Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our little Christmas tree

Since we're not going to be here for Christmas, we decided not to go to the trouble of getting a big pine tree for our house this year.  Instead, I dressed up our little Meyer lemon tree with the smallest ornaments we had and some singing lights that we got at a garage sale this summer.  Joe has fond memories of his trees singing to him back in Kansas, but I don't think that this configuration managed to tap into his nostalgia like I thought it would.  Probably the singing lights have to be strung around a sapling pine, freshly hewn from the surrounding lands of the family homestead.

Anyway, a very merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Potty training / The least fun scavenger hunt ever

First of all, I have a bit of an apology to make to dog owners.  I've always maintained that cats were better pets since they had little kitty instincts that made housetraining unnecessary.  Just give them a box of sand and they're good to go. So I'd never want to have some pet that would pee all over my house.

Well, we've found out that once you mess with those little kitty instincts, all doesn't go according to nature's plans.  And it turns out I do want some pet that keeps peeing all over the dang place.

But how could you be mad at a Moff like that?

We've been trying since probably September to train Moffa to use a human toilet with a kit that Joe got.  It starts off with a tray of litter on the toilet, then a tray of litter with a hole, then a hole with a ring of litter, then no litter at all.

So the good news: she's now on step 3 out of 4, with 4 being just a normal human toilet.  She still needs help knowing what to do most of the time, but she's done it completely on her own once or twice in the last few days.

Bless her heart, she really does want to make us happy.  It's just really hard for her.  Between that and the fleas, it's been a bit of a tough ride for Moffa this summer and fall.

A couple of days ago, while I was still in bed, Moffa just brazenly walked over and peed in our bedroom!  I was pretty shocked.  I knew from watching My Cat From Hell on Netflix that cats like to pee wherever they smell their own pee, so it's pretty important to clean up anywhere she might have gone when I didn't happen to be in the room.

Luckily, Jackson Galaxy taught me another useful trick:  CAT PEE GLOWS UNDER BLACKLIGHTS.

So of course now that we have our very own American DJ Black-24BLB light, I now get to go around the house searching out Moffa's "hidden treasures"...

X marks the spot!  Well, more like blob marks the spot.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Baby oysters

I've been a pretty big stick in the mud since I've been back in Washington, mostly just relaxing and working on my Pokemon :)

Joe went ahead and bought himself an early Christmas present: a blue oyster mushroom growing kit from Fungi Perfecti.  They're a special variety that grow in cooler temperatures, so they're only sold during the fall and winter.  Joe just spritzes them with water 2-3 times a day, and nice big oyster mushrooms are supposed to pop out.

This is the set-up, with the bag of mycelium-inoculated sawdust inside a "humidity tent," aka a plastic bag.  I'm glad we finally found a use for that green lamp that you see in the photo; it's supposed to shine light onto a plant, but the primrose I placed under it quickly died.  Its perfect for holding up the humidity tent while keeping the bag out of the moat of past spritzing water underneath.

It's been about a week, but we already have little tiny mushrooms peeping out!

Three bunches in all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Using up veggies: Vegetable Tagine

Heeeeey.  So although most of my tomatoes died, the garden isn't done producing yet!

I finally found a recipe with squash involved that doesn't taste overly squashy.  I think when I planted the squash, it was cold and wintery outside, so anything that came with the summer sounded great.  Unfortunately, I forgot that I don't really like the taste of summer squash more than once a summer.

I had never tried a tagine before, so I was a little nervous when the recipe called for cinnamon and raisins.  I was even more nervous about Joe trying it, since he's adamant about not mixing sweet and savory food.  (No barbecue sauce!  No sweet and sour sauce!  And absolutely NO ketchup!)  However, he's been eating this for the past few days, even though we have several other kinds of leftovers he could have instead.  Granted, he does pick out the raisins, now that I alerted him to their presence.  He ate them and was fine before he knew they were in there, of course ;)

Anyway, all of the above vegetables came from the garden, with the exception of the eggplants on the right, which came from Mary Kay's garden. You can't really tell, but the purple bell peppers there are SO puny.  Like, much smaller than my fist puny. If it helps you envision it, those tomatoes on the left are cherry tomatoes.  

Voila!  The finished product in my happy, sunny new Dutch oven that I got for my birthday.  I really think this is a pretty dish with the colors of all the vegetables.

And there it is, ready to be eaten, sitting on some books.

Vegetable Tagine with Rice  (adapted from College Vegetarian Cooking by Megan and Jill Carle)

A good splash of cooking oil (I use olive)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
6 or so cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed (the recipe called for 2, but of course the more garlic the better)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 zucchini, chopped
3 yellow squash, chopped
1 green bell pepper, de-veined and chopped (replaced, in this case, with two puny purple peppers)
2 eggplants, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped, or a 15 oz can
7 oz dry garbanzo beans soaked overnight and cooked for about 2 hours, or 15 oz can 

Cooked rice

-Heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic for about 3 minutes.  
-Add carrots, zucchini, squash, bell pepper, cumin, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, salt, and water and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  
-Stir in the eggplant, raisins, tomatoes, and garbanzo beans.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat , stirring occasionally, for about 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
-Serve over rice.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Roasting Peppers

After assessing just how many green tomatoes I'm dealing with, I thought it might be a good idea to try to making some green salsa or chile verde sauce.  This is the recipe I wanted to use (replacing the tomatillos with green tomatoes) so I was in need of roasted peppers!  Luckily, Joe's aunt Mary Kay had offered up the use of her Green Egg for just such an occasion. 

We met up at the Olympia farmer's market and picked out these beauties.  

Just a little time in the big green egg, and they become...

...charred and blistered! Yeah!

Then we pulled off the skins...

...leaving this pile of pepper meat.  Or pepper flesh.  Any ideas on a better word to refer to this stuff?  I prefer "meat,"  because "flesh" is disgusting.  The actual peppers are really tasty, though!

We roasted a few extra that I plan to make into a King Ranch Casserole, like the one that I was lucky enough to sample at Mary Kay and Michael's.  It also incorporates some of the chicken of the woods mushrooms, so we'll be using up some more of our wild food find.

She was also kind enough to give me some of her gorgeous tomatoes, since mine are all splotchy and green.  Although I feel a bit bad on the subject of tomatoes; I did have to be the bearer of bad news when I noticed that their big, leafy plants were starting to show the first signs of blight.  So that means they'll have to pick them all and ripen them indoors, too. 

Michael's lovely dahlias

The dahlias paired with pears (peared with pairs?) from outside.  I think the biggest of the pears weighed 1 lb 11 oz!  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September Pokemon Cross Stitch

I started a project in the spring, a gargantuan cross stitch of all 151 original Pokemon from the Red, Blue, and Yellow games.  Previously, the biggest project I had undertaken had 4 pages of directions, and heaven knows I whined about that enough.

This one has 30 pages.

It's huge enough that it even has a support group of sorts for people who are crazy enough to attempt it, which you can see here:

Out of 151 pokemon, I'm currently on #84, working backwards from #151.  So I'm less than halfway done in terms of Pokemon completed, but I think I'm about halfway if you go by surface area covered.

I also switched it up a bit.  I changed the background color from a light sky blue to a bubblegum pink because if I'm the one to spend all this time on the project, I can do what I please with it!  But unfortunately, I decided that I didn't like the first pink that I chose, so I'm ripping it out to replace it with a lighter pink; for now, the area up near the top that should be done is still a big, incomplete mess.

I've found out from all this experience that I get excited when I get to use different colors.  I like stitching purples, blues, greens, whites, and pinks.  I dislike stitching browns (and there are so many!), yellows, reds and oranges.  I'm indifferent about black.

In order not to have 75 more posts about this project, I think I'll just make a pokemon post each month where I'll post updates as they happen.  That way, everyone can look at it if they're interested, or just skip right on by if the thought of embroidery or children's video games makes them yawn.

Without further ado, here are my recent accomplishments!

Farfetch'd, a bird Pokemon that hits you with a leek to attack.  It was much easier as a kid to suspend disbelief about the ridiculous nature of these monsters

Seel and Dewgong- Ice seal Pokemon

Drowzee and Hypno- Psychic Pokemon that put you to sleep and eat your dreams

Little Blighters

Yesterday was a pretty sad day for me.

It seems all 60 of my tomato plants have come down with Late Blight.

According to varying websites, Late Blight is a serious disease that spreads very quickly, so all parts of the plant must be ripped out and destroyed (unless you have a thermophilic compost pile... which I don't.)  Destroyed as in thrown in plastic garbage bags in the trash or burned.

However, the other gardeners at the farm seem to take the blight as a given.  As my plot neighbor said as he pretended to smack me upside the head, "It rained a ton!  What did you expect?  Where WERE you??"

While I was pretty mopey yesterday, I've had a Blizzard since then (shout out to my dad) and today I think I might've figured out what this debacle means in terms of what I'll do in the garden in the years to come.

*Growing lots of different varieties.  That way, one or two varieties might prove resistant to this disease, instead of them all being wiped out.

*No more miss nice Claire.  This year I planted every single baby tomato seed that grew (to the tune of 60 plants), but in the future I'll be much more selective.  Only the best and brightest, yo.  It'll be like the baby seed Darwin Olympics- only survival of the fittest up in here.

*Timing.  If I had gotten them into the ground quicker (especially with the Wall-o-Waters) the plants might have gotten to fruit-bearing age faster, giving the tomatoes time to get red before the blight strikes in the fall.

*Spacing the plants further apart.  I think they just got too dense in there, so disease could spread easily; it also restricted airflow, which is supposed to help tomatoes ripen.

*Trying some sort of pruning method, from the beginning.  Our plants had tons of lush, gorgeous green leaves, but never really got around to making tomatoes for us.

*Pay attention to rainfall!!!  That's what I mainly missed this year.

Although the fruit are apparently still edible if you cut off the unappetizing brown parts, ALL of my big tomatoes have the ugly brown spots.  I was going to try to ripen them inside but I'm afraid that instead of ripening into lovely, red giants, the brown might just continue to spread, rendering them completely inedible and useless.  So for now, I'm trying to forget my dreams of marinara and make myself get excited about tons and tons of  salsa verde and chile verde sauce.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The "Foolproof Four"

Hello, all!  I thought it might be fun to start a blog as a way of sharing and keeping track of what we're up to these days.  Especially when it comes to gardening!  I started a journal this spring, but of course I lost it months ago.  It should prove harder to lose a website..

For our inaugural post, I thought I'd fill you all in on our supercool mushroom-hunting adventures.  For those of you who don't know, the two of us joined the Snohomish County Mycological Society last fall, and we've had a great time traipsing around the woods out here, seeing what we could see.  There's a lot to learn, but we are excited by just how much more experience we've gained over the past year!

Last weekend we found a huge cluster of Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) that weighed 15.8 pounds!  It's taking up a huge amount of space in our freezer right now.  Anyway, it's a spongy, shelf-like fungus of shocking neon orange and yellow hues.  Apparently it's known as one of the "Foolproof Four" mushrooms, since it's nearly impossible to misidentify, and it's tasty and edible. (More on the "four" in a bit).

It has a firm texture that really makes it a great substitute for chicken in recipes.  I've made a chicken parmesan with it with great success, and Joe's aunt Mary Kay put some in a King Casserole that she said was excellent.

Next, by the roadside, we found some Lycoperdon perlatum, or Gem-studded Puffballs.  Number two of the Foolproof Four!  

Mature puffballs are really fun to find, since they emit clouds of green spores when stomped upon.

However, they're only edible when they're really young and the inside is still pure white.  I added them to the chicken of the woods parmesan and they tasted ok, not terrific, but not bad, either.

We've been looking forward to the fall season in order to find one of the Northwest's most famous tasty mushrooms: the chanterelle.  Although it's supposedly another of the foolproofs, it's consistently shaken us off its trail for the past year.  They're supposed to be easy to identify by their vaselike shape and "false gills": instead of having little flaps for gills, they just have ridges that run on their undersides.  They are known to have a really delicious flavor, sometimes described as floral or reminiscent of apricots, so I've really been eager to find some.

Finally we came across these guys.  Vaselike shape?  Check.  Ridges instead of gills?  Check!  I was so excited, I went out and bought all sorts of ingredients to cook them up.

Sadly, after bringing them home, we figured out that while they ARE chanterelles, they are Scaly Chanterelles (Gomphus floccosus) which, according to Wikipedia, "though mild tasting, cause gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when consumed."  Great.

Undeterred, this weekend made another excursion to a different part of the mountains near Verlot.  We kept finding all of these weird, rubbery, yellow-orange buttons (baby mushrooms) in the path; we dug some up, hoping to id them later.  Under a stump, I saw more of the same color.  After a tiny bit of digging, I shrieked!  Just like the pictures in the guidebooks, Cantharellus cibarius, or A GOLDEN CHANTERELLE!  There was no mistaking it; it was foolproof!

I don't have any pictures of the "chanties," sadly, but I do have a picture of what we did with them!

A delicious cream-based pasta with green beans from the garden and the long-sought-after chanterelles.

To sum up our last two weeks: three out of four ain't bad!