Thursday, March 31, 2011

Painted Stool


 Finally, after a year and a half, I completed the stool requested by a close friend who'd seen a similar one I made for my nephew.  I knew I should have finished it before I had the baby!  Lest I am misleading, this did not take a year and a half to paint.  It took only a few hours.  It took a year and a half to motivate myself to do it.  Good thing she asked for it while she was pregnant or who knows how old her child would have been by the time I got around to it.  :)  Now my kids want me to make them one.  And I don't think they'll give me a year and a half.

The Best Carrot Cake Ever . . .

. . . which just happens to be gluten-free and healthy!  :)  I make this recipe for pretty much every birthday, and everyone loves it.  It's a blend of two recipes, Healthy Family's Carrot Cake with a few ideas from Elana's pantry Carrot Cake, with a few slight alterations.  So I follow the first recipe, for the most part, but then do double raisins, double applesauce, less than half the sugar, part almond flour for rice flour, and only 1/2 c olive oil.  I make it gluten-free, but using wheat flour would only make it easier.  I have gotten two thumbs up from gluten-eaters as well.  It's some great cake, and Owen's standing request for his birthday cake.

Here's our bunny-themed party--Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Raised Beds . . . HOORAY!

This narrow bed in the backyard will leave the kids' playspace intact but allow for peas, beans, or other taller crops.
I am overwhelmingly, ridiculously, in fact, pleased to announce that I have installed raised beds.  Not single-handedly--let credit be given where credit is due!  

Groupon (online local business specials) had a $50 gift card on sale to Primex (garden supply store) for $25.  I told Owen we should buy it and he naively said, "Well, we wouldn't be able to spend $50."  I assured him that we most certainly could, since I wanted to buy edgers and install raised beds (what can I say, everyone else is doing it!).  So Groupon in hand, Owen's parents (who were visiting, and who wonderfully drove their pick-up in order to support their crazy Yankee daughter-in-law's gardening mania) assisting with the three kids in tow, Owen and I set about collecting for our garden needs.

I must confess to a rush that addictive shoppers must experience when I walked in there.  I felt, "Ooo, I must have all of this.  And then I will be a Gardener with Accessories and Bountiful Harvest!!"  I did not buy it all, but I did manage to spend three times the amount of the Groupon.  Gloves that fit like a second skin, hoses that do not leech phthalates into the water, edgers, onion sets, complimentary pansies, seedling trays!  Ah, bliss!  

Our free pansies, next to our new raised bed in front of our porch.
 Our next stop was compost collection.  Thank you, Rachel, for directing us to some!  We took Owen's parents' pick-up and loaded up (two trips) on enough compost to fill raised beds in the front and back of my house.  Now if we could just make one more trip . . .

My transplants aren't looking so good, but I added seeds also--and some of them should make it, especially with rain all next week.
Owen's dad helped me wrestle the edging into the ground (after watching me fight with the roll of it in a comical, cartoon-like fashion as it coiled up after me around the yard), and then I stayed outside until night fell.  The next morning, dressed in my snowpants against the 30 degree weather, I finished spreading all of the compost in time for Owen and I to go get our second load.  My seedlings are worse for the wear, but will no doubt be happier in their new raised quarters.

With the raised beds ready, planting was a snap this week.  

I planted all of my early spring crops (shell peas were February):
  • kale
  • swiss chard
  • pieracicaba non-heading broccoli (rabe)
  • snow peas
  • pac choi
  • mesclun mix
  • tatsoi
  • onion sets
  • cilantro
  • three varieties of head lettuce
  • parsley
  • raddichio
Strawberries have multiplied beyond my wildest dreams in my side garden.
I planted seeds, pruned my raspberries, wrote down all of my plantings and seed types in my gardening book (and drew in where I placed each variety on a garden map).  Now I just need to start my tomato, zucchini, and cucumber seeds indoors . . . and then I'll get to take a rest, which, quite frankly, I need.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grilled Salmon with cilantro, honey, lime, and garlic

I wanted to make a salmon and cilantro recipe for dinner, and I found this one.  I didn't actually even look at the recipe--I just looked at the description.  I just grilled the salmon, and then put the cilantro, honey, lime, and garlic on it.  It was really easy and really good.  I'm really maximizing on the cilantro growing in my room.  Here's the recipe if you're interested:

Grilled Salmon Recipe

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When I tell people that I've already been outside gardening for a good chunk of time this spring, they probably imagine that I've actually planted a good deal of seeds or plants.  But mostly what I mean by "gardening" is actually rock retrieval.  The former owners of my home decided that a nice rocky beach home look would really do it for the front yard.  And so I have spent days over the years just sifting handful after handful of rocks the size of grapes out of the soil.  Each spring I find that the freezes of winter have brought yet more rocks to the surface.  And each spring I head outside with seeds and seedlings only to leave them sitting day after day while I plod through rocky, rocky soil.  I must say I often think of the previous owners this time of year and wonder why they chose to do what is so very difficult to undo to achieve a look I feel was quite lacking in curb appeal.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gun Regulations

In case anyone is interested in signing a petition to encourage Congress to pass a background check reform law for handgun purchases (to keep guns from the hands of dangerous people):

Sign Petition to Support Gun Reform

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kasha: The Russian Grain Stir Fry

I got a cooking lesson from my friend, Vlad, this weekend.  He showed me a really easy recipe concept in Russian cooking.  They call it Kasha, and in this case (but not always) it featured buckwheat.  "Kasha" is what they call any quick grain meal.  He soaks the buckwheat (or whatever grain) and briefly cooks it.  Interestingly, if you just soak buckwheat for a few hours (1 cup buckwheat, 2 cups water--not that I actually measured) you don't actually have to cook it more than just bringing it to a boil and turning it off right away while you get everything else ready.  He mixed it with sauted onion, mushroom, and shredded carrot.  Then he tossed in cilantro before serving.  I made it the same way, except I first fried bacon (local), took it out and broke it into the buckwheat, and then cooked the veggies in the bacon grease.  I didn't have mushrooms, so I substituted spinach and black beans (randomly).  I was excited that this recipe gave me an opportunity to use the cilantro I have growing in a pot indoors.  Anyway, it was really easy and quite tasty.  I'm definitely making this again!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The $64 Tomato

OK, this book is totally hilarious!  It's about a frustrated gardener who does the math at the end of a bad growing season and realizes that he's spent a whopping $64 per tomato for the year.  I stumbled across it on a blog and I've been aggravating Owen with loud and vaguely inappropriate laughter all night.  All I can say is that this is how dangerous I'd be in my weird fads if I had any kind of budget whatsoever.  And this is the kind of comic writing I enjoy most.  I will keep you posted when I finish the book.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Kale, swiss chard, cilantro, raddichio, leeks, purple scallions, celery
I am relieved to report that I have seedlings underway for mid-March.  Last year, what with pregnancy and nausea, I didn't set up the growlights.  But this February I set them up and got some seedlings started.  In a few weeks I'll get these into the ground and start on my next round of seedlings (tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers).  The cilantro we'll just eat.  I have been unsuccessful growing it outside the past few years, so I figure I'll grow some inside next to my seedlings.  Maybe I'll try some outside in pots this summer . . . if I'm feeling brave.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Prayer Request

Jesse has been struggling with a number of allergy issues (we think, he is not yet diagnosed) and GI issues.  Please pray for him this week.  He has an appointment with a specialist in each area this week and I would love to know that people are praying for him as we go to these appointments.  Please pray that God will heal him and remove the high histamine levels in his body, and that the specialists would have wisdom to figure out what Jesse may need.  Thank you!

Mouthwash: Homemade

I finally did it!

I've been planning a homemade Listerine alternative for quite some time now, and I just never got around to actually making it.  Most of the recipes I found either sounded way too complicated (I just don't have myrrh handy, for example), involved ingredients that I didn't think sounded all too tasty (like baking soda in water), or looked like you'd have to mix up a batch each time you wanted to use it (absolutely out of the question).  So I settled on vodka for a base, since alcohol is the germ-killing agent I'd prefer and vodka won't give me eyebrow-raising breath.  And since I couldn't find a simple vodka and peppermint recipe, I made it up.

I have what is essentially the slightly watered-down version of peppermint oil from Trader Joe's (peppermint oil would work, and you'd need less).  We bought the cheapest vodka the state store had to offer and poured about a cup of it into a small jar (well, I say "we," but what I mean to say is that I made Owen actually buy the vodka, a much-preferred scenario to me dragging the three kids into the state store, and I did the rest).  I then added a little bit of the peppermint oil, a few tablespoons, until it was nice and minty.  The actual mouthwash we're using is about 3 parts water to one part minty vodka.  But my understanding is that you don't want to store it long periods of time once the water's been added (I haven't read that specifically, but most directions I found called for making just one "dose" at a time).  So I'm keeping the minty vodka jar on a shelf in the bathroom, and then pouring a few inches of that into the old mouthwash container (small-sized) and filling that to the top with water.  That will only last about two weeks, so I can just keep refilling the mouthwash container with minty vodka and water as it runs out.  

Our vodka and mint oil purchases, at the rate we're using them, should last about a year, I'm guessing.  So while the initial investment was a little more than a bottle of Listerine, I figure we'll save a fortune in the course of a year.  I'm not sure if our mouthwash will be as scientifically reliable as Listerine to reduce cavities, etc., but I just can't look at the neon orange or blue bottle without my eyes straying to the long, long list of sketchy ingredients.  We have now eliminated the last of our name-brand personal hygiene items.

Here's our list of changes we've made over the last year or two: