So, when am I going to get homegrown vanilla?


The vine is halfway up the two-foot tall trellis- I keep bending it to the side so it will wrap around the trellis, but vines want to grow upward.

The vine is halfway up the two-foot tall trellis- I keep bending it to the side so it will wrap around the trellis, but vines want to grow upward.

I bought thread at the craft store the other day, and the checker herself was shocked at how much it cost. She said something about it being cheaper to just buy a shirt than to make one. Never mind that I wasn’t making a shirt- you would think working at a craft store would accustom you to the idea that people do crazy things for hobbies.
A great example of this is my vanilla orchid.
I have had it for several years,  it is slowly creeping along the trellis I built for it, causing me to panic when it tipped over in the wind and most of the chunky orchid mix spilled out of the pot. I water it with buckets dipped out of the goldfish pond- weak organic fertilizer. The trellis is supposed to act as a humidifier, as well as a support. I baby it.
I moved it inside before it got cold. Vanilla is native to Mexico, warmer and moister by far than my back yard. It could never survive the winter here. The boy’s room has a south window, so all my tropical plants make his room into the jungle room in the winter.
The vanilla isn’t likely to bloom until it gets to ceiling height, and it is about 1 foot tall now.  No matter how big it gets, it won’t survive the winter outside. Once it blooms, I will have to pollinate the blossoms by hand, with a small paintbrush, then wait for the seedpods to develop, then ferment and dry them. Then make cupcakes.
Maybe someday, we’ll get a greenhouse. Just think how expensive that would make the vanilla pods- amortizing the cost of glass and construction into each little pod…
But for now,  I have a happy little vine in a very portable pot, which goes outside in summer, and inside in the winter, and gives me something to look forward to.

About these ads

You’re going to want waffles in 12 hours, right?


I ate a Liege Waffle from a food truck at a festival a few weeks ago. Oh my gosh! Rich, and sweet, with little nuggets of pearled sugar. I only had enough tickets to get a plain one (By the way, I hate the tickets at a festival thing- you have to stand in line for tickets, then stand in line for food, then you have either too many, or not enough.) But even the plain one was delicious.
It made me want to research the whole Belgian Yeast-raised waffle deal. I went to Smitten Kitchen  and the scary thing was just how much fat these things have. I’m not against fat, if you can take it, but we’ve got some health issues around here. Pancreas don’t care if it’s butter, or coconut oil, or crude oil, too much is too much. These recipes call for (full stick?) of butter. Ummmm…that winds up being more than Kate’s allotment for the whole day in one waffle.

mmmm...waffles

mmmm…waffles

Now, I have played with fat reduction and replacements in baked goods- apple sauce makes waffles a bit too sticky, so I decided to try pumpkin. And as long as the waffles are orange…why not add pumpkin pie spice? The pumpkin adds moisture and replaces some of the fat- notice that these are low fat, not non. You could use egg whites, and no butter at all. We tried one batch that way with apple sauce, and they were disappointing. I mean, we still ate them, but if you are standing over a waffle iron, you want something worth your time.
The ingredient that has me stumped in these recipes is the pearled sugar- it was in the festival waffles from the waffle truck, but it is not a pantry staple for me. Maybe it should be… anyone know where to get it?
So, the set up the night before, is to make a sour dough, essentially. I have done sourdough before, with a jar on the counter, then in the fridge, then you periodically make a loaf of bread…I have gotten off the sourdough treadmill, honestly. My kids don’t like sourdough bread much, and I don’t like it enough to have a loaf every week. But a facebook comment from a friend who makes sourdough waffles made me think about getting back on the treadmill- I wouldn’t have to make bread every week, I could do waffles, or pancakes… that’s another blog post.

Lowfat Pumpkin Waffles
1/4 cup warm water
packet yeast
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted, then cooled
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1/4 cup canned pumpkin ( I used the kind with pie spice mixed in already)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Bloom the yeast in the warm water, stir in the milk, butter and the flour. Let rise overnight (or during the day- brinner, am I right?)  When ready to make waffles, beat an egg, add the baking powder, egg and pumpkin to the flour, yeast and milk mixture. The batter will be pretty runny. Cook according to your waffle iron directions. I love these topped with peanut butter and apricot preserves, the kids eat with syrup, obviously.

(does anyone know where to get the pearled sugar? the interwebs tell me Ikea has it, but I really don’t want to go all the way to Ikea for sugar?)

Edited to add: scouts report (no, really, actual scouts, like they have uniforms and everything) that the Ikea south of Denver (is it technically the town of Superior?) does not have pearled sugar. Any ideas?

The Blizzard Bag


We have had some flooding in our area- my house is presently dry, and on high enough ground that we are likely to be fine, but it made me think again about being prepared.Image

Several years ago, there was a blizzard, and one of DH’s colleagues stayed over with us, so she didn’t have to drive all the way home.  I was scrounging for a new toothbrush for her, and she told me she didn’t need it, she always had an overnight bag in her car, just for situations like this.  At the time, I thought it was crazy, but honestly, it is just smart.

Last winter, we had some health problems entailing ovenights at Children’s Hospital.  The first time, there were frenzied phone calls, requesting contact solution, and clean socks.  I remember DH walking into the room proudly, after a trip to the neighborhood drugstore, with a travel sized bottle of “extra volume” shampoo.  Anyone who knows Kate or me IRL knows that the last thing we need is “extra volume.”

So,  I pushed down my sense of denial, and when we got home, I bought a small messenger’s bag at the thrift store, put in a change of clothes, filled a ziplock bag with toiletries, and packed the whole thing into the car.  Now, I’m  ready for blizzard, an flood, or another trip to the hospital.

Chili Peppers- you can grow that!


It’s salsa season here in the west. Around here, the trucks from New Mexico are parking at the farmer’s markets, or in random parking lots, setting up propane roasters, and the air smells like home. Not the home where I grew up- I don’t have childhood memories of this scent. It’s the home I want to be.

Meet Big Jim- about 8 inches long and full of fun.

Meet Big Jim- about 8 inches long and full of fun.

You can grow your own chilis, you know. And roast them on the grill

.My mistakes with chilis in the past has been not enough space, and not enough water, and not enough sun. In the past I have always crammed them in with the tomatoes, because when you come home from the nursery, they are all little tiny. The poor chilis would get crowded out and shaded out by their neighbors.

This year, I came home with two plants, “New Mexico Big JIm” and “Jalapeno” and actually gave them some space, in the small veggie bed by the back door. Three years ago, I put two tomato plants and two peppers in that 6 square foot space, and by July, the tomatoes had swallowed up the peppers, and I almost forgot I had planted them.

This year, they have space to stretch out, nice deep soil (I’ve been adding organic matter to this bed obsessively- leaves, compost, coffee grounds), and they are amazing. The “Big Jim” is aptly named- about the same flavor as a Serrano, not too hot. I think their highest purpose would be to be stuffed with cheese, and fried, but probably we’ll just roast them and put them in quesadillas.  The jalapenos are just hot- I like them in a nice salsa fresca- tomatoes, onions, chilis, cilantro, all chopped up with a squeeze of lime, and scooped up with chips. Don’t freeze it, don’t can it, just get it while it’s hot.

You can grow that.

Amazing what you find in the basement


We have spent a couple of days rearranging the playroom in the basement, finding new homes for spiders, purging some old toys and moving furniture.  In the midst of cleaning up, I came across a quilt I started more than a year ago, worked on handquilting, then when I messed up I just gave up on it, apparently.

I looked at it to see what the mistake was, and it involved ripping out a couple of inches of stitches, then smoothing out the backing, then restitching. Seriously, like ten minutes of backtracking.  So, suddenly, I had an almost finished quilt.

 I brought it upstairs, and worked on it a little on Sunday night, and a lot today, and I think I can finish it tonight, and bind it sometime this week. New quilt for the guest room. woot.Image

Glamping with the Dothrakis


Been reading Game of Thrones, and whatever else is going on, (No spoilers!) I sure admire the way the Dothraki camp. I would love to be able to clap my hands after a rough day on the trail, and have my slaves boil water and fill up my copper tub, and brush the sand and grit out of my long hair. Except the slave part, of course. Slavery is wrong.

Anyway, Game of Thrones is a show I cannot watch at my house, because I don’t want the kids to watch it (no spoilers!) and when they go to bed, so do I, so I can’t stay up late watching the boxed set. I can, however, read it.
For those of you who also can’t watch the show, you have to read it (if you like that sort of thing- like Tolkien, with more sex, and less of that tedious exposition where they’re like “and then they turned left, and Sam Gamgee said “I don’t like the look of that” and then NOTHING HAPPENS!!!! trust me, in Game of Thrones, when someone says, “I don’t like the look of that…” something happens. Like direwolf attacks, and molten gold, and brigands! (No spoilers…)
The Dothraki are a people who are maybe based on the mongols, or the magyars? Horsey people who travel all over and are always on the move, camping. Glamping- glamorous camping, with dancing around the fire, and meat on skewers, and hot baths in copper tubs.

Real coffee, with half and half. It's a start.

Real coffee, with half and half. It’s a start.

So, naturally, when I read Game of Thrones, I thought about how I could apply it to my own life, and I think I need to get more glamor in my camping. (Not with slaves, slavery is wrong) But maybe with better coffee in the morning, and music, and better food.
What’s your thought on Glamping?

Be careful not to step in the big hole


At the beginning of the summer I was complaining about my lack of asparagus, and blamed it on lack of water. My super smart SIL was like, “you could put in a water feature, and where the water splashed out, that would provide moisture for the asparagus” and I was like, “yeah, I guess that would work, but…wait, I have a water feature!” Okay, the water feature is a horse trough, aka the Hillbilly Goldfish Pond,what would happen if I moved some asparagus plants over to  it?

See, at the end, it's like an infinity-edge pool, except not...

See, at the end, it’s like an infinity-edge pool, except not…

When I first set up the pond, I tamped down the soil to make it level, but over the couple of years of its existence , it has slumped down on the north side, so that is where I dug the hole. I don’t have a fountain, but when I refill it, it trickles over the side on that end. I dug down about 8 inches, added some compost, then transplanted an asparagus plant over from where they don’t get enough water.

A hole in the yard is not exactly the look I am going for, but I have high hopes for next year.

A hole in the yard is not exactly the look I am going for, but I have high hopes for next year.

As it grew, the plan was to add more compost, until the plant and the soil were at ground level. I watered the little baby asparagus the same way I water the containers around the pond- just before I feed the goldfish, I use a cup to dump water on each of the plants- they love the “nutrient rich” water. This worked great for a few weeks, then we went out of town, and I came back to nothing.
There wasn’t a dried up stem, it was just gone. I might blame rabbits, or squirrels, but the other asparagus plants, the ones that don’t get enough water? They are fine. Other than the fact that they don’t get enough water.
So, I put a little fence around the hole in the ground, and I will try again next year. I am convinced that the idea of putting asparagus near a water feature is a good one. Just try not to step in the hole, please.

Early Tomatoes Update- what’s today?


Maybe I am a little bitter about the Fourth of July Tomatoes not being ripe on the actual 4th of July. However, when I look back at my journal from last year, I didn’t get any tomatoes until late August. Or at least I didn’t mention them…
Anyway, we have several ripe, here on July 29. They are delicious as only home grow tomatoes can be. These first ones will go onto my lunch, a tomato sandwich- like a BLT, except I’m too lazy to cook bacon. What’s your favorite way to eat tomatoes?IMG_0363

Mocha Borgia


IMG_0328While in Taos on vacation, I had a Mocha Borgia at a communist cafe there (not so communist that it the coffee didn’t cost 4 dollars- to each according to his need didn’t extend to “this woman really needs a good cup of coffee”, and maybe it was just “progressive”- there were sure a lot of bumper stickers on the ceiling). The Mocha Borgia was a latte with chocolate syrup and orange zest. When I read it on the menu board, I visualized a sprinkle of orange zest, rather than the worm-like pieces of peel they topped the drink with, that snaked out through the drinkhole of the plastic lid (drinkhole? is that a word?). I sat on the bench on the porch, with the kids, waiting for DH to track down the burrito stand where we had some amazing breakfast burritos on our honeymoon in 1996.
I sat in the sun, sipping the tasty coffee, but with every couple of sips, a little worm of orange zest would ooze out, and I didn’t want to take off the lid and fish around for the chunks, because by this time DH had found his burrito stand, purchased his burrito, caught up on old times with the owner of the burrito stand (her sister was Mary Jane, the former owner, who had sold us burritos 6 years ago when we were last in Taos, and 17 years ago.) and I was back in the car.
It got me thinking, though, chocolate and orange is such a great combination, but why not do it with extract, instead? A long time ago, Starbucks used to have a Mocha Valencia, then they got rid of it because I am apparently the only person who liked it. What about making a chocolate syrup, and using orange extract instead of vanilla?
Alton Brown has a recipe for chocolate syrup, and the only alteration I have made is to use orange extract instead of vanilla.I also didn’t have as much cocoa powder as called for, so I made a 2/3 batch, which made about 3 cups of syrup. This recipe has the original Alton Brown measurements. You could totally divide the batch, and add different extracts- peppermint, cinnamon, almond?

Alton Brown’s Chocolate Syrup

1 1/2 cups water

3 cups granulated  sugar

1 1/2 cups cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 tablespoon extract of choice (or divide the batch in 3, and use 1 teaspoon each of various flavors)

Boil water and sugar together in a small pot. Whisk in cocoa, salt and corn syrup until solids have dissolved. Cook until mixture is slightly reduced and thickened. Add extract and stir to combine. Strain into a spouted measuring cup and let cool to room temperature, then pour into squeeze bottles and refrigerate.

A Green Thumb? You can Grow that


You do have to water stuff, it's okay if you get distracted momentarily.

You do have to water stuff, it’s okay if you get distracted momentarily.

Actually, I think the Green Thumb is a myth. Kate asked to plant wheat in her little garden this spring, then in the same breath, she said it would probably die because she didn’t have a green thumb. She wants wheat because she and her brother have been playing a lot of MineCraft, which is a computer game where you umm, mine, and craft…you build stuff, and dig for stuff, and shear sheep. There are occasionally zombie pigmen that attack, and you have to fight them off, but mostly it is a big sand box to play in.
So when Kate actually wanted to plant real wheat, I was excited- a chance for her to interact with real objects, in real space. And, honestly, wheat is a great choice here- most farmers around here grow winter wheat rather than summer, but we live on the plains- grass grows great here.

Then after you pin your brother, turn the sprinkler off.

Then after you pin your brother, turn the sprinkler off.

Kate has a little garden bed to call her own, but this is the first year in a while she has been interested. A few years ago, DH offered her a dollar for every hot pepper she grew for him. I think she made 4 bucks.

That’s where the myth of the green thumb comes in- people think there are people who can grow things and people who can’t, but really, it is mostly about paying attention- watering the wheat, pulling out the renegade raspberry bushes and mallow. With good soil, and enough water and sunlight, stuff will grow, no thumbs required.

Then chase your brother again. At least they're outside.

Then chase your brother again. At least they’re outside.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 252 other followers