Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reaping and Sewing

I have finally reaped the rewards of my tomato patience. I ate my first red tomatoes: one each from the Sweet 100's cherry tomato and the Juliet grape tomato plants. I have to admit that, since I ate them the moment they turned red, and not exactly the moment when they were fully ripe, their flavor was a bit underwhelming. However, compared to store-bought tomatoes at the same stage of not-quite-ripeness, they were quite amazing! It just tickled me to be eating something else from my garden - and to have beaten the squirrels to it!!

I have also gotten a lot done on my sewing projects. Though I cannot show you Kym's project, I am nearly done with the background. During the multiple breaks I've needed to take while working on the background - it is quite complex and labor intensive (I'm really earning my commission!!) - I have completed the background and applique of my swap quilt. Pieced backgrounds behind applique, especially small squares or postage stamps, are my new favorite thing. I also must point out that the grass you see was individually appliqued, blade by blade, 42 blades of grass in all. I wanted to point that so that my mother, with whom I recently had a conversion about why I am unable to keep my house clean, would understand that I HAVE been busy, not just watching Star Trek. Between reaping and sewing, I am definitely keeping myself out of trouble and NOT keeping the kitchen in order.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fried Green Tomatoes

While fixing the stakes on a couple of my tomato plants, a few tomatoes fell off. I read up on this and learned that sometimes in cooler weather, the part that connects the tomato to the plant weakens and heavier tomatoes can fall off. So, I brought these inside and decided to let them ripen on the counter. Impatient as I am to eat some tomatoes, I decided to make fried green tomatoes. Yum!! Now, having the desire to make them didn't automatically translate into having the knowledge to make them, so I did some thinking. I also did some remembering. Now, in the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, I remember them making them like my mom makes fried chicken: dredging them in flour. I also seem to recall that they dipped them in and egg bath first. Well, I don't often have eggs in the house, so I figured I'd make them using my vegan fried chik'n recipe, which uses a combination of seasonings, flour, and liquids as a egg-type bath that you did the "chicken" in before the flour. Well, that's what I did and, boy howdy, were they yummy!! Now, I will be hard pressed to leave the tomatoes on the plants to ripen. I think I want fried green ones on a regular basis!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beet-y Delight

This morning, I noticed that two of my beets were showing their shoulders above the soil (I've been ready a lot of gardening message boards and blogs to find out when my beets and carrots will be ready and they say that you'll see their "shoulders" above the soil level.) Well, one of them looked pretty tiny, so I decided to leave them both in the ground. When I got home this afternoon, a pesky squirrel had picked the tiny one and eaten half of it! I was steamed and decided that I would pluck up the larger one for myself before he got to it!

So, I had a beautiful beet for dinner tonight. Yum!! I, unlike Squirrel Nutkin, ate every bit of that beet, too. I baked the beet itself in a little casserole dish with a couple tablespoons of water. My vegetable book said to leave 1 inch of stems and the root end and to not peel it before baking, so I didn't. When it came out of the oven the peel rubbed right off and the shoots were really tender and yummy. I also steamed the greens, then ate both the beet and greens with a little pat of butter. Oh, so good! Now, I didn't waste the stems - I ate them raw - they were good, too and reminded me of very thin celery. And then, to top it all off, I poured the baking liquid into a glass and drank that really fast, like a wheatgrass shot. It was not very good at all, but I've convinced myself that what it lacked in taste, it made up for in healthfulness. All in all, I had a beet-y good time!

And, by the way, the reddening tomatoes were fine when I got home and I decided I will leave them where they are for one more day. I'm taking this one day at a time.

Secret - Keep it Hush Hush!!

OK, I've been whispering to Michele about this for a couple days now and I thought I would share it with the rest of you, but you have to keep it on the down low - I don't want the squirrels to find out!! I have two nearly red tomatoes!! One is very orange red and the other is a bit lighter - more of a yellow-orange-red. Gloria has encouraged me to pick them and let them ripen inside - away from the squirrels - but I decided to take a risk and let them ripen on the vine. So far, so good. Oh boy, I hope Squirrel Nutkin doesn't read my blog! OK, never mind letting them ripen on the vine, I think I will pick these two when I get home. I just can't live with this kind of pressure!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why Do Strange Things Happen to Me?

I just got a new toothbrush last week. I've been using it daily, as most of us usually do. Well, this morning, as I'm brushing my teeth, half of the bristles fell out into my mouth. I mean really! Does that really happen to anyone? I'm standing there with a mouthful of toothpaste and toothbrush bristles and wondering if I have a "Please let something weird happen to me" sign on my back!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Animal Lover

Being a vegetarian, most people assume I am an animal lover. Now, while I do not hate animals, I'm not an animal lover, per se. I was never around a lot of animals as a kid. I developed a healthy respect for them from afar. I would say I am more an animal tolerator and respector (with the exception of my three cats, of course, who I love to pieces, even when they meow and meow and meow and. . . but I digress.) So, all that being said, since becoming a gardener, I am developing a marked dislike for animals - squirrels and bunnies especially! Now, I gave up on my lettuce weeks ago. I just wrote that off as a sacrifice. I had in the back of my mind the statement from the man who sold me the Juliet tomato that squirrels like tomatoes, but I hadn't been thinking about it. Well, not only do they like tomatoes, they also like green peppers and hot peppers. They keep picking my tomatoes and habanero, kung pao, and cayenne peppers and - no, not eating them - nibbling on them and then leaving them in the garden or up on the fence or in the yard or wherever they can leave them to taunt me!! I swear they are taunting me with their fluffy little tails in the air. Now, I don't promote violence and I don't like hunting, but I am sorely tempted to get a dog - a big, extremely territorial dog who has a healthy taste for squirrel and bunny.

Thankful for the Rain

I have decided to be thankful for all the rain we've been having here in Rochester. It allows me to not have to choose between gardening and quilting, so I have been focusing all my energy on my current quilting projects and making the things for my Etsy store - all quilted items. I've created the patterns for my three current quilt projects: my sister's project, a wall hanging for our house, and the quilt for the summertime quilt swap. I like to fully draw out all my quilts at the actual finished size for wall hangings or at scale for lap quilts and bed quilts. I then use my handy dandy box of 96 crayons to color in my patterns. It really helps me see how the color works with the design.

Now I can't show you my sister's project because she reads this blog and wants the finished product to be a surprise. I'll share my quilt and the swap quilt designs with you, though. First, my quilt is to commemorate my first year as a veggie gardener. It includes most of the veggies I am attempting to grow in the backyard. I can't wait to get started on this project!!

The swap quilt also commemorates my first year gardening. The lilies look slightly like the ones in my front yard, though I don't have pink/red ones. I think my swap partner will like it. I need to get started on this one soon. Although the swap doesn't need to be sent until September 21st, my partner is not in North America. I want to get it done in time to account for transit.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I use google reader to manage my feeds and all the blogs I follow. Well, one of my feeds is the word of the day. Yesterday's word was sedulous: diligent in application or pursuit. I really like that word and aim to be sedulous in all my actions. Won't you be, oh won't you be, won't you be sedulous, too?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Traditional Michelle

I received this beautiful dress in the mail yesterday from Gloria in Georgia. I decided to wear it to church today, but, because it was a little chilly, paired it with a similarly colored scarf I'd received a few years ago from friends. After church, I met a friend at my favorite coffee shop and one of my favorite guys who works there said, "You look lovely. Is that the traditional dress of your people?" I couldn't help but laugh because I thought to myself that I have no idea what the traditional dress of "my people" is, but this is quintessentially the traditional dress of Michelle. I often throw two and more seemingly divergent things together and it always seems to work - at least in my head it all works.
I try to be like that with my art work, too. As I make things that I'd like to sell in my shop, I've been trying to think of items that scream Michelle, things that are a little off-beat and, of course, colorful. One of my favorite things, so far, is this set of quilted thank you cards with a veggie-themed twist. The thank you cards say "Thank you veggie much!" on the back, which just tickles me every time I see them. I think I need to make a set for myself and just never send them to anyone. They, like my outfit today, are traditional Michelle.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Roasted Green (Purple) Beans

I made yummy roasted green (purple) beans for dinner tonight. I found the recipe here: They were so very good! I am searching the web for green bean recipes and having a lot of fun eating out of the garden. I can't wait for the tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers to come join the party!

These royal burgundy garden beans are so cool. They start out such a deep, dark purple/burgundy, but are really bright green inside. Then, when you cook them, they turn green, like regular green beans. It's so wild. I wish I knew what made them change color.

Busy Eating Beans

I'm sorry that I haven't taken the time to blog this past week. I've been busy eating all those beans! Actually, I have had a hard time adjusting to being back at work after nearly two weeks off - made worse by my need to work today - Friday - when I've gotten so used to being off every Friday. So, while I've been getting back in the swing of things, I've also been busily creating items for my Etsy store. I promised Michele that I wouldn't just keep making items and perfecting the store design and never open the actual store, so I have decided that I will have my grand opening when I have 10 items ready to sell. I have 8 done now, so the grand opening is looming in the near distance! I'll keep you posted.

I also harvested another batch of beans. The purple ones are again the most prolific of the three. From the first batch, I snacked on the green and white beans raw and stir fried up the purple ones - they do turn green when cooked! I think for dinner tonight, I might french cut and saute some purple beans and serve them up with cous cous and some bbq tofu or a veggie chick'n cutlet - yum yum gourmet!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ripe for the Picking!

While Ann was over, I showed her our veggie garden and she mentioned that the garden beans were ready for harvesting - and that some were so ripe they were about to go to seed! That was Friday, but I was so busy that I didn't get to harvest them. Well, I had dreams about the beans all night and woke up at 6am Saturday morning very afraid they had all gone to seed over night, so I went out in my jammies and harvested some beans! They are really beautiful and there are so many of them - and more to come throughout the summer! I have burgundy, white, and green beans - though mostly white and burgundy. The white and green ones are really tasty raw, but the burgundy ones need some cooking and seasoning - I read that they turn green when cooked, so we'll see. I snacked on beans all day yesterday and will throw the rest in a stir fry for dinner for the week. From the rate of growth on the bean stalks, I think garden beans will be a regular staple in my diet for the rest of the summer - probably for the rest of the year, too, because I'll be freezing some. It's a good thing I like beans!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Busy Week of Firsts

My intention for this week (it's a "vacation" week since my company closes every year for a week for the 4th of July) was to finish the bathroom floor once I returned from Georgia. Well, since Michele was home so unexpectedly, I didn't do that (OK, maybe that's just a really convenient excuse.) I did, however, do a lot of other things, most of them firsts for me. I've mentioned wanting to open a shop on Well, this week, I made the first three items I will sell in that shop (I still don't feel ready to open the shop, likely do to the fact that I am the consummate planner and procrastinator with a good dose of perfectionist thrown in there.) I also got my first commission for a quilt. The commission is from my sister, but I actually drew up a contract (another first) and consider it a professional engagement. I need to check with her to see if the person for whom the piece is meant reads this blog before I post progress pictures of it. It's really fun to work with her to design it and it's really great experience because I am confident that this will be the first of several such commissions from others (OK, I want to be confident, so I will claim confidence - Michele calls this "acting as if!") One of the biggest firsts for me this week was an impromptu road trip I took with Michele to Toledo to reunite her with the truck that her crazy ex driving partner abandoned there. Although Michele and I have taken many road trips together, I have never driven alone anywhere farther than an hour away, so the trip home from Toledo on my own was a definite first, but an enjoyable one. I can't say that I will take many solo road trips in the future, but it's nice to know that I am able and now have the experience. Another first is that I had a friend over for a ladies lunch today. I made a really yummy salad, set the table with the good napkins, and had a delightful lunch with my friend, Ann (you might remember her from a post several months ago: she lives in the country and I had to return home from her house down a long, dark, dark, dark road.) And the final first is that I received my partner's information for that quilt swap that I am nervously participating in. I can't tell you who she is - it's a mystery swap and she is to be surprised - but I will tell you that my partner is from another country. I checked her blog today to learn a bit more about her likes and had to use the Google translator. Unfortunately, it does not do a very good job of translating - or maybe it does and a lot of stuff is just lost in the translation. Either way, it was really quite fun trying to read the translated blog and discern some meaning out of it. I did discover that she likes flowers, so I feel one step closer to figuring out what I will create for her. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Temperature Change

I have been freezing since returning from Georgia. I flew into Buffalo yesterday where it was 57 degrees - it had been 97 the day before in Columbus, GA! It's in the 60s in Rochester and I just can't seem to get warm. Michele is actually home for a little while now, too (it didn't work out with her driving partner, so, since they happened to be in Connecticut, our wonderful friend Becca gave her a ride home to figure something different out.) Before Connecticut, she'd been in 130 degree weather, so I'm sure Rochester feels cold to her, too! Rita says it was cold and rainy while I was away, but there is no evidence that the lower temps affected the veggies in the garden. The tomatoes, hot peppers, and beans are growing like crazy! There are actually vegetable-shaped vegetables growing in the garden! I know that sounds crazy, but it just surprises me every time I look out there and see real vegetable-looking things out there! I cannot wait to eat something - I just need to 1. figure out how I'll know when things are ready to be harvested and 2. figure out exactly how the harvest them when they are ready.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fruit Tastings - Day Two

On this the second day of my fruit adventure, I tasted baby coconut, green mango - the one as big as my head, mango, sugar cane, golden kiwi, and two different baby bananas. The bananas, kiwi, and sugar cane are my favorites. The kiwi is so different from regular green kiwi - which I don't like. It's another indescribable flavor. I really enjoyed both the bananas, too. The smaller, yellower one was incredibly sweet and intensely banana. The larger, whiter one was so moist and creamy. You really had to bite it - it had a lot of tooth to it. Sugar cane was really surprising. It's really juicy, and, of course, sweet. It's like chewing on sugar water-soaked straw - an activity I enjoyed very much! Both of the mangoes were very tart - the green one was very under-ripe, as it was supposed to be. The other mango was just a bit under ripe, so that accounts for it's tartness. Now, the baby coconut was just wrong! It felt like I was eating thin slices of lard. It had such an awful texture that I could not get over. I wanted desperately to spit it out, but I muscled through it and actually chewed and swallowed the whole piece - much to the amusement of Daddy and Gloria. The taste was not that bad, though - much more delicate than a full grown coconut, which surprised me. I thought it would be more intensely flavored than it's fully ripe counterpart, as was the baby banana, but it was quite delicate. I also drank some the the juice from the baby coconut - it's clear, like water. I thought it would be sweeter. I followed both the flesh and juice with a chew of sugar cane to erase the flavor. I'm glad I tried it all, though! It was a great adventure!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fruit Tastings

I tasted four fruits today: persimmon, lychee, Korean pear, and guava. They were all really good, but pretty indiscribable flavors. The pear really bursts with flavor - I think that was my favorite. The lychee came in second, but I had to get past the fact that once peeled, lychee looks like eyeballs with bloody, red irises. They are really tasty, though. Persimmon is a flavor I've never tasted, but I really liked it. Same with guava. I've had guava nectar, so it was not totally unfamiliar. I still have the baby coconut, two types of bananas, two types of mangos, sugar cane, and golden kiwis to try. My stomach is a little gurgly at the moment, though, so I am taking a break.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Farmers Markets

Hello all! I am actually in Georgia visiting Daddy and Gloria for the holiday. We just got back from two farmers markets - Dekalb Farmers Market and Bufford Road Farmers Market. They are like no markets I have ever seen - they are massive indoor grocery store-like places with food from all over the world. I, of course, wanted to try one of everything. So far, I've tried a few snacks from other countries: spicy cassava chips from the Indies, soy sauce watermelon seeds from Taiwan, squash seeds, puffed corn, and puffed green beans all three from the Philippines, and seaweed wrapped rice cakes and purple corn from Japan. All were really good, except the watermelon seeds take a lot of work to crack for a very little seed. The rice cakes aren't like dried, puffed rice cakes. They were moist sweet rice cakes with pureed red beans and green peas inside - yum!! I thought the purple corn would taste like regular corn, but purple, but it wasn't. It was so much denser and firmer than any corn I'd ever had. It was on the cob, but you really had to eat it kernel by kernel.

We also got some fruits for me to try, though I haven't yet. We got lychee, persimmon, baby coconut, guava, sugar cane, two types of baby bananas, Korean pear, and two different kinds of mango, one as big as my head! We also saw jack fruit, which was so massive I could hardly lift one, but we didn't get one because we'd never be able to eat all that fruit - if my camera wasn't malfunctioning I would have taken a picture of the jack fruit, but I was able to borrow one to capture all the fruit we brought home. I can't wait to try something, but need to let all the snacks I tried to digest. I'll report on it all tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eco-crafting and Garden Pics

As many of you know, Michele and I have a mission to be more green. We've changed the way we do a lot of things. Well, everyday I do something that is not very green at all - I pour copious amounts of water down the drain - about 4 gallons a day of pretty clean, filtered, distilled water. This water is the product of our basement dehumidifier. Now, I know I can't drink the water - don't want to, anyhow - but I have been very interested in what I CAN do with it. I did a little online research and discovered a whole host of smart people that do pretty much everything with this water. I decided to become one of those smart people. The only problem was how to collect the water and transport it from the basement to the rest of the house and out to the garden. So, in about 1/2 an hour and for about $14 ($11 for a 32 gallon trash can, and about $1 each for 3 spigots), I devised a water collection and recycling system and thought I would share with you how I did it.

Michele and I have two 5 gallon water bottles from when we used to get water for our water cooler - now we have a tap water filtering system for the cooler. All I needed was the bottles, two spigots, and a drill bit capable of drilling a hole the size of the spigot pipe connection - and some caulk to keep the water from leaking around the spigot hole. I drilled my hole, connected the spigot, and now have an easy water collection and transportation system. I can easily carry 5 gallons of water from the basement - though I doubt I'll fill it all the way - and can connect a hose to the spigot that will allow me to water the garden.
I also bought a 32 gallon trash can and attached a spigot in the same way. I threaded the dehumidifier hose through the hole I drilled in the top of the trash can and when I need to fill up one of my 5 gallon "watering cans" I can attach a hose to the 32 gallon collection barrel and I am all set! Having the larger collection container makes it so that I don't have to empty the containers everyday - its hard to find uses for 3-5 gallons of water daily!

One of my uses will be to water our lovely garden. I will also use the water in my iron - distilled water is supposed to be better than tap for steam irons. I'll also use it when I attempt to make my own cat litter - found another whole host of folks who do that and I want to try it at least once. It follows a similar process the paper making and uses quite a bit of water. One of the nice things is that after the water is used for the cat litter making, I can still use it in the garden - talk about recycling!
I am also proud to say that I supported the local economy by buying the supplies for this project from a local hardware store - Lyell Crest Hardware. I'm saving the earth and the economy all in one fell swoop! I deserve an ice cream for that!


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