Monthly Archives: June 2010

Quick Garden Update

Fear not, all is not work gloom-and-doom around here. When the garden is exploding with growing goodness, one cannot stay down in the dumps for long.

Porkchop and I met a fellow gardener in the community garden tonight, and we set up a fence for the green beans to grow on. While there, I snapped some photos of what’s coming in:

One of many butternut squashes. I love butternut squash!

Kabocha squash are coming in! Now I just have to figure out how to use them. I want to dry them, but I don't have a dehydrator.

Mmmmm...can't wait to roast this delicata squash.

The only watermelon so far. Hopefully many more will follow soon.

I was starting to worry about the okra, but now they're taking off. This one has little okra sprouting.

Blurry because my camera phone doesn't do macro. However, look at this cute little Mexican sour gherkin! When ripe, they will measure 1/2 - 1 inch!

green beans

Tonight's green bean harvest for tomorrow's dinner. Yum!

Look for more garden posts this weekend!

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Holding Steady

I’m here at work, and I just opened my birthday card from my coworkers (PS my birthday isn’t until next week). The front has a picture of river stones and two Gerbera daisies. Inside, one of faculty members wrote, “That’s you – the rock.”

At work, I’m known for remaining collected during stressful periods while other people lose their cool and go batshit crazy.

My secret is that I usually feel detached from my work. It isn’t my passion, so I don’t see the point in freaking out. While I admire the work of the people here, I’m not the one making headlines. To me it’s just work, and not something to stress out about. The work will always get done in an efficient and professional manner, so no need to sweat.

Today, however, has been different. This morning I could not maintain my equanimity, and my hearted pounded in anger. And the ridiculous thing is that it was all over a simple email blast!

Currently our school is in transition from one CRM to another, and this is one of our last days to use the current system. After tomorrow, there will be a few weeks during which we’re testing the new one, and therefore can’t send out email blasts.

So, I basically had yesterday afternoon and today to get out our quarterly email blast. And it was as though the stupid CRM knew that we are abandoning it. Nothing worked correctly, which is one of our reasons for switching!

I would format the email perfectly in Dreamweaver, and then copy the code to the CRM. Once there, the email would fall apart and the CRM would insert humongous spaces all over the place.

With my right eye on the verge of twitching, I worked and reworked and recreated things to no avail. I was at the end of my rope. And then someone who has never used the system said, “Well, have you tried this?” and I wanted to spit flames in the person’s face and say, “You fucking try to do it, Smarty McSmartypants!! Who are YOU to question me?!!!” But instead I said, “Well, hmmm, the system is crap and even that would be crap. The whole thing is crapped out. Crap.”

After going back to my office and watching some Over the Rhine songs on YouTube, I tried one final approach, which was to make a plain email with just a couple of logos in it.

And that’s how it went out to the masses. Plain and nothing fancy, but nothing crappily wrong. Of course, no one who sees it will know how much of a pain in the ass it was to put together. I spent 7 hours on the stupid thing, for crying out loud.

I told the IT Director that I am ready to kick the old CRM out the door and that I hate it with all of my heart.

Then I took a long lunch and leisurely strolled to the Kaldi’s on DeMun. Walking through the neighborhood of stately 1920s manses with clay tile roofs while listening to Mika’s Love Today made me feel better.

(Thanks to Porkchop for setting up my new iPod last night!)

A cranberry-and-apple salad and grande decaf iced turtle latte later, I was back to normal. Steady, equanimous, and not caring so much about work.

Still, I’ve decided to skip knitting tonight and get my psyche back in order with some laps at the Y. The pool is a good place to gather your thoughts, or to not think!

Little Victories

I spent a good part of the last two work weeks tracking down a problem…the problem being that we owe nearly $18,000 to a travel agency.

While I won’t go into the boring details, I want to stress that I did a lot of work on this whole situation: paperwork, emails, phone calls demanding answers, and phone calls calming down the travel agent. We reached a resolution last week, which resulted in duplicate paperwork this week.

When I saw the extra paperwork, I thought, grumbles! But, by good fortune, I learned yesterday that someone else would complete the paperwork! Finally, for once, not me.

Today I sent the person in question an email with needed information. I closed by asking for confirmation that this person would indeed complete the work.

This resulted in a phone call during which the person said, “I was going to do blah, but if you want to do it, you can.”

I responded with, “Well, if you’re super busy, I can do it. But, you know, it isn’t as though I really want to do it.”

Then the other person replies, “I can do it, but I’m just saying if you need to do it today, you can. It might be a few days before I can do it.”

And then I realize, you know what, I am not going to capitulate on this. The other person’s department is responsible for this situation, so no way.

Instead of following the script the person wanted, the one in which I volunteer to finish the damned paperwork, I said, “That’s fine. It doesn’t have to be done today.”

What? Is this a backbone I see?

Summer Calculus

With a heat index of around 104 today, the sultry days of summer have made an early appearance here in St. Louis. The average for this time is 86. Oh, how I miss manageable 86!

With a temperature of 92 and humidity providing an extra 12 degrees, it is time for hard-core melt-your-brain mental calculations.

I had to walk to the University Center at 12:15 today to pick up my new Metro pass. The center is approximately a quarter-mile away, which isn’t far at all unless you’re walking through hot soupy air! Given the angle of the sun and the heat index, I calculated and re-calculated how quickly I could walk while sweating the least. My fastest pace would have meant less time in the heat, but it also would have meant sweatier clothing.

Additionally, I had to take into account the hazy cloud cover that we had. While I usually walk a bit out of my way to take advantage of shade, this time I decided the extra walking time in the sluggish air would not result in less sweat.

It’s complicated math, and I feel like I should break out my TI-85.

(Do kids still use TI-85s, or did I just date myself to calculus class circa 1995?)

(P.S. The heat index just rose a degree to 105. Ugh.)

All About Food

Today has been centered around food, and it has been terrific! I love weekends with no obligations and being able to think about food, food, food.

We started this morning by going to the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, where we picked up bacon and tomatoes. We also enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches from The Big Cheese, as well as mocha and coconut macaroons from Four Seasons Baked Goods. The grilled cheese stand is new this year, and it’s a huge hit. YUM!

pesto making
Do not be alarmed by the basil leaves being burnt on the stove top.

After the market we stopped by a couple of shops in search of pine nuts. Pine nuts are expensive, yo. I picked up a bag at Jay International, and Porkchop noticed after paying that they were $20! So, um, we returned them. The deal at Schnuck’s wasn’t much better, and we ended up paying $16. If you have a cheap pine nut connection, please let me know!

When we made it home, we set out making pesto for freezing. Our basil plants have been super productive, and we have to do something with all of it!

Eight cups of basil leaves and one cup of pine nuts later, this is what we had:

pesto

Yummy pesto!

I submerged the basil leaves in boiling water because it’s supposed to help the leaves keep their color while frozen. We’ll see. So, after the pesto was processed, I put it in ice cube trays for freezing. Tomorrow I’ll transfer the cubes of pesto goodness to a freezer bag, and then we’ll be able to use it during the winter.

pesto cubes

Ready for the freezer.

I see us making a few more batches this summer.

Since we had some pesto left over, chicken in the fridge, orzo in the cabinet, tomatoes on the counter, and goat cheese in the cheese drawer, we threw together lunch pretty quickly.

lunch

I love summer lunches!

After lunch, we headed to the Soulard Farmers’ Market to grab some end-of-the-day deals. A pound of bing cherries for $1.50, 12 ears of corn for $2, and a watermelon for $2 (and pork rinds for Porkchop for $3). Obviously, none of this is local, but that isn’t the focus of the Soulard Market.

But, speaking of local, here are shots from our backyard garden:

delicious

Delicious tomato. Looks like it will be huge!

roma

Roma tomatoes looking great!

cherry

Fox cherry that self-seeded. We have 3 or 4 this year, which means lots of oven-dried tomatoes.

beans

Green beans!

potatoes

Hoping for a good potato harvest!

And now…now we’re going to a casino buffet.

No, seriously, a casino buffet. We have coupons for a free buffet, and it’s at the fancy Lumiere Casino downtown. I hear it’s crab leg night!

Slug Mating Habits

Sometimes I know I shouldn’t click a link, but I can’t help myself. When someone on the Ravelry Gardeners forum posts about watching leopard slugs mate and describes it as “cool,” I can’t help myself.

I click the link.

And now I’m worried about walking into a pair of slugs, their penises intertwined, suspended from a tree by a mucus string.

(Fortunately, these slugs aren’t reported as living in Missouri. But if we cross the river into Illinois, I’ll be sure to watch out for mucus-suspended mating slugs.)

Comparison and Conundrum

When Porkchop left last Friday for her Disney trip, this is what I purchased at the grocery store for my time alone: a whole free-range, sustainably raised Greenwood Farms chicken; pepper Goatsbeard Farm goat cheese (the best!); jasmine rice; and lemongrass.

I’m going away this weekend to visit my parents. This is what Porkchop purchased at the grocery store for her time alone: a 6-pack of Bud Select, a steak, Chicken Voilà, and little chocolate donuts.

To each, her own.

Conundrum

Porkchop and I have a 5-year plan that includes being credit card debt-free. We also need to get one wall of our house tuckpointed this summer to stop moisture seepage and water damage. This will cost around $3,000 (and that’s without waterproofing). This is a good chunk of our savings.

We also want need to buy a new desktop computer. Our current iMac is from 2001. If we try to put the new Adobe Creative Suite on it, it will come to a grinding halt. And possibly burst into a fiery mess.

And I want to take a couple more classes this year, and Porkchop will probably play ice hockey.

BUT…I also really want a new bicycle. I’ve wanted one for a while, but last summer I told myself that I maybe I would get one next (this) summer. But the new expense of tuckpointing kind of ruins this, now doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, I let myself get carried away the other day, and we went to the Trek store and I test rode this little bike:

Perfect size, perfect color.

It’s a basic hybrid bike, and on the lower end of the price scale, but still a little over the $500 mark. And it would require other expenses: rack, panniers, new seat, and foot cages (or bike shoes and different pedals, but cages are cheaper and okay with me). I would also want to purchase a couple pairs of bike shorts. Because, you see, I want to take a bike trip on the Katy Trail. I want to either bike to Columbia and take the Megabus back, or bike on to Sedalia and take the Amtrak back to St. Louis. Such a trip would require panniers and bike shorts, of which I have neither.

The biggest requirement of the trip is a new bike. I love my current bike, but my love is really a result of nostalgia. I purchased my bike 12 years ago, and it took me through college with nary a flat. It also took me on many 40-mile bike rides on the Katy Trail around Columbia. For a couple of years, I rode my bike every day.

But now Dusty (my bike) is old and tired. And heavy! At least 4 times heavier than the bike I test rode, and I feel it every time I carry Dusty out of the basement. She also has some bent gear teeth and other idiosyncrasies.

Everything points to a new bike, with the big exception of our budget.

Boo for budgets and trying to be responsible.

New Food on Grand

It’s Porkchop’s first night back in town, so I bowed out of knitting and we grabbed pizza and ice cream on Grand. Both establishments are new, and both hit the spot.

Slices so big you have to fold them.

First up, National Pizza (I’m giving them a break on the website that still contains placeholder text because it’s a small operation and very new). Doors opened this past Friday, and the pizza is fast and fresh.

The hook for this place is that they serve St. Louis, Chicago, and New York style pizzas, the owner having worked in pizza joints in all three cities. Porkchop and I each enjoyed a slice of New York style pizza. And by slice, I mean a quarter of a pizza. I ordered mine with tomato, bacon, and spinach, and was more than pleased.

What better to follow pizza than ice cream, especially when it’s good ol’ Central Dairy?? Nothing!

Tower Grove Creamery recently opened in the corner shop at Grand and Arsenal. This is such a busy corner, I don’t know why things can’t stick.

Tiger Tracks! I have school spirit when it's in ice cream form.

When we lived just a few houses down from the corner, it was a flower shop, then a clothing store that lasted two days, and then a ridiculously expensive ice cream chain based in Boston (Emack and Bolio’s). And now ice cream is back!

Guess what Boston? We don’t need your $10 ice cream cones! We have Central Dairy! At the Central Dairy ice cream shop in Jefferson City, cones are $1.00. Or they were when I was at Mizzou. However, I didn’t mind paying the $3 for a single scoop waffle cone at Tower Grove Creamery (after the Emack and Bolio prices, this was a steal). I enjoyed my Tiger Tracks very much, and we’ll be sure to be back for more ice cream this summer.

(Two things disturb me in the ice cream photo: 1) I’m clutching my napkin like my life depends upon it, and 2) When did my neck get so veiny? Do I always look like that when I eat? So very disturbing.)

Two new great places on Grand! Check them out!

Behind Already?

As I was gardening this past weekend, I kept thinking, things are really ahead of last year, aren’t they?

But, in looking back to last year, I was wrong!! Last year I already had baby tomatoes, and apparently all of my tomato plants were already as tall as me!

We have some tomato flowers, but some of the plants are still little. Really little. As in a foot tall.

Darn, there I was feeling happy about the garden, and now I’m shame spiraling.

This is why you should never look back in your blog archives.

No Thinking or Resting, only Doing

When I’m by myself, I like to stay busy. Well, I like to keep busy when other people are around, but they usually want to talk or some other silly stuff, so it slows down my need for busy-ness.

This past weekend, Porkchop was gone, and is still gone doing nonsense like this:


Yeah, she’s at Disney World. She drove down with her older brother and his family. I declined the invitation because I really do dislike Disney World. Also it’s June. In Florida.

So, I’ve been keeping busy.

On Saturday, I biked to the Tower Grove Farmers’ market and hit up the free yoga class. I also picked up some strawberries for jam-making and green onions. After lunch and a supply run for canning lids and sugar, I made four jars of jam (sorry for the poor photo quality; all pictures were taken with my phone camera):


After making the jam, I had to do clean-up, which I do not enjoy. And then it was out to the garden for pruning and tying tomatoes, and then to the community garden for weeding and scoping out work for Sunday.

This is the star tomato plant in our backyard garden:

I have high hopes for this quick-growing plant!

Sunday, I awoke bright and early and started the day with making tea…compost tea. Our tumbler has holes that allow compost juice to collect in the base. You just unscrew the cap, dump it out, and mix it with water (1 part compost juice to 10 parts water). It is highly nutritious for plants, and can be one of the most foul things ever.

Our compost is kind of ripe at the moment, and the compost juice stunk to high heaven. I’m not a delicate person, but I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. The slugs didn’t help, especially the dead slug floating in the juice. While I was mixing up the tea, I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever smelled. (Note foreshadowing.)

So, my work in the community garden started with weeding the tomato bed and hauling in compost tea for it (two trips down the alley carrying one of those pails that holds 40 pounds of cat litter). The day progressed to working on the potato bed. I added the second tier and filled it with as much dirt as I could before my back started protesting:


I then staked and tied as many tomato plants as I could using my stakes from last year, as well as some that I found lying around the community garden. After that, I planted green and black beans. Finally, I ended my day with installing a fence in the cucumber bed. The little sour gherkins are desperate for something to climb! And, who knows, maybe the big cucumber plants will use it too. Nothing fancy, just fencing left from last year:


In between all of this work, I did a lot of weeding. In total, I spent about four hours in the community garden.

I’m still impressed by the squash plants. HUGE!


And the cantaloupe vine already has flowers!


After garden work, I did some clean up around the house. This included dumping a bin that Porkchop had filled with leaves and left in the basement doorway (yeah, I’m looking at YOU, Porkchop!). The bin had filled with water and was even sprouting some sunflowers from the bird feeder seed. So, this bin had been sitting around for at least a month, growing fouler with each passing day. When I picked it up, dozens of mosquitoes flew out of it. Great – not only was it sprouting sunflowers, it was breeding mosquitoes. I drug the bin to the back corner of our yard and dumped it. And the stench that arose was THE most horrible smell EVER. EVER!!!

When I went out in the yard to do other stuff, I would get a whiff of the smell and hope that no one else could smell it. Our neighbors already think we’re strange, and I don’t need another mark against me. But, honestly, who could NOT smell that smell? Even with a nose swollen on the inside from allergies, I could smell it with no problem. Ugh… On the bright side, the leaves should be a wonderful addition to the compost bin (after they’ve dried out some and are less stinky).

Once the outside work was taken care of, I settled inside and poached a chicken. Using the stock and the dark meat, I made chao xa ga (Vietnamese version of chicken congee). For the past month or so, I’ve been craving a simple chicken and rice dish that my mom used to make, but I wanted it to be a little different. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was what I had been tasting in my head. The whole process took quite some time, but it was well worth the effort.

With the rest of the chicken, I made a pesto-ish chicken salad that I had for lunch today. I also froze two cups of shredded chicken and 8 cups of chicken broth (and that was after using 9 cups for the recipe!). If you’re looking for good poaching directions, I suggest this post. Seriously, use a whole chicken that was raised locally…don’t buy cut up parts at the big grocery store. After driving through Tyson country in Arkansas, there is no way I can buy that crap ever again. Ever smell a commercial chicken house? It’s filth. Pure, unadulterated filth. Chickens are not meant to be raised in that manner. Now that I think about it, commercial chicken houses smell even worse than the gross leaf bin did.

Anyway….I also had a special treat yesterday from the Mud House: an iced caramel latte (decaf) and a piece of gooey butter cake. The cake had cherries in it from trees in our neighborhood. Nice! Now I want to plant a cherry tree for sure!

That’s it! Have a great week!