Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Piece of My Mind

Blogger is pissing me off. I just finished writing a hugely long intro to this post, when I learned that "Control + X" works like I'd expected to cut text, but "Control +V" does NOT work as I expected, to paste it back! So welcome to the synopsis of my weekend. First, though, I'd like to apologize for not stopping by y'all's blogs much this week...the overtime continues, and I can't see the end of it. But I do grab a few minutes here and there to try to keep up!

Short but sweet: Last week sucked. Miss Chef was out of town 'til Tuesday, I was exhausted all week, and very, very short-tempered from my lack of MC time (we don't generally see each other during the week).

Last weekend also started out sucky. Saturday morning, Miss Chef did get me to the farmers' market for the first time in many, many moons, and while it was nice to see some friendly faces, it barely made a dent in my bad mood. After all, I had to head into the office immediately afterwards for a half day.

However, when I got out of there, I still had several hours of desperately-missed sunlight, so I got started on some of that yardwork that had been "piling up" in my head. I started with trimming the hollies in front of the house (which I had originally started last month). I was surprised to find an extremely well-constructed bird's nest in one, and just as I was thinking "It's awfully early for the chicks to have fledged," I realized how right I was:

No, Mama Robin did not construct her nest sideways...if anybody can tell me how to stop Blogger from flipping my #@$%&!!! pictures, I will be eternally grateful!

I of course left the nest as untouched as possible, but I had already removed a fair amount of protective cover by the time I noticed the egg, and the parents were nowhere to be found, so I had serious doubts about this little guy ever hatching. But I figured, leave it alone, there's no point in hanging around scaring Mom & Dad away.

Sunday was finally together time for Miss Chef and me. We went to the movies, and saw How to Train Your Dragon, which I enthusiastically recommend to each and every one of you. It was truly amazing, and Miss Chef and I are trying to decide if it belongs in the top 5, 10 or 20 of our favorite movies ever. For realz.

On the way home, we stopped at our local garden center, to pick up a few necessities...parts for the weed-eater, drain cleaner....and about $50 worth of plants, seeds and tomato stakes. Yep, we finally got the rest of the garden in (mostly)!

The previous weekend, I had planted peas, beets, carrots and radishes. Sunday we added beans, broccoli, basil, cilantro and 3 kinds of peppers (2 hot, 1 not). The green stakes at the far end are outlining where the tomato seedlings will go when they've finished their nursery time indoors. I also sprinkled some "wild"flower seeds in our front bed where nothing wants to grow, just to see...

We had to be persistent, because the weather was threatening rain the whole time. It did sprinkle just enough to chase Rosie inside for a little while, but in the end, we had to water in everything ourselves. We were very proud of ourselves when we headed inside at dusk to a well-earned dinner.

As we were finishing up, around 9:00, the weather came back. Lots of thunder and lightning, and damp wind, and finally, a good strong downpour. And then....hail. More hail than I've ever seen in my life. I called Miss Chef over to look out the front door with me, and we both stood there, my jaw literally dropping, as a cascade of white pebbles poured off the roof. Miss Chef says it only lasted a minute, but this is what was left behind:

This picture is also flipped, and fuzzy, but that's a quarter next to those hailstones.

Needless to say, we were amazed at the timing, and concerned for our seedlings. They did sustain damage, some worse than others...

broccoli plant

...but I'm confident they'll recover, and in a couple weeks' time, the damage will be mostly forgotten.

And, in other good news, when I went out Monday evening to check on the robin's nest, not only did I startle Mama away, but I found these:

Happy ending!

Ok, gotta let Rosie out...I still have a blog award to acknowledge, and I don't know for sure when I'll be able to post again, but keep your eyes peeled! I promise...I'll be around.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Signs of Spring

Officially it's not here yet, but Mama Nature doesn't go by our calendar. It's been 10 days since the daffodils opened their trumpets, the hyacinth started showing color a few days ago, and the pear trees at work burst into blossom this afternoon. Literally--this morning, just grayish buds with a hint of pink; by 4:00, floof! White cottony blooms.

Yesterday, I walked Rosie around the pond on the dark side of dusk. As we came in, I saw the silhouette of a bat flitter across the dimly lit sky. "Wow, you're out kind of early, aren't you?" I said. As we turned to circle around, I saw two of them...and then three! I was very excited; I've never seen more than two, and I wish we had more.

I didn't grow up on a farm, exactly, but I did grow up in an old farmhouse with a full-size 19th-century barn built back into a hillside. You midwesterners know what I mean: a sweep up to the second floor for the hay wagons, livestock space below. Anyway, that barn was infested with bats. Stinky, squeaky, poo-raining bats. We did appreciate their presence as far as insect control (though if they'd come out while the deerflies were still active, I'd have appreciated it a whole lot more). However, bat droppings are incredibly corrosive, so Dad fought an ongoing, losing battle against the hordes.

Connected to the barn was a long, low-roofed shed we called the garden shop. Along with hoes, rakes, the tractor and other necessities for country living, we kept the chicken and rabbit feed in there. Which meant that many a late afternoon, when bringing in tools or scooping up the Eggmaker Crumble, I encountered one or more bats swooping around, looking for the way back out.

I was quite uncomfortable with this whole arrangement, but as I grew up, I got more or less used to them. I always wanted to keep an eye on them; they did move ridiculously fast and I didn't have a whole lot of head room...at least, that's how it felt to me. I even got up the nerve to go into the barn itself after dark--once or twice.

So seeing these bats diving around last night outside, with plenty of space, didn't bother me at all. Not even when it occurred to me that at least one of them seemed to be following us all the way around the pond. Did Rosie's snufflings stir up bugs in the grass? Was there a cloud of gnats trailing us? Or do bats instinctively know that where large mammals go, mosquitos are sure to follow?

Today I was home early enough to do our walk in daylight, and instead of bats, I saw a bluebird. I never saw a bluebird until I moved to North Carolina, and now they are frequent visitors. Must be why I'm so happy here, right? The turtles in the pond also seem to be coming out of hibernation; there were tons of them sunning themselves and popping their heads up from the water.

So I went home and finally got to do something I've been itching to do for weeks: get my hands dirty. Miss Chef finally got one of her projects crossed off her list this winter: put a wooden border around the garden to help us build the bed up (and make it easier to trim around). She also bought more bags of dirt, compost and cow manure to revitalize the soil. Which made the weeds very happy! A nice crop of them has sprouted, and I kept looking out the window at them, wanting to get at 'em with my hands and a trowel. But there was always overtime at work, or pouring rain, or a general sense of fatigue making the couch look much more inviting than weedy dirt.

Today, though, it was time. We should have had the root vegetable seeds in the ground two weeks ago, so I seized on my unexpectedly good energy and extra daylight to get started. Miss Chef is going out of town for the weekend, and I thought I'd give her a nice surprise and have everything planted when she gets home.

Except I think seeing this in the tub is about to ruin the surprise:

Dirty hands, dirty pants. Still, I can't express how grateful I am to be able to dig in the dirt this spring!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear So-and-So

Dear So and So...

Something new...I've been reading Alix's Dear So and So posts for awhile now over at Casa Hice, but for some reason today I suddenly felt the urge to jump in and join the party! Maybe it's 'cause I've been feeling stressed again this week, but I've just got to get some things off my chest.


Dear London,

I know we barely know each other, but I'd like to give you a heads-up about some potential new residents arriving soon who are very dear to me. They're not 100% sure yet they'll be making the move, but they're (mostly) pretty excited about it. I'm not sure how I feel yet; I'll miss them greatly, but on the other hand, it will be a great opportunity for you and I to get to know each other better. And of course, we'll have to stop in to see your half-sister Paris, once we're in the neighborhood. At any rate, I would appreciate it if you could extend your most gracious welcome to my loved ones, especially considering the difficulties of a trans-Atlantic move. I'm sure you understand.

Hope to see you soon,


Dear Sub-Prime Customers,

I know that spending 4 minutes on the phone with me, making sure we have your correct address, and that the dealer didn't pocket half of your down payment or lie to you about being required to purchase a service warranty, is a huge sacrifice to you. But I'd think that the $18,000 we're putting up, so you can style around in that SUV that you just had to have, instead of the reliable compact car across the lot, just might make it worth your time. So can the attitude, and don't blame us that your previous repossessions and consistently late mortgage payments jacked your interest rate up on a luxury car you only put $500 down on. Oh, and by the way--I can hear you peeing. And no, it doesn't improve my impression of you.

Good luck with those payments,
Your Friendly Loan Processor


Dear Car Dealer,

I'm not an idiot. I can tell that paycheck is falsified, and I know that a "service address" on a utility bill is not where she makes her payments. Get your documentation straight before you send in the contract, and maybe it won't take 10 days to get your money.

Efficiently yours,
Your Frustrated Loan Processor


Dear Rosie,

Thank you so much for your patience with us. I know it must be frustrating and tiresome to spend so many hours alone each day. And then I come home, too tired to give you a good, long walk, but not too tired to spend my few free hours in front of the computer, ignoring you. And, other than ripping open Jennifer's giveaway prize I'd so carefully wrapped, and leaving the bare bar of soap in the middle of the living room as if to say, "I could eat a third one, if I really wanted to"--other than that, you've been so good! I really do appreciate what a great dog and companion you are. I'll try to keep you from temptation next week.

Hugs and squeezes,
Your Human
PS Oh, and I'm gonna start back to teaching in a couple of weeks, so, um...sorry, it's not gonna get better anytime soon.


Dear Jennifer,

There may be a slight delay in the arrival of your giveaway prize. Never fear, it will be toothmark-free. I hope.



Dear Spring,

Is that you? I thought I saw you slinking in, behind those curtains of rain. The damp and dark disguised your slowly rising temperatures, but that red-winged blackbird I heard last week told me to be on the lookout. Then the daffodils started trumpeting your arrival earlier this week. I'm sure the fruit trees and other flowers will be re-decorating for you very soon. Please make yourself comfortable; we'd love for you to make it a nice long visit this year. Don't let bossy ol' Summer push you out too fast. Oh, and please, feel free to spread out, I know several distant bloggers who would love to see you, too.

Lots and lots of love,

What's going on? It's a fun Friday meme hosted by Kat at 3-Bedroom Bungalow. Wanna join in? Stop by her site, grab the button and add yourself to Mr. Linky. I'm doing it for the first time, won't you join me?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

No, it's not cookies! I just came home to this lovely arrangement of maraschino cherry & chocolate kiss delights earlier this week....and it was so appealing I just wanted to share.

It also made me laugh a little, because Miss Chef and I were both dead tired the night before when we tried to figure out how to store these without damaging them. I tried to help her put plastic wrap over the cookie sheets they were on, but my plastic wrap skills were so pathetic she had to take over, at which point I retired in ignominy to bed.

But I digress...

First, I want to sincerely thank everyone for their thoughtful and enthusiastic responses to my little giveaway. I was a bit overwhelmed when it came time to write up the little slips of paper with your names on them! So everybody gets a gold star!

And now I will reveal the prize: not only is this something locally made, but it is a non-food product made (in part) by Miss Chef herself! As I told Liz and Alison, you had to go pretty far back--almost a year, in fact--to remember my visit to Bosky Acres farm, where I helped Miss Chef and Michele. Not only did we start a batch of cheese, but there was also mention of:

Hey, I did say "mention!" I knew this would be a hard guess, which is why, since nobody figured it out, I picked TWO winners! Each will receive a bar of soft, fragrant Bosky Acres goat-milk soap and a bottle of luscious, silky lotion. I can honestly say that the patchouli-rose soaps smell good enough to eat. (And that's no exaggeration, because Rosie has actually eaten two of them! And I can also assure you, as a result, of their, um purity and gentleness...I shall say no more.)

In fact, I had Rosie pick the winners of the giveaway. I tossed all the names on the floor, and picked the first ones she sniffed at. (It took several tries for 2nd place, since she was more interested in sitting and lying on them for a tummy rub...but we eventually worked it out.)

Ok, so with no further ado, our winners are:

1st place: Alison of The French Experience Alison will be receiving a bar of Patchouli-Rose and a bottle of Lavender lotion.

2nd place: Jennifer of Goats in the Garden Jennifer will receive both soap and lotion of Patchouli-Rose ('cause Michele was out of Lavender lotion.)

Congratulations to both our deserving winners (not that the rest of you weren't equally deserving...) and thanks once again for playing along! Ladies, if you'll please email me at "Flartus" at hotmail.com, I'll send your prizes along post haste!

As a footnote, here are links to the favorite posts you all "voted" for:

Auntie Eva

Are You A Slave Driver? (migrant workers in Florida's tomato fields)

Bûche de Noël

Rosie's Kludge

Farmers' Markets (just a sample)

Thanksgiving 2009


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Update: Cooking with Gas, Giveaway Hint!

We've been cooking quite a bit lately; I'm not sure if it's just because of our new "toy," or if gas really does make everything easier!

Just for fun, I wanted to share with you what we've made so far--in order, as far as I can remember!

1. Cream of Wheat: Miss Chef was crushed that this should be the first thing made on our new stove. Apparently, CoW is a Yankee Thing. But it was cold when I walked Rosie Friday night...and whose overtime paid for the thing, hmmm??

2. SNICKERDOODLES!! Saturday morning fun with Miss Chef! Hopefully it erased a bit of the Cream of Wheat insult.

3. Casserole: leftover chicken and veggies with pasta from our NJ/NYC trip. Bonus benefit to gas burners: roasted red bell pepper! The best casserole I've made yet.

4. Fried egg: it really did cook better on gas. It even sounded better, crackling and all that.

5. Monday dinner: we invited a friend, and Miss Chef rolled up her sleeves. Pork roast w/a beer & mustard sauce, seasoned brown rice, orange cauliflower (a novelty found in the grocery store), roasted tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms.

6. maraschino cherry cookies w/kisses: one of Miss Chef's favorites

7. Tuesday dinner: Miss Chef had the night off, since we're getting another rain/snow/ice event tonight. I worked late and thought I was going to have to get the two thawed chickens roasted quickly while I took care of Rosie and tried to get this post done. But I walked into the house and smelled crispy roasted chicken and crispy roasted potatoes. And the color on the chicken was perfect.

Are you all jealous now? Sorry; I was too hungry to get pictures. I'll try to do better in the future.


Ok, I've loved reading all your responses to my giveaway. (I've responded to all of you in the comments, except for Freddie; you're an outlier, Fred, with your crazy Chicago post!) And I applaud your guesses, there were several excellent ideas in there for a next giveaway. Yes, even cookies.

Alas, you are all wide of the mark.

So, with two days left, here's your hint:

It is indeed a locally-made product, previously mentioned on this blog, but it is not food.

That's it. That's all you're getting. Mwahahahaha!

Remember, everyone who has listed a favorite post is still entered in the drawing. I'll post the winner Friday evening, and reveal the mystery prize.

À bientôt !