Moving Toward an Empty Window Sill

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.


Planning for Spring and Summer

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!


Weekend Warriors

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!


Lazy Sunday

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Loki says hi.  She's enjoying the nice weather and tracking lots of mud into the house.


Window to Spring

Seedling window 

Spring may not be here yet, but it better come soon so we have somewhere to plant these lovely plants.  I am impressed with how heathy they're looking and am looking forward to a promising planting season.  This weekend I think we'll spend some time working in the garden to get it ready.


Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it Comes

"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?


My Little Window Garden

Seedlings 
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.

Peas 
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. 


Seedlings

Tomatoes 

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.


Planting

Tray 

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!


Galapagos

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:

Flightless cormorant 

Flightless Cormorant

Galapagos hawk 

Galapagos Hawk

Waved albatross 
Waved Albatross

Tortoise 3 

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Swallow-tailed gull 

Swallow-Tailed Gull

Sea lion and hood mockingbirds 
Baby Galapagos Sea Lion with Hood Mockingbirds

Fur seal 
 Galapagos Fur Seal (note: actually a type of sea lion)

Penguin 

Galapagos Penguin

Land iguana 2 
Land Iguana

These pictures were all taken by either me or Chris.   There will be more posted soon!


Snorkeling

Snorkeling 
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.


Recovering

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.


Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

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.

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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"


I Voted

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.


All Things Awesome

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!


Our Puppy

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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.

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She's also a very good babysitter, as long as you don't mind a little dog slobber...

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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.


Making Acorn Flour

AcornsEach 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.


A Well Wrapped Gift

Gift 

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!

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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.


Tier 2 Attractions

I felt I had seen much of what DC had to offer.  I’ve done all the museums on the Mall a number of times.  I’ve seen the monuments and memorials in day and night, sun and rain.  So events, festivals, and temporary exhibits were all that could draw me back, right? 

I had thought so, until I discovered some of the other little known sites that are actually quite entertaining.  I have Lauren to thank for helping me rediscover the Old Post Office Tower.  I had been there in high school on a field trip and hadn’t been back until we decided to find the tower to enjoy the view from the top.  It’s just as great a view as from the Washington Monument but there’s rarely ever a line.  I’ve taken many a guest there since then. 

On this last visit we ventured out to the Postal Museum.  We were prepared for a rather boring afternoon of admiring stamps.  What we found was a surprisingly interesting museum, complete with a postal train car, an exhibit on the pony express, and Olney the postal dog (stuffed and on display).  There were also stamps.  They were beautiful stamps from all over the world.  It certainly isn’t the best museum DC has to offer, but it was interesting and free and conveniently located right next to Union Station.

One museum I have yet to explore is the Building Museum.  I did a photo safari of the building itself, but have not been inside.  It is located in the old Pension Building and there is a spectacular frieze of Civil War scenes going all the way around.  It is considered an engineering marvel and had vents in the exterior walls to let out hot air, providing natural air conditioning.  They just had an exhibit on LEGO architecture that looked like fun.  They also have a wide selection of architectural photos and drawings to peruse.

Or there’s the bullet that assassinated Lincoln at the Health and Medicine Museum at Walter Reed.  This museum was originally located on the Mall and was founded during the Civil War.

Every time I think I’ve seen it all, there’s more.  I just need to look for it.


A Visit to the Old Congressional Cemetery

Art-cemetery1 
(Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

When Lauren came to visit, I knew we would have a great time, even if we didn’t really do anything at all.  In fact, the most fun I’ve had on a car ride was getting stuck in a 6 hour traffic jam with Lauren on our way to Philly.  Therefore, I wasn’t terribly worried when I came down with a cold the morning before she arrived.  It was annoying and inconvenient, but it wouldn’t ruin her visit. 

Armed with cough drops, tissues, and cold medicine, we went downtown and headed toward Eastern Market.  While this would have been a fun destination, we didn’t stop there.  We continued on the metro past the Market and found our way to the old Congressional Cemetery.  I had heard of it in passing and an Internet post said that Harvey Milk’s remains were there, so it seemed like a worthwhile destination. 

We followed the fence until we reached an entrance and upon entering we were told by a caretaker to look for white plaques with phone numbers on them next to notable grave stones and we could call the numbers to hear the story about the person buried there.  Armed with this knowledge, we began an unexpected and intriguing scavenger hunt.

First, we came across the grave of two adventurers, which was an auspicious start, we thought, to our adventure.  We also found the Madam on the Mall, who ran a well known brothel in 19th century DC.  We passed by the Public Vault without realizing that it had been the initial resting place of 6,000 people, including Dolly Madison, John Quincy Adams, and Zachary Taylor.  Other notable graves included J. Edgar Hoover, Matthew Brady, and John Philips Sousa.  There was the unmarked grave of a Lincoln assassination conspirator and graves of notable women, such as the founder of the DAR and the first woman to run for president. 

We walked up and down the hill and scoured the rows of gravestones, some tilted and some falling over, in search of the little white plaques.  We were on a mission to locate Harvey Milk.  The closest we had come was the grave of a Vietnam veteran that said, “I was given a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”  It was poignant and touching and we hadn’t expected to find it.  In the end, we made our way back to the gate leading out of the cemetery without finding the grave we sought.

On the way out, we happened upon pamphlets of walking tours, showing exactly where notable graves where located.  While it would have saved a whole lot of walking to have found this in the beginning of our visit, I think our entertainment of coming across unexpected surprises was far more enjoyable.  These pamphlets also did not mention Harvey Milk.  And by the time we had gotten back to the entrance, the caretaker house was closed, so we couldn’t ask about him there.  However, we had accomplished a lot and decided to end our quest and head back home.

It turns out, Harvey Milk’s ashes had been scattered by friends in San Francisco Bay.  The urn that had held the ashes was sent to the Congressional Cemetery to be included in a memorial there.  That urn sat for 22 years but the memorial never came to be and has now been sent back to CA and is part of an exhibit at the Museum of California in Sacramento.  So much for trusting some random page on the Internet.

Overall, it was an fantastic visit and I would highly recommend a trip to the Congressional Cemetery.  It doubles as an off leash dog park, so it would be fun for your pooch too.


Apples!

Last weekend, we picked the apples from our apple tree.  We actually have 2 apple trees that we planted last year but only one had apples to pick.  And even that one only had 2 apples to pick.  The good news, however, is that those apples were perfect and delicious.  Chris and I have placed bets on how many apples we'll get next year.  He's confident the increase will be exponential while I'm more of the incremental opinion.  I think I may have to use the apple we haven't eaten yet in my Oktoberfest bratwurst dish this weekend.


Still Here

Summer has come and gone.  In August and the first part of September I lost 12 pounds. I was quite proud of myself.  But then I got a cold, didn't run as frequently with Loki and ate comfort food for a week and 5 of those pounds have come back.  I'll have to work on that.  Aside from that Autumn has been starting pretty well.  I'm looking forward to the Restoring Sanity Rally at the end of October.  And it's getting closer and closer to the Galapagos trip.  Oh, and the Oktoberfest theme for the next gourmet club should be lots of fun.

And I've set a personal record for the earliest I've gotten all my Christmas shopping done.  I was finished by Labor Day and since then all the gifts ordered online have arrived.  I just have the next 3 months to wrap them.  With all the craziness of this fall and traveling in December, it was helpful to get that crossed off the list.

I'm sorry I've been gone so long.  I had a number of entertaining blog posts half written in my head but they never quite got here.  We're picking the last of the garden and I think we may be able to pick the apples on our apple trees soon.

I've run low on books to read.  If you have any recommendations, I would be very appreciative if you passed them along.


Pick a Peck of Pepper Seeds

Our tomatoes have been discouraging to look at but surprisingly productive lately.  While they have been wilting and dying off since about mid-July, all the green tomatoes left on the vines have been ripening, leaving us with dozens of small tomatoes.  We also have 2 eggplants and down to our last 5 garden cucumbers.  The green beans are gone now and we never did get any squash.  It was a mixed year for the garden with early successes but a sorry sight going into late August. 

The one major exception has been the peppers, which are lush and productive.  So today I took some of our hot peppers and collected the seeds and diced and froze the rest.  The seeds are now sitting on the counter to dry and then will be stored for next season.  While this summer hasn't been all that hoped for with the garden, I am thrilled that next year I can start pepper plants from this year's seeds.  Another item crossed off my list of New Year's resolutions.

And, after looking at our crazy November and December schedule, we've decided to get a jump on Christmas shopping.  We have now finished two thirds of our list, much to my delight.  I realize it's a bit early, but it will be wonderful when the stores get crazy and we don't have to join the fray.

Next weekend we're having a crabfest for our team.  I'm going to be trying some new recipes, such as parmesan crisps with goat cheese mousse and blueberry lemon cheesecake bars using our new silicon bakeware.  I'll be sure to post pictures!


Crazy Year

First there were the blizzards, then the record-breaking heat waves, then an earthquake, and recently the violent thunderstorm.  We came home from Wildwood to find no power, all night and well into the next morning.  Many of my coworkers still have no electricity.  Fortunately, while large tree limbs did fall in the yard, none of them hit the house or the shed and there was only minor damage to the garden.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This weekend will be filled with tacky T-shirts, fried food, cheap mixed drinks and beach ultimate.  That's right, it's time for Wildwood!  Happy dance!

Although I hope walking by the shark every day on the Discovery building won't make me too nervous to venture into the ocean.  They really shouldn't have shark week right before I'm headed to the beach.

Shark_week06 

I also hope our garden doesn't get away from us while we're gone.  The tomatoes and cucumbers are in abundance and the green beans just flowered again.  The squashes are still in the flowering stage, as are the eggplants.  We have a lot of cayenne peppers growing and the bell peppers are all flowering.  Our lettuce hasn't survived the heat, even in the shade tent, but the radishes are looking very healthy.  I want to try a late crop of spinach in the shady area next.


Patio Furniture

We finally got furniture to go on our patio.  It's cast aluminum so it's lightweight but durable.

Patio Furniture 


We also got pots for the patio and filled them with lavendar, which is a natural mosquito repellent. 

Lavendar Pots

Hopefully, it will help to keep bugs down.  I even got one of those Off fans that has been advertised in an effort to be outside in peace.  So far, I haven't had too many bug bites, but it's been dry out.


Dilly Beans

We had some extra green beans from the garden and tonight I started my preserving project.  These dilly beans were very easy to make and hopefully they'll taste good too.  Although in the future if I want to make pickles, I should also grow dill.  It would probably work better than dried dill.

Dilly Beans

Other projects for the weekend include working in the garden, running errands, and knitting.  Then, on Sunday we go to the ball game, which should be a log of fun.  It's been forever since I went to a baseball game.  I hope they replay the World Cup game Sunday night!


Resolutions

It's halfway through the year.  How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions?  In January, I made a list of 14 things I would like to accomplish in 2010.  So far, I have crossed 6 items off of that list.  I'm happy with that progress.  I feel it's helping me to live with intention.  But there's still a long way to go.  "Get back in shape," I'm looking at you.


Summer Starts

Today I picked the first little red tomato.  I also picked our eighth cucumber.  And our third pepper might turn red soon (The other two were purple bell, this one's a cayenne).  Oh, and our green beans might be ready to pick in a week or so.  They're small and cute.  I just hope we can keep them alive during this heat wave.


So Not Ready

Last year the summer was tame and cool.  The summer before we were in France and it rarely ever reached 90F.  I was totally unprepared for the heat and humidity that rolled in recently.  Summer 2010 is here, even before this weekend's spring frisbee tourney.  It will be a hot, sunny weekend for running around.  And then, to compensate, buildings are chilled to the point that you need a sweater to go inside.  It's going to be a long few months.

Sage Advice

Last year, we started an herb garden.  One of the plants we added was sage.  This is what it looks like now:

Sage

Yay!  That was one little seedling just a year ago.  But what do I do with it now?  I've had sage in pasta sauces, stuffings, with poultry, and just pan fried as an appetizer.  What other uses are there for sage?


Garden Updates

I have had a request to post pictures from the yard.  Coming from a condo, this is one of the best features of the house.  I love puttering around in the gardens, weeding, planting, and pruning.  Or just sitting out on our new patio enjoying the nice weather we've been having.  Speaking of the new patio, here's how it came out:

Patio 1

Chiminea

We've also been working on the veggie garden.  This year we've redone the edging in cinder blocks.  Chris put the deer fence back up and we were so excited to get started that we planted a bit early.  In the back corner is a cold frame greenhouse and the coke bottles are covering smaller plants to keep them hydrated and warm until later in the season.

Garden

Here are our tomatoes.  We should end up with double this number of plants and I have a feeling we'll be doing a fair amount of canning, freezing and drying this summer.

Tomatoes 

And here is a picture of the lovely lettuce growing inside our greenhouse.

 Lettuce

The rest of our garden is also doing well.  All the azaleas are in bloom.

Azaleas

And we have dozens of strawberry plants that have spread from what we planted last year.  We already have some little green strawberries!  I can't wait until they're ripe!

Green berries 
 
And finally, Loki is doing well and enjoying the beauiful weather.  Building that fence was the best thing we ever did for her.

Loki


Facebook Changes

This is just a friendly reminder to check your Facebook privacy settings and make sure you're comfortable with the information you're sharing with "everyone," "friends of friends," and "friends."  Why?  Privacy on the Internet is important and identity theft is increasingly targeting people who share more information online.  Also, Facebook has been making some changes that you should be aware of that may affect who sees what and how your information may be used.  To find out more, visit CNN and TechCrunch.


Being Me

H&R Block was able to fix their mistakes and we managed to file taxes correctly and on time.  Yay!  We booked our trip to the Galapagos, so that's a go.  Very yay!  Loki has managed to escape from her fenced in yard, so we've had to take away her unsupervised outdoor priveledges until we figure out how she got out and prevent it from happening again.  Not so yay.

Chris leaves for Ghana the week after next.  It's only for a few days, but I'll miss him.  The seedlings I started the last time he was out of town have many leaves and are nice and healthy.  We've started planting them outside.  Usually I would think it would be too early, but we haven't had frost since February!  I'm very excited about the early start to our garden this year.  I only hope the garden center down the road gets their veggie plants in a bit early so we can get more tomatoes.  We didn't start enough of them from seed.


I Want Taxes to Be Over!

So we took our taxes to H&R Block about a month ago to be filed.  It took 4 long hours, but they finished our taxes, e-filed them, and we were on our way.  Since then, we've been finding errors that they made. Soon we will get the 3rd version of our ammended tax return and hopefully it will be correct.  In the future I'll go back to doing my own taxes.  It would take less time, money, and aggrevation.

The Perfect Day

Chris is home!  Today we had our first Frisbee game of the spring against a really fun team.  The sun was warm and it felt great to have cleats on again.  Then we came home and prepped our garden for cool weather crop planting.  Tomorrow the lettuce, spinach, and broccoli go in.  And then, to top it off, we had a yummy dinner of roast duck with asparagus and potatoes with strawberry shortcake for dessert.  I went out and picked daffodils to decorate the house.  I love spring.

Macro Photography Class

Over the weekend I took a class on macro photography, held at the local plant nursery.  I learned how to use some of the menu items and settings on my camera.  I even used the manual mode and the manual zoom.  Here are some of the pictures I took at the class:

Daffodil

 Stamen

Orchid

Yellow flower

Pansy
   


Lunch Bliss

I spent lunchtime sitting on a bench in the sun with a half lemonade half iced tea drink, an avocado sandwich, and a crossword puzzle.  The avocado sandwich from the local deli is about the best sandwich in existance.  It's piled several inches high with avocado, tomato, cucumber, carrot, lettuce, and red onion.  And the crocuses in the flower pots next to the bench were blooming.  It's the little things in life that rejuvenate me.  And the best part: I finished the crossword puzzle.

I'm so very ready for Spring.  The daffodils are coming up and my broccoli seeds sprouted.  Loki is spending more and more time outside, keeping an eye on the birds.  Ultimate frisbee starts up again in a week and a half. 

On the other hand, I can't wait for March to be over.  Chris is out of town.  Last night was very quiet at home.  I had an english muffin for dinner.  I miss him.  Loki does too.  Last night she sat at the window, waiting.


Red Light...Green Light

The storms came and slowed everything to a luxurious, snowed-in crawl for a week or so.  And then, suddenly, life started back up again.  But faster.  Work is busy, home is busy, and spring is just around the corner.  Dieting and exercise have gone off track recently, but I plan to reign that back in.  Right now it looks like life will slow back down a bit in April, but that may change as April gets closer and the to do list gets longer.

I'm sure I'll be posting a lot in a couple of weeks since Chris will be overseas for about half of the month and I'll have no one at home to talk to but Loki!


They Weren't Wrong

Suddenly the snow is coming down much, much harder and the wind has really picked up.  They're saying the gusts are getting up to 50 mph and they're actually blowing the dog door open.  Blizzard warnings have been issued across the region and Dulles Airport is reporting white out conditions.  Loki went out and then darted right back in before deciding that this weather was fun.  She's now out chasing the snow as it blows around.

Surprisingly, Chris and I haven't even come close to running out of food despite the fact that we haven't gone grocery shopping in over a week and a half and when we went shopping they hadnt predicted this weather yet.  Although, I hope we can at least get out this weekend to replenish the fresh veggies.  Actually, I hope we can get out to go up to VT this weekend, but looking outside I'm wondering if that wil be possible.


A Plow!

Finally, 3 1/2 days after snowmageddon ended, a plow has made it's way down our street.  I still wouldn't recommend venturing out, but at least the option is now there in case of emergency.

This new storm isn't turning out to be the 10-20 inches of snow they predicted.  We got about 3 inches overnight and then it turned to sleet and freezing rain.  Apparently it will turn back over to snow and we'll get another 4-8 inches over the course of the day.  There's some wind, but nothing like the 30 mph winds with 40 mph gusts I heard about.  Maybe that's coming later today.

I'm glad I'm not planning to go anywhere today, although I'm starting to get a little stir crazy.