planting tomatoes

I’ve lived in CA for 13 years, and guess how many tomatoes I’ve harvested from my own plants? Close your eyes. That’s how many. In Chicago, the damn tomatoes I grew were as big as my head. Here? Zip. Yesterday, I bought a few huge bags of miracle grow potting soil, sliced X’es into them, and stuck the plants right into the top of the bag. With chicken mesh under the bags, the gophers can suck it this year.

My next door neighbor  put in a zillion raised beds for kale, etc, so I’m hoping that I’ll find bags of produce at my door (Hi Vicky!  You’re my favorite neighbor!). And I have a flat of cukes that I’m going to plant (again, in potting soil bags) among the bougainvillea that grows up the office wall.

We’ll see how it all goes. I’m better at buying/planting than I am at tending. But my kids are still alive, as I do remember to water and feed them, so there’s some hope that the plants will get some attention this summer, too.

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Merry Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all around me
Was unfinished knitting not under the tree.
The stockings weren’t hung by the chimney with care
’cause the heels and the toes had not a stitch there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
but I had not finished the caps for their heads.
Dad was asleep; he was no help at all,
And the sweater for him was six inches too small.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I put down my needles to see what was the matter.
Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Tripped over my yarn and fell down with a crash.

The tangle of yarn that lay deep as the snow
Reminded me how much I still had to go.
Out on my lawn, I heard such a noise,
I thought it would wake both dad and the boys.

And though I was tired, my brain was a bit thick,
I knew in a moment, it must be Saint Nick.
But what I heard then left me perplexed-ed,
For not a name I heard was what I had expected
“move, Ashford; move, Lopi; move, Addie and Clover
Move, Reynolds; move, Starmore; move, Fraylicˆmove
over”
“Paton, don’t circle round; stand in line.

Come now, you sheep wool work just fine!
I know this is hard semi, it’s just your first year,
I’d hate to go back to eight tiny reindeer.”
I peered over the sill; what I saw was amazing,
Eight woolly sheep on my lawn all a’grazing.

And then,in a twinkle, I heard at the door
Santa’s feet coming across the porch floor.
I rose from my knees and got back on my feet,
And as I turned round, Saint Nick, I did meet.

He was dressed all in wool from his head to his toe
And his clothes were handknit from above to below.
A bright Fairisle sweater he wore on his back,
and his toys were all stuffed in an Aran knit sack.
His cap was a wonder of bobbles and lace,
A beautiful frame for his rosy red face.

The scarf round his neck could have stretched for a mile,
And the socks peeking over his boots were Argyle.
The back of his mittens bore an intricate cable,
And suddenly on one I spied a small label.
SC was duplicate stitched on the cuff,
and I asked “Hey Nick, did you knit all this stuff?”

He proudly replied “Ho-ho-ho, yes I did,
I learned how to knit when I was a kid.”
He was chubby and plump, a quite well-dressed old man,
And I laughed to myself for I’d thought up a plan.

I flashed him a grin and jumped up in the air,
And the next thing he knew he was tied to a chair.
He spoke not a word, but looked in his lap
Where I’d laid my needles and yarn for a cap.

He quickly began knitting, first one cap then two;
For the first time I thought I’d really get through.
He put heels on the stockings and toes in some socks
While I sat back drinking Scotch on the rocks!!

So quickly like magic, his needles they flew,
That he was all finished by quarter to two.
He sprang for his sleigh when I let him go free,
And over his shoulder he looked back at me.
And I heard him exclaim as he sailed past the moon
“Next year start your knitting sometime around June.”

-Author Unknown

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Nutribullet recipes for green smoothies and green soup

I’ve been on the hunt for a new blender, especially now that the “off” button on our old (over 25 years old!) blender quit working (don’t ask how we turn it off– it’s a process).  One day, an infommercial for the Nutribullet caught my eye.  I did a little research, and promptly ordered one online.

It really is as easy to use as they claim– and it does a better job of grinding up fruit and veg than the old blender, hands down!  I toss frozen fruits and water into one of the containers (usually a frozen banana, some strawberries/peaches/pineapple/canteloupe… whatever’s over-ripe and thus was tossed into the freezer) and whiz it for 15 – 30 seconds and I have a wonderful smoothie!

But my true love is savory “smoothies” , and the Nutribullet handles greens with ease, creating waaaaay nicer smoothies than my blender.  My newest fave lunch is green soup:

In the larger Nutribullet container, fill over halfway with frozen spinach leaves.  Add a large handful of frozen peas and carrots.  Add one peeled clove of garlic and a good sized chunk of sweet onion.  A large squirt (or two) of Mrs. Bragg’s Amino (unsalty soy sauce) and a squirt of Sriracha (Thai hot sauce that I add to everything.  I have bottles squirreled away all over the house and office) a few shakes of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (an herb seasoning mix– use your fave) and then water or veg broth to the fill line.  WHIZZZZZZZ.   Heat it up for soup, or drink cold for a cooling lunch.

Delish!

For more green smoothie recipes, see my blog here and here.

PS– I’m not affiliated with Nutribullet, but I am a very very happy customer!

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How I wash a fleece, part three

I don’t spin out the fleece in a washing machine to dry, and here’s why:

After much reading, I have decided NOT to spin out the fiber in the washing machine. Of course I have reasons, and of course, this question will result in a long monologue but you asked for it. Just remember that when your brain starts screaming.

  1. In order to spin out your fiber, you MUST be able to spin without your machine spitting water onto the fiber. Generally, this means you have to have a top loading machine. Test out the water thing by adding a dry tee shirt and spinning it “dry”. Stop after a minute or two and check the tee for any wet spots.  Keep checking during the spin cycle to make certain of this spitting tendency that some machines have.
  2. In order to spin out your fiber and not ruin your machine, you must put the fiber into lingerie bags. To qualify this caveat: in my house, in order to avoid the mere possibility of ruining the machine, lingerie bags were a necessity. I like to pick my battles, and I chose to avoid having this become a battle. That said– if you live in humidity or cold, this might be an important step for you. In which case– go for it. I chose not to tempt fate, and not to take a step that was unnecessary for my environment (hot and dry).
  3. Since I live in a dry, usually warm and sunny environment, fiber dries within one business day. I don’t need to spin it out. It’s an extra step, and I’m lazy, so I don’t.

Having slogged through all of this, the short answer….. I mainly dislike spinning out fiber because it gets compacted (not felted. compacted. different animal). It’s harder to comb or card. Drying it right out of the rinse pot is just as easy for me in my environment as stuffing lingerie bags and spinning and then drying on a rack. It’s really what I’m used to, and while the compacting of a fleece isn’t that big a deal (as opposed to compacting a roving or top) since a fleece will usually head for the drumcarder or flick carder or combs anyway, the machine adds another step that I don’t need to take. But you might, if you live somewhere that is damp enough that your fleece will grow moss before it dried without spinning it out first.

As for the question of whether a fleece should be hot or cold before going into the machine– it doesn’t matter, it won’t felt. There is no true agitation going on. It gets slammed up against the walls of the drum as it spins (centrifugal force or the reason you get nauseous at amusement parks) and stays there. Felting = you can’t pull the fibers apart. They are locked together for eternity. Compacted = what happens when you unbraid a roving/top and it’s all squished up. You can pull compacted fiber apart and spin merrily on…  As long as you aren’t agitating hot fiber and then dunking it into cold water… it’s a real challenge to get your fiber to felt.  And slamming your fiber up against the wall isn’t enough to felt it!  So…. if it won’t cause WW4 in your house, and you need that bump of mechanization to dry your fleece…. go for it!

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How I wash a fleece, part 2

OK, I gave DH the slip.
Part two, in which we get our hands hot and dirty and our fleece clean.  We have set the stage with our props and move on the the actual washing of the fleece:

  1. Pour 1/2 pot (to fill the roasting pan about 1/2 way full)  of boiling water into each of the 3 roasting pans in set #1. Of course, if you only have 1/2# of fiber, use 2 pans.  3 seems like the maximum number of boiling pans that are reasonable to deal with. I aim the water directly at the soap blop so that it mixes around, then I use my hands (you will be smart and use the wooden spoon) to really mix it up.
  2. Pull off fiber– how much? Enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but not too much. Maybe 3 oz. Here’s an inside tip– after this first round, the process goes really quickly. Don’t try to shove too much fiber into the pan, thinking you will get finished faster. You will win the race and lose the war, m’dears. Less fiber is cleaner fiber. And other trite witticisms. Get your fiber clean in fewer rounds– that’s the goal.  Shoving too much fiber into the pan will lead to dirty fiber that needs more rounds of washing.  Anyway, back to the hot boiling water in the pan. Gently push the fiber down under the water. It will immediately turn cloudy. Guess what? Your lanolin is releasing!

Repeat to fill the remaining 2 pans in set #1 with more dirty fleece.

After putting fiber into the pans, re-fill the big water pots and get them on the boil again.

  1. Employ your fear of felting fiber through washing it. Harness the fear for good. Do. Not. Rub-Agitate-Squeeze-or any other manipulative thing to your hot soapy fiber. You can gently swoosh it to see if you can tap out some dirt. GENTLY.
  2. Wait 10 minutes. No more. Here’s the scoop– you don’t want the water to cool down. Soap does the work in about 15 minutes, and we will be going another round, so at ten minutes, get ready to rumble again.  Longer is NOT better, it is actually worse.  If that lanolin cools and redeposits on your fiber, do not try to cry on my shoulder about your tacky icky fleece.  I told you so.  Or to quote The Big Bang Theory, I informed you thusly.
  3. Pour boiling water into the second set of 3 pans (the ones with the smaller blop of soap) Agitate to mix up the soap. Pull all the fiber out of one of the pans from the first round, let the water drain back into the original pan, and dump it (gently) into one of the pans in the second set. Push the fiber under the water. Repeat for the remaining pans.
  4. For clarity: we go from full soap pan #1 — drain fiber — to little soap pan #2.
  5. Get more water on the boil. Also, rinse out the pans from set #1.
  6. Things start speeding up now. I can wash 2# in just over an hour, although I despair of getting it done when I first start. So– stick with the program, and I promise it’ll pick up! Also, please note that I re-use water, so if you’re thinking that there’s too much water going down the drain… keep reading.
  7. To re-cap– we now have pans in set #2 full of boiling, slightly soapy water and fiber. After 10 min. these will get moved, so get pan set #1 down on the counter and fill them halfway with boiling water. At this point, I might add hottest water from my tap, but i’m usually inclined to stick with almost all boiling water. About 10 min. have gone by, and you are now ready to pull the fiber from each pan (in set #2), let the soapy water drain back into the pan, and plop the drained fiber into one of the pans (set #1) now full of clean, clear, boiling water. Plop, plop, plop.
  8. I talked about re-using water. I don’t re-use the water from the soapy washes. I wonder if I could dump these on plants? Anyway, rinse out the pans in set #2 (these were soapy). If the fiber (in the clear water) seems like it needs only one more “rinse”, then add vinegar and boiling + hot water to the now empty pans in set #2 (all this talk of sets reads confusing. When you have actual pans in front of you, you’ll get what I’m referring to) If the fiber seems too soapy still, leave the second rinse water plain. Vinegar water is for the final rinse.  So if you think two rinses are gonna do it for you, be ready with vinegar for rinse number two.  If you think you’ll need three rinses (man, did you use a lot of soap!) save your vinegar for rinse number three.  And if you think that two rinses are it, and you add vinegar to the final rinse but then you change your mind… no biggie.  You can add more vinegar to the next and true final rinse.  Or not.
  9. Remove the fiber from the first rinse and put it into the second, boiling (+vinegar?) water. Keep the first rinse water, add some soap to it, get it boiling hot (it should already be pretty damned hot) and start again with an initial wash of some more of your stinky dirty fleece!

Likewise, that second batch of fleece can go from the first batch’s first rinse water, into it’s second rinse water, with the addition of a small amount of soap and boiling water.  (This is where I start re-using water– the rinse water from the previous batch becomes the wash water of the following batch!)

  1. Keep going– it’s super logical. It may sound confusing or like too many steps, but as you do it, it’s so logical that it’s simple. It’s also safe, fast, and it works. The main things to remember: boiling water, no long soaks in ever cooling water, no real agitation, and NEVER put a fiber in water from HOT TO COLD.

Questions?

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How I wash fleece a play in 3 parts

I’m back with more tips on how to turn a stinky, dirty fleece into sweet smelling fiber ready for spinning!  This will be a three part post, and a pop quiz will follow.  (also, I promise to take and add photos the next time I wash a fleece!)

I wash fine, uber greasy fleece– the seriously yummy stuff, like Cormo, Merino, Rambouillet. I used to use the washing machine, but there are several reasons to bypass that mechanized method, not one of which has to do with felting!

  1. Lanolin dissolves ONLY in very very hot water. You can wash greasy fiber 10X in Dawn, but unless you get your water hot enough, the lanolin will not release. Reason number ONE for not using a washing machine.
  2. Once that water is hot enough to dissolve the lanolin, if it starts to cool down, it will re-attach to the fiber and be even more difficult to remove. It might feel nice, but after a month, the fiber is tacky and awful to spin. I might have experience with this. Reason number two for not using a washing machine.
  3. The more water the fiber has to swim in, the easier it is for the water/detergent to get at all the fiber. If the fiber is packed in, or in lingerie bags to save your washing machine drum, the fiber can’t swim freely and won’t get as clean. Reason number three for n.u.a.w.m. (lazy typer)
  4. Do not be afraid you will ruin or felt your fleece. If you are afraid before you start, then use that fear to your advantage– remember this simple advice: never move your fleece from hot to cold. Cold to hot is ok, hot to cold is BAD. If you have your fleece in hot or warm water, you can move it around, it won’t felt. If you have your fleece in hot or warm water that is soapy, you can move it around, it won’t felt. Just use your fear, and don’t move it like a crazy person. A little movement to shove it (gently, of course, and singing lullabyes won’t hurt) out of the way or to flip it over, or whatev…. it won’t hurt. Now, take that same soapy fleece and rinse it in cool water…. FELT. And by rinse, I mean put it into a pot of cool water– you’d never actually run water on a hot soapy fleece would you? (shake your heads “no” plz.)
  5. Pre-soaking is your best friend. Fill a big tub full of water (temp doesn’t matter) and plop your stinky fleece in. (one assumes that you’ve removed poop and large bits of vm already. IOW, do your skirting before you pre-soak) Voila– instant mud. Keep all curious children away, this is not nice mud. Hmmm. Don’t tell them that, it might make the mud more irresistible.
  6. If the water is really gooey and dirty, pull the fiber (bedraggled rat fiber, now) out and dump the water in your garden. I water plants that I’m not going to eat…. jic there’s medicine or other nasties in the dirty water. Refill the tub and soak. Let the stinky fleece soak overnight– this one simple step goes so far in the cleaning process you won’t believe it! Also– I soak about 2 – 4 lbs at a time in one of those big big Rubbermaid totes/tubs. NOT in lingerie bags, plz.
  7. Send Susan all your fiber. (just put that out there to see if you’re still reading. If you are hypnotized by my words, perhaps this command will actually work)
  8. The real 7. Set up wash central. I use 6 tag-sale roasting pans (well, 5 plus 1 huge pot I bought on sale at Target b/c it is TURQUOISE and it’s so cute!) I have 2 large pots (the spaghetti making size) of water on the stove, boiling. Yes, boiling. BTW, the pots on the stove only ever hold water from the tap, so you can use your actual kitchen-dedicated spaghetti pots.  The other pans are dedicated to all things fiber.  Only.   WEAR HEAVY DUTY GLOVES. You might even wear two pair if you are sensitive to hot. A couple of fiber dedicated wooden spoons couldn’t hurt (I always forget, but then I have skin-o-steel and the super hot water doesn’t bother me… until it does, and then swearing happens) And, the best kept secret of all– laundry detergent. You can use Dawn, but it’s cheaper to use laundry detergent (liquid is easiest) You can use Power Scour…. but if you have laundry detergent, you’re fine. The enzyme-as-fiber-destroyer discussion rages on ad nauseum. It has been pointed out by several Ravelry scientists that the enzymes in detergents do not survive the high heat of fiber washing, nor do they remain active once rinsed out. I do not care if the shawls I make in 2012 survive as artifacts into 2112. I will not be around to glow with pride by then.  Last thing on the counter is cheap white vinegar.

Set up your station: 3 roasting pans for washing, with a blop of detergent in each (a blop is about the size of a half dollar coin USD). These are referred to as SET #1.  3 roasting pans with a smaller blop of detergent in each (smaller blop is about the size of a nickel USD) This is referred to as SET #2.  The pots of water on the stove are full and boiling. Remove the fleece from the muddy pre-soak and let as much of the yucky water drain away as possible without boring you to death.

Stay tuned for part two, where it gets even more riveting. Someone I’m married to says I have to get back to work.

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The wine

A woman was sipping on a glass of wine, whilst sitting on the patio with her husband, and she says, “I love you so much, I don’t know how I could ever live without you”
Her husband asks, “Is that you, or the wine talking?”
She replies, “It’s me…talking to the wine.”

Happy anniversary, honey!

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