Category Archives: garden

Big Bottom Squash

…you make my world go round!

I love this little butternut squash:

All bottom.

I’m always surprised by the unique nature of each butternut squash. They’re all totally different with their own little personalities.

Don’t worry…I don’t actually think butternuts have personalities! Just interesting features and quirks that make them special.

Speaking of special, this chocolate avocado mousse is ridiculously good. Make it. Now.

Why is this so freaking good?

I kept mine thicker like a pudding, and I wish I had bought more avocados! I only picked up one, and I wish it had been more like one dozen. I can’t wait to make this again.

In addition to making desserts with avocado, I’m also starting to put flax seed meal on things, like this salad.

I'm so healthy.

Suzi gave me my requested coffee bean grinder for my birthday, so I’m whirring away with the flax seeds. What’s next? Chia seeds? Flax seeds are probably so last year.

Tonight is my first physics class, and I’m doing nothing but dreading it. Anything but physics! Blargh.

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Sweet Temptations

Two weeks ago, I gave up sugar and caffeine. I’m also putting an abeyance (hello, GRE vocab word!) on grains and starchy foods.

Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Porkchop’s younger brother is the manager at Jilly’s Cupcake Bar.

Seriously? Thanks, Universe.

This box nearly did me in over Memorial Day weekend:

Box full of sugar and pain.

But Porkchop kept me strong, and I didn’t set myself back with cupcakes.

You might think I’m crazy for giving up sugar and other tasty treats, but I was feeling crazy while on the sugar. I mentioned some of this stuff previously while writing about going gluten-free, but I’m not sure if it’s the gluten that was bothering me. When I eat refined grains (gluten-free grains are the worst), anything with refined sugar or other sweeteners in it, dates, potato chips, corn in any form, bananas (which are super sweet), and a host of other things, I have the following problems:

  • cheeks flare up right away and remain hot for some time
  • fatigue and complete exhaustion in extreme cases
  • foggy brain that lasts for a couple of days
  • anxiety and depression
  • indecisiveness (grocery shopping while I feel bad takes forever, and I feel like an incompetent driver)
  • extreme hunger
  • headaches
  • dizziness in extreme cases
  • difficulty sleeping

After consulting with my primary care physician and an endocrinologist, the consensus is that I have reactive hypoglycemia. But this is where I part ways with the endocrinologist.

The endo suggested Celiac’s, which I doubted (and the test came back negative). When I pointed out that I have had my worst episodes after eating gluten-free grains (spelt, I’m looking at you), he declared that I’m depressed. I told him that when I eat the items listed above and start feeling bad, then yes, I often become depressed. However, I am not depressed otherwise. The endo is welcome to his opinion, but if I tell someone that sugar makes me feel bad, I can’t figure out why more credence is given to the theory that I’m depressed, rather than the theory that sugar fucks me up. At least I received a diagnosis of reactive hypoglycemia, so I can now see a nutritionist, which is what I really wanted.

Overall, I’m feeling much better, but I have my bad days, especially when I test the food waters. I had very small servings – less than a 1/4 cup – of brown rice Monday night and Tuesday at lunch, and I became utterly exhausted afterwards. Monday night, I went to bed at 8:30. By the end of Tuesday, I was so tired I was reduced to tears.

So, I’m keeping to a stripped down, low blood sugar food regimen at the moment. Here’s a typical day:

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain yogurt upon waking
  • 2 eggs around 7:45-8:00 am
  • Snack around 9:00-9:15. I often go for celery with peanut butter here.
  • Snack around 10:30. This is usually a 1/2 cup cottage cheese, maybe sweetened with a bit applesauce (unsweetened).
  • Lunch around noon. This is usually a salad of some variety, often with chicken.
  • Snack around 2:00. This might be half an orange with cheese or some almonds with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  • Snack around 4:00. This is often an apple with peanut or almond butter.
  • Dinner by 6:30. Usually meat and a vegetable, or salad again.
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain yogurt around 10:30-11:00.

I didn’t formulate this plan on my own, I found it in the Low Sugar Handbook. The book is a bit wacky in some ways, but this eating schedule works, as do the food guidelines given in the book.

I’ve also learned that sometimes I need a big injection of sugar quickly. Over the weekend, I went to an intense exercise class early Saturday morning. The rest of the day, I kept throwing food down my throat, but I couldn’t get rid of my feeling of hunger, no matter how much broccoli, peanut butter, and cheese I ate. And this isn’t gurgly-stomach hunger, it’s a full-body, about-t0-be-consumed-by-a-black-hole hunger. It’s hunger triggered entirely by blood chemistry, not the sight or sound of food, and believe me, there is a huge difference. By 4:00, I was shaking and felt like the world was going to end. I actually had to look online to figure out what to do. Two tablespoons of raisins and 15 minutes later, I was feeling better. Now I have a stock of 4 oz apple juice containers that I keep nearby in case of emergencies, and I have a half cup of fruit juice after exercising to prevent the shakes and hunger.

Other Food Stuff

Over the weekend, I made one of those power green vegetable smoothies…and I was so excited about it! Pretty:

Greeneyed monster.

I thought I would love it…but I didn’t. And I really wanted to. But I had to force the last half of it down.

What I do love is quark! No, not the software, this cream-cheesybut-better stuff from Marcoot Jersey Creamery.

Quark. My new favorite thing.

This stuff is amaaaaazing. It is especially good on this quinoa rice bread. I made a loaf of this Sunday afternoon and was enjoying quark on it immensely. But after the recent brown rice debacle, the brown rice flour in the bread is suspect. I will not be eating any more of it, sadly. Instead, I plan to make some rosemary almond meal crackers over the weekend and use the quark on that.

What Else?

The garden is growing, despite the chickens’ best efforts to sabotage it. I am hoping this year will be a bumper year for tomatoes. I’ve yet to have the “OMG I have too many tomatoes!” experience, and I want it desperately.

If you look through all the fencing, netting, and caging, you can see tomato plants. The beds are like maximum security prisons. No one in, no one out.

There's a garden behind all that fencing and netting!

And I have butternut squash in the backyard again! Grow, squash!

Welcome back, butternut!

And welcome to their friends, cucumbers:

First-time cucumber-grower.

Chicken Talk

Agnes is totally blind in one eye, and most likely very low vision in the other, thanks to the other bastard chickens. Seriously, Porkchop and I are considering offing Scout, and maybe Scooter. Scout is the most vicious hen to walk the earth, and Scooter is right there behind her. As they clamber about, they peck Agnes in the eyes.

Is it horrible that we might snuff out Scout and Scooter?

In the meantime, we’ve taken to offering Agnes shelter in the house at night. During the day, she can usually get away from the meanies, but in the coop, she’s a sitting duck (er, chicken). And the other chickens peck-peck-peck away at her head.

This is what things have come to:

Keetah and Agnes: reluctant buddies.

When we put Agnes out in the morning, she stumbles around the yard, bumping into things and walking in circles. It is so sad.

So, Scout and Scooter…who wants dinner?

Hail No!

As I get older, the more leery I become of big storms. While a younger self might have stood outside watching last night’s tremendous tornadic weather goings-on, I parked myself in the basement and listened to the hail pinging on the patio set.

I think the change happened in Madison, when we peered out of the basement window and saw swirling clouds above us, which then touched down a block away.

Anyway…between storms on Saturday, Porkchop finished the alley landscaping project. It looks SO MUCH BETTER:

Rubble pile no more.

Hopefully the phlox and nasturtium will settle in and grow big and pretty. Also, I hope this didn’t wash away during the storms last night – we didn’t check it this morning!

On Sunday, we put in our first garden installation, which you can see in the background here (PS the janky fence is our neighbor’s, not ours):

I am here to eat your food.

The trellis is for sugar snap peas, and later I’ll also plant green beans, black beans, and perhaps a cucumber or two. Under the trellis, I planted spinach and a couple of lettuce mixes. Although I’ve yet to have luck with carrots and beets here, I threw some of that in too. The rest of the bed is reserved for a tomato plant and basil.

What you can’t see is all the bird netting on the bed. If the chickens get any sprouts, I will be rather devastated. I love the chickens, but I don’t like how they’ve stripped the strawberry bed, the blueberry bush, and the rosemary plant. Grumble.

To tame the chickens, maybe we should let Keetah outside with them. This is what happens when Keetah is in the yard:

Chickens standing still. A rarity.

They stand stock-still, on alert for Keetah, that daring predator. Meanwhile, Keetah munches on weeds, which she will later throw up, possibly on our bed.

All for now!

On a Slippery Slope

As I do from time to time, I purchased a cup of decaf coffee from the little cafe at my school. But this time I put a shot of real coffee in it! It’s a slippery slope, my friends, a slippery, caffeinated slope.

I needed the extra boost because I am so tired. So much tiredness.

On Saturday, a group of us tackled our alley as part of Operation Brightside’s spring blitz. This is our block’s third year of cleaning up the alley, and while it’s fun to catch up with neighbors, the work is still hard. Especially when it’s an unseasonable 87 degrees!

After three and a half hours of cleaning the alley, we lunched on the most amazing chicken salad at the Mud Room. So much yum!

We needed the chicken salad to sustain us through the afternoon. Our neighbor Tom drove us out to St. Louis Composting, where we loaded up with a yard of garden mix dirt and a couple bags of mulch. Once back, neighbors James and Shannon helped us unload the 3,000 lbs of dirt.

All I can say is, we have awesome neighbors. I mean, does this look like fun to you?

More dirt than you can imagine!

We had enough dirt to fill up the garden beds, the strawberry/blueberry bed, the front bed, part of Tom’s backyard sinkhole, and the front bed of another neighbor. AND, we stowed some dirt in the garage for some alley landscaping. We did all of this in less than two hours!

Then Porkchop and I went to the last home Blues game of the season, which we topped off with ice cream from the Fountain on Locust.

We collapsed into bed, only to get up early on Sunday to purchase landscaping bricks for the alley project! And we planted flowers in the front and spread mulch!

Pretty planting pretties.

In the afternoon, Porkchop accompanied Tom in buying a yard of mulch from the same composting place. She also helped him unload and spread it while I did stats homework (it took two hours for me to do four homework problems!).

I also cooked lunch and dinner, and did more homework. And laundry and cleaning the bathroom!

It was the weekend of hard labor!

I’m glad to just be sitting here at work, although I would be more comfortable at home in bed.

Here’s to busy weekends and yardwork and nice neighbors!

Dirt Party

I’m out from under the conference cloud that was hovering over my work desk for the past few months. All I have to worry about event-wise this month is a lecturer on Friday, and this bigwig next Tuesday (whose honorarium is a full 2/3 of my annual salary!).

Beginning next month, I will be swamped preparing for a conference we’re hosting in China. I don’t get to go, but I do have the joy of doing prep work! The fun started with building registration websites in English and Chinese, and oh, the joy of maintaining two websites! (Fortunately we have a wonderfully capable RA who takes care of the Chinese site.)

But today, I feel terrific. It’s sunny, the air is crisp, and I received a full six hours of uninterrupted sleep last night.

I also had a cup of black tea this morning, and have been energetically unfocused.

However, I have been focused enough to round up neighbors to help me shovel a cubic yard of dirt into my raised beds! The chickens kick dirt out of the beds like nobody’s business, so I need to do a good top-up before planting.

I have shoveling volunteers, and a possible vehicle for transporting the dirt. However, can anyone volunteer a backup pick-up in case the first one doesn’t come through?? You can have fresh eggs and some dirt. And vegetables from the garden (provided it grows!).

Since I last posted, this is the most exciting thing that happened:

Professional.

We purchased new furniture for the computer nook! Our old desk was, well, old. And junky. And stupid. We were also using a dinette chair that I picked up from an antiques mall over 10 years ago. The whole setup was horrible.

The new desk, bookshelf, and chair have done wonders for our self-esteem. Now we have to figure out what to do with our junky file cabinets, but that might have to wait a couple more years.

The old furniture is now upstairs in the guestroom with the old iMac (still functioning after 10 years!). While we hated the furniture when it was downstairs, it offers me a little study area upstairs. I love having study space upstairs. Keetah snoozes in her cat bed while I try not to snooze doing stats reading.

Speaking of Keetah, she is a sucker for stomach rubs:

Keetah paralyzed by rubs. She enjoys it. Really.

Have a great week!

Spring Dreams

It’s that time of year when I start vegetable garden dreaming. This year, I’m going to rein it in a bit and keep things simple. Because, let’s face it, small realistic dreams will be more successful.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • A maximum of five tomato plants. Two roma, one black krim, one sungold, and one something else.
  • Two red bell pepper plants. Seedlings will be purchased from the farmers’ market because that was the only one that survived and produced last season.
  • Four basil plants. I’ve been enjoying the pesto I made and froze over the summer, so lots of basil is a must.
  • One butternut squash vine. The hard work will be convincing Porkchop that one vine won’t take over the entire yard.
  • Sugar snap peas. We will purchase or build a new trellis for these.
  • Black beans. These will grow on the pea trellis once the heat kills the peas.
  • Lettuce greens and spinach.
  • Radishes.
  • Thyme and rosemary.
  • Strawberries and blueberries.

My big dream would be to install a wall of herbs (something like this) in a doorway that we never use (just as we have two front doors, we have two back doors). But…that might be too much work for now.

Last year, I put in a lot of hours in our community garden, and I really suffered burn out from it. Given my time constraints and studying duties, I am reluctant to sign on for it again. I would do it if I could have just one plot, rather than everyone working on the entire garden. Also, if the garden had its own water spigot, I would be in for sure. The current water situation (calling a neighbor to turn on their water) is rather inconvenient.

What are your garden thoughts?

Spin Me Right Round

Yesterday afternoon at 4:00, I was struck with dizziness, and I’ve been plagued by it since then. I think it’s a combination of fatigue, low blood pressure, and the heat. In any case, I don’t like it.

You know I feel bad when I decide to skip the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market.

Sadness.

We did, however, stop by the Mud House for brunch. Last night I saw a picture of the Nutella and Nanners crepe, and I started craving it big time. It probably isn’t what the doctor would suggest for someone with the dizzies, but it’s darn good.

Nutella, bananas, and more Nutella. And then some more Nutella.

And then we went home and watched a bad gay movie, Make the Yuletide Gay. The Netflix instant play pool is really kind of small, thus this laughable movie. (Another sign I feel bad: I watched a movie at 11 am.)

We went out to REI after the movie and procured a new bike helmet for Porkchop. I’m hoping to feel tons better tomorrow and go on a bike ride.

After REI, it was back home to watch a baseball game (see – another sign I feel like crap!). I knitted during the game on a new project, Springtime Bandit. I’m loving this pattern! Easy, but not boring.

Pretty!

During the game, Porkchop went outside and came back with potatoes!

Potato success!

One potato, two potato...

More potatoes!

After last year’s letdown, we’re pretty happy with this harvest. If the chickens hadn’t turned the potato plants into a roost, maybe we would have more. Note for next year: build chicken-proof potato area.

All for now…

Chicken Dreams

The past week has been busy!

To begin with, Porkchop and I celebrated “Six Days of Carrie’s Birthday,” which became kind of exhausting. It started with dinner and a movie (Toy Story 3, which I actually really enjoyed) on July 1 and progressed to a Cardinals game (which we left early because I sincerely detest baseball) and Ted Drewes on Friday.

However, things really got started last Saturday. The day began perfectly with a bike ride to the Botanical Gardens. Saturday mornings before noon, City and County residents have free admission to the gardens; I think it’s one of the best free deals in town. We poked around the Climatron and Henry Shaw’s house, where we gazed upon his mausoleum statue.

Nice digs for a dead man.

Climatron with glass Chihuly sculptures in the foreground.

Yay, Botanical Gardens!

After our visit, we stopped by the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market for grilled cheeses, tomatoes, peaches, pasta, and mocha macaroons. The Big Cheese is soooooo good! We had grilled cheese made with Companion bread, local mozzarella, fig tapenade (figs from Ivan the Fig Farmer), and some sort of meat from Salume Beddu. Two thumbs up.

I could eat these grilled cheeses every day.

It seems like it would be hard to top the morning, but we succeeded by buying a new bike! Yes, I could not not buy a new bike this summer. It’s a Trek 7.3 and is shiny blue.

Me and my new bike (as yet nameless).

We bought it at a shop where it is apparently customary to haggle over the price. This came as a surprise to me, but I aced it by unintentionally lying about a price I thought I had seen elsewhere. This move made the sales guy reveal the shop’s lowest price, which pissed off the owner to no end. But, you know, if you make haggling a standard practice at your shop, then it’s your own fault for letting a bike go at a price lower than what you expected. Also, if I hadn’t accidentally lied, we probably would have paid full price and felt angry.

The Saturday fun continued into the evening, with going to the Arch for fireworks. We returned to the Arch grounds on Day Four of my birthday to watch the air show with Suzi and Dale. Unfortunately, I became overheated and survived only because Suzi bought me cold waters and visited the EMS tent for chemical ice packs. I slept the rest of Sunday and was dehydrated and groggy for the rest of the day. But the Harrier jet was neat.

I don't remember much from the air show, but I remember this jet hovering over the Mississippi.

Birthday celebrations continued on Monday with lunch with Suzi and Dale at Pi in Kirkwood. Porkchop and I wrapped up a lunch of Margherita pizza with a tiramisu milkshake. YUM! After that, we went to a couple of shops, and Suzi and Dale purchased a few presents for me: the green and white jersey I’m wearing in the picture with my bike, a bike tool (technical name – I don’t know? it does 18 things, though), and special air canister thingies for emergency tire airings while out riding.

Tuesday – the last day of my birthday celebration – was a bit of a letdown because Porkchop and I had to work. However, Porkchop surprised me with cupcakes from the Cupcakery.

Finally, my birthday proper. Yay, 32!

Porkshop also gave me terrific presents throughout my celebration: chocolate bars (Askinosie, Patric, and caramel Five Star bars from Lake Champlain chocolates), a gift certificate to Kaldi’s, and a gift certificate to Knitty Couture. Also, part of my bike!

Non-Birthday Things

We’ve hit some rough spots in gardening. Squash vine borers destroyed all of the kabocha squash plants in the community garden. Devastation!! Tomatoes are also slow to ripen. Oh well, maybe we’ll have tomatoes in August. Here’s what’s going in the community garden:

Roasting peppers growing.

Okra flower - pretty!

Lemon cucumber.

After working in the garden a bit, Porkchop and I left for a chicken coop tour! We rode our bikes to Tower Grove park, and then proceeded to see eight coops in the Tower Grove, Fox Park, Gravois Park, Benton Park, Marine Villa, and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods. In all, we rode about 12 miles and saw some great coops and chickens. Here are some of our favorites:

Porkchop's favorite chick.

More pretties! These live in our neighborhood.

The most exciting outcome of the tour is that we might get chicks this week! A guy on the tour ordered 25 from a place in Iowa and was looking to unload about 20 of them. So, we’ll see if the deal goes through. I hope it does, but it also feels kind of sudden!

Lastly, we had a super awesome dinner tonight of marinated steak and roasted potatoes. And I made olive bread, which is my very favorite:

Olive bread goodness!

Have a great week!

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!

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!