We have a neighborhood fox that comes at night to bark at Loki. Fortunately, she doesn't bark back. But it is the weirdest noise. I recorded it today so you could hear it too.
We have a neighborhood fox that comes at night to bark at Loki. Fortunately, she doesn't bark back. But it is the weirdest noise. I recorded it today so you could hear it too.
May 5th the first ripe strawberries were plucked from the garden. Sadly, we need to put down some straw because the bugs are finding them before we are. However, I'm still happy to have red, ripe strawberries outside. Other than lettuce and herbs, this is our first harvest of the season.
We don't have that many sunny spots in our yard. You'd think we'd get to a point where the gardening would be done. For some reason, every time I check something off the garden list, something else gets added. Wait, there's a little more room in that corner. Or, I think that spot may actually be sunny enough for another berry bush. My wish list is long. Maybe first I need to be successful with what I have planted. My lettuce has not been impressive this year, despite patiently growing them from seed. I haven't even picked any spinach because it's been so small.
On the plus side, the veggie garden is more protected. There's a new fence with features to make even the groundhog steer clear. And, we have a fox now. Well, we have a fox that stops by at least weekly to bark at our dog. The fox barks, not Loki. It's a very strange noise. Hopefully a resident fox will make little critters think twice about coming near our yard and stealing our plants. It hasn't stopped the squirrels, though. They've already been taking bites out of our green strawberries and leaving them around the yard.
I hope we get some red strawberries soon. I've held off on buying the ones in the grocery store in anticipation of the ones growing in my yard, but I'm getting impatient.
Chris has already won our March Madness pool. I'll have to wash the dishes for a week. That's what I get for picking Murray St. to win. But if you can't pick who you want to root for, that's no fun.
I'll post pictures of my windowsill soon. Spring has come early and my seedlings are no exception. Outside the fruit trees are budding, the strawberries are spreading, and the berry bushes are getting their first leaves.
So what will be growing in the vegetable garden this year?
Principe Borghese Tomato
Trip L Crop Tomato (the seeds were free)
Red Bell Pepper
Ichiban Japanese Eggplant
Minnesota Midget Cantaloupe
Sugar Baby Watermelon
Blue Hubbard Squash
Eight Ball Zucchini
There are a lot of great photographers nearby and you don't even have to look in Nashville. To find the photographer in your area in Tennessee that's right for your event, you need to consider a number of things. For instance, if you're looking for a wedding photographer, do you want a photojournalistic style or something a bit more artistic? If this is for a family portrait, do you want it to be formal or informal? If you're looking for a fun Cookeville photographer with an artistic eye, I would recommend Furman Photography. I have a couple of his pictures hanging on my wall and I love them. Check out his work at http://www.georgefurman.com/.
I had a picnic lunch out in the sunshine today. It doesn't feel like February at all and it makes me want to start all my vegetable seeds. This time last year I had seeds sprouting and it really was too early.
We're back from Italy. We had a great trip and saw Etruscan tombs, the ancient Roman city of Ostia Antica, the Capitoline Museum and much more. Now, after travel and the holidays, it's time for life to get back to normal. As usual, while we were traveling we took lots of pictures.
We're good at recycling. And we try to reuse as much as possible, although composting has been a failure. What I want to do more of in 2012 is reducing. If we don't buy it in the first place, that's the best of all options. To that end, I've been trying to cut down on the number of things I buy that eventually need to be recycled. We have a water filter and a SodaStream, which cuts down quite a bit on the need for bottles. We've switched to bars for soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizing lotion, and shaving cream, which also cuts down on plastic. And we've started canning, which uses reusable jars instead of the one-use metal cans from the store. And I'm trying to rely on canned, frozen, or cool weather veggies this winter instead of buying fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers just because they're available all year in the grocery store. Hopefully I'll keep it up, but I already miss fresh tomatoes and it's only January. At least we're doing something. It's a little progress. We use much less electricity and water than average according to our utility bills. And yet there's still so much more we can do. I want to try to buy more in bulk. I want to compost successfully. I want to not buy a single can of soda in 2012. I want to get back in the habit of bringing and using silverware at work instead of the disposable plates and utensils in the lunchroom. Every little bit helps.
This year we made Christmas presents. It was a fun project and I was amazed by the final products of what we gave and received.
Chris had an idea of building a Tardis (from Doctor Who) box. So he tried his hand at woodworking. And after many hours using hand tools to chisel door panels, we got some electronic tools that sped the job up a bit. The result is a spectacular box and now I've requested that Chris make me one too.
For my part, I knit a purse and made a quilt.
And I tried my hand at glass etching.
It's really easy. You just need to get a special glass etching solution. Then you take contact paper, trace what you want to put on the glass (I used a stencil) and cut it out with an exacto knife. Then carefully remove the backing and stick it on the glass, being careful to smooth out any bumps. The glass etching stuff goes on the holes you made in the contact paper, and then you wash it off a few minutes later. That's all there is to it.
With all these Christmas presents, Loki didn't help at all. However, she was very happy when she got homemade dog biscuits on Christmas day.
I just got back from vacation. It was a much needed break and now I'm ready to head into the holiday season. Some of the pictures are posted at http://jessicaek.typepad.com/photos/carribbean.
The next few weeks will be busy, so you may not hear from me much but stay tuned for pictures from our Italy trip in early 2012. Also, this year my family is making Christmas presents to exchange and we've been hard at work on a number of interesting gifts, so I'll be posting those after Christmas.
I love rainy days. I love dreary, dark, cloudy rainy days. I love the sound of rain tapping on the window or on an umbrella. And it's nice to come inside somewhere cozy after being out in the rain. It makes me miss London. It makes me happy that the rain will make the garden that much better. And there's something slightly guilty but lovely about being happy on a rainy day.
First there was an earthquake and then the hurricane came through. It was quite a week. All is well here and despite a day without power, some fallen branches, and a bent tree or two we really don't have anything to complain about. It could have been a whole lot worse.
I can't believe August is almost over! Post hurricane, the temperature is nice and the sun is shining. Our fall vegetables survived the rough weather. We continued the canning experiment by making pickles and relish last weekend.
Work is still very busy and will probably remain so for another 9-10 weeks, so I'm sorry if this blog is a little quiet this fall. I'll come back.
I love those days in August that let you know Fall is around the corner. The breeze picks up and a few leaves begin to fall (although I think those are from the recent drought).
The garden has been going pretty well and we have a bumper crop of tomatoes and basil, although the rest of the crops never fully recovered from the groundhog, who is still at large. We also got supplemental tomatoes from the local farmer's market and canned. Now we have salsa, bbq sauce, diced tomatoes, and all sorts of lovely jars in the basement that I'm sure we'll be happy to have this winter.
The Wildwood beach tournament was lots of fun and lived up to expectations. It promises to be a busy end of summer into early fall and then I'm looking forward to vacation time in late fall and early winter.
The groundhog has done a number on just about everything else in our garden, but the tomatoes are still going strong. So far we've harvested 15 tomatoes. The roma and the early girls are our top performers, but there are green tomatoes on all the plants. Yay!
And mom and dad got me replacement cucumbers. :) I was so upset that I might not get cucumbers this year but now I think I will.
Oh, and the squash plants are finally getting their first female flowers. We may still have a garden this season afterall. If only we could catch the groundhog. The trap has been set.
Yesterday, I picked the first red tomatoes from the garden. We have never gotten them this early before. :)
There have been no bunnies in our garden. Nor have there been deer. We found our mysterious guest and he is a particularly fat groundhog. So far he's eaten all of our bush beans, all of our melons, most of our cucumbers, most of our carrots, half of our peppers, some of our eggplants, and some of our summer and winter squashes. We've been trying to deter him with reflective material, dog poop and dog fur, and wire strung around the edge of the garden. So far nothing has worked. Now I know how Bill Murray felt about the gopher.
The one bright spot left in the garden is that he hasn't touched the tomatoes. Those tomatoes are gorgeous. They're already taller than I am with at least a hundred green tomatoes on them and as of this morning two tomatoes were starting to turn red.
A deer got into our garden yesterday. Today I picked a cucumber, but it will be the first and last of the season since the cucumber plants are pretty much gone. The peppers have been half eaten. Some will recover, some won't. A few squash leaves are missing. The tomatoes were untouched, so at least we'll have those. I hate these kinds of set backs.
In a time honored garden cliche, the rabbit ate our carrots. Strangely, he also ate another melon plant and two pepper plants. It is a setback and I'm left hoping our bunny friend doesn't return. In the meantime, I'm anxiously awaiting the tomatoes and cucumbers that are slowly growing on the vines.
Our garden is doing well, although we're waiting for our next harvest. There are some green tomatoes and tiny cucumbers that make me hopefully that veggies are coming. Here is our jungle of tomatoes:
And then here are some of the peppers, along with shallots and garlic on the right.
Some of our eggplants are flowering.
And then this is a bit of a mystery plant. We know it is a squash plant, but whether it's summer or winter squash is unclear. It is much taller than all the other squash plants we have.
DC is getting a Shake Shack! I wonder if the lines will be as long as the NYC one. It sounds like this is opening soon, unlike the Wagamama restaurant we were promised back in 2008 and still have yet to see.
Two years ago, we planted 15 strawberry plants. Last year, we were fortunate enough to have strawberries to enjoy fresh as well as some extra to use in strawberry margaritas when friends visited. This year, we're pulling in over a pint a day. Eating strawberries fresh is great, but you can only eat so many until the rest go bad. What should you do with all of those other strawberries? Here are some ideas that don't require any cooking at all:
Strawberry Lemonade - Put 1 cup of hulled strawberries, 1 cup of sugar or Splenda, and 2/3 cup of lemon juice in a blender. Blend until smooth then let sit until foam dissipates. Put in a pitcher and add 2 cups of water and 3 cups of club soda. Serve over ice. Alternatively, you can pour the mixture from the blender into a container and freeze it, so you can continue to enjoy the taste of fresh strawberries later in the summer. Servies 10 or so
Frozen Strawberry Mousse - Separate an egg and whip the white for a minute to form a foam. Add 1/2 cup of sugar or Splenda and mix it in. Then add in 2 cups of strawberries. Use a hand blender to mix for a full 15 minutes. Make sure this is in a very large bowl because it will fluff up quite a bit. Pour into a container and put in the freezer for at least an hour. Scoop out and serve like ice cream. Serves 8-10
Freezer Jam - Take 2 cups of mashed strawberries and add 3/4 cup of sugar or Splenda. Then mix in half a package of pectin (they have some specifically for freezer jam) and pour into containers. Let sit for about an hour and then put in the freezer. We haven't tried this yet and we may try to make traditional jam instead, but this does seem like a nice option.
Our garden is on its way! So far we've picked 2 dozen strawberries (with many more on the way), 5 very tiny radishes, 1 1/2 cups of pea pods, and enough lettuce for about 9 side salads and around a dozen sandwiches.
Currently, we have small green roma tomatoes growing. Last weekend I picked off all the suckers on the tomato plants and that was a sad task considering how healthy those suckers already looked. We also have a couple of very, very small green peppers on the way. Our squash and cucumber plants are flowering.
The blackberry bushes are blooming and the raspberry bushes have buds. There are about a dozen cherries forming and also about a dozen gala apples. Our plum tree has lots of little plums but last year it dropped all of them so we're hoping this year some hang on. The grape vine we planted is just about to leaf out and 3 of the 4 blueberry bushes we planted recently are doing well (1 died for no apparent reason). A weedwacker from our neighbor's lawn service took out most of our new black currant bushes, but we're hoping 2 of the 6 may still recover.
I know it's early in the season, but I'm already looking forward to when we start canning. I'm convinced that this will be the year we'll have enough of something. We planted 19 tomato plants and 21 pepper plants, so here's hoping they live up their potential. I have less hope for the watermelon plants and I'm rather disappointed in the spinach. Next year we might not plant it.
The herb garden is doing well. Our chives and sage are flowering. Our rosemary made an attempt at a rebound after a cold winter and did not survive, so we replaced it with a small arp rosemary plant that should be more cold tolerant. The basil plants are doing well, but I need to pinch off the tops so they get bushier.
I have found new entertainment going to other garden blogs online and seeing how their gardens are coming along. There are also some friends nearby that garden and I'd love to start our own garden club where we share advice, extra plants, and seeds.
We've been doing a lot of work in the garden and enjoying this beautiful spring. I've taken one of the empty beds in the garden and filled it with some native flowers that used to be in taking over our herb garden.
And now the herbs have more room to spread and grow. The sage and chives are doing particularly well. I'm hoping for the rosemary to revive.
And here is the garden. It is growing nicely. I don't have a close up of the peas but they are doing the best. We've already picked one batch and hope to get another soon.
The tomatoes are also doing well. Some even have a few flowers. I'm just so proud of these guys. I've been working on growing them since January and it's nice to see them thriving in the garden.
The squash and cucumber plants are starting to flower as well, although it seems a bit early for them.
Loki is enjoying the backyard. And there are lots of flowers this time of year.
Our fruit trees are also starting to do their thing. These, hopefully, will become apples. I'm hoping to get more than the two apples we got last year.
The cherries are also starting to form. They should ripen right after the strawberries.
And here are the plums. We haven't gotten plums yet, but this is by far the healthiest of the fruit trees so I'm hoping we'll get fruit this year.
And of course, I'm waiting for these strawberries to turn red. I know it's earlier than usual, but it's been a warm spring. France's strawberries are already ripe and are three weeks ahead of schedule.
I can't believe we planted these only a couple of years ago. They are doing really well and I'm hoping for lots of berries.
That's our garden update for now.
Last Friday Loki gave us a scare. She was walking stiffly and her stomach was distended. We rushed her to the animal hospital where they x-rayed her, prepped her, and then she went right into surgery. We are very lucky we went straight to the hospital because her stomach had twisted and if left untreated the condition would very quickly have become fatal. The vet untwisted her stomach and she spent the next two days at the hospital recovering.
She is now home and starting to get back to being herself. She is on a restricted diet and she will not be allowed to run, jump, or rough house for the next 3-4 weeks. We're just so happy to have her back and see her tail wag again. She's going to be alright. The vet stapled the outer wall of her stomach to her ribs, so hopefully that will prevent this from happening again.
I mention all this because twisted stomach is a condition that sometimes happens to large dogs, so owners should be aware of it and on the lookout. It happens very quickly, sometimes due to eating and then exercising and sometimes without apparent cause. If this happens, get to the nearest available vet as soon as possible. Also, it is worth considering pet insurance. This emergency comes with a hefty bill for surgery, recovery, medication, and follow up visits.
Everything is planted and we've mulched it with grass clippings. So far the bugs have been few and the rain has been plentiful. As you may know if you have read previous posts, we started everything way too early. Seeds were started in January and plants were put outside two weeks ago. The peas were put outside as month old plants around St. Patrick's Day. Veteran gardeners cautioned me to wait, but I was eager to push the season.
So what was the result? Well, nothing died. The peas suffered from some frost burn and the tomatoes still aren't looking very happy. Why would they? They shouldn't be out yet. Currently the things that look healthy and thriving are all the cool weather crops. They are doing really, really well and the radishes are even bulbing. The rest are merely enduring until the weather gets warmer.
So what have I learned? I should follow the gardening books more closely. I may not have murdered my plants by starting so early, but I didn't gain anything by it either. There is a lot of information out there about what plants do best when and I'm not doing the plants any favors getting them out there early. They will grow when the time is right.
I'll probably still push the season a bit next year. Maybe not by as much as I did this year, but I don't think I'll be able to resist starting spring as early as possible.
I thought I knew when fruits and vegetables were in season. I eagerly anticipated the first asparagus of the spring. I know June is for strawberries, and August is for watermelons. Apple picking starts in September and the time to eat winter squash starts in October.
Therefore, I found it to be such a surprise when I started gardening and realized how much I still didn't know. Lettuce grows in spring and fall, yet tomatoes and cucumbers grow in the summer. How is it that my go-to salad consists of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers when they don't grow at the same time?
Now that I'm trying harder to eat things in season, this poses a bit of a dilemma. We've been making Caesar salads lately (and started using a yummy yogurt-based dressing), since they don't contain summer veggies. A friend of mine has salads featuring dried fruit and nuts. I've put a shade tent over my lettuce in the hope of keeping it from bolting before I can get some cucumbers. And then, later in the summer, my salads will be more like Greek village salads; without lettuce.
It's just a little thing, but when everything is available all year in the grocery store, you never really think about it.
Okay, it may be a little early, but the garden is in.
I think it looks quite nice. And this year everything in that garden was purchased as seeds, except the cayenne pepper plants, which were started from the seeds collected from last year's plants.
I'm very impressed by the variety of things we're growing, even if we don't grow much of any one thing.
Vegetable - eggplant, tomato, hot and sweet pepper, cucumber, watermelon, zucchini, yellow squash, blue hubbard squash, radish, carrot, lettuce, spinach, pea, garlic, shallot, potato
Herb - basil, sage, rosemary, mint, chive, thyme, lavendar, cilantro, parsley, oregano
Fruit - apple, plum, cherry, strawberry, currant, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, grape
The plum tree, apple trees, cherry tree, and peas are started to bloom. Now let's hope there's no frost.
Pictures have been posted from Fool's Fest 2011! View the album.
The days are in the high 50s and the nights aren't getting down to freezing anymore. Of course, this is March, so those temperatures could change quickly. Our tomato plants are getting too big and really should be in the ground. But again, it's still mid March. The daffodils in full sun have started to bloom and the peas are growing in the garden. And the soil is getting steadily warmer. Decisions, decisions.
Today was a lovely weekend for gardening. The crocuses have started blooming and the daffodils near the house have buds. Yesterday was overcast but warm, perfect for planting the peas in the garden, along with transplanting strawberries and raspberries. Today we've had a slow, soaking rain that will give them the perfect start. We've also ordered more berry bushes, so in a few weeks we'll be able to plant black currents, blueberries and grapes. Oh, and speaking of the garden, Chris has found a wonderful source of light, well-draining soil in our woods out back that I think will be the perfect base for our homemade potting mix. I plan on testing it soon.
I'm starting to get very optimistic about the possibilities of this upcoming growing season. I think we may have enough strawberries this year to make jam. We originally planted 25 strawberry plants, two years ago. The ones on the side of the house thrived while those in the back were killed when the patio was put in. After some transplanting work, there are strawberries in back of the house again and we're up about 200 total plants. I'm hoping we have more apples and cherries and perhaps we even get a plum, but that remains to be seen.
With the limited light we have, we certainly won't be able to grow all the produce we eat. But, I'm hoping we'll have enough to supply nearly all our summer vegetable needs and still give us the opportunity to can a little. And we're trying to focus on what grows well in the garden and then the rest we can get from the farm stand down the street. I found a recipe for a jarred salsa, which I think would be fun to make along with jarred bruscetta and pizza sauce. I may even want to try our own barbeque sauce or ketchup, depending on our tomato crop. Chris wants to freeze roasted red peppers and I'm hoping we can dry cayenne peppers again this year. We're also planning to plant more basil, since our pesto reserve is getting low.
Tonight, we're making butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli with a carmelized onion and sage brown butter sauce, using the last of the winter squash we bought at the farmers market last fall. While I tend to be suspitious of gadgets with limited uses, the pasta press is hands down one of the most entertaining things in our kitchen. I love being able to make specialty pastas and invent new ravioli fillings. For our next kitchen gadget, I've just ordered a tortilla press. It can press dough for corn or flour tortillas as well as dumpling and potsticker wraps and Indian roti bread. I could even make pesto tortillas for lunch wraps or make my own tortilla chips. I can't wait to try it out!
This weekend, we're putting the peas into the garden. There are still frosts to come between now and spring, but they can handle it. And I've been putting them outside during the day to acclimate them, so I hope they'll do alright. I've also planted, inside, some squash, cucumbers, and melons. Again, it's way too early, but last year we pushed the season and it worked out really well. Sunday will probably involve indoor projects since we're supposed to be getting an inch of rain.
At any rate, I'm very happy that it looks like I will succeed in my mission to grow all my plants from seed. I will not need to buy seedlings for the garden from the nursery this year. Next year, I hope to not have to buy seeds as well. I'll reuse the seedling flats we got this year, so we shouldn't need any more plant containers. And, we are working toward not needing to buy soil either. By mixing in new compost (Chris just made a larger compost bin for the yard) and digging into the soil underneath the raised beds, we have more garden soil than we know what to do with and haven't added any from the store in two years. In addition, we've been considering mixing our own potting soil for starting seedlings and planting pots on the patio. I recently found a recipe for peat moss free potting soil, although we'll still probably need a buy a few of the components, like sand. At which point, we'll have a nearly self sustaining garden. Although, we'll be bringing in water with the hose because there's no way I'm going to collect rain and then drag the barrel up our hill to the garden. If we do start collecting rain water, it will have to be used on plants closer to the house.
And then on Tuesday, Jasper Fforde's latest Thursday Next book comes out in the US. I can't wait!
Spring is on its way. The daffodils are coming up and the strawberry plants have put out new leaves. I just saw the first shoots from the chive plant and the sage and rosemary bushes are starting to green back up. Leaves will be back on the trees before we know it.
We mixed in new compost and now the soil for the garden is ready for spring. The peas are ready too, although we're going to wait another week or two before planting them. Today is their first day acclimating to the great outdoors.
Inside, the plants are also doing well. Almost everything has true leaves and the tomatoes are well on their way to becoming big, healthy plants.
In addition to working on getting the garden ready, Chris and I have been cooking. Chris made saffron linguine dough, so later we'll be putting that through the pasta press and cooking a lemon-wine sauce and grilled yellow squash to toss with it.
I also made a treat for dessert. It's nutella-swirled banana bread. Just use your favorite banana bread recipe and swirl in two heaping spoonfuls of nutella before putting it into the pan and then in the oven. How could you go wrong.
Finally, I'm going to make a bulgur wheat salad to take for lunches this week. The bulgur is cooked, but I haven't chopped and added the other ingredients yet. I'm hoping it will be a good alternative to the frozen lunches I've been bringing in this winter.
Ultimate frisbee starts up again in a couple of weeks. Our next gourmet club theme will be Egyptian and Tunisian foods in honor of their recently earned freedom. The last gourmet club was Mexican and we made tomales. They were tricky to put together but the result was quite good.
Loki says hi. She's enjoying the nice weather and tracking lots of mud into the house.
"Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting.
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear."
I know it won't last long, but that first peak into what the spring weather will bring is intoxicating. How can you not grin when you can walk outside in a T-shirt again, at last?
Here are my seedlings. The tomatoes are doing particularly well and I've started turning the fan on them for a little while each day to make the stems sturdier. If I can keep them from getting root-bound or scraggly, they might make lovely plants for our garden in a couple of months. The peppers and eggplants are coming along more slowly, but they also look healthy. And the lettuce, spinach, and basil seeds have now sprouted.
And then here are the peas. We could have waited a few weeks and planted the seeds directly outside, but I'm trying to see how we can get the most out of our small garden and a head start seems to be the perfect way to help the garden along.
Today, Chris and I surveyed the garden and it survived the winter pretty well. We also have some lovely compost we need to add before the plants go in. I'm hopeful that it will be a good season and then maybe we can really start canning.
There they are! We now have tomato seedlings with their first set of true leaves and we have pepper seeds that have sprouted but still have a lot of growing to do. The lettuce has sprouted but I'm still waiting on the basil and spinach. I just planted peas today (I'm going to try sprouting them indoors before moving them outdoors this year). Then, after the peas go outside, I'm going to use that flat to plant cucumber, squash, and melon. We're also thinking of trying garlic and shallots this year, as well as carrots and radishes, but those I plan to sow directly outside. I have it all mapped out and can't wait for this snow to melt and spring to come.
I just planted our tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds. I know, it's too early and all the books say to wait. But you know what? Last year the last frost was in February. And if it's early again this year, I'll be ready for it. Plus, I'm looking forward to have something green and growing. I do love a trip to the garden store at the beginning of the planting season to get all the veggie plants, but it will be so much more satisfying knowing that I grew them myself. And last year the plants I started from seed did just as well as the plants we brought home. This year, with more of a head start, I'm hoping they'll do even better.
I also planted some of the cayenne pepper seeds I collected from our garden last year. It was actually really easy. All I did was cut open some of the peppers, pull out the seeds, dry them, and then store them. I've planted some cayenne seeds from the store too, so it will be an experiment to see which does better. And at the end of this season I'd like to collect a whole lot more seeds. Those seed packets only last a year or two and I'm hoping eventually my garden will be self sustaining and I won't need to buy more each season. It is silly to think there's a farm out there growing the plants to collect the seeds to ship to me when I have access to the same seeds in my own garden each year.
There may be snow on the ground now, but spring is coming!
More pictures from the Galapagos have been posted. You can view the photo album at http://galapagos.jessicaek.com.
We had a great time in the Galapagos Islands and have just gotten back. We swam with sea lions, turtles, and sharks. We watched an Orca hunt and saw the courtship dance of the flightless cormorant. We saw two of the last 100 Charles Mockingbirds in existance. And we had a great time on our boat for the last week. I'm still sorting through over 2,000 pictures, but here are some of the highlights:
Galapagos Giant Tortoise
These pictures were all taken by either me or Chris. There will be more posted soon!
We just got back from a trip to the Dominican Republic a few hours ago. While it was only a quick trip and the flights there were awful and the layover back was rather annoying as well, the time spent in the DR was a lot of fun. The wedding we were there to attend and the resort we stayed at had beautiful beaches. We were able to do some snorkeling and try out the underwater case for our digital camera. For a first attempt, I think the pictures came out pretty well. It was good practice for the Galapagos. I'll post more later, but for now, it's just good to be back.
Last weekend was our end of season tournament and I am still sore. We made it all the way to the finals, which meant that we played 7 full games over 2 days. It was a lot of fun though. We played some good teams and I got to spend time with some of my favorite people.
This weekend is the next gourmet club and the theme is Lebonese cuisine. I'm thinking of bringing baklava ice cream with honey poached figs. Doesn't that sound great? Yummy. And over the next two weeks I have two other pot lucks. They will involve turkey and stuffing and such. I love November. There are few other months so completely focused on food.
The rally was a lot of fun, especially reading signs and seeing all the costumes. We ended up leaving early and watching the rest of the event on TV but it was well worth heading down to the Mall.
Some of the entertaining signs:
"My arms are tired"
"If your beliefs fit on a sign, think harder"
"I like tea, and you're kind of ruining it"
"According to Glen Beck math, there are over 17 million people here"
"MY TAXES ARE REASONABLE!!!"
"This is a good sign"
"I Can Spell"
“I’m Holding a Sign”
"Pasta Fearing American"
“I have no problem paying taxes because I’m an adult and that’s part of the deal”
“My wife is Muslim and not a terrorist – but I’m still afraid of her”
"The Founding Fathers Were East Coast Liberals"
"Gay Mexican Nazis Are Raising My Taxes"
"Sometimes I get the feeling that the government isn't being completely honest and that concerns me"
"We Should Do This More Often"
"Snakes! Beware of Snakes!"
"I Understand Your Stance and While I Disagree I'm Pretty Sure You're Not a Nazi"
"Don't Feed the Trolls"
"Somewhat Irritated About Extreme Outrage"
Now it's your turn.
This morning, I woke up early to get to the polls when they opened. Frost was on the ground and the jack-o-lantern on the front steps looked a little forlorn. We did get a number of trick-or-treaters on Sunday, although Loki doesn't like anyone who has their face covered, so there was an unprecedented amount of barking coming from our house. I hope it didn't scare anyone away. Loki couldn't have looked all that frightening, dressed up in her clown bow tie.
I didn't see the 60 Minutes episode discussing Top Gear, but I think I'll need to check it out. Top Gear gets about 350 million viewers each week worldwide and is an entertaining show. If you haven't seen it, here are some clips:
At first it might seem like a show for car lovers only, but it is one of my favorite shows and I have very little interest in cars. It's funny and has crazy stunts like driving the world's smallest car around the BBC office and through the set of BBC World News.
In other news, we're preparing for the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear this weekend. Our costumes are ready and it will be a busy but highly entertaining weekend. I'm looking forward to it!
Is it just me or has Loki gotten even bigger? As the weather has gotten cooler she's needed more excercise. She is also a very convenient foot warmer. Here's hoping she calms down a little when she turns two.
She's also a very good babysitter, as long as you don't mind a little dog slobber...
And I love when she naps on her couch. Can a dog look more relaxed than that? In the middle of the day she usually goes off and naps. Except on weekends, when she enjoys running in circles on the sideline during our ultimate games.
Each fall, very large acorns from our chestnut oak trees crash through the canopy and hit the ground with a "thud." Brave squirrels dart into our yard to collect as many acorns as they can and then sprint up a tree, escaping before Loki can catch up. Chris would spend many hours collecting the acorns and throwing them into the woods and Loki would find it a fun game to fetch them and bring them back. The acorns that were left in the lawn or gardens sprouted into little oak trees that then needed to be weeded out, since we have more than enough trees in our yard already.
This year, our friend, Rod, suggested making acorn flour. He even offered to show us how. So we collected the acorns and Chris selected flat rocks to put the acorns on and round rocks to use to smash the shells and get to the nut inside. He gathered three sets but didn't need to; Rod brought his own rock. And so, last Saturday afternoon we sat out in the sun and started smashing acorns.
Once the outer shells has been cracked and the meat extracted, it was time to leach out the tannins. The tannins make the acorns bitter, which is why we don't eat acorns like we do hazelnuts or walnuts. The Native Americans did eat acorns and remove the tannins by leaving them in a cold running creek. And actually you can achieve a very similar result at home by putting a mesh bag full of acorn pieces in the toilet tank. It's fresh, cold water that is periodically changed. A similar result can also be achieved by steeping the acorns in boiling water, although the water needs to be changed frequently.
After that, the acorn pieces were laid out on a cookie sheet and cooled in an oven set to its lowest termperture. Then, the coffee grinder was used to turn the nuts into flour. From there, it can be used in a number of ways. For our first experiment, we made pancakes. This involved replacing a third of the regular flour called for in the recipe with acorn flour. They were delicious. Next I want to make apple crisp with acorn flour in the crumbly part on top and Chris wants to use the flour for bread and biscotti. And Chris has already started collecting more acorns for a second batch. I'll take more pictures of the process for this batch and post them here.
The squirrels now have cometition for the acorns in the backyard.
I love a well wrapped present. It makes me very happy to see gifts carefully wrapped up in pretty paper with an attractive bow. However, wrapping paper that will just be ripped off and thrown away is a rather pointless waste of trees, especially when what really matters is the thought and love that went into making or picking out the item underneath the wrapping. And so a few years ago I went about trying to find alternative options.
I read articles about ecofriendly gift wrapping. I used scarves or newspaper. I painted boxes instead of covering them in paper. I even bought 1940s wrapping paper on eBay since those trees were killed long ago. But this year I've given up. I'm tired of having my presents look like grade school craft projects or a hastily wrapped secret santa gifts. After spending so much time finding just the right thing for each person, it seems like such a sad way to present them. This year, I needed to find another alternative.
Fortunately, I think I may have found a good compromise. IKEA has some beautiful recycled, unbleached wrapping paper along with twine to tie around the presents. I also picked up paper Christmas ornaments; they can be used as bows for my gifts this year and be hung on the tree next year. Some I may also top with pine cones and I've ordered reusable bags for some of our multi-part gifts. I'm so happy with the result. Now if only I could figure out a way to cut out the petroleum-based tape...
Oktoberfest was a blast. One of our friends even made a phenomenal pumpkin spaetzle and Chris made a delicious potato bread. And, of course, we had a wide selection of beers to celebrate the occasion. I also had an Oktoberfest potluck at work and was so impressed with the spaetzle that I tried my hand at butternut squash spaetzle. It was good and I ended up using the whisk to flick the batter into the boiling water, which was much less messy than previous attempts at spaetzle.
The leaves have started to change and the weather has definitely turned cooler. It's still dark in the mornings when Loki and I head out on our runs. And we've been eating a lot more winter squash and apples.