Musing on food and cooking ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Advice on Gardening

Little Merry Sunshine asked for some gardening advice in comments on my last post and I thought I would go ahead and just make a post of it.

First off, I will say that while not a newby, I have not often gardened all by my lonesome. I have normally gardened with mia madre, Garden Goddess, who can make things grow simply by looking in their direction. When I was growing up, we relied on our garden for much of our food - in addition to gleaning, wild food gathering, and hunting, fishing, and bunny raising, as well as an occassional Little Red (aka the pig).

But like LMS, I need to stretch my budget, and gardening can hopefully help with that this year.

So, here is my advice to beginning gardeners, who maybe just want to do a few basic items.

Easy things to grow that you can plant fairly early in the spring are lettuce, spinach, swiss chard - early greens. You will be able to eat those within 30 days of planting, and the nice thing is that you can often do a second planting in order to get a second crop in the fall. With many lettuces, you can also just cut them instead of pulling them out by the root and they will keep growing, just like hair.

I use a French intensive method for greens, which means I don't plant in rows. Rather, I mix the seeds with a little potting soil and spread that in a specific area - so they grow in patches rather than rows.

If you wait until the soil is consistently about 65 degrees, another easy crop to grow for the beginner is green beans. Make a little row by mounding some soil in a hump and then poke in a green bean seed ever 3-5 inches or so. With 45 days, green beans. Voila! Keep picking your beans and you will get multiple crops. Also, plant your green beans near your tomatos as some bugs that like tomatos don't like green beans and will stay away. Snow peas are also easy.... plant them in a little hump again, but give them a trellis they can climb on. And soon you will have a tasty addition for stir fry.

Peppers are also easy, if you get them as plants from the greenhouse. 3 plants will produce more than enough for one person. I personally do not like bell peppers of any color, so I tend to get an Italian style frying pepper, like a marconi or a godfather. I find them more versitile. To plant a pepper plant, dig a good sized hole that will come at least 1 inch up the stem of the plant. Before putting the plant in the ground, put a twist of aluminum foil around the stem. This will prevent cutworms from snipping your gorgeous plant in two once you plant it.

Zuchinni and summer squash are also easy to grow. Just pick which variety looks interesting to you and build a mound of dirt about a foot in diameter and plant five seeds in it in a star pattern. The ditty goes - one for the blackbird and one for the crow and three to grow. This will give you a gazillion zuchinni.

Cukes are grown just like zukes, but be careful that they are no where near each other in your garden space. Otherwise you will get a weird hybrid known as a cuzuke, which is nasty and has happened to me before. When selecting a cuke, you can go two ways: a pickling cuke or a burpless. Pickling cukes need to be picked small or their skins get bitter. They also have minor thorns. Burpless take longer but don't get bitter.

Tomatoes are also easy. But as much as I adore heirloom varieties they can be difficult to grow. Many of them have a far longer required growing season than we have here in the north. So, for the beginner I highly recommend a cherry type tomato, a Roma style tomato like an Amish Paste, and an Early Girl variety. Look to see that they will produce fruit no later than 70 days past planting from seedlings. Otherwise, you won't get maters until September.

In September, go ahead and do a second round of greens - kale, spinach, chard, etc. Also plant garlic at this time. It is so easy. Just plant it in the fall and in the spring it will come up. You can eat the little green shoots... they are called scapes. Then, in mid summer you can dig up the bulbs, and voila! Garlic. Softnecks are better for immediate eating. Hardnecks are better for long storage (check out The Garlic Store online for planting stock later in the summer).

I am growing the following in the garden this summer: Muskmelon (a variety that claims to be ready for harvest in 68 days - we will see); miniture spaghetti squash, red noodle beans, poona kheera cukes, deer tongue lettuce, parsnips (this is a crop I can leave in the ground during winter, if I mulch it well), cilantro, dill, a varity of basil, nasturtium (edible flower), eggplant, red lettuce, carrots, swiss chard, napa cabbage, radishes, cutting celery (the plant is bread to just grow leaves and not stalks), Italian flat green beans, snow peas, summer squash mix (three types), cosmos (for the pretty), morning glories (also for pretty), orange mama paste tomato, tangerine mama paste tomato, Italian ice cherry tomato, honeybunch cherry tomato, razzle dazzle, tomato, red lightning tomatoe, chocolate cherry tomatoes, ruby red sweet corn, hot lemon peppers (I hope - something on my order is backordered and I am afraid it might be this), violas, double feature cukes, Italian frying peppers, Ancho chilis, Lakota winter squash, okra and leeks. And maybe bok choi and spinach, for a fall planting. In fall, I will also be planting shallots and garlic, so that I can start harvesting them in early spring.

Mia madre is going to grow the following at her house for family sharing : sweet potatoes, swedish peanut potatoes, and daisy gold potatoes.

Some thing I would never attempt to grow here - watermelons, many of the longer season melons and winter squashes, anything that is a more common food in the south than it is in the north, anything requiring a growing season longer than 80 days - unless it is something specifically designed to be a late fall crop, like pumpkins.
Today's Episode, in Which Heather Reflects on the State of the World

It has been an interesting week.

I am still picking up glass from my broken window, but the high spot of that situation is that at least the snow is melting enough so that I can actually find the pieces.

I ordered seeds and the first batch was shipped this morning. I ordered seeds from six different companies, and apparently one order didn't make it through or something, so now I am deciding if I want to reorder or say screw it to eggplants, carrots, snow peas, and a few other herb/floral type items. I might say screw it and just see what the greenhouse has in May. Now comes the fun part - ripping off nearly half the sod on my lawn in order to till and then plant. If only the snow would go away so that I could take a good stab at it while the ground is still very wet and easier to break up with a shovel.

Gas when I went home last night was $3.13 a gallon. This morning? $3.45.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhaha hahahahahahahahaha hahahahah ha and ha.

Yeah right. If it wouldn't ruin my credit, I would be tempted to call the bank and say, "Please take the eggplant back. Thank you." A monthly Metra pass and a membership in ZipCar, however inconvinient, would be a heck of a lot cheaper than car payment, gas, and insurance.

Speaking of credit, my insurance situation came to a head yesterday as the hospital started to play nasty. Just to refresh your memory, in December I had to have an MRI and an echo because my doc thought I might have had a stroke. She faxed a bunch of papers off and I schedule the appointment for the test at the hospital. A couple of weeks after my test, the insurance company paid for the echo but not the MRI, despite the fact that both tests were ordered on the same day. They say they required prior notification which they had not received.

Well, yesterday, the hospital decided to try and collect the whole amount from me. Threatened to go to collections with it. So I went and threw myself on the mercy of Human Resources and she called the insurance company. Turns out, it is the hospital's fault. Even if the doc didn;t send notification, the hospital should have. As a result, I have no liability. I pay nothing. Still the insurance company was going to do an "intervention" with the hospital to get them to leave me alone and also told me I should just check in with a neurologist without going through my family doctor, considering that I am still having symptoms.

Anyway, I am exhausted and crabby and ready for another vacation! Ha and ha

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My New Favorite Emoticon

I first learned it from JJohonson over at Shakesville....

it's great. Can you guess what it means?


Friday, March 21, 2008

Winter Needs To Be Over, Right Now

So work let us out at 3 pm today, which is a little silly as the roads were already horrid and it took me an hour to drive 8 miles. I got home and managed to get in my drive way, but am now apparently stuck in the snow, or rather, on top of the snow with no movement except slipping towards the chain link fence happening. Not even when I rock it back and forth. So I threw a bunch of salt under the car and around the tires and shoveled as best I can, hoping that the trickle down theory of salt melting snow will melt the snow enough to help me get moving . Then I proceeded to go into the house, only to discover that the glass in my front screen door has broken. Loverly. I mean the only thing that would make this better is if the car is still stuck on Monday and I can't get out of the driveway. I mean, thank goodness I have bread and milk in the house and didn't promise to go to see the Vagina Monologues on campus tomorrow.

I mean seriously now. Winter needs to be over. Right now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Today's Episode, in which Heather Gets a Man for Her Birthday

So my birthday was last Thursday, March 13. I spent the day cleaning and lazing around, preparing for something that could have been either wonderful or horrid. Luckily for all involved, it turned out better than wonderful

Back in summer, as the result of a series of fortunate accidents, I began talking with another blogger (Boxer Rebellion) via email (read the whole story here).

Our first email exchange was rather amusing:

Him: Oh and by the way, the picture of you from your family reunion with your face in the watermelon, so very cool. I was going to post a comment when I first saw it, but since I didn't want to come off as some skeezy boy who was trying to hit on you, which I am and would have been, and your mother reads your blog, I just held my tongue till now.

Me: I wish I could say I was the woman in the watermelon. That is actually a cousin, a few times removed (I really need a road map at our family reunions). Our hair is about the same color, but that is about it. I wish it were me. She is wonderfully beautiful. And, honestly, my mom would be totally thrilled to have a boy, skeezy or not, hit on me, especially in public. She's become utterly convinced that I am going to die a stereotypical cat lady......

So we have been emailing and IMing everynight since then and just really clicked. But one never knows what will happen in person. So last Thursday, Boxer flew up here and we had the big meeting. Could we stand each other? Did we smell right? Was there any chemistry? Could we get along?

And the answers are: absolutely, oh yeah, oh baby, and you bet!

So, in June, we are going to take the next step and move in together, here in the Waukegan abode. And I for one will be so happy that we can hold hands and really talk and not type at each other!

And for everyone who has been through relationship hell (like I have been and like, I know, some of my readers have been), don't give up hope because someone wonderful might fall into your blog or your email when you least expect it.

PS. Moving is damn expensive, so if you are so inclined to give a small donation to help with moving expenses, please drop me a line! We would be thankful, and you will receive one of my infamous cookie recipes (yet to be published) in gratitude!

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Easter Is Amusing

Not being a Christian, I don't normally celebrate Christian holidays, but, really, if a holiday involves food, chances are that I am there. No matter what faith. I even enjoyed visiting the Hari Krishnas and their services because they always fed you afterwards. I greatly enjoy Hannukah and Passover. Christmas not so much, but both Thanksgiving and Easter are just fine. I have even been to Eid celebrations as well as various Hindi celebrations, must of which I can't remember the name of.... Pagans, of course, always have huge potlucks at any gathering.

So, this year for Easter, I am all by myself. The College isn't doing anything special, like a brunch. And while I normally would do a little Easter something just on my own, I really don't feel like making a giant ham (a giant ham being the only thing in my freezer) although I might suck it up and make some roasted garlic mashed taters and some asparagus (asparagus being my spring harbinger). I won't be coloring eggs or making buckets of egg salad. And while I might eat some Easter chocolate, I frankly find most Easter candy to be foul. Especially Peeps. Peeps are evil, Disgusting. Bad. But also funny.... Let me demonstate.

Humorous Pictures
see more crazy cat pics

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Movie Quote Meme

Since everyone else is doing it, I will, too! Here goes:
Instructions: Look up 15 of your favorite films on IMDb and take a quote from each. List them below. When someone guesses the quote correctly, cross it off the list. Leave a comment with your answers. And NO CHEATING.

Here's the rest because apparently I only have two readers now, who I think are probably tired of this game and would like some new and more interesting game!

1. About a Boy
3. Mixed Nuts
4. G.I. Jane
5. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
7. Alien
11. I Spit on Your Grave
14. Bagdad Cafe
15. Independence Day

1. The thing is, a person's life is like a TV show. I was the star of The Will Show. And The Will Show wasn't an ensemble drama. Guests came and went, but I was the regular. It came down to me and me alone. If Marcus' mum couldn't manage her own show, if her ratings were falling, it was sad, but that was her problem. Ultimately, the whole single mum plotline was a bit complicated for me. (hint- British film based on a book; killer soundtrack; Single Parents Alone together)

2. I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. (Fellowship of the Ring - Sir Robin)

3. Just remember that in every pothole there is hope. Well, you see, pothole is spelled P-O-T-H-O-L-E. So if you take the P, and add it to the H, the O, and the E, and rearrange the letters... or contrariwise, you remove the O, T, and the L, you get "hope". So, just remember, in every pothole there is hope! (hint- Steve Martin Christmas indie; has a dead body, a Christmas tree, and Parker Posey)

4. To them you're just the new nigger on the block, that's all. Maybe you just moved in a little too early. (hint- this film got me through grad school; great feminist flick; it's a military flick staring my favorite piece of cinematic eye candy)

5. Them syreens did this to Pete. They loved him up and turned him into a horny toad. (hint - based on Greek mythology; another killer soundtrack; it's the noly movie I have ever liked that has starred George Clooney)

6. I think the message to, uh, psychos, fanatics, murderers, nutcases all over the world is, uh, "do not mess with suburbanites". Because, uh, frankly we're just not gonna take it any more. Ya know, we're not gonna be content to look after our lawns and wax our cars, paint out houses. We're out to get them, Don, we are out to get them. (The 'Burbs - Sir Robin)

7. Come on, cat. (hint- last spoken line of a great sci fi classic; first of three sequels; featured designs by Giger)

8. Wake up! Time to die! (Blade Runner - Sir Robin)

9. Congratulations, liars! You know who you are and you know who you want. Aint nothin' gonna change that, shit! (hint- comedy based on a truly tragic right wing religious belief and 2-4-6-8! Richard Moll stars as a gay dad) (But I'm a Cheerleader - Boxer Rebellion)

10. Everything. OK! I'll talk! In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max's toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs and I blamed it on the dog... When my mom sent me to the summer camp for fat kids and then they served lunch I got nuts and I pigged out and they kicked me out... But the worst thing I ever done - I mixed a pot of fake puke at home and then I went to this movie theater, hid the puke in my jacket, climbed up to the balcony and then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa - and then I dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then, this was horrible, all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other. I never felt so bad in my entire life. (hint- ensemble cast, pirates, mobsters, and Baby Ruth) (The Goonies - Boxer Rebellion)

11. Total submission. That's what I like in a woman - total submission. (hint - 70s feminist revenge flick... Sir Robin is close; infamous bath masturbation-castration scene)

12. When I was a boy, just about every summer we'd take a vacation. And you know, in 18 years, we never had fun. (hint - best road trip ever. Not! also spawned several sequels and a great theme song by Lindsey Buckingham) (National lampoon's Vacation - Sir Robin)

13. Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That's the other guy's problem. Nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the absolute carnage you are about to witness. Super Bowl, World Series - they don't know what pressure is. In this building, it's either kill or be killed. You make no friends in the pits and you take no prisoners. One minute you're up half a million in soybeans and the next, boom, your kids don't go to college and they've repossessed your Bentley. Are you with me? (Trading Places - Sir Robin)

14. Don't tell me that was it, Arnie! I mean, you gotta be kidding! That what I had you come up here for? I don't believe it! I mean she, she shows up outta nowhere without a car, without a map. She ain't got nothing but a suitcase filled with men's clothing. How come? How come she act so funny like she was gonna stay here forever? And with no clothes?! No! I don't like it! It don't make no sense at all! No, no, no, no, no! It don't make no sense! (hint- this is a kinda lesbian film with Jack Palance; has Bagdad in the title but is not about Iraq)

15. All you need is love, John Lennon, smart man, shot in the back very sad. (Big sci fi flick from summer in the mid-1990s; I saw it at 3 am on July 4)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Some Things Should Not Be Eaten

Next week I have vacation! Even though certain someones at work don't like this, as I should spend time only raising money and not having fun, ever. Too bad! I am going and I ain't checking email and I ain't answering the phone and, although I heard rumors that a faculty member wants to submit a grant next week, they have not talked to me yet, so they might miss their deadline. Ooops. Too bad!

Nice, GG. Be nice! Nice! You raised $75,000 this last week, almost $1.2 million for the year (so far). Be nice! Kind! Go play and have fun...

Well, having fun for me involves food - shopping for it, cooking it, eating out, bringing food to other people. And since I am having visitors who have never really visited Chicago (well, I haven't visited Chicago all that much despite living just north of it), I thought it might be fun to visit some ethnic restaurants. I was noodling around the intertubes and found an interesting Malaysian place called, naturally, Penang.

There's some good looking stuff on the menu - lemongrass crab, chicken and potato red curry, chili tofu, chicken feet with black mushrooms (yum!), but there is also something that I just think should never be eaten.

What might that be, GG? Pig's head? Nope, like that. Intestines? Never had that and not likely to do so, but you want it, knock yourself out. Rather that thing that should never be eaten is a vegetable dish called, lyrically enough, kang kung belacan. Its description?

"Sauteed conscious with spicy malaysian shrimp sauce," bargain priced at only $9.95.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A meme!

1. Go to (don't sign in)
2. Type in your answer to the question in the "search" box
3. Use only the first page
4. Copy the html and paste for the answer

1.What's your first name?


2. Where do you live?

Waukegan Port

3. What is your relationship status?

Online Dating

4. What is your favorite color?


5. Favorite food?


6. What are you listening to right now?


7. What is your favorite movie?

o brother, where art thou?

8. Where is your dream vacation?


9. What are you thinking about right now?


10. Who's your best friend?


11. Nickname?


12. Where do you work?

Lake Forest, IL

13. What makes you laugh?


14. What are you going to do after this?


15. How do you feel right now?


16. What are your plans for the weekend?

the asian supermarket.. their products are quite expensive

17. What is your favorite thing to do?

the chef

18. What school do you go to?


19. What are you addicted to?


20. Whats your best feature?