Sunday, August 29

nearing the end

Since I last wrote, I made another batch of marinara. This one was more of a veggie marinara as it included peppers and mushrooms. The tomatoes are coming to an end, though. I took out a couple plants this week as they were no longer producing (and mostly dead). I'll be getting a few more tomatoes, but it'll be coming to and end soon. I still need to make some oven-dried tomatoes and I have a bunch of San Marzanos ready for the picking for that task. I don't know if I'll make any more sauce. I'm not sure that I'll have enough for that (maybe a small batch).

I harvested all of the red potatoes last week. This is the most I've ever gotten. I still think I should be getting more, but I really don't know how much I should be getting. It seems like not enough potatoes for the area they take up (but they sure are delicious). Anyway, I've found the most success by making small furrows in the ground and putting the seed potatoes in them. Then I cover with straw. As the plants grow, I add more straw. At some point in the summer, I throw a load of compost on the straw (and add more straw if necessary). It seems to work for me.

I still need to freeze some basil. That is on the schedule for today. I hate doing that task, but I sure don't mind having "fresh" basil in the middle of the winter.

beautiful

I can't believe what nice weather we are having--hot during the day (but with low humidity), cool at night. And it's supposed to continue at least another week. Hopefully we will be able to get out on the bikes soon. I haven't ridden in weeks and this is the perfect weather for it.

Yesterday, I went to Connellsville for Brian's cousin's baby shower. It was a nice day for a ride (though it would have been even better on the bike). Practically the entire trip is through wooded areas and farmland--my kind of places!

Other than that, I've been working in the yard (mostly weeding and taking out parts of the garden). Now that it's getting dark earlier, I've even been getting some housework done. Yay.

Thursday, August 26

vegan dog

I picked up my CSA veggies after work today. As I was putting away the vegetables, I accidentally dropped a grape tomato on the floor. Buster scarfed it up. I put the tomatoes on the counter and continued to put away the rest of the vegetables. No sooner did I get finished and Buster was counter-surfing for more tomatoes. He got a few.

I put a cantaloupe on the counter because the fridge was out of room. I was grilling lamb chops for supper and was coming up the steps after checking on them when I heard a thump. I didn't think much of it because I often hear thumps to no ill effect. However, I got upstairs to see Buster chowing down on the cantaloupe. It was beyond salvation--he had a good chunk eaten from it and there were puncture marks all over it.

He really was on a roll this evening. He also ate some corn husks and some melon rind (which he stole as I was chopping up another cantaloupe I had in the fridge). And, he made a valiant effort to steal our corncobs as we were clearing the dinner plates.

I think next year I'll just get Buster his own membership to the CSA.

Monday, August 23

the lazy weekend

I guess in theory, I did a lot this weekend--laundry, a trip to Costco, dinner at my parents, etc., but I was definitely feeling lazy. After our Costco trip, I couldn't bring myself to do anything else around the house. I think the trip set me up for failure--after we took the Costco exit, traffic came to a halt. Apparently there was construction further down the road and it took us an hour to get to Costco from the exit (it usually takes 5-10 minutes). I hate traffic.

On Sunday, we went to my parent's house for the annual birthday dinner for my mom, dad, and grandmother. I started watching my calories a week ago, but I don't count them one day a week, and yesterday was it for me (I wasn't about to miss out on any of the great food and wine). For whatever reason, I didn't feel like doing anything last night either. So, I didn't. It's so rare that I sit around and do nothing that I figured it wouldn't hurt for me to do that one weekend out of the year.

Today, though, reality hit. Since it was raining, I couldn't do anything outside--not that I don't have plenty to do inside. I had to tackle the most pressing tasks first. First, I picked a bunch of peppers (I had quite the harvest). Next, I froze the avocados I bought at Costco. Then, I made a batch of marinara with the 10 pounds of tomatoes I had sitting in the kitchen since last week (I was supposed to do this over the weekend). All in all, a productive evening. Let's hope the rest of the week follows suit.

true romance

This was a pretty good flick. It was written by Quentin Tarantino and is perhaps my favorite movie by him. There was a lot going on--action, romance, thriller, crime. So few movies have this much going on. My favorite character was played by Gary Oldman--he's quite the versatile actor (I didn't even realize it was him until I looked it up), though, Brad Pitt's character was a riot. Come to think of it, there were quite a few other stars in this movie (Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, and the list goes on). If you're a fan of Tarantino, you'll probably enjoy this movie.

Friday, August 20

bittersweet

This time of the year is always bittersweet for me. Summer, without a doubt, is my favorite season. Being the gardener that I am, I guess this comes as no surprise. The weather is still nice for now, but it's getting darker earlier as the days go on. Soon, it will be too dark to work outside in the evenings and then my focus will shift to the inside. There's no lack of work to do in the house, but I'd much rather be outside working in the dirt.

Last year, I vowed to not tackle any projects in the house when I could be outside instead. I made a concerted effort to get a lot of stuff done in the house in the winter. That enabled me to not feel guilty about working outside once the weather turned nice. I don't know why I didn't think of this system earlier--it only makes sense.

It's funny because in the spring each year I wonder just how I'm going to get all of my housework done once I start working outside. I keep my self pretty busy during the cold months so it's always a challenge to make the switch. I always seem to manage (but I'm always behind on housework in the warm months. hmm.).

Another thing that changes with the seasons is the way I cook. While there's still plenty of grilling time left in the year, I'm already thinking about soups and stews. But, given the choice, I would definitely take the fresh vegetables and grilling of the summer over the soups and stews of the fall and winter.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I can't believe that another summer is almost over. Time is moving too quickly these days.

hypertufa

I saw this article on hypertufa pots in the Martha Stewart magazine and just had to make them. They were pretty easy to do. I did mess up the first set by not using "mold release spray" aka WD-40. It was tough getting the inner container out of the main one (I used soda cans rather than a paper carton, as shown in the directions), but I managed. I wanted to do three colors, like in the article, so I made the pots over the course of a couple of weeks. The other day, I finally got around to drilling drainage holes in the bottoms of the pots and filing the tops even. After that, I planted some hens and chicks to complete the look. All of the pots are spread out on the ledge of our side porch, where they look great!

Wednesday, August 18

putting up

I managed to "put up" a bunch of stuff over the weekend. First up was some marinara. I did 10 pounds of tomatoes worth. This resulted in approximately three quarts for the freezer. I'm hoping to do at least one more batch, though two more would be ideal.

While the marinara was cooking, Jake and I made some zucchini bread. One loaf was eaten and the other one was frozen. I'm not a huge zucchini bread fan (I don't really like vegetables in my dessert and let's face it, zucchini bread is more dessert than bread), but this tasted pretty good.

On Sunday, I picked nine cups of basil and turned it into pesto. I tried a new pesto recipe, and luckily, it turned out well. The recipe yielded about three cups, shown in the picture. I also froze these and this is my first attempt at freezing pesto. It will be nice to have some pesto from my garden in the dead of winter.

I finally got around to cleaning my garlic and storing it (in the fridge) yesterday. I was going to take a picture, but my camera battery was dead. I got a decent harvest this year, but not as much as previous years because I didn't order enough garlic to plant last year. I remedied this situation and should have more than enough to plant in the fall. I'd really like to make some garlic braids one day. Maybe next year I will have enough garlic to do so.

Sunday, August 15

30 day shred: i quit

Well, we made it to day 28 on Friday. But, when I checked my weight and waist measurements yesterday, I found that it was the same as when I started, so I give up. I'm sure we're in better shape than when we started, but I was hoping to see some measurable results. This has motivated us to get back to a regular exercise routine, if nothing else.

This whole losing weight thing got me to thinking about calories. I did a couple of calorie calculators (all giving slightly different results) and started counting calories. I was shocked to find that I'm eating too many calories in a day, so now I get to adjust that, too. Getting old is just awesome.

Saturday, August 14

big

We've had to resort to watching movies from our youth for Family Movie Night--mostly because my parents take Jake to see almost all of the new movies that come out. But, this is ok. It's kind of fun to watch movies we haven't seen in 20 years. Last night, we watched Big. It was about as I remembered it and Jake liked it. Good film. And Tom Hanks was totally believable as a 30 year old kid. It makes me remember why I used to like him so much.

Thursday, August 12

too many vegetables

I picked up this week's CSA bounty only to discover that I had 12 ears of corn in the fridge. Knowing that there's no way we'll eat 12 ears of corn by next Thursday (when we'll probably get another 6 ears), I decided to blanch and freeze the corn. This was my first attempt at doing so, but I think it will be good. I froze 4 small bags of corn (off the kernel).

Here's a picture of a giant tomato (39 ounces) that I harvested today. I guess I'm going to be doing something tomato-related this weekend. Actually, I don't have much going on this weekend (for a change), so I'm planning to make and freeze a bunch of stuff. Not so much straight up frozen vegetables, but maybe some sauce, pesto, zucchini bread and the like. I'll be sure to post my progress.

apple is ok

I got an iPod Touch for Christmas last year. It started giving me trouble a few months in and things kept getting worse. At first, resetting it would fix the problem, but then I had to restore it a few times, and that wasn't good. Then the USB stopped being recognized and that was the end of my journey.

I was poking around on the Apple site to find out what to do. I didn't feel like making a trip to the Apple store in Pittsburgh, so I opted to mail it in. The process could not have gone more smoothly. First off, I didn't even have to pack it up--I just had to take my service receipt to the UPS store in Richland, which I did on Monday, and they packed it up and sent it overnight to Apple. Apple did their diagnostics, determined that there was indeed a problem with the iPod, and mailed me a new one yesterday. I received it today. I reloaded it with all of my music (and Canabalt) and now it's ready to go. I'm going to be using it a lot in the coming months because it only has a 3 month warranty so I want to make sure everything is working.

I suppose the only way this could have gone better is if I wouldn't have had problems with it in the first place, but it's nice to know that if you do have problems, a quick resolution is in store.

Monday, August 9

flood city music festival

It seems they have improved the local music festival for the better. I wasn't convinced last year when they started taking "donations", but they have proven themselves this year with a stellar lineup. There were a few bands I would have liked to have seen, but we weren't able to make it for them. However, we did get to see Robert Cray last night (we caught two other bands before the Cray set, but I don't remember their names). I wouldn't classify myself as a Robert Cray fan, but I do like good guitar and blues, so I figured it would be worth it to see him. And, it was. The guy is legendary. I'm looking forward to seeing what they have in store for next year.

Saturday, August 7

the chihuahua incident

Jake and Brian went to Mayhem Fest today, so I was left to my own devices. I spent the afternoon making salsa and sauerkraut. Don't worry--I also took a nap.

The sauerkraut took a little longer than expected (probably because my helper was at a concert), so I fed the dogs before making my own supper (normally they eat after we eat). After eating, Lizzy went out and came back in and then it was Alice's turn. I was preparing a sandwich for my supper (not just any sandwich, but an antipasti sandwich), when I saw a chihuahua running through the yard and straight to the dog area. I ran outside to see Alice, with all of her hackles up, sniffing the chihuahua. She probably feared that we got another puppy (that didn't work out so well last time). I quickly brought her in and then went back outside to try to capture the dog. Animals on the loose always make me nervous since we live so close to Goucher Street. But, the dog wasn't having any of that and he ran down the street (well not the actual street, but through the yards) and out of sight.

Next I let Buster out and continued to make my sandwich. Soon after, I heard him barking. The dog was back. And the barking certainly wasn't deterring him from approaching Buster. I mentioned to our visitor that this might not be a good idea, but he continued to proceed. I wrestled Buster back into the house and then headed outside again. The dog raced down the street again. This time, however, I heard some people talking at the end of the street. I heard them say something about the dog up the street barking at this other dog. I was hoping they were the owners because I didn't see the chihuahua after that.

And, while we didn't see the dog again, it had a profound effect on Buster. He kept going outside only to sniff around the yard and not do his business. This only went on for a few hours. It's so much fun living with an insane dog. Let me count the ways...

for the freezer

I'm trying to put more things in the freezer this year than in past years. Today, I made up a batch of cooked salsa. Actually, I did a double batch but still only got 3 jam jars' worth. It's not like we eat that much salsa, but I was expecting a little more--that stuff really cooks down!

Today was also sauerkraut day. Volume-wise, this is the most I've ever made, so it will surely last until next season. Two of the heads of cabbage, I picked today. I'm not sure if that's what made the difference, but I noticed that this year's sauerkraut was a lot juicier than the two batches I made last year. Since it looks like I'm committed to sauerkraut-making, I should probably look into one of those cabbage grater thingys. In the past I always cut it by hand, but it's hard to get it thin enough doing it that way. I tried using the food processor today, but the slicing blade made the pieces too big and the shredding blade made them too small. Plus it was a pain cutting small enough pieces that the food processor intake could handle, anyway.

A future goal of mine is to can stuff (like salsa and sauerkraut, for example). However, we don't really have a place to store a bunch of jars in our house so I'll stick to freezing for now (I have a large freezer dedicated to such things). But, it would be nice...

Thursday, August 5

weird science

Last year, I added making sauerkraut to my repertoire. Tonight, I was scanning an article on what to do with with Mason jars (as Brian's mom gave me a ton of them in the spring) and "making vinegar" was one of the options. So, guess what I'm going to do? Right--make vinegar. Last year, I made two batches of wine that turned out sweeter than I like so I'm going to see how those wines taste as vinegar. Waste not, want not. I need to order some vinegar starter and then I'll be ready to go!

Speaking of sauerkraut, I have one head of cabbage from the CSA and three from my garden, so I guess I'm making sauerkraut this weekend. Because, really, what could you possibly do with four heads of cabbage besides make sauerkraut? This year, I'm going to try shredding it in my food processor. I don't know if that will be any quicker than doing it by hand (given the large amount that needs to be shredded), but it should turn out thinner anyway.

We have been eating our veggies this summer, for sure. I've been freezing some stuff for future use (I did a couple of bags of green beans yesterday), but it won't be anywhere near as much as I would like to have put back. I really need to start canning. It would be so great to get through most of the winter without having to buy crappy produce from the grocery store. Maybe in a couple of years...

Sunday, August 1

frostburg

Jake was away again this weekend so we took a bike trip to Frostburg, Maryland to visit Brian's grandmother. The ride was nice--it was the best of both worlds--highways and country roads. Brian's grandmother treated us to lunch at the local diner. After lunch, we went back to her house and sat on the patio and talked. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.