Friday, September 30, 2011

Growning Things

Friends gave us some cherry tomato seedlings last year that did very well in our garden. We're starting up again this year but we didn't get any seedlings. I'm trying to start some on my own and so far, so good, although I did start a few weeks later than I should have. (Hopefully that won't matter too much.) I started a bunch of seeds in a 50 block starter kit, and not just tomatoes. I planted a variety of veggies and I mapped it all out so I know what's what. (We had issues with that last year when we planted seeds directly into the garden. We didn't use markers at first, then we used markers for later plantings but they faded. Don't use sharpie markers on plastic tabs that will sit in the sun.)

So here's what I planted on September 16th:
(I put several seeds in each pot so I'm listing the contents per pot, not per seed)

In the first tray I planted:
3 Brandywine tomatoes
3 Jelly Bean tomatoes
4 Red Cherry tomatoes (we have better luck with the smaller tomatoes; we never seem to be able to get the big ones to maturity without splitting)

In the second tray I planted:
4 Roma tomatoes
3 broccoli
3 yellow squash

In the third tray I planted:
5 Paris Island Romaine
5 Bibb lettuce

In the fourth tray I planted:
4 Kale
3 Spinach (which didn't sprout; wrong time of year but I was trying anyway)
3 Swiss Chard

In the fifth tray I planted:
10 Tendergreen Improved Beans (bush)
These did well for us last year when The Wild Child planted them, but we never had more than a few beans at a time. With more plants, maybe we'll be able to harvest enough for a side dish at some point!

Now that almost everything has sprouted I'm transplanting. I put the lettuce in a large round decorative clay pot with legs. I put the tomatoes from tray 1 in 5" peat pots until they get bigger. I don't think they're ready to go in the ground yet, but they definitely need more room to grow. I haven't gotten to the other tomatoes or seedlings yet. I'll put the rest of the tomatoes in the 5" pots within the next few days. I want to get the beans and squash in the ground since they are BIG. That leaves the broccoli, kale, and Swiss chard; I haven't decided what to do with those yet. If I want spinach I'll have to watch the calendar a little more closely; it's not going to sprout now.

I have a lot of prep work to do in the actual garden. The Wild Child and I planted watermelon at the end of the last season, a little late in the year for them to be any good. Those 2 or 3 plants took over, however! They produced for us, just nothing that tasted decent, darn it. They provided a complete and total ground cover that I'll have to dig up over the weekend. I'm also expanding from 6x8 to roughly 12x6. (Due to the shape of the yard it won't be a perfect rectangle.) I have to buy more edgers and dirt to fill it in. It's a raised bed, sort of. It's only a few inches higher than the yard but it worked last year. I'm planting the tomatoes in the new section since I've heard that you shouldn't plant the same kind of plant in the same spot two years in a row.

All in all, I'm pleased that almost every seed came up. Now if I can only get it all going and producing veggies! I'm kind of worried about the squirrel who's taken up residence in one of the palm trees in our back yard, but he didn't seem to bother the garden last year so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The dogs chase him off but they're only outside for a limited amount of time every day. (And keeping the dogs out of the garden is another issue; hopefully the border fencing I bought will work.)

We really enjoyed the tomatoes last year. We ate tomato/basil/cheese sandwiches on baguettes at least once a week, sometimes more. We haven't eaten them since the tomato plants stopped producing good fruit; grocery store tomatoes don't cut it. Nothing else grew successfully for us. We got a few yummy beans and a few yucky watermelons, and that's about it. I didn't pay attention to planting times and I threw the seeds right into the ground, which could have been the problem. Ahem. I'm paying more attention this year so I'm hoping for more variety than just the tomatoes. (And basil, but I don't really count that since I bought it at a good size and didn't grow it from seed, and I didn't get it to grow much at all after I bought it anyway.)

We'll see what happens this year!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2 Dogs are Better than 1!!

The Eldest decided to volunteer with the Greyhound rescue group where we found The Queen Bee. Big mistake, really big, huge. She, of course, being the tender heart that she is, fell in love with a dog, we'll call him The Old Guy, the one that spent the longest time of any dog at the kennel. She begged, she pleaded, she bargained, she even turned on the water works to get us to agree to let her have that dog. I caved first, of course, since I'm a sucker for a sob story. Then we had to wheedle DH, 'cause he was holding out. We kept working on him though, and he finally caved.

We've had The Old Guy since Monday and I consider him my first grand-dog. He's fitting in nicely. He's very different from The Queen Bee. He's old, for one, and mellow. She's not exactly a hyper dog, although she has her moments, but he makes her look like a puppy. He's sweet as can be and we all fell in love with him instantly. He's got some issues. He's 7 years old and he raced a LOT, over 100 times, so he's got an old athlete's body with all the resultant aches and pains. He's stiff when he moves around, and he has a lot of trouble getting up from his dog bed. He really has a hard time on our fake wood floors; they are too slippery for him and he just slides right back down when he tries to get up.

He LOVES his dog beds, even if he has trouble getting up from them. The Queen Bee wouldn't lay on the beds we had for her at first but he had no problems with that. He tried to settle on her bed but she fussed at him. He even tried to settle on my good yellow "company couch" so I fussed at him. (NO DOGS ON THE COUCH!!) He quickly figured out which bed was for him, though, and now he keeps it warm all day. He's also a water dog; he LOVES the pool. That was very exciting for him his first day here. The Queen Bee won't have anything to do with the water at all, no way, no how, but he loves it. He's also got bad teeth- yuck. We're taking him to have them cleaned tomorrow but I think we're going to have to have more done than that. He's going to need some cavities filled, possibly a couple of teeth pulled, since he's got some spots that look cavity-ish and some teeth that are gray. The Queen Bee's teeth are all shiny white; Martha Jr. keeps them all sparkly clean with regular brushings. His teeth probably hurt; he prefers soft food and treats to crunchy.

He's a good boy and I'm sure we'll learn a lot more about him as he gets settled. I'm glad my kid has a tender heart; her dog is a welcome addition to our home.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Water Bottle Controversy Again

This is my response to an article on the Bag It web site:

Encouraging people to switch to reusable is a great way to go. I'm not sure that legislating bans on water bottles is the right thing to do. There are too many instances where bottled water is a necessity, not a luxury, and "hydration stations" aren't going to be the answer 100% of the time.

I live in a hurricane prone area; I store up bottled water for emergencies. I also have refillable containers for tap water, 5 gallon water bottles, and so forth, but there isn't always warning. We had a recent contamination event, unrelated to hurricanes, where we couldn't use our tap water for several days; I was so relieved to have my supply of bottled water on hand. I use glass and/or refillable containers for drinking on a day to day basis, but for emergencies it's good to know that bottled water is readily available. Ask hurricane Katrina or Andrew survivors- bottled water meant the difference between life and death to a lot of people.

Legislation should look at reducing the use of plastic packaging, perhaps, or bottling water in some other type of material. Cans, possibly? Something biodegradable? Go back to glass? Soda should not be left out- when you pick on water bottle users, look at soda bottles as well. They are also made of plastic and any plastic bottle bans should include soda as well as water.

As far as comparing bottled to tap, I go by taste- I can taste the difference. There are some brands of bottled that taste like tap; I don't buy those. I can taste a HUGE difference between my preferred brand and tap, however; I easily passed a "blind taste test" for a frugal relative once. (He felt I shouldn't be wasting the money on bottled water.) I do not like tap water; I do not like brands of bottled water that taste like tap. There are even some pricey brands that taste of plastic; don't like those either.

In case you were wondering, I used to drink regular bottled water but I currently drink seltzer water that comes in glass. I will pour some into a refillable bottle when I go out. I'm not using plastic, but there is the impact of shipping to consider, but then again the glass is recycled.

I exist, I matter, and I have a right to drink SOMETHING I like!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tahini-less Hummus, Roasted Garlic

If you leave out the tahini, is it still hummus? Because I came up with my own spin on hummus that leaves out the tahini, so is it now just a garbanzo bean dip? I still call it hummus; it has all the other traditional ingredients but I find the tahini to be a bit, I don't know, bitter or something. It used to be hard to find in the grocery but they've started stocking it recently. I also use roasted garlic; yum. The result is not quite as good as the hummus at my favorite restaurant, but it's the best I've ever been able to make at home. I've tried several different recipes too since I have friends who make excellent hummus. I have used their EXACT recipes, but I can not get it to turn out the same way as theirs does. Very frustrating.

So here's the recipe, but it's not a measure-it-out recipe, it's a throw it in there until it looks right recipe.

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Roasted Garlic*, maybe 4 good sized cloves
Juice from 1/2 a lemon, possibly a squeeze or two from the other half as well
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil to taste
Water, just a little to keep everything the right consistency in the food processor

Throw the beans, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend away. Scrape the bowl down a few times, add some olive oil, and process some more. Repeat with the olive oil and the scraping as needed. When you start feeling like you've added too much oil (OH, THE CALORIES!!!!) add a little water until it gets to the consistency you like. Taste as you go; have some toasted baguette, no, I mean carrot sticks, on hand for the taste tests. Add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if needed. The Wild Child says to garnish with mint leaves or something interesting if you want.

I've made a couple of batches so far. I put the hummus in the refrigerator to have on hand for my afternoon snack, and I really do eat it with baby carrots, carrot sticks, or celery. That little boost of protein helps me get through the evening without going so crazy on the carbs, a HUGE weakness for me.

* To roast garlic, I cut the bulbs in half and put them cut side up in a muffin tin. (Don't remember where I got the muffin tin tip.) Brush with olive oil and cover with tin foil. Bake at 450 degrees for about an hour. Test by taking the foil off the tin and sticking the tip of a knife in several of the cloves. If the knife goes in easily, it's done. If the cloves are still a little tough, cook a little longer. I find the purple garlic gets done faster than the all white garlic.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years

I remember watching the coverage of the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago today. It was a weekday and my grandmother called to wake us up. (DH works nights; we're all on his schedule so we were still asleep.) We turned on the TV and I watched from my bedroom. Martha, Jr. was a little thing, less than a year old. We didn't understand the full horror at first, and how our lives would change. We didn't understand the extent of the evil in the hearts of other people on this earth we all have to share.

So now it's 10 years later. I watched a little of the coverage this morning but I couldn't watch for too long; I had to stop before I started to cry again. I've talked to my kids about what happened. I explain to them, about this and other bad things that happen, and to warn them about strangers in general, that there are a lot of bad people out in the world. I also tell them that there are a lot of good people too, and that the good outnumber the bad by a lot. Just look at all the fire fighters, police officers, and others who rushed to the towers to save people; they outnumber the terrorists by the hundreds. That's what we have to focus on- the good people. Protect ourselves as much as we reasonably can from the few bad, and focus on the many, many good. That's all we can do.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

National Days of Service

Did you know we have two official national days of service? We do! First there is the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and, coming up tomorrow, there is the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. Two days to get people thinking about how they can help others. I've grown to value year round service as a mom and Girl Scout leader; I feel it's important to teach my kids to help others and give of their time and resources and this is one area where I teach by example.

Of course the kids have various projects they get involved with as well. We participate in a park clean up now and again as a family. The Eldest is volunteering at a dog adoption kennel. (She's there as I type, actually.) We've also participated in a lot of activities through Girl Scouts over the years. DH and I talk to the kids about the charities we donate to as well.

I'm happy to see the national emphasis on service. Kids in our area have been required to perform community service in order to graduate from high school for a while now, which I think is wonderful. Some kids just put in their hours as quickly as possible and get very little out of it, it's just another chore, but so many others find meaning and purpose through volunteering. Non profit groups have been created out of kids performing their service hours, and you know those kids went above and beyond the required hours. It's good to see.

Now adults are being encouraged, through the national programs, to give of their time as well. There are so many areas where you see selfishness and a "me me me" attitude from the general public now (like the whole tea party and libertarian movements- it's all "me, first" in that rhetoric) that it's a refreshing change to see people pitching in and helping others. There was a story on the news yesterday (sorry, don't remember the channel, possibly a CNN everyday heroes story) about how survivors of 9/11 have committed to helping out at least once a year in other states that have faced disasters of their own. Stories like that make me proud to be human, proud of my fellow man.

So on this day, the day before the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, I am taking a few minutes to spread the word and encourage others to get involved, and to teach your children to get involved as well. Everyone can help in some way. Our local community has a clearing house for volunteers; I'm sure there are other organizations out there like that. They match your abilities and time availability to ways to help, even things like making phone calls to people who are shut in. Almost anyone can do that, even the shut ins. You don't have to go building houses to contribute, although that's a wonderful thing if you are able to do it.

So get involved!! It will benefit YOU more than you know!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Still Here!

Things have been so hectic lately that blogging has fallen by the wayside, and there's no let up in sight. (Well, maybe a little let up if The Eldest passes her driver's license test on Monday!) Girl Scout meetings start later today. (I should really be prepping for that right now.) 4H starts next week. We're in a new co-op; we'll have our second meeting on Friday and we have some serious prep for that. The kids are back to the academics. The Wild Child will be working with a reading tutor twice a week starting today; more driving. My dad is still in pretty bad shape but he's on the mend in a rehab hospital; I've cut back from almost daily visits to check on him to once a week. The Eldest has classes every day which means lots of driving. Even if she passes her test, I'll still drive her to her twice a week classes at the campus that's farther away from us. (Lots of busy highway between here and there; she's not ready for that highway yet.) She's also volunteering at a kennel. The lady that runs the adoption program has taken a liking to her and has done some of that driving, thank goodness. I've also spent a little bit of time volunteering there; the dogs are so darn sweet. We're also working with a trainer for The Queen Bee (our dog) once a week or so. Piano lessons, but the teacher comes to us so that's easy on me. Hurricane prep since they seem to be forming like crazy now.


I love my life, though. I wish things were a little more spread out and there was more down time, but I guess just about everyone with kids can say the same thing. I was feeling a little over-whelmed and my fibro was flaring up for a while but I've felt better the last few days so hopefully that will be better.

There's been time for fun, too. I was able to attend my grown up book club last week, even though I didn't read the book. (I read the sample on my Kindle and didn't like the author's style. Too pretentious for my taste.) DH and I have seen a few movies thanks to Netflix. I wanted to see almost all of the most recent best picture Oscar nominated films so we finished up with "Black Swan" a couple of weeks ago and "The Fighter" last night. That leaves only "127 Hours", which we'll skip. A guy getting trapped while hiking and having to saw off his own arm doesn't sound like a movie either one of us would enjoy. Blech. As far as "Black Swan" and "The Fighter"... meh. They were both OK. DH and I came to the conclusion that we don't really like movies about boxing all that much. I liked the dancing in "Black Swan" and Natalie Portman is amazing, but I wasn't all that crazy about the story. Self destructive behavior is never something I enjoy seeing on screen. OK, she was probably schizophrenic or something and therefore couldn't help the self destructive behavior, but you'd think her mom would have gotten her some therapy or treatment of some sort. Sheese.

So that's what's happening around here. What's been going on in your neck of the woods?