Friday, July 29, 2011

The Belief That We Shouldn't Believe

I was watching Penn Gilette arguing with Kevin Pereirra on Attack Of The Show last night.

Penn is a seriously militant atheist. His book, "God, No" is out now. His argument is that everyone is an atheist. Everyone, even the devoutly religious, are atheists who have deceived themselves. He says he is not anti-Christian. He is, instead, anti-faith. He doesn't believe there should be any kind of religious beliefs of any kind, including Islam, Buddhism, Judeaism, etc.

His arguement is that if we all believed in a god, like we say we do, we wouldn't need to stop at stoplights, or lock our doors, or protect ourselves, or work to feed ourselves, because a benevolent god would always stop everything bad from happening to us all the time.

At least, that's what I think his argument was. The problem is, that it was also a lot of wordplay and mind games where he would twist things around. It wasn't a very..... compelling argument. I'll put it that way. I am always inclined to listen to anyone's argument because I myself have struggled with doubts and I'm willing to hear you out if you think you've got it all sorted.

I really, really would love to get some comments on this one. Do you have any thoughts or arguments as to why or why not anyone should have faith or religious beliefs?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zucchini Pickles - Now With Pictures

Did you know that those green summer squashes that half of your family, children and friends refuse to eat are good for more than just zucchini bread? It's true! And just to prove it, I'll be posting a few of the recipes I have found over my last 5 years of intensive gardening.

This recipe is from my Grandma Betty, whom, as I've mentioned before, has given me pretty much all of my personality traits and character flaws. It's a spin on the classic cucumber and onion pickles recipe.

2 fresh, firm zucchini
2 small onions
1/4 cup of pickling salt
2 cups white granulated sugar
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp mustard seed
3 cups cider vinegar (4-6% acidity)

Wash zucchini and slice into thin slices or strips. Peel and cut onions into quarters, then slice thinly. Add to zucchini. Cover zucchini and onions with water. Add salt and soak for about 2 hours. Drain.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil and heat thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Combine vinegar and zucchini/onion mixture and put into a large clean container. Keep refrigerated and serve chilled.

This recipe can also be processed for canning! Seal in jars after combining hot vinegar and zucchini/onion mix and refrigerate after opening.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tomato Queen!

Can I just say that I ADORE my heirloom tomatoes, and have thusly declared myself to be Tomato Queen. :) I'm totally in love with these heirlooms that I planted this year!

I'm not much of a researcher. I can barely remember what I did two hours ago, much less remember to write down little things that I notice while meandering through the greens. But I'm noticing some really cool things, and I'm going to try to relay them to my readers who might be remotely interested in learning about heirloom variety vegetables.

When I saw the Pink Accordion in the Territorial Seed catalogue this year, I knew I had to have them. It was love at first sight. So bumpely and awkward, so big, such a pretty color! It had a to be a good choice.

It was!

These vines are absolutely enormous! They are reaching astonishing heights (for tomatoes), coming close to 4 feet tall. I have a green fruit that is probably 4 inches in diameter already, and it isn't even close to being full size. I'm guessing it still has about 2 more weeks before being fully ripe. The picture to the left is almost a month old, I'm just too lazy to go out and get a newer one right now. So imagine this same tomato, double sized.

Some people don't like the smell of tomato vines, but I actually like it. But I also love the smell of marigolds, which I'm told is very weird and most people can't stand them. I have strange olfactory tolerances I guess. Anyway, the pink accordians seem to have a more pungeant odor than some of the smaller variety and the vines are almost.... juicy. The vines are slick to the touch and leave a distinctive green stain on my fingers.

Hope to get a few more pics up of these guys as they progress and more observations when I make them. I really, really believe strongly in growing heirloom veggies though. It may be a stupid doomsday cliche, but you can't eat bars of gold when the economy collapses. You can, however, continue to thrive with heirloom variety plants!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Corn, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes

Now that I've caught up from last week's complete waste - specifically, I'm talking about 4 days wasted practicing and then going to a rehearsals for a show that I was fired from, days that didn't get any cooking, cleaning, laundry or shopping accomplished - I was able to get outside today and go on a veggie hunt. It was exciting to see all the growth I missed last week! Such beautiful things have appeared over 7 days!

The corn is a towering 8 feet tall.  There are a few stalk that have silks coming out, and where there are silks, there are ears of corn! I'll need to spray them soon to keep the worms and other wretched things out so that we can actually enjoy eating the fruits of our labor. Underneath the enormous leaves and stalks are 3 squash vines. I originally thought that I had planted pattypan squash, because that's what the package said, but strangely enough, the fruit I harvested off one of the vines today was NOT pattypan squash at all! It's a jack-be-little gourd! Well, that's just fine, because the other vines do have pattypans on them, and I love unexpected surprises.

I planted the squash because I read that it is a Native American technique that works really well. Planting corn, beans and squash all together provide all three plants with vital nutrients, supports and water retention. It has worked brilliantly! The other thing I have noticed is that my zucchini and pumpkins are struggling with powdery mildew, which I have to spray almost every day. But the squash that is planted with the corn has not had a speck of powdery mildew. Coincidence? I think not.

The tomatoes are FINALLY turning red!! Whew, I thought I was going to go out of my mind waiting! Just one so far, but the others will follow suit soon. It looks kind of funny all by itself though doesn't it? :)  The last 7 days have been insanely hot and humid - perfect tomato weather.

There are tons of zucchini and I'm going to have to make zucchini pickles sometimes this week. I've never tried them, but I'll be using Grandma Betty's recipe. I'm also going to be on the hunt for unusual zucchini recipes. There HAS to be something besides zucchini bread to make with these lovely green squashes! I'll make pickles of course, and I have been working on a recipe of my own that involves stuffing these guys with cheese and sausage. My vegan and vegetarian recipe books are about to get a serious scouring for zucchini recipes.

Last but not least, there are the tiniest starts of cucumbers now! Sweet pickle recipes to be attempted soon!


I was just watching some congressman on the morning news. I think he was a congressman - I could be wrong. I'm so sick of these jokers that I kind of space out those details. Congressman (or senator maybe) Clyburn.

Anyway, every single question that the host asked him about the debt crises he turned around and said "But the Republicans are doing it too!" She asked him why Senator Harry Reid hasn't presented any changes to his plan, and his response was "Because John Boehner won't tax the rich!" And I'm sure on another channel somewhere, there was a Republican saying the same thing about a Democrat.

Okay, seriously Washington, please get over this.

Speaking as someone who made less than $5000 total last year, and someone who is in a household that makes less than $30,000 in a year, it might absolutely shock the politicians to know that I don't really care about entitlements. I do not take advantage of the 'benefits' that my job offers, although my husband and I do take advantage of his company health insurance plan. We have never applied for food stamps, although we could have when we were first married. We have never applied for unemployment, even though I could have last year. When we needed income, we tightened our belts, sold a bunch of stuff, and didn't buy anything extra. Is that really a hard concept or are we just weird?

I think we can probably leave the 'rich' alone. I don't really want their money. I didn't earn their money - I don't need it. I know a lot of folks might think they deserve someone else's money, but I'll stick with the income that I actually go to work to earn every day.

What I would LOVE to see though is our polticians being taxed. If they pass legislation that overspends, they should have to pay for it. Wouldn't that be something?

Whatever. Maybe I'm crazy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Guess Beggars Really CAN Be Choosers

I was hired to play three nights of Hairspray at the Civic Theater last week.

It's opening night and I was just fired.

So all you wannabe stars, remember this. Do NOT under any circumstances accept a job for a show that opens in less than a week. That is not an acceptable excuse for first time musical directors at the South Bend Civic Theater.

Oh, and here's a little bit of advice to you wannabe theater directors. HIRE AN EFFING SOUND PRODUCTION COMPANY AND STOP LETTING KIDS RUN YOUR SOUND SYSTEM.

That is all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Giant Corn Privacy Fence.

I don't know if I have mentioned the neighbor lady who lives behind us. I will call her Patty, which is not actually her real name, but we'll call her that anyway. I really try to be kind to my neighbors because the foundational cornerstone of my faith is "Love God and Love People". I know it's God's little way of reminding me that the world is full of nuts, flakes and fruity folk, because this can be very hard sometimes.

Well anyway, Patty complains ALL THE TIME about her health. She takes 300 pills per week and get 6 injections per week, and has migraines and seizures and so on and so forth. Seriously, this woman should be on death's doorstep and yet she persists to come over and complain to me about her health. If she is that ill, I wish she would stay in the house and stop pestering me. I do try to talk to her at least once a week, because, like I said, I am trying to be kind to my neighbors. I'm not about to be the snooty neighbor that no one wants to help or be around.

Unfortunately, Patty has become a bit of an annoyance. It's getting to where I don't enjoy going past the back door. This is bad because most of the good stuff in the garden is right outside the back door.

The funny thing is that Patty gave me some advice regarding my corn. Like me, she has problems with our mutual neighbor, Lowell, whom I KNOW I have mentioned before in exasperation. Patty's idea was for me to continue digging up my side yard and planting more of that amazing variety of corn that has grown to be higher than the gutters of our garage. "Just like a great big privacy fence!" were her exact words. So that Lowell couldn't see what we were doing on the patio.

Now that's actually not a bad idea. A great big corn privacy fence all the way around my garage and patio to block BOTH of them.

This picture was taken one week ago. The corn stalks are actually higher than the gutters now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Emergency Gig

Got a call on Thursday from our pal Conner, who is currently music director for the South Bend Civic Theatre's production of "Hairspray". His pianist quit that morning via Facebook. So I agreed to fill in a little bit.

Show opens in four days.

Didn't anyone mention that there are occasional times when I'm out of my mind? Work freaks me out every single day, so I decide to quadruple my practice load. Yeah, that'll keep me sane.

Anyway, stay tuned for updates and the review. Can't wait to get this thing started.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Well Zippity-Do-Dah to That

My little zucchini family. In the back we have Zeke and Zepher, and in the front are Zelda and Zach.
 The zucchini are delicious.
Waiting for these tomatoes to turn red is making me insane!

Green Beans!

I love this picture.

This is a Pink Accordion Heirloom variety tomato. Except it isn't actually pink yet.

The package said that it's a pattypan squash. I think it's not.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Keeper of the House

Things have perked up at my bank job. I've settled into the expectations and I've made my peace with the parts of the jobs that I hate - for now. My referrals have even picked up. I have had 3 referrals so far this week - making it my best week ever. But do know this - I am just settling for now. I am working to make money to pay off debts so that I can later pursue much better things.

It's my day off - obviously. I don't seem to be able to post very often unless it is my day off. With the bedsheets in the wash, and the rented Rug Doctor sitting by my side, it's pretty clear what my day will consist of. I've given myself 20 minutes until I get up and put on the trash clothes and get started. With any luck, maybe a friend will drop by and give me company and decorating tips. I even thought about inviting my mother in law over, but I have a feeling we would start talking and then she would talk me into a shopping trip. Not that I wouldn't love it, I just have too much to get done today.

The corn has tassles, and there are 3 green beans! The beans are so small and thin that they look like inchworms. I am sorry to say that the earwigs have completely obliterated my sunflowers. It was a good try, and I will try again next year, but I will be more prepared for those wretched things of Satan than I was this year. I put on a good show for my piano students though when one of them found an earwig on the dining table. I shrieked, ran to get a shoe and started slapping it against anything that slightly look earwiggish. HATE those nasty things.

We have plenty of tomatoes, as I knew we would, but waiting for them to be anything but green is driving me insane. My ultra-earlies, Northern Delights, have sat for 2 weeks, barely getting any bigger and staying green. They are multiplying though. One plant has approximately 25 little green spheres so far. I regret not labelling any of my tomatoes. I just planted seeds and happily let them grow. Now I haven't got the slightest CLUE as to which plants will produce which types of tomatoes. I only know the Northern Delights because they were the first to fruit, and I have identified a Pink Accordion heirloom because it has one single, solitary fruit on it - about an inch in diameter. The tomatoes in the front garden have not grown as well as the ones in the back. This winter I will need to be sure that I mulch the soil well and put some organic plant food in.

I also found a pattypan squash - cutest little thing. :) Planted autumn beets and more beans. As expected, the melons are tiny and weak. Partially because of where they are planted and partially because I simply planted them too late. The autumn peas are vining away and the cucumbers are sprouting new leaves every day.

I searched the internet for some vintage prints of WWII Victory Garden posters and I'm so pleased with what I found on Amazon! I'm going to get at least 3 prints and frame them for the kitchen.

Remember American Girl? Before Disney bought them out, I was a huge fan. My American Girl was Molly - the 1945 WWII era doll. The family's victory garden was mentioned in every story. So now you know where I got my strange adoration for these vintage prints from!

Well, my 20 minute allotment is up. The sheets have finished the spin cycle and the Rug Doctor is beckoning me get up and get to work! I've only got until 4 today.

It's so rewarding to be the Keeper of the House.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Government Overstep

Now HERE is a cause I could champion. I don't really care about the stuff that's in the headlines, but this is something that burns me up.

From what I have read on this woman's blog, the city government of Oak Park is taking these homeowner's to court for planting vegetables in their front yard. The funny thing is that the city TORE UP their front yard for sewer work to begin with! They just happened to replant the yard with veggies. And thus began the troubles.


This is what we've come to in America?  We're the land of the free as long as we put grass and shrubbery in our front yards like everyone else?

Visit this blog, sign the petition against the city's case, educate yourselves on your own city's laws regarding landscaping. Personally I find tomatoes, beans and squash perfectly acceptable plants for landscaping and they're edible too. But what do I know?

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Few More Images

Obviously I love my little 'farm'. I'd love it better if I could tear the neighbor's house down and expand onto their lot, but that wouldn't be very neighborly, would it?? Anyway, I dug some new potatoes last night, pulled baby carrots, clipped lavender spears, and dug weeds until dusk and I was so happy doing it. Here are a few of the pictures I took:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Facebook Down

What do you mean my Facebook profile is down for site maintenance!? I don't know what this means....

I might be the tiniest bit addicted to Facebook. I put up a status that Alex and I were at the St. Joseph County fair last night and I wanted to see if anyone had anything to say in response. I also wanted to add that a county fair seems to be the single largest collection of white trash, ghetto booty, teenage cleavage and jailbait in the county right now. That may seem to be a cruel thing to say, but it's true.

We went primarily for the food. Nothing feeds a summertime craving like carnie food - elephant ears, funnel cakes, caramel corn, cotton candy and while you're at it, ruin some perfectly healthy veggies for me and dip them in batter and deep fry the vitamins out of them please!! Love fried veggies. Mmm!

We got our elephant ear, and then went to the ticket booth where they were selling 4 tickets for $5. We gasped, unsure of how to proceed. Wristbands made sense, but they were $23 each. Sad to say, we didn't get to go on the ferris wheel, which was our one hope as far as rides go.

We did get the opportunity to go into the exhibit hall for the crafts and other projects, and I was so impressed with the quality and the talent of the kids in our 4-H, but I found myself being disappointed that OUR little town had very, very few entries. Most were from the outlying communities - not many at all from the city. Sad. City kids (and those rich snobs up North of us) could really benefit from 4-H - it is my belief that 4-H is better than forcing them into a sport or team they don't like all summer, or allowing them to stay in the house watching television and playing video games. But hey, who am I to judge? I don't even have children.

The fireworks were wonderful. I love fireworks. My favorites though are the golden-bronze or silver ones that shimmer sparks and embers. It always makes me think of the end of Peter Pan, when Tinker Bell showers Captain Hook's pirate ship with pixie dust to make it fly. I often wonder what America must look like from space on the Fourth of July? I bet it's beautiful.

I have some thoughts about our Nation's Independence Day as well. Weird ones. First of all, I'm no die-hard patriot. It wouldn't be devastating to me to move away from the US if we had to. But I do have a bit of patriotic spirit and I think we should observe and honor the amazing country we live in. But I find it a little disturbing that we honor our country by attending 'giant sales' at retail outlets that force their employees to work on a national holiday. 50 years ago, Independence Day was observed by all; everyone, every business, took the time to honor our founders, our fallen and our faithful. Now, in our post-consumeristic, legalistic society, our companies are so concerned with being open every single day and getting the extra bucks, that there is no honor, no observance. And the more we allow it, the worse it gets. I am never one to predict the future, but I would guess that Independence Day simply becomes another day in the calender, just like Columbus Day or Mother's Day, sometime in the future. I wonder if the banks will even close?

The best part of the evening was when we ran into our friends, Matt and Dana, and their 3 little girls. Bella and Jillian got to ride in the Crazy Mouse - some kind of hybrid between the teacup ride at Disney and a roller coaster, and Kailee, being only 3, had to sit out. And she was very upset about it, which was made worse by the fact that she was exhausted beyond measure. She let me carry her for a bit, but she's almost getting too big for me. She is definitely heavier than the other two girls were at her age. And everytime Mommy or Daddy came close, she would turn her face away and say "NO". Mad, cuz she couldn't go on any of the big kid rides. So Alex picked her up, MY ALEX!, and snuggled with her and carried her around for awhile. And the wild beast was soothed. Kailee loves Alex. We don't know why, but she does. And I think he likes her too. :) He was definitely working up his 'daddy muscles' last night. I may be allowed to have a baby yet!

Our day ended late, and happy, with horse poo on our shoes and the smell of carnie food on our clothing. This morning we are laying around, lazy for a little while, but I'm on my way out to get the grass mowed before it gets too hot. Besides, our jerk neighbors have made it quite clear that they've had it with our grass being the longest on the block. But you already know my feeling about our next door neighbors.... No? Let's just put it in short form - "Keeping Up With The Joneses" is their favorite game. And they've been doing it for so long that they don't know how to NOT compete with a young couple working on their first house.

Anyway, please be blessed, safe, careful and happy on this Independence Day. Take time to enjoy the life we have here in America - it's wonderful and there is no other place like it. Try not to lose any fingers, toes, eyebrows or other important limbs with firecrackers. Jump in the lake and love it. Hug a family member and honor the fallen heroes. That is all. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Honest to God Truth

It's 9:44 pm on July 2nd.

After a morning on work, I came home happy. I wanted to mow grass, pull weeds and "stare at things", as Alex calls it.

But instead, Alex told me it was too hot to mow grass, or really even be outside, and didn't I have Baby Chucks to finish that were ordered over a week ago?

So I worked on them. But then Alex said, "Don't work on those right now, work on them tonight during the race. I want us to finish the shelves right now."

And so we went to the dining room, where he had started putting together a set of wire shelving for the pantry. We finished the project and I started to get the items that I had been shoving into wherever they would fit. I even found room to store the dehydrator and the big graniteware canning pot.

Alex left to take a rented DVD back to the store, and I sat down on the sofa and immediately fell asleep. When he got home, he said "Why are you napping? You shouldn't be napping in the middle of the day! There are things you should be doing!"

Then it thunderstormed.

And the cats started fighting with each other.

We had an argument over why he's been so bossy today.

And I am bored and listless and restless and grumpy and lonely.

So Alex ordered a pizza. My second pizza today, not that I cared, but it bothered him, and we argued about who has the healthier diet because obviously I shouldn't be eating pizza twice in one day. But my boss ordered pizza for us at the bank today because it was so slow and we were hungry.

I took a walk around the garden. Found things ripening. Raspberries turning pink and bright carrots getting longer and thicker. But the sky was getting more and more yellow and the clouds became menacing and the wind picked up. It doesn't stop the neighbors from shooting off their fireworks.

The lady behind us let out her dogs and I purposely walked around the front of the house when I saw her. I try to talk to her at least once a week, but all she ever does it complain about her health and their financial problems. I'm positive, but even I get depressed after a conversation with her. She gives me books though, which I love.

Annabel is 'lost' in the dining room. She is so funny sometimes. She will sit in the dark room and cry and squeak because she doesn't know where anyone else is. It makes me laugh and I call her name and it's as if she suddenly realizes she is home and the rest of the family is in the living room. Then she will come back to the living room and crawl all over me until I get annoyed and push her off.

Then Alex says to me, "Why don't you have a glass of wine? That will help you calm down a little."

He was right. And that's the honest to God truth.