Limes: Lesson Learned

Last year our new-ish lime tree didn’t produce more than a few pieces of fruit so I was really very excited to see the tree loaded with fruit this year… but alas, instead of making limeade and fresh salsa with our home grown limes we learned a hard lesson instead. Turns out that you are supposed to harvest limes BEFORE they are ripe, while they are yet green, before they turn bright yellow and look just like little lemons. I did not know.

You should pick your limes before they turn yellow. I didn’t do that and now I’m sad. #gardeningfail

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These past few weeks I’ve been utterly distracted from home and garden chores, focusing instead on caring for my ailing mother and maintaining my sanity as thing after thing went awry… so I only noticed the limes this week at all because they had turned yellow. Super yellow. Gorgeous yellow! I thought to myself, “I did plant a lime tree there, didn’t I?” and then I googled. Yeah- limes do in fact turn yellow, and yellow limes are no-good limes. Turns out they get hard and taste bad once they fully ripen. And so this week I will be picking a lot of limes.. and throwing them in the green bin. Bummer.

Lesson learned! I hope, dear friends, that you can learn from my many mistakes. I know I’m always learning- often the hard way.

Today’s Project: Today I replaced some very old and unattractive houseplants with pretty, young, shiny houseplants. Why do I feel so guilty?

Today’s Soundtrack: This is: Otis Redding on Spotify

I’m Reading: Angels and Visitations: A Miscellany by Neil Gaiman

Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes
Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

It’s a sad day in the Rhodes household- we have now consumed every last blood orange from our tree (and then a few more we were gifted.) I’m not sure it is possible that we’ll ever grow enough blood oranges to allow for any to be preserved, they’re just too glorious. Pretty, unique, flavorful, nutritious- they are everything that is best about winter.

So far this year I have made three blood orange recipes, two of which: blood orange candy and blood orange simple syrup, are detailed in my blog post titled It’s Like Sunlight In My Mouth. If you haven’t checked it out yet and you have some blood oranges still hanging around, you really must. My kids really love the blood orange candies, they are very flavorful and easy to make. The resulting simple syrup comes in handy too, my daughters have used it in smoothies, my husband has used it in his tea, and I used it to make Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes yesterday.

These Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes are Pretty and Tasty
These Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes are Pretty and Tasty

When our blood orange tree proved especially fruitful this year I really didn’t know what to do with them all so I hit up Pinterest for cake recipes- but I just couldn’t find an easy recipe with few ingredients. So many of the recipes I found wanted me to use alternatives to regular flour, or to add other exotic ingredients I don’t have on hand. And I couldn’t find even one recipe for blood orange upside down cupcakes, which seemed a shame- I could just imagine how lovely they would look with a perfect blood orange disk on top! So I decided to try out a recipe I’ve used for pineapple upside down cupcakes, but with my own modifications. Here it is:

Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups blood orange simple syrup
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake Mix
24 very thinly sliced blood orange disks

1. Preheat oven to 350°F, spray cupcake pans well with cooking spray

2. Thinly slice blood oranges and set aside (blood orange juice stains, so be mindful!)

3. Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 cup blood orange simple syrup, 1/2 cup water, eggs, and vegetable oil.

4. Spoon 1 tbsp of blood orange simple syrup into the bottom of each muffin cup. Place a slice of blood orange into the syrup.

5. Pour 1/4 cup cake batter into each cup.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7. Cool for a couple minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cake, and then invert the pan onto parchment paper.

8. Serve warm, or not! These are lovely either way. Refrigerate leftovers, if you have them.

And that’s it!

Like many of my experiments in the kitchen, I learned a few things that I might want to improve next time. Like: not forgetting to spray the cupcake tins with oil. I also waited a few too many minutes to invert the pans, I was doing dishes at the same time and didn’t think a few minutes would matter- but when you have the equivalent of candy in the bottom of your muffin tins and it’s allowed to cool- ack! So, my cakes weren’t as pretty as they could have been. Thankfully I was just feeding immediate family, so it didn’t matter that they were a little rustic looking. Especially since they were super delicious.

It’s gray out so I made blood orange upside down cupcakes.

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I hope you get a chance to enjoy these lovely little cakes! Please, if you have any blood orange recipes you think I’d like, or improvements upon my recipe- I’d love to hear from you! I’m looking forward to next year’s blood orange season already. 🙂

Today’s Project: Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

Today’s Soundtrack: This is: Alabama Shakes on Spotify

I Finished Reading: In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
My quick review: If you know or love anybody with Autism, this is an incredibly interesting history. It was a little long, but well written and interesting until the end.

Putting Up Lemons

I’ve been putting lemons up, a little each day, all week.

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Several years back we put in what was supposed to be a miniature lemon tree. We planted it in a maybe five feet wide strip of land bordering our driveway. Of course it was not in fact in any way “miniature” and has grown to the point where we can hardly avoid driving into it. We’ve trimmed it drastically several times, but it’s hardy and growy. I have scratches all down the side of my new car.

When we got it, it was already producing some, so it was quite a disappointment that it didn’t produce at all for two seasons thereafter. We thought it was because it had grown a large sucker, a kind of parasitic take-over. We cut out the parasite and waited, thinking that it might do better, but it still didn’t produce. It caused nothing but problems.

Finally, finally, I decided to google it. At that point my dad, who is also my neighbor, was threatening to dig it out of the ground. Dudes, google everything. So yeah- our giant miniature lemon tree just wasn’t getting the right stuff from our soil. A few treatments of citrus fertilizer later and I’m putting lemons up for days and days. Annnnd feeling a little dumb. And neglectful.

So, what does putting up lemons involve, and why would you want to go to the trouble? I’ll tell ya.

To begin with we picked the lemons over the course of a week, choosing just the ripest first because I planned to immediately preserve them. Then each day I would dust off the handy dandy juicer we got for like $20 on Amazon, push through about 20 lemons, and strain the juice. (Some of my people like pulpy lemonade, so I didn’t strain the first few batches just for them.) I strained the juice through a couple layers of cheesecloth, then poured the strained lemon juice into ice trays and froze them overnight. Once the lemon juice was frozen into cubes I transferred them into labeled freezer bags and tossed them in the freezer. Additionally I zested the prettiest peels and put the lemon zest in a small jar in our freezer for baking throughout the year.

Project time: We didn’t spend much time picking lemons, we saved time by using clippers and hurrying to beat the rain that just won’t stop in California right now. Each day I spent about an hour and a half from beginning to end (set-up, transferring the day before’s cubes to the freezer, juicing, straining, pouring, clean-up) for a yield of about 5 cups juice, which filled a little more than three large ice cube trays. I only zested lemons one day and it took me less effort and time than I expected, even using an old-fashioned hand zester.  A little zest goes a long way, so I’m not sure if I should put up more or not- we’ll see how fast we go through it when we have it on hand! All I know is that I didn’t put up all the lemons last year, as I got bored of the process after three or four days.. and guess what? We were out of lemon before spring. This year I’m not gonna slack. Fresh lemon juice and zest can make so many things absolutely wonderful. Here are a few of those:

Lemonade. There are so many wonderful things about lemonade, and the lemonade made from lemons off our own tree is somehow so sunny and magical and light tasting.

Lemon juice for health: it’s full of good stuff for ya, and you can read about the many ways you can use it for health benefits all over the interwebs so I won’t bore you. Google everything.

Lemons for cleaning: I loved how, after clearing the juicer repeatedly in the sink with the dish disposal, I noticed that the slightly moldy, not wonderful smell that had been in that sink was gone. Lot’s of people use it for varied cleaning purposes so please, google, google.

Lemon juice for cooking, oh yes. So many things are improved by lemon juice. One our favorite ways to use it is to add a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice directly into our bowls of chicken soup. This was an old tradition of my husband’s family, and since I discovered it I never eat chicken soup without a dash of lemon juice!

We love to bake with lemon in this household! I made this the other day and it was really great:

Sunburst Lemon Bars

My daughter Lillie made these fantastic wonderful amazing cupcakes for me for my 40th birthday:

Pink Lemonade Ruffle Cupcakes

My husband tried a new chicken picatta recipe recently too and it was pretty good. I’ll bug him for that recipe.

And hey! Let me know if you find anything else interesting to do with lemon! I have enough to get a little creative this year, I hope.

Today’s Projects:
-Lemons: I’m getting closer to done putting this year’s crop up.. must. not. give up. We DO need all this lemon, I’m pretty sure.
-Reusable Grocery Bags: I have one last bag to make today and then we should have enough to put a full set in both cars. More on those soon!

Today’s Soundtrack: Today’s Top Hits Playlist on Spotify
I’m Reading: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey



I’m baaaaack!

Wow, Poofy, what sharp teeth you have.

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For years and years I maintained a lifestyle blog but then came Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. My journaling became fragmented.  A little bit of me went here, a little there, and my blog withered and died. Sad story, eh? Whatever. I’m back dudes.

Here’s what I’m thinking.. I CONSTANTLY create and do stuff. But nobody knows it! That’s weird. I’d like to show you what I’m up to- and how I learned to do it… and where I got my best resources… and whether or not I’m making any money at it (usually not.)

I have a lot of interests- I get bored easy and try new things- so I’ll probably bounce around a lot, but my primary interests are crafting (mostly sewing and knitting), genealogy, web and graphic design, baking, reading, roller derby, swim, travel, music, photography, philanthropy, and art. Pretty much something for everyone, I hope.

So yeah! Stop back by sometime soon and see what you think.. that would be cool.

Today’s Projects:
This Blog- customization
Lemons- today is day 5 or 6 of putting up lemons.. only a few more days to go?
Reusable Grocery Bags- more on this soon, but here’s the pattern!