Friday, May 29, 2009

Broken Key Fix

(I hope you're prepared for the most exciting and revolutionary craft project of this decade.)

I always though my purse was a tough place. With all those things jostling for space (keys, wallet, nail file, pocket knife, ping pong balls, chapstick, and moisturizer to name just a few) it is no surprise when the occasional pen gets broken. But when my boyfriend presented me with a broken key I realized that men's pockets may be even worse than my purse.

To be fair this key was crappy to begin with, instead of a metal top it was all plastic and I think it might have actually been partially broken when he acquired it anyway.

Whose brilliant idea was it to make the top out of plastic anyway? Seriously, I want to meet that person and have a word with them.

When it finally broke completely I realized it was a rather dire situation. With no way to attach it to a key ring it was just asking to get lost. (And trust me, he'd lose it.)

So I sewed a solution which I think was rather clever if I may say so.

It was basically a rectangle of fabric I folded in half and then sewed up along both sides. I then flipped it inside out and cut a little slit in the folded end. I reinforced the slit like a button hole so I had a tube with the key sticking out one end and the other end was open. I folded the open end over a key ring and sewed it down. Here you can see the side that was folded down:

And here you can see my reinforcing:

I also made a point of choosing nice manly fabric. Had it been for myself it probably would have been purple and floral. The best part was that it took all of about five minutes. I know I could have just gone and gotten a new key made but in my experience when you copy a key the copies tend not to work as well as the original.

I'll even admit I was tempted to make decorative floral covers for all my keys...but that would have been a little too Martha for me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

First Salad of Spring

Thanks to a concerted effort and some row covers we've already had our first salad from the garden! (Well actually it was at least a week ago but I've been neglectful about my posting so here it is finally:)

The main component was mesclun mix and baby salad greens that we grew by direct seeding them. The problem with that method, especially with a new mesclun mix, is that you're never quite sure what is something you actually planted or just something that volunteered. Once we managed to discern which plants were edible and picked the leaves that were big enough I also threw in some violets and redbud blossoms. I was very lucky that they were both blooming at the same time because they are both edible and look amazing together.

This was a fancy shmancy dinner since we had a guest so the salad was served alongside homemade bread and a vegetarian curried mushroom parsnip pie I made. The pie was delicious but it wasn't actually vegetarian since I used chicken broth. I'll also confess that I used storebought crust since it was already in the fridge.

Here's a bonus recipe that isn't nearly as seasonally sensitive:

Can you tell I only thought to take the picture after I'd started eating it? This one may not look nearly as flashy but what it lacks in appearance it more than makes up for in flavor. Plus I think it's super easy (once you find the ingredients) considering how fancy it seems.

The first major ingredient is Israeli couscous (which is different and larger than the North African couscous most people are used to seeing). It basically tastes like a little pasta so if you really can't find it you could definately substitute orzo (although you miss some of the nice toasty flavor of the couscous).

Next we have French lentils (or Lentils du Puy, or green lentils). These lentils stand above all other lentils in my opinion because of their texture and flavor. They stay firmer when cooked than other lentils so they work perfectly for a salad (instead of turning into mush). The flavor is also amazing, when I cooked them for the first time I swore someone had thrown a bunch of black pepper in there with them but that is actually just how they are by themselves. Their color is also really cool: when raw they are a mottled bluish greenish color. I hope you can find them reasonably priced, I get them at a local natural food co-op in bulk so they aren't terribly expensive.

Next you'll need feta. I used Narragansett Creamery's Sea Salt Feta which is local! I'm excited about local cheese because until recently (as far as I'm aware) there wasn't any large scale cheese production in Rhode Island (at least not for a couple of hundred years). If you happen to be in RI and get to try some the Atwell's Gold is especially delicious.

Back to the salad: once you've located your ingredients you just boil and drain the couscous and lentils (separately). I don't really have a definite timing for either, I just keep checking them until they're just tender enough.

Once drained I dress them with olive oil (I won't tell you it has to be this or that fancy kind, let's just say the best you're willing to pay for) and balsamic vinegar. I also throw in some herbs (maybe oregano or thyme and either fresh or dry, depending on if I feel like going outside to pick it). I also (gasp!) use garlic powder.

When the salad is ready to serve toss in some feta and if it's a Friday night and you're feeling really crazy you can serve it on a bed of arugula. I just happened to have some on hand so I ate mine with it and it's perfect because the peppery flavor in it really compliments the pepperiness of the lentils.

Now if I were to suggest that this is a meal in and of itself I'm sure the meat lovers out there would scoff but I'm serious, I can sit down and eat a huge bowl of this for lunch. It would also be great to bring to a party if you want to seem like a real fancy pants. Once you start rattling off the international list of ingredients (preferably with an English accent) people will surely be impressed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Although we have lots of plants started this year we don't have much out yet besides greens and snow peas. But oh do we ever have snow peas. First we soaked them overnight and planted them in a bed outside. After we'd finished that we realized we still had lots of extras that were already soaked so we either needed to use them or throw them out.

We used up some of them by planting them in toilet paper tubes and keeping them inside to germinate. The rest we put between two damp paper towels to sprout. Once those sprouted we picked one of our big barrels outside that needed to have a non-nightshade in it this year (for disease avoidance rotation reasons) and planted them in it.

So now, although we already had a bed and a container filled with peas waiting to sprout outside we also had these inside:

Since I have trouble throwing away any baby plants we found another container to plant these in. We used freshly cut branches to make a tipi for them once they start climbing:

Here's where we learned our first lesson: even though we planted the sticks upside down they still started to get buds on them and they're probably rooting. That may be a fun mistake to deal with later in the year. Next time we'll use dry bamboo.

We also learned that peas transplant fine. But here is the really interesting thing: the ones we started inside and put out last are the biggest. The ones we sprouted and then planted outside are considerably behind them and the ones we planted directly outside are the furthest behind. So the lesson is that if you can manage to keep seedlings inside as long as possible they'll get bigger faster than if you put them outside and it's still chilly. I'm sure this information was already in a book somewhere but it's much more convincing when you experience it first hand.

Finally, did you know if you have extra peas plants that need thinning you can toss the pea greens in salad as long as they're still fairly small? It's crazy to think that what some gardeners throw away other people pay big money for at restaurants. Speaking of salad...well you'll just have to keep checking back for that post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cookbooks Etc

Buying used or vintage stuff doesn't count as materialism or consumerism because it isn't contributing to the supply for new goods. At least that's what I tell myself. So without further apology here is the stuff I've found recently:

First the cookbooks, this one was too gorgeous and for a couple bucks way too good a deal to pass up:

I also love unusual cookbooks and this one seemed fairly unusual:

That is of course until I got home and my dad informed me he already owned a Burmese cookbook. My thunder was sufficiently stolen.

I also just found my own copy of this for only a couple bucks:

I think I'm the only one who likes it but I couldn't resist this teapot:

Here's the back:

And here's the mark on the bottom:

And this mug, the owls!:

Finally I got this box:

I think it probably came with some wine in it or something so it might be silly that I paid for it but I like it and it seemed super I just have to think of something to put in it.

And now I present a photo essay that illustrates what it is like to try to photograph something with a cat around:


Monday, May 4, 2009


I've decided you can never really have enough ginger in your diet. Besides being yummy it is also really good for upset tummies and muscle aches (which I've had plenty of since starting to work again). Actually you probably could have too much ginger but I doubt I'm at any risk for that. The problem is that fresh ginger is kind of a pain in the ass, at least I think so. If a recipe calls for a couple teaspoons you have to fish it out, peel it and grate that little bit, only to have to repeat the process the next time you need a little and by my standards that is a pain.

We accidentally stumbled upon a way to avoid this hassle. Mom really likes ginger tea so we started using the food processor to grate whole pieces at a time and then we divide it into tablespoon sized piles which we freeze. This way when mom wants to make a couple cups of tea she can just take one cube of ginger out of the freezer. But it also works great for cooking. The other night I had a recipe that called for fresh grated ginger so I just threw in a couple pieces, still frozen.

It even kind of works for sun tea. Although our usual recipe calls for mint of some kind along with the black tea I wanted to try some with ginger. Using the frozen grated ginger you definitely get some ginger flavor but it's not super strong.

The scary looking stuff floating on top is actually the ginger. It also serves as a good theft deterrent, who would want to steal something that looks like that?

We also tried planting some. We started with a fresh piece (we tried to find one that wasn't too dessicated). This one already had little knobs like it wanted to sprout so we figured it was a good candidate. Here it is in all it's knobbiness:

Look at that knob close up; doesn't it look like a claw?

We cut off pieces and soaked them overnight.

Doesn't it look like a monster's toe floating in there?

The next day we planted them:

We planted three pots and put them in a sunny spot. I can report that a few days later there is some sort of leaf poking up so I think it worked!

I'll let you know if we actually ever get any ginger.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just Shameless Flowers

Sorry about the rather infrequent posting, I was so traumatized by the spider incident that I had to take a little break. Just kidding, I've actually been working and those four hour shifts are really wearing me out.

Despite my rigorous schedule we've still been working on some projects but for now I'll just show you some of what's in bloom. Of course there are violets:

I really like them, I don't mind a yard full of them although I'm not sure everyone agrees.

Close by we also have vinca:

And then there was the magnolia which bloomed for all of about 5 days this year but it sure was nice while it lasted.

The combination of a couple days in the 90's and some cooler weather and wind in between meant all the petals fell quickly, and specifically on our driveway:

It's nice until you realize that they rot and get all slippery. You really have to be careful.

Just in case you can't quite make out what kind car that is it's a Rolls Royce, in case you were wondering. More real goings on coming soon, I promise.