Saturday, July 28, 2012

If It's Not One Thing, It's an Expense #40

One kind of sunflower we grow
If you're going to retire with nothing but love in the bank, you have to expect a bit of stress now and then. And you have to 1) be really friendly to anyone that can save you money 2) be on the lookout for discounts and deals 3) don't worry - it's only money!

See the fly on the flower and yellow jacket in the air above?
One of the burners on the stove started working on high only, no matter the setting. It also smelled like something electrical was on fire. Frank bought a new thingy-ma-do and installed it. Yea Frank for trying cause he hates electrical stuff. But it didn't work so we've been operating on three burners. Then our refrigerator quit cooling. We cannot do without, so we called the repairman. His business name isn't Affordable for nothing. Or so he says. When we told him about the stove, he knew what was wrong but we said we would have to pass on getting it fixed. When he came back with the part for the fridge, he brought us the part for the stove and gave it to us for his cost. He then explained to Frank how to fix it. What a nice guy. The whole thing cost us $173.00. Could've been much worse.

Frank went to court to fight his speeding ticket. So then they assigned him another date. He went back on that date and first met with an office of the law who handles nothing but camera tickets. He told Frank the cameras are tweaked every couple of weeks. The judge that hears these cases almost NEVER rules with the human. If he fought and lost, it would cost him $325, and he'd not be able to take the driving school. Or he could take the driving school at a cost of $180 and not pay the ticket. So driving school it is.

We received a letter from the life insurance company. Our premium is going up from $61 a month to $130 a month. What?? After all these years, we read the fine print and discovered this isn't the kind of policy we thought we were getting. I was spittin' mad, but the life insurance agent pretty much blew me off. So cancel the policy.

Who needs lettuce for a salad?
Veggie stir fry coming up!
Okay, to end on a positive note, our food budget has decreased noticeably. Some is due to figuring out ways to make less expensive nutritious meals. Some is due to our food swap with the neighbors that have chickens and other veggies, but a big part is the garden. We don't buy eggs and buy next to no vegetables now. Before dinner, I jaunt out to the garden with my basket and collect what we need. Last night, I came back quite sweaty and complained that someone needs to get air conditioning in the produce section!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unusual Veggies and a Recipe #39

Either food tastes better right from my own garden, or my taste buds have changed this year.

White Radish
I never have liked radishes. We had them only on special occasions when I grew up in Phoenix. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners always included a relish tray and those little, ugly tasting red radishes were between the celery and the pickles. Their red color faded and they looked dry by the end of the day. I often wondered if anyone really liked radishes. Lance planted them, and I yawned. Whatever. But when they came up red, purple, pink and white, I had to taste them. Hot, spicy and crisp - have to have them in every salad I make now.

Aztec Spinach
I'd never heard of Red Aztec Spinach. The plant is pretty and will be bright red when fall comes. The stems have to be avoided as they are tough and bitter. The leaves are small so it's a bit of a pain to clean them off. They taste 'green' and good, but there are other greens with larger leaves I'd just as soon bring to the table. The exciting thing about this plant is it could get nearly as tall as me. And once it starts to send up flowers, the unopened buds can be cooked like broccoli. It's an all season veggie.

Sweet Basil
Basil is an herb I've always used in a number of dishes. But smells heavenly and so very, very - well, basily when fresh from my garden. We have both purple and green. AND I've discovered another way to eat it (thank you, Lance). Take a bite of steak hot from the grill with a bite of fresh basil. You have to try this!

Red Chard
I'd never even tried chard. Okay, I admit, I'd never heard of it. Maybe I've seen it at the store, and I didn't pay attention. What a great addition to a salad. I'm particularly fond of the red and the yellow. I have no idea if they taste any better than the white, but the color alone is worth having it in a salad.

Here's the basic rice recipe for Aztec Spinach. I've added chicken to it as well as made other changes. I'm not one to stick to a recipe. I don't even like to cook!

Red Aztec Spinach and Rice
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp red chili (like powder or flakes or whatever is hot)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cumin
4 cups Red Aztec Spinach
3 cups water
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup rice

So remember, clean the spinach and use only the leaves. Saute onion, garlic, chili and oil in large pan until onion is translucent. Add tumeric and cumin and saute for a minute or two and then add spinach, water and tomato. Cook until the water turns bright red. Then stir in the rice. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn down the heat and cook until rice is tender. Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt. I didn't have any greek yogurt the first time I made it so you can make what I made (thanks to Christie). Equal parts of mayonnaise and sour cream with dill.

Happy eating!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lick a Toad #38

Xena, just before demolishing another toy
We have our own Marley. If you saw the movie or read the book, Marley and Me, you'll know what I'm talking about. Our Marley is Xena. She's half Bordeaux Mastiff and half Boxer. And Frank keeps calling her a him but then look at that face. Xena doesn't eat through walls but is pretty destructive in her own way. She's consumed countless earplugs and is totally undiscriminating in regards to color, size or shape. I've heard that some animals are drawn to the taste? smell? of earwax. Oh gross. But then dogs are kind of a gross lot. The love of earwax led Xena down a path far more destructive than earplugs. She chewed Frank's $5,000 hearing aids into a hundred little bits. Not sure how much of them she totally consumed.

Xena looking for trouble
Xena does everything in a big way
There are no more dog toys in our house. Rusty used to have about ten when we first all moved in together. Xena made short order of them within a couple of weeks. Christie replaced a few, and she tried to make Xena understand that they were for play not destruction. We finally gave up. Rusty has one small squirrel that we keep in his space. Now and then, Xena sneaks in and carries the squirrel out to the living room. I've caught her in time so far.

A few weeks ago, she threw up for several nights in a row. A trip to the vet didn't solve the mystery, but his recommendations did calm the middle of the night disturbances.


Xena enjoys tormenting Debo, the cat. They have stare downs which Xena usually wins. I'm pretty certain she could annihilate poor Debo, but never makes a move on him until Debo moves. Then Xena performs the expected chase. She'd love to have a rough and tumble wrestling match with him, but Debo would come out on the bad end of that. Xena really wouldn't hurt a fly but is more powerful than she knows.

After a hard day of making trouble
She licks toads. Would never hurt them. But that lick hurts her. The other night, she foamed at the mouth. There was so much foam, we gagged for her. She hung her head close to the ground as if in shame. Christie says there are toads that are poisonous to dogs. Would Xena eat a toad? Who knows but not this time. We found the culprit and figured she had licked him, causing the reaction. Now we're careful to keep her in sight after dark. She'd do it again. That's how Xena is.

By the way, we love this trouble-maker. She's loveable and loyal and the perfect dog - when she's asleep.

PS - If you drop by often, be sure and "join". No commitment, but I get a kick out of seeing you there!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

More On My Plate #37

Lance with new crop of radishes
I'm so excited about the garden today. We're seeing even more vegetables make it to our table and promises of more to come. The size of the radishes are phenomenal with our second growth that we were able to keep relatively bug free. You wouldn't think bugs eating the green part above the ground would have that much impact on the root below ground. But wow did it.

Blackberries before ripe
We lost hundreds of blackberries to the frost, but a few bowls of late bloomers made it only to be eaten daily by the birds before they ripen. We can't afford the netting that keeps birds out and lets the bees in this year. We at first wrote this off as a no-blackberry-year, but Lance had the idea to cover and save what we can. Today we're going to cover the bushes with row cloth. They're done blooming so the bees don't really need in. Maybe we can salvage a bowl or two for us humans!

Purple basil
July 1st, we harvested our first peas. Since then we've had a few more - enough to add to our salad. I've found I like peas better this way than shelled and cooked. Oh, and a really good new taste treat - a bite of grilled meat and a bite of basil. So good!

Some of our crops, like endive and salad lettuce, have gone crazy multiplying.

Here are a few pictures of what beauty I find among the rows. Makes me feel rich even though we aren't.

Endive gone wild
Salad lettuce gone more wild

Our first sunflower
Dill now going to seed

Beautiful red chard

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Big Bang Release on the 4th!!

You hear that? Oh yeah, fireworks, but what I hear is the release of my novella, The Morning After. Some of the time I farm, but the rest of the time I write. So today is for the rest of the time. The Morning After is part of a series from The Wild Rose Press - Honky Tonk Hearts. Each story in the series is different, but they all are tied to the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk in some way. I had a lot of fun writing this novella. It's light and funny and strictly romance - Texas style.

Can there really be love at first sight?

Abigail Martin doesn’t think so. Unless the sexy redheaded stranger she wakes up with the morning after her best friend’s wedding is telling the truth.

Bobby Stockwood fell cowboy-hat-over-boot-heels for the brown-haired beauty, and married her in an impromptu wedding ceremony.  Now he just has to convince his new bride that the morning after can be the first day of the rest of their lives.

But just when Abigail starts believing the fairy-tale is real, she finds out exactly who Bobby is, and the walls of make-believe start crumbling down.

I'll still do some weeding today. I'll harvest a few veggies for our dinner. And tonight we'll watch the sunset and keep our eyes open for fireworks on the horizon. I hope you all have a great 4th of July. And then I hope you feel like reading a book for sheer entertainment and you might consider The Morning After!

A moan.
The man rolled to his back, kicking off covers.
Abigail gasped. Her gentleman visitor wore only a bow tie and black socks.
She crept to the edge of the bed. His face was turned away, further hidden by red curls hanging down the nape of his neck and onto his cheek. A visual sweep of the attractive body brought a smile to her face when she paused on his more than ample endowments. A true redhead. An encounter of this magnitude should be easy to remember.
Abigail smiled in spite of her throbbing temples. Inching closer, she nudged his boots aside with her foot and leaned over to see his face. Mmm. He smelled good, like rich leather and fresh cut wood. As she bent to get a closer look, Kirby, her sixteen-pound Siamese cat, entered her room and announced his hunger.
The visitor stirred, grasped her arm, drawing her down across his hips.
He rose up on his elbows and looked at her. “So, Abby, you’re a morning person, are you?”
Abigail launched off the bed, trying not to come into contact with anymore of the warm body than she already had. Tripping over the boots, she ended up sprawled on the floor. “Who…” She gulped. “Who the hell are you?”