Sprouts Away! And Other Updates

Sprouts Away! And Other Updates

Greetings, dear pond readers! This is yet another small, place-holder post to check in and wish you very happy unofficial start to Summer.

The 2022 Good News Garden is off to a grand start. The Wee Bairn and I up-cycled some containers to head-start seeds in addition to using a grow tray that was buried in our garage. I was not overly optimistic about the motley assortment of milk jugs, strawberry containers, take-out plastic boxes, and paper drink carriers that we assembled. For one thing, they fell over a lot, we didn’t exactly take care over how many seeds got into each one, and had to resort to a combination of twine and scrap cotton fabric to close the containers after running out of packing tape. It seemed a dubious beginning.

And yet, we have sprouts. The Good News Garden is filled with Grace once again. Everything in every unlikely container sprouted and the sprouts in the milk jugs and take-out trays look more robust now than the sprouts in the more “official” garden tray. Go figure.

Mighty Roma Tomatoes by E.A. Schneider

This year, I decided not to wait for the harvest to share the fruits of the garden. Because so many seeds sprouted that the Wee Bairn and I started together, there is no way we’ll be able to grow them all to fruition with the space we have. Bean sprouts were gifted to a neighbor. Basil and Roma tomatoes were gifted to a close friend. Bell peppers and still more Roma tomatoes were gifted to a coworker. I’m planning to put the remaining motley lot of sprouts in the ground and in more pots to share as gifts but we’ll see what happens. The Good News Garden is providing abundant inspiration and joy; gardening is going to be an adventure this year and I’m looking forward to sharing it here with you, dear readers.

Sowing More Seeds Together by E.A. Schneider

Summer is bringing with it more plans, more movies, more writing ambitions, more cooking adventures, more crafting ambitions, and my perennial quest to read more engaging books. I couldn’t be more excited. I recently submitted two of my stories for publication, started two more sewing projects, and saw the movie Belle which has fired my imagination up hotter than a firework. As usual, I hope to share more of these adventures here at the pond.

Tulips blooming by E.A. Schneider

What are your ambitions for the summer, dear reader? What are you most excited to view, read, or create?

Please, get vaccinated, wear your mask, wash your hands, stay well, stay kind, and leave a comment or question below. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program here at Technicolorlilypond, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Some of the links in this post are part of this program and I hope that any fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

Persevering

Persevering

Greetings, dear pond readers! I’m writing to you with a general update on things in my corner of the midwest. This winter was rough with illness and spring has continued in this vein. I’m declaring a win over my latest bout with infectious disease but with the quietest of voices so that the germs don’t hear me and change their plans.

2021 Blueberries on the Wee Bairn’s Blueberry Shrub by E.A. Schneider

Bulbs are coming up. Grass is beginning to green. The soil looks invitingly black and rich. My inner terrier wants to dig and root and inhale deeply of the rich scent of earth. I keep eyeing the garden centers in my area looking for signs of stocked greenhouses. Already I have read and reread my seed packets to sketch my 2022 Good News Garden alongside my Wee Bairn. My spouse laughs lovingly at us for being a pair of Mr. McGregors scolding the naughty bunnies who have eaten the Wee Bairn’s blueberry shrub to a lone, resilient stick and bisected multiple bulbs we planted with their incisors.

Mr. McGregor is not the only literary character on my mind. I keep thinking of Frog and Toad looking for Spring around every corner together in Frog and Toad All Year. That story is one of my very favorites and I love that I can share it with the Wee Bairn. Side by side we hurry to every plot we dug in 2021 to check for green shoots launching upward to the sky or remains rejected by naughty bunnies with picky palettes. It has smote my sore chest every time the Wee Bairn wants to linger outside to plant flowers and fruits only to be told again for the 47th time not today, not yet.

Watching Wildlife Through the Window 2021 by E.A. Schneider

Nevertheless, spring is coming. Seeds will go in the ground. Some will germinate and thrive and some will not. No matter what, it will be an adventure and I’m glad that I can share it with my Wee Bairn. In keeping with the Good News Gardens principles of plant, pray, and proclaim, I’m keen to chronicle our 2022 adventures here again. I’m having fun coming up with ideas to plant seeds and head start them effectively using up-cycled things like milk jugs, drink trays, and cardboard. We’ll see how successful I am in this but it will be fun.

First Bulb Sighting in the Wee Bairn’s Bulb Garden by E.A. Schneider

Speaking of fun, I’m happy to report that this is a big week for my E.A. Lawrence writing journey. I submitted a story to a lovely place this weekend, another story is still under consideration at another lovely place, and last night I found out my status in the NYCMidnight short story contest. Like so much this season, the news is bittersweet. The lovely place didn’t buy my story and the judges didn’t advance me to the next round of judging in the NYCMidnight short story contest. C’est la vie. The sweet part? The lovely place’s reply was encouraging and the NYCMidgnight judges gave me some helpful, constructive feedback on my story. I am heartened that I have some quality stories that just need to find the right home and I’m energized to look.

Frozen Dewdrop on Broccoli 2021 by E.A. Schneider

I’ve also been doggedly plugging away at another short story project that is due in May. Sometimes I write 10 words and reread what I wrote. Other times I write 250. Every time, I text one of my writing friends with a progress update to keep me accountable. I’m writing in my pandemic log and am on volume three. My area is littered with empty pen cartridges. Every time I think I’ve picked them all up, I or the Wee Bairn finds another. Even for as ill as I’ve been and I’ve been scary ill, I’m continuing to write even if it is only a little bit. The effort is a healing exercise. Getting the feedback I’ve gotten on my stories makes me want to seize my fountain pen and dive as deeply into the page as I can. I made a list of my drafts in progress and am cross referencing it with a table of upcoming publishing calls that look promising. I’m trying my absolute best to live up to my writing spirit animal. I sincerely doubt that I will finish all of these stories, at least to my satisfaction, but pondering the possibility gives my arrector pili¬†muscles the good kind of electric boost.

Lake Michigan Spring Snow by E.A. Schneider

The Wee Bairn has also been helping me cut out fabric and started their first hand sewing project this weekend. While sharing certain fabrics from my stash with others was met with protest, the magic of seeing shapes of fabric emerge from the Accuquilt Go was a thrill declared to be the most fun thing ever by my preschooler. I always appreciate this accolade. Of particular interest was the sight of the fabric we used to make a scarf together for the Wee Bairn. The idea that a single fabric could be in both the scarf and be cut into squares for something else for someone else was a fascinating notion to my preschooler. I’m glad. That concept has always been poetic to me. Rattling around in my heart I think there is a fairy tale on the subject but it’s still growing.

I might post these pictures again when I do my post about all my recent sewing projects but here are pictures of the scarf that the Wee Bairn helped me sew. Not only was my Presser Foot Operator on the case, we collaborated on feeding the flannel and minky fabric through the machine. Turning the scarf right-side out was also a source of great excitement and interest. The scarf has become something to cuddle and use as a lasso on the parents more than something warm to wear but that’s okay; we had fun making it together. I pray that someday my child and my future in-laws will be the happier for these early experiments in creativity and making useful, lovely things.

Spring is around the corner. It’s up to us to persevere and get there. Hopefully, this finds you well and healthy and dreaming of pleasant adventures. Are you creating? Writing? Taking pictures?

Please, get vaccinated, wear your mask, wash your hands, stay well, stay kind, and leave a comment or question below. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program here at Technicolorlilypond, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Some of the links in this post are part of this program and I hope that any fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program here at Technicolorlilypond, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Some of the links in this post are part of this program and I hope that any fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

Epic Plushie: How I Made A D20

Epic Plushie: How I Made A D20

Greetings, dear pond readers! At last, I’m writing to share the epic journey that was completing another D&D toy for my future DM, my own Wee Bairn. Being a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, I’ve used my crafty skills to make a few D&D projects. I’ve made a cloth Player’s Handbook, I’ve made a cloth d20, and now I’ve finished an even bigger plush d20. The critical success? I did it with the help of the Wee Bairn. Bonus: minimal mess and no injury. Woo hoo!

When I finished the first cloth d20, I learned that the d20 shape really lended itself more to a squishy ball than a defined polyhedral when crafted in cloth. It was also a small squishy ball that was going to be quickly less magnificent in size as my Wee Bairn grew. While my Wee Bairn does still like the squishy d20 and remembers the fun of helping me stuff it, the child pretty quickly began pestering me for an even bigger one to play with. I’ve seen the large Ultra-pro plush ones in stores and other ones online but some of those look too round and black isn’t my Wee Bairn’s favorite color. It was time to get inventive.

I found a book called Geek Knits with some super cool projects in it including giant plush dice. The book is lovely and I am incredibly inspired to improve my knitting needle work. However, my rudimentary skills lack the stamina to make the d20 outlined in the book. I could however adapt the pattern to my skills as a sewist. I made my own equilateral triangle template out of cardboard using a protractor and the patterns in Geek Knits. Armed with a sharpie and scissors, I cut out 20 triangles from green fleece I found in the remnant bin on sale. It was fuzzy and washable. Then I cut out the 20 sides of the mini-rainbow d20 pattern that came with the red d20 plushie I previously made for the Wee Bairn. Armed with glue sticks, the Wee Bairn helped me glue each rainbow number to each green triangle. Surprisingly, we didn’t get glue all over everywhere.

Equilateral triangle fun by E.A. Schneider

I was still worried about maintaining the structure of the 20 sides. Pellon introduced a new stabilizer product that comes with a thin foam back called Flex Foam. This is probably going to be terrific for making purses and housewares but my first thought when I saw it advertised was d20. I traced my green triangles on the foam and cut out these layered triangles. Once again, the Wee Bairn helped me glue all the layers together. Happily, we didn’t get stuck together. With a preschooler, this is always a pleasant surprise.

Originally, I had planned to have this be the end of the Wee Bairn’s involvement until it came time to add polyester fiberfil. But the Wee Bairn had other ideas that were vocalized repeatedly: “I want to help you, Mommy! Please, I’m a good helper!” I’m never one to turn down help with crafting and for the sake of my future in-laws, I want to encourage handy participation in the Wee Bairn. Strict instructions to sit still and follow directions or else resulted in the role of Presser Foot Operator for the Wee Bairn. The following scene played out several times in subsequent weeks with the Wee Bairn perched on my knee and my arms wrapped around the cuddly human.

Me: Presser foot up, please!

Wee Bairn: I’m on it!

Me: Presser foot down, please!

Wee Bairn: On it!

Here are some pictures of the triangles in progress. We didn’t do all twenty together but we definitely did the majority. I was surprised at the attention span exhibited by my preschooler but it was probably really neat to see all the whirring gizmos visibly making stitches. Sometimes, we even guided the pieces of fabric together but not super often; I didn’t want any fingers getting incorporated into the project.

To stitch all those layers together, I used a Schmetz Universal needle. I also used all purpose thread and zig zag stitches.

Assembling the three dimensional plushie was definitely the trickiest part of the process. I looked at a bunch of pictures online, my previous d20 plushie, Geek Knits, and my own hoard of dice to get the layout just right. I also used a combination of large safety pins and basting stitches to piece the die together and was continually checking that the sides would line up. This part of the process took place during D&D games instead of anxiously scarfing down treats. The Wee Bairn’s contribution was asking every day multiple times a day if I had finished the d20 yet. That kind of accountability does help one focus. When I was sure I had the layout correct, I turned the die inside out so that I could finish the seams. Here is a gallery of these in-between steps complete with an actual D&D book from the game.

To finish the construction, I did sew some of these seams in the sewing machine. This required quite a bit of patience and upper body strength to maneuver the plushie under the presser foot. I broke multiple needles. A couple times, my Presser Foot Operator did step in to help but thankfully I was able to finish most of the remaining seams by myself. Turning the die right side out again, I discovered some raw seams where the Flex foam was visible but not as many as I’d feared. Using a long needle that was double-threaded, I was able to hand sew the raw areas closed during more D&D games. Here are some pictures of the finished empty plushie.

At last, it was time for the long promised role my Wee Bairn was anticipating: stuffing the giant d20 with squishy poly fiberfil. We used recycled poly fiberfil a friend gave me when something plush of theirs fell apart as well as scraps of torn up quilt batting but you could use any poly fiberfil or fabric scraps you wish. Knowing that this dice is destined for many hefty rolls, we stuffed it super tight. To close the opening, I had to use a curved hand quilting needle threaded with a four strand length of thread as well as a lot of upper body strength. This was the step where I pricked my fingers the most.

Finally, the d20 was complete. When my Wee Bairn went to bed one night, it was stuffed awaiting the final seam and upon the morning, there it was, ready for action. The delighted squeals and games of catch we played together were absolutely perfect even if I can’t say the same of every seam in the plushie. I’m okay with imperfection. Thankfully, the die is also still big enough to be a fun play thing with my growing preschooler for a while and it actually rolls on a side rather than being only a squishy ball.

As an artist, I’m pleased that this plushie looks recognizably like a d20 and it is very cuddly. Even though this was a labor intensive project and took me two years to finish, I could conceive of replicating this plushie with probably greater efficiency. We shall see. For now, it’s satisfying to see this beauty in my Wee Bairn’s hoard of toys and roll it together knowing that this was our collaboration. I want my child to know the joy of creativity and the satisfaction of making things; that was something my parents gave me. Every time we do something creative together, it is an extra special experience and I look forward to the next time even more.

Ready to Roll for Initiative by E.A. Schneider and Wee Bairn

What kind of projects are you working on with your family or friends? Are you exploring the world of Dungeons & Dragons or other RPGs?

Please, get vaccinated, wear your mask, wash your hands, stay well, stay kind, and leave a comment or question below. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program here at Technicolorlilypond, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Some of the links in this post are part of this program and I hope that any fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program here at Technicolorlilypond, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Some of the links in this post are part of this program and I hope that any fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

Survival Update

Survival Update

Good news, dear pond readers: I’m still alive. Things have been rough here for your favorite pond dweller in the upper Midwest because I fell ill with COVID-19. I’m writing today to talk about things I learned the hard way and to emphasize that being vaccinated saved my life. Please, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, talk to your doctor about getting the vaccine. You matter and I want you to stay alive. We’ve already lost 700,000-and-counting-too many lives in the United States and over 4 million worldwide.

Hanging In There Monarch by E.A. Schneider

I have been vaccinated for months and the vaccines saved my life. As an immune-abnormal person courtesy of my disease modifying therapy for my multiple sclerosis, I have been at increased risk of falling ill to COVID-19 this entire time. I wear masks. I watch my distance. I wash my hands. I don’t eat inside restaurants or go to movie theaters. I’ve cancelled or changed plans to avoid prolonged exposure to people in crowds. My doctor prescribed the third booster shot for me and I got my shot over two weeks ago. It went fine and I only had fatigue with headache as side-effects. The lack of side-effects made me nervous; I wanted my immune system to put up more of a fight. Then again, that’s why someone like me needs the booster. I was so lucky to get the booster. Here’s my happy action shot.

My main exposure risk is my adorable Wee Bairn who is too young to be vaccinated. Small children in daycare or school are the cutest disease vectors. As part of exploring the world and growing, small kids lick things, hug and kiss with abandon, touch everything then suck their fingers, and all manner of other germ-y activities as per usual every day. I always wanted to be the mom who encouraged eating dirt and licking the unknown to cultivate all the friendly microbes that make our life possible. At any other time, this gross behavior is actually a great thing for building up the immune systems and microbiome of children to make them infection-proof for a lifetime. But these aren’t ordinary times and children are more vulnerable than ever. This is precisely why schools need safety measures like mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations for staff; US states are all doing their own thing regarding mitigation measures like mask mandates. Unfortunately, the Delta variant of SARS-COV-2 is very effective at replicating and spreading. Even though my family did everything we could to stay safe and even though my daycare has rules in place that we followed, the virus found its way into our home and into our family. It was my worst nightmare of the last eighteen months and it wasn’t like what I expected.

Flower Remains by E.A. Schneider

At first, we thought it was a stomach flu. My child had only a low-grade fever, lethargy, nausea, and minor diarrhea. This cocktail of symptoms is familiar to parents everywhere, kids get it with a plethora of different illnesses. I got the mom-badge for being vomited upon from chin to toes. I’m over 90% confident that this vomit episode is how I got enough viral load exposure that I fell ill. Five days after the vomit day, my spouse fell ill and I fell ill the next day, day six post-vomit, which is the median incubation time for COVID-19. My kiddo tested negative but we swabbed over 12 hours after the low-grade fever broke and given the fact that children shed less virus, it’s plausible that the negative result was misleading. My spouse and I had the same symptoms as our kiddo but mine were more severe and lasted longer; we also had symptoms that aren’t discussed as much which our kiddo thankfully did not.

You know the symptoms we were on the look-out for with COVID-19? The loss of taste & smell, the shortness of breath, the high fever, and the persistent cough? Yeah, we didn’t have that. We got the stomach symptoms, the chills, the intense joint & muscle pain, the sore throat, the fatigue, and, bonus, we got really painful, spread-out skin lesions which is a less common COVID-19 symptom. Thanks to my abnormal immune system, I did experience a high fever with the chills, headaches, vertigo, arm numbness (thanks, multiple sclerosis lesions! I resent you so much), intense fatigue with weaknes, and my lesions were both more widespread and of longer duration than my spouse. I had legit COVID-toes and could not comfortably wear socks for a week. Because eating and drinking was so painful, I lost six pounds over four days. That is not how you want to lose weight.

My biggest regret is that we didn’t test our child as soon as symptoms of illness manifested. I was afraid of being too reactionary, over-using benefits, and causing unnecessary distress for my already distressed preschooler who had no cough, no COVID-toes, no high fever, and appeared able to smell scents. This was a mistake. COVID-19 has so many symptoms that it behooves us all to test any time you or a member of your household is symptomatic with anything. Hopefully, rapid at-home antigen testing will become more common and you, dear pond readers, will be better able to protect yourselves. Last week was extremely grim here with one sickly adult, one recovered but tired adult, and one very active preschooler all making do together.

Storm Clouds by E.A. Schneider

You know what though, dear pond reader? I survived. I was absolutely miserable and non-functional for three days and pretty uncomfortable for an additional six days after. Being ill for nine days at home is not bad. My vaccinated spouse was out of commission for about two days and felt better within a week. If I hadn’t had the vaccines, I would have had a more severe experience. The vaccines kept me out of the hospital and alive. My beloved better half stayed out of the hospital and alive. If everyone who can medically get vaccinated does so, we can change COVID-19 from a lethal threat to a seasonal inconvenience. If vaccination were more widespread, immune vulnerable people like me and my unvaccinated preschooler would be safer within the bosom of our vaccinated community and my beloved spouse would be, too.

Unfortunately, because our community only has 57.8% vaccination, we’re at risk. I’m terrified that my child will develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome and I’m worried that my fever combined with the immune response triggered by this infection will precipitate either a new MS relapse or the onset of yet another auto-immune disorder. The emotional toll of this experience continues and will take a long time to heal, if it ever fully does. I’m trying to focus on my blessings, practice gratitude, and work on self-care. This is helping but I think only time and prayer will mend my general anger at a community that feels indifferent at best and actively hostile at worst. Much like my MS diagnosis, I feel like coming down with COVID-19 has shown me some unexpected revelations and while I don’t think this is as watershed of an experience, it is definitely significant. This entire crisis I have managed to avoid compassion fatigue but now I feel like I’m experiencing some and I don’t like it. For far too many years, I’ve intermittently struggled with depression and this illness is pushing me back into that negative place. I don’t like that either. My knee-jerk reaction is to want to hide and lick my wounds away from others. It is important to draw boundaries and take time for oneself but social isolation can also be dangerous. Cultivating a balance of boundaries and society is going to be one of my challenges in the coming weeks.

Fall Color Sunshine by E.A. Schneider

Silver lining: challenges are something I’ve learned that I can handle. I’m not alone. I have my fantastic family, my splendid work colleagues, some truly invaluable friends, and my Faith. This is all a winning combination. Walking with my Wee Bairn and taking pictures together has also been a balm to the spirit. Whether its the endorphins from exercise or singing silly songs together or breathing in the energizing smell of dirt and leaves with my favorite small person, every walk has been delightful. Teaching my Wee Bairn to take pictures has been a continuing joy and it proved invaluable during my convalescence and now in my post-quarantine recovery as something creative we can do together that doesn’t require the intensive set-up and take down that a joint painting session does or lots of running/walking/jumping. The Fall Color Sunshine picture above was taken alongside the Wee Bairn as we listened to crows and wind blowing leaves into the grass. It was the most relaxing moment.

When faced with negative emotions, intrusive thoughts, and a persistent simmering anger at the forces and individuals prolonging this crisis, I have been working through this painful emotional soup with art because creating beauty from the maelstrom of pain is one positive thing I can do. I’ve been journaling, writing on a new story idea to make a deadline on my list, knitting, and I’ve been painting autumn decorations. Pelting unfinished wood with layers of acrylic paint until my hands hurt but the rest of me felt better has been satisfying. There are now little flecks of orange turning up in odd places in my kitchen but it’s worth it. My habitat is now brighter with autumnal colors and I’m excited that I still have more decorations to finish. I plan to post pictures of all the finished decorations but until then, here is a picture of two.

Autumn Decorations part 1 by E.A. Schneider

How are you coping with life, the universe, and everything, dear pond readers? Any new creative projects for fall?

Please, get vaccinated, wear your mask, wash your hands, stay well, stay kind, and leave a comment or question below. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program here at Technicolorlilypond, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Some of the links in this post are part of this program and I hope that any fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

Good News Cooking

Good News Cooking

Hello, dear pond readers! At last, today is the day I write about my adventures in cooking the harvest from my Good News Garden. I have cooked an old favorite, new favorites, a disastrous experiment, and learned how to pickle. I have also scarfed down sweet peas fresh from the vine and blueberries fresh from my small but lovely shrub after rinsing them off with my water bottle or the hose. It has all been a treat of an adventure and I even managed to get some pictures.

Mashed cauliflower is an old favorite in my household. The directions are simple: 1) steam fresh cauliflower 2) mash with room-temp cream cheese 3) season to taste 4) nom with enthusiasm. Yes, your kitchen will be redolent with cauliflower smell if you’re not prompt about cleaning the saucepan but the dish is delicious. This year, I successfully managed to grow and harvest a cauliflower head, praise be to God. I also harvested some tiny Yukon gold potatoes and tiny yellow onions. I steamed the lot altogether, mashed it with cream cheese, and spiced it with black pepper, ground mustard, paprika, and a hint of sea salt. There were no leftovers, only happy tummies.

A new favorite to our kitchen is radish-green pesto. I planted radishes this year as an experiment and it did not go as expected. Instead of getting neat little rosy roots, the plants all bolted and I got an abundant supply of greens. I looked up ways to use them and found this excellent radish-green pesto recipe from Love and Lemons. My Wee Bairn and I went over to my mom-in-law’s to use her food processor to make a giant batch of pesto. It turned out to be the best pesto that I’ve ever had and I really like pesto. I made a slightly more bitter batch with beet greens that I froze for later. A significant amount of fresh radish pesto was enjoyed as a dip with cheese and crackers in addition to pasta. The Wee Bairn even ate some! It was a miracle. In keeping with the Good News Garden principle of sharing the harvest, I shared the pesto with my folks and with friends. The beet and radish green pesto batch proved to taste amazing when mixed with feta or mixed into recipes like my vegan ratatouille. The vegan ratatouille also included onion and fresh tomatoes from the garden, too. Bonus, my friends’ child really liked the ratatouille, too. Huzzah!

Last year, my Good News Garden was blessed with numerous spaghetti squash. I was able to give a lot away but I also used a lot in creative kitchen experiment. I made a spaghetti squash casserole last year that I was super excited about because not only did my Wee Bairn help me make the casserole as official pour-er of veggies, cheese, sauce, and spice but said picky-eater actually ate it with gusto. It was a beautiful moment in time. Alas, I neglected to write the recipe down and I blame my post-dinner food coma. This year though, with my beautiful little spaghetti squash, I had to try again. Last year, I had layered spaghetti squash, spiraled butternut squash, spiraled carrot, and spiraled beets with a three cheese mixture under a red sauce with veggie meat crumbles, spices, and more cheese. I tried something similar this year but I didn’t have all the spiraled veggies. To compensate, I added veggies from the Good News Garden. I was out of red sauce and red sauce ingredients but had leftover homemade meat sauce from my mom-in-law and some meatless veggie sausages. I layered spiraled frozen butternut squash, spiraled frozen zucchini, my spaghetti squash, my green beans, my green peas, my broccoli, my Yukon gold potatoes, and one of my small yellow onions in a 9×13″ pan. I poured the meat sauce over top, layered on a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, a thin layer of beet pesto, the veggie sausages, extra cheese, and homemade buttered bread crumbs during the last six minutes. I baked the whole thing for 30 minutes total at 350F. The first night, the zucchini flavor was too strong but as leftovers, it was delicious with wonderful flavor bursts throughout as one encountered the different garden contributions. I liked it. The Wee Bairn declined to try any but oh well. At least now, I’ve written it all down.

Quiches and frittatas have long been go-to recipes in my kitchen, especially when entertaining. In celebration of getting to spend the day with family, I made a frittata with a garden fresh twist. I microwaved frozen spinach and layered it on the bottom of a 9×13″ pan. I layered two packages of low-fat/low-sodium feta cheese on top of the spinach then fresh broccoli from the garden, my onion, and some of my homemade beet pesto on top. I poured 10 beaten eggs over the mixture, a few more crumbles of feta, and some squirts of pureed basil on top before baking the whole thing for 45 minutes at 425F. My beloved little sis declared it the best frittata ever and we gobbled it up in very short order.

Best Frittata Ever

My kitchen disaster was a foray into making roasted cauliflower leaves. I’ve read that they’re delicious and similar to kale leaves or seaweed and thought I would try it with the remains of my garden cauliflower plant. This did not go well. I burned them into charcoal briquettes and managed to get the whole house to smell like dead cauliflower for far too long. At least I didn’t set the smoke alarm off.

So Many Cauliflower Leaves, So Little Skill at Roasting Them

A far better kitchen experiment this summer has been learning how to pickle. After watching an episode of Waffles and Mochi about pickles, my Wee Bairn, my spouse, and I were all fired up to try it ourselves with our Good News Garden harvest. I found this recipe for refrigerator pickles before I knew that Waffles and Mochi had their own magic pickle recipe. More pickle fun to try! Because I did not have seeds called for in the recipe I tried, I used powdered spices instead. We assembled the other ingredients for the refrigerator recipe, filled the jars as a family, and waited with bated breath for two weeks until Pickle Day. We packed the jars with sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, garden carrots, garden cucumbers supplemented with store cucumbers, garden onions, fresh dill, and the single beet that I had successfully grown. Stuffing a little bit of all the vegetables in the jars was super fun for all three of us. We made an event out of Pickle Day by gathering a cheese plate, crackers, and soup to enjoy the pickles with my mom-in-law. Turns out, we did great! The pickles were crunchy, flavorful, and paired well with our improvised charcuterie board. I think that I’ve found a new kitchen hobby to experiment with alongside my family.

Fruit is a favorite in our family and we were successfully able to grow some in the garden this year. The honeydew have been an experiment with mixed results. I grew two tiny melons roughly the size of a nectarine. They tasted bitter but made the kitchen smell delicious. My foray into growing blueberries has gone well. I bought a small shrub that had green berries on it which managed to hang on until they ripened. My Wee Bairn takes great delight in watering the shrub with whatever rain is in the nearby rain gauge and being able to turn 12 fresh berries into an evening snack for the two of us was elementally satisfying. The watermelons have been a particular source of excitement. One was stolen off the vine by some creature but two survived albeit at a small size. I didn’t know if they were big enough to eat or not but when the curly vine by the melons got brown, I took a chance and picked them. My mom-in-law cut them up for me and they tasted delicious. What a treat! I feel ridiculously pleased and profoundly grateful that we were able to feast on garden grown watermelon as a family. Fun fact, the Wee Bairn took the watermelon picture below and I’m chuffed to display it here.

I have ambitions to use the rind from my tiny watermelons to make watermelon pickles this weekend. We’ll see how it goes but even if it doesn’t turn out, trying a new kitchen adventure is fun. How is your garden going this year, dear pond readers? Any new kitchen experiments? Other creative ideas?

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I will close with an image of my asters blooming and helping my pollinator neighbors bulk up for winter. I’ve seen multiple monarchs and many bees sampling the asters and it is inspiring.

Fall Asters and Good News Garden Sign by E.A. Schneider