Monday, September 26, 2016

Greeting fall with mixed emotions

Fall is undeniably here.  The mosquitoes have already calmed down a bit, and soon they will be gone. This year was really miserable for those of us who don't like heat mixed with high, high humidity. I am one of them, and feeling cooler air today is welcome, even with the humidity. However . . .

There hasn't been a frost yet, nothing even close, but the plants are looking pretty sad. No amount of water or tender loving care will make up for the fact that summer annuals have a genetic life span, and it is nearing the end for many of them.

I love the zinnias at the front of my house. So cheerful! They are multi-colored, some tall, some medium, some short. They shaded the delicate shade-loving impatiens well enough that they are still looking quite nice. However, the zinnias, not so much.

Sad zinnias

Sadder zinnias

As for my tomato garden on the deck, they are done. I am just letting the last crop of tomatoes hang on the sad, brown plants in the hope that they will ripen before they rot. They are almost all Moldovan Green, my favorite tomato, so even though they look very un-ripe, they are not. I brought in two last night, one for supper with my wild salmon, the other one sitting on the counter for today's lunch with some cottage cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Sad tomatoes

Sadder tomatoes

A few of my mums made it through the winter, and I notice one is just full of buds. One of these days I will have to tell the ragged looking zinnias that they have served their purpose. I will blow them a kiss and then pull them out to make room for the mums to show off.

Mum budded out - it's having its day.

I planted several lavender plants against the foundation, bought from the booth that sells everything lavender at the market. The owner tells me that I need to trim them back this fall. They will be healthier next year if I do so. The smaller ones on the right are best for culinary uses, so they will get extra tender loving care.

Lavender against wall

Culinary lavender, smaller

Even the basil is sad - but this was a GOOD GOOD YEAR FOR BASIL.

There are several perennial herbs hidden among the zinnias that will be useful well into the winter - tarragon, oregano and thyme.

Oh, and I planted potatoes last spring. It's time to go on my potato search. Two organic potatoes yielded eight potato plants. Now if I can just find where to start digging!

Isn't it wonderful what one can do with foundation plantings?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Wheel turns to Mabon - the Second Harvest!

On Friday, September 23, we will be celebrating Mabon – the Autumnal Equinox and Second Harvest on the St. Joe river in my yard in Mishawaka. I know it is a work day for many of you, so 5 pm might be a little early. Come when you can, and we will partake of a potluck supper whenever we reach critical mass.

Our ritual will include putting your veggie offering in the middle of the cast circle, then telling about your garden. Leave a cuke, pick up a potato, leave a melon, pick up a squash! If you don’t have garden produce to bring, recipes for using that garden bounty will be a wonderful addition to the giving table.

I have great mosquito repellent (no Deet, all essential oils and witch hazel), so plan on going down to the river to light a Mabon fire to top off the evening.  

We need new pictures! I don't have anything in my files beyond 2004. Wasn't that a great altar? Thanks to Leann Lawson for that. And we did have some magnificent fires out there!!!

Blessed Be.

Mabon altar at farm - 2004

Mabon fire at farm - 2004

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fred has taught himself a trick . . .

Fred, a.k.a. Figgy Pudding, doesn't do tricks. Ayn Chee would play fetch with anything, and keep it up for hours! Couldn't get enough. She could also catch treats in mid-air. So can Tashi, although with her cataracts getting worse, she misses about as often as she catches them.

Fred doesn't do fetch. He doesn't catch food, much as he loves it, even when you toss it in the air towards his nose. When I leave the house, I always tell them it's time for their meatball doggy treats, because mom is leaving now. I hold Fred's right up to his mouth and he grabs it. Don't bother to toss it - he won't get it. Tashi's gets tossed to her even though I have to retrieve it from under a table or chair sometimes, and then hand it to her as well.

A couple of days ago, I gave Fred his treat, then tossed Tashi's to her - and then saw Fred throw his from his mouth several feet across the floor. I picked it up, got very close to him and tossed it. He got it.

Surely he didn't throw it across the floor so I would toss it to him the way I toss Tashi's to her. I forgot about it until this moning, when exactly the same thing happened! Fred wants me to toss him his treat, and lest I forget, he tosses it at my feet so that I will pick it up and throw it towards his nose.

Fred has learned a trick. Lo and behold, I think I am falling in love with that little guy.

Tashi and Fred

Monday, August 29, 2016

Where have I been?

I've been pretty busy for the last week, using all of my spare time to set up my new Surface Pro 4. No time for blogging.

I am trying to simplify my life. In the walkout basement, next to my soap room, is my "office," if you can call it that. I have an older computer with a tower, a BIG screen, a nice wireless keyboard and two printers. Yes, I do often need two printers. One prints double sided without having to raise a finger, the other is the backup workhorse when I have a huge pile of printing to do and limited time.

Then there is the laptop, that I really didn't use much until I discovered how handy it was at the market. Instead of going home with a list of questions posed by my customers, I now just walk over the the laptop and google things. I'm not proud. I explain to my customers what I am doing, as well as giving them some tips to get better information when they do it themselves. And then I discovered that if I put my business apps and data files on the laptop, they were always with me. On slow days at the market, I could catch up on entering information into my accounting software, and since the desktop is really nicer, I could go home and use it, but have it talk to the laptop to get to the data files.

I should have done it with Outlook as well, but I am so afraid of messing up the files. Lots of history in those old Outlook folders, and I can find all sorts of things in that program. However, I am prone to missing meetings, or being very late for them, because I haven't gotten down to the basement to open Outlook and get organized. So I use the internet to open emails at the market, and then have to send a copy of my responses to my Outlook account so I have a record of them when I get home to the desktop, and then there's my Droid - both email accounts are on it as well, and I'm confused - VERY confused!

I have been looking at the Microsoft Surface Pro, as it supposedly could take the place of a laptop. Could it work? Really? One machine, small enough that I could slip it in a handbag, with all of the stuff I have on the desktop and the laptop! I was pretty sure that the Pro 4 would hold all I needed to transfer to the new machine.

I bought one. I moved all of the data files from the laptop over, then started with the desktop files. I RAN OUT OF ROOM! Say what? There were a lot of duplicate files, which I have since taken care of, but I hauled it back to Best Buy with the intention of buying a bigger one, or else just getting another laptop, which would have a whole lot more storage space on it for the same money.

The first thing the salesman did was hit the "RESTART" buttons on side-by-side machines, one a super-fast laptop, the other a tablet (which is what Surface Pro is). The tablet - well, it's almost like turning on a light switch. Push the button, put your face in front of the camera (that's my password) and it's running. My middle name is Impatience, so I said, okay, I need to go one higher on the Surface machines. Oops! Got a thousand dollars to spare? No way!

Then he showed me this tiny little slot into which one can slide a SIM card - like you would put into your digital camera to get more storage. For only $59, it doubled my storage space, and now I have a D: drive, which I kind of like because I can separate the files from my laptop and the files from my desktop. It appeals to my neat and orderly mind.

Back home with the Surface Pro 4, insert the SIM card, and put everything from the desktop onto that tiny little card. In my desktop, I had installed a second hard drive, just for data - one drive for applications, one for data. See, I really do have a neat and orderly mind which I was very thankful for when I had a major crash. Well, sliding a SIM card into a slot was sure easier than taking the cover off a tower, screwdriver in hand! And I can buy more of them for storing archived MSMoney files and old pictures.

Getting Outlook loaded was a bit dicey and required a call to AT&T, but all is working well. I think I'm finally there! I know, I know, it took a whole week, and I am now going to have to put up with all of the Mac people saying how much easier it it with a Mac, but I saved about $2,500. Not bad for a few hours of work crammed into my spare time, and I learned a lot!

Here's a pic of my new little baby. And BTW, if I think I need that big monitor and the ergonomic keyboard, I can hook this up to them in a nanosecond and I'm ready to roll. I'm happy.

Surface Pro 4  Follow this link to see more of what she'll do.

Here she is!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mitch McConnell was down on the end of my block today.

Who knew?

I wonder what he was doing here in Mishawaka.

I managed to snap a few pictures before he got away. Of course, he is a little slow so he wasn't hard to catch up with. All that being said, he did stop for one nice head-on shot. Hoping Jon Stewart sees these pics. I'm sure he will enjoy them.

Way to go, Mitch!

Isn't he lovely?
The river is behind you Turn around!
Onward and upward

Go, Mitch!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Daisy - she was a GREAT British cook!

Someone recently told me about The Great British Baking Show, and I just started watching. Enough with the politics. This is a delightful show, and it is bringing back many memories of my dear mother-in-law Daisy. She put the lie in "boring British cookery." She could cook!

I treasure a handwritten recipe she gave me for how to make treacle pudding. Although she called it "treacle" pudding, it was made with Tate and Lyles Golden Syrup. In the instructions, she wrote that she had David (my husband at the time) hold the string while she tied down the waxed paper that was part of steaming the pudding. Steaming pudding? Had they not heard of Jell-O? Maybe I will share her recipe with you in a future post. Today, I just want to do a shout out for British Grub, also the name of a cookbook she gave me.

When I became part of Dave's family, I learned to understand English without asking Dave to interpret for me when we were alone. I learned to love a woman who loved her son fiercely and eventually took me in, once I had met her approval. I learned to make a proper cup of tea. Daisy said that the Americans couldn't make tea, and the British couldn't make coffee. Agreed. I learned to do both - coffee from my German mother, and tea from my British mother-in-law.

She made tea every morning for Dave's dad, and he rang a bell to let her know when he was awake. She then carried his cuppa into the bedroom and served him his morning tea. She told me she would get me a bell for David. I told Dave if he tried that routine with me, he would be wearing that bell where the sun don't shine!

Our Christmas dinner went from turkey or ham to roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. It was a nice transition. I miss those dinners. Perhaps I will have a proper British dinner for a few friends this year on Christmas Day. I spend my Christmas days alone, since my family does Christmas Eve, and it is crown roast of pork at my son's house. But I do have fond memories of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, finished with treacle pudding drizzled with Bird's custard for dessert, along with hot tea.

What is it with the British and their puddings? "Two great nations divided by a common language." (Attributed to both George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.) Treacle pudding made by steaming, and Yorkshire pudding made in hot beef drippings.  Oh, that Yorkshire pudding, I remember watching it puff up in the oven, browning here and there on the top. It was then cut up and served on the side of the roast beef slices, with good, dark rich gravy over all. Oh, and oven roasted potatoes. She taught me well. I'm sure my grasp of British cooking helped us get over a rough start. But we did, and I cherish the memories of her. She treated my children as her own grandchildren, and they both have fond memories of her.

Daisy also taught me to make a proper English breakfast - with fried bread (in butter, my friends, not lard or bacon fat), sunny side up eggs, and very thick bacon. The other breakfast I often made was her recipe for English crepes. Nothing fancy, but oh, so good. Very thin crepes, hot from the pan, with fresh lemon squeezed over them, then sprinkled with sugar and rolled up. Three to a plate, and garnished with a lemon wedge. And a cup of hot tea made right.

Okay, one full recipe here.

How to make a good cup of tea. 

First pour boiling water in the pot to heat it, swish it around and dump it out. Bring more water to the boil, then turn off. Then throw black tea leaves into the bottom of the pot (I happen to favor Ceylon), use about a heaping teaspoon of tea per cup, then pour the water (not boiling, but still very hot) into the pot. Pop on the tea cozy. If you don't have one, then covering the pot with a heavy dish towel will work fine. Let it sit until you see that the tea leaves have sunk to the bottom of the pot. Then oh so carefully, so you don't disturb the leaves in the bottom, pour into cups that you have also rinsed with hot water. Add lemon or milk depending on your taste, and sugar if you must. There may be a few tea leaves in the cup. But how are you to read your tea leaves to learn your fate if you don't have a few leaves in the bottom?

Reading tea leaves

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rhianna - where oh where did you go?

I got a Roomba 780, named her Rhianna, and happily used her for nearly a month, and just three days before my 30 day return with no questions asked period, she went brain dead.

Oh, how I missed her! But while I waited for my refund (yes,Amazon gave me back every penny, and paid for the return shipping), I did quite a bit of research.

I had a Roomba for years, but she really got to be too expensive to keep going, and I finally sent her to the heap. The 780 was much nicer, bigger bin, could run longer between charges. However, cleaning her up was just as big a pain as it was on my old 500 series. I have the world's hairiest dog, and even with the special tools that came with the newer model, it took a looooooooooooong time to remove hair from dust bin, both rollers, bearing housings and wheels.

I did a lot of research before replacing her, and Monday my new Rhianna, the 880 model arrived. I ran her for the first time yesterday, and I am very pleased. There are no brushes, and I was leery of how well she would take up the dog hairs. She did. No brush to clean. Okay, the jury is still out, but as of today, I am very happy with this newer model. I just came home from a forty-five minute trip to pick up my Mantis roto-tiller (that's another story for another day), and she had cleaned the whole living room floor and was safely back in her docking station.

Looks like perhaps Rhianna II and I are going to become new best friends.

Rhianna II