Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Hi all!

I'm bored with Blogger, so I'm packing up my posts, photos, and comments, and moving to http://www.forksandneedles.wordpress.com.

The Wordpress premade themes are prettier, and it seems like you can do a lot more stuff. Goodbye to Blogger!

I've imported my old posts to Wordpress, and I think it went well. There is some odd formatting in some of the old posts, but I don't know if I'll go back to fix them. What's past is past.


Monday, June 07, 2010

No Thinking or Resting, only Doing

When I'm by myself, I like to stay busy. Well, I like to keep busy when other people are around, but they usually want to talk or some other silly stuff, so it slows down my need for busy-ness.

This past weekend, Porkchop was gone, and is still gone doing nonsense like this:

Yeah, she's at Disney World. She drove down with her older brother and his family. I declined the invitation because I really do dislike Disney World. Also it's June. In Florida.

So, I've been keeping busy.

On Saturday, I biked to the Tower Grove Farmers' market and hit up the free yoga class. I also picked up some strawberries for jam-making and green onions. After lunch and a supply run for canning lids and sugar, I made four jars of jam (sorry for the poor photo quality; all pictures were taken with my phone camera):

After making the jam, I had to do clean-up, which I do not enjoy. And then it was out to the garden for pruning and tying tomatoes, and then to the community garden for weeding and scoping out work for Sunday.

This is the star tomato plant in our backyard garden:

I have high hopes for this quick-growing plant!

Sunday, I awoke bright and early and started the day with making tea...compost tea. Our tumbler has holes that allow compost juice to collect in the base. You just unscrew the cap, dump it out, and mix it with water (1 part compost juice to 10 parts water). It is highly nutritious for plants, and can be one of the most foul things ever.

Our compost is kind of ripe at the moment, and the compost juice stunk to high heaven. I'm not a delicate person, but I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. The slugs didn't help, especially the dead slug floating in the juice. While I was mixing up the tea, I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever smelled. (Note foreshadowing.)

So, my work in the community garden started with weeding the tomato bed and hauling in compost tea for it (two trips down the alley carrying one of those pails that holds 40 pounds of cat litter). The day progressed to working on the potato bed. I added the second tier and filled it with as much dirt as I could before my back started protesting:

I then staked and tied as many tomato plants as I could using my stakes from last year, as well as some that I found lying around the community garden. After that, I planted green and black beans. Finally, I ended my day with installing a fence in the cucumber bed. The little sour gherkins are desperate for something to climb! And, who knows, maybe the big cucumber plants will use it too. Nothing fancy, just fencing left from last year:

In between all of this work, I did a lot of weeding. In total, I spent about four hours in the community garden.

I'm still impressed by the squash plants. HUGE!

And the cantaloupe vine already has flowers!

After garden work, I did some clean up around the house. This included dumping a bin that Porkchop had filled with leaves and left in the basement doorway (yeah, I'm looking at YOU, Porkchop!). The bin had filled with water and was even sprouting some sunflowers from the bird feeder seed. So, this bin had been sitting around for at least a month, growing fouler with each passing day. When I picked it up, dozens of mosquitoes flew out of it. Great - not only was it sprouting sunflowers, it was breeding mosquitoes. I drug the bin to the back corner of our yard and dumped it. And the stench that arose was THE most horrible smell EVER. EVER!!!

When I went out in the yard to do other stuff, I would get a whiff of the smell and hope that no one else could smell it. Our neighbors already think we're strange, and I don't need another mark against me. But, honestly, who could NOT smell that smell? Even with a nose swollen on the inside from allergies, I could smell it with no problem. Ugh... On the bright side, the leaves should be a wonderful addition to the compost bin (after they've dried out some and are less stinky).

Once the outside work was taken care of, I settled inside and poached a chicken. Using the stock and the dark meat, I made chao xa ga (Vietnamese version of chicken congee). For the past month or so, I've been craving a simple chicken and rice dish that my mom used to make, but I wanted it to be a little different. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was what I had been tasting in my head. The whole process took quite some time, but it was well worth the effort.

With the rest of the chicken, I made a pesto-ish chicken salad that I had for lunch today. I also froze two cups of shredded chicken and 8 cups of chicken broth (and that was after using 9 cups for the recipe!). If you're looking for good poaching directions, I suggest this post. Seriously, use a whole chicken that was raised locally...don't buy cut up parts at the big grocery store. After driving through Tyson country in Arkansas, there is no way I can buy that crap ever again. Ever smell a commercial chicken house? It's filth. Pure, unadulterated filth. Chickens are not meant to be raised in that manner. Now that I think about it, commercial chicken houses smell even worse than the gross leaf bin did.

Anyway....I also had a special treat yesterday from the Mud House: an iced caramel latte (decaf) and a piece of gooey butter cake. The cake had cherries in it from trees in our neighborhood. Nice! Now I want to plant a cherry tree for sure!

That's it! Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If It's Summertime, It's Allergytime

Every summer I try to deny that I have allergies, and every summer I feel like itchy, congested crap. Alas, I broke out the Allegra too late, so I stayed home today and did nothing but read and accidentally leave on stove burners (sounds like fun, but it wasn't).

Summer brings the allergies, but it also brings the good things. Like lots of strawberries:

For a Memorial Day gathering, Porkchop and I made ice cream using our backyard strawberries. Porkchop pureed the berries, and I cooked up the custard base. When it was combined and churned into creamy goodness, it was the best ice cream ever. Seriously.

This year I tripled the number of sugar snap pea vines, so I've had quite a few to gather. I never get sick of these treats:

Last Friday, I took this photo of one of our backyard garden beds:

After the sun and rain of the weekend, these plants have doubled in height. Yesterday I had to remove the plastic top because the center tomato plant was pushing against it. I'll have to post more recent photos soon.

Porkchop's potatoes are doing fantastically well, too, with lots more growth since this photo:

At the community garden, the squash have really taken off. I planted butternut, delicata, and kabocha squash. This is the kabocha, which already has flower buds on it!

Unfortunately, many of the tomato plants are struggling at the garden. I hope to dump some compost on them this weekend in an attempt to jumpstart their growth. The community garden tomato plants are so far behind mine, and they were all planted at the same time.

Speaking of the community garden, it's a monster to manage. I spend 2-3 hours a week weeding it, and by the time I'm done I don't have the patience to do more important things like staking the tomatoes or building a cucumber trellis. So, I will prioritize this weekend and put weeding at the bottom of the list.

While walking home from the community garden on Sunday, I spied this tomato plant growing by my neighbor's steps in the alley:

It is growing in a 1" strip of dirt, and I don't know how it's surviving. It's even producing flowers! I hope no one pulls it up because I want to see how it fares.

Other Fun Things
Sunday afternoon, Porkchop and I went on a little fishing trip with Suzi and Dale to a pond outside of Nashville, Illinois (Dale's hometown). It was quiet, cool, and green, and the perfect antidote to the muggy St. Louis weather.

Here is Porkchop posing with one of her catches:

And here I am with my first and only catch:

I hadn't fished in more than 20 years, and Suzi and Dale's dad gave me excellent instructions. Even though I only caught one little guy (note that all caught fish were released), it was a fun time.

Some Old News
The bar on the corner that was becoming the bane of our existence shuttered last month! However, it was not a result of our protest petition. Instead, it seems the bar operator wasn't paying rent and was perhaps intimidating the building owner (the woman in her 70s who used to run the place). The granddaughter of the building owner surrendered the liquor license just to get the tenants out. While it's sad to hear of these circumstances, I am quite happy that the bar is closed. Our corner is quiet again, and I don't worry so much about the people walking outside our house.

In late April, we took Keetah to the vet because of some "inappropriate urination" and her recent weight loss. It turns out she is now a hyperthyroid, kidney insufficient cat. The good news is that the thyroid medication is working great, and Keetah has put nearly a pound back on (she had lost about 4 pounds!). Her kidney levels are holding steady, too. So, as the vet told me, Keetah isn't going to drop dead any time soon. Whew!

On that note, have a good night and a great week!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Weekend Night Sounds

It's Friday night, which means in a couple of hours, our block will look and sound like this:

This place is essentially two doors down from us. It's annoying, and the atmosphere outside the bar often feels unsafe. The bar used to be a sedate place where neighborhood drunks went, but due to a change in ownership, it is now hopping.

It's a complicated situation with the liquor license, and I don't want to give full details here because it's boring. A few folks in the area are working on a protest petition, and I sincerely hope we're able to get the liquor license revoked.

But on to more fun things...

We've been doing a lot of neighborhood cleaning/gardening activities recently. Last Saturday was the cleanup blitz, and we worked on our alley with six other people. We picked up a lot of trash, raked up a ton of leaves, and generally made things look neater. On Sunday, we attended our community garden organizational meeting, and are gearing up to plant things tomorrow.

Yes, planting day finally! We will be planting in the community garden and in our own backyard.

Actually, we've already planted some things at our place. Here are radishes, spinach, and sugar snap peas:

This photo was taken last week, and things are much bigger already. We also have onions and beets coming up in this bed.

In the other beds, we have a ton of volunteer plants: self-seeded tomatoes, squash, peppers, and other unknown things. I've been pulling up these volunteers because I already have seedlings that I want to plant, and it is really quite sad. I decided to leave a couple of tomato plants, and today I found them chopped off!! Damned cut worms at it already!! Or maybe squirrels...grrrr.

We have so many unknown squash plants coming up, this year I will remember to not put squash seeds into the compost bin!

Our most interesting volunteer is this guy:

At first I thought it was cabbage, and then cauliflower, but it is now much taller and has broccoli-looking things forming. This plant, and two others that I pulled out, are growing from leaves that I had composted (in situ, maybe). It is really quite strange. I remember getting broccoli in the fall through Fair Shares, and I remember it having leaves and some stalk associated with it. I'm letting this one grow just for fun. If I get some broccoli out of it, even sweeter.

Speaking of sweet, we have a million strawberry flowers!

Okay, not a million, but very close. We let these plant run loose and haven't been cutting the runners off. I'm surprised we have so many flowers.

And check out these flowers:

Blueberries! Very exciting.

Other food stuff...

Last week I mixed up some olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and Porkchop made us mini pizzas using the dough:

This is mine and is pesto and sundried tomato (actually ovendried because these are tomatoes we grew last summer, dried, and froze). We enjoyed these pizzas so much, we had them two nights in a row.

This week has been all about beef brisket. We had Suzi and Dale over for dinner on Sunday, and I cooked an 8 pound brisket using this Smitten Kitchen recipe (we also had mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, fresh baked bread, and pound cake with strawberries picked last summer and whipped cream). The brisket was delicious, but there was SO much of it. If you combined all the previous times in my life that I've eaten brisket, it would be less than how much I've consumed this week. We have 1 and half pieces left, and I do hope Porkchop takes care of those.

I've also been baking a lot of my favorite whole wheat banana bread. This is the second Friday night in a row I've made it. But, this loaf is for tomorrow's community garden planting.

I can't wait to start having fresh vegetables again!


Porkchop found a perfect switch in the yard:

She and her switch are not to be messed with.

Keetah is the most photogenic of all of us:

It's too bad my head is in the corner of this picture. Otherwise, it would be perfect.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Things from the Past Month

We've had some good times since I last posted. I'm saving the best for last, but from earliest to latest is:

Watching Antiques Roadshow with Keetah and Porkchop. I don't know why I look so joyful, so excited in this photo...maybe because I had a Monday night free to sit on the couch and watch people's junk turn into treasures. (Antiques Roadshow = my all-time favorite show.)

Getting donuts from the Donut Drive-In. Sometimes, you need a good donut and some chocolate milk.

Going to the zoo after eating donuts!

Playing scrabble with Keetah. She's a tough competitor.

Getting a new bathroom (sort of). A before picture, minus the sink and medicine cabinet:

The bathroom after all of Porkchop's hard work:

A million times better! I actually enjoy being in the bathroom now (you'll note the bathroom is tiny; the new sink and cabinet make it seem much more spacious).

Knitting Little Sister's Dress for my college roommate's baby.

My college roommate gave me the mug below when she went to Wyoming. It's weird to think I've had this mug for over ten years, and that my roommate now has two kids. Whenever I use the mug, I think of my old roommate. Today, I used it for tea while enjoying a piece of whole wheat banana bread (my favorite banana bread recipe - the whole wheat adds a perfect nuttiness).

Best News of All

My eye stopped twitching!

It happened nearly a month ago, a little after my last post. Early on, I was worried about telling people, thinking I'd jinx it and then be stuck twitching again.

Maybe it was coincident, maybe not....But the night it stopped twitching, I was popping popcorn on the stove. When the test kernels popped, hot oil spattered up on my face, even though I was shielding the pot with a lid. The oil hit my face, including a spot near my eye. I yelled from the pain (but then went back to popping).

Later that night, my eye twitch started sputtering out. When I was getting ready for bed, I thought perhaps it had stopped. So I checked the mirror and was elated to find it was true!! But sure enough, it started again. And then stopped again.

While the constant twitch has stopped, my eye and surrounding muscles seem to be healing still. There are still bad twitch days, like last week when my mouth twitched for two days. And there are times when my face has the pins-and-needles sensation you get when blood rushes back to a foot that has fallen asleep. Yesterday, the entire area around my right eye, including my forehead, twitched a few times, which was quite disconcerting.

I am so thankful the constant twitching stopped, and continues to remain stopped. I'm especially glad that it stopped before my Botox appointment! Since I had my twitch for more than a month, I expect it will take at least 3 months for my face to feel normal again.

Thanks for all of your thoughts while I was a twitchy mess!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pervis Kicked our Butts

This week marks a new 6-week period of classes at the Y. Last time we took a step class, and this time we decided upon step & sculpt.

And, it's just what I needed.

Not for the exercise value so much, but the entertainment value. However, we definitely got a bigger workout than we bargained for!

Our instructor, Pervis, is a total hard ass.

She's very particular about how you do things, and she'll work with you until you get it right (which is great). And she expects people to count, but you have to do it the right way. Our last instructor was totally laid back and didn't care what the heck we did.

And, dang, Pervis has muscles. We were doing bicep curls with a resistance band, and I could barely stretch it up past my elbows. Pervis could pull it up to her shoulders! She totally showed us up. My arms already feel like concrete, but I bet Pervis doesn't feel a thing.

At the end of class, she asked our names and shook our hands.

So now there's no turning back. We can't not go! We shook hands! She knows our names!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Falling like a Brick

Our neighborhood is never boring. Whether it's collisions at the intersection by our house (at least two every month), people crashing stolen cars and then helicopters looking for the fleeing driver (last week), or someone being arrested for pooping in front of Save-a-Lot (a couple months ago), there is always something happening to keep things interesting.

This evening as we drove home, we saw this scene on our block:

A crap ton of bricks fell off the top of this building! When we drove by, the police tape wasn't up, so we think it had just happened. I hope no one was hurt! There are always at least a dozen people hanging out in front of the Family Dollar/Nails 2000/Rent-A-Center strip.

Also, what you don't see is the vehicle that was damaged from a fender bender in front of Save-a-Lot. Oh my gosh! Two accidents at once!

Two Thumbs Down on Three Monkeys

I've always been interested in trying Three Monkeys on Morganford, and I had my chance on Saturday. Porkchop didn't want to go to Local Harvest, and I didn't want to go to St. Louis Bread, so we compromised on Three Monkeys.

But we wish we hadn't. While it's true that we ordered items that the restaurant isn't exactly known for, we still shouldn't have felt sick afterwards. Three Monkeys is supposed to have good pizza, but we went for wraps. Porkchop had a Turkey Club, and I had a Crab Cake. We both had french fries.

Despite the "light" description, the wraps were heavy. And the french fries tasted like they had been marinated in grease and then fried in grease and then drizzled in grease. French fries don't have to taste like that!

Ugh! We both felt siiiiiiiick right after eating (and we only ate half of our wraps).

Eye Update
Thanks to everyone for your concern and kind thoughts! It is still twitching....boo!

So, I don't know if I've written this before, but my lower eyelid spasms every second, sometimes more. It never stops. It's there right when I wake up, and it goes until I go to sleep (I think it probably happens during my sleep too). Also, something I haven't mentioned before...sometimes my mouth twitches as well.

Based on this information, the eye specialist I saw this morning said I probably have right hemifacial spasm. If you looked at the link, you'll see that I might (or probably: most likely) be looking at a lifetime of this spasm.

This afternoon I had an MRI to see if there is something pressing on my facial nerve. Most often, it's a blood vessel. Unfortunately, the vessel is often so small, you can't even see it on imaging.

This is all very hard to take. I really don't want to have this forever, nor do I want it to get worse. I have Botox scheduled for March 18, and I hope it works. However, I don't want to have Botox forever! I just want my non-twitching face back.

There is a support group for people with hemifacial spasms. Reading the welcome message was comforting, but also disturbing. It has played havoc with my emotional well being. It has started to control my life, my emotions, and my thoughts. My vibrant smile has turned to a frown.