Friday, July 31, 2009

Updates

Catching up on the last few days....

After canning 16 pints of pickles from the same recipe, and not wanting to continue if I were just producing lots of mushy pickles we would never eat, we finally opened a jar to test the general level of mushiness, and we were delighted to find that they weren't mushy at all and were in fact so good that we're now down to 15 pints--and the 4 quarts I did this morning.
The bread machine still continues to mess with me--this week I got this:which I think looks a lot like Gumby. Perhaps I should have sold it on Ebay like the Virgin Mary cheese sandwich of a few years ago, though I suppose cartoon characters aren't worth as much.

I made an "old-fashioned" mustard which combined yellow & brown mustard seeds and soaked in vinegar overnight with a couple bay leaves,then was pureed the next morning into this:which tastes great and REALLY clears up the sinuses. Brown mustard seeds are the ones we associate with Chinese mustard and that head-clearing zippy taste, so we're using this one a bit more sparingly. And breathing really, REALLY well.

Yesterday, since I have jalapeno peppers but no tomatoes, I decided to try a recipe for peach-mint salsa
which is interesting, and I would have called it chutney rather than salsa as it has honey as well as onions and jalapenos. It's good, but not sure I'd repeat it. And if the tomatoes would get a move on, I won't have to.

And lest you think I'd reformed and found "moderation," I made a double batch of lemon-sage mustard as well:
which is completely wonderful and might almost make me forget how much of a pain it was to make. Incidentally, if one had a number of small cuts or scrapes on one's hands, it would be a good idea to wear rubber gloves while zesting & squeezing four large lemons. Or shrieking in pain the entire time works as well.

Today I am relaxing. OK, there were those 4 quarts of pickles....but NOW I'm relaxing.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day Two

Hood River is actually a very nice place, and parking issues aside, the Hood River Hotel grew on me after a soak in their hot tub and much nicer staff people on subsequent shifts. Amazing what a difference people can make! A shot of the rest of the room, which was thankfully bigger than the bathroom,but not by much.

After breakfast, we got on the interstate headed to Portland, only to find a sign saying "International Museum of Carousel Art Next Exit." Well seriously--who could pass that up? So we took the exit and started looking for more signs.....and ended up right back at the Hood River Hotel. OK, obviously, we missed something somewhere. We went back, found the only other direction we could have gone, and ended up here:
which wouldn't have been a bad detour if it had been open...and not 9:00 in the morning. We took a moment to admire the view,made our way back the way we came, and stopped herewhile Andy ran in to ask directions. (I know, I tried to get a picture of a man actually going in to ask directions, but I wasn't fast enough) It turns out that only one person in the place had even heard of the Museum, which I assume means these people don't drive much as it's a REALLY big sign on the freeway, and that the Museum had moved and now not even he knew where it was. If anyone ever finds this museum, you might mention to them that a bit of advertising probably wouldn't hurt. So, no carousel art for us.

Our next detour was the Historic Columbia River Highway--a detour we were still pretty confident in as it's probably really hard to move a whole highway and even if you did, that's the sort of thing people would notice. Built in 1913, it was truly meant to be a beautiful place to drive and it is. It winds through the Columbia River Gorge past an amazing array of waterfalls:
including the famous Multnomah Fallswhich has always been one of my favorites. Even the highway bridges are scenic
Granted, less so from the underside but they are MUCH easier to photograph this way. And to make up for not finding the carousel art museum, we found Vista House without actually looking for it. It has a tremendous view of the Columbia Riverand some beautiful stained glass art
and a really blind corner where it would be really easy to run down pedestrians crossing from the tiny parking lot, but I didn't get a picture of that. Luckily, I didn't get a pedestrian either.

As we were in Oregon, we decided to stop at a winery for lunch. We found a sign for an Edgefield Winery, and we did get lunch and we did get Edgefield wine with lunch, but we never actually found the winery. It's actually a huge place with lots of building, having once been the Multnomah County Poor Farm. Built in 1911, it was a place for indigent (mostly men) to go and live, and while no one was ever forced to work, those who worked on the farm received meat with three meals a day, and those who didn't received meat with one meal. Everyone got the vegetables that were grown & harvested. During the Great Depression, the farm housed 600 workers. It remained in operation until 1960 when the welfare program and food stamp program were established. I am happy to report that Oregon has put some of the land back into production to help the Oregon Food Bank provide some fresh vegetables to Oregon residents in need, according to the Portland Tribune.

From there, we found the B & B in Portland with only a few map issues--which is like driving straight to it in any other town. In general, I love Portland, but what is up with the streets? We had a new map, and while I will grant them that yes, one would generally assume that 20th street would lie between 19th street and 21st street, Portland either didn't build it or put it somewhere else entirely.

We had booked a room at Portland's White House, and it was charming. We had reserved the last available room, so we were in one of the smaller rooms
which was still much larger than the room the night before, and we even had a grown-up sized bathroomand even if it hadn't been....we got chocolate chip cookies!!!! Now, it could just be that we haven't had them in more than 6 months (chocolate chips not being "legal"), but these were truly the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.

There were chocolates toobut they were a bit too rich for me.

Even though we'd really only had 3 likely cheats so far--the sodas the first day, lunch at Edgefield, and now the cookies, we were already starting to struggle with the heaviness of the meals and the general lack of vegetables, so that night we decided on a truly unique dining experience:Deli sandwiches at Fred Meyer with extra veggies! And...because an opportunity is an opportunity......

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Dinner Time at Chateau Sutton-Goar.....

....which has also come to be known as, "What potato concoction are we having tonight?"

I suppose it's sad that coming from Idaho, the state famous for growing potatoes, I know so little about them. I had no idea how many potatoes one plant could produce...although that does help explain the size of the plant. I didn't grow up in the part of Idaho that raises potatoes, so I'm mostly familiar with them as huge bakers sold in the store or the ever-present "Do you want fries with that?" of every restaurant in America.

In Southern Idaho--where the potatoes are--potato harvesting time is a very big affair, with kids even getting out of school to help with the harvest, so I imagined that they were a bit like onions or garlic with one definite harvest time. Now it seems that we get to harvest potatoes all summer--provided we can find them. The ones that pop out of the ground are pretty easy--and make it easy to figure out when to add more dirt--but we're getting some big monsters down deeper, which I have only now discovered.

I don't know if I truly taste the difference in the potatoes we're growing versus the ones in the store as I have generally bought Russet potatoes (Idaho bakers) in the store because they're more versatile, and we are growing reds. They're certainly good, and it's really handy to have them in the garden, but unlike the zucchini, I wasn't really aware of how big a harvest we would get, so I hadn't lined up a bunch of potato recipes to try. Tomatoes, yes. Winter squash, yes. Cucumbers, yes. I've even got a list of things to make with strawberries for 6 years from now when we have a huge strawberry bed. I've grilled the potatoes, stir fried them, broiled them, made a huge variety of fritatas....I haven't decided what tonight's version will be. I don't like French fries or traditional potato salad, so those are out. Maybe an herb pesto? Maybe throw them over the fence at the guy in the little white car who chooses to speed past our house every day......?

What I can't seem to find out is if potato plants ultimately have a finite number of potatoes, or do they just keep going & going & going until frost finally kills them off? Now I realize that most people would figure all of this out BEFORE planting the garden, but where's the fun in that??? Besides, I did have the pumpkin all planned out in advance, and ended up with patty pan squash, so that really only works when the garden chooses to cooperate, which doesn't seem to happen that often. Some people might have guessed ahead of time that potatoes are pretty prolific plants--if the failure of a single crop can cause a famine, they're obviously not growing lettuce, now are they?????

Think there's a chocolate potato cake recipe somewhere......?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We Really Did Come Home

OK, so the posting from the road thing sort of fell apart. I think it's that sleep thing that always gets me. When I plan my days, I think I have that 24-hour thing in mind, conveniently forgetting EVERY SINGLE TIME that my body insists on sleeping a good portion of those hours.

There are more pictures and a better update coming, but to give you a brief update, we got back on Sunday afternoon, and Andy's parents arrived shortly thereafter for a short visit on their way to Seattle. That was delightful, and even Theo seemed happy to see them as he promptly presented my mother-in-law with a dead mouse in her shoe.

And now I'm off to unpack, do some laundry, and find my camera so we can share some more pictures.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Greetings From Hood River!

Normally, I don't get to do this sort of update as it isn't a good idea in general to announce to the world one is away from home and it is an especially bad idea if an obsessed ex wife follows your blog (now almost 3 years after Andy and I got married), but we have a house sitter, so all is well.

We decided to just take a quick trip out of town for fun and to get away from the crazy heat, so we're in Oregon for a few days.

We stopped at one of our favorite spots for lunch--the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker--on the way over yesterday. If we are going to spend the money & have the extra calories of eating out, we want some fabulous food and were NOT disappointed. We both ordered pasta dishes for lunch andWE'RE ON VACATION!!!!!! When we spent a few days in McCall in March, we realized it was impossible to truly abide by the rules while traveling, so it's sort of a small vacation from the Year of No Processed Foods. I am proud to say that this has been our only "cheat" so far (we think) and that we were both so thirsty after the Diet Pepsi that we switched back to water & coffee for the rest of the day. We are trying to be reasonably good--especially since food cheats tend to lead to serious stomach upset. Still, that diet Pepsi was marvelous.

Since neither of us had ever really been there, we stopped in LaGrande, Oregon for coffee, where I was delighted to find this
for $10 in an antique shop. Granted, that's about $8 more than it's worth, but I was delighted to find that the original owner had used it and even added her own recipes into the blank pages and there are all sorts of cuttings of recipes from other sources hidden between the pages. Published in 1930, it outlines how to host dinners and luncheons with or without your servant (and boy, I know I've been struggling with THAT one) and might have been published shortly after Crisco hit the market--or the author's husband worked for Crisco--because almost every recipe calls for Crisco, and she even suggests using it in place of butter. I thought the ultimate was a "Crisco sandwich spread" which involves Crisco, egg yolk, vinegar, lemon juice, and Worchestershire sauce and which she swore would keep several weeks in a cool place. And here I am constantly checking the expiration dates on eggs in the shell in the fridge. They were a brave people then.

We also found thisa sewing machine & hot tub dealer called "Sew & Soak." Makes sense to me--little stresses me out as much as sewing.

Then, because we'd never been there either, we stopped at the Wild Horse "tribal" casino outside of Pendleton:We each lost a dollar on the penny slots--which are now fully computerized and don't even have a handle to pull--and left. For those not in the US, the Native Americans (mistakenly called Indians by Columbus, which took 500 years to correct) were either exterminated by whites or rounded up and stuck on the driest, least desirable land available in the 1800s and were told to stay on these "reservations." I don't think our history books used in schools actually have been changed to mention that the US did one of the most thorough "ethnic cleansing" jobs of all time, but the tribes still own these crappy pieces of land, and it has been determined that they own the land sort of as sovereign peoples. (This is my understanding only so don't quote me or start sending me nasty-grams over this one) So several years ago, the tribal leaders or whomever is in charge came up with the idea that if they are under their own rules, then the usual rules prohibiting gambling do not apply, so up popped casinos everywhere. And this was one of them. We're not much for gambling, and I thought this one was particularly depressing, but there were lots of people there, so it must be popular.

By this point it was hot & windy, so were through playing tourist and just cowered in the air-conditioned car and headed for Hood River, our first stop.

We stayed at the Hood River Hotel, which would be quite charming if the staff had been a bit more friendly or a bit more prone to not answer personal calls while we were checking in, and if the hotel policy included not gouging customers on parking vouchers--no validation here--while not having any actual parking available.

The hotel is an old one with wooden floors and long halls lined with doors with the transoms--which are all painted shut now. The elevator is ancientYou literally get in and slide the grate shut, which I've seen in old movies but which I have never actually used, but we were reassured to see that the elevator inspectors know about and have seen this one:

and it works like a charm. Of course, being an old hotel there are actually several stairways, which we have used for everything except bringing in the luggage.

Our room is tiny & was definitely not the one we saw on the website, but it's cute. We have his
and herclosets,

a bathroomwhich earns an award for being the only bathroom I've been able to photograph in it's entirety with just one picture.

And if we get really annoyed at the parking problem
our room got access to the main water. Good to know.

Our is a "courtyard" room, so we had to take a picture of the "courtyard"
All this time I have had plants in pots right outside our front door, I didn't realize it, but we apparently have a courtyard!!!! Whoo hoo!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Have Pickles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday night, with the cold mostly gone, I harvested our first big batch of cucumbers(and admitted it might be time to stop giving the cucumbers Miracle Grow)

Because we've been SOOOOOOOOOOO long without pickles, I made 2 jars of refrigerator pickles, which will keep up to 6 weeks but if they tasted anything at ALL like dill pickles would be gone much, much sooner
See how they're sort of cloudy? That's because they are made with lemon juice--not vinegar--and no salt (though I added a tiny bit), and they taste wonderful! I think even someone who did NOT have to give up pickles 4 months ago would think so.

Then cut up 6 pounds of cucumbers and set them to brine overnight.I made pickles years ago, and while they tasted great, they were really soft and mushy. Doing a bit of research, I found that the top ways to NOT get mushy pickles are:

1. Use varieties of pickles specifically for pickling
2. Use cucumbers that aren't big yet
3. Cut the blossom ends off
4. Soak the cucumbers in ice water before pickling
5. Use some commercial additives

None of which I had done before. This time I have opted for 4 out of 5 and
We'll find out in a few weeks how I did. The tricky part is, I'll have done a few more batches by the time the pickles have sat in the pickling solution long enough to open, so we're going to be really, really, REALLY hopeful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aphid Update

My sweet, wonderful, adorable husband went out last night and sprayed the ENTIRE garden with soap and water, which kills aphids or at least sends them scurrying for less clean places, and we will be sudsing the garden weekly now.

Look What I Harvested From the Garden This Morning!

Now, if you're saying to yourself, "Gee, I don't remember Toni saying she was planting patty pan squash," that would be because I did NOT plant them. I planted pumpkin. From a seed packet. I planted butternut squash in the same place--from a seed packet--and they never came up. I have 4 other squash plants over in that corner--all planted from pumpkin seed packets--and I'm really, really, REALLY hoping that thisis a baby pumpkin.

Last year I refused to even plant a zucchini as summer squash plants are just two hard to keep up with, and now I have 2 summer squashes--or more, depending on what the two small squashes decide to be. If they turn out to be patty pans too I will be ripping them out by their little roots shredding their little bodies into the compost bin--maybe minus the seeds.

And as long as we're on the subject of squash, remember when I got frustrated because the pumpkins weren't sprouting, and I mixed Hubbard squash & buttercup squash seeds together and just planted them? Well, something definitely came upWe've dubbed it "Audrey" because I've already caught it throttling a strawberry plant. I still don't know which one came up, but I read in a book that Hubbard squash can grow to be 40 pounds, so we're really REALLY hoping it's the buttercup.

So my newest theory on why people started buying food instead of growing it themselves isn't the convenience or the time involved--I think people get tired of getting their a**es kicked by squash.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Have Just Removed About A Pound of Skin

Andy had found a recipe involving white beans and kale--which we had a lot of but rarely used as we didn't know what to do with it--so he decided to make it for dinner tonight. All good so far.

When he went out to pick the kale however, he discovered that the backs of the kale leaves were covered with little white somethings. Since I'm the one with the farming background--which never involved kale or little white somethings, incidentally--he came to see what I thought. I thought it was time to switch recipes for dinner. Either we had some sort of egg infestations or the kale had a really unique way of going to seed, and in either case I decided it was time to remove the kale from our garden. I know there are all sorts of ways to remove eggs & things from leaves and use them anyway, but my interest in eating kale has so far been pretty minimal. Throw in some insect eggs and it would have to cure cancer for me to want to eat any more of our kale crop. So I got out my gloves, ripped up all the plants, and started merrily ripping the leaves to shreds for the compost bin.

My arm itched.

Then my ankle itched.

Then my arm itched again.

I can now tell you with definite assurance that it was INDEED a bug problem and they were tiny white bugs (Andy says probably aphids)....and I was covered in them.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tomorrow I will apologize to the neighbors for the inadvertent display of a grown woman running through her house screaming and stripping off her clothes while sprinting up the stairs. I realize that might have been a bit of a shock, especially to those with small children. And for any temporary water shortages that Boise might experience after my rather long shower, I'll probably need to apologize for that as well.

And beans with sausage and peppers is a MUCH better idea anyway....

Monday, July 20, 2009

What A Little Bragging Will Get You

Okay, so you know how I've been telling everyone that neither of us have had a cold since we started the Year of No Processed Foods?

I said it one too many times, and I now have a cold while it's a brisk 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

To be fair, the lack of colds could also have something to do with neither of us going to germy workplaces every day, but I like to think that we're getting lots of benefits out of all of this.

At least the one thing I can say about getting a cold NOW--I don't miss canned chicken noodle soup because it's just too darn hot for soup no matter how good it would be for me!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Andy!

Andy's birthday party Thursday night was lots of fun and we had lots of great people over, but the BEST surprise of all arrived Thursday afternoon:
Andy's sister flew in from Colorado to surprise him! It turns out, I have married into a family of covert operatives, as neither of us had even the slightest suspicion that Jana and the kids were planning this. What fun! The kids made Jana a map to our housewhich she needed because she was WALKING from the airport to our house (which has honestly never occurred to me as something to do), and on the back of the map was a little incentive reminder:A fun, fun weekend!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lesson Learned This Week

* If one does indeed schedule 4 social engagements in one week, smart people probably don't host two of them

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Garlic Is Harvested!

I had harvested some of the garlic earlier, because I was unsure if the "doesn't like heat" overrode the "stop watering two weeks before harvest," so yesterday it was time to harvest the remainder. I assume that one stops watering the garlic so it will die back naturally--like not being able to cut off the scraggly, dead foliage from the tulips no matter how bad it looks in the flowerbed--and that might make it store better, so in case that is true, I decided to mark which garlic heads we might want to use first with little bits of yarn which are much easier to see in person than they are herebut you get the idea. Sometimes it pays to have a really, really big yarn stash.

Garlic is supposed to bruise really easily, so you hang it to "cure." That seems awfully fussy to me for a plant that originated in Siberia. I mean, if Russian peasants--who had a pretty dismal life anyway--were afraid to be sent there, Siberia is a tough place to survive. Seems to me that if a plant is going to originate there, it should be able to withstand sitting on a counter, but everybody says to hang it, so.....

By about the 20th head, I realize this would have been a good time to learn how to braid garlic, but after all the activity of getting ready for the party the night before--and getting ready for Andy's birthday on Thursday, I thought I would take it easy yesterday, which for me means not doing things that are bound to tick me off. I can knit, I can sew, I can sort of crochet, but I haven't been able to learn how to French braid my own hair, and braiding vegetables didn't seem likely to be easier. So, after running out of room hereI used some of the extra yarn--I felt a sport-weight acrylic would be most appropriate for this--strung a line of garlic on the legs of a table in the back roomand of course my helper was on-handthen running out of room and any better ideas, I strung the rest in the laundry room. and there it will remain for the next month.

I might just have to learn to braid by next year......

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...