Saturday, November 1, 2014

Scenes From A Garden

Approximately 5% of the total basil harvest.

These became delicious catsup.

Tigger Melon.So cute. Did not taste nice at all.

Force ripening the last of the tomatoes.

Springtime Irises


Beets,basil, strawberries,and kale.

Purple runner beans

Obscenely beautiful Black Pineapple tomatoes

Sadly, my potato plants did not yield much.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


The summer of 2014 in Portland has been nearly Iowagian. Usually, we get highs in the 90s for about 2 weeks. This summer, however, we have have endless weeks of high temps, which my garden is just loving. Currently, the tomatoes are ripening as  I watch. I can witness beans growing. My seriously scaled back zucchini are overproducing. I am not complaining, mind you. It just means that CorgiPants spends most evenings trotting around in her fenced in yard, barking at dogs on walks and meeting new friends who wander by. While I can, pickle, and freeze the bounty. A bit of visual evidence:

Bon appetit, and have a bountiful week!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

This Week's Harvest

Plucked from the soil this week:

Beets, spinach, strawberries, and so much kale

The garlic! Planted in mid-October, and finally done!
Bon Appetit, and have a glorious week!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Apology and The Garden Today

First off, I'd like to offer a public apology to the woman I scolded last year for putting dog poop in my trash can. I understand now. It is a very unpleasant thing to carry around, and I now take advantage of any trash cans that happen to live on the curb. I aim for the public ones, but, those are hard to come by in a residential area. So, I am sorry for being mean to you.

Second, some shots of what is growing at Clementine.

Garlic, Pole Bean Starts, and the Requisite Cute Dog Photo

Teeny Weeny Little Meyer Lemon.
Who know lemon tree blossoms were so fragrant? Outrageous!

The Roses are In Bloom.

Seckel Pears, Producing Well in Year Two.

First Year of Strawberries.

Blueberries, Also Doing Well in Year Two.

Kale, Plus Lavender in The Background.

Bon Apetit, and have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Aaaand I am Officially That Person Who Got a Dog.

You know the one. The one who posts obnoxious dog videos/pictures/anecdotes ALL THE TIME. Yep, that's me. Here is my first-ever YouTube video. "Lucy's Dinner Review".

Bon Appetit, and have a great week!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Lucy's Had A Big Week

So, I adopted a dog. Her name is Lucy, and she is a seven-year-old purebred Corgi with on-leash aggression against other dogs. Otherwise, she is a little angel. Completely housebroken and somewhat obedience trained. Loves everyone she meets, as long as they are willing to rub her belly. Actually, that is not a requirement. She just loves everyone.

She looks like a killer, huh? More like a Twinkie.

She was surrendered on Easter Sunday because her previous owner wanted to devote all their time to their older Corgi who was going to be recovering from a scheduled surgery.

I spotted this lovely on Tuesday, and when she was still there Wednesday morning (purebreds don't stay at the pound long), I decided to pounce. I called to make sure she wasn't held, and biked my way through rainy, cold weather to go and just meet her. After waiting and waiting and waiting, I met Miss Lucy. What a sweetheart! A few minutes into our meet, she proceeded to roll on her back and splay her legs, as to say "Rub my belly". I was smitten. I put her on hold, went to purchase dog supplies, dog proof the house, and came back later to pick her up.

Most of Wednesday night, she slept. In between, she proved how well-trained (house and otherwise) she is.

Thursday, I came home at lunch to find zero accidents (!), and some very cute little signs that she had been romping. Kitchen rugs askew and draperies pushed to the sides. Thursday night, I received the most excited little canine welcome home. Wiggly butt and all. Sorta like this.

Tonight was vet night. The Humane Society offers a free vet exam for all their animals, however, Lucy was not there long enough to be examined by one of their docs, so we got a certificate for a checkup from a local place. We headed over, and my little pal was so loved by all she came in contact with. Sadly I found out that she is more of a chunk than originally thought. 36 lbs at the vet versus the 28 lbs the humane society published.

So far, so good. My furry little companion is snoozing by my feet, after her peanut butter-filled Kong (a reward for being good at the vet).

The diet starts tomorrow.

Bon Appetit, and have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

First Flowers of 2014 and An Odd Biking Day

Signs of Spring at Clementine Cottage are quite apparent now. Tulips popping up everywhere and the lilac bushes are in bloom.

The Opening Bouquet of the Season

I love love love flowers, and Clemmy's pre-existing rose bushes, lavender plants, and lilacs only added to her appeal. The lilacs and tulips have decided that this sunny week was the one to start displaying their beauty. And I cannot quite resist wanting to have some of said beauty inside.

Now, onto to odd biking stuff. My commute home involves an uphill switchback, a small hill, a bigger hill, and a brief upward slope followed by smooth sailing. As I was coming off the switchback this afternoon, another cyclist made a move to pass me. As she was doing so, she looked to her right (because she was passing properly) and said, "do you bike a lot?" Not sure whether she was being facetious (as I had slowed considerably), I answered, "I do.Why?" "You have strong legs", she responded, "I just noticed that. Go ahead" and dropped back.

Well, well. Here I am in my fou fou girl dress getting a compliment from a spandex-clad bike warrior. Almost made the young girl who shouted "SLUT!" at me from a car later worth it.

Bon Apetit, and have a beautiful weekend!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Year Ago...

I received, into my hot little hands, the keys to my very own first house. A perfectly Cory-sized cottage complete with a wonderful front garden, an extra 250 feet of living/project space, and a terrific house-length back deck (among other attributes). I promptly named her Clementine, as it was so fitting.

I will publish some interior Before and After photos at a later date, but for now, here are some shots of what is happening in the Clementine garden, now that Spring has sprung.


Left: Seckel Pear Tree, awash with blossoms.
Upper Right: Closeup of the garlic field.
Lower Right: So many little pea shoots, growing toward their supports.

Meyer Lemon Tree. So gloriously fragrant.
That's all I have for now.

Bon Apetit, and Happy Anniversary Clemmy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Procrastination Part II, or I Made Cheese, and It Tastes Like Cheese!

I should be writing a speech right now. Because this is my chore for the evening (thank Dog this term is over soon), I also decided to check on the Gouda I made earlier this year. It has now been the requisite 60 days, so I sampled.

Oh dear Dog, it tastes like cheese. Like, actual cheese. Not Mascarpone or Ricotta. Hard, aged cheese! Just call me a proud squirrel right now. Tomorrow, I shall take some into the office to turn my buddies into guinea pigs.

Bon apetit, and have a lovely evening (I am back to my speech now)!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Prime Ways to Avoid Homework

This term, I am taking a class called Managerial Accounting. The subject matter of this course is exactly as exciting as it sounds. Not more, not less. The homework and quizzes are due Sunday by midnight. So, for the last 9 weeks, my Sunday routine has consisted of coming up with various ways of putting it off as long as possible. Then, feeling deep regret when I finally get around to doing the assigned work. Note here that this is an online course that I have the option of completing early, should I so desire. But did I bust my bottom and solidly work for a few extra hours each week and just get it done, thus reducing this torture? No. No I have not. Unlikely that I will, either.

So, what pray tell, am I doing today in my quest for procrastination? Let me enlighten you.

First off, canned beans! After an epic post-Challenge trip to the bulk section of Winco, I found myself in possession of several pounds of dried beans. I tend to be a raging cheapskate, and always go the dried bean route versus canned because it just costs SO MUCH LESS. However, I always somewhat resent the soaking/cooking process. Not out of laziness, but because of the fact that most recipes use about a cup of dried beans. I usually end up extrapolating up three or four times and freezing the rest for later use.  About a month or so ago, I ran into these instructions of how to home can beans. Well, well, I have a pressure canner that I am no longer petrified of, and dried beans. So, I gave it a shot. Easy peasy, and for roughly the same amount of time normally committed to soaking and cooking, I had nine pints of black and navy beans ready to just pull off the shelf and use. Hurrah! So, as I type, there are 9 jars of kidney and pink beans in the canner. Plus, Garbonzos, Mayo Cobas, and Red Beans pre-soaked for canning this week. The only downside to this process is that it makes the house smelly really "beany". Like, cooking pounds and pounds of beans "beany".

Still boiling, and will continue to do so for an hour or so.

Second, Lemon Pepper. Last year, I happened upon cheap Meyer Lemons and decided to make salted preserved lemons. And they sat in the fridge. Because I always forget they were there. They are quite delightful in the few recipes that I have used them in, however, a year later they were still hanging out in the back of my fridge, delicious and unloved. So, I threw them in the dehydrator yesterday, and blended them with peppercorns. The result is phenomenal. I am going to mix a bit of it with oil to dress a piece of Dover Sole that's been kicking about the freezer for a while for dinner. And make little grunts of piggy joy while I consume it. The master plan though is to use it when tuna season rolls around and I buy a whole fish. Dress filets and vacuum freeze. More grunts of piggy joy to follow.

Lastly, I am nearly out of half and half, so naturally I will have to make a grocery trip. One cannot be out of half and half. Oh! And I will have to flip the Cotswold and check on the new Parmesan.

Gouda with a little speck of mold in the lower right, which had to be removed.

Parmesan. Already had mold to be wiped off. Only about 50 weeks until it's ready!
 And write this confessional. Yes, yes, things that must be done.

Then, homework. Sigh.

Bon apetit, and have a beautiful week!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Best Laid Plans Thwarted and A Challenge Update

You'll pardon me please if I ramble a bit today...

Rewind to the beginning of Fall term, when I started researching what student discounts I am eligible for on various cultural events. Much to my great delight, I found that The Portland Opera offers student rush tickets. For $10. It works like this: a student shows up an hour before curtain, flashes their indispensable student ID, and is able to purchase whatever seat is still available for, basically, a song.

When I discovered this, I started planning my very first trip to the opera. I have always wanted to go, but the cost for the general public (even for seats in the nosebleed section) was far out of my budget. Initially, I was to see Salome, however for one reason or another, I was unable to attend any performances. The next production, Lucia di Lammermoor, looked quite interesting, and I made arrangements to see it with a friend (also a student) tonight.

The weather in Portland this week has been cold. Well, Portland Cold. Too-cold-to-bike-in-the-last-two-days-cold. So after a freezing walk to the Max yesterday, I bundled up this morning, being prepared for a chilly post-opera jaunt home. Stockings under fleece-lined tights (wonderful things. I would love to find the fabric these are made from, make 7 unitards from it, have everything delivered to Clementine, and petition to work from home three months of the year), plus socks, boots, arm warmers, dress, sweater, gloves, scarf, and a heavy, ankle-length wool coat.  Since I couldn't ride in, I waddled off to a Max stop two miles away in this getup, considerably warmer than the day before. By 10 am, Portland Public Schools had announced that schools would close at 1 pm (it had not begun snowing at this point). And since my office has a large amount of not only parents, but people who live outside of Portland proper, we were granted a snow day. Hurray, but this means no opera.

As of the photo below, it had been snowing solidly for nearly 4 hours. Obviously, Portland is ill-equipped to deal with such weather.

I pouted for a good bit on the way home, but then realized that I could make use of this free time. For to do projects that have been pushed to the back burner. Like frozen yogurt. And cheese!

It is entirely possible that on my trek home that I picked up 5 gallons of milk, a culture, some cheesecloth, and wax. Since I started making cheeses that are aged, I have accumulated two (I haven't been doing this for long) that need to sit for 2-6 months. I want something a little faster, and something a little slower. The solution? A Colby and  a Parmesan.

The Colby will be ready in 4-6 weeks, and the Parmesan in about a year. Win!

And now onto The Challenge...

Initially, The Challenge was a little vague ("I will attempt to eat a lot of what is in the house before more grocery trips"). Since this first entry, I got more specific. Namely, I will continue with The Challenge until I get my tax returns. In the time that I have been doing this, I have cheated a couple times. I had Pizza Hut (one of the few places that delivers to my 'hood), and I purchased celery (for egg salad and tuna salad), frozen apple juice, and a package of linguine. So, I think I have done pretty well. I have made smoothies, arborio rice burgers, and tuna casserole, among other things. I still have a lot of smoothies in  my future, as well as fish dishes and greens. But, it has been smooth sailing. I found instructions on how to can beans, which I will be doing shortly, and still have a lot of pickles.

Well, that's about all for now. The snow is falling more heavily, and I am hoping for a full day off tomorrow.

Bon Appetit, and stay warm!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I Might Need Help

It is January 11. The high today is 49 degrees. It is alternating between blustery wind and beautiful sunshine. Normal Portland winter. Which has, naturally, gotten me thinking about...The Garden!

While I was wandering about Fred Meyer the other day, I veered into the garden section. To my great delight, they have started stocking 2014 seeds. Now, I will be ordering some super-special items from Territorial, but I just couldn't help myself. They were 40% off!

If the growing season is good, this could be all the produce I need for 2014

So, along with the seed-purchasing extravaganza, comes some contemplation of last year's garden...

  • No zucchini plants this year. The darn things over-produce, and honestly, I don't like zucchini enough to have another 40 pounds to deal with. Plus, they are nearly free during their season. I can spend a couple bucks on zucchini at the farmer's market this year.

  • More tomatoes! I am now down to just a few jars of diced/crushed tomatoes, plus no sauce. More this year. 20 plants is the goal: 15 sauce and 5 slicing and cherry.

  • Limited brassicas. Broccoli and cauliflower are pretty cheap at the markets, plus the plants SPRAWL. I will, however, grow cabbages and Brussels sprouts. And pretty orange and purple cauliflower.

  • Dry/freeze more basil. I ended up using most of my basil in pesto this year. Much though I lurve pesto, I have SO MUCH currently. And almost no pasta (thank you pantry challenge). I suppose I could make pasta (as I have semolina, and am allowing myself to purchase flour), but it is a big undertaking. 

  • I am extending my garden beds. The less grass in my yard, the better. More food! So,I am adding one foot to the sides (no mowing next to the lavender, and two feet in the back, so the pergolas can serve as a vining station). 120 square feet this year, yeah, baby!

Next up? An update on The Great Pantry and Larder Challenge .

Bon apetit, and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Wishing You a Gouda 2014!

Far be it from me to air my own personal dirty laundry, but I must admit I am quite pleased to see the end of 2013. Aside from a few really awesome occasions, (Clemmy, garden, Danielle, and Ashia, I am peering your way) 2013 was a pretty tough year on a few levels. Some big disappointments, and some sadness (especially toward the end of the year)  But! Bring on 2014!

During my brewing hiatus, while Clementine and I were finding our way toward one another, I took up cheesemaking. Far cheaper than extract brewing, plus almost instant gratification (no waiting at least 3 weeks to try the end result), this hobby was a perfect time-and-belly-filler for me. Sadly, I have failed miserably at the simplest recipes, like mozzarella (I just cannot getting the right kneading down) and feta (granted, my culture for this one is expired. The curds never set up quite right). However, I do make brilliant creme fraiche, ricotta, sour cream, and mascarpone. So, I decided (aided by the fact that I used a chunk of my HBX credit on a cheese press) to try my first hard aged cheese: Gouda (using the two gallon version of this recipe). Here are some Action Shots:

The ingredients

The first press

All curds in! The second press.

Post pressing

In the brine

A warning for the cave

The (almost) finished product

The whole thing is now in the cheese/mead/beer cave, aging away for up to 6 months. Next up? A Cotswold!

Bon apetit, and Happy New Year!