Monday, December 28, 2009

Garden in December

We test drove Rick's new little camera at the Missouri Botanical Garden today. The Garden has half of their parking lot closed for renovation. With a crowd to go to the holiday train show, the parking lot was full. We parked on a side street. Other than the train show and the restaurant, the Garden was pretty quiet.

The camellias are starting to bloom in the Linnean House, so we want to go again soon.

Here I am in my wool coat, petting one of the new pair of lions along the path to the Chinese Garden.

And here's Rick in his new coat, next to the witch hazels he likes in the Chinese Garden because they have been pruned to look sculptural in the winter.

We were impressed with the winter showiness of the Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) -- red berries and green leaves in December!

More photos on my flickr page.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Sunday Postcard Art chose St. Nicholas for today's theme, of course! So, I dusted off my rusty Photoshop skills.

St. Nicholas from Vintage Santa/Christmas Postcard scanned by Suzee Que and posted on flickr.

Everything else from a collaborative scrapbook kit called White Christmas by Ziggle Designs and Pixel Geek Designs.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Little Wishes

There are still lots of wonderful gifts to give to foster children in the St. Louis area available at the Little Wishes website. Check out the Activities -- you can, like I did, give a child the experience of visiting the City Museum!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The End of Overeating

It's been more than two months since I read The End of Overeating by David Kessler and I haven't had a candy bar, potato chip, or nugget of orange chicken since then. I have cut out commercially processed foods before, most aggressively after reading Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food, but this feels permanent. If I do slip again, I'll re-read The End of Overeating and expect to be reinvigorated in my conviction that abstinence is the only way for me to cope with an eating environment that caters to my worst instincts.

The book finally convinced me that what I'm experiencing in relation to doughnuts, bacon cheese burgers on toasted sourdough, and french onion dip is addiction. And that addiction has been carefully orchestrated by the food industry's ever new creative ways of inserting more fat, salt, and sugar into the foods they process as well as sophisticated marketing techniques that have conditioned me to think that I deserve a break and an edible treat is just the way to get it.

Getting angry at the food industry helped, mostly because it gave some energy to the idea that I need to set some rules for myself about eating. Normally, the notion of rules pulls out my inner teenage rebel and the whole endeavor goes down in fiery turmoil. But with anger at the food industry at the root of this, my inner rebel had a different way of looking at things. My rules help me subvert the conditioning of the food industry while asserting my will. My inner teenage rebel likes being subversive and independent.

The rules that made the biggest difference for me were "No eating in the car" and "No eating anything purchased from a drugstore or gas station." Kessler points out that each person reacts differently to the stimuli in our environment, so my rules may not help someone else overcome their conditioning by the food industry.

The End of Overeating made it clear that my environment was not supporting a healthy lifestyle. I am now carefully building an environment that does. For me, this new environment includes a constant influx of health books from the library, an almost daily presence on the forums at 3 Fat Chicks, and a commitment to eating food made from scratch in my own kitchen with very few exceptions.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why I grow basil (and you should, too)

1. It's so easy! Grow it in the ground or in a pot, outside or on a sunny windowsill.

2. It's so cheap! A basil plant will often cost you the same as a package of fresh basil at the grocery store -- and it will keep giving you more basil.

3. It's so good! We use basil all summer in cucumber and green bean salads, on pizza and pasta, in my favorite vegetable breakfast dishes.

And then, there's the pesto. For the last couple of years, I've made pesto in August and again on the day of the first predicted freeze. (There's another thing I love -- caring about the first freeze and having a traditional activity to do that day). I cut the basil back to a third of it's size in August and there's still plenty of basil left to make more pesto when the freeze comes about ten or twelve weeks later.

Here's a picture from before I started harvesting today. The Genovese on the right is about four feet tall! The purple basil on the left is a little shorter but very lush and dense. And I thought my purple crocs looked good with all of this.

I was inspired by a recipe on Farmgirl Fare to make a lower fat version of pesto than I did last year. But I still wanted to incorporate the traditional ingredients that were in last year's recipe from Simply Recipes. Also, I leave out the salt and cheese because I prefer adding those to the final dish rather than to the pesto. So, here's the recipe I used today:

3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 ounces basil leaves (Farmgirl says this is about the same as 4 packed cups -- it's easier to weigh)
6 Tablespoons olive oil

In the food processor, coarsely chop the garlic. Then add the pine nuts and basil, processing to the consistency you like. Scrape the bowl down once during processing. While the processor is running, add the oil a little at a time through the chute.

As I described last year, I prefer a quantity that gets me enough pesto to fill two ice cube trays (once they are frozen, I pop the cubes out and store them in freezer bags to use all winter) and a little extra for immediate use. This recipe didn't quite fill one tray, so next time (tomorrow?), I'll triple the recipe. That will be a pretty big project. Today's adventure, though, took less than an hour. Tripling it is unlikely to triple the time although most of the effort goes into removing the leaves from the stems.

Of course, the first question when encountering a recipe like this is "how much basil do I harvest to get 4 ounces?" I don't have enough experience to know, but I got lucky. This is our second largest bowl (we only use the largest for making stuffing for very large birds). Overfilling it with cut basil netted 4.6 ounces of leaves.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Memories and Family News

I realized last week that I may not actually remember seeing the first time that man walked on the moon. As my brother said, I remember remembering it, but that's not quite the same thing. The memory I have in my head is of a different house than we lived in during July of 1969, so I've likely mixed up a later moon walk with the first one.

A few weeks ago, Dale and I swapped some emails trying to piece together time lines of memories from our childhood. I have a slight advantage in getting things straight by being one year and three months ahead in age. Having that discussion fresh in my mind is what made it suddenly clear that I had the first moon walk memory in the wrong house.

Walter Cronkite's voice is present in my memories of the Apollo program.

This month has been challenging for what's left of my family now that our parents are gone. Dale was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in the same month that his girl friend of fourteen years, Jana, was diagnosed with heart failure.

Jana ended up in the rehab unit of a nursing home, hopefully for a temporary stint, while they work out what she may or may not be able to do now that she can't take many of the drugs she used to take for her rheumatoid arthritis. Jana's condition was critical for a couple of the days that she was in the hospital, so her current situation is much improved if still surrounded by a lot of uncertainty.

Dale's cancer is slow-growing, not aggressive, and very treatable. He's to undergo a battery of tests in the next week or so to determine the extent of the disease. Then, there will be a decision-making process about treatment with one of the options being "watchful waiting." The other options are a variety of chemotherapy regimens -- all of which are much less damaging than what I went through in 1985. With modern chemo, many people get a treatment in the morning and go to work in the afternoon, often missing very little work. The worst side effect is often fatigue.

Everyone involved is hopeful and in good spirits, most of the time, now that we seem to have turned the corner from what felt like an acute situation a couple of weeks ago to long term issues.
Collage credits: Everything from Phuong Ton's Veiled Moonlight kit except the earth which is from Tangie Baxter's Chronicles of Imagination, Chapter 3.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lee Farm Tour

The Family Harvest CSA, our source for our weekly box of produce, consists of two farms. We visited one of them today, Lee Farm near Truxton, Missouri.

Rick got a kick out of figuring out how this old planter worked, with the help of Rusty Lee, our host, and a neighbor farmer.

One of the workers is an intern who is doing experiments with cut flowers on the farm. Those rows were all blooming and pretty in late July.

We got a preview of the eggplant that we'll be getting in our box in the next week or two.

More photos on my flickr page.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Garden 7-16-2009

I'm late getting these up. I was mostly playing with reflections when we went to the Garden last week.

Here is a canna and it's reflection.

This is a waterlily with part of one of Chihuly's sculptures reflected.

And here's a bit of the Japanese Garden with reflection.

More photos on my flickr page.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Garden with company

We took Rick's nephew, Philip, and his friend, Gabbi, to the Garden today. It felt more social to not pull out the macro lens and start leaning over flowers, so I used my camera to take pictures of them.

This was an experiment in using the reflector. It's especially apparent on Philip's face that we were able to eliminate some of the shadows.

And, this is a crop of the previous photo which I quite like. Note to self: remember to zoom the zoom lens!

Monday, July 6, 2009

At the Garden, July 6, 2009

I had lots of fun playing with waterlily reflections

...and bumblebees

...and a colorful flower called sagittaria

Many more photos on my flickr page.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Garden on a Monday

I had a good time trying to capture the best bumblebee photo.

The daylilies are still blooming. I thought this one, King James, had interesting shaped stamens -- almost like an open mouth.

We spent some time admiring the containers on the steps of the Tower Grove House.

More photos on my flickr page.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pond-O-Rama 2009

We went on the St. Louis Water Gardening Society's annual garden tour this weekend. Yesterday was the hottest day yet this year, but today was very pleasant in comparison.

Day 1
We saw lots of pretty fish on the tour.

Our last stop on Day 1 was this huge set of water falls. I deliberately photographed it with people to get a sense of scale, but I'm not sure it fully worked. When Rick and I walked up to this we had the same thought: someone tried to build a National Park in their own backyard.

Day 2
We seem to like these kind of wide falls over flat rocks.

How would you like this view from your hot tub? Besides the pond, pool, and shelter below, the tree line at the top is just in front of the Missouri River.

More photos on my flickr page.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The lotuses are blooming

The lotus bloom season doesn't last long, but they are beautiful right now in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The daylilies are impressive right now, too -- a riot of colors and some pretty amazing stamens when you look closely.

Keep an eye out for honey bees around the Garden. The hive is in the Kemper Center. It has transparent sides so that you can watch the activity.

Many more pictures on my flickr page.

Art Creations Friday

The challenge at Art Creations Friday was to use this lady in an art piece. I combined that with a challenge on the Studio Matters blog to use things from Tangie Baxter's Mystery Leftovers. And ended up with this illustration of one of my life mysteries.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hot day at the Garden

Yesterday and today were hot and humid. We worked outside yesterday so we decided to play outside today. We discovered that heat really cuts down the crowd at the Missouri Botanical Garden -- many varied and beautiful things are blooming.

Here's a zinnia:

And some daisies:

And some fuchsia:

Rick declares this bench on the Mausoleum Grounds to be the coolest spot in the garden:

More photos on my flickr page.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Are you Warm?

The new Three Muses challenge blog offered us Mona Lisa as its first theme. At the same time, Scrapbook Graphics had a "frameworthy" challenge about the artist Donato Giancola. I used his work Jessamyn to inspire my piece with Mona Lisa.

Credits: Mona Lisa extracted from Studio Tangie's DaVinci kit, bird extracted from Studio Tangie's Merrie Birds kit. All papers from Tangie's DaVinci kit. Lyrics from Nat King Cole's song Mona Lisa.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New (to me) camera

When I got serious about taking photos (ie. signed up for a class), I took over R's old Canon 10D camera. We knew from the beginning that something smaller and lighter weight might be more appropriate for me but since it was a new hobby it seemed prudent to start with a camera we already owned. It's several months later and I'm still taking photos and still wondering if a lighter weight camera wouldn't work as well for me and feel better when I'm hauling it around.
R's friend J recently decided he wanted to get more serious about taking photos. He looked at the smaller cameras but his first exploration into photography happened in Vietnam when a good government-owned camera was sturdy and heavy. The new light weight cameras didn't feel right to him, but my 10D was just about perfect.

So, R went shopping for us at KEH. We had some recent success selling them used photography equipment so we were hoping that the buying experience would work well too. He found me the equivalent of a Canon Digital Rebel Xti (it actually says "Kiss" on the camera -- apparently the Rebel is marketed to women in Japan under that brand) and a lens to go with it. We sold the 10D to J at the price KEH would have paid us for it. And I have a new-to-me lighter weight camera. It's been fun to play with around the house. I'm looking forward to taking it further afield.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blueberry Monday

I have two pots of blueberries, these two patio blueberries from Stark Bros Nurseries. Stark's is in my home town and my home town can use all the help it can get!

There have been only two tricky things about growing blueberries.
  • They don't like our tap water because it's too basic. I've been giving them distilled water when there isn't enough rain, but we're looking into a rain barrel.
  • They need some protection in the winter since they are in containers. We buried the pots in a somewhat protected location on the south side of the house for the winter. And, I watered them whenever it was expected to get really cold at night -- wet soil freezes more slowly than dry soil.

I bought them last year and I'm already getting fruit! We, of course, tried them the instant they turned blue. They were tasty but very tart. I checked The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch today. She says that blueberries need to stay on the bush for a week after they turn blue. The tried and true method for harvesting is to "tickle" the clusters. Anything that drops easily into the container you hold below is ready to eat. Here was today's harvest.

Good thing there are only two people living in my house! It was the best blueberry I've ever tasted -- a perfect texture and still tart but not too tart.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Art Creation Friday -- Pretty in Pink

Girl from Art Creations Friday on June 4, 2009. Everything else from the Pinkie Promise Kit by Studio Tangie at Scrapbookgraphics and sherrieJD at Scrap Orchard.

June in the Garden

During yesterday's trip to the Garden, we saw more visitors than we usually see since we tend to go on weekdays. A combination of summer camp groups, vacationing families, the usual retired people, and wedding party photo sessions. Fortunately, the Garden is fun even when it's crowded. And there are always some quiet spots.

The irises are about done blooming -- although check out the ones by the Zig Zag bridge in the Japanese Garden if you get over there in the next week or so. The daylilies have just started.

We saw this palm during our last trip and thought it was beat up by the wind. But now it's labeled and we realized that's how the leaves are supposed to look because it's a Burmese fishtail palm.

There were a couple of these tiny turtles in the hardy pond that is currently hidden, just south of the floral clock.

Many more pictures on my flickr page.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pantry Reorganization Day

Yesterday didn't start out as Pantry Reorganization Day, although it was a project in the back of my mind. We'll probably call in New Space sometime in the next year or two to put in new shelving, but I couldn't decide whether to do a pass at reorganization first. The "pro" argument was that I might get a better end design if I put my own stamp on it. The "con" was: why should I do reorganization when I'm going to pay the professionals to do it?

Moot question, now. We had an unwelcome visitor in the kitchen this week with four little feet and dirty bathroom habits. Unfortunately, the timing corresponded with a broken door handle so the pantry door was open and we're pretty sure our visitor took advantage. I've seen worse at the cabin, but since I was thinking about reorganizing anyway, this seemed like a good time to pull everything out of the pantry, do a good cleaning, and organize as I put stuff away. The pantry door is fixed, so here goes. Here's the before picture:

First order of business: buy new containers. Every organization project should start with new containers! One of the big questions I had about organizing the pantry was whether we wanted to be the kind of people who put everything in containers or did we want to continue our current habit of rolling bag tops and closing them with binder clips or clothes pins. With a mouse in the house, the answer is obvious: containers it is.

As I pulled things out of the pantry, I sorted them into four piles by whether we used them daily, weekly, monthly, or rarely -- an organization system that I've read works well in kitchens. The only things that proved rather ambiguous were items like chili ingredients that are used weekly in the winter and rarely in the summer -- I took the compromise position and put them in the monthly pile.

Of course, the "by frequency of use" organization principle competes with another logical system, "like with like." But I'm a librarian -- I can handle "like with like." So, as I put things back I didn't always do it by frequency of use. For example, apple cider vinegar is a weekly use item. Habanero apple cider vinegar is a monthly use item -- but I'd totally forget about using it at all if it didn't sit next to the regular cider vinegar, so that's where it went.

The frequency of use system did help me identify some things that I was keeping together for no good reason. I drink reverse osmosis water in refillable gallon jugs. Part of my disaster planning is to always have at least three full jugs on hand, so I have many jugs of water. I was keeping them all together, but now I have the open one on the most convenient shelf and all the extra jugs on the floor.

And, here is the after picture!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beating the rain at the Garden

We went early to the Garden in the face of an impending rain forecast. I didn't get my camera out, much, but there are a few new photos on my flickr page, including this one:

Friday, May 22, 2009

The state of my garden

I bought more plants today, beating out the holiday weekend rush, but here's what I had before I started planting.

It's time to stop buying greens at the Farmers Market and start eating the ones I'm growing.

There are two large Genovese basil plants, here, and six small purple ones that were a bargain. I also have two rosemary, two Greek oregano, two Black Beauty eggplant, and one banana pepper.