Ridiculous Cuteness & Subtle Inspiration

Right now my cats are sun bathing in the corners of the house that they hid away from this weekend. Kudra, Porter, and their ridiculously cute daughter visited over the weekend. With the exception of a late night visit by Bailey when the grown ups talked downstairs, the cats kept themselves tucked away in our bedroom for the two night stay. I should mention that the ridiculously cute daughter is just 8 months old and crawling. When our guests arrived Bailey ran to his favorite hiding place, which unfortunately was under the guest bed. He came out eventually though, one little cry out of the baby and Bailey’s loud paw steps ran from one side of the house to the other over our heads. The cats have been shy to begin with, but I think we finally found Bailey’s kryptonite. Poor Hitch hid in our closet all weekend only coming out at night. If we had ever had kids it seems possible that we would have creatures in the closets that only came out while you slept. That wouldn’t be psychologically damaging for anyone, no..no.

Other than the cats long game of hide-and-go-seek (which I’m sure they took a break from when we went out all of Saturday) it was a nice weekend with friends. We exchanged our little crafty things with one another. The guys exchanged their homebrews and Porter gave us a bottle of his homemade hot sauce made with Carolina Reaper peppers. Kudra gifted me with a Happy Heart scented oil roller and an Olbas oil inhaler, not to mention a bottle of Elderberry syrup (which I just started making myself). I gave her an infused oil and two bags of kale, because that’s the only thing in our garden thriving in this wonky weather. We ate BBQ, drank a little bourbon, and then the guys and I talked about politics late into the night. On Saturday we visited a few local breweries, heard a great band, and then went home and had a homemade lasagna before all being in bed at a more decent hour.

On Sunday Porter made one of his famous fritatas and I danced with their daughter to post-punk revival music while they packed up. Trust me, the kid loved it.

I enjoyed their visit and hope next time I can convince them to come out when it is green and warm. They only seem to come out in the winter when the trees are bare and the outdoor seating chills you through your jeans. Not that I blame them-why you would drive away from the coast in summer? But I’ll keep trying. It’s wonderful to have them over, lots of laughter and kind words to one another. They also get my brain working in ways that usually doesn’t happen around most people. I even had a dream while they were here that would make a good Sci-Fi story, a genre I have never considered writing before.

How about you guys? Are there people in your life that inspire you in fun ways just by being themselves?

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Greetings from Zone 2… I mean 1

Hi again, sorry but last week I found that I was a little distracted.  I was running around doing the things I usually do, but I never found the way to my computer.  I was also doing some research for my book but not really writing.  I did at least finish my own Fall scarf with the knit two, purl two technique (yes I am a boring knitter). But now I’m back and I have things to talk about.

Two weekends ago Honey and I put in the Fall garden.

Fall Garden

No really, we put in around 40 plants. Doesn’t look it?

Fine, here’s this week’s progress…

Peas

We planted carrots, radishes, kale, three types of lettuce, collards, arugula, and peas. We also put some mums in pots.  Pretty soon all of the fall colors will be fading to browns and bare trees and I need some pops of colors. I am also putting in some more pansies because they seem to be the only thing that lives all year round here (unless the deer decide to have a midnight snack).

Potted Plants

I like the Fall garden because after a certain point it goes on auto-pilot.  Right now I have to water pretty regularly, but as time progresses the weather will cool down and not as much water will be needed.  With the weather this summer I had to water pretty much everyday (by hose).  It is also much more pleasant to water in the Fall as oppose to the summer.  The sun, the bugs, the heat, the sweating from just standing there…I don’t miss it.

Last week I also help put in seeds for the Farm’s Fall Garden. We put in the lettuces and kale, but also lots of root vegetables.  We also moved their greenhouse closer to the house so Viv can keep in a eye on the seedlings.  She was telling me about Zones in permaculture and how it translates to our everyday life.  Zone One is the path you walk all the time, kitchen, driveway, bathroom, bedroom the things that will get the most attention because you see it the most often.  The Greenhouse used be more in Zone 2 or 3, but now it is right next to the house and she’ll see it whenever she comes home.

This got me thinking about the Zones in my house.  Like I mentioned my office is the furthest room from the stairs and off in it’s little world down the hall, which is awesome but can also lead to neglect.  Because unless I have the intention to come in here it can be very easy to not to.  So I have decided to start keeping all of my teas in here, because in addition to it being knitting season it is also tea season.  It may be in Zone 2 of the house, but if you put your only method of caffeination in that room it immediately upgrades to a Zone 1 if not 0. 😉

Aunts and Brew

Right now the rain is pouring and I’m trying to find my favorite pair of wool socks, but over the weekend we had one of those wonderful reprieves of winter weather that we get from time to time here.  The temperatures were in the 60s, the sun was shinning, and the humidity was so low we actually had a fire warning.  Even though the February scenery of dormant plants and lawns was still around it felt like Spring.  It also enticed a few of our bulbs (tulips, daffodils, crocuses) to show themselves a little more.  We planted them two Falls ago, they came last year but we didn’t really believe they would do it again.  This whole season thing still messes with our minds when it comes to plants (and other things).  Where I’m from if a plant looks dead, it’s dead-none of this “good-bye see you in five months business”.

Along with the gorgeous weather we had a wonderful weekend.  On Friday we tried a new restaurant, Honey got an excellent bourbon and a plate of various specialties.  I got a lobster mac and cheese, because I was feeling decetant.  Honey’s meal ended up giving each of us enough leftovers for lunch the next day.   It was incredible and now from the bullying and shoving we saw for a piece of meat, we now know what the cat’s favorite restaurant is too.

On Saturday we spent most of the day at home, prepping the garden for Spring and enjoying some patio time. After the sun set we headed inside a worked on the latest phase of a Christmas gift.  A friend of ours gave Honey a gallon beer brewing kit this year.  After a few weeks of hanging out in the guest bathroom tub (I’ll explain) and our bedroom closet the beer was ready to be bottled.  We had bathtub beer because I have heard horror stories of chemical reactions and pressure changes resulting in exploding beer in places like closets or pantries.  So I thought if such things were to occur, it would be better to have them in a easily cleanable place, along with easy access to water.

Beer brewing

Of course halfway through the process I decided to have my cousin spend the night so the beer had to moved to our closet.  Thankfully the move did not rattle it and it kept to itself for its remaining week of processing.

Unlike brewing the beer, the bottling was a two person job. We ordered some Thai food and carefully practiced with the tubing and bottles until we had worked out the physics of the bottling process.  We had some equipment failures resulting in us pouring for the second part, but it was helpful because now we know what we’ll need for the next batch, if this batch isn’t revoltingly terrible.

Beer Bottles

On Sunday we met with our friends Poppy and Monte for brunch and we found out that Honey and I are going to be “Aunts” (in the way Joey Tribbiani thinks).  They are having a little girl and they wanted our input for a name. :-O  I don’t know about you but I have never been asked to help with a name for a baby.  Even when my sister came I was never asked.  Poppy and Monte have some names in mind of course but the really wanted our picks.  I started off by sending her a picture of a page in my writing journal with a bunch of female names that I brainstormed when I was writing a very female-heavy story.  I tried to write a new name for every letter of the alphabet several times.  There are over 90 names on the page, but of course in this exercise I had repeated a few names, one of which being one they had already chosen.  She took it as my leaning towards that name, which was not the case. I had looked up popular names for what was going to be the birth year of these characters and I had chosen some from there.

I’ll come up with some more and send them her way, I know that truly I don’t have any actual influence in this department-they will name their daughter the name they want her to have-as it should be. But I appreciate them asking, I just hope with no strange twist of storytelling and time that I get credited for naming her. Haha.

Dylan the Butterfly

One afternoon a few weeks back when our dill was tall and seed bearing, my husband noticed that the plants had some new tenants.

Eastern Black Swallowtail

We had two Eastern Swallowtail caterpillars happily munching down on the plants.  We had already taken our seeds for next year and they weren’t going after our vegetables so we let them be.  Besides who doesn’t like butterflies hanging around?  We planned to keep on eye on them and hopefully get to watch their different stages of development.

Fast forward to the next morning…We were sitting in the kitchen, eating breakfast, drinking our caffeinated beverage when something caught Honey’s eye.  It was a cardinal-and he too was watching the dill plants with a great deal of interest.  Before my husband could get the sentence out of mouth, the cardinal pulled one of the caterpillars off the dill and chomped it up.  Being no stranger to walking out into the backyard in my pajamas and shooing away various unpleasing creatures (usually squirrels stealing from the bird feeder and one time a snake) I leapt up and ran to the dill plant to see if the other caterpillar had survived.  He/she had.  

Standing there for protection I could see the cardinal was still standing by, waiting for his second breakfast.  This would be a good time to mention our’s and practically the whole neighborhood’s bird feeders were full.  I was depriving him of a filet-type meal, but there were enough worms and seeds to keep this cardinal’s belly full.  I realized I couldn’t stand there forever and so my husband suggested we bring him in.  We cut part of the parent plant (and a few more blooms) and set the caterpillar up on my office bookcase.

Dylan on dill 

I sent this picture to my sister Firefly, because our Dad raises butterflies and I thought she might get a kick out it.  She thought it was cool and  asked me what had I named him.  To be honest it had never occurred to me to give this little guy/gal a name.  I had no idea what I was doing and I figured it probably wouldn’t make it to the pupa stage.  I thought about it for a minute and decided to call it Dylan, it was a caterpillar of the dill and I had no idea what its gender was.

A few days went by and it ate everything it could and pooped constantly! We had finally run out of fresh dill plants when Dylan decided to start exploring the rest of my bookcase.  I was worried he was looking for food and I put what small remittence of the dill plant I could find in the ball jar Dylan had been perched on.  That did not entice Dylan back, instead Dylan found a candlestick and slowly crawled up it.  At first I was scared that we had starved it to death, but then I noticed over a few hours that it was beginning to contract and not in a morbid kind of way.

Dylan takes a rest

The next morning we saw that the pupa had began to form and one Home Depot trip later, Dylan was in complete pupa form.  

Dylan in pupa state

In case your wondering that thing beneath the pupa is Dylan’s former head.  I looked it up and people said that was normal.  For ten days after obsessively checking on it a couple times each day (I didn’t want it to get trapped in the house), I discovered one morning that Dylan the Butterfly had woken up. 

Dylan wakes up

I had reached Dylan before he/she could fly, but Dylan could move around very quickly.  So I grabbed an empty trash can and put the entire candle stick in it.  Then I covered it with a piece of paper, telling him with each step that I took to get to the backyard to “stay put”.  I had visions of Dylan making a break for it and Bailey and Hitch finding a brand new toy.

When I made it outside and took off the paper, Dylan hoped right out and onto the cement of our patio.  I figured Dylan was still tired and needed to pump up his wings before he could go start his month of fun.  So I put out my finger and for some reason Dylan latched on.  I put him on a flower that was next to the plant where he was born and took a few pictures before he flew away.

Dylan the ButterflyIt took longer than I expected for Dylan to leave the flower so I got a few chances to check on him.  Each time I worried I had put him in the wrong spot; it was too windy, the flower wouldn’t give him enough nourishment, he was in a spot where a bird would come along and eat him.  But I realized I had to let Dylan figure this out, it was out my hands now.  It had been three hours from when I put him on the flower, but this time when I checked on him, he was gone.  I was a little disappointed not to see him but hoped he was off having some fun.  

Garlic & Rosemary Chicken

After I finished the first draft of my novel I waited the few weeks I gave myself to let it rest in my mind. I then picked up my trusty red pencil and began making the edits. I now have a very red hard copy of my novel.

I took a break from blogging because honestly I didn’t know where I was going to go from here.  Was I going to share the ins and outs of my writing process here, would I form another blog to make connections with other writers, or was I just going to go “June Cleaver” of this thing and let the novel part just be a cute pun?  The truth is that I still haven’t decided but I’ve really missed writing here… so here I am.

I have been enjoying the summer.  We have explored new places in town and a few out of town, I have won courageously against the Battle of the Beige in our house (even with the summer weather), my sister Firefly came back for a visit and got to see some sunny days this time, our garden has shocked us with how much it has produced in such a short time, and we have really enjoyed getting to know our new friends out here.  Oh and we discovered one of the most addicting board games ever…Star Trek Catan.  Seriously don’t start playing the game unless you have time for a couple rounds.  Thankfully (for our sake) it requires three people to play, so we have to wait until we have a willing guest to dive back into it.  Anyone free Sunday afternoon? 😉

Today I am keeping close to the kitchen because I have an enormous pot simmering on the stove.  I am making my first homemade chicken stock from a chicken I roasted over the weekend.  It’s one of those days where they have been predicting rain, but the sun is shining and our plants are threatening to wilt if they don’t get a sip of water soon.  While I debate the merits of a pre-storm watering I have been organizing and categorizing files on my computer.  I’ll let you know how the stock turns out, but I happen to know that the chicken that I am making with it was delicious, so I will share that reipe with you now.

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This is my own hybrid of a recipe, I have seen parts of it in books and around the web, so if you have any feedback I am all ears.  Now I treat raw chicken like it is acid so I wash my hands a million times when I make it and I try my best to make it so I don’t touch anything I don’t need to while I handle the chicken.

So with that in mind I highly recommend taking everything out of the pantry/fridge before you unwrap the chicken.  I found that grinding the pepper into its own little prep bowl helps, same with the salt. Make sure your garlic cloves our peeled and the rosemary is clean.

Garlic & Rosemary Roasted Chicken:

(1)one whole chicken 3-5lbs

(4-6) sprigs of rosemary

(2-6) whole cloves of garlic

(3) Tbsp Olive Oil

(2-3) tsp Ground Black Pepper

(2) tsp Kosher Salt

(2) tsp dried rosemary (or fresh if you want

large Dutch/French oven capable of being in a 450 degree oven (I use use the 6.5 qt Costco Le Creuset knock-off)

meat thermometer

enough aluminum foil to cover the chicken

 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. rub around a tsp of olive oil all over the inside the oven pot with a paper towel

3. empty chicken cavity of its insides, wash inside and out and then dry with paper towels.  Once it’s dry put chicken into oven pot

4. put 1-2 tsp of pepper and 1 tsp of salt into cavity of chicken.

5. put 4 springs of fresh rosemary and the garlic into chicken cavity

5. OPTIONAL: stuff a few springs of fresh rosemary between the chicken breast and its skin.

6. rub bird with remaining olive oil.

7. Sprinkle the rest of salt and pepper onto the bird.

8. sprinkle dried (or fresh rosemary) onto the bird

9. Put on the middle rack of the oven with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not cover.

10. Cook until internal temperature has reached 180 degrees, it should take around an hour to get to that temperature.   (Just to be on the safe side I usually cook my chicken until 183 degrees).

11. Once it is cooked, remove it from the oven and put a piece of aluminum foil over the bird.  Let it cool for ten minutes and then transfer to another plate or board to serve.

Enjoy with potatoes and steamed vegetables, or if someone at the table has been very good: biscuits.

Green Bean Recipe

I have a confession to make, up until a few weeks ago I was not what you would call a Green Bean enthusiast.  I avoided the Green Bean Casserole at family holidays, I passed on the meals in restaurants that listed it as a side, I walked by them at the supermarket… but now I have converted to a Green Bean Lover.

We have been going to a local farmer’s market for the last few weeks and every week we are picking up a new item we don’t usually eat.  The first week was Green Beans and now we get them every time we go!  Below is a recipe that helped me take the leap.

Green Beans

Ingredients:

1 lb Fresh Green Beans

2 chopped up green onions

2-4 Cloves of Garlic (depending on how much love garlic)

1/2 of aGreen Bell Pepper (chopped)

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Butter (I prefer salted)

1 cup low sodium Chicken Broth

1/2-1 tsp salt (Kosher is best)

1-2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

 

1. Snap stems off of green beans (or cut if you prefer)

2. Over a low medium heat, warm the butter and olive oil in a skillet pan.

3.  Add Garlic & Onion, cook and stir for one minute

4. Add the Green Beans to pan and cook and stir until green beans become bright green (should be a minute or so).

5.  Add the chicken broth, green bell pepper, salt, and black pepper.

6. Turn the heat down to low, leave the lid cracked so steam can escape.  Cook for 20-30 minutes or until liquid evaporates.  The beans should still be a little crisp.

ENJOY!

Feeling the Spring

Spring has not sprung here like I am used to. Instead it has crept in slowly making the trees green here and there, sprinkling a few yards with early blossoms, and making the little creatures around all twitterpated. It looks like the warm days and warmer evenings are here to stay so I think Spring has arrived in its full force. The forecast looks good  so Honey brought the little seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs out of the comfort of his home office and into the scary world of the back deck.  So far everyone is looking perky and will hopefully give us some yummy veggies.

We wavered for a while on if we should plant anything right now because we are renting and we don’t have the same unrestricted freedoms that we had with our house back West.  But after we settled in and started getting into our new version of our routine we realized that gardening and growing our own vegetables has now been written in ink to our routine.  Honey has picked up the torch on the gardening more than I have, I still feel like I can’t touch anything in our back yard (though it so desperately needs it).  I guess it has to do with my ignorance of the climate or  not knowing how the sun will shine on the yard or what kinds of things need to be kept around to keep the North Carolina clay soil in check.  I’m starting to feel more at home here so I suspect I will out staining my clothes in the dirt soon enough.

seedlings

For a while a rejected any kind of settling into this house because I knew it was only temporary.  I also began looking at it for all of the faults of the house rather than its positives, I think this was some weird subconscious thing with the moving and selling of the house that I had put a lot of myself into.  Don’t get me wrong I was and am on board with our move and selling the house, but I guess I was not ready to put as much of myself into our home (for now).  I guess I also expected that I could run this house like a well oiled machine quickly, because I had at the old one.  This was not the case.  We started from scratch on a lot things such as furniture and even things like our pantry items.  I tried my best to find the stuff we used and what we needed but there was always something I realized we were missing later.  It seriously took me four weeks to notice that we did not have any flour in the house and of course it came at the worst possible moment (making cookies).  I think those are the moments when you realize you’re not in your version of home anymore and you have start over.  I also finally agreed to get a small table and chairs, because the ottoman dinning was not cutting it for us.  It has made the breakfasts and dinners much more relaxing and has kept off that damn TV off more.

So I guess I am letting the place feel more like home, but not forcing it into any narrow constraints.  Over the weekend while Honey moved the seedlings into their “big boy” pots I sat out our lawn and read, I never did that at our old house-there was always something else to do even when we sat back relaxing.   As I sat there listening to the carpenter bees buzzing pass me and birds chirping everywhere, I got this strange multiple flashback of the Aviary at the San Diego Zoo and sitting out on the field in elementary school reading during lunch.  I think the Aviary sprung to mind because that was the only other place I heard that many different types of birds together at once, it almost echoes here there are so many birds.  As for the elementary flashback I can only think that I haven’t spent enough time sitting in the grass as an adult.  These two experiences, separated by decades melded together in a way that made me appreciate the moment I was in as unique feeling because while they reminded me of past experiences I was only taking tiny tastes of my past to help me get the bearings on my present. Once I did, I stopped seeing the backyard as this unknown miscellaous place and saw it as my home.

redb

I’ll get the hang of it here someday, the Spring is helping.