Archive | August 2011

Baking: Ground Cherry Muffins

A few weeks ago we got ground cherries as the fruit option in our CSA. Having never seen or heard of the fruit before, I had no idea what to do with the cherries. Ground cherries basically look like mini tomatillos (something else I have no idea what to do with) when they are in their skins and like cherry tomatoes after you remove their husks.

I looked around for recipes and kept uncovering pie and tart options, but with only a pint of the cherries I decided to put them in muffins instead. I made my regular muffin recipe, then mixed in the ground cherries instead of blueberries. I topped about half of the muffins with cinnamon sugar since I wasn’t sure if it would go well with the ground cherries or not.

What I learned about ground cherries is that they don’t taste much like anything after being baked, which was disappointing. All in all the muffins were okay, but so uneventful I wouldn’t do it again.

Hurri-Quake Week

Last week we got our fill of natural disasters. First the earthquake, then a hurricane.

Thankfully we didn’t get hit too hard by our first hurricane, but it was a bit of an adventure for a pair of Californians.

Friday: Throughout the day I washed clothes and dishes as well as worked to prep food so we could quickly pull ready-made options from the fridge if we lost power.

Friday at 7 pm: We removed all of the pots and other gardening materials from our from porch and back yard to minimize projectiles. We also closed up our front and back porch windows in case rain started during the night.

Saturday at 10:30 am: My husband ventured up on the roof just as rain began falling to wrap our bathroom skylight in garbage bags (classy, I know) to attempt to keep water from coming into the house the way snow did during snowmageddon.

Saturday at 1:30 pm: Although rain was still coming down and the wind was picking up, we walked a few blocks to a last minute Hurricane/birthday party. We stayed for a few hours, but with the storm continuing to gain intensity, we headed home around 4.

Saturday at 9 pm: The storm was becoming more powerful and we watched the rain fall and the trees whip around in the wind from our bedroom. At this point we could tell that the most intense part of the hurricane had to be getting close.

Sunday at 12:30 am: My husband woke me up to help him with a few issues that the storm was causing. He had gotten up around midnight to check on things and saw that water was coming into our upper and lower back porches. To alleviate the influx, he pushed dish towels into all the cracks where the windows met the ledge on the upper windows and placed containers to catch water dripping from the towels beneath them. Taking care of the upper windows also solved the water problem in our lower porch (thank goodness). Also on the upper porch, some aluminum flashing which had been installed at the bottom of the side windows had come unattached all the way to the farthest (and of course unreachable) end of the window. This was causing it to flap in the breeze and make a racket, basically it was like sound effect thunder. He wasn’t able to tackle this project alone, so he woke me up and I held his lower half while he hung out of our second floor craft room window to catch the flashing and duck tape it to the side of the house. With heavy rain and wind pounding down on us this was really something…

Sunday at 4:30 am: My husband got up again to check on the attempts he had made earlier to minimize water flow into the house and fix the flashing. Thankfully both still seemed to be doing the trick. Also we were shocked that the garbage bags had stayed in place on our skylight all night and no water had come into the bathroom.

Sunday at 8 am: We awoke to find that the rain was still coming down, but the storm was clearly calming down. Nothing seemed damaged in either our front or back yard. Our street was relatively clear except for a few small branches and lots of leaves. Thankfully we never lost power.

Sunday at 1 pm: We ate lunch outside, enjoying the beautiful post-storm day.

A Little Bit of California in DC

After spending the first 24 years of my life living in California, I thought I was leaving earthquakes behind when I moved to DC in 2007. It took some time, but it seems that earthquakes have tracked me down at last. Apparently they weren’t done with me or any of the other west coast transplants living on this side of the country.

Yesterday DC and much of the east coast was rattled by a fairly large (for an area that isn’t earthquake ready) quake mid-day. As my walls started to shake and I heard a rumbling noise, my first thought was “What on earth is my neighbor doing for his basement remodel that is making this happen?” As the rumbling grew louder and things started to fall off of my shelves, I decided it would probably be a good idea to get out of the house. Also I realized at this point that it definitely was not my neighbor who was making it happen. Which led me to wonder, “Well, it feels like an earthquake, but since they don’t have earthquakes here, what is going on?!”

I made it outside right about the time the house stopped shaking and wasn’t surprised to find numerous neighbors out on their porches with a “What the hell was that” look plastered on their faces. I imagine that many of our older neighbors who’ve lived here for years hadn’t experienced an earthquake before and they appeared terrified. It only took a minute or two before the social media world was bursting with updates about the quake. Relief flooded over me as I realized it really had been an earthquake and not an explosion or some other issue.

While there has been some building damage, it seems that for the most part people in the DC area didn’t experience too much difficulty due to the earthquake. Of course traffic was terrible, cell service was intermittent, and the metro was running slow, but it seems that most people’s damage consisted of having a few things fall off a shelf here and there. Having experienced some intense west coast quakes, it’s a blessing that even if our day was a little shaken, all in all we are okay.

Kitchen Catastrophy

Last week I decided to boil a few eggs around mid-day so I could have a sandwich for lunch. I set the microwave timer for 10 minutes and took care of a few things in the kitchen. When the eggs were about half way done I needed to run upstairs and send an email. Since I have never had an issue hearing the timer go off from my office, up I went.

I was intending to do my one task then go right back to the kitchen before the timer even sounded, but sometimes we just don’t live up to our good intentions. I have been so swamped with work this summer—which is amazing on the freelancing front—that unfortunately I got completely side-tracked and started working again as soon as I sat down. Somehow I never heard the timer go off so the eggs cooked for nearly three hours…

Thankfully the pot survived, the house didn’t burn down, and I ended up with this photo essay of extremely boiled eggs (and no, the eggs shouldn’t have been brown):

House Make-Over

After being at work for 74 years, I’d say it’s definitely time to retire, right? Last Friday we said goodbye to seven of the original windows in our house. They had been in place since the house was built in 1937, were  single-paned glass and simply were not efficient at keeping out noise, wind, bugs…pretty much anything.

For example, in the winter if you held your hand near the bottom or side of some of our windows while they were shut, you could literally feel a draft. Not just coolness, but an actual breeze! As you can see from the picture, the wood was pretty beat up in places.

The rest of the year when we wanted to feel the breeze, we had to prop the windows open on adjustable half screens because the weights that should have held them open had all broken. And they didn’t have full screens anymore (or ever, who knows). Also, over time some of the windows had become increasingly stiff and I was unable to open or close the ones in our living room or kitchen.

Despite all of their flaws, we loved the way our windows looked (from a distance) and in making the decision to upgrade, we really wanted to maintain a feel that went with the rest of the wood detail throughout the house.

Our new windows are double-paned and look practically identical to what we had before except that they are clean, actually seal when closed, have full screens and I can open them all—yay! After 5 hours of work by the two installers, we now have new (and beautiful) dark brown windows in our bedroom and living room while the kitchen and craft room have been outfitted with white wood windows. Thankfully they did all the work from outside the house, so we didn’t lose any of the molding.

Without further ado here are some before and after photos of our windows!

Week #2: Backyard Gardening

It’s only been a week and a few days since we put seeds in one of our backyard garden beds for a fall/winter harvest. Looks like we don’t need to worry about the quality of the soil because after only 10 days almost everything has already sprouted!

There are radishes, green beans, cucumbers, beets, arugula, green onions, and sugar snap peas coming up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the leeks and spinach are just late (or perhaps normal) bloomers.

Tomato Take Over

One of the best things about summer is being able to enjoy home-grown tomatoes. Now that they are finally turning red, we find our kitchen is frequently overflowing with an abundance of big boy, ukranian purple, and cherry tomatoes. Combine those with the various tomatoes arriving in our weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery and we are starting to get a little overwhelmed.

We’ve been making gazpacho at least once a week for the last month, enjoying cheese and tomato sandwiches, and throwing tomatoes into every other meal we can. Despite our best efforts, we still have tons and this evening with three pints of cherry tomatoes and two large bowls of tomatoes overflowing on the counter, I decided I needed to take some action.

First I made a corn and tomato salsa. It was quick and I not only got through two pints of the cherry tomatoes, but I also used a good assortment of our other veggies — a serrano chile, half of a small red onion, garlic, a red bell pepper, and some green onion. Unfortunately the corn wasn’t fresh, but I topped it off with some lime juice and my concoction ended up being quite tasty!

While making the salsa I noticed that some of our larger tomatoes, which had split across the top from the heat, were starting to go bad in some of the split areas. I didn’t want to lose multiple large tomatoes, so I pulled out some freezer bags, chopped off the bad parts, quartered and froze them. Now our fresh tomatoes will be ready to use in sauce, chili, or soup when the weather cools down.

Despite my best efforts to reduce the tomatoes accumulating on the counter, you can see that we’ve still got quite a ways to go. And of course, there are more tomatoes at the garden that are just about ready to be picked. But I’m definitely not complaining!