Sunday, April 29, 2012

Garden Update: Before and After

One of the great things about gardens is that the plants keep on doing their thing, regardless of whether you’re there to coach them along.  (Of course, this goes for weeds, too, but let’s not think about them for the moment.)

Remember this?

Let’s see how close we are to that in reality.

Holy cow, I had no idea how much the garlic had grown, there in the back!  So the peas are being less than enthusiastic, and the carrots and beets are a bit spotty…but things are coming along.  There are also some tomato and pepper plants in there.  The cucumber on this side never germinated (old seeds), but there’s a small one on the other side which is even less enthusiastic than the peas.

 I learned an important lesson this spring about jumping the gun.  I had to re-seed everything because obviously the ground was too cold when I first put the garden in.  We also got hit by a no-fair frost a couple weeks ago.  Miss Chef and I had covered everything carefully, but we had to replace several tomatoes, and I’m not sure if the peppers will recover sufficiently to produce.  Still, I will leave them to their own devices, ‘cause I’m sure they know what to do.

 Now, let’s check out those snapdragons putting on a show way in the back!

They make great cut flowers, too, lasting for weeks.

 Remember this story?

How’s this for transformations?

It’s like a whole field of wildflowers stuffed into a bed.  Sure, they sort of dangle over half the sidewalk, making it a little difficult to walk down it.  I supposed I could cut them all back and stash them in a vase.  But I kind of enjoy walking through a wildflower patch on my way home from work.

Now you get to picture me lying on my back on that sidewalk, in full view of the street.  Anything for my art.

But of course, my favorite picture of all is the one I took without even looking:

See?  They know how to take care of themselves, even with a camera.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Quick Chick Pics

I've seen some bright little beaks in the gloom of the nest box, but haven't gotten a really good look at the babies.  I wouldn't be surprised if they're gone in another week.

Oh look--there's a beak!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Miss Chef Chopped!

Miss Chef & Chef Adam did the demonstration at the farmers' market today.  Thought I'd share a short video and some of my favorite pictures.




Dessert: strawberry and goat-cheese ravioli with a honey drizzle.
The strawberries are amazing this year.  Get you some!

What happened to my blog break?  I didn't have to work today!  Plus, it takes less time to load pictures than sit down and write.  No promises for the week ahead...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blog Break?

This is like a repeat of my last post, only more so.

I mentioned that things were getting hectic, and hoped that I'd have a moment to sit down and share a bit of it.  Turns out I don't.  I've been slammed at work the last two or three weeks, and Miss Chef is beyond stressed with the new course she's teaching for the first time and keeping up with her MBA program.  Losing last Sunday to working Easter brunch has put her in a hole she can't seem to get out of.   She left this morning before 8:00 to go sit at Starbucks, where she works better.  I stopped in to see her around 1:00 this afternoon, and she's got hours of work left ahead.

Since I've got slightly more free time, I'm the one trying to catch up with laundry, dishes, dog puke on the carpet (NB: Empire rice stains worse than red wine), general housework, garden, yard, blah blah blah.  And I don't know when this merry-go-round is going to slow down.

So I think I'm going to have to sign off for a week or two.   We'll see what happens. In the meantime, you can check out my revamped FAQ page via the tab at the top, if you find that you're missing my voice.  I might also update my Lazy Girl's Twitter on the sidebar.

Before I go, here are some new, slightly better pictures of the chickadees.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Phriday Photos

Oh, how hectic life has gotten in Flartopia.  Maybe this weekend I'll have a moment to sit down and write about it all...or part of it, anyway.

In the meantime, I did take a chance this evening to sit outside and enjoy the lovely, bug-free spring weather that has come back.  I smiled at these chaps, who are my favorite birds.  Miss Chef and I have both noticed them hanging around the area between our patio and the neighbor's pear tree.

At one point I put down my book and went inside to get something...and in glancing out the small corner window in the kitchen, I realized why these birds were being so bold, sitting on the chair across the table from me and chick-a-dee-dee'ing so loudly.

I was in their way!

This nest box is on a pole at the edge of our patio, camouflaged by the carefree Carolina jasmine planted by the previous owners.  So now I've cleaned that corner window for the first time since we've moved in.  Next I just have to see if Miss Chef will leave her camera with me, and I can manage to be home when the light is better!

Have a chick-a-dee-delightful weekend, y'all!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday Snapshots

Every day feels like a week’s worth.  I’m not feeling the words come flowing out, as I’ve got a lot to keep track of.  So here’s a photographic update to what’s up in Flartopia.

First, here’s a fully-opened gallardia for Garret.  The light was kind of harsh, so I messed around with the brightness and contrast.  In other words, I cheated.

Our Saturday started early.  Miss Chef was asked to do the Chef’s Secret demo at the “opening day” of the Matthews Community Farmers’ market.  I put that in quotes because the market is now open year-round.  Today marks the beginning of the real growing season schedule, when the market opens a bit earlier.  At 7:15.  Which meant we had to leave the house around 6:45 to get there.

Anyway, Miss Chef looked stunning as usual in her chef whites.

She asked a student to come along and assist.  She’s very good at reaching out to her students outside the classroom.

She chose to use her 45 minutes to demonstrate emulsions—vinaigrette, mayonnaise and aioli (aka flavored mayo).  It was quite the devious plan to get me to eat salad for breakfast!

Here are some more shots from the market.  I love this place more than I can tell you.  This connection with farmers, chefs and other “foodies” in our community is worth more than money can buy.


Yes, it’s strawberry season already!  Some of the proceeds from this sale goes to support the market.

Chef Charles is a Frenchman who’s got a pretty successful catering business going on.  Miss Chef used to work with him before she started teaching.  This is his first season at “our” market, and we are very excited to see him here.  Besides bread he does pies, cured meats (salami, pancetta, etc.) and will be selling prepared foods.  To his right is Carlea Farm, where we get our Thanksgiving turkey from, and from whom I bought four tomato plants this morning.  More on them later.

“Is there anything to buy?”  The people at work ask me this every month outside of June, July and August.  Morons.  (This is not my basket.)  Besides strawberries and bread, today you might have bought cheese, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, herbs, beets, carrots, kale, spinach, turnips, arugula, lettuces of many kinds, flowers, plants to start your own garden, handmade chocolates, pottery, soap…all grown and processed within 50 miles of where you hand your money to the person who grew or made it.


Well, I had a wonderful time catching up with my favorite goat lady, some of the volunteers, several people who raise my food and of course Chef Adam, who showed up in his biking tights to heckle Miss Chef while holding bags full of more dozens of eggs than I could count.  Tomorrow he and Miss Chef will be turning and burning omelets, eggs benedict, pancakes, etc. well into the afternoon for Easter brunch.

Around 8:30 I left Miss Chef at the market, since she was just going to cross the street and start prepping for tomorrow at the restaurant.  And here’s where I went:

So, here’s where I live work.  Normally I’d be working the door at the restaurant tomorrow.  But we are so swamped at the office, I knew I couldn’t handle going into next week without at least one day off.  When I clocked out at 4:00 today, I had about 55 hours for the week.  (By the way, that plush tomato character is not a regular denizen of my cubicle; I bought him for Miss Chef’s Easter basket and he made me giggle, so I put him where I could see him while I worked.  He’ll show up again in this post.)

When I got home, I rushed right out to the garden to get those tomato plants in the ground.

The dirt looks green because our lawn guy had just mowed and blown clippings halfway to Ontario, but mostly in my beds.  (Yes, we have a lawn guy; I made enough in overtime this week for him to mow and trim 10 times.)  Anyway, you can see three of the new ‘mater plants between the trellis and the far end of the garden.  Notice the lack of peas along the bottom of the trellis?  I re-planted about a dozen seeds there yesterday; only 4 shoots have come up from my earlier planting almost a month ago.  I wonder if I planted too early, didn’t water enough, or have some kind of pea-eating pests?  I thought I was going to have to re-plant the carrots, too, but they finally starting filling in this week.  Hmph.  C’mon, let’s go!  (It actually got cold enough last night to freeze some of the basil leaves, so I think I jumped the gun this year.  I don’t care.  I would do it again.)

These guys are blooming.

 I think there might still be some strawberries left for dessert tomorrow.  Maybe.  This basket used to be a lot fuller, and I’m going to be alone with it all night and most of tomorrow.

 I put together Miss Chef’s Easter basket.  I’m trying to avoid lots of sweets, as she’s trying to eat healthy, but she goes gaga for this particular brand of chocolate-covered cherries.  At the market I bought tiny carrots and some beets to add, and I put a couple of kiwis in to take the place of eggs.  I’m going to try to put the rest of it together while she’s in the shower tomorrow morning—which will require me to rise at 6 am again.  At least I can go back to sleep if I want to!

Now that I think about it, I think I’ll have to switch out with another, bigger basket I bought.

This is what I’ll be doing tonight, as soon as I upload this post:

This is for the restaurant staff.  I planned to bring them Easter eggs before I realized I wasn’t going to be able to pull off 115 hours of work over 13 days, and backed out of my hostessing gig.  I still thought it would be a fun project, and a thoughtful way to send them Easter greetings.  And maybe they won’t hate me so much for leaving them to suffer without my commanding clipboarded presence at the door.

I have to confess—those are regular, grocery store, battery-hen eggs I bought.  We tried dyeing brown eggs one year when I was growing up, and as far as I was concerned, the results were completely unsatisfactory.  So.  I tried to find cage-free white eggs, but to no avail.  And I have to tell you, I truly felt heartsick putting these in my grocery cart, knowing what conditions the hens live in who made these eggs.  I nearly put them back, and it took a good five minutes for me to turn my attention back to my shopping.

Well, that’s a depressing note to end on.  Let me see if I can find any more pretty pictures to distract you with…

Oh look!  A rainbow!

Update:  I decided to make sure I could fit all her goodies into the other Easter basket I's the final (bit fuzzy) effect:

Update: I'm a moron.  I bought two bunches of radishes, thinking they were beets!  In my defense, the radishes I grow are waaaay tinier.  But did I even look at the leaves?? Hmph.  Radish slaw, anyone?

Sunday, April 1, 2012


The first pea sprout.



The first cucumber.  (Out of two…I’m having a low germination rate overall this year….very frustrating.)



The first nasturtium sprout.



The first gallardia flower…almost.  (Oh look, there’s a tiny spider on there I didn’t notice ‘til I pasted this picture into my post!)



The first gerbera daisy.  Who knew we’d planted such a color?  (And I think I spot another tiny visitor…)  That’s a horribly invasive nandina in the background; I almost didn’t spot this bright pink flower buried in it.



The first coreopsis.



This is my favorite first this year.  Here’s the story.  See those two big swathes of bushy greenness along the sidewalk, one of them with a bright yellow spot?


I planted coreopsis seeds there late last spring, and they didn’t do a dang thing.  For like, a month.  Then at some point when I was out weeding, I realized there was an unnatural consistency to these sprouts coming up in a suspiciously confined area.  Yes, my coreopsis had finally germinated!  The foliage was pretty, mostly filling in a bare spot where I just hadn’t gotten anything to “catch.”

But that’s all I got.  Whether it was too late in the season, or too dry, or what, I don’t know, but the plants never formed the first bud.  Now, I’d planted them as a perennial, hoping for a self-maintaining flower bed I wouldn’t have to replant every year.  Problem is, they only come back by reseeding.

No flowers, no seeds.  No perennials.

So I resigned myself to trying to figure out another solution in the spring.  I watched as fall approached winter, waiting for the the inevitable frost kill that would clear the space for something else.  There were a couple of light frosts that did no damage.  Then one or two harder ones that started killing some of the leaves.

And that was it.  Winter brushed us by, leaving me with a rather busy border of coreopsis leaves.  I kept my fingers crossed that, this year, the plants would figure out what they were supposed to do!  So you can imagine my joy when I spotted the first few buds a week or so ago.  It looks like I’ve got a lovely foliage cover for the front of my bed, completing it with a third level of greenery plus hiding the fading daffodil leaves as they brown up.

Now, I get to sit back and wait for it to be covered in flowers.  Finally, this bed looks complete!