Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Garlic Scapes: A gardeners' secret - What are they and how to harvest them?

I did not know what garlic scapes were until this year. Last fall I planted some garlic in my garden and it has been growing so nicely this season. While learning about how to keep my garlic crop, I stumbled upon a few posts about garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are no more than the flowers of the garlic plant, which grow as a curly whimsical stalk - absolutely beautiful.  It appears that garlic scapes are really a gardeners' secret - they need to be removed early from the plants in order for the plant to concentrate its energy on growing the bulb and not the flowers and as an added benefit you can cook it and it tastes delicious!!!!!

How to recognize Garlic Scapes? Keep an eye on your garlic plants at the end of spring, beginning of summer (mine where ready to harvest at the end of June). You will see a long stalk with a whitish flower bud growing from the middle of the plant. The stalk will grow long and will start to curl.

You should harvest it by cutting it as close to the plant as possible when the stalk has no more than one curl. If you let it stay on the plant it will curl like a cork screw and will harden (although it will look beautiful it will be hard to eat - you can use them in flower arrangements).

You can keep your scapes in a glass of water in the fridge for a long time - you can also freeze them. You can make a variety of recipes with Garlic Scapes or you can use them as you would garlic (they do have a milder garlic flavor). For what I have seen the most talk-about recipes are Garlic Scape Pesto, Grilled Garlic Scapes and Double Garlic Soup which also uses Green Garlic.

I used mine in two recipes (click on the links): Double Garlic Soup and Beer Battered Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Garlic Sacpes and Bacon.

If you do not have garlic growing in your garden, you can find scapes at your local farmers market when in season.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Robin's Nest: Day 26 or day 12 since the birds' birth - An empty nest...

On Saturday morning there was a huge storm - I worried about the last bird that was on the nest. As soon as the rain stopped I went to see and found an empty nest.... I felt a bit sad and a bit happy as I know that nature has done its job, but I will miss the little birds in the nest. It is funny, mami Robin put 3 eggs, one each day for 3 days. And the 3 birds left the nest one each day for 3 days. In summary, the eggs took 15 days to hatch and the birds took 10 days to fly. Amazing!!!!

On Sunday, we were looking out the window and we saw mami Robin following another bird very closely. Soon we noticed that the bird being followed was rather big and chunky and did not fly very well - it was one of the baby birds learning to fly - It was so reassuring to know that they are well and still in my garden. I hope they stay!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Spanish: To speak or not to speak - That is the question!

I do know that I should speak Spanish at ALL times with the kids for them to grow up 100% bilingual, but I have found this "supposedly simple" task very difficult, and here is why? (Read my very lame excuses)
  • I am the only Spanish speaker in the household, neighbourhood, school - you name it!
  • I did not start early enough, so when I started the kids were already talking and they keep hitting me with the "I do not understand" phrase.
  • As they "did not understand" it was so much easier to do the "hard" conversations with them in English. Hard conversations do happen quite a lot with little kids - these are the ones you have when:
    • you are in a hurry - " we are already late for school, what do you mean you need to change again? really it does match!!"
    • you need to warn them about something - "don't touch that!" "stop running so far away from me"
    • you need to reprimand them about something - "why did you hit your brother?"
The excuses will always be there, so I am now trying to use a little bit more discipline (it is still hard though). I have started to do the "hurry conversations" in Spanish - it works, they get it or at least they know that Mami is rumbling madly in that crazy language so they better hurry up!

The "warning conversations" are still in English - so much at risk, so I will still yell "STOP" in the clearest loudest English I can possibly utter!

The "you are so naughty conversations" are still half and half. It all depends on how bad the action is that triggered the talk.  The naughtier it is the more English I use.

Now, there are the day to day conversations. I am definitely getting better at that - Still not perfect but as they say: one step at a time!!

I am going to try the " I don't understand" back at them this week and see what happens. Will certainly let you know.

To speak or not to speak? Speak is the answer!

Robin's Nest: Day 25 or Day 11 since the birds' birth - The second one flu away!

Today the second bird flu away. This time my husband saw him leave - so the mistery is solved, now we know the birds were ready to fly away. There is only one more - I guess it makes sense as Mami Robin put one egg everyday for 3 days. I am kind of happy that they are big enough to go, but I am also sad as I know I will miss them...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Robin's Nest: Day 24 or Day 10 since the birds' birth - One birds leaves the nest!

I do not know what to think. This morning one of the birds jumped out of the nest. I was in a hurry going to the office and it scared me - I took the tiny little thing who look just like a mini Mami Robin and put him back in his nest - I did not go up the ladder to check how many birds where in the nest. This afternoon, I went to take a picture and found only 2 birds on the nest. Where is the 3rd baby? it was there 2 days ago for sure. He could not fly in the morning, could he learn to fly in a day? I looked everywhere in the floor for him but found nothing... Should I be worried? Here are the photos of the ones that are still on the nest.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Raising Bilingual Kids - Rejecting my language and the beggining of trouble

I am not sure why my kids rejected the Spanish language to start with (I have my theories), but it all started when my boy was about 3. He was an early talker, so on our way to his pre-school, we used to play a game. I will point to a thing on the road like a tree and I will say "Arbol" and he will say "Arbol". It was all great. He was finally learning some words in Spanish, until one day I pointed to the tree again and said "Arbol" and he replied "Tree" and the conversation went something like this:

Me: "Arbol"

Son: "Tree"

Me: "Arbol"

Son: "Tree"

Me: That is not the right word, we are playing the Spanish game you need to say "Arbol"

Son (with a very matter-of-fact tone of voice): Mami, you speak Spanish, my grandma speaks Spanish, my auntie speaks Spanish, I am American and I speak American!!!

I knew I was in trouble right there and then. I needed him to know that we were not the only 3 people in the world who spoke Spanish and that Americans like him could also speak it too!

I put a mental plan into action. From then on we were to:
  • Only speak Spanish when we were alone (very difficult to do for me)
  • Always put Spanish radio in the car (very easy and it reconnected me with the music I love)
  • Enroll the kids in a Spanish school (choosing the right one was a challenge, but finally I found Language Stars)
  • Read more Spanish books to the kids
  • Change our Spanish Vocabulary car game to a "Veo, Veo" game (I spy)
I have been doing this for about 3 years now, and even though I keep breaking rule #1 and still speak more English than what I should, I have seen some results. They understand almost every command, and although they still reply in English, lately I have started to hear more and more unprompted Spanish sentences coming from them. I also see a big difference when they are with my mother who speaks very little English - when they are with her they speak: your guess is right!!! Spanish!!! Broken, grammatically incorrect, but Spanish nonetheless! I call that success.

Do you have any other tips I should follow?

Disclosure: I will receive discounted tuition from Language Stars as compensation for this post. However all facts and opinions expressed in this post are true and my own. Language Stars have not asked me to write about anything in particular, only my true and honest opinion about my experience with their program.  This post have not been edited by a third person.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Robin's Nest: Day 21 or day 7 after birds' birth: I can see the wings now!

I did not write yesterday as I did not see any major changes, but today I did. The birds heads are up up up all the time and when I got closer I saw the winds!! Full of feathers - almost fully formed. I have also noticed another Robin defending and watching over the nest, so I guess Papi Robin is also around - how nice is that?

I find it so fascinating that in such a short period of time these birds have grown so much - it is almost like they are changing in front of your eyes!

On turning 40...

Today I woke up a year older and realized I had a wonderful life so far:
  • 40 years
  • 27 countries visited
  • 20 different addresses I lived in
  • 13 cousins to play with growing up
  • 8 uncles and aunties
  • 7 different schools and colleges that I attended too
  • 6 cats
  • 4 countries I lived in
  • 3 lost loves (you know who you are)
  • 2 beautiful children
  • 1 loving mother
  • 1 unique popo husband
  • 0 regrets
and tons of really good friends!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Robin's Nest: Day 19 or Day 5 after the birds' birth: With eyes wide open!!

Today the birds opened their eyes for the first time. They continue to get more and more black feathers. They hold their heads up and finally I was able to catch a photo with Mami Robin on the nest. So you are in for a treat!

Look carefully and you will see the baby bird under Mami Robin

Mami Robin

Friday, July 15, 2011

Robin's Nest: Day 18 or Day 4 since the birds' birth - Their heads are up!

Today was the first day the birds were able to hold their heads up. I can now see their little heads from the floor. I was not able to take a photo as they quickly hide every time I get too close - so I had to use the ladder again. I will keep an eye to see if I may be lucky tomorrow. As you can see they are full of black feathers now. Mami Robin has an orange breast with black all around - so I guess at some point they will grow orange feathers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Robin's nest: Day 17 or Day 3 since Birds' Birth - From Pink to Black

I know it has been 17 days so I should be over my amazement! But no, I am still in awe. In only 24 hours this little babies change so much. Today they are black, yes black.... They were born pink, on day 2 they had a black vein and today they are black!!! They are also much bigger - you can see their full heads now. Mami Robin is such a good mama. Every time I go to take pictures she goes at me -  she chirps and chirps... telling me "you better stay away from my babies". I talk slowly and gently back to her to let her know her babies are safe with me but that I need just a photo to show the world just how beautiful they are! I hope she understands me.

From PINK:

to almost BLACK in 3 days!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Robin's Nest: Day 16 or Day 2 since bird's birth: Hello feathers!

Day 2 - Hello Feathers!!
The baby birds are 2 days old today and what a change!!! they now have quite a few feathers or maybe it is like a little fuzzy hair.... I can see a huge vein now through their skin. They are still very very small. Mami Robin is still there at all times, so dedicated!!! A proud mama indeed.

Here are the photos in a progression!

Wordless Wednesday: New Winter Game: Spot the Car.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Robin's Nest: Day 15 - The baby birds were born today!!!!!!!

This is SOOOOOO exciting!!! We had a huge storm yesterday and lost electricity for about 30 hours, so yesterday I checked on the eggs to make sure they were OK after the storm. Mami Robin was there and she made sure they were A OK! Last night we had to sleep with all the windows opened as we had no A/C (the nest is just under my bedroom window) and this morning we heard lots of chirping - lots and lots of chirping!!! so I quickly went downstairs, climbed up the ladder and found 3 BEAUTIFUL baby birds. They look so fragile, their skin is almost transparent and their eyes are closed and bulky and they have almost no feathers... Amazing!!!! I will be keeping a close eye on them in the next few days - do not forget to check in to see how they are doing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

If you like Arepas, you will LOVE Arepitas Dulces... they are just perfectly sweet!

Arepitas Dulces (Small Sweet Arepas) remind me of my abuelita (Grandmother). She used  to make me Arepitas pretty frequently. They are the sweet version of our Arepas. I loved the way they bubble up. That little piece of thin dough was so magic and still is. Here is my granny's recipe, passed to my mom and then to me.

  • Harina PAN (Corn meal flour - you can find it at ethnic markets)
  • Sugar
  • Canola Oil
  • Cinnamon (optional)
Before preparing the dough, heat the oil in a deep pot or pan. The oil should cover the Arepitas Dulces when you fry then. I usually put enough oil to be two fingers deep (Note: this is not a diet recipe!)

Prepare the dough as if you were to make Arepas (see recipe here).  Once the dough is soft, add some sugar to it - I recommend about 2 spoonfuls of sugar per cup of flour - but you can put more or less to taste.

(Tip: add a small ball of dough to the hot oil and leave it there while you do all the Arepitas - It will prevent the oil from burning)

Make a little ball of dough with your hands and flatten it carefully until it forms a disc about 1/8 of an inch thin.

Carefully, put the disc into the very hot oil (this is important - for this to work the oil needs to be extremely hot).

Immediately pick up a big spoon and start pouring hot oil over the Arepita. Do not stop, keep doing this until you see a fine layer of dough starting to lift up or bubble. Keep going, you will noticed the whole Arepita will have this delicious bubble on it. Keep pouring hot oil until the bubble turns nice and brown. Then your Arepita is ready.

When your Arepita is ready take it out of the oil carefully - try not to pinch it with a fork or you will burst the bubble. Put it on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and go on to fry the next one!

I like to eat my Arepitas Dulces with a nice Coffee or a Hot Chocolate - or like they say in Argentina, with a Submarino!
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