Archive for June, 2010

June 29, 2010

Gumshoe Gardening: Brynna – 1, Slugs – 0

A whole week has passed since my slug fiasco.  I’m very happy to say that after I launched a full-blown attack with a full arsenal of supplies, my little spinach plant is more or less thriving.  Caution: graphic pictures of death to follow.

Here’s a gross little slug trail (top left to bottom right):

And here is a slug Eric killed with salt:

And here is the ridiculous-looking fortress I made…

And one week later…. my happy plant (with also happy pepper friend)!

When I discovered that my spinach was being eaten, I immediately set the container on top of another container to keep it off the ground and make the slugs do more work.  Then I did some frantic research, and I discovered that there are several normal household items slugs don’t like: salt, which I promptly sprinkled around the edge of the lower pot; copper, which I found in the form of pennies and laid on top of the salt; and eggshells, which slugs apparently don’t like to crawl over because they hurt their little bellies.   I had just used some eggs, so I crumbled three shells and spread them around the salt.  So far, this three-fold attack seems to be working, and the slugs are leaving my plants alone.

My other plants are growing, too — most noticeable is my tomato!  I need to stake it sometime soon.  I just read that you’re supposed to stake them immediately after transplanting so you don’t later damage the root system… oops.  Here are some pictures of the thriving family:

I’m not sure why my fuchsia is drooping so…  there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it, and the flowers keep growing, but it won’t stand up!  Any thoughts?

Perhaps next time a tomato-staking adventure?  And prayers for no more garden pests!

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June 28, 2010

Rookie Running: Week 6

I’m back from a lovely weekend in gorgeous Spokane with my family.  We assembly lined an impressive amount of handmade wedding invitations (around 140). This included manually stamping/embossing, hand-addressing, printing and applying 3 different labels, tying tags, and grommeting each one.  I also got to watch my brother and soon-to-be brother-in-law compete in Hoopfest.  I even got a little sunburned!

Today I started Week 6 of the Couch to  5k program.  I’ll be reporting on two runs, because last Friday I ran for 20 straight minutes!

Week 5, Run 3: This run was a 5-minute warm up walk, 20-minute run, and 5-minute cool-down walk.  I was pretty scared going into it, but remembered to pace myself and start slow.  I had to run in Spokane because I flew there at 6 am.  Thankfully, the route was fairly flat, with only one slight hill that I climbed during the first half — which meant I got to run down it on my way home.  I took my family’s dog Molly with me, which also made me nervous because I’ve never run with a dog, but it was okay.  She made me feel lame because her running alongside me was much more like trotting (okay, it could even have been called fast walking). I thought I was going extremely slowly until I told my dad about it later and he said she doesn’t really “run” with him either.  One thing that made this run exciting was that my neighbor’s psycho dog came out of nowhere in the last 20 feet of my run, blindsided Molly, and started attacking her.  I screamed — loudly — and Molly fought back for a minute, and then the dog ran off.  It was terrifying.

Week 6, Run 1: Today’s run was not quite as encouraging — I actually had my first side-ache in a while.  This might have been due to the fact that my schedule was a little thrown off – I worked from 11-1 today instead of from 12-2, so I didn’t have as much time before work to get everything done (including running) that I wanted to.  Instead I ran as soon as I came back, but my food/water situation might have been different.  I’m also thinking that walking between runs actually breaks up my rhythm and messes me up.  My feet hurt today, too.  I think they were achy from walking around at Hoopfest.  I spent the morning walking in uncomfortable flats that started giving me blisters, so during my trip home for lunch I grabbed some flip flops that are slightly stretched out and are therefore too big for me, making my feet muscles probably do awkward things to keep them from slipping around.  Hopefully these are the reasons, and not any sort of shoe/running injury issue!

I need to find a new go-to route.  They are starting to do sewer work under the Fanno Creek Trail and have to close it off for the rest of the summer.  Summer is, of course, a logical time to do this, but so terribly inconvenient for those of us who need NO excuse not to exercise.  But then, I jest.  Because amazingly, I do feel very motivated to at least finish this program.  If I need a program in order to keep at it afterward, maybe I’ll just start training for a 10k! But don’t hold me to it.

Here is my progress meter.  I’ll do the starred run on Wednesday.

June 25, 2010

Just checking in…

Hello all,

Sorry for the short break!  I took a trip home this weekend to help my darling little sister with her wedding invitations.  I’ll be back on Monday!

June 22, 2010

Gumshoe Gardening: We’re under attack!

Yesterday  I went out to the porch to look at my garden’s progress (turns out they don’t grow too noticeably day by day), and I noticed a suspicious-looking hole in one of my plant leaves.  Trying to be optimistic, I didn’t think much of it.  Yes, it could be a predator who lurks in the dark waiting to sabotage my garden, I thought, but my plants had been there for all of three days, and they are in containers, not a huge bed of dirt!

But today I went out again — and now I am very discouraged.  Two entire halves of leaves are eaten off of my spinach (the poor guy only has a few!), and other leaves have little holes, too.

I suspect slugs.  Can anyone confirm this?

Also, I have no idea what’s going on here:

The bottom-most leaves of spinach are coming out flimsy and colorless.  I am almost sure I have not over or under-watered, and there is plenty of root space.  Could I have traumatized those roots by transplanting, I wonder? Will they get better?

And the last mystery:  light brown splotches on my fuchsia leaves.  I’m at a loss here…

Gardening gurus, please help!  I’m not 100% committed to organic if pesticides are the only way for me to actually grow anything — what works??  I might go slug-hunting tonight…  which I will absolutely post about if it happens.

Some super easy, delicious recipes are coming soon!

June 21, 2010

Rookie Running: Week 5

First, the weekend update:

We went into this weekend with two plans, brought about by two exciting additions to our stuff pile.

1) Last week, Eric’s brother David sent us a surprise — Secret of Mana for SNES. (!!!)

2) Eric also received some new-to-him bike racks that he ordered in the mail. We saw that they were a little scuffed up and teeny bits of rust were threatening to grow larger, so…

Our plans for this weekend were born:  lay around playing Super Nintendo, and spray-paint bike racks.  Yes, these plans were pre-arranged, and we stuck to them, mostly.  We did get bored by Saturday night and decided to go out for an impromptu Toy Story 3 excursion.  We went to the 11:15 non-3D showing, and my elderly body was seriously disoriented.  I don’t remember the last time I was up until 1:30 am!  We really enjoyed the movie, though.  Sunday evening, we also added in a church visit to Door of Hope, which we’ve been meaning to check out since it started last Summer.  There, we ran into a friend and spent some time with her after the service.

I began week 5 of my Couch to 5k program today feeling…well…exhausted.  I don’t know if it was the laid-back nature of this weekend combined with some later-than-usual nights or what, but I couldn’t stay awake through my devotions this morning.  When 10 rolled around and I laced up my shoes, I was feeling sleepy, drained, dehydrated, and hungry.  I grabbed a small handful of pecans and chocolate chips and went.  And I felt great. It was such a nice surprise to not be dying at the end of the third five minutes.  It’s funny how my perspective has changed so much with the small increments — before beginning this program, believe it or not, I could run about a mile, even a one and a half with pushing (i.e. Eric running next to me), but I qualified as one of those “starting too fast” runners whose body then hates them.  Now, I look at my running app (more on that later) and can’t believe they want me to run a whole 5 minutes.  The audacity!  And on Friday I have to run for 20 minutes, which makes we want to quit and die right here and now.  Until I think about the fact that today felt good, and then I get a little glimmer of hope.

Here are some observations I have made, now that I have been running for over a month and feel slightly more qualified to give them.  Note that these are my observations and quite possibly specific to my body.

  1. I don’t feel hungry if I eat breakfast about 2 hours before my run and then have a tiny snack (like 5 pecan halves and a couple ounces of water) before I leave.
  2. I feel better when I look at my feet, but I don’t like that.  I want to run with my
  3. Although warm-up/cool-down walks are obnoxious, they really are helpful.
  4. Stretching after a run and on off-days makes the off-days much more pleasant.  I can feel my muscles tightening up if I don’t stretch enough.
  5. Instead of stretching before I leave the house, I like to do the warm-up walk, then pause my app and stretch, then start it again to transition into my run.
  6. Music absolutely helps and makes everything better.  My running favorites so far have been Lecrae, Streetlight Manifesto, and the Living End.  I also tried listening to a sermon one day.  I noticed that it passed the time better because I wasn’t thinking as much about running or wondering how much time was left, but it did definitely lack the motivation factor, which is perhaps more important for the tough parts.
  7. I have realized it’s easier for me to keep going if I am watching my feet instead of looking ahead.   I dislike this fact, because it makes me feel like I’m not confident — we’re always told to walk with our heads up, looking the world in the face and paying attention to where we’re going.  But for now, I’m not fighting it, because I think it does actually fit quite nicely with my one step at a time mission statement: It’s about paying attention to the process. If I don’t look ahead, I don’t get overwhelmed by how much is left and whether or not I can make it.  Instead, with my head down, I watch my feet take each step and stop worrying.  Looking up can come later.

Here’s my progress meter!  Almost half-way through!  I’ll do the starred run on Wednesday.

June 18, 2010

Gumshoe Gardening: Meet the lineup.

This week I got a little ahead of myself, and maybe (totally) forgot that gardening is going to be hard, and will require patience.

Ignoring these facts,  I went to the library feeling ambitious and picked up several gardening books. Oh, they sounded fantastic: Gardening your city!  Gardening in containers!  Gardening in the Northwest!  Eric and I decided to spend some time reading on Tuesday night, and I got out my books, naively expecting to find tons of ideas, inspiration, and valuable advice for my new garden.  Instead, I got lost in a whirlwind of zones and pH levels and garden tools and building beds and mulching and root rot and drainage and pest control….!!!!!!!!

Clearly I’m not doing so well in my “one step at a time” philosophy.  I took a few days off from even thinking about gardening.  Then I re-evaluated and decided that all I really wanted was a tomato plant. Really.  Truly.  I’d love to not kill a tomato plant.

Today I went to a nearby nursery to pick up said tomato plant.  The lady asked me what I wanted to grow, and I pathetically launched into my “I kill plants but I still want some” speech.  I told her I thought a tomato plant would be nice, and she pointed to some tomatoes and peppers.  Long story short, I came home with a whole crew of mini plants, and I am a little bit in love with them.

the crew

And so I proudly introduce to you my tomato, basil, cilantro, pepper, spinach, and fuchsia plants.

Yellow SunSugar Tomato, with its delicious-smelling leaves and its vast potential for small, round, sweet yellow fruits….


Basil, which makes me yearn for caprese, pesto, margherita pizza, and summer pasta salads…

basil plant

Cilantro, without which Thai and Mexican food would be seriously lost…

cilantro plant

Giant Marconi Pepper, whose not-actually-so-giant fruit will grace many a summer salad…

Spinach, the surprisingly delightful superfood…

spinach plant

and Cape Fuchsia, which will draw hummingbirds to my garden with its lovely tube-shaped blossoms.

cape fuchsia plant

I’m proud of them.  I pledge to water them, pinch off the dead stuff, and wage war with slugs, bugs, and neighborhood cats.  (That includes Kieran when he escapes.  The very first thing he did when I got home today with my plants was bite a big hole through one of the fuchsia leaves…)

I bought a few planting pots today at Value Village and Target, but they somehow all ended up being clashing shades of red and yellow, so changes must be made.  Until then…

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. –Matthew 6:28b-33

June 17, 2010

Brynna is a fledgling foodie.

Before you clever people inform me that I have suddenly strayed from my cutesy alliterated gerund phrases, I would like to point out that “fledgling foodie” is still very cutesy and alliterated, even if it is only a regular old adjective/noun.  Rest assured:  I’m still lame.

I went back and forth on this category title for a while. At first I was going to make it “[Synonym for Beginner] Cooking,” but I’m really not a beginning cook.  Oh, there are plenty of things I do not know how to cook and plenty of things I have never attempted.  But when I compare my cooking skills to my gardening/running skills, I feel pretty okay.  I know the differences between various cutting and food preparation terms, I can follow almost any recipe (*but don’t quote me on that), and I even know that eggplants need to sweat.  I may not be the iron chef, but thanks to my lovely mama I have been familiar with kitchens since I was a very little Brynna.

Foodie, on the other hand, connotes something rather different.  It doesn’t only mean cooking, but includes things like gorgeous presentation, wine pairings, and a well-rounded nutritional profile.  It can bring to mind ideas of elitism, which I want to avoid — but “foodie” is such a silly word that it can’t carry too much class on its own.  Thus, I aspire to be a foodie.  I want to cook for pleasure and not just necessity.  And I hope I’m well on my way.  Case in point:  I have a box of hamburger helper in my pantry, but it’s been there for a few months and I have yet to use it.

Today’s foodie topic is going to be last night’s dinner, a Rachael Ray delight from her 365: No Repeats cookbook.  I’m not a die-hard Rachael Ray fan, but I like two qualities she has pretty much mastered:  ease and speed. Here is the recipe for Chipotle Chicken Rolls with Avocado Dipping Sauce.

Chipotle Chicken Rolls with Avocado Dipping Sauce

Chipotle Chicken Rolls with Avocado Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Chipotle Chicken Rolls:

1 pkg (1 1/3lb) ground chicken breast

6 Scallions, thinly sliced, then chopped

1 1/2 c Grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 Garlic clove, finely chopped

1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped or 3 tablespoons of a chipotle flavored salsa

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

6 sheets Frozen phyllo dough, defrosted

4 tbsp Unsalted butter, melted

Dipping Sauce:

1 Ripe Hass avocado

Juice of 3 limes

Handful of fresh cilantro leaves

1 tsp Coarse salt

3 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400.

In a bowl, combine ground chicken, scallions, cheddar cheese, garlic, and chipotles and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a sealable plastic bag. To turn the sealable plastic bag into a homemade pastry bag, trim 1 1/2 inches off one of the bottom corners of the plastic bag. Push the chicken mixture to the cut corner without pushing it through the hole. Reserve while you prepare the phyllo.

Arrange 1 sheet of phyllo dough with the long side closest to you on your kitchen counter, brush liberally from edge to edge with melted butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place another sheet of phyllo on top, again brush liberally with butter, and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the third layer of phyllo.

Place the trimmed end of the pastry bag 1/2 inch in from the left side and 1/2 inch up from the bottom of the phyllo sheet. Squeeze half of the chicken mixture from the bag while moving along in a straight line from left to right. Roll the front edge of the phyllo sheet away from you, encasing the chicken mixture. Continue until you have completed a long roll. Tuck the ends in and then brush the entire outside of the phyllo log with more melted butter. Transfer the first log to a rimmed cookie sheet, putting the seam side down. Repeat this process to make a second log with the remaining chicken mixture. Bake 15 minutes or until the log feels firm to the touch.

While the phyllo-wrapped chicken is in the oven, cut the avocado in half lengthwise, cutting around the pit. Separate the halves and scoop out the pit with a spoon, then use the spoon to scoop the avocado from it’s skin. Place the avocado in a food processor and combine with lime juice, cilantro, coarse salt, and about 3 tablespoons of water. Process until avocado mixture is smooth, then stream the EVOO into the dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Once the chipotle chicken rolls are cooked, remove from oven and let them cool just enough to handle. Cut each roll in half, then cut each half in 3 equal pieces. Serve 3 chicken rolls per person on a bed of Bibb lettuce with a dish of dipping sauce.

My Alterations/Comments:

  • Instead of purchasing ground chicken, I poached two boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped them into small cubes, and whirled them around in my food processor until they looked similar to what I imagine ground chicken looks like.
  • In fact, this was a totally food-processed meal: While the chicken was boiling I processed the sauce, then I rinsed out the food processor bowl and ground up the chicken, then I emptied it and used it to chop up the rest of the chicken mixture ingredients.
  • This was the first time I worked with phyllo dough.  It’s fragile.  Not impossible, but be careful.

Verdict:

These were delicious. Kind of spicy, though, so if you’re sensitive to that like me I’d use only half a chipotle pepper instead of the whole thing.  Also, the recipe made way too much sauce — when I make this again I’ll make half the amount and save some avocado for another time.  Portions are a huge pet peeve of mine, and this recipe is no exception.  This recipe says it makes 4 servings.  I served it with corn on the cob to two people, and Eric finished his but I wasn’t able to.  Definitely serve this with a side to 2 hungry people or 3 not-so-hungry ones.

Enjoy!

{banner photo credit}

June 15, 2010

Rookie Running: Week 4

Rookie Running

Eric and I had a full couple of days this weekend, which was a lot of fun.  On Friday, we went out on an overdue date to celebrate his promotion and my getting a job.  He took me to Wildwood, which was a definite splurge but well worth it for a once-a-year type of date.  I absolutely recommend filing it away for your next special occasion.  All the food is locally grown and they change the menu daily.  They’re also known for having a wonderful wine selection.  We had the most knowledgeable waiter I’ve ever experienced, and one of the restaurant’s owners was circulating the dining room meeting guests and making sure they were enjoying themselves.  We shared an amazing salad with strange little mushrooms, and for dinner Eric had a grilled pork chop and I had lamb shoulder with all sorts of amazing stuff like crushed pistachios and orange zest and mint.  We tried two different Pinot Noirs (our favorite) that our waiter recommended to pair with the salad and the entrees.  We finished with a rhubarb pistachio hand pie and coffee.  Delicious.  Saturday we watched the England/U.S. World Cup game at McMenamins Baghdad Theater, hit up Cirque du Cycling for a couple hours, and then headed out to the Mt. Hood National Forest, where we met Burk and Lydia for a climbing and camping trip.  Sunday was church and relaxation.

Yesterday I began week four of my Couch to 5k program.  Here’s what I have to look forward to this and next week…

Week 4: 5-minute warm-up walk, 3-minute run, 1.5-minute walk, 5-minute run, 2.5-minute walk, 3-minute run, 1.5-minute walk, 5-minute run, 2.5-minute walk, 5-minute cool-down walk

Week 5:

(Day 1) 5-minute warm-up walk, 5-minute run, 3-minute walk, 5-minute run, 3-minute walk, 5-minute run, 5-minute cool-down walk

(Day 2) 5-minute warm-up walk, 8-minute run, 5-minute walk, 8-minute run, 5-minute cool-down walk

(Day 3) 5-minute warm-up walk, 20-minute run, 5-minute cool-down walk

Considering the schedule for the last couple of weeks, I feel like this week and next are significantly more challenging.  So… how did I feel yesterday?  Pretty good.  No crippling side-aches, I didn’t get hungry until the very end, and the first half was actually easy.  The tricky part about my route is that the way back is slightly uphill in parts, which is hard when I’m already tired.  I’ve thought about running it from the other direction, and maybe I’ll give it a shot sometime.  I’m actually quite blessed when it comes to running locations.  My 5-minute warm-up walk happens to take me exactly to the start of the Fanno Creek Trail at the Garden Home Recreation Center.  It’s a lovely paved trail surrounded by trees and tall grass, which makes for a significantly more pleasant experience than running on sidewalks with cars all around.

One thing I’m trying to work into my running routine is a good stretching regimen.  I’m a big fan of stretching, except that it’s time consuming.  But I have seen a difference in how I feel the next day if I stretch before and after, and I’m also all about preventing injury.  The site I’ve been referring to so far for running-specific stretches is Cool Running, but I also find that just doing some easy yoga for 10 minutes stretches similar muscles and is a really good whole-body cool-down.  If you’ve never done yoga before, I highly recommend it — even going to one or two beginners sessions will introduce you to enough basic poses to do it yourself.

Here’s my progress meter!  I’ll do the starred run tomorrow.

Hopefully I will have a gardening update ready for you tomorrow, as well.

{banner photo credit}

June 13, 2010

Sunday verse.

The Bible verses that really stood out to me this week were Galatians 4:4-7:

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

The implications of this verse are unthinkable and inexpressible.  The way we live our lives is determined by a myriad laws that come from so many different directions.  And yet, not a single one of these rules, spoken or unspoken, hinders us in our pursuit of God.  Anyone who trusts in Jesus for righteousness does not even need to worry that their performance is inadequate.  We are unconditionally loved by a perfect father who gives us every good gift and supplies every need, and it has nothing to do with what I can give back.  Even the good things I do are only the evidence of Christ working through us as he makes me more like him.  By his grace, he has allowed me to search his heart this morning through his word.  His grace draws me to worship him.

Thank you, Jesus.

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June 11, 2010

Gumshoe Gardening: Composting 101

This post begins a series called Gumshoe Gardening — today’s topic? Composting. If the words “Compost Tea” terrify you, you’re not alone.  I read those words today and was horrified, until I realized that people do not drink compost tea — they pour it on their plants.  Compost tea is made by steeping a bag of compost in water for several weeks; the liquid can then be used as a fertilizer for plants.  Let’s back up, though.  I’ve never made compost tea, I don’t have any compost I could use to make it, and, actually, I’m not even sure how composting works.  Hence, this post.

My only experience with composting so far has been an attempt my parents made about ten years ago.  They wrapped some metal screening around two trees that were close together to create a container, et voilà: a compost bin.  They told my sister Rachel and I that we could begin putting the rabbit poop we cleaned up in the bin.  In theory, we were also supposed to include food waste, but the kitchen was far away from the site and it became almost exclusively a rabbit poop dumping ground.

Since my “yard” has no trees, I will be exploring what some refer to as “urban composting.”  And maybe, eventually, I will try it out for myself.  For now, I’ve done some research, and here’s what I found.  Experienced composters, feel free to correct anything!

Basic Composting Vocab Lesson:

  • Organic Matter is generally anything living or once-living, from lettuce to a 100% cotton t-shirt to Kieran.  For composting, please use once-living organisms.
  • Microorganisms a.ka. Microbes are very tiny living things — organisms that can only be seen under a microscope.  In the realm of composting, most of the microbes we are concerned about are bacteria and fungi.  For an awesome (and cute) breakdown of compost consumers and the jobs they do, visit this site.
  • Compost is decomposed organic matter — usually with the assistance of microbes.  Everything that dies decomposes.  As one gardener said, we call it compost when we put it in a bin and watch it.
  • Compost Bin is a sturdy container that will hold compost.  It is quite helpful if this container is not, itself, biodegradable.  Plastic and metal work well.  Size depends on the household — some households use a great big trash can; a couple can probably use a much smaller container.
  • Compostables vary depending on the type of composting.  Industrial composting can handle decomposing many materials that household composting cannot because those facilities can get much hotter and produce more pressure.  This is why, for example, I would not want to compost Kieran. (Among other reasons.)  Household compostables should generally include only plant waste, since animal waste can attract animals.  And it’s gross. To maintain a good balance of microbes, compost bins should include a 40/60 or 50/50 ratio of green (wet) and brown (dry) ingredients.
  • Green/Wet ingredients: Just how it sounds. Includes fruit and vegetable scraps, used tea leaves, and grass clippings.
  • Brown/Dry ingredients: Also how it sounds.  Includes coffee grounds, nut shells, dead yard waste like leaves, pine cones and pine needles, and paper.
  • Aeration: Mixing air into compost. This can be done in various high-tech ways; most people just stir.

Urban composting is just composting in the city.  It’s not much different than “regular” composting, except that it is on a smaller scale because many urban dwellers like myself have access to fewer compostables.  For instance, we don’t have a yard from which to gather yard waste.

My gardening goals until next time?

  1. Find a compost bin and put stuff in it.
  2. Research and report on container gardening; possibly go to a gardening center and ask questions.