Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day / Summer Recap (and Rambling Miscellany)

Wow.  Looks like I've been "silent" for awhile.  Oops!

Actually, I was in a bit of a "funk" and I've spent an inordinate amount of time with the vampires (labs), doctors' appts and sh*t (and had some frustrating, rant-worthy moments that I'd just as soon not share here).  On the plus side:  I am up to Day #15 of Being Able to Walk Without a Cane - Yippeeee!!! (and NO THANKS to the doctors for that particular "miracle!").

So, "Warning:" There might be some bummer/whining ahead... But I think I'll end on a Happy Note (at least I hope so!).

The source of my funk is twofold (and I don't intend to dwell on it - too much!):  First, it's the end of summer - and that's always a Funk-full time for me ("Back to School" Sales starting in July are *almost* as offensive - to me - as Christmas Sh*t going up @ Home Depot in September!).  Suffice it to say that the abrupt disappearance of brightly colored Flip-Flops and Inflatable Pool Floaties - and their immediate replacement with Orange-and-Black Sh*t..?  Well, it just bums me out.

The Second Part of the "funk" is related to the fact that 2012 has been dubbed my "Lost Summer."  All this psoriasis sh*t, that rendered me a virtual invalid (quadriplegic, even!), has prevented me from truly enjoying the season.  I went swimming exactly ONCE  - and Good-Gawd did I pay for it!  It totally f**ked-up my skin and no quantity of gooze (Rx or Natural) could soothe it!

On the plus side: We did hold a record number of Pool Parties this year.  So that was nice!

Lastly, the Garden has been a bit of a disappointment this year - but that's not a TRUE source of "funk."  Fact is, there were many days that I couldn't even walk out to the backyard (I wish I was exaggerating!) to check on the garden.  A lot more fruits ended up rotting on the ground, this year.  And I feel bad about that (last year I harvested and jammed damn-near EVERY fruit from our trees - and then some!).

Anyhooooo...  I planted a Record Number of 'mater plants this year and got, well, SQUAT!

This was Saturday's Harvest:

Respectable, yes...  But hardly a Record-Breaker!

Turns out my "Volunteer" tomato plant (in the Paste-O-Rama bed) was a Kellogg's Breakfast (those would be the big, orange maters on the left).  I'm glad the Volunteer "came through" because the Kellogg's that I planted this year didn't produce diddly!  The mid-size red 'maters are Early Girls (from Home Depot).  And the little black/red ones are the new variety: Indigo Rose.  I have to say that the Indigo Rose has been surprisingly-prolific.  But they are more like salad tomatoes (slightly larger than cherries - not suitable for preserving).  If you decide to try 'em, make sure you wait 'til the bottoms turn red before harvesting - otherwise they taste weird!  

Stephanie Stupice of the Finny Farm looked like she started-off okay ("consistent" early-bearer), but then she fizzled out (whereas last year, Stupice kept producing consistently thru the end of September, last year!).  Colin Copia (also a Finny 'Mater) has Blossom-End-Rot (never had that happen before!), so I haven't harvested anything noteworthy from that plant.  

The rest of the plants have been...  Well, disappointing! 

The Paste-O-Rama Bed?  I only got the one Speckled Roma (second one from the top, center).  And by the time I harvested it, well...  It was "past-due" (Oops!).  I'm still holding out hope that we'll get a few more "Dog Days" and the 'Maters will shape-up and start producing like they're s'posed to!

It's been a weird Tomato Year.  Friend-Finny got her plants in early, and didn't have a banner year.  Friend DV (who claims *I* am the "Gardening Goddess") also got her plants in early, and she's had tomatoes up the Wazoo (She STOLE my "Title" - Damn her!)  (But neither of us got Zukes - Go figure!) I got my maters in "late" this year and...  Well...  It's just not been a good year for me.  Likewise, Good-Neighbor-B: I gave him a few seedlings, and he purchased several of his own.  ALL of his 'mater plants DIED.  So, if I had an "abundance," I'd be pawning them off on neighbors but - alas - that's just not the case!

So: Bottom Line, I guess I *won't* be putting up jars-and-jars of spaghetti sauce, as planned, this year (which sucks because my Basil Plant is threatening to take-over my kitchen!).

But...  In looking back...  I did manage to put up a batch of Peach-Spice Jam, a Blueberry/Peach Spice Jam, Plum-Spice Jam, Mixed-Fruit Compote (a little too spicy!) (if you decide to tackle it - cut back on [or eliminate] the cloves!), and a couple of batches of Sweet Corn-Apple Relish (Yummmmm!!!) (Good-Friend P made a similar batch using pears instead of apples - plus she added Cumin, which gave it a more "Mexicany Flair!").  Gotta make one more batch before summer ends!  And my Finny Fridge Pickles (which were pretty good - albeit inconvenient to eat with all the mini-chunks of other stuff).  And I discovered that they make Plum-Pitters (which are mighty damned handy!).  I dehydrated a batch of pitted plums in my dehydrator but - I have to sadly admit - that wasn't a particularly successful endeavor...

Annnnnd, I made a couple of Stupendously Delicious Cherry Pies using Giordano Farms fresh cherries!  And an Orgasmic Peach-Pie with our Very Own Peaches!

Now that I'm looking at The List of Accomplishments I'm feeling a tad less "Useless" and "Funk-Full!"  I guess I really did accomplish a fair amount this summer - in spite of my (ahem) "handicap!" (Again, I wish I was joking)

I definitely want to put-up another batch of Corn Relish this year.  And I think I may have a few ripe apples ready-to-pick.  Might try my hand at canning applesauce or - mmmm! - Cranberry Applesauce!  And I've simply GOT to whip-up a batch of Deepika's onion jam! (That's right up there with Corn-Apple Relish, in my book!  Freaking AMAZING!!!)

I never did put-up any Strawberries this year (::::gasp::::).  I know my other neighbor, K, wants to learn how to make All-Natural Jams so maybe I'll luck out and find a migrant farm-worker standing on the corner - one of these afternoons - with boxes of fresh strawberries.  If so, I'll pick-up a box and invite my neighbor over and I'll try to whip-up a batch using either Agave or Honey as a natural sweetener...

I've still got a few empty jars stashed in the garage.  This WILL NOT do!!!  I think there's still time to correct that situation!  Then, there's the South Bay Canning Club's Annual Exchange, so I'll get to sample more New and Exciting Stuff!  And "steal" new recipes for next year...  So, yeah, I think the empty-jar situation will resolve itself!

In Other News:  Good-Friend-P convinced me that I shouldn't deprive myself of Clay-Play Time (which, truly, IS my source of stress-relief).  Doc (#4) told me "No working in ceramics" b/c it *might* irritate my skin.  Well, P convinced me that I should give it a try with rubber (vinyl, actually - not Latex) gloves.  I complained that it wouldn't provide the "tactile experience" that I craved, and P argued that "Surgeons are 'tactile' and they manage to operate with gloves..." (and Joysey-K later argued - truthfully - that "Surgeons have assistants to hand them their tools!").  Anywaaaaaayyyyy...  This weekend was the first time that I attempted Clay-Play with vinyl gloves.

I managed to log appx 4 hours in the Tiki-Shack, over two days, this weekend and - while it wasn't TRULY satisfying - it was "acceptable."  Truthfully, I don't have my usual "dexterity" with gloves, and detailed-work (and grabbing for tools) really is kinda frustrating.  Plus, the gloves - despite being skin-tight - do tend to loosen-up in the fingertips and leave weird wrinkle marks in the clay.  But I managed to compensate by using a semi-dry sponge for the "press-in" work.

I limited myself to Super-Simple-Stuff like soap-dishes and plain trays.  Didn't want to "challenge" myself and felt I needed some "Instant Gratification" to get myself back into the groove...

Honestly?  It really felt GOOD to get back in the studio, and it really DID help to lift some of my "funk."  The Tiki Shack really *is* my "Happy Place" and I need that "Escape" from time-to-time.  So I think I will make a concerted effort to go out there for at least a few hours, every week.  I'm not in any Competitions to be the Bestest/Greatest Ceramic Artist Evar, but I really do like to CREATE sh*t.  And doing so really does make me happy!  So, by golly, I'm gonna DO IT!!!

Latest Works-In-Progress:

Beaten-bowl and Starfish paperweight

Started a few months ago (and subsequently neglected).  They are fully-dry (bone-dry) and ready for bisque - but I don't have enough "stuff" ready to warrant a firing!

Tray and 2 soap-dishes I started yesterday...
They need to dry a bit more, then I'll trim and clean 'em up

Fresh, brandy-new soap-dishes I started today
Again, they need to dry more, then I'll trim the edges and clean 'em up.

Anyway...  Even though I didn't feel well-enough to go for a swim this weekend.  And I wasn't "up for sailing" (Hubs went solo, early yesterday-morning.  But I met him in the late afternoon and "hung-out" on the boat for a few hours), I don't feel like this Labor Day Weekend was a total loss.  I am THRILLED that I actually DID make it into the Studio and PRODUCED some sh*t.

So, all-told, I'd have to say it was a pretty-good Holiday Weekend - even if I didn't make it into the pool (which is now covered - :::sigh:::).  And, in looking back at my Summertime Accomplishments, maybe it wasn't such a Bad Year, after all...

So that's me ending my post on a Happy Note!

Hope your summers were - if not BETTER than mine - at least AS GOOD AS mine, k?!!

Thanks for "listening!"  And here's hoping that things will IMPROVE!!!


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