.  It outlines perfectly how I wish I could live my life.  She offers a glimpse into raising chickens, growing an orchard, making chutney, collecting rain water, making your own paint from milk, using cloth diapers, training fig trees.... just all sorts of things.  And it's not just instructional, every project has excellent full color photo spreads.  I used to devour it for hours, imaging my life in a big house with sprawling gardens and goats yapping.  

Alas, I am far from that life-style, but as a pre-baby gift I ordered my own copy so that some other frequenter of the library could have a turn at loving this book.  

Let me share a small smattering. 









The New Baby's First Portrait


Doodle Bug drew me with a baby in my tummy today.  :)

Friday, July 27

Tomato Puff Tart

By Lammas time ripe tomatoes are beginning to emerge from the garden.  Kids think they're fun to pick and my son is no different.  Doodle Bug enjoys harvesting tomatoes immensely... hunting out the most vibrant shades of red and twisting those plump juicy fruits from the vine... perfection!


He brings armloads to my attention, his face beaming.  I can't help but thank him for the tomatoes, encouraging him to find more.  But now comes the hard part... using them up. 

We are not a tomato family at heart.  We don't often care for spaghetti sauce or chili or other tomato-based sauces.  I love fresh tomato in a sandwich or in my omelets but canned sauces aren't appealing.  The only thing that sells my guys on tomatoes is huge amounts of cheese.  If we eat tomato sauce, it's usually Vodka sauce or some other rosa sauce. 

So why do we plant them?  I have no idea, but now we have tomatoes.  Big ones, little ones, over-ripe ones, half green ones...  TOMATOES.

If you can get your hands on Puff Pastry dough, try out this pizza-like tart.  It's simple enough that kids of all ages can make it and yummy enough that you don't have to worry about left overs.

TOMATO PUFF TART

Ingredients:
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2-3 tablespoon olive oil [extra virgin if possible]
  • 2 5inch sprigs fresh basil [1/8 teaspoon dry basil]
  • 2 5inch sprigs fresh oregano [1/8 teaspoon dry oregano]
  • 1 5inch sprig fresh marjoram [1/8 teaspoon dry marjoram]
  • 1 5inch sprig fresh thyme [1/8 teaspoon dry thyme]
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed [1/4 teaspoon garlic powder]
  • 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes

Tools:
  • Rolling Pin
  • Pizza Pan
  • Pastry Brush [little fingers will do]
  • Small Glass Bowl
  • Cutting Board
  • Paring Knife
  • Oven Mitts

This is a visually stunning as well as aromatically stimulating treat for children to make.  The feel and smell of the herbs as they crush and tear them is something to be savored.  If you have the opportunity to use heirloom or colored tomatoes, I encourage it as the vibration of summer's harvest is perfectly reflected there.


1.  Remove 1 sheet of puff pastry from it's paper package and set out in a clean space to thaw.

 
After about twenty minutes, it should be flexible enough to unfold.  If you leave it folded as it fully thaws, it is almost impossible to unfold as the dough melds together.  It may crack when unfolded.  It will not mend, but this is not the end of the world. 




2.  When the dough is completely thawed [about 30 minutes], it's time to call the kids over.  Tie back your child's hair, put an apron or backwards flannel on them and scrub those hands.

3.  Preheat the oven to 375*.

4.  Dust your table or countertop with flour.  Lay the pastry down and help your child to slowly and evenly roll the rolling pin over the surface of the dough.  



Thin is good for this crust as it tents to "puff" just like it's name suggests.

5.  Help your child to lightly fold each corner of this pastry towards the center.  It makes it easier for picking up.  Then put it on the pizza pan and unfold.


6.  Your child should now take all edges and roll them in a bit.  If you're anything like me, your dough is squarish and your pan is round.  I just stretched and tucked my corners into the edging.  It should look something like this when done.
 

 
7.  Next comes the oil and herb part of this dish.  At this point my son abandoned me as Neverland beckoned to him.  And I can't blame him.  Dressing up like a pirate beats cooking anyday!
 

 
 
Drizzle the olive oil onto the dough.
 

 
 
8.  At this point, the oil needs to be spread everywhere, even the rolled edges.  I like using a pastry brush, but when Doodle Bug does this, he just uses his fingers.  It feels unique and I think Doodle Bug would spread this with his elbows if I let him.  


 
9.  If you are working with fresh herbs, you lucky-duck!, have the children pull the leaves from the stems.  Let them tear the herbs up, rubbing the texture of the leaves with their fingers and enjoying the scents of each plant.  Put everything into the small glass bowl.  
 
10.  Show your child how to peel the skin from the garlic cloves.  Open the garlic press and insert the clove and squeeze the dickens out of it, into the same small glass bowl.  If you lack a garlic press, place the cloves on a cutting board.  Take a can of veggies or soup from the cupboard and let them smash the cloves with that.  Most children find this way more preferable... I find the garlic press cleaner.  
 
11.  Using pinched fingers, sprinkle the mixture of garlic and herbs over the entire puff pastry.
[Sorry, I didn't snap a picture of this step.]
 
12.  Now add the cheese.
 

13.  Wash your tomatoes.  Help your child slice them into manageable chunks.  For us, this tends to be slices, but really, you can let the kids mutilate them any which way.  It's all edible.



14.  Cover the cheese as much as they want to.  



15.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Due to the thinness of this tart, it cools relatively quickly and so can be dug into almost immediately.  Slice and enjoy!