Newbie Gardening Lessons Learned

Carrots need to be thinned early and aggressively. I didn’t do this early enough and my carrots grew twisted around each other. The few carrots that did manage to grow without being completely misshapen, didn’t taste very good. I have been most disappointed with my carrots.

Even Cherry tomatoes need a cage. I assumed the plants would be small enough not to require any special rig to hold it up. I could not have been more wrong. My tomato plants grew so large so quickly that by the time I realized they needed a cage to hold them up they were growing toward the ground and I was risking breaking them if I tried to get a cage around them.

Dogs will eat cherry tomatoes right off of the vine. My bassets seem to have developed a taste for cherry tomatoes. I can’t keep them away from my plants.
Don’t attempt to plant basil with tomatoes. I read a gardening blog that suggested planting basil with tomatoes would sweeten the flavor of the tomatoes so I attempted it. My sweet basil plants were dwarfed by my tomato plants and died very quickly. The purple basil I planted, however, thrived. I have discovered I do not like the texture or flavor of purple basil but it is beautiful in a pot, especially when it flowers. It has kept bees in my little container garden all through the summer.

Herbs left alone will grow like CRAZY. I planted a few types of Thyme, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena and Oregano together in a pot and I didn’t cut the plants a lot. I left them alone and picked whatever herbs I was going to use that particular day. These herbs have grown like weeds. I am going to harvest a lot of them before the end of summer and freeze them in olive oil for use throughout fall and winter.

Lettuce needs sun. My lettuce crop was great. I will definitely plant it again but likely in a pot to itself. I planted it with my carrots but the carrots blocked all of the sun from the lettuce and it died much sooner than expected.

All in all I think the herbs and tomatoes were my biggest hits of container gardening. I have definitely learned some lessons and I’ll be sure to plan earlier for 2015. I didn’t make plans for a fall or winter garden mostly because I am not supposed to be gardening with my arm in the state it is in but I hope to have some next year. I might make some adjustments and actually set aside some yard space for a garden rather than shoving everything into containers.

For the Love of Books – A letter to my niece

I recently wrote a letter to my niece. She’s not yet 2 years old but my sister-in-law set up an email address for her and sends her emails that she will share with her once she’s older and I thought it was an amazing idea so I too have begun sending her email. Below is a short little letter I sent to her because I was up early reading and thinking about her.

…It’s very quiet here in Seattle right now. It’s early morning, grey and overcast and all of the animals are sleeping. Its my favorite time & kind of day. I like to sit surrounded by the silence, it’s so peaceful. This is when I normally open a book and read. I can literally spend hours reading a good book. I’ve always loved books…for longer than I can remember. My mom told me my favorite things from the earliest of age were music, the ocean, and books.

When I was very little, about your age right now, I would grab several books and get my mom or dad to read them all to me. I began memorizing them long before I could actually read them and, as i got older, I would recite them out loud as I turned the pages.

Reading books with you, on my most recent visit, was one of my favorite things to do. You run scampering through the house and return with a book and give it to someone and then you want to sit on their lap to read. You seem to have some favorites. You have already memorized parts of one and love to participate in the reading of your favorite line in Chu’s Day Out, “AAAaaahhhhhh”. It truly makes my heart sing with delight!

I hope you always have a love for books! Books are so amazing! In my mind they are still unmatched in the exploration of the imagination. I think words, both spoken and written, have a bit of magic in them.
Books do not share the confines of visual media. The written word will put your mind to the task of imagining and building the worlds you’ll read about. I find there to be a bit of magic in that.

Books…I’ve spent my life reading them, gaining knowledge from them, finding adventure, finding escape, finding strength, finding friends in them and because of them.

A truly good book can change the way you see things, make you view the world through a new set of eyes, provide you with a perspective you might not have ever had before. Books / words really can change your life!

I hope you always love books! There are so many worlds and wonders for you to uncover! I can’t wait to share some of them with you!

I love you, Sweet Girl!

Doctor’s Orders

I had to step away from regular posting as I am drastically limited in my computer time and typing capabilities at the moment. I have a severe case of tendonitis as well as a radial compression in my right arm and I am wearing a brace to try and avoid surgery. So I have been following my doctor & physical therapist’s orders and not using a computer unless I absolutely need to. This translates to using a computer at work only. I’ve been forbidden to play golf, baseball, raquetball, wring out laundry, use a screwdriver or hammer, garden, sweep, play video or computer games, lift anything heavier than 2 pounds, open jars, or doing anything that requires wrist movement or full arm extension.

It’s amazing & a bit sad how much we take our daily routines and mobility for granted until you lose a little bit of it.  

 

 

Crustless Quiche – Breakfast/Lunch for a Week

I don’t have much time to prepare breakfast in the mornings and it’s a meal I often just skip or pick up at Starbucks on the drive to work. I have found if I get organized and make some extra time on Sunday I can prepare breakfast or lunch for a whole week in just 30 minutes. It’s easy to mix it up with smoothies, oatmeal, or crustless quiche with my mason jar obsession. This crustless quiche recipe is perfect for a grab and go meal and it is extremely versatile and can include any ingredients you have on hand.

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Crustless Quiche

Ingredients:

10 eggs

1/2 cup of cream

6 half-pint wide mouth mason jars

meat / veggie / fresh herb fillings of your choice

3/4 cup of cheese  (I used Beecher’s Flagship Cheese)

salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease/butter jars.
  3. Fill jars with veggies/meats / herbs of your choice.
  4. Beat eggs and cream together. Evenly divide between the baking cups/jars. Top with approximately 1 tablespoon of cheese per serving. Using a fork or spoon, carefully stir the contents of each cup/jar so that the cheese isn’t just resting on top.
  5. Place the jars on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. When tops are browned, they are done.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool. You can put the lids on once they are cool enough to touch (the tops will be puffy just after baking, but they will fall as they cool). Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. They will keep up to five days.

 

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Alaska Airlines – Thank You

I would like to take a moment to sing the praises of a wonderful airline company. I know that’s likely shocking because rarely do any of us feel like doing that, but it’s deserved and necessary for me to do so.

Alaska Airlines…we never want to fly anywhere if you aren’t taking us.

My father-in-law came to stay with us recently and he was going to be with us for nearly an entire month, which was too long to have to kennel his dog. We didn’t have anyone willing to watch his dog for that length of time so we convinced him to fly here with his dog. He loves this dog like crazy. So we advised him of the type of crate to buy and he purchased one. He checked his dog in at the ticket counter and after my father-in-law boarded the flight, right before take off, he was brought a card “from the dog” that said “Don’t worry, I’m on board.” Alaska Airlines has a special area next to baggage claim for over sized luggage so the giant crate was wheeled out and we took the dog home. Flash forward three and a half weeks later when my father-in-law is leaving…things didn’t go so smoothly.

My husband helped his dad get the dog checked in and then he leaves and is half way home when he dad calls and asks him to come back. His father got all the way to his gate (which is quite a distance from the ticket counters) and is called to the counter by the gate crew and asked to return to the ticket counter. It turns out the crate won’t fit on the plane and it’s looking like neither the man or his dog is making this flight. There was a lot of back and forth and phone calls: my husband calling me, me calling Alaska and my father-in-law calling my husband. None of us seemed to have all of the information until my husband gets to the airport to talk to figure out the situation.

My husband was initially furious but the Alaska Airlines manager calmed him down and explained everything and apologized and assured him they were going to work it out. The crate my father-in-law purchased was too big. The crew that loaded the crate in Dallas broke the door of the plane but no one reported that information to us because we would have had time to purchase a new crate. It was later explained that it was a contract ground crew there so this wasn’t handled by actual Alaska Airline employees. The crew working the check-in counter in Seattle was also new so when the dog was checked in they didn’t realize the crate was too large. They tried to get a new crate for the dog, they offer a service at the airport that sells pet crates,  but they were out of the size he needed. (He’s a very large dog.)

We were assured they were getting the dog and his dad on the flight. So they hatched a plan…the crate was too big to load on the plane with the dog in it but if they removed the dog then they could turn it sideways to get it on the plane and put the dog in it. The only problem is that none of the airline employees are authorized to handle the dog. The manager got a security pass for my husband and they wheeled the dog to the plane. My husband walked to the gate with his dad and then he walked down the stairs from the jet bridge onto the tarmac. The dog’s crate had already been sealed by TSA, something required prior to boarding. So they cut the crate open and my husband got the dog out, they loaded the crate sideways to get it on the plane then turned it upright. My husband got the dog to walk the ramp and jump the gap and walk into his crate. My husband assured his very worried father that the dog was ok and he personally loaded him on the flight and then his dad cried.

We were amazed at all of the trouble this airline went through to get this man and his dog on their flight. It likely would have been easier to just make us reschedule his flight in a few days after the proper size crate was purchased. The airline also refunded the money my father-in-law spent to fly his dog…for all of the trouble he went through. We were speechless.

Thank you Alaska Airlines, thank you to every single one of your employees involved in ensuring that the needs of the single passenger and his pet were met. My family stands thankful and amazed and you’ve made us even more committed to only fly on your airline whenever possible.

Just One Of My Favorite Things

Do you have the song from Sound of Music in your head? “These are a few of my favorite things…” I bet you do now!

I actually just want to highlight one of them right now. Fresh Local Produce!!!

One of the first things that amazed me after I moved here is the selection of fresh local produce. There are weekly farmer’s markets in nearly every town surrounding Seattle and Seattle has one in nearly each of it’s distinct neighborhoods. I have a favorite place, Yakima Fruit & Vegetable Market, I like to visit to purchase all of my produce and fresh flowers. They are family run and even carry local dairy items, assorted local honey, as well as plants and canning supplies. When it shuts down at the end of fall, I order fresh produce from an online farm co-op to have fresh produce delivered to my door through winter until they open again for Spring.

Our office has a weekly delivery of fresh fruit from local farms. It’s all organic and beautiful. We get a varied selection each week and never know what will be delivered but it’s usually some combination of 4 or 5 of these different fruits: apples, berries, pears, dried apricots, grapes, cherry tomatoes, plums, plumcots and today we got our first delivery of Rainier Cherries. I grew up thinking I hated cherries because the only ones I ever saw were chocolate covered in a goopy disgusting cream, or served in a sickeningly sweet bright red gel covering cheesecakes or in a too tart pie of cherry pie filling. These fresh cherries however, are delicious and the perfect balance of sweet and tart. They are almost plum like in texture and they are wonderful and they just came into season. Now I get to enjoy this wonderful treat as my mid-morning snack.

 

 

 

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My Thumb Looks Good in Green

I harvested my first bunch of lettuce. I am seriously more thrilled than I’d ever have believed. It doesn’t seem all that long ago I planted everything in giant pots and suddenly, just a few weeks later, the lettuce seems to have quadrupled in size. (Below is a before and after shot.)

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I left roughly 1/3 of the lettuce plant so it can continue to grow again. As silly as it seems, I am on a cloud right now over something as simple as growing my own lettuce. Something tells me I am going to enjoy the best salad of my life tonight.

 

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