Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Garden Gloves

I pulled the last of my garden out this weekend wearing winter gloves, a hat and loads of layers, but I was rewarded with a million radishes. We then had our first real frost on Sunday night. I hope to have spring onions, but only time will tell. It's sad to say goodbye to gardening for the season, but not the weeding.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oh deer

I really like gardening. This year I’ve been more precise in the planning and tracking of each plant and seed so that I can replicate what I like and avoid making the same mistakes again. This year also marks the second year that my neighbor’s garden was hit with blight, and I was again spared. So, I understand that even with planning, luck has even more sway in the success of a garden.

Mid-September I decided to plant a fall garden, an experiment. Even as my seedlings grew, it was still dicey. My biggest fear was that the frost would be early this year. As I was focused on weather reports, the garden’s natural predator made its first appearance ever. Deer. And so many of them. They were not content to just snack on the beanstalks, they tromped through everything else with their sharp, hooven feet to uproot the fledgling fall sprouts.

My fall garden experiment? Done, over, failed. My efforts to keep deer away from the garden next season? Oh, it’s on.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

That's hawt.

We grew them, dried and diced them.

And in return? They made us sneeze, burned our lungs and tongues. Mission accomplished. We’ve made pepper flakes from scratch. Yum.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Our first watermelon

August 18th was National Watermelon Day (who knew?). We celebrated a few days late.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bird vs. Girl

I had hoped the bird would take out the creepy ceramic girl. No such luck. The bird flew away and she still sits there in her menacing manner.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When life gives you cucumbers...

make soup,
and salad,
and drinks.

The soup is a new find, and much better than the one I had last year. If you find yourself with loads of cucumbers, here’s a great recipe. The 35 minute total time listed on the site is a lie; it will take much longer. The peeling and seeding is tedious, but worth it.

Cucumbers are good in any salad, but they typically play a supporting role. In these two salads, they are the main ingredient. I first had this salad, or a similar recipe in Latvia. It was after I tried a beer salad (I like beer, I like salad, what’s there not to love?). Uh, yeah, it was gross. Even the memory of the pressed, cubed ham and mayo causes me to wince. However, I did drink lots of beer after tasting it, so I guess that’s where it got the name. Anyway, back to the star – cucumbers. Slice and quarter cucumbers (you can leave the seeds or take them away), add a dollop of sour cream and chopped dill. You can use the exact same recipe for tomatoes, which I hope to be overrun with soon. And, you can have it with both cucumbers and tomatoes. Serve cold, and can store a couple of days tightly covered and in the refrigerator.

The other salad is much more traditional and I think that everyone I know grew up with it. Cucumbers (again, peeling and seeding is optional and to your taste), slice sweet onions, add vinegar, salt and pepper. I like it with a pinch of Old Bay, too. Let it sit for a bit, and serve cold.

Soups and salads are pretty traditional uses for cucumbers. To add a bit of summer to your cocktails, substitute thinly sliced cucumbers for the citrus in your vodka tonic. It’s refreshing and a definitely a conversation starter. It doesn’t use a lot of cucumber, but it certainly cuts the heat in Maryland.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

A life lesson from my father

I remember wanting something, anything as a child – and it didn’t matter what is was… a skirt, a skateboard ramp, a pet – he knew that we could make something better and less expensive at home. While we didn’t always make the item that was so wanted at the moment, it was an incredible lesson. We can do anything.

This lesson didn’t just apply to stuff – it applied to life. He decided he wanted to fly; he got his pilot’s license. He didn’t want to work for someone else; he started his own business. I am so proud and impressed by his accomplishments. And the part that makes me the happiest? That he thinks I’m just like him.

Happy father’s day, dad! And to all of those wonderful fathers out there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is a green thumb inherited?

I hope so. My grandfather could make anything grow. I used to (and maybe I still do) think he was a medicine man – that was the only way we could explain how he did what he did.

Legend has it he once stuck a stick in the ground – the neighbors laughed and the family snickered, but all of my cousins and I know that we played in that perfect tree for years. It was just the right height for grandchildren to climb and swing from. In his backyard in the city, he built a grape arbor that we’d play under for hours, he had berry bushes we snacked on and a garden full of horseradish (to this day, I can barely tolerate what is sold in the stores).

Now that I have my own yard, I want to create that oasis he made for us. We have the weeping willow tree with a hammock swing, but I long for the grape arbor and a huge garden. Every time I add something to the garden or plant a sad little tree, I know he’s there helping me along. Miss you, pop!

The Mother of Invention

Necessity? Well, maybe not. But I’m pretty thrilled that we have a new way to hold our wine glasses and keep our hands free for bocce.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Story of the Day

That’s what the guy at Home Depot said after we went through the saga that is our oven. We thought it died. We started the grieving process and made it to the bargaining stage – do we buy what we really want even though our kitchen renovation is years away or do we just get one that fits the space and is relatively cheap?

As we were going though that debate, we thought we’d disassemble what we had. My suggestion was to kick it, but Michael took a much more productive approach and uncovered what not to do with appliances.

If you’re like me and have qualms about being electrocuted, you may not know the ins and outs of wire and voltage but this atrocity that was our oven was so bad even I understood the severity of it. If you are familiar with electrical work, please don’t be mortified by my recounting of the tale. Now that we have that squared away, here’s the “story of the day” as told to the Home Depot man.

From the 60 amp breaker in the panel they ran 6-2 SEU aluminum wire (note: the wire is 40 amp max rated and the 6 has to do with the thickness of the wire. The gauge of the wire is critical, and confusing if you ask me – the lower the number, the thicker it is and exponentially more difficult to work with/bend the way you want to).

From the aluminum wire, they hard-wired the 12-2 copper wire with wire nuts to the oven. And, if you’re keeping track of the amps, it’s important to note that 12 gauge copper wire is rated to a max of 20 amps. The copper was connected to the oven with Radio Shack crimp-on spade terminals (improperly crimped as a bonus, and certainly not rated for 240 volts). Additionally, aluminum and copper don’t mix, requiring special connectors of which there were none.

[A digression, with each of the problems we find, I wonder if the homeowner was just duped by some unscrupulous contractor and I feel a little bad that they paid someone good money to have such shoddy work. I’ve abandoned that thought and have moved on to debating if the former homeowner was stupid, lazy or malicious.]

Now we had to deal with really bad electrical work and we still didn’t know if our range was even broken, partially fried or just confused by the stresses it had gone through with at least five years of surges and shocks. We knew that even if we had to buy a new range, the wiring was such a problem it had to go. We ripped out everything from the range to the panel; installed new wire, a new properly amp’d breaker, a plug on the range and receptacle on the wall, and the oven works better than ever.

What did I learn in the process? That the jury is still out on the former owner, that Michael is really good with electricity (and I don’t have to be), and that we’re happily (for now) stuck with the old range. Most importantly, I learned that we’re truly lucky that our house did not burn down.

As for the “story of the day” at the home improvement store, I think we’ll have many more to go.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…

So I realize it’s not really the post office motto, but… I didn’t think twice when we didn’t receive mail for more than a week. The weather was bad; I had low expectations. That’s why I was really disappointed to get this notice in the mail from our local post office:

They didn’t apologize for the lack of delivery nor did they explain the ridiculously tall mounds of snow at the entrance and exits of the local post office parking lot causing loads of problems for folks driving.

Admittedly, our house definitely falls under the “no” variety. In fact, they could have taken a photo of our mailbox of what not to do.

Our choice for the weekend? Dig out more or wait until spring for mail delivery. We went for the shovel.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

What I love about winter...

The sun reflecting off of the snow to brighten up any day.

Our neighbors that always plow our driveway for us.

How clear the water is on the bay and how far you can see through it.

Waking up early and then pulling the covers back up because the bed is so warm and cozy.

Hot chocolate with marshmallows, coffee with Baileys.

The really great waterproof black boots with flowers that I bought this year. Not a frivolous purchase after all.

The weather forecasters that always get the amount of show/rain/sun wrong, and how we as a population are always surprised.

The thin layer of ice that builds up on our pond and the gentle steps I take to measure the thickness of ice.

Saying “bridges freeze before road surfaces” when they actually could because of the weather. Those signs crack me up in summer.

Snow that clings to tree branches and trunks and the wind blowing it off making you think it is snowing yet again.

Finally understanding anti-lock brakes.

Watching Curt and Claudia’s dogs figure out snow (we were dog sitting at their house the first storm). For what it’s worth, their neighbors also dug us out of the snow.

And, my favorite thing about winter is that we’re now on track to have longer days and that means summer is right around the corner.