Ice Dying… How did it go?

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HOW DID IT GO? It Went Like This: *singing* “Some people you know they say they can’t believe, Jamaica we got a bobsled team!”

Ahem. Okay- so THE ICE DYING… how’d it all shake out? Y’all will remember since the summer I’ve been doing batch after batch of ice dying to have ready to sell at our neighborhood craft fair. I talked about it here and here and here and here and (my god I wrote a lot about this) here .

The craft fair was last weekend and it was, on the scarves, a ROUSING success.

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The scarves… 4 to 6 in each color batch

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I love that painting… it looks like I have a creativity thought bubble every time I brush my teeth. Here is what the pashminas look like on- this is the one I kept.

I ended up making just under $200 on the scarves, and they went like hotcakes, I think, in part because I priced them to move: $12ea or 2 for $20. I also modeled one all night long, but I’m less sure that contributed to the sales… I was in the pashmina above and shorts, after all. A look right out of the Vogue lookbook it ain’t. I actually have 4 more scarves on order to do another batch for Christmas gifts… because the ones I made for this event are ALL gone!

The girls also did a rousing sale in ornaments, and cleared $65 and $66 ea.

And it being a sip and shop (wine and craft fair) there was lots of tipsy trading at the end of the show amongst the adult vendors so we now have other ornaments and purses and hats… as well as a deer skull adorned with rhinestone brooches which is INSANITY but a small part of me loves. My folks took the toddler home, who was driving me to distraction trying to manage a show and a candied up toddler… and my husband was there to hang out. The older girls were good about managing the table and hanging out.

So Long and Thanks for All the Tomatoes

We had our first freeze this past week, and some dry days… so this happened:

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No mas tomates

So the tomatoes are done for- we pulled them out and piled as many as we could in the fire pit. We let them dry out a few days and then torched them this weekend, quasi viking funeral style. The youngest actually toasted marshmallows on a dry tomato stem, improbable as that would have seemed before witnessing it with my own eyes.

When I pulled the plants out there were only two quite unhealthy looking tomato tobacco hornworms left; both were yellowish, a little translucent looking, and hadn’t moved for a day- I think the cold got to them. All the others are gone- so what that means for them I don’t know- all I know is I wasn’t the cause nor means of their destruction, so I’m okay with it. (The unhealthy tobacco hornworms got moved to the leaf litter around a climbing rose. I’m sure they’ll live long, healthy lives.)

I have some parsley, Toscano kale, and a new English thyme plant in the spot where the determinate tomatoes (Bobcat and HM1823) were. I put in three decorative purple kale, another thyme, two roses, and a loropetalum shrub in the side of the bed the cherry tomatoes were in. MUCH too crowded, but I’m using it as a nursery bed to carry the plants through the winter easier than the collection of smaller pots in the pot ghetto at the back of the driveway slab.

As I look at the varieties for a final review: I’d grow Bobcat and HM 1823 again- if I had to pick a favorite I’d go with Bobcat- it cracked less, but taste was the same between them. As for the cherries- I will definitely grow Sungold again, but I might finally be moving on from my Sweet 100s for a red cherry… I’m open for trying a new one next year.  It lagged so far behind Sungold and got a bit leathery and less tasty in the hot weather.

Ah my tomatoes… till next year, buddies.

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What a pain in the ass these things are when not in use though! I can only imagine it’s similar to those big light up deer you then have to store year round aside from Christmas…

Speaking of the first freeze, as I’ve mentioned when discussing our old tub and old windows here – we live in an old house. It is crazy cold in the winter, especially in the front of the house- luckily the bedrooms are okay. And we had only yesterday because of wet weather and it getting dark right after work due to daylight savings (thanks, Ben Franklin- I hate you) to finally get some insulation in under the floor in the living room and front room before it rained again.

It was… not an enjoyable job. And yet, I loved every minute of it? It’s hard to explain but these dig in and be capable moments are some of my favorites. My elbows are killing me from abrasions due to army dragging myself around in the 18″ crawlspace- I probably still have fiberglass in my face (is like microdermabrasion?), and I 100% know I have to go and reinforce it more with more supports so it doesn’t sag- but I have to make the damn supports myself because our house having been built in 1910, the joists aren’t the standard 15″ or 23″ spacing so standard store-bought supports won’t work- the jerks are only 22″ spacing on the main house and 24.5″ spacing `on the front/ dining room. Thanks a damn lot, Ebidiah, kinda a pain in the ass there.

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This is actually from a couple of weeks ago when I got under the house to try to fix a broken hot water line. We didn’t fix it and ended up having to call a plumber on a Saturday- but damn we tried first!

Anyway, my husband and I spent the late morning/early afternoon dragging ourselves around under the house stapling up insulation, it was great. I love doing this kinda stuff with him, its fun- even when the job has your nose in fiberglass and your back on cold clay soil that hasn’t seen the light of day in 108 years. Fingers crossed it’ll make a difference because I can’t STAND not feeling warm! Oh well, you know the thing they say, the one thing they aren’t making more of is old houses!

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Pic from when the paint was getting finished… I should take a new picture but its raining now and this bed is warm and the cat is asleep next to me and this coffee is hot…

 

Of Tomatoes and Bugs

Thanks to the recent rains that scourge of the late summer/ fall Texas garden, the red spider mite, is gone. They killed my tithonia and came THIS close to killing the tomatoes before the prolonged recent rains gave them the ol’ Wicked Witch of the West treatment and they melted away. So, when it finally DID dry out enough to pull out the tomatoes I actually found a halo of healthy leaves coming in… so they got a haircut instead of being executed.

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He’s only MOSTLY dead… which means that he’s SLIGHTLY alive!

From this… to this!

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Better looking than I was expecting, honestly.

I was quite pleased with them… as well as with the perfectly formed baseball sized green fruit on Bobcat that I hadn’t noticed under all those dead leaves. So for all the folks who rip out their determinate tomatoes and replant in the fall may I suggest that next year you try laziness? Worked for me.

But then, of COURSE on the last bit of cleanup on that first tomato plant I found this guy:

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Dang you!

Here’s the thing- I grow plants for caterpillars! I like them! My husband got me a book on pollinators for my birthday one year! The striped ones for swallowtails I literally smile at and call my buddies:

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My buddies!

But tomato hornworms!? Agh! Their appetite is HUGE! They can decimate a plant! And I found SEVEN more of them as I was cleaning up the rest of the tomatoes! So I had EIGHT of these massive green caterpillars… on my precious tomatoes. I was conflicted. And yet I couldn’t just squish them. Or throw them away. I actually DID put out a call to a friend with chickens to see if she wanted them for chicken snacks- is like the circle of life, right? She didn’t. That might have been too weird of a 7:30 am text honestly, now that I think about it. And so… I left them on the plants. They turn into the hummingbird moth after all… I just straight up couldn’t kill them, especially when they all seemed JUST about maximum sized and therefore should be crawling off to make  chrysalises soon, right?

And even now, after researching for this post when I find out they aren’t in fact tomato hornworms but are, in fact, TOBACCO hornworms (they both feed on both plants but are different species. Differentiated by markings on the caterpillars’ sides- tomato hornworm s have v shaped white markings and tobacco hornworms have diagonal stripes). And so they DON’T turn into these:

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Hummingbird Moth ( from the TOMATO hornworm caterpillar) cool and all if you could just do something about that oversized abdomen…

… but instead, the tobacco hornworms turn into these nightmares:

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Aw hell.

AND yet… I’d already decided to let them stay! Ugh… FINE. And besides, I remember seeing one of those moths on the front of the house… what if it was their mom? (I fully also see how crazy this all is, don’t think I don’t).

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Turns out they eat ACTUAL tomatoes too. Fantastic.

And so now the Sweet 100 cherry tomato has literally zero leaves from this brilliant decision of mine. But at least I am guilt free and happy in the knowledge I won’t have any angry tobacco hornworm moth parents coming after me.

Besides, it’s the Sungold that is still putting up the real numbers these days and still has enough leaves to see it through.

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So pretty!

So, a bit of a soft spot for insects I guess- which along with liking wandering around in graveyards puts me well over the line of quirky and unique and instead into downright odd territory. Whatever. Life is much too short to worry about anyone’s opinions- do what you like while you have the time. Besides, we’re all weird somehow- anyone who tells you they aren’t must be hiding some REALLY crazy shit.

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Did I mention my pet 2″ spider on the Basil? Yeah…

Cough cough… I also might have had a black and white jumping spider as a pet on the kitchen windowsill and have my second wolf spider pet on my desk… so… yeah. At least my weirdness is only for bugs and graves… imagine if I liked scrapbooking or napkin rings? Shudder.

 

 

Random Word Generator Prompts

Like a random word post, and it’s been awhile, so figured I’d give it a whirl today. But first- I JUST realized that after I send a post live I often have some editing (misspelled words, etc.) that I correct and update. Those updates do NOT seem to be going to those of yall who get the post emailed to you. I will try to fix that and also be more vigilant with my pre-launch editing moving forward.

Sheep: My brother and I had the odd history of growing up in a city neighborhood with a feral sheep. His name was Stinky, and he supposedly belonged to the young married couple at the end of the street, but he wandered wherever he wanted to. As toddlers my brother and I was terrified of this huge, male, unshaved sheep. One time he trapped us in the garage and we climbed on my Dad’s car to escape him. I prefer Stinky to any religious or political sheep though, boy those are the worst.

Material: Well hmmm, I’m having a hell of a time finding acceptable fabric/material for new curtains in the kitchen. I want something Scandinavian with a white background and multi color print without being too twee or whimsical… or geometric. Hence the “hell of a time.” I did finally find fabric for my slipper chair in our living room. I reversed it so the side showing is actually the back of the fabric, but we like it more like that. I recovered the chair last weekend.

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Wouldn’t have worked for the curtains though…but similar to style I’m looking for.

Warning: Had enough health warnings lately that the husband and I are walking more, drinking less, and cutting back on cheese. Cholesterol. Weight. General weird ailments (plantar fasciitis sucks but is almost cleared up) that it’s time to just commit. Heed the warnings… we’re trying.

Art: I still haven’t finished the 4′ painting I’m doing of my husband… but I hung it on the wall so it didn’t get toddlerized- I better finish it or that will be the picture I’m “almost done with” for the next 40 years. I showed it to my mom and she asked if his hair was supposed to be a bike helmet. Actually its a bandana in the picture I’m working from… but thanks Mom.

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I swear the rule needs to be don’t hang it up until you’re done…

Bullet: At our last house I found a bullet in our hallway once. We didn’t have guns. It remains one of the weirdest feelings to bend down and pick that up of the carpet. Someone brought a gun and bullets in my house. Or didn’t and didn’t realize a random bullet fell out of their pocket. Or… I have no idea. It could be from some totally different scenario I haven’t considered. Weird to think you know so much less than you think you do about what goes on around you sometimes.

Advice: I try to stockpile advice for the girls’ use later in life. Like, if a boy doesn’t seem a little nervous around them, they need to realize he’s trying to play them, not love them. Or that washing you’re face with a face cleanser every night really DOES make a difference. Or that starting to moisturize in your 20s is important. Or that there are no princesses waiting to be rescued in this family- they need to be women who are always capable of rescuing themselves. So far there are only two pieces of advice I’ve ever given them that seems to have stuck. First is that they should try to be the hero of their own stories. And the second is that the thinner the eyebrow the crazier the woman. GOD HELP ME why that last one that I just tossed off without thinking after a couple of glasses of wine should be one of the main ones they remember and cleave to, but parenting is weird like that. I bet you anything they mention it in my eulogy. I SAID IT ONE TIME FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!

It’s Le Hot

It’s BLAZINGLY hot around this place these days, so no new plantings are happening. No weeding is getting done. The watering is done at night, and mostly by sprinkler. And the bermuda grass is creeping in as slowly and methodically as fascism in 2018 America.

The only thing that’s not done begrudgingly is TOMATO HARVESTING!

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HM1823 and Bobcat… they are huge and prolific and delicious and taste-wise I can’t tell them apart. That pot had 10 lbs of tomatoes in it… yes I weighed it.

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Sungold and Sweet 100… two plants and this is just about the harvest each day… as long as we can keep the toddler from eating all of them

As for the plants… The cherry tomatoes are so huge- Sungold has to be 9′ tall and Sweet 100 has to be 6 and a half. They have very different growth habits. Sungold is more abundant, but also easier to harvest since it’s an airier and more open plant. The Sweet 100 is more dense, so much more difficult to harvest as it tends to fruit in the middle of the plant as opposed to on the perimeter like the Sungold. Sweet 100 fruit are also smaller is size, but more tart, which I prefer. The Sungold is awesome though, and I will definitely buy one again next year just to keep up with the volume I want on the cherries.

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It’s too hot to model these, but rest assured we’re pushing 9′ tall these days

As for the others, even the shorter tomatoes had to get 6′ T-posts put in- they pulled their cages over with the weight of all the fruit they’re setting. Yet another first from this year’s crop…

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Bobcat- the heavier producer. Looks a little light on the leaves thanks to a damn tomato hornworm I CANNOT F-ing find… look at those top leaves… I know you’re in there, hornworm. I KNOW it!

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HM 1823… hard to see but that’s a heavy crop there as well. Seems to split more, but it’s been boom or bust on the watering, so it might be my fault.

Ignore the background… that’s the old deck railing that needs to be hauled off. But in the foreground is a 4′ Mexican Olive tree, that all of the sudden catapulted itself out of the bronze fennel.

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Holy cow is the Mexican Olive Tree growing insanely fast… it was a foot tall in April!

In other news, I’m really trying to cut our food budget. I’ve taken over as the primary cook in the household, which is great. But it also means I indulge in WAY too many trips to the store, where it seems I invariably drop $70 a trip- on top of the pushing $200 weekly trip. And we can all agree that’s insane, And it is especially too much since I want to trade in the Honda for a Subaru Ascent here in, like 2 weeks. So to afford the payment difference, I need to shave off about $200 from my personal and food spending. Which, eh, no problem. I could do with less of my “money grows on trees, devil may care attitude” anyway. So let me show you one of my latest moves that direction: FREE MEALS.

Okay, not actually free in the soup kitchen or community food pantry way or anything. God that’d be a dick move to get charity because I don’t want to cut into my TJ Maxx budget but still want to afford a brand new car, wouldn’t it? No, to me free meals are ones that I can make with only what we have on hand and a much more hearty reuse of leftovers. No trip to store or any purchases besides beer for the meal.

So on Wednesday I made a pork loin. We cut it into medallions, pounded them a bit, breaded them and then I made a cheater scaloppine sauce (didn’t have asparagus so I subbed red bell pepper. I do what I want) to serve with it. WAY too much sauce and a ton of the pork was left over. The middle child ate dinner with a friend, but even so it was a big pork loin. Which still only cost $8 so already a pretty budget meal.

Thursday I cooked some pasta, thickened and stretched the sauce from the scaloppine with some flour and chicken broth and added some cooked Italian sausage from earlier in the week- boom. FREE MEAL. And it was good.

Friday we had barbecued chicken thighs and veggie skewers. Plenty of leftovers, chicken thighs cost $7 for the pack.

Saturday day we had chicken tacos with leftover thighs from night before. FREE MEAL.

Saturday evening I cooked up a box of dirty rice I had on hand (Zatarains mix… it almost pains me to buy something boxed or branded these days but it’s exactly that kinda snobbishness that lost the Dems this last election). To it I added finely chopped up left over pork loin and the rest of the smokey veggies from Friday night. I did make a garlic yogurt sauce to go on top and I put minced parsley on literally everything, so it went on this too to dress it up. (crush some garlic in some yogurt and refrigerate for an hour. boom. Garlic yogurt sauce) FREE F-ING MEAL.

And then today for lunch I made up a quick asian soup broth (box of chicken broth (organic. It’s my need to say so that lost the Dems that last election), mirin, miso paste, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil- dash of this and that, I have no measurements here- along with some minced garlic and ginger. Then I added frozen spinach, some dried asian mushrooms, noddles and sliced in some of the pork loin. Topped it with cilantro and lime. FREE Mother F-ing MEAL!

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Chili paste in the center. I meant to add in halved cherry tomatoes but I forgot.

And I realize, this isn’t breaking new ground here- reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle…  but I’m learning. And that’s obnoxious, don’t I know it. But I’m strolling my merry way towards being more fiscally responsible on food so I can be less so on the car… so yay for coastal elites and being out of touch with the heartland, I guess?

Vote Democratic 2018 folks.