Friday, August 29, 2014

The traveled road, page seven

I've been remiss in updating my blog lately. With more struggles on the dog front, I haven't had much interest in writing. Letting go of the struggles surrounding Kindle has been excruciatingly difficult...

The 'traveled road' reminds me that life goes on. 'Things' can be more constant, but living, breathing creatures have a force all their own, sometimes that force is good, and sometimes it's bad. None the less, it's a force to reckon with, and we have certainly had to face that full in the face with Kindle very recently.

Last month we were in California, and had occasion to visit the central coast. We made several pit stops, but the one I loved most was the one in Carmel at thMission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo, or, as it's more commonly known, "the Carmel Mission".

I'll let the images speak for themselves. Needless to say, it's a very quaint, understated mission. I loved this mission's rich history. And I loved seeing where Father Junipero Serra is interred. An interesting and educated man. He held a doctorate in theology.








Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bar stool desk

A desk for Cliff.

Now that he's gotten himself more and more into photography, a desk for his laptop (for image processing) was bubbling up as a real need. He also needed a place to do his paperwork, and store a few items.

I looked far and wide on Craigslist for a desk with the dimensions we needed, but I couldn't find anything...too short, too long, to wonky looking, too beat up...and don't even get me started on what people think their their stuff is worth!  I could find nothing that would work.  I decided we should build one, and the bar stool desk was born.  A quick Google search would show me that I wasn't the first to think of this, but what I found did get my finishing and decorating idea motor running!

For a couple of days I checked Craigslist for used bar stools before I found some that would work. A married couple, on the last day of their garage sale, had a pair of solid wood bar stools in exactly the style I was hoping to find. We dickered down to $30 for the pair. Perfect!

It was time to design/build a topper. I got the idea for the topper from the one that makes up my own desk. It was purchased from Pottery Barn years ago, but the idea is a good one. Build 'pockets' for the seats of the bar stools to rest in, which keeps the topper from shifting.

The bar stool seats were about 1-1/2" too wide for the dimensions needed, so Cliff trimmed them down just a bit with the table saw. You can see the sawn edges here.


The bar stools are unattached to the topper, but the 'pockets' keep the topper from shifting. Easy to take down for moving. Topper upside down, showing the 'pockets', first without the bar stools...


...and with.



The topper has a cove edge, which Cliff added with the router. I love that thing. I think it's my favorite wood working tool. It gives everything a finished off, professional look. Sometimes I look for projects that require a routered edge, just so we can use it.

The topper upside down, showing the coved edge.


...and right side up.


A good sanding and finishing project is next, but for now, you can see how things look, and get a sense of how easy this is. The routered edge takes a specialty tool, but even just a basic pine board, sanded and finished, can sit atop a pair of barstools, for a quick and easy desk.


Total cost? $55. I love it, and more importantly, so does Cliff.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pesto baked eggs

With a rather significant cutting on my basil plant two days ago, I decided to make pesto. I didn't have any pine nuts, and they are very expensive, so I rarely use them in pesto, anyway. I used what I had, which was pecans. It was a basic pesto recipe; basil leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, and my prized Barouni olive oil from Joelle Oil.


I don't cook with my Barouni olive oil, because I often worry that it will lose something in the high heat, but in a pesto? It's the creme de la creme.

With quite a bit of pesto on hand, the plan for my weekend is a series of pesto recipes. I'm in a pesto kind of mood.  First up? Pesto Baked Eggs.

The first time I made baked eggs, I used a marinara sauce, which I didn't love, but the overall recipe was quite good, so it got me to thinking. Why not just tomato slices vs. the sauce? Easier, cheaper and the tomato slices would add nice texture to the dish.


This one couldn't be easier and the pesto takes it from very good to exceptional. This is a gourmet flavored/textured dish that prepares like a beginner's recipe.

Ingredients:

Butter
1 large (or two small) Roma tomato
4 eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Pesto (buy it, make it...whatever you wish)

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter the bottom and sides of two baking ramekins (1 cup size).

Layering from the bottom up, to each dish, add 1/4 of the tomato slices, two 2 eggs, 1-1/2 tablespoons of heavy cream, the last 1/4 of the tomato slices, and 1/4 cup of the Gruyere cheese.

Bake for 8 minutes.  Raise heat to broil, and remove from oven when the cheese begins to brown, 1-2 minutes.  For runnier eggs, decrease the initial baking time.  For firmer eggs, increase it.

Remove from oven, top with a generous dollop of pesto, and serve with a side of crostini.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Up-cycle (or is that re-cycle?): small garden stakes...

As I grew my tomato starts, I realized they might need staking up before going into their bigger buckets, and I didn't  want to buy a bunch of sticks/stakes (hate to spend money when something else will do). As I was walking through the laundry room, I spied a package of bamboo place mats I'd bought on the cheap years ago. Four of them for $1.99.  They were 50% off at the time. One of them I used as a sushi rolling mat, which, BTW, it was perfect for. I had three left.

Hum, these could work, I thought.

I took my rotary cutter, ran a slice through the strings holding the place mats about every 2", and pulled them apart.



Very easy, and I have enough small stakes to last several growing seasons, all from just one of the mats.  I still have two left. I'll keep them. Never know what use they may find.


This project took all of about 10 minutes. Once down to the last few bound sticks, just pull the threads off, and you'll make clean up time quite a bit faster.


My sagging tomato before...


And perked up after...happy.


This is the time of year I'd rather be traveling around with Cliff and Kindle, exercising my camera, and the less money I spend on things I need around the house, the more money I have to hit the road for short weekends here and there.  Plus, it just makes me feel better to up-cycle.  Or is this called a 're-cycle'. I never did figure that one out.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seedling update and time for trimming

The seedlings are doing exceptionally well in the 'grow room'. So well, in fact, it was time to give them a little trim.  I want my tomatoes to grow vigorously, but also up a little. I want to plant each start fairly deep, so the roots are strong and well developed. To achieve that, they needed some thinning, so the energy would go up and into the top leaves just starting to come along.


It was only the tomatoes that needed trimming at this point. The peppers won't need any, nor will the eggplant. The basil I will prune to create a bushier plant, but it's still a little early for that.



Before trimming they looked very happy, and everyone was/is growing well, almost too well. Now I fear they will be ready for the great outdoors before the great outdoors is ready to provide a hospitable growing environment for them. The last (average) frost isn't until the end of June, and I won't be waiting that long. They will be going out far sooner than that, but I'm prepared to bring them in, as well as cover them with plastic 'jackets', should they need protection from the colder temperatures. None the less, they are still about a month from going outside.



Most of the things I've done with my plants, I've learned through my Google searches, and some instructional videos on YouTube. I really have no clue what I'm doing, but my plants, at least so far, are very happy. Emergence of the seedlings has been well over 90%, which is really cool, and further reinforces that I'm making the right choices so far.

They look a little naked now that they are trimmed, but I know it's good for them, and for how I want them to grow. With the speed they have been growing, it should be no time before they are ready for another trim.



After I trimmed them, I noticed the underside of the leaves was a beautiful purple color. Not sure if these were from a particular tomato plant, or not. I thought they were interesting enough to shoot.


We have almost 80 peas emerging in the garden boxes outside, and they are going crazy. My blueberries are loaded with buds, too, even the plants that are only rated to -30, and had to endure -27 (in buckets!) this winter are coming along.

Cliff's dad loved gardening. Maybe his green thumb is landing on me. I hope so. Time to plant some chives now, and I just may have to bite the bullet and plant a raspberry bush, too, in my father in law's memory.  He always grew them, and Cliff smiles when he tells me about it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Strawberry coring

I'm not a real fan of cleaning strawberries. Never have been. I'd rather be on the eating end of things when it comes to these little guys.


None the less, cleaning must be done. I'd always done it the 'old fashioned' way. Cut the top off, then slice the berry, but it always bothered me that the less sweet core was still inside, and it took a fairly big cut off the top to remove the leaves, and the hardest part of the core, right at the top.

Many years ago my sister told me to use a straw to push the core from the berry, but every straw I'd tried was too flimsy, and the diameter too small, so my efforts weren't very productive.

This morning I got to thinking, as I looked at cleaning 4 lbs. of strawberries, "how can I make this easier?" I had an extra fat straw from the local coffee shop, so I gave that a go. The only trouble? Once the straw was full of cores, it was hard to push more of them from the berries that would follow, so I added a smaller diameter straw in the center, to act as a plunger. It worked beautifully.


Push the straw into the bottom of the strawberry, up through the leaves and out. If you miss the center, just pull back the housing straw, realign, and push again. When the core is in the straw, and pushed all the way through the berry, push the plunger, and out it comes.



Viola!  Perfectly cored strawberries, with very little waste.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

New 'life'...

I knew after Jet died, I would need something to fill my time, to help ease myself into/through the grief, without being overwhelmed by it. It was probably one of the biggest reasons I went against my promise that I wouldn't grow another vegetable garden this year. I'm glad I did, though in some ways, it is bittersweet.

The day Jet died, we came home to find the first two peas emerging in the planter boxes in the backyard. Eight days later, we have over 50. Both Jet and Ty (and Kindle, too) loved the peas, plucked right off the plant. To see those emerge, and know Jet wouldn't be here to enjoy them this summer, was hard. I knew when we planted them, he wouldn't be here. I even said as much to Cliff at the time. Knowing that, I struggled through the planting, but Kindle is still here, and life goes on...we have to keep things moving for her, so she enjoys her life, as both the boys did when they were here.

The rest of my seedlings are still enjoying the grow lights, and the warmth of the room where they are currently housed. I added a small humidifier to the room a few days ago. I turn it on, along with the heater/fan, for a few hours every day. They are living in their own little 'rain forest'...and thriving, I might add.

This is about 3 weeks post planting. The eggplant and peppers were the last to emerge. I wasn't sure they would, but they did. Just took a bit longer. They popped up about six days ago.



The tomatoes are the furthest along.  We planted three varieties, and all three are doing well.  Cherry, Brandywine and Roma.


The basil is doing well, also. I have found I like to grow the Genovese basil best, and as I understand it, it's the one most prized by chefs. It grows about twice as fast as the sweet basil. I gave one plant to each of my sisters in law last weekend, and kept one for myself. I planted more seeds the next day, and they are well on their way now, too.


The cuttings I took from the gnat infested plant I got at Trader Joe's are also thriving now. After I cut the stems, I washed them well, and set them in a cup of water. Once the roots were well developed, I plunked them into my homemade potting mix, and off they went. They are happy...and no more gnats. In the last week, they have a second set of leaves on one stem. I think they like the 'rain forest', too.