Happy Anniversary, Baby!

21 02 2010

Today is February 21st, 2010. After a grueling week, I made an early night of Friday and slept in this morning until well after 9:30 am. For those of you who don’t get to spend a lot of time observing our quaint little life; let me give you a snapshot.

AJ and I typically get up in the mornings and go to work together. We ride in the car to our jobs, work and ride home. Sometimes we talk and sometimes we just ride in silence as AJ frets about money and fixing things and I think of ways to bring in more money and wonder which component of our auditing kit I forgot to load up. After work is finished we return home where we each retire to a computer and/or the TV. AJ often has some beer or wine and I usually have some wine. On other days I work the audits and AJ does the side job of driving Worker’s Comp patients to their appointments. Either way, our evenings rarely vary.

Just as in our car rides, we sometimes spend long periods of our evenings without speaking, while at other times we chatter away like the old pals we have become. Although quarters are tight, and we both often long for our own private space, there is a certain comfort in being so close. It’s hard to conceal things from each other. When one of us is feeling bad or has something on our mind, the other knows almost immediately. The lines of communication are always open. We have misunderstandings and annoyances, but those little glitches tend to get ironed out fairly quickly.

Last night we spent a good deal of our quality time talking about Carrie. Carrie is our 87-year-old next-door neighbor. Yesterday, AJ discovered that she has gone without heat or air for a year and that her water heater is also broken. She just received an electric bill in excess of $400.00 (up from the average $25.00 bill)! The best we can figure is that the space heater she has been using caused this. We try to look after Carrie, as she is completely alone. Her common law husband died years ago, and her children seem to want nothing to do with her. We take her to the store and other errands, mow her grass and fix things around her place; yet neither of us had realized just how bad it had gotten for her. Although our conversation revolved around this, we did briefly discuss the significance that February 21st holds for us.

This morning we awoke, had our coffee and headed over to help Carrie. AJ diagnosed the problems. The water heater is DOA, but the central heat and air unit was in working order. The ducts connected to the unit had become detached. We spent much of the day repairing this; including my crawling under her trailer to reattach the ductwork. Many cuts and scrapes, and much grime later her heat and air was working again. I raked her yard and picked up some trash. AJ finished cleaning up with the leaf blower while I went to the store to buy her some necessities.

It wasn’t until 4:00 pm that I remembered what today is…Our Anniversary! By this time AJ had gone to visit his friend Jay, and I was absorbed in laundry and the internet. Aren’t we romantic?

I know that our laissez-faire approach to romance strikes many as callous, but it works for us. We share companionship and partnership on a daily basis, and find romance in unconventional moments.

As a tribute to the fact that today marks the sixth anniversary or our marriage, I would like to share a couple of photos of that special day.

On February 21st, 2004 AJ and I drove to Kingsland, Georgia because we don’t plan ahead especially well, and there you can get married without a waiting period. I had found the Kingsland Wedding Chapel online, and made an appointment.

Kingsland-Wedding-Chapel

We didn’t bother to dress up for the occasion. In fact, we completely failed to consult each other about wardrobe, and accidentally wore non-matching red shirts. This just helped add to the campiness of the experience. Note the wood panel walls and artificial Ficus trees.

The most memorable part of the chapel (apart from the proselytizing minister) was the massive crack in the front window. I secretly hoped that it wasn’t an omen; although so far, so good!

Wedding-Day-022004

Next, we drove to Savannah, walked around and stayed the night.

Savannah-Honeymoon

Speaking of happy couples…Mark and Karen (Mom) came to visit at the end of January. We had a fine time. They cooed and giggled like high school kids (which they always do:), and we all ate well, drank wine and had a generally great time.

Mark-and-Karen

While they were here we had a spectacular sunset.

Sunset

So, what else has been going on? It’s been cold; too damn cold for Florida! Llami has been inside most of the time, but when she does go out, she snuggles up with Jorgi.

Snuggle-Cats

The Oasis didn’t take the cold very well. Here is a shot showing the decimated banana trees. Fortunately, they didn’t die, and now have fresh leaves emerging.

Garden

The broccoli seemed to love the cold. We have had broccoli greens more than any other veggie from the garden, this season.

Broccoli-Greens

I love how the waxy broccoli leaves repel water.

Broccoli-Closeup

Here is a shot taken today. The broccoli is blooming (much to the delight of the bees), and lettuce, rosemary and carrots are thriving in O2.

Oasis

It has warmed up a bit, and Jorgi is thrilled.

Jorgi

Sometimes I plant things to surprise myself. I can’t recall whether I planted a melon or cucumber here, but I will find out soon enough.

Sprout

The Tatsoi loves the cold as much as the broccoli, and although it is lush and healthy, I haven’t become adept at incorporating it into the menu. Anyone have Tatsoi recipes to share?

Tatsoi

Well, I guess that is enough for now. I promise to come up with something interesting for my next post. Thanks all for reading!

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Screamy, Fiesty, Good Food and Silly Cat

16 07 2009

Well, I’ve gone and let weeks go by without any proper updates. Nothing much has happened that would pass for exciting, so I guess I don’t feel too bad.

The Oasis is looking lush and tropical.

Oasis-Close

Screamy the Pepper has ripened. AJ thinks I could sell him as a Michael Jackson likeness on ebay. I’m letting him dry above my desk to see what he looks like when old and wrinkled.

Screamy-Ripe

This is “Feisty” the Cuban Anole. How these miniature dinosaur replicas have escaped extinction is beyond me; because they are none too bright. Every day, without fail, he takes his post on the grill lid handle, puffs up his crests and struts back and forth in an attempt to intimidate his perfectly matched opponent.

Feisty-Puffed-Up

Every day, he gives his best fight, only to be equaled by the foe with the steely  bites (which leave both of their noses battered and raw). Neither will relinquish their territory in this daily ritual. This is one neurotic lizard!

Feisty-Throwdown

Talk about neurosis. I got a little obsessed with this eggplant. As it grew larger and more regal, I began to get paranoid about its well being. My research warned that eggplants lose their goodness once they get too ripe. They grow tough and seedy. They are meant to be picked while young and shiny.

This is the first eggplant I have ever grown, and with all of the dangers of over-ripeness, insects and critters I gave in and picked it. AJ chastised me, saying that they were meant to be much larger before harvesting.

First-Eggplant

I sliced it up to find firm, seedless meat. I marinated in Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar with fresh chopped garden herbs. Then I grilled to perfection. Captain Kym came over for dinner. This is when I realized that eggplant (especially my version) is not for everyone. AJ and Kym politely nibbled on the vegetable, while we all devoured AJ’s roasted, stuffed pork tenderloin. Oh well, I thought the eggplant was good.

Grilled-Eggplant

AJ’s pork tenderloin was delicious. However, just as in everything he does, he immediately criticised his recipe and began planning for the improved version. We still had half of the large cut in the freezer, so a few days later he set about perfecting his stuffed, smoked pork tenderloin technique.

Here is his recipe:

AJ’s Smoked Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Sautee Italian Sausage.

Butterfly tenderloin lengthwise to flatten.

Spread Cream Cheese as bottom layer.


Splitopenandcreamcheese

Add a layer of fresh Baby Spinach

Spinachlayer

Next layer: Prosciutto

Prosciuttolayer

Sprinkle with Grated Cheese.

6Italiancheeselayer

Spread the browned sausage.

ItalianSausagelayer

Layer on Ricotta Cheese.

RicottaParmesanlayer

Roll up and tie with cotton string. Season with Rosemary, Dill and Ken’s Greek Salad Dressing.

Readyforsmoker-1

Smoke uncovered, spraying with mixture of Olive Oil, Pineapple Juice and Ken’s Greek Salad Dressing until internal temperature reaches 150°

Finished-1

Remove from heat, wrap in foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Thereitis

Unwrap, slice and enjoy!

Sliced

The mystery guest’s children overran the garden, eating up all of the dill and most of the parsley. I moved at least ten ravenous caterpillars to the carrots, where they quickly matured and went on “walkabout”, looking for places to pupate.

This one chose a green onion. Hope the wind doesn’t blow too hard.

Papilo-Polyxenes-Chives

How’s this for camouflage? I found this fellow on the broccoli. The next day was a perfectly hidden chrysalis that I would have never seen had I not known where to look. I have been aching to try broccoli greens, and carefully harvested the most tender leaves, while taking care not to disturb the sleeping beauty.

Papilo-Polyxenes-Broccoli

Roxanne’s Broccoli & Collard Greens

Harvest a bundle of tender Broccoli and/or Collard Greens.

Wash thoroughly, taking care to remove all insects and insect eggs. Cut into medium-sized pieces, removing central vein from larger leaves.

Blanch by submerging greens in boiling, salted water just long enough to tenderize, and then plunging into ice water. This preserves the bright green color.

Blanched--Greens

Chop bacon, onions and peppers (I used a red pepper and Poblano from the garden). Once the bacon is almost cooked, add pressed or chopped garlic.

Sautee

When bacon is cooked and onions are tender, toss in blanched greens. Drench with white wine, cover and simmer until greens are thoroughly wilted.

AJ, who had previously stated his reluctance to try broccoli greens, enthusiastically ate his portion and raved about how good they were. We enjoyed this dish as complement to his scrumptious smoked chicken. All in all, a week of good, down-home cooking.

Greens

And as if on cue, Smokey the Silly Cat has found yet another way to chill while looking ridiculously uncomfortable.

SillyCatBack071609

SillyCat071609

Hope everyone is enjoying life with peace and happiness! See y’all soon.





Topsoil and Wind

14 04 2009

Today was topsoil day. Wonderful guy that he is, AJ hopped into the truck and went to pick up the soil. I set about getting Oasis2 ready to fill. I’m not crazy about the name “Oasis2”. Once it gets some personality I will have to come up with a better title. For now I will shorten it to “O2”. Hey, I kind of like that…

Oasis2-Beginning

The soil has arrived. Hmm, that doesn’t look like very much. I hope it’s enough.

Truckload-Soil

With the truck backed up and ready to unload, AJ sprung a change on me. He offered up two tires we had sitting around. I guess these are $250.oo tires with a little life on them, but nothing we can use anymore. So, at the last minute I tried to incorporate them. Now that it’s finished I know how I wish I would have configured it; but you know what they say about wishing…

Ready-to-fill

We got the truck close enough that we were able to walk the soil over by the shovel-full.

Oasis2Filling

Within 45 minutes the bed was full of this gorgeous, rich soil. There was exactly enough and not a scoop more. Sorry compost heap, I’ll have to go with plan B on that.

Oasis2-Filled

The shoveling went so fast because we were racing this weather system approaching from the West.

Ominous-Weather

The first band chased us inside right after we filled the bed. We waited for the big gap in the middle and then went back to work.

Radar

From back to front, left to right: cucumbers, lima beans, pole beans. watermelon,

broccoli, super giant productive cherry tomato plant, musk melons,

lettuce, carrots and more eggplant. Actually, I thinned out the lettuce from The Oasis and transplanted many of them throughout O2.

Oasis2-Planted

The weather co-operated and I was able to add the gravel mulch.

Finished-Oasis2

This super tomato is supposed to get up to 6′ tall and produce over 600 cherry tomatoes in its lifetime. It’s so small and cute now, but I know it will become a monster. I’m sure I’ll be sorry I planted it in the middle of the bed, but gardening is so much more exciting if you mix it up a bit!

I faced the dilemma of how to support the plant once it begins to take off. I looked around for something with which to fashion a tomato cage. I just hate those utilitarian metal ones. Bamboo…plenty of bamboo everywhere, but how to hold it together? Then I remembered something I learned from my best friend Kris’s mom, Karen. Karen owned a flower shop and was a talented florist and designer (still is, although she is now retired).

One day we were enlisted to collect grape vines. I had no idea why, but Kris and I had to cut and yank down a huge mass of the tangled tendrils from her grandmother’s fence. This was a grueling and painful task, and we were covered with cuts and scratches before it was done. Afterward, Karen showed us the fruits of our labor. She grabbed a handful of the feisty vines and skillfully wound them into a beautiful wreath. I was always impressed with the fact that both of Kris’s parents were entrepreneurs and so creative. The wreath idea popped into my head when I thought about the tomato cage, so I went out on the back lot and cut some grape vines.

Tomato-Cage

AJ helped me secure them. The whole thing looks a little crooked, and I will probably straighten a bit and eventually add another ring towards the top, once the plant grows up a bit. I really like it, though. It works perfectly.

Tomato-Cage-CU

I hope the big tomato plant in The Oasis inspires the cherry tomato. The big tomatoes are bulging out everywhere. If you look closely you will notice that one is starting to turn orange. I’m hoping that we will have vine ripe tomatoes within a week. I still feel guilty about dogging the flea market tomato plant when I first got it. I think these are “spite tomatoes”.

Big-Tomatoes

After we finished up the wind began to blow. It has been blowing steadily around 25mph all afternoon with gusts up to 45mph. The new plantings are really taking a hit. Now I wish I would have waited for this front to pass before subjecting these babies to the elements. Tomorrow I will survey the damage and see how everything fared.

Even as the wind howled, nature gave us a gift; the most brilliant, apocalyptic looking red sky in many moons.

Red-Sky

Glad that portion of the project is finished. There is still a lot to do. I must cut and install the bamboo fascia; and will likely run out before I’m done. But the plants are in, and if this wind ever lets up they should start growing fast.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day. I think I’ll make you wait to find out what is in the works, but I will give you a hint: There are chickens, worms, mushrooms, heirloom plants and tie-dyed shirts involved. Check back tomorrow evening for the lowdown.