Sunday, June 27, 2010

Veggie of the Day: Mizuna

Today's veggie is another leafy green, mizuna. This is a pretty veggie, and many fancy restaurants serve it on salads.  I tried mizuna in salad, including the stems, which are a bit bitter and stringy.  So it's okay in salad, just make sure you cut off the stems.  I tried a recipe from Gourmet magazine, but gourmet, I am not.  The recipe was hard to follow and I substituted a few times for items I could not find, or ones that were icky.  In the case of beef suet (which I had to look up), it sounds icky, and I was unable to find it.

My resulting recipe was dubbed "Miso Mizuna Stew" because the base is very much like the miso soup you find in Japanese restaurants.  Miso is very salty because it is essentially just soy sauce.  However, you can add (or subtract, if that's your fancy) water as needed to change the saltiness.

Check it out on my recipe page at  Click recipes, then Mizuna. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Queen of Domesticity

This is not me.

My house is a constant mess and this gets on my nerves.  My counter is full of papers.  My mail is unsorted.  My laundry is in various stages (from dirty to clean but unfolded to folded but not where it belongs).  My toilet is icky, and my sink is full of dishes.

And yet, I get home from work, and I survey this mayhem, and I choose to eat a bazillion pretzels while sipping a beer and watching TV.  What the heck is wrong with me??

Well, last week, I finally managed to motivate myself, only very slowly.  I decided, no matter what, no matter how tired I am when I get home, or how many beers I had at happy hour, I am going to clean ONE room, EVERY day.  Yeah!  Go me!

It turns out I make exceptions when I am busy getting slightly drunk and a little lost in NYC.  But this was OK, because I was in a different state.  And a little drunk/lost.  (It's a long story.)

So, it took a little longer than expected, but I have officially cleaned every room, and I will begin on round 2 tomorrow.  The house looks much better, and each room gets cleaned once every week.  This has been so motivating, that, drunken escapades aside, I have de-cluttered in non-designated rooms on several days.

This led me to tonight's discovery.  I pulled out my under-the-sink com poster (even though it was bathroom day) and noted it was full.  I pulled out the bag of organic contents for disposal in the big bin outside.  Everyone who composts says the pile of rotting organics does not smell as long as  you refrain from putting meats or animal fats in there.  In general, I have found this to be (basically) true.  Until tonight.  I cannot describe the horridness of this smell.  There turned out to be a brown liquid in the bottom of my inside bin.  The liquid was leaking from the bag liner and it spilled onto my floor as I tried very hard not to puke on top of it.  It was FOUL, and it stunk up my entire kitchen in a matter of seconds.

I soaked up the majority of the liquid with paper towels and tossed them to the garbage.  I then used disinfectant wipes, bleach, a swiffer mop, and finally an old towel to wipe up the damage.  I threw everything away and took the garbage out.  I hosed down the side walk just outside the door where some of the liquid had fallen.  I sprayed disinfectant.

And it still smells.  It is like a combination of poo and BO.  I think I can taste it.  I feel ill.

That'll teach me to clean.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cat in the Box Part 2

What to do about my outdoor loving cat?

I began to research outdoor enclosures, figuring that there MUST be other stupid people out there who have learned these same lessons.  There are.  Incidentally, they appear to mostly be in Australia or New Zealand.  And these people are not just stupid - they are also rich.  And they have a LOT of time on their hands.  And they do not mind an absolutely hideous cage like thing stuck haphazardly on the back of the house.

There are tons more of these monstrosities (most costing more than $1000, though I don't know how Aussie bucks compare to the real kind).  I love my cat, but I found no solutions that were within my price range, nice looking, or easily constructed from universally understood instructions with cutesy pictures.

Then I found this:

Isn't it awesome??  (I mean, without the tacky birthbath inside.)  It's called the "Kitty Grand Prix" and I love the description:   "Designed to allow your cats the ability to run uninterrupted to their hearts content without having to stop at the end of the enclosure, turn around then run off again. The Kittywalk® Grand Prix is great for either one cat or can comfortably accommodate two to three cats happily together at the same time."  

But alas, "Kitty Grand Prix" is over $400.  I can afford only a 10-ft straight section similar to the round thing.  I guess kitty will have to stay inside for now...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cat in the Box Part I

Prior to moving to our loverly new home, I was worried about my Puss.  She had accompanied us on two prior moves.  The first one, when I moved from the "Towson ghetto" -- which I thought was just fine and I wasn't actually aware of this reputation until after said move -- my Puss was just a year or so old.  On moving day, she was holed up in the bathroom with a litter box and some food, and she sat happily in the window sill.  She acted a bit wacky when we crated her up and took her to her new home, but later that night, she emerged from under the bed and seemed not to notice that she was relocated.

Move number two, the Puss was older (and wiser?), and she was FREAKED OUT by her new home.  She slinked about for nearly a month, sniffing around in a confused manner.  She seemed to recognize that the things around her were her things, but the dwelling was all wrong.

I attributed this to her age, which was about five.  I am more set in my ways at my ripe old age of 32, so I can relate. I figured she would be even more freaked by the house.

Turned out, I need'nt have worried.  Puss was more at home in the house than we were.

But now, it is summer, and the Beast wants O-U-T!  (We have to spell it, but I think she is catching on to that - I'd say she's a genius, but she was just in here a moment ago chasing her own tail for a spell and is likely puking somewhere now.  I don't think many geniuses do that.)  I figured all I would need to do is train her regarding the boundaries of the yard.  Stop laughing.  Seriously!!  She is (mostly) aware that she cannot jump on counters or dining tables, and I thought we could use similar tactics (squirt bottle) to teach her where she cannot roam.

OK, are you done laughing?

I'm waiting....

Well, HA!  I did teach her the boundaries of the yard through consistent reinforcement of the lines.  She is absolutely aware of where her yard ends, and the world begins.

What I hadn't counted on was that she just doesn't care.  She wanted out SO BADLY, that it seemed cruel not to allow her to go.  Who am I to deny a fellow mammal the joy of grass between her toes and blue skies above her head?  But, she was consistently vacating the premises.  I watched her pretty diligently, but invariably, I would turn my eyes away because watching a cat sniff for more than ten minutes can get surprisingly dull.  The instant I let my guard down, she zipped away.

Frankly, it was starting to get embarrassing.  I would be seen by many a neighbor, looking for the damn CAT!  One would likely be wondering why I kept letting her out.  But one would not know how she begged and wanted to be out so badly.

So, I bought a cat harness.

Oh yes, they sell these at Pet Smart.  For cats.  They also sell ties specifically for cats.  I did not buy one because it was only 10 feet long.  I got the 40 footer.  (Which, it turns out, gives Miss Puss the ability to walk nearly the width of the whole yard.  My property is very long, but not so wide.)  It also turns out, Miss Puss does not care for the harness.  Totally expected.  But I did not realize she'd be able to get out of it.  Apparently, cats do not have shoulder blades, and this allows them to dislocate their shoulders at will and without pain.  Also, their necks are thicker than their heads.  It is as though cats were designed to get out of harnesses.  Luckily, I can use the 40ft tie as a clothesline....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Veggie of the Day: Yukina Savoy

Today's veggie is the spinach-like leafy green, yukina savoy.  I wasn't able to find many (any) recipes for this wacky veggie, but lots of farms are growing them for CSA's, leaving many a blogger to pontificate on what the heck to do with it.  I just substituted it for spinach in a recipe for Lebanese Beef and Rice, and it turned out great! 

Check it out on my recipe page at  Click recipes, then Yukina Savoy.  I might figure out how to direct link...but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

I am happy to report that this recipe did receive two thumbs up.  It has a great flavor, and the yukina savoy is subtly mixed in with a lot of meat so my live-in carnivore was not too resistant.  My only complaint is that it turns out a little dry since there is no real sauce for the meat.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Birth Story

Yesterday was the anniversary of my entrance into the world.  (This is me about a year and 6 months after the event - with my great grandmother who passed away in 1988.)

Rather than read about my birthday, you have to read this.  It is the most real story of giving birth I have ever read.  It's funny, it's scary, it's a bit gross, and in the end, it's beautiful.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Veggie of the Day: Bok Choy

Today's recipe is Cashew Choy Chicken. (Picture by others).

Check it out on my recipe page at  Click recipes, then Bok Choy.  I might figure out how to direct link...but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

This recipe got one thumb up from me, and a thumb down from Adam.  This is to be expected for most recipes involving green leafy things, so don't let it deter you.  I thought it was delish!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CSA, Week 1: Is There an Ap For That?

I thought joining the CSA was a well researched, completely thought out plan.  As usual, it turns out I had no clue what I was doing, so I am sure amusing blog-worthy stories will result.

I nearly forgot to pick up my veggies on Friday.  Amidst the stinky chaos of a crying pussy cat and the contents of her digestive system, I was driving home when I realized I had totally spaced on the CSA.  I cursed a little bit, for some reason thinking that pick up hours ended at 2pm instead of just starting at that time.

But, as luck would have it, I was able to swing by the farm on my way home.  With kitty in car, I rushed to gather 16 types of vegetables.  Sixteen?  Yes, sixteen.  I am not entirely sure we even eat sixteen meals in a week, so this was my first inkling that I may be in over my head.

I rushed back to the car with mostly leafy things, and found kitty to be perfectly at ease.

I planned to do some internet research on the wierdo things I got, but the monsoon of Friday night caused a power outage.

Completely unrelated sidebar:  Someone at work has a Droid.  You know, those google phones that compete with the iphone?  Adam wants one because he can program his own aps for this totally open-source platform.  How do I know someone at work has a Droid?  Because the sound you hear on the commercial, "Droid" is the default sound byte for the email alert.  And this guy at work gets an email every. five. minutes.  Thank goodness he is sort of new and he doesn't get emails every forty five seconds like I do.  I am hearing "Droid" in my head now, randomly.  It is like a bad song that won't go away.  Several people have asked him to change the setting, but he can't figure it out.  He said it goes off at 2am when spam mail trickles in, and it wakes up his dogs.  But he finally got it synced with his stereo system so he can voice dial... Me?  I would have made the "Droid" thing a higher priority.

But I digress (more).  Adam has been thinking up some very cool ideas for Droid aps.  I won't give them away here.  But trust me - he is a super genius.  And on Sunday, I thought of an ap, too:

I need to search the internet by picture.  Not like now, when you google in a known item and you get a list of images.  I mean you have a picture of an unknown thing, say, a green leafy vegetable from a CSA, and you search for the thing.  Wouldn't that be great??

So, if there's an ap for that, please let me know.  In the meantime, I researched "green leafy Asian vegetables" for several hours before figuring out what I had.  And then I researched how to use them. 

The results of my internet time were beneficial, and I have started posting recipe pages specific to these weirdo veggies for other CSA members.  These will just be links on the ole' blog - one thing I found is that if you're looking for useful info on how to cook misome, you ain't interested in the story of how I thought I had misome but actually had yukina savoy so sorry no help here.

The veggies I have:  romaine lettuce (trust me, it gets weirder), tat soi (see?), kholrabi, bok choy, green and red mustard greens, mizuna, yukina savoy, radishes, baby turnips, basil, parsely, dill, broccoli, and kale.

Looking forward to next week!

***If you are interested in joining my CSA, there are still spots available!  This is a great way to support local people, teach yourself and your kids about how veggies grow, and try new things.  Just Click Here to learn more.***

Monday, June 7, 2010

CSA, Intro

Welcome to my newest endeavor, CSA.  That's "Community Sustained Agriculture" to you newbies out there.  Perhaps y'all have known about and enjoyed a CSA for years.  Perhaps like me, you've been reading books and watching movies about the food industry in this country, and fallen victim to the hype of "the damn lib'ral hippies".  True, this is a liberal, hippie idea - and a good one. 

Basically, you pay a farmer in the beginning of the year for a share of his or her crops.  This gives the farmer some cash up front which can be used to purchase seeds, pay employees, buy equipment, etc - all the normal start up costs of a business.  Many CSA programs offer payment plans, and will allow you to work on the farm in exchange for veggies, which leaves lots of options for people without the income to pay up front.

I know, I know - I said that I wanted a yard so I could have a garden and this is still true. 

**Warning - round of excuses beginning.** 

I bought a gardening book which said I should start a garden in the fall.  I do not know the area I moved to and thusly do not know what is best method for hiring someone or borrowing or renting a tiller.  I was not certain how to start a garden from yard.  I did not have the proper tools.  and:  I did not know how much / what to plant.

**OK, I think I am done.**
So, I decided joining a CSA would help me learn what to plant and how much, and allow me to start a small garden on my own time this summer instead of Mother Nature's.  Because in January, February, and most of March, I was busy with house buying/moving/painting/decorating. 

I found my CSA through a really useful site called Marylands Best.  At first, I was looking for the Farmers Markets near my new house, so I sort of stumbled across this idea.  I tried valiantly to be a regular marketer last summer, but many Farmers Markets are held during weekday mornings.  Out of 20 markets near my old apartment, I had a list of three that were conveniently (enough) located and at a reasonable time which did not require time off from work or waking at ungodly single digit hours on a weekend.  Farmers Markets tend to operate using this crazy old fashioned currency made of paper and metal.  I hear tell the stuff can be gotten from machines, but I rarely remembered to visit one of these before the market, and this was another deterrent.

As I read about CSA's on a whim, I realized I need not alter my lifestyle for the sake of produce.  I paid in one lump sum, thus erasing the need for that paper stuff, and the pickups are once a week after work.  As a two person household, practically 1-1/4 since Adam refuses nearly all vegetables, I was looking for a reasonable share size that was reasonably priced and reasonably close to home.  I found all three!  Yippee!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Little

Never ask if something can get any worse.  It can.

After writing my blog yesterday, I went out to the car to clean up the damage.  (Yeah, that's where my priorities lie.)

I was acting quickly, because the sky was ominous, and the thunder was nearing.  Just when I thought I had beat the storm, it rolled in to tell me otherwise:

This picture isn't great, so allow me to point out a few snippets.  First, I am soaked after the walk from my car to my carport, which is approximately two steps.  Second, the white lines behind me are not camera errors.  That would be rain, and lots of it.  Just behind me, in the grass, are three of the four car mats.  I figured I would let nature do the work.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy

I took off early from work today so I could take the cat to the vet.  She was just there a few weeks ago for an emergency visit so the typical time elapse in which Miss Daisy forgets the trauma was not there.  So, knowing trauma was still fresh in kitty brain,  I stealthily retrieved her Kat Karrier.*   I did learn a new trick for getting kitty into the Karrier.** Cover her eyes.  Yeah...cats aren't all that smart...

I loaded crying kitty into car, and was on my way.  She whined, and I comforted, and she whined some more.  All was well for about ten minutes. (Did I forget to mention that I am still taking her to the old vet despite moving 45 minutes away??)

Then, the whining became more pronounced and I began panicking because I knew this tone meant "I am about to excrete something from my body."

I slowed the car, hoping to reverse what I knew to be an irreversible process.

And then the cat puked.  And puked.  And puked.

The smell.  My Lord, the smell.  It caused me to gag.  And gag.  And gag.  With tears in my eyes, I pulled into a parking lot and fished through the trunk for supplies.  I removed the cat from the Karrier, and scooped more puke than should reasonably fit in such a small cat out onto the pavement.  (Hey, it's biodegradable!  Quit judging!)

But it gets worse.

I decided it would be ok to leave her out of the Karrier, even though she invariably crawls under the passenger seat and I have to pry her out by the legs hoping I won't be reported to Animal Services each time I do that.  She seemed content enough on the floor, but I was rather nervous because Miss Daisy has a reputation for excreting from both ends when she gets this upset.  I figured she must be feeling better after such a massive ejection, and we were nearly on the highway by then, so I crossed my fingers hoping for smooth sailing.  After about five minutes, she tried scooting under the seat and I (safely) began playing goalie and blocking the entrance while driving.  So she peed right there.

Whoa.  That was a new one.  She was on the mat, and the smell was not too bad, so I focused on the drive and tried to Grin and Baer it.

But it gets worse.

At this point, the cat has no place to sit that isn't pee covered or puke infested.  I patted my lap and encouraged her to sit nicely for the duration of our trip.  Unfortunately, she hadn't wiped, and I immediately felt moisture on my leg.  Nice.

But it gets worse.

Unhappy on my lap (or perhaps satisfied that my jeans would now require washing), the cat began sniffing at the floor below me.  I did have to draw the line of safety there, as I began imagining how I would explain to the officer how I couldn't stop because a cat was lodged under my brake pedal.  Reluctantly, I let her go to the passenger side, knowing she would crawl under that damn seat.  Which she proceeded to do.  I began to smell more unpleasantness which was totally unsurprising.  I wondered if it was possible to imagine a smell because you think it will come, and my mind is just playing tricks on me.  As I thought of this, kitty thankfully crawled onto the back seat and meowed at me once again.  I turned my head briefly to look at her and saw the pile of poo.  I was dismayed but slightly relieved because it was not under the seat and quite reachable.

But it gets worse.

Kitty began to meow insistently again, and I thought, what more can she do?  Spontaneously explode?  Because really, the only bodily fluids she could possibly have left are blood and earwax.  Having destroyed all floor options for sitting, she apparently was uncertain where to sit next.  She meowed and paced about in the back seat, and even tried out sitting on the back seat head rests for a spell.  Meanwhile, we are nearly at the vet, the number two smell is mingling with the number one and vomit, and I am beginning to lose patience.  We sat through an entire light cycle without moving an inch because some asshole was blocking the intersection.  Ugh!  If he only knew the chaos in my car at the moment!  The cat meowed again, and I turned to tell her we were almost there when I noticed that she had stepped in the poo and tracked little pooey kitty paw prints all over the back.

Thank god, at that moment, the light turned green and the intersection was free.  The vet weighed her and noted that she had lost weight since her last visit.  Go figure.

Could It Get Any Worse??

*Why is it necessary to spell this way?
**No really.  Why?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tomato Tragedy

Imagine your first trip to an amusement park.  Not the trip where you were in diapers and riding the little fire engines around in a circle - I mean the real trip.  The time you were finally big enough to ride the big kid rides.  You probably didn't go on them alone.  Most likely, you went with someone you trusted, someone who would take care of you, just in case, horror of all horrors, something bad happened.

So you get all strapped in, after possibly hours of waiting with anticipation for the big trip.  The ride begins to move.

And the car tips over, dumping you and all the other riders face first into the hard earth below.

This is the ride my poor poor tomato plants took today.  It was awful.  After saying a few choice and very naughty words, I lunged for my overturned cart .Yes, it was pretty much already overturned by the time my lighting fast reflexes kicked in.  My poor plants!  Many of their little stems were snapped in two, and a few more suffered near breaks.  I was running a triage center, trying to rescue the ones that could be saved, and sadly admitting that there wasn't much hope for a few of them.

My garden book warned me that tomatoes are a little less tolerant of transplanting than other veggies.  How true.

I planted them all anyway.  I couldn't bear to pronounce an official time of death.  I carefully tied the poor broken stems to support sticks, and I am hoping for the best.  Admittedly, there is not much hope for five of the fifteen plants.  They are so sad to look at, with their wilted leaves and broken stems tied to life support.  There are about three more plants that are in intensive care.  Their stems were severed, but their leaves are still in good shape, and looking at them, I can hardly tell they rely on a stick for support. 

Its tragic, I suppose.  I literally bent over forwards, in ninety degree weather, for several hours to plant these plants.  But what can you do but Grin and Baer It?