15 November 2010

White Beauty Tomatoes

Well, these made quite the impression. I can't remember what they tasted like at all. (So much for documenting and reporting- sorry!)Lewis says they were very meaty and delicious. They were easy to slice and had a wonderful aroma to them. They did seem to take forever to ripen. I do remember that they were very heavy, solid.

12 November 2010

Burgess Stuffer Tomatoes

This tomato was a real surprise. I hadn't really though to pick a tomato solely for the purpose of stuffing, but it suddenly seemed like a great idea when I was plant shopping.

And it turned out to be a pretty good decision. Although we wound up with more of these guys than we could eat or give away. Our one Burgess Stuffer plant produced so many of tomatoes. This pink punch bowl probably holds about 20 tomatoes, and it seemed like it was full all summer! I've never handled a tomato quite like this. They are very light and nearly hollow. It feels like you are handling a bell pepper. And when you cut them open, they are much like a bell pepper, too. There is a small, intensely sweet mass at the center. But they aren't called stuffers for nothing. There is no meat or juicy stuff to scoop out. We ate so many of these with tuna salad in them that I'm not sure I ever want tuna salad again!

We also tried a recipe I found in an old-fashioned cookbook. Sounded better than it tasted, although I think we could work on it some more. The recipe said to place one egg in each tomato, top with spices of our choice and bake. We chose cheese. What? Cheese isn't a spice? Do you know anything that goes better with tomato or egg? Hmm?

Well, they seemed to take forever to bake. Maybe the layer of shredded cheddar kept them from cooking faster. Maybe we don't know what a baked egg is supposed to look like. Who knows? They weren't bad- sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper. I might try it again sometime. See if I can work perfect this recipe. It sounds like it should work. Maybe I will fill the tomatoes with scrambled eggs next time...

06 November 2010

Black Scroll Flowers Embroidered Pillowcases

This is the Swirl Flowers from Bucilla. As I discussed way back in... oh my gosh, June? I decided to stitch this one in all black. I am so pleased with the results.
This may be one kit where I should have used regular, divisible 6-strand embroidery floss, rather than my preferred cotton perle #8, which is thicker. The stitching is rather close and I'm afraid some of the details have gotten lost. Eh. Live and learn.
I still really love the all-black flowers on the crisp white pillowcases. Very modern.

05 November 2010

Recliner Thief

I got pushed right out of my recliner the other night. Oliver completely took over. Doesn't he look comfy?

04 November 2010

Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Cake

Some time ago, mom bought this box of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa powder. As you know, I've long been a fan of the box mix and a whiz at doctoring a box mix, so I don't often make cake from scratch. I'll admit, it is better, but I used to make cake more frequently than I do now. (They were baked goods fiends at my old job.)

Well, someone in mom's office brought in this cake one day and mom just loved it, asking for the recipe. She was told it was the one from the back of the cocoa can.

So, I decided to to make this last week, partly for mom, partly to take a few slices to my friend Jessica, who just had her baby, and partly because I had a hankering for some serious chocolate.
Straight from the back of the Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa box.
Well, let me tell you, folks. This is a good chocolate cake recipe. And the icing recipe isn't bad either. But together... it is a bit much. I was afraid it might be. I called mom to see if she wanted something light and fluffy to go with this rich dark chocolate cake. Maybe whipped white or peanut butter? No, she assured me, it sounds like a lot, chocolate on chocolate, but it is good.

She only took two pieces.

Now I'm stuck with about 1/3 of a super sweet cake!

03 November 2010

Zucchini Let-Down

Have you ever heard of not having enough zucchini? Sounds like I'm being sarcastic, doesn't it? Well, our crop was pitiful this year. As I mentioned earlier this summer, our zucchini crop wasn't doing so well. In fact, only two plants ever did anything at all. The others just died off.

This one has a big bloom on it, but so far has not produced anything. I doubt it will because we just had our first hard frost this week. This other plant has two small zucchini struggling to grow.I was worried about what the frost would do to literally 50% of my zucchini crop, so I dug some old windows out of the basement (my stash for wavy 1930s glass) and propped them together, making a temporary cold-frame.

Come to think of it, this would be a great place to get stuff started earlier next year...
Well, we'll see if my little zucchini make it. I'll have to pick them soon, regardless.
I'm just disappointed. I had such high hopes of freezing squash to use all winter. I even bought this nifty crinkle cutter from OXO. As it turns out, it works very nicely on cucumbers. And I think Lewis really enjoys using it!

31 October 2010

Black Heirloom Tomatoes

Here it is, nearly November, and we are still talking tomatoes. November is the time to be talking turkey!
Ah! My favourites, the black tomatoes. I am now determined to plant a black tomato every year. So heavy and flavorful and meaty, almost no juice or seeds. Just absolutely the most perfect slicing tomato. This is what the grandparents mean when they talk about what tomatoes used to taste like. I can't say enough good things about them.

I think the only bad thing I can say is that I didn't get enough! The plants are not heavy producers, so maybe I'll get two black tomato plants next year. That way I'll have more to share, and maybe I can convince other gardners that these black tomatoes are worthy of space in their gardens!

27 October 2010

White Cucumbers

Last fall, my friends and I visited the beautiful Landis Valley Museum, just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It is a really neat restored and recreated small village and farm, with tons of interesting stuff to see. I understand they are always doing demonstrations and things. The Union Army was there the day we visited. We could have spent several more hours exploring, but we were tired. As with all good museums, we ended the day by perusing their gift shop. Where they sell heirloom seeds. Yeah. You know that was trouble. Those little paper packets hold so much promise! It is easy to go overboard. In fact, the white cucumbers were the only seeds I managed to get started at all this year.
Maybe I got them in too late. Maybe they didn't get the right sun/temperature/soil conditions. Maybe I left them on the vine too long and they got too big. Or maybe white cucumbers just aren't as good as they sound. We were not impressed with the flavor. They looked pretty, though.

Yellow Pear Tomatoes

I guess I wasn't sure what to expect from these, having compulsively picked up so many varieties of tomato at the plant nursery. As it turned out, they are a sort of cherry tomato. Sweet, yes, but the can't even begin to compare to my Sweet Millions.The plant is a heavy producer, we had way more of these little guys than we could eat. The were very pretty in salads and salsa, but you could easily get that color from a more flavorful tomato. I won't plant this variety again, but I'm glad I tried something new.

26 October 2010

Sweet Millions Cherry Tomatoes

A bowl full of cherries!

Cherry tomatoes, that is. Our all-time favourite sweet summer snacker, the Sweet Millions variety of cherry tomato is one we didn't even plant this year. But enough volunteers came up to keep us well supplied for tomato-basil-mozzarella salad. And we still had enough to share with our neighbor.

But I can tell you, I will definitely plant this variety- on purpose- next year. Picking through the tangle of volunteers sprawled all over the ground was no fun. I have half a mind to try them in the hanging baskets on my porch...

25 October 2010

How Oliver Spent His Summer

Sorry we've been gone for so long. But we are going to get back into the swing of things. I have lots of pictures to post; tomatoes, embroidery, clean living room, and of course, Oliver.

Oli spent as much time as possible on the porch this summer. He does so enjoy sunning himself. Even when it is too hot for the rest of us, he wants to be out.

He particularly loves lying in wait on the front porch to jump out and startle passers-by. I'm always surprised how many people know him by name.

We'll have more posts very soon, I promise. And we'll try to keep up with our blogging a bit better.

17 September 2010

Mosaic Tile Pattern Designer

I found it!

Turns out it was American Olean, I just overlooked it somehow.

This mosaic pattern design tool is my favorite.

15 September 2010

Hex and Square and Pennyround Tiles!

My dear friend Josh is hard at work on his old house. His upcoming project is the downstairs bath. Tucked in under the staircase to the second floor, it is a tiny space. Currently, it has a sink and toilet, but Josh plans to steal enough space from the adjoining kitchen to add a shower stall.

Josh also plans to revamp his upstairs bath in the future, so just like us, he is making sure he has all the necessities covered before he tears things out upstairs.

For his tiny downstairs bath, Josh has his mind set on 8" square tiles. Normally, everything Josh does to his antique house is perfect, so I was surprised at this. I think he should use small mosaic tiles, be it hex, square or penny round.

To this, I have compiled a short list of links to help sway him to my way of thinking. I thought I would share them with you, too.

Loads of gorgeous pictures at American Restoration Tile:

For the love of marble tile:

Envision your room with American Olean:

If you feel like playing with patterns, check out Freestyle from marbledesigner.com:
Or mosaic maximizer:

I haven't sent him my list yet. I remember playing with a mosaic tile pattern creator that was even better than the two above. I thought it might have been DalTile or American Olean, but no. Can anybody help me out?

Any other links I can send to Josh to help him fall in love with mosaic tiles?

26 August 2010

The Best Ever Birthday Present

Yesterday morning Oliver hopped up in bed with me, giving me kisses, nuzzling and cuddling with me. So sweet. He listened attentively while I told him this story:

"Oliver, did you know that five years ago today, you came to live with mommy and daddy? Do you even remember that? Mommy remembers that day very well."

It was my birthday, middle of the week, a Thursday, and we had nothing special going on, so I worked as normal. Lewis had the day off, so I set some chicken aside in the fridge and all the dry ingredients and tools out on the counter for him to make no-peek-chicken casserole. It takes about two hours in the oven, and I wanted him to have it ready to eat as soon as I got home because grandma Gloria was expecting us for birthday cake dessert that evening.

I hadn't been feeling well all day, and I just wanted to get home, eat and rest. I called Lewis on our drive home, sitting in traffic. He was cagey, wouldn't give me a straight answer about where he was or what he was doing. I got annoyed. I could tell he was in the car, which meant there was no way dinner was ready.

Hot, tired, sick and very grouchy, I stormed into the house to tell him something like, it's my birthday, the least you could do is have dinner ready for me when I got home!

Halfway to the kitchen I stopped in my tracks. I had spotted this: A little puffball of golden fluff dashing across the kitchen floor.

"Is that a puppy?!?!"

Lewis tells me I skidded across the kitchen on my knees to greet Oli. I don't even remember. By then I was cuddling, kissing and crying into his downy fur.

My 27th birthday present:We eventually made it to dessert at grandma Gloria's. Everyone forgave us for being late when we walked in with this little guy.That night he slept in a laundry basket. Can you imagine? He was so tiny, only 7 weeks old when he came home to us. What an angel.

11 August 2010

Violets Embroidered Pillowcases

This is the Violets pattern from Tobin.I did a pretty good job of using the thread I had on hand, and this time I matched my colors pretty closely to those recommended by Tobin. I think there could have been a higher contrast between the two shades of purple, though. And the green isn't a shade I normally use, but it worked nicely here. Overall, I am very happy with how this turned out.
I used DMC cotton perle #8 in these colors:

Very Dark Lavender #208
Dark Lavender #209
Dark Lemon #444
Ultra Dark Pistachio Green #890

03 August 2010

The Tomatoes are Rolling In!

This is a little basket I sent over to my neighbor. She always loves my cherry tomatoes, but I don't think I'll have many this year. We had lots of volunteer plants, but I didn't purposely plant any of my favourite variety, sweet millions. That was probably a mistake.

So, we have a selection here. One each of black heirloom and white beauty, a handful of tigerellas, yellow pears and sweet millions.I guess I expected them to be bigger, but I'm kind of glad to have some snack size tomatoes. The yellow pears are nice and sweet. It is easy to see how they got their name.The white beauty is kind of a creamy yellow when ripe. You can see four more behind this one, they will probably turn over the next couple of days. It is funny, this big one was sitting on the windowsill all week and I watched it turn in just one day. It seemed every time I went to the kitchen sink on Sunday it was a little less green, a little more yellow.Ah, my black heirloom. Not really black, but not purple either. They smell amazing. Great with bacon in a blt sandwich.

02 August 2010

Tigerella Tomatoes

So, here we have a colander of tigerellas (and maybe green zebras), in various stages of ripeness.

The one at the far bottom, the red and yellow stripey one, is the most ripe and ready to eat.
The red and green stripey one will be ready to eat in a few days.
The ones at the bottom, the white and green stripey ones, won't be ripe till some time next week.
And the three that are yellow and green stripey might be green zebra, in which case they are probably ripe. I cut one up for my salad this evening. Such pretty color.
Hmm. All those green seeds. Maybe it could have waited another day?

I diced it up and threw it on top of my salad for dinner. The verdict is still out. I thought it was a bit tangy, but I've been craving sweet stuff the last few days, so maybe my taste buds are off. On the other hand, maybe it wasn't quite ripe yet.

30 July 2010

This Morning in My Yard

Oliver watched from the porch as I meandered around the yard with my camera this morning.My little cluster of herbs. I've got regular thyme and lemon thyme, French basil, sage, purple basil, and a tiny goldfish plant (not an herb).
The lovely contrast of yellow and purple in the front crescent bed. I'm really enjoying these, I'll probably do something similar next year.A few more tigerella tomatoes. I've discovered that they should be picked before they are completely ripe, otherwise they split like the one on the far left is just beginning to do. They will ripen in a day or so on the kitchen windowsill.

28 July 2010

Lighting the Living Room

The bungalow came with two of these light shades. One in the entry, one in the living room. I don't think they are from 1930, more likely the 60s, but I'm not sure. I think they were the only light fixtures in the whole house that I liked. When construction began, we carefully removed the shades and fittings and put them in a box. The box went onto a shelf where it sat collecting dust for something close to three years. After the electric, new plaster, priming and painting were all done, it was time to get the shades out of storage and put them back up where they belonged.

And that is when I broke one of them. Dropped that fancy end nut thingy right on the large part. I didn't break the fancy art glass around the edges, but that is more durable. The center looks like regular frosted glass. And while installing the second one, I managed to put a small crack next to the screw hole. Thankfully it is not noticeable.

I've been meaning to take them and get both repaired. Some day. The slightly cracked one has been left up and the really broken one has been packed back in that same box. So, that's 7 years now? It is amazing the little stuff you learn to live with, and even forget until someone points it out.

Nearly all this time the living room fixture was just 3 bare bulbs. It was so off my radar, but it drove Lewis crazy. He wanted to go pick out new shades, but I really wanted to keep the ones I had. Plus, I don't like to spend money on temporary stuff.

So, back in the spring I took my friend Josh on a door-hunting excursion for his house. We had already looked through the antique door stash in my basement. He has made use of two so far, but I didn't have anything else he could use. So we headed to Lancaster and York counties to two wonderful architectural salvage shops I knew of.

Our first stop were these two great old barns in Manheim, called Echoes from the Past. They don't have a web presence at all, this is strictly architectural salvage, old school. Josh scored a couple doors there and was pleased as punch. We went on to the antique shops in Columbia, saw lots of cool stuff (including a beautiful green glass lamp I would love to have it is hasn't sold yet, hint, hint) but no doors for Josh.

We ended our shopping excursion at Historic York's Architectural Warehouse. This place is also loaded with great stuff. It is indoors, the temperature was comfortable, and it is pretty well organized. Josh actually found two doors there that would work, but they needed a bit of tlc and were priced a bit high. The guy at the counter said that prices were negotiable on donated items, but unfortunately not on the consigned items.

This whole long, rambling story does have something to do with my light shades. I found this little lovely in the York store for just $5. It may not even be old, it certainly isn't fancy, but I love starbursts and the price was right.When we got back to my house at the end of the day, Josh put it up for me, then we made Lewis figure out what new thing I bought. "I'll give you a hint. It is something you have been wanting for a long time and you can see if from where you are sitting." He was very pleased.

As you can see, they should both match, or at least coordinate. These two are practically in the same room. But for now, and the foreseeable future, I can live with mismatched shades.

23 July 2010

Soaker Hose Greatness

Installing a soaker hose in my garden this year has proven to be one of the best decisions I have made in a long time.

It started out with just one run, then we added another and another, totalling 75 feet of soaker hose. This completely covers both beds along the house and the crescent bed. So unlike last year, if I am too hot or tired to stand out in the yard when I get home from work, the plants don't miss a watering. I can just pop outside when I untangle Oli's rope (inevitable) and turn the faucet on low. Leave the soaker on for a few hours, then turn it off.

And when we were away for several days in a row, I'm sure my plants would have wilted completely, except that I was able to leave the soaker on a very slow trickle. Plus I think it is probably a better use of water, wasting less due to evaporation and overspraying. Whenever Oliver sees the hose, he thinks it means play time. I'm sure we waste tons of water just playing. Never during a drought, thought- we are very responsible that way.

We finally had a long day of drizzle and rain showers yesterday, but for about 3 weeks before that it has been pretty dry. Aside from the occasional violent storm, of course, but they are not good for watering.

So, here is my advice. If you have a garden, lay a soaker hose. You won't regret it. But try to do it when you are planting, or just after. We found it a bit more challenging to lay the second two sections because the garden had really taken off by then. It is much easier to weave the hose around small plants.

Now, maybe next year we will finally get a rain barrel, then I can hook the soaker hose up to the rain barrel and all my watering will be taken care of by mother nature, as it is supposed to be. Rainwater is better for plants anyway, they don't care for all the chlorine and other things used to treat our water.