Archive | May 2010

Garden Update: Week 7

It’s been another eventful week at the garden. The heat (and bugs) finally became too much for the spinach and kale, so on Saturday I pulled them up and planted three additional rows of carrots in their place. Hopefully as they carrots grow and are pulled up it will make room for us to replant spinach and kale at the end of the summer. There is no need to get ahead of myself though, there are a few months to go before taking that step.

The cucumber, tomato and cherry tomato plants have been flowering for awhile, but yesterday evening while watering I saw our first tiny cherry tomato on the vine — an adorable little green ball. I can’t wait until the plant is laden with delicious, bite-sized tomatoes!

I was also happy to see that the sugar snap pea plants are finally starting to grow. They had initially grown from the seed to about 4 inches high, then just kind of took a vacation and stayed that size for a few weeks. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I this morning they seemed to be visibly taller. Ideally, the vacation is over, the peas are back to work and I will get to eat sugar snap peas one day in the not too distant future!

Don’ts for Husbands, Part 1

I finally had a chance to start learning about the things my husband shouldn’t be doing in regards to our home and relationship based on some 1913 wisdom. Don’ts for Husbands, Don’ts for Wives is broken down into many helpful categories, with the men’s section including such pertinent topics as Personal Relations, Hints on Finance and, the always important, Food.

I have been focusing on the initial General Habits section and some of my favorite nuggets of advice so far include:

  • Don’t slouch. No one who cares for a man likes to see him acquire a slouching habit.
  • Don’t delegate the carving to your wife on the plea that you “can’t” carve. You should be ashamed to own that you can’t do a little thing like that as well as a woman can. It is just laziness on your part. Besides, a man ought to take the head of his own table.
  • Don’t refuse to get up and investigate in the night if your wife hears an unusual noise, or fancies she smells fire or escaping gas. She will be afraid of shaming you by getting up herself, and will lie awake working herself into a fever. This may be illogical, but it’s true.

Luckily, my husband seems to live up to these “ideals.” He stands up straight, carves our turkey at Thanksgiving and would get up at night to look around if I asked him to — hopefully not because he thinks I am illogical! While reading this first section I found myself doing a lot of laughing. Some of the tips are more appalling than others, but the majority are ridiculously outdated.

Although I certainly agree that a husband should not leave his cigarette ash all over the drawing room carpet. Blanche Ebbutt really had a tip that could apply for decades with that one. Thankfully, my husband doesn’t smoke, so it is not something I need to be concerned about.

Thanks to Ms. Ebbutt, 144 pages of amazing insights lie ahead.

A Little Bit of Bragging

Some pretty amazing things have happened the last few days. Okay, maybe not “amazing” per se, but very housewife-like things that don’t happen every day.

For example, last week I willingly made dinner not one, but two nights in a row! My husband has been really swamped with work, so I thought I would surprise him by skipping jazzercise one night and having dinner ready for him when he got home. He was certainly surprised and we both enjoyed the pork with garlic sauce and green beans that I prepared.

I was also overjoyed to find out that it was super double coupon week at the store. Yes, I know you are all tired of hearing my coupon talk, but I can’t keep this one to myself: I spent $43.91 at the grocery store and saved … wait for it … $43.69! I know, I was impressed too.

There has also been more than the normal amount of baking going on in the house, which is less than ideal since it is hot all the sudden. Molasses bars, two loaves of cinnamon bread and quiche were all prepared during the past few days. Maybe quiche doesn’t count as baking, but it has a crust and goes in the oven, so today I say it does.

Now if I can only do the dishes, fold the laundry from last weekend and tidy up the entire house before my in-laws arrive sometime today I’ll feel like super woman. But let’s be honest, I’ll probably settle for doing the dishes and cleaning off the table. A girl has to do her actual work, too!

Garden Update: Week 6

Things are looking good at the garden plot this week. Despite a few dreary days of nonstop rain, all of our plants are green and happy. I am sure it helped that the days of drizzle were followed by a few days in the 80s that encouraged our little plants to go wild and grow like weeds. Although I am hoping that this growth spurt was felt by everything except the weeds, which can just forget about growing as far as I am concerned! While I’d greatly appreciate it if the weeds  vacated our plot so I didn’t have to bend over as much to pull those pesky little suckers out, somehow I doubt they will comply with my wishes.

But back to the good stuff, we have been harvesting our kale and spinach like mad before the weather gets too hot and the plants die. At least now we know that spinach and kale like the cooler weather and, in theory, we will be sure to seed them earlier next year so we can enjoy them longer. We will also be replanting both at the end of the summer so that we have fresh spinach and kale during the fall months. Thanks to the early growers, we also haven’t had to buy green onions for at least a month. Sadly, I am not sure how well they will hold up during the hot months, but so far, so good!

There are flowers emerging on a cucumber plant and some of our cherry tomato plants. It’s exciting to see that they are moving one step closer to producing yummy summer treats for us!

I am still enjoying my almost daily trips to the garden during the early mornings. But as the temperature begins to creep up to unbearable, which shouldn’t take long, we’ll see how long my joyfulness lasts.

Wifely Reading

When I got the notice that my next book club read was ready for pick-up at the library I did a double take — A Reliable Wife? What on earth was that about, I wondered as I made a note in my calendar to stop by and get it the next day. It didn’t seem likely to be a “how-to” manual for wives since many of the ladies in the book club are not married and none strike me as the type looking for a guide on how to be a good wife.

The next day I picked up the book and flipped it over to read the back and see what the heck it was about. Although a good portion of the summary was obscured by DC Public Library stickers, from what I could see the story was about a woman who married a wealthy stranger with the intent to poison him and take his money. I’m a little more than halfway through and while I am finding it a very interesting read, it’s certainly not a how-to!

As far as housewife reading goes, I need to thank a jazzer-friend for providing me with another book sure to inspire an upcoming blog post or three: Don’ts for Husbands, Don’ts for Wives 1913. After reading the handful of “don’ts” listed on the back cover, I can tell it is going to be a pretty amazing book. Which reminds me, I need to tell my husband that although I may not be jealous if he flirts with other women, I may despise him for it. I doubt he wants to be despised.

A Pirate Cake

The Sample Cake

I really enjoy baking, but sometimes there are adventures in the kitchen that I could do without. Take, for example, yesterday’s pirate ship cake project.

For my husband’s birthday I decided to make a cake and frosting from scratch. I settled on red velvet with a creamy white frosting. It was a recipe I’d never made before, but I reviewed the ingredients and stopped by the store in the morning to pick up red food coloring, butter, buttermilk and a few odds and ends. I also had determined that, since my husband is currently working on a project related to piracy, I would make him a pirate ship cake.

It was around 9:30 in the morning when I decided to begin the process. All was going well as I mixed up the batter until I got to the part where you combine the ground chocolate, food coloring and vanilla. I had bought a four pack of food coloring where each of the bottles is a tiny squeeze container. The recipe called for six tablespoons of red … here was my first “oops” moment. So, he’ll get a pink velvet cake, I thought, there are worse things that could happen. At least the food coloring doesn’t add any flavor. Beside this, I was making sure to follow the recipe exactly. The part that said “add one third of the flour, then one third of the buttermilk mix, alternating until complete” I did that. Mix some apple cider vinegar with baking soda then slowly pour it into the cake mix? Check. Dirty every dish we own? Taken care of.

After I had completed the many steps, the cakes were ready to be baked. I put the pans in the oven and began to make the frosting. I was horrified that the recipe called for four sticks of butter. That’s right, four sticks! But I figured it was a special occasion and I wanted to do it right, so I had the butter softening for awhile. Here’s where I really hit a glitch—I didn’t actually read or write down the frosting recipe, just the ingredients. So I stupidly threw them all in a bowl and started the mixer.

Bad idea.

My cake, with windows, a treasure chest and a plank.

There was sugary milk and tiny pieces of butter flying everywhere. I stopped the mixer and thought maybe the butter needs more than three hours of time to soften. It didn’t seem like it could possibly need more time, but I went upstairs to do some work while the cakes baked and prayed that my frosting would make itself while I was gone.

Alas, when the cakes came out the oven and were cooling, my frosting still wasn’t coming together. I tried mixing it slowly. I added flour in an attempt to thicken it, thinking that maybe it would help the butter blend. Nothing worked. Frustrated with my globby gaff, I threw it out. So long four sticks of butter, two cups of milk and two cups of sugar…

I had no idea what to do now. I had two eight-inch round cakes ready to be turned into a pirate ship with no “glue” to hold it all together. And I was stuck at home waiting for a UPS delivery so I couldn’t go to the store to buy more supplies or pre-made frosting. Oh, and it was already 2 p.m.

I tacked a note up by our door for the UPS man, directing him to the other end of the block and headed to my in-laws house in hopes that they had some tubs of frosting just laying around. Sadly, after pilfering through all their kitchen cupboards, I had not located any. I headed home, discouraged that the hours I had devoted to this stupid cake were all turning out to be for naught.

My husband didn’t know anything about the cake project, since I had wanted to surprise him when he got home from work. But now, I didn’t have any options left. I sent him a frantic email with “Frosting Emergency” in the regarding line. I didn’t let on that the cake was anything special, but asked if he could stop at the store on the way home and save me by buying some frosting. He agreed.

An hour or so later, our package finally arrived, so I called off the frosting emergency and headed to the store on my own. I loaded up on frosting tubs to avoid any such problems in the future and raced home to finally put my masterpiece together. I had just adorned the last mast when my husband walked through the door. Eight hours had passed since I started on the cake. And although it wasn’t a perfect match with the sample, it was pretty cute. Most importantly, no one seemed to have a problem eating it.

But from here on out, I think any cake made by me will be square or round. And celebrants should consider themselves lucky if they get layers.

Garden Update: Week 5

Last weekend, my husband and I completed another round of planting in our garden plot, adding some additional bell peppers and two new spices to the mix: a purple basil—we were looking for Thai basil but, alas, the closest we could find was purple—and curry, which looks like tiny frosted rosemary and smells like, you guessed it, curry!

Despite some unseasonably cool temperatures during the past week (40’s to low-60’s), our garden plot seems to be handling the changing climate well. It’s been nearly five weeks since we planted our original seeds and today I collected our second harvest of spinach and kale. In fact, those two seem to be thriving because of the rain and chilly temps, whereas our tomatoes and cucumbers are struggling on in spite of the weather. We’ve also been taking home green onions in bunches that weathered over the winter really well. This is pretty awesome because next to my mochas, green onions are at the top of my list of addictions. I’ll eat them on almost anything (except my mochas—I wouldn’t want to mix my vices).

I also transplanted our second attempt at cucumber seedlings (our first bunch got hit with a dry 90 degree day in April—like I said, the weather’s been topsy turvy here).This second batch were doing so well I thought they might be getting constricted in their seedling containers, although they haven’t had the growth spurt I was hoping for since they now have room to expand. At least they are still alive, and for the time being, alive is about all I can ask.

I am definitely day-dreaming about the scorching hot days when I can walk over, cursing the sun and waiting around to fill up watering can after watering can to keep the plot moist. Okay, maybe I am “day-dreading” those days because that part isn’t so fun. But I am holding out hope for the days I will be able to bring home a basket filled with tomatoes (hopefully un-split and juicy), cucumbers (hopefully crisp and cool), bell peppers (hopefully red and bold), chili peppers (hopefully kicking and screaming), and snap peas (hopefully sweet and snack-able).