Friday, April 30, 2010

Greasy concerns

I went with my son and grandkids to the city park today.   The weather was perfect, the kids (and I) had lots of fun.   On the way home, one of the kids blurted out of nowhere, "go to Florida, grandma."   Then both of them explained that they need me to go and get some more shells; "at least 3 different kinds," my granddaughter specified.    I guess I'd better figure out how to plan a trip, it's totally out of my hands.

The truth is, I am worried about how the BP oil spill will affect Sanibel.   I am already scouring the web  to see if they are calling for volunteers, wondering if I can swing a trip if they need willing hands to help with a clean up.     I want my family to see the island I love on our trip in December, and - selfish as it sounds -- it scares me that some greedy oil company might rob us of that.     I want them to get this spill resolved quickly, so that I can just worry about hurricanes again!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Freeze warning

Our weather is still very back and forth.   One day it is 80 degrees, the next night we have another freeze warning.   A couple of the things I dared plant died of the cold.    But I didn't, and most of my plantings survived, too.   I planted a bunch of lilies and liatris today, which also meant that I had to weed and prepare places for them.    Awhile back, Dr. Cranky gave me a garden bench to sit or kneel on while I weed, which I used for the first time today, and it made such a difference.    I told him it's the best gift he's ever given me, and he was so proud of himself.    I am a newbie to the gardening world, and I realized today when I was walking around the neighborhood that one weedy looking plant I pulled was not, in fact, a weed, but a bleeding heart.   It might have been flowering by now, as my neighbor's is, if I had left it to grow.    Pity.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Garage Sales

Although I live in a city, it is a far more rural location than my old house in a suburb.   We went to several local garages sales this weekend, and this is what I bought.    The homeowner gathered the last egg while we were shopping.   Another house had local maple syrup.   Gotta love it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bee keeping class - hiving the new bees


Here is a picture of me trying to look brave and nonchalant.  How'm I doing?   I've probably said this before, but each bee makes approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.   No wonder they occasionally get a little irritable.     You've gotta respect the little darlings.    I spent my class-time sending out as many calm and loving vibes as I could muster.    Between that and my superman suit, I was invincible.   

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Winter again

It dropped down to 33 degrees last night and today is dreary and cold;  it feels like summer is over already.    A good day to bake bread.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring break

Although it is still quite cool at night, it's definitely time to get my gardening area ready.   I put together 2 of my 3 "easy to assemble" raised gardening containers today.   I was exhausted by tthat pretty simple task so I decided to spend more time thinking, before I put the last one together, about exactly how to place them -- I am getting much better at making shabby excuses for my slacker tendencies!    Each one of these areas will take 130 quarts of soil to fill, plus the potato area and a large pot for peas and herbs -- and since I can't carry the big bags, and since there is no clear path from my driveway to the garden where I could use a wheelbarrow, it might be the end of summer before I finally purchase, carry and dump all of the necessary bags.   On my next break, perhaps, I should start planning what I will plant once I finally break ground in 2011!   This seemed like such a good idea when I planned my garden in the dead of winter!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Life's little questions

Why do I always decide to try new recipes when people are coming to dinner?    I guess it's because my family is the best test kitchen around!  Or maybe just because I am an idiot, although I prefer the term "optimist."

One of my latest attempts is Torrone, the Italian nougat candy.    My sister and I loved it as children and I brought her samples from every stop when I went to Italy.    I've always wanted to make it myself, and figured it would have to be even better than store bought.    I just didn't figure it was going to be an all-day-deal.     It took hours to boil the half-sugar-half-honey, over the lowest flame possible on my gas stove,  to the desired temperature -- in fact, after the first couple of hours, I was so sure that my thermometer was broken, that I pulled out ice water and double checked the old fashioned way, eating the little samples as I went along . . . soft ball, hard ball, soft crack, hard crack .. . delicious!   But it was supposed to reach 315 degrees, and it just plain didn't. 

Meanwhile, I was afraid to start any of my other tasks -- I did a few things; cleaned the green beans and finished cleaning the asparagus, baked the sweet potatoes for a casserole, and pureed the from-scratch hummus until I was happy with the consistence.    I mixed up the bread dough and set it to rise.   I put together the marinade for the pork loin.    But I didn't make the easter cake because I kept expecting to need my mixer for the Torrone any minute.   I didn't finish painting because I couldn't leave a pot of boiling honey unattended.   I didn't go outside to plant the daylilies, or to take a walk, for the same reason.    I didn't clean the house because -- well, I guess I actually could have done that but I didn't feel like it.

Finally, after 5 hours (seriously), when the syrup was starting to have a burnt sugar taste, I decided to give up and go ahead and drizzle the beyond-boiling, very thick chestnut-colored syrup into beaten egg whites, and flavor it with orange blossom water and almonds.

And then I had to knead it before pouring it into the pan I had lined with edible rice paper.    Now it has to sit for at least 8 hours before I can cut it, but I can already tell that it doesn't taste like the Torrone of my childhood.   For one thing, it isn't as sweet -- how can that be, when it's nothing but honey-sugar syrup and egg whites?     There is nougat on my jeans and in my hair.    And you should see my kitchen, smeared all over with gooey sugar paste.

Which I absolutely do not feel like cleaning.    Especially since I have a million other things to finish up, and a farm in FarmVille that needs tending (gotta keep my priorities in place).

And as soon as I was done, the power went out, which put an end to the idea of vacuuming and baking, since there was no way I was going to whip 12 eggs into still peaks by hand.

If anyone has an Italian grandmother with a better recipe or a few good tips, though, I'd be willing to try this again next year!