Tuesday, September 21, 2021

I'm just a spiteful African Violet in an Escarole pot....

....OK not exactly a great title for a poem, the opening line of a novel or even the chorus of a song, as in "I'm a lonely little petunia in an onion patch." I kid you not, it is a real song - lonely little petunia in an onion patch.

I grow some edible, leafy greens on my back deck. In August I seeded some Arugula, Escarole and Cilantro for the Fall. About a month ago, I did notice an odd leaf growing among the Escarole. It looked like an African Violet leaf. I thought, no it's really a weed masquerading as an African Violet - they do that, even in the plant world. Evil is everywhere!


Anyway, the other day, this leaf produced a bloom - a white African Violet bloom. I was amazed. Now, I did remember last Fall throwing a white African Violet plant in the compost heap. I presumed it had died or wasn't worth retrieving, given that I had too many African Violets as it was.

Well, nature is amazing. It survives, in spite of us, or to spite us. I have just to look at the weeds growing almost 6 ft tall at various intersections in the city - Jarvis & Wellesley comes to mind, to be reminded that if you give nature 50 years, it will return the urban jungle to simply jungle - bring on the lions.

A brief post today. But a resurrection is always worth celebrating.

Have a blooming wonderful day

Friday, July 09, 2021

A House is a Home is a Garden - in several posts - 1

People who know me, know I love growing "things." Yes, growing older comes to mind, but not today. Fortunately, I have a large back garden. Unfortunately it is heavily treed - growing anything in the way of food and/or flowers is a challenge. Hence (love that word), I rely on my front garden to grow plants that require full sun - tomatoes, roses, aubergines, lilies, black-eyed susans....and the like.


Covid has made me concentrate a lot on the house and the garden. We haven't gone away for weekends so, I fill the time with planting, weeding, re-decorating and cleaning.

Redecorating:

I have, as I have said in an earlier post, redecorated my daughter's room, now that she has moved out. I re-purposed much of what was in her room except the bed - it was ancient and thoroughly destroyed. Teenage years are difficult.

We replaced her double bed with our queen bed and mended or refurbished the bedding. 

Applique´ and embroidery to cover the worn fabric

I will try to revitalized a very discoloured white fitted sheet. I am thinking that some tea and a little tumeric in a dye bath might work. Also after buying on Amazon, what looked like a pretty white chair cover, only to discover, when it arrived, that it was cream, not white and made of some very thin stretchy synthetic, I decided I would have to make the chair cover myself.

Fortunately, Ikea had opened for in person shopping, so I was able to buy 3 yards of pure white, 100% cotton fabric, in a sturdy weave. I decided not to buy the McCall's pattern for a chair cover on Amazon, because it was listed at $54.00 - whatever were they thinking. With much keying in of as many variations of "chair cover" I could think of, I found a site, "sustain-my-craft-habit" that showed the viewer how to measure a straight-back chair to make a slip cover. Voila! Now, I just have to finish embroidering those appliquéd flowers.

Old wooden chair refreshed

Yes, I had to spend some money to "pull" the room together - 2 Ikea bookcases, a new closet door - mirrored, another dresser, yet to be assembled, but I painted the room myself to help cover these costs and the price of new windows!! Plus, I did repurpose a set of open shelves from the old room to both the dining room, living room and garden, ta-da!!


These were 4 very long white shelves that fit perfectly over the radiators in both the dining room and the living room. Two shelves stacked one on top of each other provided enough insulation from the heat of the radiators to allow for a mini greenhouse in the dining room and a keyboard (piano) stand in the living room. I euphemistically refer to this small alcove as the conservatory. I've clearly been reading too many Victorian novels.


The radiator, unfortunately raised the piano a little higher that "normal" so I bought an adjustable  stool from Ikea (They should pay me for all this advertising!) and can play quite comfortably, though not well - which has nothing to do with the height of the instrument. I jokingly say that I am practising to play in a piano bar.


The frame that held the shelves has gone into the garden as a support for my pole beans, one of the few plants that still grow in the back of the garden.

More on the house and the garden later.

Have a purposeful day!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Challenge

 Our writing word for a long time has been challenge. Well, I have been accepting the "take on a daily challenge" idea for a while now - maybe not everyday, but enough of them to throw out an ankle, a knee, an elbow and a shoulder - need I say more.  Since April, I have - 

1. Assembled 6 Ikea purchases - 2 narrow bookcases, 1 small chest of drawers, 1 desk and two head boards - oops the headboards were from Lowes.

2. Transplanted 4 rosebushes from the back of the house to the front - all have survived.



2a. Extended a soaker hose system to water the replanted rose bushes.

3. Put in 2 vegetable gardens - back and front.

4. Potted up 25 pots of various sizes with both flowers and vegetables. Did you know that Chives can look a lot like Dracaena, with some imagination - OK a lot of imagination.

5. Sanded and spray painted 12 wooden lawn ornaments - all black cats, which I designed years ago as part of an art project.


6. Installed a string of 24 outdoor lights to fancy up the deck. My apologies to the Lilac.

7. Got the bike rack on the car - with help and have had several short bike rides - well, it's been a year since I last rode.

8. Added dozens of indoor house plants to the few we had. All had to be re-potted several times, watered a lot and repositioned on a regular basis - not sure why.


I have tried to slow down with some needlework projects, but that required rummaging through boxes of old fabric, embroidery floss and other miscellany. Still I managed to -

1. Add 13 dome fasteners to 3 duvet covers to keep the duvets from falling out - just another 13 fasteners to go.

2. Repair one very worn duvet cover, which I just couldn't throw out.


3. Begin embroidery work on 2 tea towels that were screen printed, years ago, with a drawing of mine, plus a poem, that was not mine. Pictures to come.

Happy to report that two of my self-inflicted injuries have healed and the other two are on the mend. Now to tackle one remaining Ikea dresser and finish those knitting projects.

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Butter Chicken

 I promised a while back, actually a long while back, to give you my version of Butter Chicken from J's World Kitchen. I loved J's recipe for Naan so much that I decided to make his version of butter chicken. I did, however, take a look at a few other videos, just to see what was out there. Well, by far J's was the easiest. Some used fresh tomatoes - OK, when you have too many tomatoes in August, but this is June. J used a store bought tomato puree (as did a few others). He also did not add cashews - expensive and then you had to puree them, with the fresh tomatoes, using a hand held blender. No, this recipe is very easy. Please check out the link above for recipe amounts for two chicken breasts. I used just one chicken breast.




To start -

I chopped the chicken breast and marinated it in 

1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Garam Masala (You can substitute Allspice.)
Cayenne and salt to taste

Then I prepared the following:

1 small onion chopped
1 tablespoon each of garlic paste and ginger paste

I created my own garlic paste and ginger paste in a small blender, using 2 garlic cloves and about 2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled, plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. J used store bought paste for both ginger & garlic, but I got the idea to make my own from Madhur Jaffray.

I sautéed the onion in a large skillet over medium heat. J uses vegetable oil, but I used butter. Either one works well. To the onion, I added the garlic and ginger paste, plus the following spices:

1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 Bay Leaf 
Salt to taste

I then added the chicken and fried (sautéed) everything for about 5 mins.



Next, I added 1/4 cup of yogurt. Well, I had to get creative here, because the yogurt had gone off. Fortunately, I did have sour cream. I substituted and it worked.

I also added 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of tomato paste (actually a whole tin of tomato paste - one of the small ones.) J also adds a can of tomato sauce, but I was doing just 1 chicken breast and the sauce, as it was, tasted great! I let it all simmer, while I boiled the rice.

Finally, I poured spoonfuls of the butter chicken over the cooked rice and enjoyed it all immensely.


Oh, yes and I did add some fresh Coriander from the garden and a large dollop of Major Grey chutney. It was at this point in my life, that I finally realized Major Grey chutney is not Mango chutney. Well, they all look the same in those small jars. I guess I didn't read the fine print - the story of my life.

Have an enjoyable day!


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose......

Our writing word for today is "change." I have always maintained that change is the only constant, well maybe not. Maybe the more things change, the more they remain the same. 

For some reason, there are always dictators. Democracy is challenged in the most democratic of countries. There are still the poor, the homeless, the starving. There is still war somewhere. Peace is merely a "time out." Time to catch one's breath, gather some capital and then start all over again. We have only to look at Northern Ireland.

There is racism everywhere. Certain cultures are being purged daily. Free speech is silenced. Journalists are incarcerated and/or killed. The list goes on. Nothing, it seems has changed over hundreds of years.

Something there is in the human psyche that is always ready to explode. It's buried like a mine, just below the surface. Say the wrong thing, create an awkward situation, or look a little suspect and you could be destroyed.

Are we genetically programmed to remain the same?

It wasn't that long ago that a divorced American celebrity challenged the Crown. It is now happening again.

Trump could happen again.


Any liberties won by women, by those not following, what is considered a social norm, by those not following a dominant religion, by those not part of the main stream for whatever reason, could be reversed with every new governing power.

Change may not be merely two steps forward, one step back. It might be constantly turning in the same frustrating circles, waiting for the end ...or...

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of 
Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W.B. Yeats

"Psst, buddy, can you spare some change?" I wish I could.

The picture? The best I could do for circles.

Have a thoughtful day.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Duchess of Wessex....

 .....I have not commented on the very silly antics of "some very minor people" who have a lot of money and who feel that they need to be considered important. OK, she manipulated herself into a minor role in a dramatic series, "Suits," which aired on a secondary network. She also had her sights on a title - doesn't everyone, who wants easy fame, and/or lots of money. She charmed herself into the life of a prince, several slots away from the throne, and managed to get him to marry her.

She had a son - a great-grand-child to a woman far her superior. So, she got the job - Duchess of Sussex, but didn't want to do the work - go-figure. She wanted the title, the money, the prestige, without doing all the bowing, smiling, dressing for the cameras..etc. Somehow, she must have thought that royalty was an easy ride. 

So she started to play the cards - bi-racial, American, divorced, independent woman etc. Did she never think that the monarchy had been there before and that she was just another mistake to be "dealt with"?

May she fade away like all the others of her ilk. Wallis Warfield Simpson comes to mind. May she live and die in that obscurity, in that virtual exile. Certainly ignored, in fact, possibly hated, by many, while those who chose duty over petulance, live the beautiful lives of the role models they are - worshipped for their diligence at keeping the faith, setting an example, putting duty before pleasure, and generally reminding everyone that we are dependent on one another, we support one another, we respect one another and we play the games that get us through life, by making ourselves and everyone else stronger. Rather than being pathetic weaklings, needing sympathy and generally luring the emotionally immature into their maelstrom.



I think that her current title should be revoked. I'm sure Sussex wouldn't mind. Personally, I don't think that she or her husband should have titles at all and certainly none of their offspring.  May I offer another title, should she need one - the Duchess of Wessex. Now, Thomas Hardy may object, as would his hard working heroines - the county, of course is novel (she doesn't deserve literary); it is imaginary, as are most of  her illusions, and Wessex is inherently tragic - may she meet the fate of any or all Hardy's Wessex characters.

...and on the topic of sadness, a tribute to Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, may he rest in peace. Even at 99, he may have been brought to an earlier grave by the antics of a particular grandson. Still because of Prince Phillip's commitment to duty, we are all a little happier in our small little lives because he chose his duty over his preference, and as a result we are all doing our duty and sucking it up rather than complaining that $10 million isn't enough.

Have a hardier day

The picture - strength from my hardiness zone!

PS. Did you know that we all have hardiness zones - Mine is 6b - what is yours?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Naan....

......Yesterday, I made naan, an Indian flatbread that is often eaten with curry. I also made Butter Chicken, but I forgot to take pictures so I'll have to make it again and post the process here, because it was delicious. 

I accepted the "naan" challenge, because a friend of my son has just started a YouTube cooking channel - J's World Kitchen -  and I wanted to try some of his recipes. I make curries from time to time, but I often forget to buy naan to go with them. I also forget to buy Mango chutney, but that's another story.

My journey went as follows: (please take a look at J's World Kitchen for the proportions.)


1. I set about to proof the yeast.

2. I measured out the flour and salt in one bowl and mixed the egg and milk in another bowl, while I waited for the yeast to froth up.

The yeast took a while, because it was a little old - not Egyptian tomb old, but you know, old.

3. Finally, I added the frothy yeast to the dough along with the milk and egg and started to mix and knead by hand. Yes you could use an electric dough processor, but that would be another machine on the counter and you would miss all the fun (and exercise) of kneading the dough. J tells you how long to knead the dough.


4. I covered my "blob" with plastic wrap, a tea towel and put it in a "warmish" spot to rise. I then went to Metro to pick up a few things.

5. An hour later my efforts were rewarded with an even bigger blob of dough that had risen beautifully!! It was huge, too big to turn it all into to naan, so I halved it and will use the rest for a pizza tomorrow. I love doughs that just need one rise. I do make bread, but I always worry about the second rise.


6. Now to fry the naan in a cast iron frying pan. Fortunately, I have four of these, each a different size. It's a heavy collection :) J said to pull off chucks of the dough, roll them out and then fry the flattened dough, coated in butter, in a medium hot pan. Enter, my son. He is one of those, who cannot pass a stove without stirring a pot, flipping a pancake, or sniffing a stew. He decided that I was not cooking the naan long enough and took over.


7. It was perfect. I rolled the dough and he fried it. A great way to spend some fun time with my son.


I covered the stack of naan with an overturned bowl and proceeded to make Butter Chicken, another post on J's World Kitchen. I'll save my take on it for another day, when I remember to take pictures.


Have a tasteful day!