Sunday, December 30, 2012

A post never posted, well I guess I did do MIA

found rocks into wire column
Just read this lovely article from The New York Times, now I think this is mellow, and I think I travelled too much this summer, and if that wasn't enough bought an iPad, so back to roots and weeds. Quite ironic that only the evening before I wrote to some dear friends and said I was going to be offline for a while.Then I read the article this morning, I think I'm on the right track. The article, is quite lengthy, but I found quite inspiring and interesting.

"So I am going to be MIA for a while, I've been OTT with some opinions and thoughts lately. Of course all my suggestions|thoughts were reasonable, well not actually. That's okay. But going to be mellow and lay low for a while, nothing is wrong just me putting me on a time out."

Herb and Roses
Yesterday was fun, I was weeding and turned to Gary who was helping with something else (fencing to keep the varmits out) and I said, I think we should eat weeds we have so many of them, and they are green. I might experiment soon.

The weed I was mulling over yesterday apparently is a woodsorrel and can be eaten in moderation, like some in a salad, I will have to leave some to sample in the gravel paths next to the raised vegetable beds. Ted our lovely neighbour, dropped off Snow Peas that are about 6 inches big, so they are the first winter crop. Drizzly weather today, perfect for gardening, and it's going to get rather warm again tomorrow and the coming week.

Old gate reused
new raised beds, peas

We will have to keep our eyes and ears peeled this evening, apparently the bear is back. It  absconded with one of the neighbour's bins. Also apparently shimmed up a tree, and sent the cats flying under the neighbour's bed. 

So all of this was written two months ago, we got pummelled with wind, rain and snow. The peas got ripped out of the ground along with the trellis. I had covered all the beds in plastic and they blew all over the place, clothespins do not hold the plastic in place, lesson learned.
Snow at 8:00 AM

A Merry Christmas with the Family
December 21st the morning we left for San Francisco, we got our pre Christmas snow fall, oh joy, but it was gone by the time we returned a few days later, but the weather was downright wet, I mean very wet and windy. I might have to rethink about any vegetable harvest until early Spring planting. There's always next year thank goodness.

 Mascarpone & Goat Cheese Tart w/ Crispy Hash Brown Crust

cooking spray
3 ozs baby arugula or spinach
2 tbsp butter, softened, plus more for pan
1 lb package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
8 large eggs
sea salt and ground pepper
½ cup light sour cream
½ cup marscapone
1 cup half and half
sea salt
6 ozs grated Fontina cheese
2 ozs goat cheese, crumbled (goat cheese crumbles easily if you freeze for about 30 minutes beforehand)
6 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced

1. Steam arugula, gently and chop into pieces.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

3. Spray a 9-by-2 1/2-inch spring form pan with cooking spray, then brush with butter. Line the sides of the pan with strips of parchment paper (the same height as pan); brush paper with butter - this part is essential - it will give you the lovely golden crust and keep the crust from sticking to your pan.

4. Place hash browns on 3-4 thicknesses of paper towels and fold paper towels over potatoes. Hold over sink and squeeze excess moisture from hash browns.

5. Remove hash browns from paper towel packet and place in a bowl with butter, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pat into bottom and up sides of prepared pan, using your hands. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until set, 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Place cooled arugula on 3-4 thicknesses of paper towels and using technique in step 4, squeeze out excess liquid.

7. In a large bowl, whisk 7 remaining eggs, sour cream, marscapone, half and half cheddar cheese, arugula, 1 teaspoons sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until well combined.. Pour into crust, and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese. Bake until set, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove outer ring of spring form pan, and gently peel off parchment paper.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Here it comes

Skeleton shadow on umbrella top
The change in the seasons from Summer to Autumn, I've been feeling it for the last couple of days, in fact I threw a small cotton quilt on the bed a couple of nights ago because around the wee early hours of the morning there is a distinct chill in the air, and I still have the windows wide open to catch the fresh air. Very welcome I must say from waking up to 80+ degrees I much prefer 60+.

I was out looking at my new vegetable beds that my husband is constructing and they do look magnificent, only two more to go as in filled with soil, then the timed irrigation/drip system. Will also put arches over the beds so that in winter I can place clear plastic over them and in the long hot summer shade cloth. Helps ensure that we get the maximum growing season out of the raised beds. I have my seeds lined up.

In fact, last week I got a spurt of organisation going and finally found a great use for the vintage bottle crate my daughter gave me several years ago. I am going to use it for my seed packages, looks very pretty. I have one more place I need to order some seeds from which just happens to be the oldest seed nursery in the USA. The seed company is Japanese owned and is located in Oakland, California. Be sure to read about their history, and is called Kitazawa Seed Company. In fact this year I shall be ordering some special things as holiday gifts from them. 

The raised beds are made from cedar and we had to wait weeks for a delivery to come down from Oregon, which means that my Autumn planting was delayed. But four are now done and only two more to fill with dirt and stuff. I'll still have to wait until the water system is in otherwise the seeds will burn up in the sun, it is still rather warm and sometimes downright hot at this time of the year.

Zadie's candy (Sungold)
I still have a good crop of small cherry type tomatoes, black cherry, sungold and green doctors. The sungold I am called Zadie's garden candy. She makes a beeline to this tomato plant steadies her feet and reaches up with pudgy little fingers and pops tomatoes into her mouth, seeds sometimes spurt out and you have to duck so that you don't get seed spurted on.

Black Cherry
Green Doctors
I still have quite a few vegetables that are producing rather well, Curly Kale, a volunteer Tomatillo that has taken over the pathway and I didn't have the heart to dig up when I should have. Several Peppers, Eggplants, and of course the lovely Okra. I have a new crop of Kumquats forming and this year I am prepared for frost, I've strung tiny globe lights over three sets of arches, hooked them to a timer so at night the heat will be just enough from the bulbs to keep the citrus from freezing, well that's my plan.
Yesterday was very productive in the kitchen, I made several batches of unsweetened applesauce, packaged them then popped them into the freezer. Also dried loads of apple slices, now they are stored for winter (I'm feeling like a squirrel all of a sudden). And drumroll made a batch of Tomatillo and Apple Salsa, all canned and labelled. Picked up all the apples that were on the ground, bagged them and gave them to Ted for Karen's chickens (her chickens lay wonderful eggs). All in all I am feeling rather chuffed with myself. I know it's awful to feel smug, but I do. Thank you world!!

Crazy Tomatillo

White Eggplant
Okra pods

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Light hearted reading | Online shopping reviews

I do buy online, in fact I do buy quite a bit from Amazon, especially books and some other miscellaneous things. Having said that I also read the reviews of the products. Most are straightforward to the point, don't mess around and give the facts. Like Joe Friday.

So reviews, usually are bland. However once in a while you just spend oddles of time reading and laughing at the creative side of folk with hidden talents. Personally I think all our hidden talents would make such a better world than is presently at hand. Now where in the heck is Esther going with this well someone posted a link on Facebook this morning pointing to the Amazon reviews on of all things 'Bic' pens. Not any old Bic pen you must understand, but 'Bic for Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen'

The low star comment read as follows:

2.0 out of 5 stars THEY NEED TO PUT A WARNING ON THE PACKAGE, August 21, 2012
This review is from: BIC For Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen, Medium Point, 1.0 mm, Assorted-Fashion Ink, 2 Count (FHAP21-ASST) (Office Product)
I know it says "for her" on the package but I, like many, assumed it was just a marketing ploy seeking to profit off of archaic gender constructs and the "war of the sexes". Little did I realize that these pens really are for girls, and ONLY girls. Non-girls risk SERIOUS side effects should they use this product. I lent one to my 13-year-old brother, not thinking anything of it, and woke up the next morning to the sound of whinnying coming from the room across the hall. I got out of bed and went to his room to find that my worst fears had been realized :

MY LITTLE BROTHER IS NOW A UNICORN and it's all my fault. Sure, you'd think that having a unicorn for a little brother would be great but my parents are FURIOUS - I've been grounded for a MONTH!!! They made an appointment for him with our family practitioner, but I'm not sure it'll do any good, and they told me that if it couldn't be fixed I'd have to get a job to help pay for his feed and lodging D:

I repeat, boys, DO NOT USE THIS PEN. Unless you want to be a unicorn, and even then be careful because there's no telling that you'll suffer the same side effects.


(I'm giving it two stars because even though they got me grounded, the pens still write really nice and bring out my eyes)

The high star comment read (man's opinion)

5.0 out of 5 stars Well suited to make markings, August 27, 2012
This review is from: BIC For Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen, Medium Point, 1.0 mm, Assorted-Fashion Ink, 2 Count (FHAP21-ASST) (Office Product)
"Wife", I said, "If you could have one new fashion accessory to go with your Snooki's Sultry Hobo Handbag what would it be?" Finally, her dreams can be realized. I'll have to teach her how to use a pen safely but it will be worth the effort once she starts earning big bucks addressing envelopes at home.

The product itself came two to a package as advertised and both of them contained ink so you don't have to worry about making your own. They really retract although the ejector plunger may wear as the wife practices pushing the ram. Also, the roller ball on the one I broke open was 1.2 mm (which rounds down to 1.0 mm) so it may be a little too heavy gauged for a female beginner penslinger. I think the balls are made out of tungsten carbide although the lab results won't be ready for several weeks. The ink pH, viscosity check, and appearance fell in line with manlier inks although the pink ink was a nice "for her" customization.

Overall, these pens are well suited to make markings on paper and other materials! A felt tipped pen would probably have been a better choice for beginners as there is less chance of eye damage. Of course no pen is truly eye safe. You can get around this by purchasing a good set of safety goggles for her before letting her hold the pen.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 

Runner ups are many, and all delightful for the most part, no bland reviews here:

193 of 196 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman..., August 27, 2012
This review is from: BIC For Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen, Medium Point, 1.0 mm, Assorted-Fashion Ink, 2 Count (FHAP21-ASST) (Office Product)
After having gifted this precious item to my love and seeing her properly drawing unicorns and fairies for the first time (previously you see, it was as if the other pens--my pens--would take over and draw muscular mutated beasts with great big fangs and saddles loaded with projectiles and an assortment of cutlery not suitable for any kitchen work!), I thought to myself, maybe she's born with it? maybe it's BIC! I couldn't wait for her to show off in front of her friends--and indeed she did, inflicting them with such jealousy leaving them no choice but to beg their husbands for enough spare change to purchase some of their own.

But that's when it hit me. Deep down inside, I was desiring a bit--or I dare say--a lot of what they had experienced among themselves. So I did the unthinkable. I bought a set for myself. My love asked me what on earth I was doing with another set of "for her" pens and I immediately snapped back, "they're for our daughter!" But she reminded me, we don't have a daughter. Alas, I was caught in my own web of lies, and holding the pens, I broke down crying like a little girl--the little girl we didn't have, except in my own heart. I wept with my dearest until I felt closure from it all and finally came out! I gently grabbed the flower-templated paper I purchased with the pens and began writing in big smooth curvy letters--not the crooked hasty one's I was used to all my life with those blasted man pens; and drawing horses and poodles--not the tall one's mind you, but rather the cute little ones--and then heart shapes and innocent love letters (not the raunchy hair-raising instant-blush & faint one's I naturally spun out of a man-pen) and my poetry was filled with a noticeable feminine charm. I loved it. It felt so natural. Yet so guilty. Guilty, for having taking it from whatever poor woman came to the store that day to find the shelf depleted, and for my own self, for having given in to the temptation of experimenting with a different orientation. I had to confide in my best friend. He took me by surprise by confessing to me first that he was swept up by it too! The pen it was, so sleek and fragile, we fell in love with its delicate charm. And we knew we couldn't go back to those so-called "man pens" anymore, except of course, in the presence of those yet still unenlightened. So we decided to educate the society around us one at a time, bit by bit, until it becomes acceptable for a man to write both ways. My friend Butch took his pen out shopping, making note to sign his name with the new pen wherever he could, shoving it into the cashier's face, to read, to weep, and to give in to it also. "You should have seen him!" Butch cried happily, "When I retracted the pen tip in front of one of the cashiers, he became weak at the knees and whipped out his pen as well, shouting with glee that he was not alone, no more." A round of pens for our friends! And I here tell the tale of the love of two men, seized by a stranger as it were, much closer to the bosom than that which we had been raised to believe was only proper for a man. So my final words to all women, let your man experiment with them too, and don't feel ashamed or guilty if you see him do so, but give him the privacy he needs until he is strong enough to wave his pen out in public without any fear and without any shame. I've gotten too choked up to go on!

UPDATE: Butch's wife filed for a divorce, citing that he keeps taking all her pens as if that's irrational behavior. Thus, I had to knock the pen down from five to four stars, not out of any weakness in of its own delicate nature, but due to its seductive charm, too potent to resist. My marriage is still intact, but I suspect my wife has gone back to another pen, a man's pen--the other day she said I've been thinking through my pen too much and she needed the assurance and security of a stronger pen that can write boldly in times when she needs that testost--I mean ink, whilst I have forgotten how to weld my own!
If you wish to read more laughter on the 'Bic for Her' just click and scroll down to the reviews. Happy writing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting ready for the Indian Summer

Peaches and Wine | How divine!
The peaches are ripe, and the juice runs down your chin. The dahlias are glorious, and I can see the odd leaf here and there looking rather tired after the long summer heat. It's coming the Autumn, and I shall hopefully be ready. I made a run to Noble Orchards and bought a large box of peaches, mine did not do well this year. Although my nectarines and apricots made up for them many times over.

Once again I have tomatoes coming out of my ears, though this type I'm not particularly keen on, so I went to Ted's house down the road and he loaded me up with some goodies from his plants.
Ted's Heirloom Tomatoes
Indigo Rose Heirloom Tomatoes

The secret to good flavoured chutney is not just about ingredients, but having a good, long simmer for hours over a couple of days. Reducing the ingredients into a thick sweet mass prior to canning. Ideally simmering for at least half a day, then reheating prior to canning the following day should work best.

After 8 hours looks gorgeous
I used a combination of large heirloom tomatoes and Indigo Rose, which has a rather bland taste, similar to a roma, but the colour is magnificent.

Use Summer Tomato|Peach chutney as a condiment with roast chicken, beef or pork. Slather the chutney on a cheese or vegetable baquette sandwich, or pour some over cream cheese. Serve with crackers for a simple snack with drinks.

2 cups each white and brown sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp each of ground cumin, cardamon, coriander
1 dash of red chili pepper flakes
7-1/2 lbs tomatoes, chop into large pieces. Large tomatoes, remove skin and seeds prior to chop
2 large peaches, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 lb golden raisins
2 lemons, use zest and juice from both

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugars, vinegar, and spices. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower the heat, add tomatoes, onions, raisins, lemon zest and juice. Keep stirring. Add peaches after an hour. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, and put lid on. In the morning slowly reheat, cook for an additional 2 hours then begin your canning process.

Store in sterile jars. Process jars in a water bath for 10 minutes after water begins to boil. Lift from water bath, let sit for 5 minutes then remove and cool.

Makes 12 8 oz jars

Harvest time, and it's busy

Juliette Heirloom Tomatoes
Kadota Figs
Cleaning and stemming
Roasted Tomatoes .... almost
Drying tomatoes

All the harvest seems to be ripening all at the same time, which rather puts me into a dither. Yesterday was spent gathering all the ripe figs, halving them and setting them out for drying. After 18 hours there is still a tad of moisture inside, but I bagged them immediately, and they are now in the freezer for use sometime in the winter, when I absolutely need to taste some summer on a cold, damp chilly day.

Today I did manage to gather a large basket of heirloom tomatoes called Juliette, they are medium small and quite similar to Roma. Thick skinned so it took quite a while for me to prepare them for drying. I'm trying two methods one in the ovenis roasted tomatoes, and the other method is straight drying with a new dehydrator I purchased last week.

Roasted Tomatoes - Cook at 350°F

2 lbs small Roma type tomatoes halved I used Juliette
1 bulb of garlic cleaned, and half large cloves
6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp grated sea salt
1 good dash of red pepper flakes
Juice from whole lemon
Approx. 1/2 cup olive oil

In an large dish, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice, drizzle the olive oil over the mixture.

Cook for approximately 1.75 hours, then stir to make sure they’re done. Serve over pasta, mozzarella, or put on ciabatta for a simple meal.

I am a little upset but it's my own fault there was a plant growing in the garden, actually there was three but I pulled one sadly. After the fact I found out it was a peanut plant, I was quite tickled that I had grow peanuts. So last week as I was clearing the raised beds I pulled out the peanut plant, set it aside to dry in the sun on the hopes that I could use the peanuts and sow them next year. Foiled by something I suspect a squirrel dined on my organic accident peanuts. I'm thinking they must have grown from my compost from last year. A happy accident. The first photo shows the peanut plant lurking between the peppers, and the second shows my meager harvest that was stolen by a ninja squirrel. I still have to do something with all the peppers, and of course the apples too. Wish me luck. Happy harvest to you all.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My latest experiment ..... I rather like

Well got busy today, finally got an inspiration regarding a gift, from the person who actually the gift was for. I had looked and looked at Buddha quotes and didn't find any that made sense to me, which does make sense since I'm not Buddhist, just ask my sister she will thoroughly confirm that fact since I killed a mole, who apparently at some point in time was someone's grandmother. In fact recommended that I might rethink becoming one. Thank you Agnes.

Any way, my dear friend Sharon who is a Buddhist a very caring and lovely person has her birthday coming up and I wanted to create something special, I think I have.

A week ago her very dear friend Meemie who lives in India sent out an email, which Sharon  forwarded to eight of her friends.


My table of 8:

I am supposed to pick 8 women who have touched my life and whom I think might participate.
  Please send this back to me. Remember to just read the quotation.
That's all you have to do. There is nothing attached.
Just send this to eight women and see what happens...
If you don't feel like forwarding it, just enjoy!

"May  today there be peace within. May you trust that you are  exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in  yourself and others.
May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you  are.
Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and  allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us."
Perfect, I got eight white plates and began inscribing and scribbling on. Tomorrow into the oven to bake the ink paint. This could be special, I have my fingers crossed, I know it will be.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wildflower Ride in Paradise

My son in law is up in the area today, well down the hill actually with his parents in Chico. This weekend is the infamous 100 mile bike ride race. It's actually for those who are insane. We live on the top of some buttes, that's why they call it Butte County. Sometimes youngsters delete the 'e' on the state sign posts and for a while we are all butt's, I always smile when I come back from San Francisco and see the changed sign. I live with butts .... too funny. Anyway I digress, so we live 2000' above the valley floor, and the cliffs resemble the Grand Canyon, only on a smaller scale. There is a road called Honey Run, that virtually climbs straight up the cliffs. It's one lane, they say it's two, it isn't. AND there is no honey about it, it's not a sweet ride it's a nightmare and terrifying honestly. Do not drive this road. When you cross the covered bridge, turn back and save your sanity. Anyway this is rather the beginning of the ride from Chico, hence me saying it's insane. Of course later there's the climb up Table Mountain to the plateau. I remember back 2006 and Dan did this right before the wedding, I wasn't very nice when I think I said you will be at the wedding even if we have to prop you up, do not have an accident. He didn't thankfully. So on to other things Etsy is all in a dither they apparently are not as focused on handmade as they used to be, which is rather sad in a way. I know things evolve. However, in this day and age where evolution has taken a turn for the worse especially in the growing of plants and foods, where GMO is ruining the future. And more and more folk are returning to growing and nurturing the land by hand and using heirloom seeds. This move by Etsy almost seems to fly in the face of a new revolution taking place. I'm not sure in the long term that this bodes well for Etsy. It might, but I think the handmade concept being an exclusive thing on Etsy has shrivelled drastically especially for their client base. Quite sad to watch and read about. There is a forum thread about show your hands, and in a way was why I was posting today. I'm older, made my bones so to speak in the corporate world. Now my hands made my life happy. I dig, weed, cook, paint, create, knit, embroider, sew. I owe all to my Mother who did all of this so well, and she wrote, poetry and words that I treasure. She also loved opera. A vastly superior person to me, I just do the basics, and that's fun, I love simple, can't do complicated things. I am outspoken, because I can't dissemble well. I speak from the soul and gut. I do know I'm not malicious so that's good, and I don't do envy. So back to today, I baked bread for the first time since I was in Domestic Science at Sir Thomas Bennett in Crawley. My creation today, is f'ing awesome, smells great, the hubby loves it and it was cheap to do, and not labour intensive. Seriously a lazy bread bake :) And this is the blog where I found the recipe, seriously do not throw this link away, you will need it one day. So with these old hands I baked bread today, I finished sewing up a thing that my daughter saw on Pinterest out of linen and cotton, and managed to redesign and create something that I think she can throw on and be happy wearing.