Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recipe: Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

Yes, we went to the San Benito County Fair yesterday, and yes, I know I need to post about the final outcome of "Project Pork" (which *was* successful, and the super-rambly post is coming!) - but I am going to side-step momentarily and share a recipe that I cobbled-together today.

See?  I had a couple of bowls-full of tomatoes, sitting on the counter-top, since last weekend (when I ripped out the Finny-Farm).  We haven't been eating enough salads lately, and the 'maters were starting to go a little "soft" - too soft for salads, but still VERY edible!  And since these are, essentially, the last 'maters of the season, I couldn't bear to let them go to waste! (and - since most of 'em were salad- or cherry-sized, it didn't make sense to try to can 'em).

In the meantime, poor Hubs has developed a toothache and can't really chew anything.  Soooo...  What could be better than FRESH home-made tomato soup, right???

I started with the recipe here, but ended up veering way off track (as I am wont to do).  So here is what I ended up with:

QT's (mostly home-grown) Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup
Yield: I'd say 4 generous servings


Roasty Part:

  • 2 lbs fresh, mixed tomatoes (Mine were mostly Kellogg's Breakfast and Indigo Rose, plus a handful of random salad + cherry tom's) (all from my garden!)
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (from the Organic Farm-Share)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (whole) (again, Farm-Share)
  • fresh chopped basil (appx 10 fresh leaves) (from the plant growing on my kitchen sink)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil 
  • Sprinkle or three of balsamic vinegar (mine was actually an olive oil + balsamic mix)
Soupy Part:
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can  + 8 oz.chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 TBS butter (I ended up using "Tuscan style" spreadable butter which is butter + olive oil + italian herbs.  I think plain ol butter would work just fine)
  • More fresh chopped basil (maybe 5 more leaves while simmering)
  • Whatever other herbs/seasoning you like (I used a grinder full of dried Italian Herbs)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. cream (at the very end)
  1. Preheat oven to 450*F (I used my micro-convection oven)
  2. Wash, core and halve tomatoes (I ended up halving, then quartering the halves on the bigger tomatoes).
  3. Spread in a layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Chop onion, sprinkle on top of the maters.
  5. Peel garlic cloves, place 'em, whole, on the sheet with the maters and onions.
  6. Chop 10 leaves of basil and spread over everything else.
  7. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over that.
  8. Put in your pre-heated oven and cook appx 30 mins 'til caramelized and the edges are starting to brown (but not burn).  Took appx 35 mins in my Nuker/Convection oven.
  9. After they're well-roasted, transfer roasted veggies to a sauce-pan/stock pot.
  10. Add broth, bay leaves and butter.  
  11. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 mins 'til reduced by appx 1/3
  12. While it's simmering, chop and add the remaining basil leaves and add seasoning to taste

After simmering:
  1. Remove bay leaves.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool, a bit, then puree it with a stick blender (or whatever you've got) 'til smooth.

Just before serving, add heavy cream and re-heat the soup (do not boil).

You can garnish it with more fresh, chopped basil, or garlicky croutons, or whatevers.

Serve and ENJOY!

This soup was FREAKING AWESOME.  I served it to hubs with a grilled-cheese sandwich b/c that is, like, the Ultimate Comfort Food when you're sick (IMHO).


(Sorry - no pics of the 'maters BEFORE I started this - but you know what 'maters look like!)

Sliced, diced, and ready for roasting!

And after roasting...

Starting to simmer...  Smells like YUM!

All done!

It was awesomely delicious!  And a great way to dispose of a "medium" quantity of tomatoes that might have otherwise gone to waste (Perish the thought!!!).


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Heeeeere Piggy-Piggy! (Everything you never wanted to know about pork, but were afraid to ask!)

Warning: Rampant Rambling ahead so, if you aren't interested in "How to buy a pig at the Fair," you can just skip this post, k?!   But it's been a very interesting learning experience for me!  And I hope to post more info, as the saga continues...

So, referring back to my earlier post, we are waking up Bright 'n Early on Saturday morning, and heading down to Bolado Park - on the other side of Hollister - for the San Benito County Fair.

We'll be indulging in Free Breakfast (Carbs 'n Caffeine - no doubt!), and I'll be studying the Buyer's List and making note of "maximum prices" I can bid, per pig!  And, after the sale, we'll get to enjoy a free Buyer's BBQ (Yummm!!!).  And I love-love-love the San Benito County Fair because it is as close to "Old Timey" as you can find in Northern California (most of our fairs are obscenely "commercial!")

See, Finnyknits, and I are going in halvsies on a 4H/FFA pig.

Finny claims to be "the worst Jew in the history of Jews."

Not so, Finny.  My College Bud,D, (who is now an Ex-Pat) converted to Judaism when she married her husband (a Born 'n Bred East Coast Jew - complete with Noo-Yawk accent!).  Their FAVORITE restaurant is an open-air joint that they've dubbed "The Cholesterol Palace" (and I honestly can't recall the restaurant's real name!) - just outside of Jocotepec, Mexico.  Hands-down, the VERY BEST dish they serve is freshly slaughtered and smoked pork.  We're talking: The soon-to-be-dinner animals are all milling-about in a pen in FRONT of the restaurant.  The coals are red-hot, and the meats are skewered onto rebar posts and cooked RIGHT THERE.  The place is a TOTAL arm-pit - that no self-respecting tourist would EVER venture into - but the food is FREAKING AMAZING!!!  Anyway, she - and her husband - snarf-up their Smoked Pork like nobody's business!

Anyhoooo...  Finny usually stocks up her "Chestie" with a quarter-share of grass-fed beef every year.  This year, I convinced her to go-in on the purchase of half a pig.  No, not grass-fed, but definitely NOT "Feedlot Fare."

I know I've alluded, many times in the past, to wanting to get "closer" to where my food comes from.  And, having done the FFA-Thing, I think I can safely assume that these animals are NOT abused.  Yeah, they're grain-finished - but (to be perfectly honest) - I kinda like the idea of grain-finished, fat-filled meat.  Hell, that's where the FLAVOR comes from, right?

OTOH, I don't want meat that's been fed "questionable" stuff (dead chickens or whatevers - I think the practice of feeding "beef-bi-products" to cattle has been discontinued after all of the Mad-Cow-Scare stuff).  And I really-and-truly HATE the idea of "Feedlot" animals standing knee-deep in sh*t (But no - it doesn't stop me from buying supermarket meat - I must shamefully admit)...

But - all of that aside - I figure "every little bit" counts.  And if I have an opportunity to buy a "humanely raised" pig - well, that's a good thing, right?!  Ultimately, I do want to get closer to the source of my food.......

(and I DO get my eggs from backyard-raised chickens, k?!!)

Okay.  I'm stepping down from my soap-box now!

So, I first got this "Wild Hair" last year, actually.  I subscribe to the Santa Clara Valley Chickens group on Yahoo (b/c Good-Friend P is a chicken-keeper and two of the hens are "technically" mine!).  And one of the posters had a daughter who was pretty heavily into 4-H.  There was a post about the Santa Clara Valley Fair and the upcoming livestock auction, and did anybody want to "go-in-on" beef purchases...?  Well, for whatever reason, I didn't get to jump on that bandwagon, last year.  And - when I contemplated the sheer quantity of meat, I decided that Beef wasn't really a realistic option for the two of us.

Pork?  Maybe...  Half-a-pig?  PERFECT!

We *did* go to the San Benito County Fair, last year, and I grabbed the Buyer's Packets, and kept copious notes about what the pigs were selling for...  Didn't BUY anything (couldn't find anyone to "split" with me), but I figured it was good reconnaissance work, right?

Yeah.  Awesome.  Except that - after we got home - I put my detailed notes someplace SUPER-SAFE!  So safe, I couldn't friggin' FIND 'em this year!!!

Anyhoooooo...  Around July-ish, of this year, I pinged Finny to see if she was interested in splitting a pig and - Yippeee - she said "Yes!"  So "Project Pork" is a GO - Yay!

Then, today on the SBCF Facebook page, they posted this picture:

And I'm all "Ohhhhhh!  That pig is soooo cute!!!!" 

Gawd, I *hope* I don't chicken-out!!!  (No!  I won't!  All of the pigs are destined for the same fate - whether *I* buy or not, right?! - and the money goes to a Good Cause!!!)

Okay, anyway...  I've been learning lots of interesting stuff, so far...

Interesting point(s) to ponder: When you purchase the pig, you are paying $x.xx/lb for "live weight" (which is generally in the 200-225 lb range).  But when the hog is butchered, you are paying $y.yy/lb for "hanging weight" which is "roughly" 2/3 of live weight (depends on the butcher - but generally, it's the weight of the pig MINUS head and - I think - skin).

Butcher Fee (to "dispatch" the animal) is $30.00 per animal.  "Processing" costs are $0.98/lb (which includes cut/wrap to our specifications). And smoking and/or sausage is extra.  This info is based on what I've learned from the SBCF and Freedom Meats, our chosen butcher.  And these are Sept 2012 prices (so compare accordingly!).

One more interesting link that I found (no clue how to "Get in on" the re-sale list - but we'll see).

Anyhoooo...  I am very excited about the "Adventure Du Jour" and am REALLY looking forward to buying a pig this coming weekend!  I'll post more (maybe even post some USEFUL) info as the Adventure continues.....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Farewell to Finny Farm...

Yeah, so I've been lamenting the :::sob::: End of Summer and, in fact, today is the Autumnal Equinox.  So I am "celebrating" it with a Sugar-Free Margarita at the Tiki Bar!

And actually, today was a very pleasant day with temps in the mid-80's, and hubs even uncovered the pool and dove in!

Princess Annie even joined-in on the Floatie-Pool Action!

But anyway...  This IS a Garden-Post, after all!  So back on point:  I had wandered back to the garden, earlier this week, and realized that things were starting to "flounder" (moreso than usual!).

I know I've b*tched (more than once) about how "Suck-tastic" my garden was, this year.  Well, the suckiness is even MORE obvious as we reach the end of the season  :::sigh:::

The Finny-Farm, unfortunately, was the Floundery-iest of all.  It's at the "end of the line" on one of our drip-lines and NO quantity of water would help it.  Super-Sad-Face :-(((

Finny-Farm Bed :-(((((

Sooooo...  I ripped it out today.

  • Colin-Copia (left-rear-corner) started out getting Blossom-End-Rot (never had a problem with that before), but I did harvest a few 'maters off of that plant today.  Confusingly enough - I don't think Colin-Copia was a Copia at all - but some kinda "generic" cherry tomato (srsly!).  Not a beefsteak.  Not mottled.  Just a plain ol' slightly-orange-ish cherry tomato (but tasty - don't get me wrong!).  
  • Brandy the Yellow Brandywine, likewise, got afflicted with the dreaded Blossom-End-Rot and I didn't harvest ANYTHING from her!  
  • Stephanie Stupice - barely visible in the front-right corner:  She produced admirably at the beginning of the season (far earlier than anyone else), but she fizzled-out around late-July.  Bummer! 
  • New Variety Indigo-Rose (not really visible in this pic) was in the rear, right corner.  That one won the QT-Award for sheer quantity.  I got a whole SLEW of slightly-larger-than cherry tomatoes in a dark (almost black) color.  But, by this morning, the plant was mostly dead...
I had also planted a squash (long-since dead), and two peppers (that produced NADA).  The peppers were still "hangin' in there" as of this morning, but no signs of flowers and not a chance-in-hell of ever getting any peppers...  And, in the center, my "volunteer" peach-tree - which turned-out to be from the rootstock of Roger's Yellow Peach-Tree (can't recall the variety).  The rootstock peaches are "barely edible" so, Long-Story-Short:  It is HISTORY!

I did manage to salvage a few 'maters from the plants before I ripped 'em out:

Black/Red in the foreground came from Indigo Rose
Orangy-Reddish in the rear came from Colin Copia
(Clearly NOT a Copia - but that's okay!)

So here is the Finny Farm as of this afternoon:

:::GASP::: Empty!

I did get to use my Tractor-Scoot, prezzie from Beloved Hubs:

my Tractor Scoot!

Back on the subject of the Finny Farm, I had rigged-up my PlantCam to take a Time-Lapse video of the Finny Farm in Action.  Unfortunately, the PlantCam seems to have crapped-out.  I've got the individual jpgs, but have to find some video-editing software to string 'em all together.  So that video will be coming - later!

I also took at gander at the other two beds.  Artie-The-Choke is gone (but he left babies behind).  The 'maters in that bed...?  Well, Early-Girl still has a couple of greenies on her, but not sure if they'll ripen before the weather gets too chilly.  Nevertheless, I'll leave her alone, for now.

And the Paste-O-Rama bed?  

Home of the "Volunteer" Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato - tall plant in the back
(Winner, this year, for sheer tonnage!)

Yeah, the Paste-O-Rama bed is definitely still "hangin' in there" with lots of green tomatoes which, hopefully, will ripen soon!  I'm leaving that bed alone, for now.

And, surprisingly, I do see some Paste Babies *finally* showing some signs of life:

Speckled Roma - Tomatoes #2 & 3
Better late than never, right?

And a freaky-lookin' Jersey Devil...

Amish Paste and San Marzano did *NOTHING* this year.  So my hopes of making and preserving GALLONS of pasta sauce never came to fruition.  "Oh, well!"

Anyway, I figure clearing ONE bed was productive enough for one day!  

Maybe tomorrow (maybe later next week), I'll start amending the beds, and seeding for my "Cool-Season Garden."  I'm planning on attempting more cabbages, and kohl crops.  Beets were kinda fun, last spring.  I also attempted turnips (but I don't think I harvested anything!).  And I'll definitely plan on planting something "Nitrogen-fixing" - most likely Sugar-Snap Peas...

And I'll do lettuce and spinach in my Patio-Planters again (closer to the back-door, and more likely to be harvested for dinner-salads, right?!)

Anyway...  On the one hand, it's sad to see the Summer-Garden go.  But, on the other hand, it'll be interesting to see if I have BETTER luck with the fall garden this year...

Soooooo....  That's the Latest from QT's Garden.  Fingers crossed that I can get a step-closer to a year-round garden, right?! (If not, there's always the Farm-Share!!!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Never eat anything you've named...(My dirty little Vo-Ag Secret!)

Okay, this post might end up being a little (okay EXTREMELY) "rambly" but Deal-With-It, k?!!

I'm gonna spare you ALL the gory details, but I ended up serving a 2-year "sentence" in God's Country: West Jordan, Utah.  This was in the mid-70's - shortly after my grandpa had died - and West Jordan was mostly comprised of Cow-Pastures, right?

Now, it's mostly cheesy 'toilet-paper-and-duct-tape' (read: Low-Rent) Insta-Housing-Developments.

So I thought I would try to embed a "Let's Go Back In Time!" kinda video from Wayne's World.  Couldn't find one, but I found this and found it utterly amusing.  Totally unrelated to my post (other than the "Doodle-Oodle-Ooh" Flashback sequence), but still funny enough to post:

So yeah, let's go back to The Seventies!  Abba, Roller Disco, Farrah Fawcett haircuts, and Bell-bottomed jeans!  "Far-out, man!"

So I had been sent to go live with my dad, on a farm we inherited from my maternal grandfather.  The house was teeny-tiny.  2BR/1BA, and the second bedroom was BARELY big enough for a twin-sized bed, but the house was situated on one acre of land, with lots of neat old barns to explore, and was surrounded by another 17-18 acres (or so) of pasture land (owned by my uncles - and leased-out to a beef farmer, so he could fatten his herd).

Initially, I was only supposed to spend the summer there.  And while it was supposed to be ("Punishment?") (a means to "get me away from the EVILS of California?") (Most likely, it was just to get me out of my mom's hair!), it turned out to be pretty good times.  I was always a "Daddy's Girl," so all that time - just Me and My Dad - was actually very cool!

The back-story behind that (Remember the Blog-Name: "QT's Random Ramblings") was that Dad decided to take early retirement from his job (27 years with United Airlines) - withOUT consulting Mom first!  Mom (who, at the time, was a total B*tch on Rollerskates) was none too pleased with Dad's decision (she was still working, and was the major breadwinner), so Dad got "exiled" first - when grandpa died and left us this property.  Then, since *I* was entering puberty and was just beginning to show signs of "rebelliousness" (I know, hard to believe - right?!), I was exiled to God's Country shortly thereafter...
I actually have lots of cool "Utah Stories" - but I'll try to stay focused because there actually IS a point in here - someplace!!!

So I spent the Summer of 1977, exiled in West Jordan, Utah.  The original plan was that we would move-back to California in the fall.  But dad and I found that we really rather enjoyed the "Country Lifestyle" and we started acquiring a bit of a menagerie while we were there.  I think it started with Chiquita - a puppy we got at the local shelter.  She was supposed to be a dachshund mix, but her legs just kept growing-and-growing.  We think she was a chihuahua/min-pin mix (Goofy, nervous little dog!).  We also acquired Patches, a dachshund-dalmation mix (body, coloring, head, and stupidity of a dalmation - with squatty-little legs - more like a basset-hound in size/conformation).  But Patches was not (and could not be) housebroken, so we put a "Free Dog" sign out at the end of our driveway and someone (mercifully) took her away.
Next: Since we were on a farm, we thought it would be cool to get chickens for eggs, right?  We looked thru the newspaper (this was LOOOOOONNNNG before the internet), and picked up a couple-three white leghorn hens.  We brought them home in a large box, tucked into the back of our 1974 Pinto Squire Station Wagon ("Stylin!"):
Yes, ours was like the car on the right - only a darker brown!

As we were driving home, we heard a couple-three "clucking frenzies" coming from the back of the car.  And, by the time we got home, the hens had laid THREE eggs! "SCORE!!!"

Those, by the way, were the ONLY eggs we ever ate.  See, even though we had chickens, we didn't realize that hens needed "designated nesting boxes" in which to deposit their eggs.  From that day forward, the hens would lay their eggs "wherever" and - by the time we discovered them - we had NO clue how long they'd been there -and were scared to eat them!

And, while we're on the subject of chickens, we found another chicken farm - closer to home - that specialized in all kinds of "fancy breeds" and had lots of bantams.  I, being a City Girl (and utterly clueless!), was always drawn to the "Prettier" birds and dad, equally clueless, would buy whatever I chose - right?

I'm SURE the people at that particular farm were THRILLED whenever us "Stupid Californians" would come by to purchase chickens because we, invariably, ended up taking home most of their roosters!  

I couldn't tell you what the rooster-to-hen ratio was.  Let's just say it was WAAAAY the hell out of whack (I want to say we probably had about 5 roosters to 1 hen!) (x appx 35 chickens, total), and - by the end of spring - the poor hens were literally BALD from having been gang-raped by all the roosters!

But we sure had a pretty flock!

(And mom - a born 'n bred farm-girl - would just roll her eyes at the ridiculousness of it all).

We also acquired a couple of goats, some geese, and ducks.  And ultimately I achieved my Life-Long DREAM of getting My Very Own Horse! (That's a separate story.  Not sure if I ever blogged about it - but if I didn't - I'll post it another time)...

Well, long-story-short (Too Late!), we ended up with SO many animals, moving back to California for the school-year was no longer a viable option.  We decided to STAY in Utah...

So I ended up going to West Jordan Junior High (and - by the time I graduated - WJJH developed a reputation of being THE place to go if you wanted to score, umm, "Medicinal Herbs!")  (Of course it wasn't called THAT, back then - but you get the idea!) (And I claim no personal responsibility for ANY of that, but I won't deny that I may have "participated!").  And then, the following year, I went to Bingham High School...

Now, I was an Uber-Geek in California (Long before "Geek was Cool," k?).  You know that super-ugly, fat, greasy-haired, four-eyed, "Fatso" kid that everybody picked-on?  Yeah, that was me!  

...And now that I had a "fresh start" in a new state, I wanted to shed my old persona...  While I wasn't ugly (with too-short "floods" pants) anymore, I was still a wee-bit chubby, and yes, I still had glasses.  But the braces were gone, and I wasn't quite so greasy-haired, and I was a bit more Worldly and Wise (for a 15-year old) (I was still stupid as sh*t  - in retrospect!).

In Utah, I found the schools to be unbelievably clique-ish.  And there really wasn't a specific clique that I fit-into, readily.  But that was okay, because there were enough of us "misfits" to create our OWN clique, right?!

The two groups that I aligned-with, most closely, were the "Stoners" and the "Cowboys" and, unfortunately, those two cliques appeared to be Mortal Enemies.  Well, the band of misfits ended up being sort-of a mashup of "Stoner Cowboys"  and that ended up being pretty cool.

(In fact, I learned how to roll joints in Art Class.  A fellow "Stoner-Cowboy" Misfit taught me how to roll joints - using shavings from the pencil-sharpener in Art Class, and we'd leave them strewn-about in the "Stoner Hallway!")...

But I digress...  And YES, there is a "point" coming!  I promise!!!

So, yeah, I became a "Stoner Cowboy" and - somehow - both groups (Mortal Enemies, as previously noted) came to accept our "Mash-up" clique.  Okay, they didn't "embrace" us - but they didn't kick our @$$es, either.  So I take that as "Acceptance!"

And somehow or other, I ended-up joining the Future Farmers of America - and I probably took a Vo-Ag Class or two (can't recall, offhand).  Part of that endeavor was that I decided I wanted to raise a steer to sell at the County Fair.  And that fit in, just fine, because I had befriended "Stan," the cool old geezer-guy (who leased the surrounding 18-acres from my uncles for his beef herd).  I'm pretty-sure he's the one who hooked me up with my hereford calf.  No clue (at this point) who "financed" the purchase.  I've actually got it stuck-in-my-head that FFA actually paid for it (with the understanding that I would pay it back when the steer, ultimately, got sold).  But it might've been my parents...

Anywaaaaaayyyyy...  In addition to the dogs, and chickens, and ducks, and geese, and goats, and horse, we added a hereford steer to the menagerie!  And Dad was totally cool with all of it (Dad had a KILLER Veggie Garden, as well!).  So I set-about raising "Boogie" (yes, it was the '70s - so "Boogie" was an appropriate name.  Shut UP, k?!) while training my horse, and feeding the other critters..........  It was a simply GRAND time - seriously!!!

And, even though I still had lingering "visuals" of the 4-H kids, at the San Mateo County Fair (in California), snuggling-up and crying into their critters' necks - the last night of the fair, I figured I could do the whole "Raise a Steer" thing...
And so I persevered............

Of course, I managed to get in my own share of trouble - in the meantime (details *not* forthcoming!).  And the overall stress got to be a bit much for my Dad...

Long Story Short (Oh, we are Hell and GONE from that!), Dad ended up having a heart attack (he survived).  Mom and Sis would've had me believe it was All My Fault - but (judgement aside - "It was what it was"), we ended-up having to pack-up the Pinto and drive back to California in a damned hurry.  Friends and neighbors took care of the critters for a few weeks/months after we'd left - but ultimately, the critters had to be dealt with.

And mom flew back to Utah to handle the "dealing with" of the menagerie....

The chickens, I have no clue what happened to them, but I'm guessing they were all given away.  Ditto the goats.  The dog came back with us, in the car.  The geese and ducks had long-since died.  That left the horse (who was trailered to California - amazingly enough) (again, that's a separate story!), and Boogie, the hereford steer, who was not yet old enough/big enough for slaughter...

Mom, evidently, had tried to sell him back to the FFA (or offered to reimburse them, or whatever), but apparently that didn't fly.  We were "on the hook" for the original sales price, and FFA wouldn't take him back (and I learned all this - many-many years "after the fact").

So mom, when she returned from Utah, "coincidentally" had a couple-three suitcases full of "Fresh Beef" which was stashed in our ginormous freezer...

I wasn't stupid, though, so I took a vow of "vegetarianism" for approximately one year (until all of the "Fresh Beef" was depleted from our freezer!).
Yeah, those steaks looked *mighty* tasty (and I have no doubt that they WERE)...  But I steadfastly REFUSED to eat anything I'd named!!!
In spite of the fact that mom vehemently DENIED that we were eating "Boogie," I knew better!!!

So yeah, I can't honestly claim that "Home-Grown Beef" is better than "Store-Bought Beef" (although I am SURE that it is!).  I just couldn't see myself eating my own "pet" - ya know?!!  That just seems too freaky, right?

Now....................  Fast-Forward to 2012.................

Me and Finny are going in halvsies on a 4H/FFA Pig.  See?  The "Never eat anything you've named" Rule does NOT apply to eating something that SOMEONE ELSE has named!

So, in a couple of weeks, I'll be going to the San Benito County Fair to purchase a "humanely raised" 4H/FFA Pig which will be butchered and cut to our specifications...  I'll post more as the "Adventure" continues - but I've learned a whole lot, so far!

Anyway, I think it's time to cut this post OFF!  I've rambled plenty, right?!!

More to follow...............................................

xoxo if you've made it this far!!!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lotion/Lip Balm Recipe #2 (kind-of a recipe)

Sorry - No pics yet!  But I'll try to post 'em later (after they've setup a bit).  Although - to be honest - they're gonna look just like the pics in a previous post!!!

So I've really enjoyed the Hard Lotion Bars I made a few weeks ago.  I've enjoyed 'em so much, they are almost all gone!

And the consistency is "stiff enough" that I think they'll serve double-duty as Lip-Balm.  So I purchased some empty lip-balm tubes from eBay...

So anyway, I decided to make 'em again - but tweak the recipe just a tad - in the hopes that I might cut-down on the greasiness.  (Final results/opinions to be posted later).

Here is what I used:

1.5 oz Shea Butter (supposed to be kinda "sticky" and therefore not "greasy!")
1.5 oz Cocoa Butter
3 oz Coconut Oil
3 oz Beeswax
~1 tsp Chamomile Essential Oil
~1 tsp Tea Tree Oil
~1 TBS Aloe Vera Oil
~1 TBS Castor Oil

I melted everything in my ersatz double-boiler (1 QT glass Pyrex Glass Mixing/Measuring Cup Thingie, nested inside of a 2+ QT Saucepan filled w/appx 1" of boiling water), stir constantly.  As soon as everything was all liquidy and smooth, I grabbed a Turkey Baster to suck-up some of the melty stuff, and squidged it into a couple of lip balm tubes.

I squidged the remainder into my silicone "flower/muffin" molds.

I ended up with two lip balms, and 5 hard lotions.

They need to set-up overnight, then I'll check 'em for "setness"/usefulness.  I am HOPING they aren't as greasy as the last batch - but still smooth and soothing enough for Everyday Use on my dried-out-and-peeling-Zombie Paws!!!

I'll check back-in later - with pictures! :-)


Spotted in Wal-Mart this afternoon:

Yes, today is September 18. 
It's not even Autumn yet, ferchrissake!

That is all.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Semi-Productive Weekend (Oh Gawd, More Happy Stuff!)

I managed to wander out to the Tiki Shack *relatively* early this morning (well, around 10-ish k?!).  Got my Bisque-firing started and, as I was "on my way" I glanced at the Veggie Garden, and the Garden Fence, and started *thinking* about the chores I need to start tackling!!!

Now, had I been SMART, I would've started with the Garden Chores *immediately* after firing up the kiln! ('cuz temps were in the upper-60's/low-70's at the time - PERFECT "Yard-Chore Weather!").  Of COURSE I didn't do that!  Instead, I set-about "cleaning-up" my 24 Christmas Ornaments (Umm, *before* the Tiki Shack got oppressively hot with the kiln running!!!).  So I logged a couple hours' worth of Tiki Shack Time...  And the ornaments are now drying (slowly) under loosely-wrapped plastic.  Might start something new - might not!  We'll see!

Anyway, after cleaning-up the ornaments, I looked outside and realized that the Veggie Beds were now in FULL sun and I wasn't too eager to tackle any of my yard chores (Ooooops!).  Nevertheless, I did grab a pair of pruners and I DID hack-back the Morning Glory Vines (which were threatening to behead me as I walked thru the gate to the Secret Garden!).

Before (Sorry, no "Afters!"):

Love 'em, buttt....
They're pretty-damned "vigorous!"

I also did manage to hack-back Arte-the-Choke.  No picture, but you've seen plenty of shots of Arte's Bed.  And Arte has put-out a "pup" or two, so I expect that we'll get even more 'chokes next year! (Yay!)

And that was about as much "productivity" as my body would allow, for today!

Even though I have been walking and acting like a Normal Human Being for THIRTY DAYS NOW!!!! - I don't want to"push it" and risk a relapse!  (Trust me when I say that relapses SUCK out loud!!).

Anyway, I've got one of the raised beds clear-enough for amending and re-planting and installing the framework for the cold-frames.  That's a pretty-damn-good start, I think!

So, I'd have to say that - overall - this was a fairly productive weekend (I'll f**kin' take it!!!)

Not a whooooole lot.  But enough, k?!!

Me = Happy.  And that's all that matters! ('cuz it's All About Meeeee!!!!)


Saturday, September 15, 2012

THREE hours in the Tiki Shack!!! :-D

Ermahgerd!  Another "Happy Post?!"

Say it ain't so!!!

Yeah, Sh*t-Howdy, I am up to Day #29 of being able to walk without a cane and (Gawd, I hope I don't jinx myself!), I am actually starting to live-my-life like a normal human being!!!

Not sure what I can attribute it to...  I mean, the psoriasis is definitely still "there" (and it's too early for the Humira to be doing any good) (in fact - dammit - I feel like I'm catching a cold!)  Maybe the Chaga I started taking a couple-three weeks ago is helping to ease things a little???  Maybe my "All-Natural Hand-Made Lotion Bars?"  (No clue - but I'll take it - whatever it is!!!).

I don't sleep fer sh*t because the itching is so completely-insanely-unbearable.  And I have to wear gloves all the time.  And I have a new-found love for Dearfoams slippers! (it's really the only thing I can wear on my feet).

Anywaaaaayyyy..  Not gonna p*ss and moan about that.  It's "always there" and I just want to be able to DO THINGS to take my mind off it!

That said:  Hubs had already made plans to hook-up with his Sailing Buddy, and get out on the bay today.

"Good for you, Dear!  Have fun and Be Safe!"

Wellll, last night he was alternating between "We're gonna sail 'Balls to the Wall' and I don't care how hard it blows, or how choppy it gets, blah-blah-blah."

"Good for you, Dear!  Have fun and Be Safe!" 

(I'm sure I've mentioned my Wimpy-Sailor status in previous posts.  I am THRILLED that Hubs has a sailing buddy so he can do his macho 'balls to the wall' thing without me shrieking hysterically while clutching the nearest stanchion for dear-life!)

...But then, a few minutes later he's all "Why don't you come with us?  There's no Small-Craft-Advisory, winds are only supposed to be 5-10 knots."  So I explained that I had a bisque-firing to do, and I was really-really looking forward to logging some serious Tiki-Shack Time.

"Have fun and Be Safe!"

And, as he was up and showered and dressed and rarin' to go at, like, 6:30am, he repeated his request for me to join them (as I'm staggering to the coffee-maker, all disheveled and unable to form complete sentences).

"No thanks, Dear.  You go on and have fun.  And Be Safe!"

I think he was out the door by 8:00am, and the synapses were just starting to fire-off in my brain...

"Ahhhhhh!!!!  All alone for an entire Saturday!!!  What-EVER shall I do?!"

Well, I started out with "drudgery."  Emptying the dishwasher, paying bills, straightening the kitchen...

Then, well, I almost got overwhelmed with the ARRAY of choices of "Things To Do!"

Most of the choices were "Indoor Sports" (Canning, Jamming, Spaghetti-sauce-making, Soap-making, Lotion-making).  The Weather Prognosticators are claiming that there is a "Cooling Trend" on the way ("NNNnnnnnnoooo!!!"), so I figured I'd better get my butt outside and enjoy it while I still can!

I actually do have some garden chores that I could have (and probably should have) tackled: Hacking down Arte-The-Choke; amending the beds; seeding my fall garden; assembling my cold-frames...  But before tackling that, I wanted to load the kiln for a bisque-firing.  Friend-P had a couple of pieces she wanted me to fire, and I had several works-in-process ready-to-cook.  Definitely enough to justify a firing.  Once that got all rigged-up (with the remote-camera/Skype "temperature sensor!") I could go tackle other chores.

Unfortunately (and surprisingly!), three of my pieces weren't dry enough to fire yet.  Damn!  Granted, they *were* under plastic - but it was loosely-wrapped and the weather's been dry so...  Well, "Waddaya gonna do, right?!"  I unwrapped 'em, did a little more clean-up on the edges and loaded everything into the kiln.  I think one more day of "dry-time" should help, and I'll make sure to do a 2-hour "pre-heat" on the bisque firing, tomorrow.

Welllll...  At that point, I was already in the Tiki Shack. and I started thinking I *could* tackle my Garden Chores, but "Gee, it looks awfully HOT out there" and "Ya know, I haven't even STARTED my Christmas Ornaments for this year!"

I always make Cookie-Cutter Christmas Ornaments for all of my co-workers.  LOL - But now I've been doing it for so many years I can't remember what I've made in years' past!!  I know I did plain stars, one year; Teddy-bears the next (each with individually hand-painted faces, and bellies and paws - NEVER AGAIN!!); Margarita Glasses (Strawberry and Lime) with "glitter" salt on the rims; Red Hurricane Cocktails another year; I think I did Flip-Flops last year.  There might have been some that I can't recall right now - but I know one of my coworkers does have all of the ornaments pinned to the wall of her cube, so I may go snap a picture - next time I'm in the office (mid-November!)...

Well, this year, I want to Keep-It-Simple - but Cool...  I started going through my VAST collection of cookie cutters and came up with this Inspiration:

Looks a little odd, yes...  But there is a Method to my Madness!

And here is what I cranked-out:

24 Christmas Ornaments

It got to be a little mind-numbing, after awhile (especially after scrawling "NAN 12" on the back of every damned one!  But that's "Production" for ya!

Oh, and I'm gonna share my Super-Duper Top-Secret tip for making hangy holes:  I use a plastic drinking straw which I spray with WD-40.  Smush the straw through the clay where you want your hangy-hole to be. Works like a charm.  The clay ends up in the straw, but you can keep repeating it over and over again.  I hangy-holed all 24 ornaments (which are just under 1/4" thick) and filled half the straw.  When you're done, just throw the straw away!

I'm pretty happy with how they look, so far.  I've got some clean-up work to do (want to neaten the ovals a bit).  My PLAN is to incorporate glass into the ornaments.  I have never tried that before, but I found an interesting article on Lakeside Pottery's site.  I've ordered some glass from the place Lakeside recommended: ASG.  

I have NO clue how - or even IF - this is gonna work.  But I'm envisioning doing LUG all around the "outside" (and back-side) of the ornaments, and melting glass inside of the ovals.  I'll follow Lakeside's firing instructions - to the letter - and hope/PRAY that the planets align and the Kiln Gods are smiling on me!  I know that the glass and clay will have different COE's (glass-fused pottery would never be Food-Safe), but I'm hoping for a very pretty, crackly, shimmery effect!

I will definitely post a follow-up once they're done, even if - Gawd-Forbid - it is a complete failure.  Let's hope it's an amazing success (but I'm not hedging my bets - I'll be kiln-washing my shelves HEAVILY before I attempt a glass-fuse firing!).

Anyhooooo...  I spent THREE HOURS in the Tiki Shack this afternoon and I feel like a New Person!  

Now I am lazing at the Tiki Bar, with requisite Margarita close-at-hand.  It's turning into a pretty-pleasant afternoon.  Hubs just called to tell me about his sail ("We had the boat heeled over 20 degrees!") ("EEEEK!!!" those are the words on the inside!).

"Good for you Dear, I'm glad you had fun!"

I think I'll go wander out to the garden and formulate a Game-Plan for tomorrow's chores... 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Buffett in Boise (Happy Times!)

Okay, I'm taking a break from my recent "whining" episodes.  Gonna talk about something HAPPY for a change!


"Yes, REALLY!"

And here you were feeling all superior because your life didn't suck as much as mine, huh?!  J/K!

So, I think I've mentioned - at time or two - that I am a BIG Jimmy Buffett Phan.  Yeah, the jpg from a Tailgate Party wasn't a clue, right?!

I've managed to see at least ONE show from every tour starting back in 2001 ("A Beach Odyssey").  I've actually kept a list of all the shows I've seen - but it's pasted on the wall of my cube which is - pretty much - a "shrine" to my Buffett-Craziness!  Tee-shirts and Concert Tickets and Stuffed Parrots (including a VERY LOUD, VERY VOCAL Pirate-Parrot, made in China with misspelled "Press Boton" button!), I used to have an inflatable Hemisphere Dancer plane dangling from the ceiling - but I bought that home to the Tiki Shack!...

Annnnywayyyyy, Jimmy SKIPPED California on his 2011 "Welcome to Fin Land" tour (GASP!), but we did get to see that tour in Arizona (Ashley Home Stores Pavilion is a freaking awesome venue, BTW.  Rush-hour traffic notwithstanding!).  And then, he continued that Tour into early 2012 and I got to see TWO California Shows!  And - Thanks to the Latitude 38 Parrothead Club, I got to hang out with the COOL Phreaks and even got my SECOND appearance on The Big Screen by way of the "Parking Lot Video."  Okay, that's my car - but they panned up to my face, k?!

So I got to see the "WTF" Tour three times - Yay!

Well, he has since started his "Lounging at the Lagoon" Tour.  Haven't seen that one yet - and no more California Shows scheduled.  He's doing two Vegas shows in October - one week apart - and he usually "sandwiches" a California Show (or two) between them.  Not so, this year.  He is playing Seattle and Boise instead.

Now, given my druthers, I would've preferred to go see him in Seattle.  Maybe hook-up with "Who" - my work buddy who actually turned-me-onto Buffett in the first place.  But - I'll be flying home from Mexico that day.  I'm flying-in early enough that I could "conceivably" still hop on another plane and head-up further north.  But seriously - who wants to do that?!

Hmmmm....  Does my love of Buffett surpass my HATRED of the state of Idaho?!! (I know it's probably not fair to "hate" a state.  But I have my reasons...  And that's a long, boring story [actually several stories] that I won't share right now!).  Wellll...  Hubs has TONS of SW Frequent Flier Miles to burn, so what-the-hell, right?! Let's take a couple days off of work and fly up for the Boise Buffett Show!

Tix went on-sale at 10:00am Mountain Time, today.  Buttttt...  I am a Member of the Parrothead Club!  Wonder if any "perks" go along with that?!!

WooHOOOO!!!  Turns out that - YES! - There *are* perks for being a card-carrying member of a Parrothead Club!  I posted an inquiry to the Lat38 PHC board...  Mentioned that we were thinkin' of heading to the Boise show and "is there any chance I might be able to score PHC tix, rather than 'fight with the masses' to order tickets online?!"

Couple of phone calls, and several emails later, I have scored us preferred seating for the Boise Show!  BEFORE they went on sale to the general public!  Definite "SCORE!"

No clue exactly "where" the seats willl be - probably not front-row - but they'll surely be Very Good Seats!  And we'll be seated with the Treasure Valley Parrotheads (Like-minded Loonies!).  Seems like there might be "official" PHC Tailgate Parties, too.  But since we are flying-in the day of the show, I doubt we'll be able to join-in the madness.  Plus, I'm not sure if anyone sells "flannel-lined Aloha shirts!"  Might be useful, since I'm expecting we'll freeze our @$$es off, up there in October!

Hell, just getting to see Buffett again in October (thereby EXTENDING "My Summer") - that's good enough for me!

Sooooo....  Here's HOPING that my upcoming trip to the Dreaded State of Idaho will "break" my run of (EXTREMELY) bad-luck with that state!

Naw - I am seriously HAPPY that we scored tix and I am TOTALLY looking forward to this.

Come to think of it - I've got LOTS to look forward to (despite the "end-of-summer-blahs").
  • We've got the San Benito County Fair coming up at the end of this month - where I will be purchasing a 4H/FFA pig - and splitting the meat with Friend-Finny.

    Finny, by the way, is in the process of starting her own business!  If you are in the Silicon Valley area and want to learn how to grow your own food, Check her out!
  • Then a week later, we are flying down to SoCal to hook-up with some of Hubbie's relatives...
  • Then a week-or-so after that, College-Bud-D and I are ditching our spouses and I'm flying to Mexico for a Girl's-Only Long Weekend of looking at Artsy Fartsy Sh*t and talking about "Hormones!" (Par-TAY!!!).
  • Then a couple days after that, we're hopping a plane to Boise to see Buffett!

So, yeah, I guess it really doesn't "Suck to be me," after all!  Busy-Busy few weeks ahead of me (and GAWD do I hope this Hellish-Humira actually WORKS so I can do it all!!!)



Thursday, September 13, 2012

(Whine) I think I hate Humira :-(

So I decided "To hell with it" and I'm gonna cancel my doctor's office visit, next week, to "learn how to inject" Humira.  Puh-LEEZ!!!

I watched the video on the Humira website, and also watched a couple of "independent" YouTube Videos on "How to Inject Humira Painlessly."

I'm calling "Bullsh*t" on those videos!

Now don't get me wrong.  I am *extremely* well-versed in injecting medications, k?  In the "Early Days" of my diabetes diagnoses - with my EXTREME case of insulin-resistance - I was taking upwards of 15-20 injections of "standard" insulin PER DAY (NO EXAGGERATION, k?!!!).  Lantus and Novolog (or maybe Levemir and Humalog, I can't remember), in "pen" form (meaning you had to "Dial-a-Dose").  And the dosage levels were  SO high, my body wasn't able to properly absorb the insulin, right?

So now I take Humulin-R U500 (which I have to draw out of a vial, using a syringe).  It is 5x the strength of "normal" insulin - which means I only have to inject 1-2x/day.  I also take Byetta (which is in "pen" form) also 1-2x/day.  And actually, now, my diabetes is mostly under-control (Yay).

Anyway, I know ALL the tricks for subcutaneous injections (i.e. letting the medication reach room temperature, finding a nice "meaty" [read: "fatty"] spot for injecting, etc.).

So, normally I inject my abdomen with insulin and Byetta (different "sections" of my abdomen.  And there is PLENTY of abdomen to choose from!).  I'm actually not wild about "thigh" injections but, since the Humira package said I shouldn't inject in a spot that already had a rash...  Well, I had to go with my thighs.  And, evidently, there are supposed to be fewer "nerve-endings" in the thigh so it should be LESS painful, right?!

F**king WRONG!!!

So I took the pens out of the fridge and let 'em reach room temp.  Took about an hour...  I followed the video instructions on both the Humira site, as well as the "PAINLESS" YouTube videos.  So, you're not supposed to inject into "muscle," you're supposed to find a "fatty" part to inject, right?  NO SHORTAGE of fatty parts on my thighs - Trust me!!!

Well, that sh*t felt like the Fires of HELL when I injected it.  Hooooly sh*tsnacks!  And I had to take TWO injections for the first dose.  Ow-Ow-Ow-Ow-OWWWWW!!!

"Sum-un-a-BEEEETCH!  SHEEEEET!!!!"

And now I feel a little nauseous.

Man, this SUCKS!!!

I hope I don't get any more bad reactions to this sh*t.  And I'm gonna have a HELLUVA time convincing myself to "keep this up!"  Thankfully, the next dose isn't for another 8 days (and only ONE shot).  Then it's every-two-weeks after that.

IF this sh*t works, it MIGHT be worth it.  If it doesn't - I'm gonna be P*SSED!!!!

Okay.  End Rant............



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Rambly Boring Post...

The Dog Days of Summer are upon us and, to be perfectly honest, the weather has been simply delightful.  Mid- to Upper-80's - every day!  Neither too hot, nor too cold, and just-plain-pleasant for afternoon Tiki-Bar Lazing...

Work's been positively freaking insane, though, so I haven't logged nearly as much Tiki-Time as I'd like - but believe me! - I spend AS MUCH TIME out here as I can!  I definitely know that my days are numbered and I don't want to waste a MINUTE!

Nighttime is starting earlier-and-earlier.  And nighttime temps have started dipping into the 40's (!!!).  So it's actually a good thing that the pool is covered because that means we CAN uncover and use it on the weekends. Well, Hubs can, anyway!

My skin is still a f**kin' mess.  Although I think I'm breaking a new record or something b/c I'm up to, like, Day 20-something of being able to walk without a cane (FREAKING YAY!!!).  I actually have a new prescription to try - Humira - which is an immune-suppressant (Yeah, like I need that!).  Doc doesn't want me to start it 'til I come-in for an appointment to "learn how to inject."  Seriously?  I am DIABETIC (insulin-dependent even!).  The Humira comes in a pre-packaged, pre-dosed "pen" (no measuring or Dial-A-Dose or nuthin'!)  I'm almost wondering if this isn't just an excuse to charge for another Office Visit (I know, that's terrible!).  Doc is out of town this week so the soonest I can get in is NEXT week.  I'm about to say "Screw it" and just start the medication!

I am SUPER anxious for some relief from this psoriasis sh*t.  The absolute BEST I can hope for, right now, is "Barely Tolerable."  It never EVER goes away completely and - most of the time - it is "Absolutely Unbearable." (Whine-Whine-Whine!)

Yeah, I think I'm gonna go ahead and start the injections tomorrow, after hubs returns from his business trip (Just in case - Gawd-Forbid - I get some kinda nasty reaction.  I figure I oughtta have someone around if I decide to lapse into a coma or something!).

Okay, enough whining about THAT!

Garden:  Is still hanging in there.  I think I'm gonna give the Gold Medal to Indigo Rose for having the most (quantity) of fruit.  The "Volunteer" Kellogg's Breakfast takes 2nd place for "weight."  Not a lot of 'maters, but they are pretty damned BIG!  3rd place goes to (:::gasp:::) the Home Depot Early Girl!  Everything else just kinda floundered :::sigh:::

Arte the Choke "done good" this year.  As did my cabbages.  I definitely got a decent harvest from both plants.

And the peaches and plums were most plentiful!  It's a damn-shame that so many ended up on the ground!  My "Volunteer" peach-tree (in the Finny Farm Bed) turned out to be inedible (well, "not very tasty").  That Volunteer grew from a stick that I'd chopped off of the yellow peach-tree several years ago.  I'd grabbed one of the branches that I'd pruned and just stuck it in the ground near the back fence.  3-4 years later, it grew into a tree.  And, this year, it actually produced fruit!  Little apricot-sized peaches that were not flavorful at all, so I'm guessing it was a sucker from the root-stock.  Boo!

So THAT tree is destined to be chopped down, but I think I'll replace it with some kinda "dwarf" tree.  Either apricot or cherry - haven't decided yet (that's an early-spring decision).

The Booby-Prize (for Gardening):  Man, this is a multi-way tie!  Pole-beans got gobbled-up by the dogs just as quick as I could plant 'em!  Zukes did exactly NADA, as did the yellow squash from Home Depot (Srsly?  Who CAN'T grow squash?!  ME - That's who!!!).  Pumpkins: I have never EVER grown a pumpkin and this year proved to be no different!  And Eggplant (never tried that before).  I think the plant grew to about 8" tall (and, in fact, it's still out there).  I get flowers, but nothing else.  Peppers: Died.

Yeah, this was definitely NOT a banner year for the garden but - oh well!!!

Nevertheless, here are some Random Pictures:

Arte's Bed
Note: the "dead-looking stuff" in the middle is the artichoke plant!

Early Girl (in Arte's Bed) gets an "A" for Effort!

The Paste-O-Rama Bed (with a suspicious LACK of tomatoes!)

Finny Farm - Looks a little droopy, but it's getting plenty of water :::sigh:::

Now I *should* be hacking-back Arte-the-Choke and thinking about planting my cool season veggies right about now.  And, in fact, I *am* at least THINKING about it!  I actually ordered some "floating row-covers"/greenhouse doohickeys that are appx the same size as my raised beds.  I can't actually put them up 'til I hack down the 'maters (too soon for that!), but I can probably assemble the framework and start seeding the beds (prob'ly oughtta amend the beds, too).  I also think I want to rig-up my hydroponic garden in the greenhouse to grow lettuce during the winter...  Grandiose Plans - let's see if I can put 'em into Action, right?!!

Actually, speaking of ACTION:  I actually DID accomplish something this past weekend!  I hired "Rent-A-Son-Services" to help clean out the backyard Storage Shed.  This truly WAS an Accomplishment!  I had gotten lazy (Really?!!) and developed a Very Bad Habit of shoving stuff just inside the doorway of the shed - which rendered it inaccessible! D'oh!!!  So R-A-S-S came over and helped me PURGE the entire shed.  We set-up a couple of tables on the back-lawn and started a couple-three piles: KEEP, DONATE/FREECYCLE, and DUMP-IT!

I am happy to report that the last two categories got HUGE piles.  And, when it was all said and done, after we re-boxed the KEEP stuff and hauled it back into the shed, there was FLOOR SPACE and even a few EMPTY SHELVES!!! (YAYYYY!!!).  So now I actually have SPACE to store some of the summer sh*t in there.

My Ultimate Goal is to go through my ($211/mo) Storage Locker and start moving sh*t from there, and into the (already paid-for) backyard shed!  I think I'm gonna set some kinda crazy goal like "Go to Public Storage and purge one box per week."  At that rate, I should probably be able to get rid of my locker by 2019!!!

Actually, between Goodwill and Freecycle, I'm sure I *can* get rid of a lot of stupid stuff.

Thoughts on Freecycle:  I *like* it for stuff that's still usable.  I especially like it when I've got, like, 1-2 items to get rid of.  Easy enough to post it, respond to an email or two, and say "It's on the front porch - come and get it!" But when you've got a vast assortment of stuff?  It's kind of a pain.  Freecycle doesn't like "multiple posts" so you have to post a list of "Miscellaneous" - then deal with 800-jillion people emailing you with "I want two of your Tiki Torches" and "Is your Boom-Box still available?" "What kinda vases do you have?" and on-and-on...  Turned out, I got ONE guy who said "I'll take everything!"

Normally I do it "First Come, First Served" but in this case it was "Glory Hallelujah!  PLEASE take it ALL!!!"

And so, it's ALL GONE - Yay! But I suspect there will be more Freecycle posts in my future as I begin to tackle my Storage Locker (Gawd help me!).

And while we're talking about Grandiose Plans:  I still want to put up another batch of Corn-Apple Relish (Turns out Giordano's will still be picking corn for a few more weeks).  I do have enough corn in the fridge for another batch so - depending upon how motivated I feel after the sun goes down - I may go ahead and make another batch!  I also want to make a batch of Cranberry-Apple Jam (or Cran-Apple Sauce - haven't decided yet!).  I still need to make some Onion Jam.  I'm still contemplating All-Natural (honey or agave-sweetened) Strawberry Jam (but, thus far, I haven't encountered any migrant farm-workers on street-corners!  OTOH - I haven't been out-and-about much either!).

Annnnnddddd...  I want to attempt Soap-Making! I have retired my old, beloved Crock-Pot.  I bought a new "oblong" 5 qt crock-pot @ Big Lots (I like oblong better because most of the roasts I buy are NOT round-or even square!). I intend to make "hot process" soap with my old crock pot.  But first I need a new immersion blender (I'll retire my old one for soap-making).  I went ahead and ordered one on Amazon today because it seems highly unlikely that I'll find time to go to Wal-Mart to buy one!

I think the first recipe I will try is Goat's Milk, Honey and Oatmeal soap using ALL NATURAL ingredients (well, except for the lye - but that's unavoidable b/c I *don't* intend to make my own lye from wood-ashes!!!).  If that is a successful endeavor, then I want to try to make a "Coffee Soap."  My company sponsors a "Holiday Bazaar" (scheduled for mid-November) and I think it would be cool to sell hand-made soap-dishes with hand-made soap!  I intend to keep the Goat's Milk, Honey, Oatmeal soap for myself, but the Coffee Soap should be pretty sell-able! (Can you imagine?  Taking your morning shower with soap that SMELLS like fresh-brewed coffee?! Yummm!)

I also want to make another batch of Hard Lotion Bars.  I've almost used-up my last batch (I really, really like it!).  The last batch was pretty greasy, though (which is good for ME - not necessarily for "regular folks"), so I think I'm gonna cut-back the Cocoa Butter by half and add-in Shea Butter in it's place (which is a tad "stickier").  I also think I'm gonna split-up the batch and make one-half with Chamomile Essential Oil (which is supposed to be very good/very soothing to skin), and the other half with Tea-Tree Oil (which has antiseptic properties).  Lots of experimentation, and I'll be posting recipes as I "figure it out!"

I'm kinda posting this stuff - almost - as a "Challenge" to myself to see if I will follow-through!  No guarantees, obviously (Hell, I *still* haven't finished the Bee Saga, right?!)  (And no, I haven't forgotten! LOL) (And no, it's not "done" yet!).  I did pose the "idea" of me KEEPING the hive to Hubs (Ooh!  Fresh honey and beeswax!) and was met with a resounding "Hell NO" from Hubs.  Hmph!

We shall see if I ever make good on my word to finish-up that SAGA (I'm sure I will - just not right away!).

Anyhoooo...  That's the latest from QT-Land.  Lots and lots of rambling (hence the blog-name!), but hopefully things will stabilize - at some point - and I can go back to focusing on bona-fide CONTENT!



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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