Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gardening: Random thoughts. Partly about vegetables.

All righty, then. I haven't written anything to speak of about gardening for quite some time, so it's time for desperate measures: Random Garden Thoughts.

Thought One: I want bigger clumps. I have a tendency to plant my garden with one each of far too many fascinating plants. This can produce a perfectly nice cottage garden style, but it turns out that I'm only a moderate fan of cottage gardens. When I look at other people's gardens, it's the big clumps that I admire. There's a roughly ten foot by twenty foot clump of Shasta daisies down the road; it's gorgeous when it's in bloom.

We (me, Himself, and Gardener Artist/Miss Mosaic) are slowly adding larger clumps to the garden, by adding more of what's succeeding and yanking odd sad singles of what isn't. But it may be time for some more aggressive rearranging.

Thought Two: It turns out that bush snap beans require far less sun than shallots do. This is a good thing to know, because our vegetable garden doesn't have enough sun to really justify the name. It produces a halfhearted-to-moderate crop of snap beans, while last year's shallot crop wasn't big enough to be worth harvesting.

However, this means that I'll have to yank out the shallots that I didn't bother harvesting last year, that are already putting out heartbreakingly optimistic little green shoots this year. Maybe the neighbors would like to grow them on.

Thought Three: What are those things that I'm calling shallots? I call them shallots, whoever sold them to me calls them shallots, and the grocery calls them shallots, but I suspect that they're really potato onions.

Not that I object to potato onions. But I'd like to grow the classic gray French shallots, and so would Himself. So we may break down and plop some in the middle of a prime full-sun flower bed. However, that plan requires that I remember to order them in the fall, when they ship. Maybe next year I'll be blogging about our successful crop.

Thought Four: I've (briefly) discussed the idea that areas of the garden should have a purpose - a place to sit, a vegetable garden, a cutting garden, and so on. Most of the spaces in the garden have one or more purposes, but the space between the north side of the house and the neighbors' fence is an exception.

Himself has ceded this space to me, for my exclusive enjoyment, while we share most of the rest of the garden. That's where I grow the plants that I love and he hates with a fiery passion, like David Viburnums and lilies. I enjoy my exclusive domain, but Plants Himself Hates is a bad mission statement for a garden. Finding a clearer purpose for this space remains an open garden issue.

Thought Five: We have a bed in front of the garage that's waiting patiently for three roses. We have the trellises for the roses, all built and installed. But I can't seem to choose the roses. The bed remains a low sea of ivy.

It's not that there aren't any roses that I like. There are thousands. But these three spaces are the last three spaces for roses in the garden. Once those three roses go in, there will be no more until something dies or is evicted. Apparently I can't handle the pressure of picking the Last Roses.

Photo: Mine.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ramble: Blogging: Letters, and blogging, and the return of writing

I just can't decide if my posts about blogging belong here or there. So the post is there, and I'm pointing to it here.

Photo: By Ammodramus. Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Food: Chocolate: Sel de Mer Caramels by Sweet

Closeup photograph of fleur de sel/sea salt.
I spent some of my growing-up years in Tennessee. So to some extent, I eat like a Southerner. That means, in addition to fried chicken and pickled okra, salted watermelon. I love salt on sweet.

I also, of course, love chocolate, and candy, especially the squishy buttery kind. So Sweet's Sel de Mer caramels - caramel, and sea salt, and white or dark chocolate if you want them - are great on paper. And they're even better in person. They're fabulous in person. They're "eat them all in ten minutes and dream about more", in person.

So thank you very much, Joe, for bringing them to the Fat of the Land party. And everybody else? You want these. You really do. If you're in Ashland, just go get some. If not, well, they do ship.

Link: Sweet

Photo: by Christian Mertes. Wikimedia Commons

Scenes From Gardens Past: Nasturtiums 2005

Photograph of nasturtium foliage.

I love nasturtiums. They're easy to grow from those giant seeds. They make lush mounds of beautiful lilypad foliage, even in a fair bit of shade. They grow in a laughably small amount of dirt. (I once saw one leafing out merrily in the dirt washed against an uneven sidewalk edge.) And of course, sometimes they have flowers. But for me, it's all about the foliage, like those leaves in the photo above.

You can also eat them. A quick search turned up nasturtium risotto, and capers, and pizza and pesto and soup. Yum.

Photo: Mine.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rant/Ramble: Talking about Blogging

Just a post to point to a post about blogging on the other blog. Because I'm hoping to catch all of the bloggers that read any of my blogs, with my question.

Photo: By Guyon Moree. Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Theater: Hamlet Without The Napping

While I love seeing Shakespeare plays, it's not un-heard-of, during the longer ones, for my brain to start whispering to me, "You know, it's really dark. If you closed your eyes for just a few minutes, odds are nobody would notice."

That wasn't an issue tonight. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's first 2010 performance of Hamlet was a Zero Napping Event. The issue wasn't keeping my eyes open, it was deciding which actor to keep them on.

Dan Donohue was Hamlet. I keep thinking of him as a comic actor, and I keep being reminded that his is a multipurpose toolkit. The elements that I think of as being comedy assets - the perfect timing, the chameleon voice and face, the whole space-alien morphing thing that he uses to transform from the geeky weakling in one play to the towering fighting man in his prime in another - they're all just as valuable, I realize over and over, in drama and tragedy.

Donohue's Hamlet was powerful, desperate, and funny, and he scooped up the audience and carried them on that ride with him. No whining. No waffling. No wishing, on the audience's part, that he'd just get over it. And when I say "funny", I don't mean that he added inappropriate comedy; I'm talking about that black, irrational laughter that sometimes bubbles up at a funeral or a disaster.

Susannah Flood as Ophelia was a geeky, awkward adolescent, not the traditional forgettable Victorian watercolor. I believed in her. I liked her. I winced for her when her troubles were human-sized, and I was arrested by the power in her later madness.

I'd go on, but I'd just keep on going. This isn't one of those plays with dead-weight performances that don't quite fit with the rest, so I'd have to talk about everyone. I'll stop here and just advise: Go see it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Food: Wrong Food: Deep Fried Macaroni And Cheese

“I don’t know what kind of salad it is.  I’m eating a salad, okay?  I’m doing it.  Do I have to know the names?  There’s no difference between them.  It’s a bowl of weeds.  Some of ‘em have cheese.  This isn’t the kind with cheese.  Does that answer your question?”

Toby Ziegler, West Wing, Season 4, Episode 21, Life On Mars
We're throwing a party soon. We throw parties now and then. And they have food. Sometimes the food involves green vegetables. Or even leaves.

This isn't the kind with leaves.

It's called the Fat Of The Land party. The general theme is fat, preferably lovingly locally raised fat. Like, y'know, Southern Oregon cheese and butter.

For this particular dish, we're taking Southern Oregon cheese and butter and milk, adding some macaroni that comes from who-knows-where, throwing in a few other things, and baking it all into a macaroni and cheese casserole. This is certainly evil all in itself, but it calls for an extra touch, doesn't it?

Alton Brown tells us how to add that extra touch: Refrigerate the casserole overnight. Cut it into pieces. Bread them with egg and panko crumbs. And deep fry them.

I don't have a photograph, because we haven't completed the operation yet. But, yum.

(Oh, and if you wanna watch Toby, somebody posted that scene on You Tube.)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Food: Wrong Food: Chocolate Bacon Cupcake Photo

Photo of chocolate bacon cupcake.

Sorry, no recipe. I just had to show you the cupcake. Just because.

Photo: By It's Holly. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - Drowning the Shed 2006-2009

In 2006 the honeysuckle, above, was engulfing the shed from one side. In 2009 the rose, below, attacked from the other side. It's a nice shed, but at this rate we won't be able to see it any longer.

But, no, I'm not complaining.

Photos: Mine.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - A Place To Sit, 2006

I read, somewhere, sometime, that an important element of garden design is to figure out what the area under design is for - its purpose. Cutting garden? Vegetable garden? Transition? Pure looks? This seems obvious, but at the time it wasn't.

I've concluded since then that the purpose of most of our garden is to sit down. Or lie down. With a book or a drink or a snack or a notebook or perhaps all of the above. In fact, I have a basket dedicated to carrying my garden toys outside with me, when I'm going to sit.

So, above  is the Bench Under The Maple, apparently photographed while I was lounging on a blanket on the ground. Behind the bench are blooming Siberian squills and daffodil and bearded iris foliage, and those plugs of green between the paving stones are either Irish moss or Corsican mint.

Photo: Mine.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meta: Garden Posting

So, you may ask, what's with all these Scenes From Gardens Past?

Well, I want to write more about gardening. I'm very fond of gardening. But for some reason I can't quite seem to write about it as comfortably and easily as I can write about perfume. I wrote a whole post about that fact and... I didn't like it. So I didn't post it.

But I concluded from that failed post that that I don't write more about gardening, because I don't write enough about gardening. That is, the only way to get my garden voice and get that ease and fun from garden writing, is to do more of it. And to get comfortable with, frankly, writing nonsense about gardening. And to do all that, I need a subject. And with that whole winter thing out there, I don't have much in the way of subjects. But I have all these photos in iPhoto. So there you are.

There will, of course, also be posts about books and Wrong Food and who knows what else. But I thought that the long stream of garden photos might call for some explanation.

(And that anemone? It's from 2005.)

Photo: Mine

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - Garden Resident 2007

This garden resident was temporary, just sticking around until he, um, well, decayed.

And the same for his friend from the previous year. I take no blame for the fuzziness of this photo; I maintain that he moved.

Photos: Mine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - Marching Pots 2006

This was mid-April 2006. I very much enjoyed this line of prim plain terracotta pots of tulips on a mossy edge. This October, I'll remember to do it again. (And by now, the pots may be mossy, too. That could be nice.)

Photo: Mine

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - Construction 2007

We did a lot of home construction in 2007. Our contractor took great, great care to refrain from tromping on the garden, as is demonstrated by this photo, with the flowers ganging up on the ladder instead of the other way around.

Photo: Mine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - Tulips 2006

These are my very favorite tulips, photographed in 2006. (2006 was apparently a big year for me and my camera.) They've faded or been lost - I haven't seen a trace of them in at least two years - and I want them back. I wasn't the person that originally planted them, so I don't know their name. Not, I confess, that being the person who planted them would assure that I do know their name.

If anyone has any suggestions as to that name, I'd be very grateful to hear them.

Photo: Mine.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - The Path 2006

These are April Fool's Day daffodils from 2006, growing by the path below a bedroom window. I find them lovely but dismaying - I have to wait for April to see these again?

See the small-leafed plant behind the daffodils? It's a miniature rose. Below is a shot of its very last blooms, in November of the same year.

Photos: Mine

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - Garden Residents 2006

This is Jill. She lives in the garden. This portrait, and the one below with her car, were taken in 2006.

When we bought the house, the garden was dotted with toys belonging to the child who'd lived there before - and perhaps children from before that. As we found them, we repositioned them in safer places - the back of the potting bench, up high on the fence support, on a windowsill, or, in the case of Jill, in a nice big pot.

Jill moved out of the pot when it cracked in a winter freeze. She currently lives in the vegetable garden with Jack, another member of the Playmobil clan. Jack's apparently a little camera shy - I don't seem to have a picture of him at all.

Photos: Mine.

Food: Wrong Food: Fried Coke

Deep fried Coke.
So I needed a Coca-Cola related picture for today's post on The Other Blog. While searching Wikimedia Commons, I found this photo.

It's fried Coke. Apparently someone at the Texas state fair deep-fried Coke flavored batter, flavored it with Coke syrup, and, just to add that last touch, served it with cream on top.

I'm frightened. And also vaguely wishing that I had a recipe.

Link Roundup: Articles (with, yes, some recipes) on this alarming but fascinating food from Wikipedia and Chiff and Slashfood and WFTV and MSNBC and SeriousEats and eHow. Many of these recipes are apparently Coke-flavored funnel cake, and don't look at all like the photo.

Photo: By Stephen Witherdon. Wikimedia Commons.

Gardening: Scenes from Gardens Past - Complicata 2007

Spring isn't here yet. But the photo hoard is there and available. So why not look at some?

This crowd of flowers and foliage was from late May, 2007. Low in the picture we have a Complicata rose, a geranium that's most likely Rozanne cranesbill, unnamed lily and bearded iris foliage, and a sprinkle of pink petals that are probably from the Sally Holmes rose that loomed in that area at the time. Wild violet foliage fills in, and oakleaf hydrangea leaves drip down from above. A mess, but isn't it a lovely one?

Photo: Mine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Food: Wrong Food: Mo's Dark Bacon Bar

In a candy store, the other day, I saw a Vosges Haute Chocolat "Mo's Dark Bacon Bar."

You're familiar with me. You know I bought it.

I must admit that I was a little nervous about eating the thing - not out of any doubts about how bacon and chocolate would combine, but instead doubts about how exactly one could incorporate bacon into an unrefrigerated candy?

But I ate it anyway. It was good, but it wasn't nearly as weird as I expected. Good dark chocolate with a nice snap, pleasantly crunchy little salty pockets, and, well, that seems to be all. I'm not tasting any bacon.

Perhaps this is partly because my goal, with bacon, is the fat. All this praise of "lean bacon" is something that I don't understand. I consider the lean to be a necessary evil, a structural element that exists to hold the fat together. Preferably fat cooked to a shattering crispness.

But I suspect that shattering-crisp bacon fat would not be a very stable component of a chocolate bar. The bacon in the bar is probably lean, with its flavor hidden behind the dark chocolate. And that's OK with me. I love salt with my chocolate, so I'll happily buy this again, next time I see it.

Review Roundup: PapaKaster's Eatin' and The Scented Salamander and Perfume Posse and The Impulsive Buy and Washingtonian and Chocolateobsession and TheFoodSpot and NeedCoffee and Dave's Cupboard and BlissTree and she eats and Googling reviews of this just goes on and on and on, so I'll leave it at this for now.

Photo: By Renee Comet. Wikimedia Commons.

Gardening: Boredom and anticipation and aimless rambling

.I keep thinking that I want to write a gardening post. And then I go stare at the screen and type nothing. What to talk about? Seed catalogs? Did that. Egyptian walking onions? Did that. Potato onions? Meh; they failed last year due to lack of sun, so I'm nursing a grudge against them.

Zinnias? Well, zinnias are pretty. In fact here's a picture of one that I grew in 2005. Isn't that pretty? But, well, what else is there to say about zinnias? They're pretty, happy, circus flowers. Grow them. If your taste matches mine, grow the more daisy-like ones, like that one, instead of the ones that are more like a chair cushion.

I'm sure that the problem is the weather. There was a brief burst of excitement when I realized that the daffodil shoots were showing, but that's over now. By the way, here's a daffodil that I grew in 2007. Also pretty, right? Later in the spring, there will be a couple of hundred of these by the street. That'll be nice. And a few hundred of the big yellow trumpet kind inside the fence, around the front yard.
And the magnolia's showing buds, so it's not too long before we'll see those big pink aerial tulips again. So, another photo. See? Pretty!

You see the problem? It's all anticipation. I want spring and I want it now.

Maybe I should take up leeks.

Photos: Mine.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ramble: ChickenFreak's Restaurant Fantasy (Frying chicken for the good of humanity. Or Dalmations.)

I have a fantasy of running a restaurant. But there's a problem with it, caused by the fact that my reality TV niche of choice is British-influenced restaurant shows such as Kitchen Nightmares, with failing restaurant owners begging for rescue from British chef Gordon Ramsay.

This has taught me that running a restaurant is emphatically not something that I could ever dream of doing successfully. Or at least, not successfully and while making a profit. That puts a damper on the restaurant fantasy.

I've solved the problem with some backstory. In the fantasy, my distant (and fictional) Uncle Horace, who feels that a nice girl like me should get away from the compiler and into the kitchen, has left me several million dollars. But I only get the money if I run a restaurant with it. To motivate me to go along with this disastrous plan, Uncle Horace has specified that if I refuse, the money will be donated to some dreadful soul-sucking organization - the Cruella Deville Foundation, let's say.

See how easy? I must open a restaurant.

OK, backstory complete and on to the fantasy.

The restaurant, of course, would be a chicken shack. I'm picturing an old one-story clapboard building in a nice small town somewhere, rescued by ChickenFreak Foods, lovingly re-sided and painted in a variety of bright circus colors. We'd change the circus colors every couple of years. This should convince any chicken-resistant townsfolk to come by once in a while, to see the restaurant transformed from sky blue, butter yellow, and magenta to forest green, fire-engine red, and sunshine yellow. And so on. If that doesn't do the job, maybe we'll try some murals.

The parking lot would be re-paved in red brick; after all, I need to use up Uncle Horace's money before I can get out of the chicken business. There would be box planters of red geraniums, and canvas umbrellas in those same circus colors, shading (of course) brightly painted picnic tables.

The paint explosion would continue inside, where you'd step up to the gleaming painted-wood counter and order your chicken. Fried chicken, American-southern-style pan-fried chicken, the kind that used to require a half-hour wait, back when it was available at restaurants at all. Looking past the counter into the kitchen area, you'd see the three giant cast-iron skillets, dozens of pieces being fried, manned by an always alert world-class fry cook with tongs in hand.

In addition to chicken, the fantasy includes shoestring french fries, fresh-cut and double-fried in pure lard right in the restaurant. And potato salad. And cole slaw. And deviled eggs. And for those who want an occasional nonfat bite, vinegary cucumber salad, and pickles, and peaches in season, and watermelon in season. And the peaches and watermelon would always be served with a tiny packet of salt.

And there'd be soda, in glass bottles. Coke and Dr. Pepper with cane sugar. And RC Cola. And Boylan's. And Cheerwine. And so on. A big old glass-door cooler with a multicolored display of hundreds of gleaming bottles. And outside, one of those old-fashioned Coke machines to serve the cravings of those that arrive after the restaurant's closed.

What else do I need? Got to get some bacon in there somehow. And would Hawaiian-style macaroni salad be off topic? And do you have a restaurant fantasy?

Mmm. Chicken.

Photo: By Andreas Dobler. Wikimedia Commons.

Compilation on the question: Why Do You Blog?

Being the sort of person who can't do anything without reading about it, I've been reading about blogging. So as a result, I offer a group of links that answer the question: Why do you blog?

From Sandhill Trek, a blogger asked thirty-five other bloggers why they blog, and provided a compilation of their responses.

From the Washington Post, "Bloggers on the reasons behind their daily words".

From Chris Stubbs, "Why do you blog?"

From, "Why I blog".

Image: By Matthias Kern. Wikimedia Commons.