Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Links : The Alphabet

The alphabet, she inspires me.
And even though I have a leg up in that department, here are a few prime ways for everyone to have fun with all 26 letters.

Small fabric scraps can be used make a fabric alphabet, which is not only a fun learning toy (I love these big letters for toddlers, or smaller, magnetic ones for new spellers), but the letters can also be clipped to a ribbon and used for a birthday banner or bedroom name bunting.

You could also make a leaf alphabet. It's just about the perfect craft right now if you live somewhere with changing leaves. I have always appreciated creative alphabet books, and this project reminds me of Eric Carle.

Another thing that might be fun to attempt on your own, Garret Steider created a food alphabet, with prints available to decorate your kitchen and entertain your guests.

If you aren't in a crafty mood, but would still love to decorate with letters, whip out the cardstock and try these well designed free printables!

Finally, this fantastic alphabet montage might just shoot creativity straight into your mind.

More alphabet fun:
homemade alphabet pretzels 
 food alphabet on etsy
animal alphabet on etsy
whimsical German alphabet on etsy

(And if you're in the mood for reminiscing, why not watch everyone's favorite giant yellow bird being ridiculous? If you didn't watch Sesame Street as a child, this video is a very important part of your cultural education.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Gardening in the Land of Ever Growth


I told you about the Indian peppers already.

But they are not the only thing growing while we slack off on our tending. You see, gardening in the
"fall" here is a little different than gardening in Wisconsin in the fall.
Our pumpkins and other squashes were planted relatively recently, as were the root vegetables, because 
the weather was just too hot for them earlier. However, the exotics we chose are still growing with delight.


Beautiful, no?
We planted a row of these plants by the name of Thai Roselle for their flowers, and each plant turned into
a gigantic bush taller than us in all directions. The dried flowers are often known in tea as hibiscus (not the
same as the ornamental hibiscus) and turn herbal teas--like Tazo Passion, and Celestial Seasonings
Raspberry Zinger--purple and tangy. Well, all summer the flowers fell off, and we figured we would never
have a use for the giant bushes. But one day, a friend of ours from India noticed the plant and told us how
excited she was to see that we were growing gongura. 
And now that we have been taught to concoct Indian chutneys out of these tangy leaves we are pretty excited too.
However, with the cold nights we have been having, the flowers are finally persisting to maturity.


And these leaves?


Okra. A local favorite.
These were our first five, and we fried them up for a crunchy cornmeal dinner. But, I do have a very good
 recipe for something more interesting (and spicier) to do with okra that I will be sharing shortly.


Yes, our vegetables are in that pecan tree.
Getting them out was a group effort, as you can see, but getting them in was the work of one man...
I'll let you guess who.
This particular handsome fellow trained our Sweet Honey Sponge Gourds to grow up this particular tree
 because we like to do fun things with our gardening. And having edible gourds hanging higher than a pruner
or fruit picker could reach really was entertaining. 


If you think you're not familiar with sponge gourds you are probably right and wrong. Because, while you
may not have eaten them as a vegetable (like a looser, sweeter echo of a zucchini), you probably have seen
them sold in the bath section by their other name, loofahs. If we let them grow past the young tender eating
stage, they gradually grow more fibrous until they are ready to decompose, and then everything except the
fibers falls away, leaving a spoungey gourd skeleton (which usually needs to be washed, and sometimes left
 to sun bleach).
I have been using one of our grown loofahs instead of a plastic "poofah" lately and I have been quite happy
 with it. Though mine is smaller and has finer fibers than the ones at most stores.


Also in a tree, I found this spider.
I have never seen anything like it before!
I would assume he is well defended from birds.


Out of the trees and into the yard, we have also found crawfish, who like to wander especially after a rain.
And don't worry, we didn't take this one's portrait and then eat him.
He is another creature we set into the wild.
And isn't he just perfect at posing? He didn't even need to be told to look at the camera.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beneath the Clemson Spineless...a Tiny Turtle.


A couple of months ago, when we were uprooting the old amaranth bed, we found a dozen of what we thought were snake eggs.


We relocated them under the okra, but I forgot...and when I went to plant the spaghetti squash I found this little guy.


The last one to hatch. 
I think the fire ants scarred him a bit, and may have gotten to a sibling or two.


He was groggy, until I put him in the water.
Only a puddle really.
Then he swam like the expert he was born to be.



We set him free.

Thursday, October 6, 2011



I have been staying overnight for field work during nearly all weekdays since August began, so Nathanael and I have been making the most of our weekends. On one of the first weekends in August we decided to drive around a bit and see some of the Acadiana coastal areas. Egrets are everywhere, but we also spotted many Louisiana Herons (above)...and since seeing Herons fly always makes me think of dinosaurs, it was great. We also snuck up on some Roseate Spoonbills (of which I did not snap a picture), and I was very excited to finally see pink birds in person and in the wild!
Flamingos are next I tell you.


Sabine National Wildlife Refuge turned out to be a lovely place to wander, as it is home to marshland creatures galore. Unfortunately, amongst the flying wildlife, mosquitoes were the ones who seemed to mind the 100 °F heat the least, so if you visit, wear long everything. 
(And no, we did not see any alligators, but we know they were around somewhere.)


We had planned to swim when we got to the ocean. 
It is the same Atlantic, technically, the same ocean as the lapping the beaches of New Hampshire, but instead of being hypothermic in the summer the waters are actually quite warm here. Unfortunately, that warmth and the fact that the Missisippi River drains here means all of the beaches have bacterial warning signs... permanently installed (though they have hinges and can be closed if the levels drop).
 Also, the water is brown. 
So now we know why the beaches of Florida and Mississippi are well known and those in Louisiana are not; everything west of where the Mississippi River hits the ocean is virtually unswimable.


But, it's fun to be at the beach anyway. Especially with a friend like this.

If you look carefully, all of those little nubbins on the horizon are oil rigs. (Click for a closer look.)

Apart from wildlife and waters, the structures on the Louisiana coast were also neat to see. A prime example being the Johnson Bayou Library in Cameron Parish.
I love libraries, and this one would have been especially hard to resist if it hadn't been a weekend.


Who wouldn't want to visit a library with a clearance of nine feet and six inches?

Once back to more inhabited areas, we went out for a date of po-boys and followed it up with dessert at this place...


I got a butterfinger malt.
(Nathanael was looking more stylish than me, as usual, but I figured I should put one of me in here somewhere.)

On the weekends that we are home, we do still garden, though things have slowed down a bit.


Our Indian chili peppers have been doing amazingly well, and we've been harvesting 40 to 60 peppers each week from our three plants.


We have also let a few ripen so we can save the seeds for next years crop.
(The ribbon reminded us which ones we were leaving on the plant for seeds.)


The Zinnias are still growing nicely, and some of them are this unbelievably brilliant orange color that you probably thought was some kind of photo editing mistake...but no, that's really what they look like.
The Zinnia plants have mixed with the weeds in the front of our garden and created what is pretty much a meadow facade covering a giant mass of underground kamikaze soldiers. Nathanael still risks his ankles and picks the flowers for me though.


He also makes me doughnuts.



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