Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gone beaching

Y'all, I'm going on vacation.

So you won't be seeing the likes of me for about a week.

I'd say I'll be putting up photos so you can travel along with me like back when we went on our ski trip in February, but where we're going we'll be lucky to have roadsigns, much less high speed internet that allows for photo uploading, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

I will, however, be taking good care of the duty-free bottle of Sapphire I intend to purchase as well as paying close attention to the hue of my beloved's Red neck, so I'll be busy. And I do hope to have some photos and funny stories about how I mangled the Spanish language while trying to locate diet tonic water, so at least there'll be something to look forward to upon my return.

Also I will share with you a dirty secret I've been keeping for a little while. IT'S SO DIRTY! I mean, in a clean way - no porno.

Enjoy your week free of my swears and strange sexual insinuations involving my garden's produce.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Totally appropriate for hot weather: Imp hat and mittens

Dear Donk,

I might have to establish a rule for future book picking out: All books must have full-sized patterns included.

Because I will tell you that there is nothing that pisses me off more than when I get all my materials carefully culled from the pile and I hunker all down ready to get started and then I turn to the pattern page and above the pattern it reads: "Enlarge pattern by 145%".

*Blood boils*

I *may* have mentioned this before, I can't remember for sure, but I know I've said it in my head before because that is just annoying. Why do I now, after finally deciding on a pattern and sourcing its materials and finding time in my life, have to go find a copier or remember to drag the book to work with me so that I can waste some more paper printing out this exact pattern at 145%?

Why I ask you? WHY?

What really annoys me is all the potential answers that crop up in my head that usually start with, "because it's cheaper to print the book that way rather than including fold out pages and such", but still - annoying.

ANYWAY - Once I got past that whole thing and I calmed down thanks to a nice cocktail, I just traced this pattern on a nice big piece of newspaper (Thanks SF Chron!) at what I imagined was 145% and went about my way.

So, for those of you who find notes like these above your patterns similarly annoying, I would like to share with you that piece of advice: Eye-fuck it!
  • Slice the entire page out of your book (because you know there's another pattern piece on the other side - ANNOYING, TOO, BUT WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT NOW)
  • Pull that nice big broadsheet out of the center of the Entertainment section of your local news rag
  • Tape the book page to a window
  • Hold the newsprint over the book page
  • And with a nice marking device like a pencil, estimate how much that extra % will add to the pattern and trace it out all free-hand like
  • Then cut your pattern piece from the newsprint and go to town
And while you've probably come up with this same work around, I thought I'd share because besides that, I don't have any tips to make this pattern easier because, well, it's pretty simple to begin with.

Awesome! A simple gift to stitch. What a thing. What a relief!

I'm not naming names or anything but some pattern that rhymes with Flap Skirt was a pain in my ass and required too much figuring for me to feel good about.

But these hats, which are destined to go under the godkid's tree this holiday season, were simple, quick and made use of materials I still had on hand from holiday crafting of year's past. All attributes I love in a project. Especially when the materials of which I speak are bulky and hot and I have to touch them every time I take fabric in or out of my storage closet in the summertime heat yuck.

So - less polar fleece in the closet and more holiday gifts in the stockpile means that I am now happy again with this book and know what I'm going to choose next time it's my turn to choose which won't be until September, but that's OK.

Let's not get into the fact that I just made polar fleece hats and mittens for two children that live in the molten lava heat of Phoenix and may only get a chance to crack out mittens once a year if they're lucky. No. The important thing here is that *I* have less fleece to deal with and if we will recall, it's all really about me anyway.

Speaking of me, I will be on vacation when the 1st of the month rolls around, so it's all you with the choosing of winners and projects and themes, so I'll catch up with you when I get back. Sound good?

Glad you're home, by the way, my life had a Kelli sized hole in it for too long there.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Another bacon thing that's actually TWO things.

Do you see these crispy edges?
That is a great suggestion about brown sugar, right there.

So I alluded last week to another forthcoming Bacon Thing and I'm now making good on that threat.

The beauty of this particular Bacon Thing is that it is actually TWO things rather than one, which is awesome because while bacon is obviously delicious, that doesn't necessarily make it super versatile. A characteristic I hadn't previously recognized in bacon until I set down to try to make up a tasting menu of sorts (more on this in The Future) and realized that bacon doesn't just naturally fit into every recipe as I'd previously thought.

We're big believers in Everything Is Better With Bacon in our house, but some things just don't make sense. Ever tried to think up a main course with bacon as the featured flavor? Try it, but you're not allowed to include any shellfish because Bubba's allergic. Anyway, it's hard but let's move on...

And on that note, I created a salad the other night which has roots in many common dishes, but adheres to no one particular theme. That is because I was just starting to feel better from my week of disgusting nose blowing illness and suddenly wanted to eat the whole house, pets, hairballs and all so, my wish list for what was going to go in my master salad became a little, well, eccentric.

What began as a greek salad w/ bacon turned into a cobb salad minus the egg and avocado (although if I'd had the presence of mind to remember avocado DAMN STRAIGHT I would have put that in there, too) and then I added warm roasted chicken which is one of my all-time favorite salad things and so, there you have it...

Bacon Thing #1

All the Things I Like in a Salad, Salad.
This is my own recipe, can't you tell?

Makes 2 servings


6 strips Applewood smoked, thick cut bacon
Brown sugar
2 cups Baby spinach, washed and de-stemmed
2 Tbsp Herbed feta
10 Black olives
1 Roasted chicken breast, shredded into chunks (I cheat and get a roasted bird from Safeway because I'm that WT. Don't you judge me.)
2 Homegrown tomatoes, chopped
Extra virgins
Salt + Pepper as you like it

To make

Pre-heat your oven to 415 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and line strips of bacon on the sheet. Sprinkle your bacon with as much brown sugar as you can like. I will say now, that I should have used more.

I only sugared 2/3 of this bacon and that was a mistake.

Bake your bacon for 10 minutes and then flip.

Here's where I should have sugared the other side, but instead took this photo and had another cocktail.
Add more sugar on this underside if you like. Bake for another 5 or until it's reached your Nirvana of Bacon Crispness. We're somewhere between burnt and wobbly - which we like to call PERFECT.

Remove bacon from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes or, if you're fancy and don't care about making a huge mess, pull out a cooling rack, set the rack on top of a paper towel, and let that bacon drain for a minute. Feel free to blot with a paper towel but DO NOT lay your freshly sugared and crisped bacon on a paper towel laden plate because I've heard that it may stick to the paper towel (because of the sugar) and leave you scraping paper towel bits off your precious bacon in a state of fevered insanity.

I've heard.

Crumble ALL BUT TWO SLICES of your bacon into a beautiful pile. In a nice sized salad bowl, combine your spinach, tomatoes, olives, chicken and bacon. Dress with your favorite combo of extra virgins, balsamic, salt and pepper and then sprinkle (guh. hate this word) with the feta.

Prepare to have your mind boggled with the fabulousness of every bacon-y bite. Plus the chicken is so good. Even though the Evil Safeway makes it and I feel so guilty about buying a pre-cooked chicken that I force myself to use every last little nugget to offset my inner nag.

And don't forget to set aside those last two slices of bacon and the other breast of that roasted chicken. That's for the other thing.

Bacon Thing #2: All the Things I Like in a Salad, Salad Sandwich

Update: I DID take a picture.
That is so like me. I must have had hunger forgetfulness.
Is that a thing?

Basically, that same salad - just put it on toasted 9 grain bread with some mayo.

Ok, so the #2 thing isn't all that miraculous, but I will promise you that it's really fucking good. Especially when you haven't had much to eat for the better part of a week and you get to sidestep the messy process of roasting a chicken and cooking bacon and you just ALL OF A SUDDEN get to put together the most satisfying and perfect sandwich a person could want (although avocado would have been excellent, too) without bacon fat burns on your forearms.

I'm sorry I don't have a picture of this dream sandwich, but I was very hungry and in between two enormous projects, so I decided to sit down and eat it while thinking about photographing it rather than go get my camera. A decision with which I am still totally fine.

And while both of these things were really good, and did make efficient use of the bacon share (heh, that's still funny to me), they weren't really new exciting things to do with bacon. So, hopefully I'll get creative with the next round of bacon and do something more innovative than serve it up with its usual accompaniments.

All ideas are welcome here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Adopt a crop update: Magic garden that heals my cooties

I was sick this week, y'all.

Like sore throat, blow my nose one million times, cough in a scary way and then sound like a man kind of sick.

In the middle of fucking July, folks. Excellent timing!

That is such a ME thing to do. No, don't get sick when it's 40 degrees out in January when I can bundle myself in blankets and all my ugliest warm clothes and drink tea in front of a hot fire all day.


I get sick when it's hot July summertime and I can't be in the house in more than flip flops and my smallest shorts. Also, this is the best time to get the sick sweats because, you know, the heat isn't making me sweat enough.


Anyway, this is a garden update, not a Finny is So Gross update, so let me bring this home for you now.

(Feel free to skip down to Adopt a Crop update begins here if you don't want to hear about Magic Tomatoes. But why wouldn't you? I mean, they're MAGIC. Come on, here we go...)

The garden is Magic.

I know it is because Kelli told me so. And, well, she's usually right.

See, I'd gotten to Wednesday afternoon with my Super Cooties and had peeling sore nostrils from all the nose blowing (sorry, my grossness just comes through no matter what) and still felt like total shit even though I'd had this evil cold since Sunday and shouldn't it be gone by now.

Then I realized that I'd barely eaten anything since Sunday due to the feeling crappiness and also the fact that I had Sick Mouth which makes everything taste like a horse's ass and that all my nutrition and caloric intake was coming from Airborne, Robutussin, Healthy Choice Fudge bars and apricot jam.

At this point it dawned on me that my lethargy and declining health could possibly be attributed to more things than just the Super Cootie and may, in fact, be due in great part to lack of normal food in my body.

Idea! I'll eat a normal meal!

So I had to dig deep and think about what kinds of things always taste good no matter what. And in my sicky state, this was a challenge. My normal mind montage of food porniness was at an uncharacteristic standstill.

So I asked my brain in a different way: What is my favorite favorite food that, if I were being dragged into a solitary cell buried deep in the earth's core never to return, I would name The One Food to Last Me for All Time?

DING! Warm summer tomatoes.

Yes, we have those here.

So the one benefit of getting stupidly sick in the middle of summer is that when you're on the verge of collapse from lack of nutrition, you can force feed with Summer Tomatoes. Which, if you're me, is a lifesaver.

Adopt a Crop update begins here.

I am magic. - Tomatoes

From a handful of warm tomatoes picked fresh from my plants, I made my favorite pasta dish, Mellowed Tomatoes for Pasta and also a tomato salad, because I just have that much basil and that many tomatoes to frivolously burn. Delirious with fever maybe!

And even with my Sick Mouth and not being able to breathe and having to take breaks to blow my nose, I managed to eat a nice sized bowl's worth of pasta and a good amount of the tomato salad, which incidentally is just the pasta recipe without the pasta but whatever it is SO good that even when my brain cells are dying from high fever and I'm sick to the bone I can still eat them.

Thankfully my plants are getting into the swing of producing, so my gluttony didn't devastate the plants.

How many ripening tomatoes do you see?

How about on this plant?

Anyway, I made one more veg-a-licious dinner the next night and went to bed crossing my fingers and chanting "feel better feel better feel better achoo" and when I woke up Thursday morning I didn't want to die anymore.


I could breathe from both nostrils and didn't have to spend the day with Kleenex's shoved up in my nose. Again, MAGIC.

So, the garden is magic and that is all there is to it.

I also have enough cucumbers to start Round #3 of pickling, which is fun.

Try to find all the cucumbers in here. Challenge!

And the Bell Pecker is growing into something that doesn't look like a bell pepper to me. Weird.

There a may have been a mixup at the hospital.

Surprise Pumpkin is getting more ambitious by the day and actually producing more little pumpkins which I am pretty sure are actually pumpkins now and not some freak form of squash. Maybe if I get lucky a bastard creature won't gnaw through the back of them and I'll be able to Jack-o-lantern one for Halloweens.

These leaves are big like a toilet seat.

And if you remember back to the time when I told you of the legend of Midget Cantaloupe, this is the one Midget I've actually harvested and eaten. In summary: decent, small and cute. But with the amount of recovery the plant is having to undergo after nearly falling victim to the Evil Squash Beetles, I'm having to cross my fingers extra hard hoping that this plant's Rebuilding Season of July will actually produce some real fruit this year.

I'm more of a a nice idea than anything else.

I'm such a tease with all these flowers.

This is just for show.

In a surprise turn of events, the marigolds are actually making the blog because I decided that they've grown so impressively from seed that I might actually not think they're ugly long enough to take a picture and show you.

Ugly marigolds.

And because no crop update is complete without a scary shot of the Chard Forest to send you all into hysterics (or maybe just me, I can be dramatic), here you are:

I can smell fear.

So, to sum this update - I am on the mend and ready to do battle with this chard while eating a lot of tomatoes and getting ready to go on vacation.

Oh yes. Finny goes on vacation, people. To sunny, warm places where there are ocean waves and people saying things like, "Buenos Dias y quieres algo que tomar?"

But I'll get all excited about that later. For now, I have a big weekend ahead of me, which I'm sure I'll spend some time reviewing/complaining about next week. Ooh! And I made another bacon thing I'll share with you and maybe a craft.

Ha - I'm so not sick anymore. Take that, Asshole Cootie!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Punk Rocket

I'm high from the fumes.

Normally I don't bring up the cat because I'm afraid of being called a Crazy Cat Lady or accused of using the Internets to bombard people with mind-numbing minutia about my cat's daily bowel movements, BUT, I think my recent foray into cat torture warrants at least a short post where I display evidence that, no matter what happens with my career, I can NOT ever be a cat groomer.

See, we have a Maine Coon. Her name is Rocket. She has many interesting characteristics such as bloodthirstiness, a great love for waffles, a fetish for men's hair products and an affinity for being shaved.

For some reason, the cat who will bite and claw and try to rip my face right off 99% of the time will, at the sound of the clipper's buzzing, lie calm and serene and allow me to shave her fur off in whichever way I please.

Perhaps she realizes that I'm cutting her workload in half. Perhaps she knows she'll be cooler when I remove half her fabulous fur coat. Perhaps she has some other bizarre hang-ups about which I do not want details.

Either way - my shaving the cat means that I don't have to do all the things that would require taking her to a groomer which would include, but not be limited to: catching her, stuffing her into a box/crate/reinforced steel cage, drugging her, paying off the groomer so they don't sue me for releasing a wild animal in their shop or having to re-upholster the interior of my car due to severe shredding.

And so, about every six months, I cross the line of normal DIY and I shave The Rocket. And I do an hysterically piss-poor job.

I feel like one million dollars.

Usually I start out thinking that this time will be different and I'll make it all even and smooth like they do at those professional-type places and then I realize that not only do I not have the professional-type clippers that they do, I also am not being paid to do it and therefore, don't have the patience to shave a cat the size of a wildebeest in my house which doesn't have A/C.

I think you'll agree that heat, sweat and flying cat hair are not a pleasant combination.

This is why I always end up putting on my Bare Minimum hat and deciding to limit the requirements of the job to: Just give every surface at least one pass.

That way the clippers (we're on our second pair which are on loan from our nice neighbors who DON'T WORRY know what we're doing with them) don't burst into flames and Rocket doesn't suddenly realize that I'm torturing her and revert to her 99%-of-the-time-Face-Ripping self.

Sure, she ends up looking like she just got spit out of the mower, but she's happy, I still have my face on and the clippers can be oiled and brought back to life for future torturing.

At first it used to bother me when Bubba would laugh and point and make fun of the cat's retarded hair cut.

I would defend her and tell her how cute she looked (because I actually think she's cuter with her funny hairdo) and would tell Bubba to shut up and go look at his own hair or something similarly immature.

But then I stopped taking myself so seriously because who really cares if I don't know how to shave a cat right since that's not really a skill I plan to pride myself on or anything. And also because she does look funny and it's always better to laugh than be serious, so there we are.

And this last time around, I really outdid myself in the piss-poor haircut department, which I'm sure was a direct result of my not even trying to do a passable job. Not that any of her haircuts in the past have been any good, but this time I was actually laughing and making fun of my work as I went.

Does this haircut make my ass look fat?

So, now you know that I'm a closet cat shaver and, while I should be ashamed, I'm really not because look how cute she is. All with her various bald spots and what not.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jam out

In college (and still now really) my best friends used to make fun of me because when I was ready to leave the bar or their house or whathaveyou, I'd say something like, "I'm going to jam out" or "let's jam out" or "Lin, are you ready to jam out?" - something like that.

Then they'd point at me and laugh and ask me where in the world did I get that saying, it's so retarded.

Ok, they never said retarded, that was another word that only I use(d) because I'm insensitive and crass and they are elementary school teachers with hearts of gold who never say anything with any disparaging connotations but whatever.

Regardless, even though I used the phrase "Jam out" all the time, I still have no idea where I got it. No one else in the whole wide world says this as far as I can tell and I certainly didn't get it from SportsCenter or MTV, the two televised centers of my then universe. So, who knows BUT MAYBE it was a harbinger of a future time (now, for instance) when I would be obsessed with creating JAM OUT of everything.

Do you think?

Anyway, that would at least be a good story for me to tell while trying to distract my neighbors and friends while I pick their fruit trees to the bone so I can run off and make jam without any compelling purpose like a pending rough winter or natural disaster where we plan to live entirely on jam.

So far I've been prefacing every jam making session (pickling, too) by telling Bubba/the kitchen/the dog/no one in particular that I'll be giving jam at the holidays and so all this jam making and heating up of our Oven House in the middle of summer is all for a good cause because isn't that just what's on everyone's wish list: a random jar of jam.

Sure, people act all Ooh this looks so good - I can't wait to try this but sometimes I get the feeling they're like what the hell am I going to do with this because if I wanted jam couldn't I just buy it at the store what a cheap ass.

Oh well, that's the only good reason I have for heating our house to a rolling boil in the grand warm months of July and August and so there you have it: I'm making future gifts. Well-received or not.

This time I made apricot jam, thanks to a very concise and no-BS recipe in my Ball Blue Book of Preserving which we now call Blue Balls for obvious reasons and thanks to many suggestions.

The fruit was courtesy of my friend/neighbor/coworker who has a prolific apricot tree that was/is producing apricots at an unprecedented rate and so, needed help rescuing her patio from the impending doom of one million fallen and then soon rotting apricots.

Sure, they could eat some of them, but you have to be careful how many because I don't think I have to tell you what happens when one eats too many apricots. Yes. Ew.

And, as with all jam/pie making endeavors, the true best joy is in the harvesting. I don't know why I love this so much.

Seriously, the practice of standing under a tree full of fruit or next to a hillside full of berries or a vegetable bed full of tomatoes and picking until my hands are stained and sticky and I'm sweaty from top to tail because obviously it's summer and 100 degrees whenever I decide to do this, is like the best thing in the whole wide world.

I must have a pioneer or a homesteader or, well, a greedy thief deep down in my person because I love to harvest like it IS. NOBODY'S. BIDNESS.

The problem is then what do I do with all of this harvested stuff. Oh - I make jam. Because jam takes a lot of stuff and, hey, here's a lot of stuff I just picked. Tah dah, mystery solved about the jam.

Although what I found this time, my first time making apricot anything really, is that hot apricots smell like barf and/or baby food, which is really not that appetizing. Nothing like making blackberry jam/pie which smells like heaven and perfection and hot gooey YUM.

Plus apricots have to be peeled prior to jamming and there's a pain in my ass if I ever saw one. Lord. I do not have any fingerprints left thanks to the complete scorching I gave myself peeling blanched apricots even though I had a towel between my tender fingers and that molten fruit. I don't learn.

Whatever. I like the outcome. I have about half a dozen pints of apricot jam to go with my two quarts of pickles (tasting soon!) and, if my neighbors will allow me (or if they go out of town, whoopsy! thief next door!) maybe some plum jam, blackberry jam and, who knows, lemon pickles will join the sideboard so that I can feel all at home and ready to face catastrophic fallout with my fort of jam.

And, by the way, when did my life become all about disasters and canned fruit?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Explained bacon

We've been doing what I consider a lot of thematic eating lately, or redundant eating, depending on when in my string of chard dinners you ask me.

I hear this is also called seasonal eating, which is supposed to be good, but sometimes it feels a little, well, exhaustive. I obsess about OH CRAP HOW AM I GOING TO MAKE ALL THIS KALE and I worry that Bubba is hatching a secret plan to leave me for someone who isn't trying to hide zucchini in his chocolate cake.

And while all this crafty vegetable cooking can be, let's say, inventive - the good thing is that it's typically good for you, in a nutritional sense, so no matter how you make it (save for recipes like these that are mostly delicious cheese), you're getting a good amount of nutrients and you can feel good about your dinner even if it was just a giant bowl of snap peas tossed with radishes and there's no meat in sight. Because, well, it's all healthy vegetables, so at least you're not eating Taco Bell.

Until now.

Bubba thought it'd be a good idea to expand our thematic eating into the world of meat. This may or may not have been a direct result of the vegetarian menus I've planned lately while I stressed about how to consume a weekly farm share and home garden's worth of vegetables before they went bad.

As you may know, I hate waste and I WILL.NOT.HAVE.IT. So, some of our dinners have been a little one sided in the vegetable category in an effort to avoid the tearful goodbyes at the trash can/composter when the endive has turned irretrievably rubbery and the green garlic has a new punk rock hairdo of mold.

But, rather than run out and buy a side of beef to hang in our kitchen or get the In N Out truck to park in our driveway, Bubba got a little extravagant on our asses and signed us up for a unique meaty delivery to compliment the vegetable and bread shares already coming in with alarming regularity.

Thus enters, The Pig Next Door's Bacon of the Month Club.

Bacon of the month club? Is this even a thing?

Why yes, my friends, it most certainly is. But don't feel weird for wondering, because I said those exact words when Bubba shared this surprise with me. And then before I could say something so me like can't we get bacon from the store, he pointed out that this is bacon from small farms using sustainable methods that is so much better than we'd ever get from a store so don't you worry your crazy broccoli-addled brain about it.


"And then what would go better with all your homegrown tomatoes, a few slices of that artisan bread and that gorgeous romaine from the farm share than some crisp bacon all stacked up in a BLT, my beloved wife who is not crazy at all?"

He so knows me.

So now we have bacon. It is of the heirloom variety and it is, in fact, different from the Louis Rich variety I've come to know during my years of Evil Bacon Eating, just as I was promised. And because we have (and will continue to have) a good amount of it, you know I'll have to work it into my cooking and so, it will get worked into the blog, starting right now.

So far, we're working through what Bubba likes to call, The Purist bacon recipes and accompaniments. Things you'd normally associate with bacon, like BLTs and pancakes and eating it right off a paper towel - things like that.

And don't worry, I'm not going to get all this particular variety of heirloom bacon had a nose of applewood smoke and a hint of chocolate or any such nonsense because that kind of shit pisses me off.

And, plus people, this is bacon so let's not be ridiculous.

I will, however, continue to be my normal crabby and particular self so if there's anything specific about our monthly bacon share (yes, we're calling it that now) that doesn't meet my standards, you know I'll just tell you all about it and include all necessary swears.

And as my reasoning and skills for explaining away extravagant purchases and indulgent eating practices become more honed, I will be sure to share with you all the ways one might justify having a pound of bacon delivered to one's home on a monthly basis.

You know, for future decision making and gift giving. Helpful!

Meanwhile, if you have any favorite recipes for bacon (don't forget country style bacon that's like Canadian bacon because I have some right now and don't know what to do with it) and you want to share them with me with the off-chance that I might post pictures of them and talk about how awesome or disgusting they were, PLEASE let me know.

And I think it goes without saying that it's a damn good thing that I'm still running and am about to start cycling (oh yes, I just said that) because otherwise we might really become fatties. AND YOU KNOW I'M AFRAID OF THE FATNESS.

Go bacon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Adopt a Crop update: Early birdly

Cucumbers whatever right now because WOO - we're early on tomatoes this year!

I am #1, y'all. BOW TO ME.

If my calculations are correct, and they're probably not because I suck at math but whatever, we're about two weeks ahead of last year's #1 tomato.

Which, if you're anyone other than me, may not be a big deal, but since I'm me and that's who I cater to almost 100% of the time (selfish and lazy - now there's a fun combo), it's BIG NEWS.

Plus, this is also big news to Bubba and he's the other one I cater to when I'm on break from being ALL ME ALL THE TIME, so we're good. And then I made the first BLT of the summer which was fantastic and lusty and perfect all at once. But I'll talk about that later on when I unveil the unexplained bacon phenomenon. SOON - but for now, crops...

Remember my pumpkin? Yeah - me neither because I didn't plant any. Yet still - there's one! Free surprise pumpkins I didn't have to coax into being! That's good for me given my history with these "easy to grow" plants.

I don't blame myself though (obviously) because it's the squash beetles' fault for sucking the life out of these plants. I didn't realize until this year how bad they were so I wasn't hand picking them until my whole life reeked of their squashed innards, but now I know and so all the beetles die.

Sometime I'll show you my can of dead beetles. It's something of a trophy. And it's real gross.

I may appear furry, but that's because someone didn't know how to use the
macro lens at such an early hour. WHATEVER. I am a pumpkin.

These are cucumbers on Wee Man, which is great since he's produced 100% of squat since this whole "from seed" experiment started. Now that I've yanked the borage (don't worry! I'll reseed!) that was moving into his family room, I have confidence that he'll grow into his new space and give me lots of future pickles.

Bell Pecker now has a pecker even if it's only to spite me for the not nice things I said about how slow he's been to produce a pecker for me. I just said pecker three times and you're still reading. Funny!

Anyway, I'm excited because I think there's a few more small peckers in there somewhere under all the marigolds that grew from seed (!) around him like two stinky shrubs. Surprising. I kind of like them now that I've grown them from seed. I mean, I sort of like them, they're still ugly like sin.

Are you looking at my pecker?

What is this? An empty spot in the beds? Hardly. I ripped out the bolted ass-lettuce and re-sowed another set of beets so that I could continue the torture of hoping for a big pile of beets. Not that my 1.5 beets from set #1 weren't great, but, let's be honest, I need more. A LOT MORE.

Feel free to stare at this dirt spot and pray for beets. I'm OK with that.

Hey there's a bean! And there! And and and...oh, that's it.

We had three beans this week, which was fine since I can't expect too much from the four or five seeds that germinated and actually made it from seedling to fence without being gnawed to death by whatever naughty untamed soil monster had a damn feast at the foot of my pea fence.

But next year I'll know and I'll plant more beans. And I'll sit out there with a shotgun and pick off any creature that gets close to my precious little beans. Or maybe I'll let Jada stay out after dark and hunt them down for me.

Sheesh. I had no idea I liked beans so much.

I'm lovable.

I could give a chard update here, but you've heard it all before and I get the impression that the story won't change much between now and the end of its really long growing season that I think ends in, like, November or something crazy.

In sum: forest. If you need ideas for what do to with your chard, here's some of my recent uses:

Swiss Chard Gratin/Dip
Susan's Swiss Chard Tuna Salad
Pork Loin Stuffed w/ Swiss Chard
Gorgonzola Gnocchi w/ Swiss Chard
Spaghetti w/ Chard and Sausage

And then I ate the tomato. And this basil. And I put the beans on the side and called it Tomato Dinner #1.

I look delicious. I know. You can say it.

Why, is that a hot mess of random home grown vegetables? Yep, sure is. Let's total the damage: #1 tomato, a lot of chard, a few green beans and some Thai basil for good measure.

Sometimes random is delicious.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh just ew and damn.

I just ate something disgusting.

I've said before that in moments of paralyzing horror I tend to have ridiculous breakdowns that involve hysterical laughter and the inability to move.

Where all I can do is stand in the place of discovery and say, "Oh nooooooooooooooooooooooo", like a hundred times until my brain catches up with the situation at hand.

Well, I had one of those moments last night.

When I was standing, half-awake in the kitchen, nearly done closing up the house for business so we could go to bed, and I realized the door to the backyard was still open.

This discovery, in and of itself, is not a big deal. We leave it open to ease the wretched heat in our oven house and also so the creatures can go in and out freely to get some relief from their hot fur coats. It's usually a very symbiotic and peaceful existence with the backdoor open. Everyone comes and goes as they please and the house does not implode from extreme heat.

Winners all around!

Except last night when I realized it was open and it was also dark (we usually bring everyone in and close it down before, say, the dead of night) and when I called Jada the first time she didn't come springing into the house like her normal obedient and cheerful self.

And that is when my evening began its rapid descent down the toilet.

I smelled something bad.

And then I called the dog again.

And then I watched her slowly appear in the darkness and apprehensively approach the house.

And then she came into the dim light of the back porch.

And THEN I had my moment of Oh Noooooooooooooooooo.

She had a giant inky-black streak from neck to tail. And some big smears on her hind legs. And a very guilty/euphoric look on her face.

*stream of consciousness* ...That shade of brownish black looks familiar. Kind of like that black mystery doot in the yard. And didn't Bubba see a possum running along our fence the other night? Jada likes to chase possums...*stream of consciousness*

Which is when I realized that my blissful retreat to bed was not to be had because OH YAY THE DOG HAS SOLVED THE BLACK POO MYSTERY and HOW SPECIAL she celebrated her discovery by having a clandestine somersault contest with the possum and all of its shit.

So I stood quietly in the kitchen, fully engrossed in my state of extreme horror, and watched my vision of bedtime go right out the window. Thankfully Jada has learned what to do when I act like this. That it's best not to make any sudden movements that might touch off a full blown bought of hysteria and better to sit quietly in a state of shame and sullen obedience until further notice.

It was everywhere on her. The Mark of the Possum. Chest, back, legs, belly, tail. And after a quick test wipe with a towel it became clear that, not only was this definitely poo, it was also not going to just wipe right off all easy like that. Oh no. This was going to require a bath.

And did I mention that we've never bathed the dog in the year and half we've had her because I'm a horrible dog mom and she never gets dirty so why would I torture her for no reason?

Yes, it's true. I have never bathed our dog. She is such a low maintenance beast 99% of the time that a good brushing will take care of most evils and the rest can be handled with her ritualistic lawn rolling in the yard (where there's normally no poo) or spontaneous swims in the fountain at work.

And since I never give her a bath, you know I don't have any doggie shampoo just hanging out in the house just waiting to be used in a stinky situation like this. Thankfully I had a very large refill bottle of Softsoap that'd been taking FOREVER to get rid of and THANK GAWD because it was that or the crappy TJ's dishsoap that smells like a horse's ass anyway and wouldn't have improved our situation that much.

I won't lie, I briefly contemplated letting the shitty dog come in the house and just go to bed, sans-bath. But, given my crippling aversion to all things filthy, I dissed that idea and came to mournful grips with the fact that I was about to put on work clothes and spend the next hour hosing possum crap off the dog by flashlight.

In my Crisis Manager Mode, I ended up washing the dog down from head to toe with Softsoap and the garden hose while ripping anew the threadbare ass of my favorite work pants that Bubba keeps threatening to steal and burn.

Picture that, will you? 10:30pm, hunching over the dog with the hose running, Bubba holding her back from re-pursuing the possum, pants ripping and feeling the evening's breeze meeting meaningfully with my entire left butt cheek, smell of possum poo in the air.

Dreamy, no?

If I'd only known then that I'd also get to discover the dead stinky Beast itself in the morning when I returned from running, my night would have been complete.

I love my dog.

Allow me to sample your hot dog, mom. Just to be sure.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I have a stalker. [Recipe]

I have this recurring nightmare/paranoia that someone is going to trick me into their car and then drive me out to the woods and chop me up.

This paranoia extends even to my beloved Bubba despite the fact that we've been together for more than eight years and we also don't own a big ax or chainsaw.

Sometimes, like during our yearly road trips to find snow, I get weirded out for no reason and in the middle of Wyoming look over at Bubba happily driving the truck and go, "Um, are you going to chop me up? Because if you are, just tell me now so I can jump out."

And then I watch him give me that look that says, "I married a psycho and maybe I'll throw MYSELF from this truck if this keeps up."

But because he knows the true depths of my crazy, he'll just say something like, "Baby, you're funny."

And then one minute later, "Hey, where'd you pack the snow shovel?"

And then I freak out and have to take a nap. This also explains why I sleep so much on our road trips when I'm not playing Hey!

Anyway, what I meant to say was, I have a stalker! But thankfully not a Chop Me Up Stalker, but an Awesome Stalker that hunts down my address via a hundred ways on the internets so they can send me presents.

How awesome is that?!

Awesome enough for me to forgive the extreme case of Chop Me Up willies I got when Jeph (aka Awesome Stalker) emailed me to say that surprise!! A present was on its way to me at my house.

Plus, I also love presents, so, you know, I was momentarily distracted.

So, what was this unscary present? Well, it wasn't the truckload of chard he originally claimed was being freighted to my doorstep - no, no. Can you imagine? Bad.

It was, in fact, a cookbook to help me manage the encroaching chard in my garden: Serving up the Harvest, by Andrea Chesman.


I was so touched by this very appropriate and useful gift that I waited one full email (and until after I sent him a thank you card - hello, I am not an animal) before asking him how exactly he triangulated my location.

I won't go into detail (no collection of cookbooks will get me to write out instructions for finding my house thankyouverymuch) BUT I can say with some certainty that Jeph could have a future with the CIA, if the whole Awesome Stalker thing doesn't work out.

And so, with my fabulous cookbook acquired by questionable means, I set right out to kill some chard because even though the threatened truckload didn't arrive, I still had a bed full of it that needed immediate taming.

Which is where the recipe part of I Have a Stalker comes in:

Swiss Chard Gratin

Serving up the Harvest, Andrea Chesman

2 lbs (12-16 stems w/ leaves) of chard - rainbow, swiss or otherwise sliced into ribbons
4 T butter
1 onion halved/sliced
1/4 cup flour
2 c milk
1 c grated Gruyere
Sea salt
Black pepper (fresh ground, please)
1/4 c bread crumbs

First, boil some seasalty water and add your chopped stems.

Give it a few minutes and add your ribboned leaves.

Then drain your chard after a few minutes and preheat the oven to 350.

See how small all that chard got? That's the best.

I used a 9x13 glass dish sprayed down with some nice TJ's olive oil spray, because I'm classy like that.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and then add your onion to cook until it's soft. Whisk in your flour until it's all pasty. Add your milk and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and add your cheese. Now add salt and pepper until it tastes the way you like it. Add your chard and stir it all up nice.

Now scoop all that into your oily dish, cover it with breadcrumbs (the more the better, in our house) and bake for about half hour or until the breadcrumbs start to brown.

Serve it up with something good - we chose to grill some mahi steaks and at the last minute (which is why it's not pictured) we warmed up some of the Zucchini Cheddar Biscuits from before so we could really be the boss of the garden all in one meal.

If only we could grow fish.

OH! Also - if you have leftovers (which you likely will since this makes 6 servings), maybe get some bagel chips from TJ's, you know, while you're there getting your classy pan spray, and serve them up as dippers for the Awesome Cheesy Chard Dip you'll have once you reheat the leftovers in a ramekin with a new layer of breadcrumbs on top.

Frankly, I'm more of a dip person than a gratin person, so I may forgo the whole Gratin charade in the future and just go for Dip for Dinner, which is just a more WT way of having Breakfast for Dinner and you don't have to gag down any sick eggs. Bleck.

Anyway - this is really good. I'll be making more. Because all that chard already grew back and I just made this last week. Yeah. It's scary like that.

Monday, July 07, 2008

It only took two tries, which, thank gawd.

I don't know what my problem is, but despite the fact that I KNOW I need to test a new craft before I go for the gold creating a final product, I never do it.

No way.

I just get all my supplies ready, most of which are a totally new mystery to me, and I set out to make the perfect vision in my head. I also ignore any nice learned best practices or helpful instructions because certainly I, the all-knower of crafts and art, don't need special instructions even though that is exactly what I need because I am the all-knower of nothing and need to be told (and shown in pictures) exactly how and when and where to do things so they don't come out looking like a pile of shit.

Same usually goes for recipes, car repairs, the garden, get the idea.

Basically, Try #1, with any craft is typically a terrific eye-opening failure.

Which you think I'd know by now. But no. As evidenced by my most recent craft vision, I apparently have no idea that I am a woman who creates with practice, determination and careful instruction following rather than one who creates with raw talent.

It's a tough row to hoe, but that's me: Crafter by Instruction

So, what do you think I did when I decided to make a monogrammed cake plate for my grandma's birthday after seeing Thimbleanna's cute rendition? Well, I obviously first ran out and got all the supplies that Kairle listed on her great and perfect tutorial and 100% ignored the part about getting a glass item which had a nice flat bottom on to which I could paint a reversed monogram just like her photos.


I was like, whatever, I want to give my grandma a cake stand, so I'll just figure it out because I'm all-knowing when it comes to glass etching even though I've never done it before.

You already see where this is going, don't you?

Anyway, I got everything else and then came home all ready in my head to make the cutest glass etched monogrammed cake stand in the history of things and then promptly made an enormous etchy mess out of the cute cake plate I found and loved.

Oh, right. I'm not a skilled glass etcher. Perhaps I should have tried this out on, say, an old jar from the recycle bin first.

OR - maybe now that I've proven that I am not the skilled glass etcher I thought I was, I should go practice on that old jar before embarking on a mission to destroy one of my own cake stands because, you know, now that I've fucked one up, I'm obviously a pro.

I'll let you guess which way I went on this one.

I think the fear is this: I'll do a practice run and by some miracle it'll come out PERFECT. Then, I'll be all, I am such a pro at this, and go to do the real one only to make a big mess and then I'll have wasted my talent on the old jar instead of the cake stand.

I know it is totally irrational and retarded, but this is how my mind works and I'm not proud.

And to save you any undue suspense, I went with option B. I headed directly to my cabinet of serveware and grabbed one of my two glass cake stands for Try #2.

Then I started crossing my fingers.

Thankfully, by some glorious twist of fate likely brought on by my grandma's bulletproof karma (I'm sure Karma doesn't want her getting a fugly birthday present), Try #2 did not come out fucked up.

Que milagro! I was very happy. For some obvious reasons but also because I only had one cake stand left and I was sure I'd mess that one up and have to go back to the store which is a total no-no.

And then, after all the soul-searching and mess making, I was filled with an inspiration to monogram things, so I did.

I wrapped up a get-together type cookbook in white tissue and monogrammed it. Then I wrote out a birthday card and monogrammed the envelope. Then I stacked all those glorious monograms that did not look fucked up all together and tied a bow.

No one had to know what a big loser mess I'd made thinking I was a pro at something which I most certainly was not.

Until my Aunt so astutely asked, at the opening of the gift, "Hey, how many of those did you go through before that one?"

Oh. I've apparently fooled no one with my I'm Such a Pro Crafter masquerade.

And now I can share with you some tips that I learned while creating this glass etched cake stand so that you can ignore me and go make your own mess. Or not! You might be one of the smart ones that can learn from another's mistakes instead of having to see the devastation first hand!

That'd be cool. I envy you.

Anyway, Tip #1: Use a paintbrush just like Kairle says.

So, I ignored this because I only have nice paintbrushes for the few moments in my life when I choose to work on the same painting I've been painting for five years, and instead I used one of those foam brush things.

Does not work as well. It absorbs the cream rather than distributing the cream and ends up taking a lot longer to apply and then also pushes the cream under the edges of your carefully Xacto'd letters until things come out ugly and you have to start over on your own belongings.

Tip #2: Really adhere that contact paper to your glass piece.

The first time I didn't do a good job of this, so all those pointy edges from those serif fonts kept getting lifted off by the pesky foam brush and, well, it made an irretrievable mess. SO - once you have your Xacto'd contact paper right on your glass, cover it with a piece of paper and rub evenly all over it to make sure that contact paper, and all its pesky edges, are really on there.

Tip #3: Don't use serif fonts. Use "a large, cute font. Unless you're a glutton for punishment..."

You can see from my final product that I just went whole hog ignoring this sage advice. In fact, I *might* have been able to get away with Try #1 had I used a large, cute font instead of a large, punishing font with serifs BUT WHATEVER.

And that's all I learned. I learned first hand exactly all the things that both Anna and Kairle warned against in tutorials and emails and blog comments. Because my head is thick like that and I need to make the mess myself to see that, nope, that doesn't work.

BUT - my grandma received a nice monogrammed cake stand for which I did NOT have to apologize and I have a future nice cake stand that will be receiving another ill-advised glass etching treatment to cover up the mess I made during Try #1.

One day, I'll learn.