Wednesday, August 31, 2011

little squares of delicious

Beau is catching I-can-make-that-itis, the affliction that stifles purchasing anything that can be reasonably (or sometimes, unreasonably) made at home.  So, instead of buying croutons for tomato soup this week, he decided to make them from a mouth watering loaf of pumpernickel bread.  Just wait till I start making the bread, too.  


1/2 loaf of bread
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme, dried
1 tsp rosemary, dried
1 tsp grated parmesan cheese

Cut bread up into cubes.  If the bread is fresh, throw the pieces on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 200ยบ F to dry them out a bit.  If the bread is stale, you can skip this step.  Combine the rest of the ingredients (except for the butter) in a large bowl and toss the dried bread cubes in it to thoroughly coat.  Melt a pat of butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute the seasoned bread cubes for 2-3 minutes.  Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to do multiple batches.  Add a new pat of butter for each batch.  

Add to soup or salad or attempt to keep your spouse's grubby little hands out of the bowl.

Monday, August 29, 2011

come on irene

We lucked out in my area of Massachusetts this weekend with just one big tree down on the road in front of my neighborhood and a smattering of leafy debris in the backyard.  Still, I moved the garden inside before things got going on Sunday morning.

Easier than putting bike helmets on them

A baby turkey from the rival gang* ran into trouble though.  One minute he was waddling around with his family, the next he was in the backyard, chirping the most heartbreaking cry.  Lucky for him, Beau leapt into action and ran outside to hustle him back to the tree line where the rest of the flock had disappeared shortly before.  St. Beau, patron saint of poultry, returned from his adventure unscathed.  

The rest of the day was spent safely indoors engaging in various cabin-fever fighting activities.  I taught myself how to cast-on and (generally) how to do the knit stitch but after half a dozen attempts, things were still going terribly wrong when I tried to start a second row.  I figure some frustration is probably healthy for a person though.  It reminded me that not everything comes so easy.  I'm sure it'll make success that much sweeter in the end.

Knitting abortions

While I cussed and threw balls of yarn across the room, Beau was happily overhauling the basement and jamming out to a mix CD from high school that was discovered in the clean up (featuring among other gems NSync's It's Gonna Be Me).  When I was finally permitted to enter the sacred man space, I was delighted to find that our dedicated junk room had been reborn into a home brewery.

Behold!  The Man Cave

Like little alcoholic soldiers getting ready for battle

I hope everyone else out there faired as well as we did, both physically and organizationally this weekend!

* There are two flocks of turkeys in the woods behind our house.  Our flock of six birds including three adults and three babies, which frequents our backyard in the morning and early evening, and the group that we call the rival gang, which is too large to get a clear count on the members. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

mein haus ist ein biergarten

It seems like only days ago that Beau was horsing around with his very first Mr. Beer kit, but he’s already outgrown the simplified brewing process.  This weekend, he took me to the Witch’s Brew to buy all manner of big-boy supplies – hoses, buckets, giant carboys, sacks of grain and even a packet of special yeast that sat in my purse while we ate lunch in a restaurant because the poor little guys would have fried in the hot car.

My kitchen turned into a small scale brewery on Sunday.  I’m inclined to think that makes me a relatively indulgent wife, considering I stepped in beer puddles on a few occasions and the smell was … unpleasant.  Something that my entire arsenal of Yankee candles couldn’t handle.  The aroma finally dissipated when the ribs that were being slow-grilled for dinner burned and I turned them into a divine broth.  Nothing quite like pork and onions to clear the air.

But what’s a little stink between spouses anyway?  Beau was happy as a (drunken) clam, which made me happy even if my feet were sticky.  Now the house is aired out and we have five gallons of ale bubbling away in a corner.  The bubbles, I have learned, are yeast farts (unrelated to the smelliness).  The yeast eats the sugar and makes carbon dioxide.  I’ve taken to watching the gas escape from the airlock while dinner is on the stove.  Fttttp.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the cabbage worms of mordor

I killed a cactus once.  OK, twice.  I've killed two cactuses.  Yet despite the odds, my very first garden is still alive and well.  I harvested another round of herbs today and even planted a few new additions in anticipation of the upcoming fall.  It hasn't been entirely easy keeping everything alive.  Some were not as lucky as others (RIP cilantro and dill) but in retrospect, they did not die in vain.  I'm piecing together the lessons to be garnered from this year's garden:

Plants are not all created equal.  They have personalities, diverse as an after school special.  Some want as much sun as possible while others freak out in the heat.  Some need very specific containers, some will thrive in anything filled with dirt and will reach their creepy little arms out in an attempt to hostilely take over the other plants (I'm looking at you, mint).  For a successful garden, you have to cater to their quirks.  I've learned to recognize the signs of stress and make the necessary accommodations. 

Plants have unexpected needs.  I started out the summer thinking that they just want sun and water.  Then I read the container garden bible, which subtly suggested that it was a miracle that any of my plants were still alive.  I invested in a few organic and incredibly smelly fertilizers - namely blood meal and fish emulsion - and witnessed a boom in production.  I also learned how to give plant haircuts.  Now I'm a pro at pruning and pinching and shaping.    

I'm not the only one who wants to eat my plants.  Other than one cute slug that I removed from my lettuce in June, I've been lucky in the pest department.  Until last week, when I added cauliflower to collection.  Over the past week, something has been steadily eating the leaves and hiding from my attempts to find it.  Today, I examined every single leaf until I found a gross little caterpillar munching away.  I didn't have the heart to kill it so instead I scooped it up and chucked it into the woods behind my house.  I figure 20 feet to a one-inch insect is somewhere on par with Frodo's journey in length.  Sure, it's possible the little asshole could cross Middle Earth again just to chew on my crops, but I think it's unlikely.  Before I dropped the interloper off, I made it clear that Sauron will not be so merciful the next time around.   

Friday, August 19, 2011

something new

It has been a rough summer for me.  I’ve taken the last month off from blogging because the only things I wanted to talk about (at length) were my work related grievances.  Instead of dwell on the negative any more than I already have, I will summarize in a one short sentence and then move on:  work is not so good lately.  That’s all. 

What that means for me is that my professional life is once again in a state of upheaval and I will have decided to move on .  But it’s mighty hard trolling through job ads when you don’t want to relocate to a new cubicle in a new office with a new computer to stare at for eight hours a day.  It’s a song I’ve been singing for years.  Finally, I’ve decided to do something about it.

After much talk with my husband who is equally miserable living life from the confines of a desk, we’ve agreed that we are willing to work our asses off to escape and at least take a shot at living our dreams, which are conveniently compatible.  He wants to start a microbrewery and I want to start a homestead.  It won’t happen overnight but we’re teaching ourselves what we’ll need to know to succeed.  It’s a start and that makes me very hopeful. 

What does that mean around here?  Well, it’s not that I’ve given up on my goals.  More like I’ve finished prioritizing and refining them.  I probably won’t be doing my monthly check-ins anymore (I never liked those much anyway).  I’ll be committing myself to many more projects.  More gardening, more sewing, more back-to-basics logistics.  I will be putting it here to keep track of our progress and maybe to help someone else starting out on this sort of journey.  So, here we go!