Friday, December 25, 2009

Quilt Project #4 - Snail's Trail Quilt

I just completed my first proper quilt.

It's a snail's trail quilt that I made for my mom-in-law for Christmas.

This detail shows the scrappiness of the teal spirals. It also reveals some of the slop; there is some puckering and some of the points don't line up, but these little flaws are hardly noticeable in the big picture. I'm definitely satisfied with the way it turned out.

What I learned:

No number of potholders could have prepared me for some of the unique challenges that come with the size and scale of full sized quilt. There are major logistics issues with cramming something this big in my sewing machine (and this isn't a big quilt - 63x72 inches).

A step that seems insignificant with a small project becomes significant when multiplied 50 times - it took me days just to cut all the pieces.

I grabbed the first package of batting I ran across that was the right size. But it turned out to be a low loft for the project. It's fine, but I think a higher loft would look better and be more cozy (even if it would be more difficult to stuff under the sewing machine.

I *finally* got the binding right. The trick was to blind stitch the back side by hand. I also finally figured out how to do the mitered corners correctly. The binding on this quilt still had some sloppy parts, but I know how to prevent them next time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Box of Veggies (20 of 22)

We split the peppers, squash, cauliflower and the turnips (we took the greens, E&A took the nips). We took the spinach. E&A took the kale, onions, lettuce, and potatoes.

We stir-fried the cauliflower, peppers and spinach. We ate the turnip greens as is with potatoes mashed up with last week's celeriac. I think we will be stuffing and roasting the squash.

The yard produce is done for the year. I pulled out the last tomato plant and all the fruit trees are finished. There are still some grapes on the vine to snack on, but I won't be making jelly or anything with them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Box of Veggies (19 of 22)

We split the leeks and peppers. E&A took the onions, bok choy, broccoli, squash, and tomatoes. We took the potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, and celeriac. I lost track of who ended up with the lettuce (we have wilty lettuce in our fridge, but that could be from last week).

Chris made a pumpkin pie from scratch using last week's pumpkin. We have so much pumpkin left over that we're still trying to find uses for it. I made pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin scones. There was also a failed attempt at making pumpkin leather in the dehydrator. I think Chris is planning on making a pumpkin liqueur and/or syrup. We haven't even considered the buttercup squash yet. We still have half the ambercup squash left over from 3 weeks ago to use.

I made yet another batch of carrot cupcakes. They're still tasty, but we must be growing tired of them; they're lasting longer than they used to. I brought half of them into the office.

The leek, of course, became a quiche. I will never get tired of this.

The celeriac is a challenge. I found this recipe for root vegetable gratin that has celeriac, butternut squash, and leek - like they knew what was in our CSA box! But I'll probably just add celeriac to this gratin recipe instead.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My First Joint

I just mailed in Chris' and my Oregon Income Taxes (on the last possible day, of course). It's the first time we've ever filed a joint tax return. It's a tedious bit of bureaucratic hassle, but one that reflects a shift in cultural attitudes toward gays and lesbians in America. It's weird - paying my taxes has never seemed so historic.

The main problem for Registered Domestic Partners (RDPs) filing jointly in Oregon is that the feds don't allow us to file married and the state doesn't allow us to file single, so we have to come up with a work-around:

- We each have separate 1040s prepared as 'single filing separately' (like we always have) to file with the feds.

- We have a 'married filing jointly' 1040 prepared to be included with our state return, but it is not actually filed. This is the "as if" return (seriously, they really refer to is as the "as if" return on the official on-line instructions - I find that funny for some reason).

- We mail in our state return with copies of all three 1040's with the phrases "RDP - As Filed" (for the individual copies) or "RDP - For Oregon Only" (for the 'as if' copy) stamped in red on each page of the return.

- If RDPs file "married filing separately", they still must send in their separate returns in the same envelope, but not stapled together (but you could put them in a binder clip - it would be 'as if' stapled).

I'm really grateful that I work at a tax office, because I wouldn't have wanted to figure this out on my own. Also, ours is not the first RDP return I've had to process, so I'm grateful to the first RDPs whose return I processed for helping me work out the details.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Box of Veggies (18 of 22)

We split the peppers, the beets (we took the greens, E&A took the beets), and corn. E&A took the potatoes, lettuce, onions/shallots, squash, and tomatoes. We took the carrots, kohlrabi, cabbage, and basil.

Gathering Together Farms had a potluck for all their CSA members last Sunday. I brought a quiche made with the kohlrabi, and E&A made black bean couscous with some of their CSA vegetables. We each got a pumpkin out of the deal. We also saw pigs, turkeys, and poodle-chickens, but I couldn't find my camera, so no pictures. Sorry.

I used the beet greens, a pepper, and a carrot in a stir-fry on Monday. We fried up another pepper with our burritos on Tuesday. Half of the cabbage went into the duk-bokki on Wednesday. Last night we made a wonderful cream of pumpkin soup with last week's ambercup squash (instead of pumpkin).

We still have the basil, which I think I'll put on a pizza this weekend - whatever's left will be made into pesto. We also have most of carrots left - maybe enough for cupcakes? The remaining cabbage and pepper will be easy to use in stir-fry or something; the corn is also easy. We still have half the ambercup and a whole pumpkin left - perhaps a dessert?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Adoption

Last year I mentioned that of all the heartbreaking anti-gay election defeats in California, Florida, and Arizona, it was the anti-adoption measure in Arkansas that I found the most worrisome. With the stated goal of preventing gay and lesbian couples from adopting, the Arkansas Family Council wrote the measure broadly enough to ban even straight unmarried couples and single individuals from adopting.

It's important to point out to these social conservatives that gay and lesbian couples can and do have children the old-fashioned way. Mary Cheney, for instance, has recently confirmed she is pregnant with her second child. There is no law that they can pass to stop this. This measure doesn't thwart gay couples from starting families; it just takes away the option of adoption. So the only victims of their vindictive measure are the kids in foster care hoping to find homes.

This measure got less notice than California's Proposition 8, and I wished it had gotten more attention. That's why I was heartened when I read this interview with Scott Fujita, the NFL linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, where he talks about this measure and how it bothered him as an adopted child.

"what that is really saying is that the concern with one's sexual orientation or one's sexual preference outweighs what's really important, and that's finding safe homes for children, for our children. It's also saying that we'd rather have kids bounce around from foster home to foster home throughout the course of their childhood, than end up in a permanent home, where the parent, whether that person's single or not, gay or straight. Either way, it doesn't matter. It's a home that's going to be provided for a kid who desperately needs a home."

I just wish more people were saying things like this before the election.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Box of Veggies (17 of 22)

I was at the Portland Juggling Festival last weekend, so Chris picked up the veggies and divvied them up with E&A. When I came home, I found some carrots, half a head of lettuce, some peppers and a tomato - I presume we split these with E&A. We also had cilantro, a squash, a zucchini, kohlrabi, and spinach. E&A must have taken the potatoes, cucumber, onions, and pears.

The zuke, peppers, carrots, spinach, and last week's fennel have been fried up in stir frys or served on pasta this week. Some spinach was used for omelets one morning. I'm planning on making a quiche out of the kohlrabi. The squash may be stuffed and baked, or Chris will turn it into a pie. Some of the cilantro, some tomatoes from my garden, and some jalapenos from my coworkers garden were made into salsa which I canned.

The backyard produce is diminishing. I'll harvest a few more tomatoes this weekend - next weekend I'll take out the vegetable garden for the season. I'll harvest the green tomatoes to see if they'll ripen off the vine, and I'll pick the 2 tiny eggplants that are left. The concords are finally done - I juiced a bunch, and gave the rest to a friend. The red grapes and green grapes will be ripe very soon, so I will make more jelly.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Box of Veggies (16 of 22)

We split the corn, tatsoi, fennel, and peppers. E&A took the lettuce, onions, cucumber, and carrots, as well as the tomatoes and grapes since I have a surfeit of these in my yard. I took the potatoes, summer squash and acorn squash.

Chris is home! Woo-hoo! Well, most of him - he's 15% lighter than when he left. Last night was our first supper together in months. We had potatoes, tatsoi, and last week's corn. I'll probably serve this week's corn with the roasted acorn squash later this week. I have one of the summer squashes marinating in teriyaki with last week's onion and pepper. I have one more summer squash to work with as well as an eggplant from my garden, these might end up fried and served on pasta, or maybe on a pizza. I still have to come up with something for the fennel.

The tomatoes are still coming in by the pound, but last week seems to have been their peak. I won't bother canning these; the small batches that I dried last week worked out really well, so I think I'll do some major production tomato drying now. The tomatoes might have 2 or 3 more weekends before they're done. I have one small eggplant left still growing, but after that, I think the vegetable garden will be done for the year.

The yard produce is all about grapes now. Yesterday I pick 40% of the concords on the vine and juiced them to yield 15 cups. I'm experiment with making fruit leather in the dehydrator now and will also make some jelly. I might also try to make raisins, but they have seeds which is problematic. The red grapes will be ripe imminently, and the green ones will follow soon after.

The fruit trees are babies, so they don't produce much yet. I harvested the last of the pears (only 6 or so). The asian pear tree isn't going to provide anything edible (the 4 fruits on the tree are too buggy). One of the apple trees provided 2 apples and is done for the year. The other apple tree will have 3 or 4, but they're not ready just yet. The second wave of figs probably won't ripen in time, but if they do, I'll have dozens of them next month.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who is Yann?

This is Yann.

He is the boarder that has been staying with me every other week for over two months. I've made references to him on this blog, but I've never properly introduced him. He's a Ph.D. in Human Computer Interaction and he's been doing research at OSU this summer.

He is French and has spent a couple years in Australia. He speaks English fluently but with an accent that's somehow both French and Australian. He loves photography, scuba diving, and cheese (natch). You can check out his photos in his Flickr gallery.

This picture is from a juggling lesson I gave him, but I think I benefited more from the things he taught me.

He taught me how to cook gougère, quiche, and crêpes. He didn't personally show me how to make ratatouille, but it was on his recommendation that I figured out how to make it on my own.

He showed me how to work my camera better. I now know why purple was showing up as blue in all my photos (like in the balloon arch). But I still have to remember to revert the setting back when I'm indoors so that my photos don't turn out too red (like the bird on my head).

Yann influenced my opinion on public health care. He has strong opinions on the subject and it's easy to get him started on it, but he makes a compelling case.* (at this point I go off on a tangent so I cut and pasted it to the bottom of the post.)

He introduced me to some great new music from France (Les Hurlements D'Leo) and Australia (The Cat Empire). We were each impressed that the other was familiar with Manu Chau and Xavier Rudd (although I was surprised to learn that Chau was French and not Spanish).

Also, he taught me how to sharpen my knives.

His project's deadline is tomorrow (Thursday) and that will be his last day in Corvallis, but I will certainly see him again. He and his wife live in Seattle in a neighborhood not far from Andy and Jung-Eun, and I've promised to meet up with him next time I'm in town.


*My opinion on health care was only that I hate the way insurance companies work and I would support anything that made the whole process less aggravating. On principle, I would prefer a solution that didn't involve the law, but I don't have any idea what that would be exactly. Since the government seems set on getting involved anyway, I was just hopeful that the end result would be an improvement.

I admit that a major reason I want health care reform to pass is because I'm a fanboy of the President and I have a rooting interest in seeing my guy succeed (or perhaps more honestly, I want those folks who want my guy to fail to fail). But I don't have the idealism to believe that a government run insurance plan would be a hassle-free streamlined solution to all our country's health care problems, nor do I have the inherent distrust of government to fear it as a first step in the U.S. becoming a totalitarian police state.

After listening to Yann's testimonial, my opinion on the issue has shifted from "government run health insurance is an unobjectionable if not ideal way to treat the symptoms associated with dodgy health insurance practices" to "government run health insurance has proven to be an effective and popular alternative around the world".

I bet we're smart enough to come up with a way to keep the best parts of our system and incorporate the best parts of other countries' systems. Maybe we could provide a basic public insurance, but still keep the option of signing up with a private insurance company. Has anyone thought of that? It works for schools.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Box of Veggies (15 of 22)

We split the corn, tomatoes, and onions. E&A took the potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and green beans. I took the lettuce, bell pepper, Jimmy Nardello pepper, and beets.

I have no inspiration this week. Tomatoes, lettuce, onions and peppers are all basic enough to toss into salads, stir-frys, pasta sauces, or anything, which is probably what I'll do. I already ate the melon. The corn will be easy.

I now have a collection of peppers to work with: the Nardello and last week's Anaheim plus the santakas and the runty rejects of my failed jalapeno plants from my garden.

I'm also stumped by the beets, but at least they will last a while.

I'm more inspired by the backyard harvest. I pulled out over 5 pounds of tomatoes again this weekend and canned four quarts of them. More importantly, my food dehydrator arrived and I have been experimenting with dried tomatoes. I'm anxious to try it out on the pears, apples, figs, and grapes when they come in.



This is the last week that Yann will be here, but Chris comes home next weekend (Yay! - I hope he likes beets!).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Best Uses For Blackberries

Before blackberry season came to an abrupt end for me two weeks ago, my bushes were bursting with fruit. I figure between my friends and I, we harvested over 4 gallons of berries throughout the month of August. Here's some of the ways we came up with to use all these berries:

Blackberry Scones - These are a little trickier than blueberry scones. The trick to preventing purple batter with blueberries is to toss them with a couple tablespoons of flour until they're coated, but this does not work blackberries. Blackberries are not very cohesive, and there is no way to prevent them from getting all squished up in the batter and making a sticky mess. Maybe I'll try freezing them first next time. Nonetheless, they were quite tasty.

Blackberry Milkshake - This very simple treat was a favorite of Yann's. It's just ice cream, milk and blackberries in a blender.

Blackberry Jelly - This was my first attempt at canning. I strained the blackberries to remove the seeds and leave mostly juice, then cooked it with Sure-Jell and tons of sugar.

Blackberry Cobbler - My friends Karen and Chris came over last month to pick blackberries. A week later, they invited me over to their house for pizza and served blackberry cobbler for dessert. It was delicious!

Blackberry Margarita - Originally, I just tossed a handful of fresh blackberries in the blender with Margarita fixins, and it turned out delightful. Then I made them a little more elaborate by puréeing the berries and straining out the seeds then premixing this with the alcoholic ingredients and lime so they can be preserved in the freezer indefinitely. Now I have over a half gallon of this premix in my freezer ready to just add ice and Sweet-and-Sour in the blender.

Blackberry Dessert Topping - The quickest thing to do was just rinse a pint of berries and stir them up in a bowl with a few tablespoons of sugar and leave them in the fridge overnight to get syrupy. I spooned this over ice cream, French toast, and crêpes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dunawi Creek is Moving

This is the new Dunawi Creek:

This is what the old Dunawi Creek looks like now:

They're moving the creek and restoring the wetlands as part of a plan to redirect Reservoir Drive so that it intersects with 53rd at Campus Way to my north (Yay! there will be a light there!) instead of at the railroad tracks to my south (that intersection was deemed unsafe).

The creek used to run along the western border of my property, now it's being moved to something closer to it's historic banks.

This is what my house looks like from the old creek:

This is what my house looks like from the new creek:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bye Bye Blackberries


This is what my blackberry bushes looked like last Thursday.


This is what they looked like the next day.

It was kind of sad at first, but then I remembered that this is Oregon - You can't get rid of blackberry bushes by merely bulldozing them. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up with more blackberries than I can eat again next year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Box of Veggies (14 of 22)

We split the leeks and the dill. E&A took the purple potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, and watermelon. I took the carrots, onion, eggplant, bell pepper, and anaheim pepper.

My in-laws were staying with me on Sunday and Monday, so I wanted to share some of my favorite recent recipes. So I made sure to keep what I needed for the quiche (the leek), the ratatouille (the eggplant, onion, pepper... no squash this week!?), and the carrot cupcakes (the carrots, natch). They all turned out beautifully. I was pleased because the cupcakes failed the last time I made them. The ratatouille turned out well despite being squash-free.

I still have to use the eggplant (I ended up using the eggplant from my garden for the ratatouille), I will probably just fry it up and serve it on rice or pasta. I'll roast the anaheim, and keep it chopped up in the fridge to add to stuff (stir-frys and omelets and such).

I have no use for the dill. or last week's cilantro. and last week's lettuce is probably beyond salvage. I may have to give up and compost these.

The backyard produce is a bigger challenge. The plums all ripened at the same time. I ordered a food dehydrator to make prunes, but it won't be here for another week; The plums'll be gone by then. I'm pulling out five pounds of tomatoes a week. I've frozen some, I'll can some others, and I'll dry some if they last that long. I finally got my first eggplant, I expect 2 or 3 more before it's done. I can keep up with the pears - I get about 5 a week. The apples and grapes are still a week or two away. The blackberries... well, the blackberries will have their own blog post.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bird On My Head

Yes. It is just what it looks like.

You might wonder why these guys were in my house in the first place.

They came over for game night last Saturday.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Box of Veggies (13 of 22)

We split the onions, cilantro, Squash, corn and green beans. E&A took the carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes. I kept the potatoes, lettuce, pepper, and watermelon.

I fried up the squash, pepper, with tomatoes from my garden and served them on pasta. I also used these in omelets for breakfast. The potatoes were fried up for breakfast. I plan on eating the green beans and corn tonight. The lettuce and tomatoes have been and will be made into sandwiches. No plans yet for the cilantro.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Deny the Claim

This health insurance company sent an e-mail to all their customers asking them to oppose health care reform.

I don't understand why so many people are passionately opposed to health care reform, but I suspect it has more to do with distrust of the government than with a deep affection for their insurance company. I can't believe the hassles and frustrations I encounter whenever I deal with my health insurance company are unique to me.

It would be kind of fitting if, now that they need us, we were to deny their claim.

This particular insurance company isn't my insurance company, and I didn't receive this e-mail. But if I did, I would have sent them this response:

Dear Health Insurance Provider,

It's come to our attention that you are facing a threat to your well-being that is costing you $1.4 million per day. After making regular payments to your lobbyists for years, we understand why you expect to be protected from these expenses and entitled to our help. But after reviewing your case, we've decided to deny your claim for one or more of the following reasons:

Pre-Existing Condition. Your last bout with government health care reform was 15 years ago, but according to our records, you've been battling government health care plans since Truman was President.

Treatment not covered by policy. According to the policy book, our job is to pay you increasingly large amounts of money every month, and, if we should get sick, to jump a lot of hurdles to get a portion of our costs recovered. It is not in our contract to petition our legislators on your behalf.

Procedure deemed medically unnecessary. All of our allies in Europe, Canada, and Australia have managed to survive just fine despite having their governments involved to varying degrees in their health insurance.

Treatment sought without prior authorization. We were never consulted when you spent our premiums to buy congressmen.

Improper claim filing (missing information, illegibility). How could you possibly expect us to stick to our side of the bargain if you didn't legibly print the ICD-9 code on the claim form?

If you feel we have denied your claim unjustly, you are welcome to file an appeal. If after a six month review, we determine you are entitled to our assistance, we will provide it grudgingly if you are still alive and not bankrupt.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Box of Veggies (11 & 12 of 22)

The last two weeks sort of ran together for me...

Last week we split the leeks, basil, corn, and beets (E&A took the beets, I kept the greens). I kept one of the beefsteak tomatoes and E&A took the others plus the cherry tomatoes; the tomatoes in my garden are coming in now, and I don't really need the CSA ones any more. I also kept the carrots, potatoes, anaheim pepper, onion, and eggplant. E&A took the lettuce, cucumber, and melon.

This week we split the onions and green beans. I kept the potatoes, lettuce, peppers,garlic, squash and melon. E&A took the carrots, cucumber, celery, corn, and tomatoes (but I traded some homegrown romas for another beefsteak tomato).

I roasted the anaheim and mixed it with tomatoes from my garden, onion, and cilantro left over from the previous week's box and made a pico de gallo for the burritos I served during my blackberry picking party.

I made a batch of carrot cupcakes (cup carrotcakes?); they didn't come out as tasty as usual (they collapsed), but we ate them anyway.

We just ate the potatoes, corn, and beet greens fried, boiled and steamed respectively for dinner one night.

On Friday, I made one of my specialty pizzas with garden tomatoes and the basil. It turned out great!

The peppers and squashes were really pretty colors. I followed Yann's advice made ratatouille with them and the eggplant last night - It turned out delicious! Ratatouille is so much more than the sum of its parts (just eggplant, sqash, onions, peppers, and tomatoes). The flavors really complement each other. It's also really easy to make; I followed a recipe that was somewhat fussy about presentation (which I do think is important), but I'm sure you could simply chop the ingredients up and throw them all in the dish together instead of slicing and layering. After a night in the refrigerator, it holds together much better and isn't as soupy.

This morning I made crêpes and stuffed them with cream cheese and a topped them with a blackberry topping I made. Since I'm on a streak of French dishes, I plan on making a quiche tonight with the leek.

That just leaves the green beans, potatoes, and onion left over. Those shouldn't be difficult to find uses for.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What I learned at Gardening School

Last week I took a couple of vacation days to attend the 2009 Gardeners Mini-College hosted by the OSU Master Gardener Program.

I signed up for 7 classes over three days:

1 - Composting and Mulching
I learned that my garden needs mulch and that autumn leaves would be perfect. Every fall, people sweep their leaves into the bike lane to be picked up by the city. As a biker, I find this irksome. I need to figure out a way to get these leaves out of the bike lanes and onto my garden. This October you might see me on the side of the road sweeping these leaves into my bike basket.

2 - Managing Vertebrate Pests
I don't have a surfeit of charismatic macrofauna in my yard. This class wasn't the main reason I signed up for this event, but I did learn which critter is digging the holes in my yard. It's voles (I didn't take this picture - I swiped it from Google images). I also learned that owl stools are chock full of vole skulls.

3 - Organic Gardening
The garden I inherited when I bought the house was organic, so I took this class to see what I need to do to keep it that way. I learned that I don't need to do anything. I can do that.

4 - Preserving Food
I was already going to try canning this year. This class wasn't so much of a 'how to' as much as a 'what to buy' class. It did convince me that I would use a food dehydrator if I bought one. The pressure canner is still under consideration.

5 - Raising Chickens
As I've mentioned before, I've been seriously considering keeping chickens. It's sort of trendy these days. This class made a good case for it, but I'm still not sure. It's an investment of years, and we will more than likely be moving out of town in three years or so.

6 - Edible Landscaping
This lady had some incredible slides, but her yard requires a lot of maintenance. She does this for a living.

7 - Making Herb Teas
This class focused more on medicinal properties, and I was more interested in culinary aspects. But her website is a good resource.

Although not an official part of the event, I also went to see an appropriate movie called Food, Inc. this week. It's a documentary about industrialized food production, and I highly recommend seeing it. It was a scare-doc in the same genre as An Inconvenient Truth, and I got the feeling there was another side to the story that I wasn't getting (to be fair, industrial food companies frequently declined to participate in the documentary). Even so, it made a compelling case that we should buy as much of our food locally as possible (shop at farmer's markets), grow a garden (even a small one, even in the city), and buy organic and in-season produce.

Other things I learned at this event:

Gardening is more than just thowing some seeds into some dirt. There's an entire system that doesn't begin or end with the pretty flowers or tasty food (although that is the best part of the cycle). It involves various other aspects: maintaining the soil via composting and mulching; turning kitchen scraps into fertilizer via worms, chickens, or rabbits; managing pests and weeds; keeping trees, bushes, vines and plants healthy and productive; and preserving what you grow by canning, drying and freezing.

Gardeners like to talk. There were hundreds of master gardeners in attendance, and they were the majority of the folks in the classes. The typical class would start with the speaker talking for only a few minutes before a gardener would raise her hand and want to share her related experience, which would lead to other gardener's following up and comparing notes. This isn't a criticism of the class - it was always very informative. I got the impression that these folks spend so much time alone in their yards obsessing about minutiae that they jump at the opportunity to interact with other humans and share their thoughts.

I learned that I have a lot to learn. Each class was less than 2 hours, and each was complex enough to be a seminar on its own. I think I was one of only a handful of beginners in attendance. It wasn't exactly discouraging; it was inspiring, in fact. I kept the handouts, and wrote down some notes, but I'll have to revisit these topics if I ever decide to try any of this stuff out.

Gardening can be simple. For most of the attendees at the event, gardening is a way of life. Several days of being immersed in obsessive-gardener space can be intimidating. I kept wondering if my compost is too nitrogen rich, and where was I going to get saw dust and oyster shells to compensate for it. And would chickens and rabbits provide enough fertilizer or should I get a goat too. And what blooming plant could I grow to lure beneficial bugs to my yard. But then I came home to my yard and saw the tomato plants bursting with fruit even though I've never done any of these things and I realized that I could make this as complicated as I wanted, but sometimes gardening is just throwing some seeds into some dirt.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Box of Veggies (10 of 22)

We split the onions, shallots, cilantro, and tomatoes. E&A took the potatoes, carrots, lettuce, and melon. I kept the tomatillos, jalapeno, purple pepper, summer squashes, and cucumber. I intentionally kept all the salsa ingredients (I also have tomatoes from my garden), and plan on making the green salsa recipe that came with this week's newsletter.

I'm having friends over next Saturday for a blackberry picking party, and I plan on serving Mexican food. The tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, and cilantro will be made into the green salsa, the purple pepper and onion will be fajita filling, and the squash and tomatoes will be mixed with corn for calabacitas.

I have nothing special planned for the cucumber, and I have potatoes and celery left from last week. I'll just snack on them as is.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Box of Veggies (9 of 22)

We split the lettuce, onions, celery, and green beans. I kept the potatoes, eggplant, squash, and blueberries. E&A took the carrots, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes.

I want to roast the eggplant and make sandwiches with pesto-mayo (I'm trying to recreate a favorite sandwich I used to get at this place in Boulder). I don't plan on doing anything fancy with the green beans and potatoes - just cook them straight up and serve them as side dishes to something. The squash will be pizza if I have time, or teriyaki if I don't. The blueberries will be pancakes, muffins, and/or scones depending on my mood (the blackberries in my yard are ready as well). I haven't come up with a plan for the celery.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Fair is Back

The Benton County Fair is back, which means the carnival employees are camping in my back yard again. This is not an inconvenience. In fact, as I watched them setting up camp Sunday afternoon, I realized I was glad to see them. I can vicariously enjoy the carnival atmosphere without having to actually do the work of setting up the event in this crazy heat.

The campers also provide some protection from the rowdies that occasionally show up at the fair. I'm not one to judge; I've been their age before and I understand you've got to kick up some dust now and then. All the same, I'm glad the carnival employees provide me with a buffer from the craziness.

Just like last year, I volunteered to help my co-worker take in canned and baked goods to be judged. One perk of this gig is that exhibitors bringing in their treats will sometimes bring in a little extra for us to snack on (score!). Another perk is I get a free pass to the event for my two hours of... uh... work?

Anyway, for those keeping track of my benevolence, my volunteer work so far this month includes making a balloon arch for Pride Corvallis, setting up a maze for da Vinci Days, playing with kittens for the Humane Society, and tasting competition-caliber baked good and treats for the County Fair. I’m magnanimous like that. Perhaps I should volunteer at a homeless shelter; the homeless love balloon arches.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Box of Veggies (8 of 22)

In the box this week: E&A are back from England, so I have a much more manageable amount of vegetables this week. We split the dill and the zukes. I took the spinach, garlic, cabbage, and blueberries, and they took the potatoes, lettuce, cucumber, onion, green pepper, and cilantro. There were no carrots! I hadn't eaten the purple carrots from the previous week, and I gave them to E&A when they picked up their cats on Friday.

The dill, and last week's parsley and cucumbers are currently chilling in my fridge becoming tzatziki. The rest of last week's parsley, scallions, and tomatoes plus some mint from my garden are also chilling in my fridge as tabouli. These were on last week's meal plan, but I didn't get to them because the boarder had offered to make dinner on two of the nights (gougère on one night, and crêpe the next - both were delicious!).

The boarder is gone this week, so I will make fewer meals and have leftovers. The cabbage will be two batches of duk-bokki, the zukes and onions will be teriyaki, the spinach will be blanched and salted and served with the rest of last week's potatoes either roasted or mashed. Last week's lettuce (holding up surprisingly well) and onions will be used for salads and sandwiches. I had half the blueberries in my pancakes this morning, the other half is destined for the same fate for breakfast tomorrow.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tomato Update

Same tomato 1 month later.

By this time last year, I had already started getting red tomatoes. This reddish Roma is the closest so far.

All three plum tomato plants I planted are healthy and productive, but none have ripe fruit yet.

As I posted earlier, last year's cherry tomatoes took over my garden, so this year I decided not to have any cherry tomatoes, but several cherry tomato volunteers kept popping up.

I pulled most of them and decided to keep just this one.

But weeks later I noticed I had missed another one that had sprung up in a part of the garden I hadn't planted.

As you can see from the cracked soil, I have done absolutely nothing to encourage this plant. The soil isn't tilled or fertilized, and I have never watered it. I don't want this plant, but I've decided not to pull it. I've decided to leave it, but not water it or anything, just as an experiment to see if the already minimal work I put into this is actually necessary.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Heartland Humane Society

I've started volunteering at the Heartland Humane Society. I Go every Saturday morning from 8:00AM to 11:00AM. I started last Saturday, but today I remembered to take pictures.

Primarily, the job is cleaning kennels. 2 or 3 dozen cats are kept in individual kennels (sometimes 2 will be in the same kennel if they're small). In addition, there are 3 window rooms. These are the size of closets and have glass walls, and cat furniture. 4 or 7 cats will share these. These are cats that have been there longer than the kennel cats and tend to be older and better socialized. Then there is the prime suite: the puppy playroom (presumably it was expected to be for puppies when it was named). This is much bigger than the other window rooms and these cats (including Feivel, pictured) are the oldest and most affectionate.

The window rooms and playroom are the reason I love this. I go in these rooms and a half dozen cats will start clamoring for attention. It's complete cute overload.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Critters II

A year ago today I posted a bunch of pictures of critters around my yard. I have a couple more:

When I came home from my trip to Seattle, this frog was waiting for me. (No, I'm not referring to the French boarder - but he was there too. In fact, he's actually the one who took this picture).

The cats were the first to notice this guy on the patio last Saturday.

Bonus critter from Andy and Jung Eun's yard:

When I arrived in Seattle, this bug was waiting for me. Andy and Jung Eun named him Jumongboli.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who's Eating My Cauliflower?




Cabbage Worms

When I first posted this picture, I incorrectly labeled this as a broccoli plant. When I bought the starters, they were ambiguously labeled, and I guessed wrong.

Also, less than a week after this photo was taken, the plant in the picture was chewed down by ants (who knew?). But I didn't get a picture of them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Miss Melody's Maze

This is Miss Melody. I volunteered to help set up at da Vinci Days this year and they asked me to help Miss Melody build this maze. In exchange, they hooked me up with a weekend pass to the event.

The event was great. I hung out with friends, listened to music, juggled, watched Kinetic Challenge events, and watched electric go-carts drive around in circles.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Box of Veggies (7 of 22)

In the box this week: potatoes, purple carrots, lettuce, cucumber, onion, scallions, chard, parsley, 6 zucchini/summer squash, radicchio, blueberries, and 6 tomatoes.

I made another batch of carrot cake muffins with last week's carrots.

2 zukes, 1/2 of last week's pepper, and 3 of last week's mini onions are marinating in a teriyaki sauce for a stir fry later this week. I will probably do this every week since there always seems to be zukes and onions.

Last night I made a pizza with 2 zukes, the other half of the pepper, the remaining mini onions, and the last of last week's tomatoes.

The last 2 squashes will be battered and fried and served with steamed chard, and half the potatoes roasted with butter and parsley.

I'll somehow make a meal of the radicchio (fried or roasted). This is a new veggie for me, so it'll be an experiment. I'll serve it with a dressing made with last week's cucumber and yogurt, and tabouli made with some of the parsley, 4 scallions, and 2 tomatoes (the recipe is in the CSA newsletter this week).

I will use the blueberries in scones and/or pancakes for breakfast.

I have no plans for the onion; I diced it up and it's ready to be added to omelets or whatever. The remaining potatoes will be fried up for breakfast. The carrots, lettuce and the remaining tomatoes, scallions, and cucumber will be for salads and sandwiches. I have no idea how I'm supposed to eat this much parsley (it's a large bunch); I'll do what I can, but I have feeling I'll be throwing most of this into the compost in a couple weeks.

I successfully cooked all of last week's veggies despite not having a stove (I'm particularly proud of the toaster oven eggplant parmesan), but eating all the food was impossible since I'm the only one home, so I still have fridge full of leftovers (the eggplant parmesan, veggie stew, duk-bokki, and now the pizza and carrot cake muffins). Fortunately, the boarder is back this week and I can get him to help me with these.

Also my stove has been fixed. Yay!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cat Pictures

Hi Eric and Allison,

I hope you're having fun in England.

Klaatu and Gort are wonderful house guests. It makes my days to have their fuzzy cuteness around the house.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Box of Veggies (6 of 22)

In the box this week: purple potatoes, carrots, lettuce, cucumber, 2 onions plus a bundle of mini-onions, beets, spinach, basil, zucchini, garlic, 2 small eggplants, 2 green peppers, 2 tomatoes, and cherries.

I've had the first casualties of the season; some of the veggies from two weeks ago were still uneaten and had to be composted. The chard was on-deck for supper the day the stove broke, and didn't get selected during last week's unplanned meals. I will try to salvage enough cilantro for one batch of rice, but the rest will have to go. I peeled away 75% of a head of last week's lettuce to make a salad last night.

I'm back to planning, but it's a challenge this week. The boarder is away, and E&A are still in England, so I have to eat everything myself. The stove is still broken (until Friday). And there's still lots of veggies from last week.

The zucchini, half a green pepper and what's left of last week's onion is marinating in teriyaki for a stir fry later this week.

In the crock-pot, I made a stew with half the purple potatoes, last week's carrots, the other half of the green pepper, half the mini onions, last week's tomatoes, and beets. I don't intend to eat most of it this week; I will fill a couple of quart size Ziplocs and freeze them for another day.

Last week's cabbage is on the endangered list, so I will make a hefty batch of duk-bokki, and have lots leftovers.

I'm going to attempt to roast the eggplant in the toaster oven and make eggplant parmesan.

Some night, I will have to make a meal of the beet greens and the remaining potatoes.

I made almost a pint of pesto with the basil, but have no immediate plans for it, but at least it will keep. I'll try to finish the remaining green pepper, mini onions, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato in salads and sandwiches throughout the week. I already ate the cherries.

By the time the next box comes, I'll still have the 2 onions (plus an additional one from my garden), the spinach, and the carrots left over from this week. I will probably get additional carrots and onions in that box. E&A will still be gone, but the boarder will return. And the stove should be fixed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Box of Veggies (5 of 22)

I was up in Seattle for the Fourth of July weekend (just like last year), so E&A picked up the box of veggies. I came back last night in time for E&A to leave for England this morning. They'll be gone for over 2 weeks, so they dropped off whatever they didn't eat: carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, 2 onions, cabbage, 2 cats, zucchini, cherries, and a tomato; plus some from the previous box they didn't finish: cilantro and garlic scapes.

My meal planning has been thrown off track this week for several reasons, primarily because my stove broke just before I left for Seattle and I hadn't had a chance to get it fixed. I will be improvising a lot this week. Perhaps I'll make a soup or something that can be cooked in the crockpot. I suspect I will be eating lots of salads and raw veggies.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Photo Dump

I'm clearing off the photos from my camera. Here's some pictures that never made it into blog posts yet.

Things found in my yard:

Holly trees and mowy boys.

Things that go Bloom!

My catnip brings kitties to the yard.

Silly Fiver, cowslips are for Owsla.
(sorry for the photo quality, this was taken through the screen on my bathroom window with the highest zoom my camera has.)

Our new patio furniture.

Chris made me a cherry pie from scratch for my birthday. (We're not in the "things found in my yard" section any more, by the way)

Remember when I used to spend my Saturday mornings at the Majestic Theatre? Well now they've got a machine to do my job!