Sunday, January 25, 2009

VHS Tape Recycling

Like most people I know, I still have a collection of VHS tapes. And the only reason I've held onto these tapes is because there was really no place to dispose of them except for the landfill. And we all know that if they go in the landfill, they'll be there for ETERNITY! Yeah, there's not a whole lot in this world that Eternal Life will bring something positive to.

Thankfully, today I stumbled upon a company that will take care of my VHS Eternal Friends. GreenDisk will recycle just about any kind of Techno Waste, but the biggest help to all of us, since there are other means to dispose of TVs and Computers and such, is that they'll take in, and dispose of correctly, all forms of media from CDs to DVDs to VHS tapes. If you're lucky enough to have a drop box around you, then this is as easy as dropping the items in a box for someone to ship, however, if there's not a drop box around you, they also take items in your own box up to 30 lbs. The only negative is that you have to pay regular postage on top of their small intake fee. So I would consider just ordering the TechnoTrash official box which covers shipping in the cost as Postal Service costs can be pretty high if you have a lot of stuff to send.

It's so important these days that we think about what we are stuffing into our trash bins as much of this stuff will never break down. I am happy to see that there are companies out there trying to accommodate us with solutions to the problem. They may not be perfect solutions, but they are a start. Now the next step is to make sure we are all purchasing recycled products. Even if we are recycling, we Must do our part to make sure recycling stays a viable industry.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Oregano Problem

In my apartment complex I am not the only person who has an interest for gardening. My upstairs neighbor also dabbles in urban container gardening. From time to time we will care for each other's plants when we go out of town. I really enjoy this kind of community.

Over Christmas, I was home and so I was asked to care for his potted oregano. This particular oregano plant had been raised from seed. My neighbor prides himself on raising all of his plants from seed. I like to cheat and buy the plant from a nursery.

When I received the plant, the oregano was spilling over the side of the container nearly touching the ground. And although the leaves were a touch dry, the plant looked quite healthy. Unfortunately, it didn't stay that way. Within a couple of days, the oregano began showing signs of drying up. I was completely confused by this as my own oregano plant sitting less than 3 feet away looked Lovely.

(my oregano)

At this point, I just did what I could to keep it watered and hoped for the best. Despite all my best efforts, the whole thing finally just dried up entirely and began to die. I, of course, felt horrible for killing this lovely plant.

My neighbor has been back for two weeks now and has yet to come get his oregano. Either he has forgotten about it or he was disappointed that it was on its way to herbal heaven and just left it with me.

Just before my neighbor came back, I pruned out all of the obviously dead branches and left the ones which had some green left in the stem or actual green leaves hanging on. This morning I removed all of the dead leaves from the remaining branches. Boy does it look pitiful now, haha.

(neighbor's oregano after the death removal)

As you can see, it's not ALL dead. Some of it did survive, but just imagine that plant being full and lush and almost reaching the ground. It is a pitiful sight compared to what it used to look like. Although, the remaining green gives me hope that it can be resurrected. And Look! There's some totally New growth popping out!

(the small leaves in the middle are the new growth)

I always thought that I was incredibly lucky that I've resurrected my Memama's Ivy plant no less than 4 times over the last 3 years. But if I can pull off the resurrection of this oregano, then I may start to believe I have some sort of Gift of Plant Resurrection or something. It sure would be nice if in a couple of weeks I could walk up to my neighbor's apt and present him with a renewed oregano plant!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Collard Greens and Lentils

At this year's local SCA Twelfth Night Feast, one of the items of the feast was boiled lentils. The lentils were very simply prepared just in water with salt and pepper and possibly a small amount of animal fat. The dish could have used more flavoring, but I enjoyed it enough that I was inspired to modify it for one of my regular super cheap home recipes. And then while I was thinking of how I would improve the dish, I decided I needed to add something to it to make a more substantial meal. The lentils would be best as a side for something more hearty. At that point, I knew I needed to finally try my hand at making some collard greens. I'm southern, but nobody in my family ever made collard greens. They are one of those vegetables that I have been a little afraid to try until recently. But I had heard some wonderful things about sauteeing collard greens the European way, and I was determined to try it out. What follows is a pictorial of my experiment.

Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph the process of making the lentils. But the way I made them was the basic process of boiling beans with an animal fat. First, I soaked about 1 quarter of a package of dried red beans for 8 hours. Once those were finished soaking, I then placed them in a stockpot with two ham hocks and filled the stockpot with water until the ham hocks were covered. Then I set the water to boil. After the boiling point was reached, I let the pot simmer on Medium for several hours until the ham hocks were tender enough to pull from the bone.

By looking at the liquid in the stockpot, I knew that the flavor was going to be Incredibly dense, so I decided to take out all of the liquid, except what just covered the beans out of the pot, to reserve for later. Then I took the meat off the ham hock bones and put part of the meat in the stock pot and part in the reserved liquid. At that point it was getting late, so I simply set both containers of liquid out to cool before I put them away in the fridge for the night.

Tonight, I took the stockpot out of the fridge and put about half a bag of lentils and a quarter bag of yellow split peas in and then filled the pot up with water. I added salt and pepper and then set the pot to boil. Once boiling, I lowered the heat to Medium and simmered until lentils and peas were tender. During all of this it is important to not forget to skim the surface of the liquid of any foam or bubbles. This process reduces gas!

While the lentils were simmering, I started cooking the sausage for the collard greens. I used this Fabulous chicken sausage with sundried tomatoes!

I started with a very lightly oiled cast iron skillet with EVOO. I browned the sausage on both sides and then removed the sausage from the skillet. While the sausage was browning I sliced two baby bella mushrooms and a large garlic clove. I also thickly sliced the sausage link. Then more olive oil went into the skillet. I added the sliced ingredients and some salt and pepper and began sauteeing.

While that was going, I rolled and sliced the previously washed greens and then added those to the skillet.

At first, I thought that I may have put too much food in the skillet for me to eat on my own, but then as the greens cooked, they wilted and shrunk similar to how spinach does.

I don't know how long I sauteed everything. I just cooked until I figured the greens looked tender enough. Once I believed I was finished, I plated everything and squeezed some lemon juice and cracked some pepper over the top.

The bread you see on the plate is simply a Wheat slice toasted with butter, garlic salt, pepper and parmesean cheese.

This meal was So Good! It was actually satisfying enough that I would consider it Comfort Food. For the Collard Greens I wouldn't change a Thing. They were garlicky and the lemon and sundried tomatoes in the sausage elevated the whole dish to a fabulous other level. For the lentils, I may just boil those with a chunk of salt pork next time instead of the ham hocks. The reason being I would get more meat out of the salt pork and the cooking liquid would have a milder taste. The lentils are good as they are, but I think the taste of the actual lentils and beans would come through better with the salt pork. It's a thought for next time for sure.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope for affordable Solar Energy???

Last night I was on my way to pick up the first part of my "new" closet organizing system which is being free-cycled to me by a friend who needed to upgrade and I caught a piece on NPR that gave me hope about solar power and lowering energy costs.

Solar incentive opens energy window

Clicking on the link above will get you to to the story where you can either read the transcript or listen to the produced piece. They are one in the same in case you were wondering if the transcription was condensed.

So when are we going to shout out to the rafters that we want this kind of program to pay out solar panels via our property taxes in Texas?? Granted, I'm an apartment dweller, so it wouldn't help me one bit, but I'm all for making things much easier for homeowners as then eventually, either I'll become a homeowner myself or some program will come along for us renters. I know I saw a person mention wanting a setup that would go in a window like a window A/C unit somewhere. There's an idea that would be Perfect for us apartment dwellers!

Good Morning on the Dawn of a New Day!

It's Inauguration Day. We are witnessing a Beautiful and Historical day today. I am so glad to be able to watch it even though I am watching from my laptop at the office. I have two different feeds running side by side. The others in my office are running feeds as well at their desks. Never before have I been old enough to really honestly and Truely appreciate an Inauguration Day. And never before have I noticed so many others as engaged in the process as I am. Even just for that this is an historical day, I do believe!

Today, I wish for everyone blessings of peace, and hope, and happiness. No matter what our political affilliations, we are all in this together. We can only make our country better if we stand side by side and, in the wise words of my hero, Tim Gunn, "Make It Work."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Did you say SWEET Nimue????

Yes, I did.

In the last week or so since I posted the video of Nimue showing so much affection towards me, I have seen a Drastic change in her regular behavior. I am happily surprised to see that she is continuing her affection and even attempting to play somewhat less violently with the other cats.

Not only that, but she has clocked more time in my lap than Roz, which is pretty amazing. As well as she has ousted my bedtime cuddler, Dunbar, from his spot on my bed each night.

She's still somewhat food aggressive - growling at anyone who has to eat next to her, but the growling is less and less and she also is Only growling and not slapping at anyone. She is also beginning to pay attention to her own food as opposed to running for whatever bowl I've just filled and thus displacing the entire herd multiple times during breakfast and dinner.

Now if only I can convince her to stop scratching my grandmother's chair, we'll be SET! I did catch her trying to scratch up the sisal rug I got the cats for Christmas and I praised the Hell out of her, so it is possible that she can be turned from the chair, it's just going to take some Work!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Come on Home Spring!

I just bought my Dwarf Fig and Dwarf Pomegranate trees from Gurneys! Eeeee! I can't wait for them to get here!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Butternut Squash & Leek Quiche

One day last month when I was looking for healthy vegetarian dishes to present to my family for our Christmas meal (none of us is vegetarian, but each of us had prepared dishes which were either all meat, or a cheese dip or log of some sort by accident), I stumbled across this Beautiful looking recipe for Butternut Squash & Leek Quiche from the blog Girl Interrupted Eating. I won't bore you with the details of the recipe as you can find it in the link above. Just make sure you know how to convert the measurements into our American version, haha! Thank ye Gods for the Internets!

Anywhoo, the only thing I changed in the recipe was that I used phyllo dough instead of making her crust and I added just a dash of Emeril's Essence (or Tony Chacherie's) to the egg mixture. Here's the end product, I didn't take many pictures.

Unfortunately, the change of crusts wasn't a good idea. The quiche didn't hold up too well when cut. Ah well, you live and you learn. But, the quiche was GLORIOUS to taste!!!! I'm not kidding. I kind of wanted to abandon all constraints and eat the whole friggin' pie plate. I'm very anxious to see how it tastes after it's been refrigerated now.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stuffed Squash

Tonight I decided to finally make that quiche I was planning on making for Christmas and just didn't have time to make. I'll blog on the quiche later, but in the process of making the quiche, I had more squash than I needed as well as more leeks and I also needed to use up the baby bella mushrooms sitting in my fridge. So I experimented with a Stuffed Squash.

The part of the Butternut Squash I had leftover from the quiche was the perfect little bell part. The part that is hollowed out and gives us those Glorious little squash seeds which I like to roast. So I hollowed out the bell just like I normally do, and I placed the bell in a little dish and drizzled it with olive oil. I then placed it in a pre-heated oven of 400 degrees until the squash was a little soft.

While the squash was roasting, I boiled some water and made some Taboule as directed on the package, except for the "put in the refridgerator for 30 minutes part, I just let the grain steam on the counter.

After I had the Taboule started, I then sauteed my leeks, baby bella mushrooms, and some frozen peas.

Once the Squash was a little soft, I then removed the squash from the oven and began to stuff the bell in layers. 1st layer was the saute mix, then the 2nd layer was Taboule. I layered in this fashion until a final layer of Taboule was level with the top and then I garnished with the saute layer.

I then placed the Squash back in the oven to finish roasting. I served the squash right in its little baking dish.

So what's the verdict on the taste??

Well, it was ok. It wasn't Great, but it has promise. Firstly, my squash was a bit dry. Next time I will add more olive oil and I will cover the squash with foil to keep the moisture in. Also, it was missing something. I think it needed a small element of sweet. It may be that the butternut squash will be better once it's able to retain its moisture. But actually I think the recipe would benefit from the addition of some golden raisins at the time of layering just before the final roast. I think I will do that next time as this is a rather healthy dish and I feel I ought to work on it until I get it right. Plus it is relatively easy and has a nice presentation for dinner parties.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nimue shines today

My kittens have both be adopted, but my work with this family unit is not quite done. I still haven't placed their mother, Nimue. Nimue is not going to be the easiest cat to place for adoption. She is dominant; she is sassy to a point of having an Abundance of attitude; and if she doesn't like something she is quick with the Tazmanian Devil Claws of Death. We thought that once she was spayed she would calm down a little bit. She did calm down a little. She quit attacking my dog. But she didn't quit attacking her kittens whenever she pleased. Then once they were adopted, she and Taquita started in on it with one another. No blood was drawn or anything, but it's enough to recommend to potential adopters that she be an only animal in the home.

On top of all of that, she's never really been very personable with people. She's very curious and has no qualms approaching people, but she's never been interested in showing affection. These are all things that are pretty big roadblocks for finding an adoptive home. Today, however was one of those breakthrough days where I am assured that Nimue will be a great companion for the right person.

Today, not only did she play with the other cats in the house (still rough, but it was obviously Play), but she actually showed real affection towards me. For the first time ever, Nimue hopped in my lap and kneaded the bread.

To say I was surprised is an understatement. I was shocked. This is HUGE! This means that I can actually tell people that she will be a loving sweet companion with the right patience! Before I had to tell people that she had quirks and they would have to read her body language to know what mood she was in. They'll still have to do that, but with one of those moods being displayed in the video above, that gives her only slightly more attitude than the average dominant cat.

I am so happy right now. This gives me so much hope for her to get a nice loving home!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dallas Public Transportation Coming Along

Thanks to The Women's Museum's blog yesterday, I am all giddy over the news that the Green Line section of DART's public rail system is expected to be open by September of next year!

This means we'll still have to deal with the awful construction for the North Texas Irish Festival, but the State Fair of Texas can be traveled to by train. And since I've had a moratorium on concerts at the Starplex ( center now, I'm Stubborn!) due to the $20 price tag just on parking alone, this means I can afford to start going to concerts again! Now if only the good festivals will stop going North up to Frisco, I'll be set! Ahem, Ozzfest, are you listening?????

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Social Time for the Green Folk

Thanks to one of my new Twitter friends, Kissmyaster, who is beginning to blog over on Horticulture, I've been alerted to a great way to meet fellow Green Folk in Dallas.

Green Drinks says this about itself:

Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up at informal sessions known as Green Drinks.

We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you'll be made welcome. Just say, "are you green?" and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there. It's a great way of catching up with people you know and also for making new contacts. Everyone invites someone else along, so there’s always a different crowd, making Green Drinks an organic, self-organising network.

These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity. It's a force for the good and we'd like to help it spread to other cities. Contact your local node to get the latest info about coming along.

That sounds Fantastic! And there's a group that meets here in Dallas at Cafe Rembrandt every 2nd Wednesday of the month. I probably won't be able to make it this month, but hopefully I'll be able to meet and greet some of these folks so I can get fabulous ideas for my urban gardening.

Head on over to Green Drinks' website and see if there's a group in your city to meet with!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Inspiration while the weather is wonky

Yesterday Dallas was covered in ice. The surrounding areas lost power. I'm a Central dweller, so I didn't get the brunt of the icy conditions due to the cocoon of the concrete jungle, however, I came home to a Beautiful scene of ice covered tree limbs everywhere. Unfortunately my tripod is MIA, so I couldn't do the scene proper justice.

Anyhow, yesterday it was icy, today the high was in the mid 50s, but by Friday the high temp will reach just over 70 degrees. Up, down, up down. This is Texas winter weather. It won't Really freeze until the end of Jan. I'm not much of a snow bunny, so I'm already waiting anxiously for full on Spring to get here and stay.

And in the spirit of my waitin' and wishin' and hopin' and prayin' I've been looking at some cool urban garden ideas. I do have a small area where I think I may be able to cultivate some vegetables at my apartment complex, however the small space is REALLY small and I'm going to have to get pretty creative about what and how I plant. Not to mention, since my space is viewable to the street, it's going to have to be aesthetically pleasing as well. This presents a bit of a challenge. But you know what? I Love a challenge!

Here are the two coolest ideas I came across today:

Wading pool gardens. This idea certainly won't pass muster in the aesthetically pleasing department, but it reminds me of a very similar method by a different name - Square Foot Gardening - which can be contained as prettily as your building skills allow. I've been mulling this method around for a while. I believe I can make two or three square feet work in my little space.

Then there's also Veritcal Gardening. When I first started searching that method, I kept finding flower and shrub gardens build on building exteriors. But eventually I started seeing vegetable gardening. There's two ways to vertical garden for veggies. One way is to build a wire or wood trellis for vines. The other way is to build a wall of shelves for containers. I think I have begun to hatch a plan for two trellises. One for black berries and blueberries with strawberries spilling out on the bottom. The other will be for peae and cucumbers and greebeans.

These plans may take some more reconfiguring to get right. But I'll eventually have produce of my own to be giddy about. And I do have several more months to mull this over after all.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Please send a message to Petland

This summer a Petland was opened across the parking lot from my work. I was excited as the PetCo across the street had shut down. Then I went in and saw that they were Selling puppies. I really wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt eventhough it irked me that they didn't support local rescue groups. I didn't spend any money in there and made the decision to not spend any ever, but I was going to keep my mouth shut about it unless it was proven that they were buying their puppies from puppy mills as I had suspected.

Unfortunately, as I was searching for the best reviewed piddle pads for Maizy (she's having a teetee issue lately) my fears were proven correct. Please watch this video and send a letter for action. And please be respectful in your letters that you send. We won't get anywhere with threats or nastiness. Also, the video isn't a horror story like the PETA videos. It is sad, but you can rest assured it is not gruesome.

Wool Kirtle 2008-2009

For 12th Night 2009 I decided to reprise my Tudor Tailor Kirtle from last year. Except this year I decided to make it out of wool and and to reinforce it with buckram as opposed to the hemp cording I used last year. With the exception of the bust still being a touch too wide because there wasn't the bulk of the hemp cording to take it up, I was really happy with this version. I laced it up on the sides instead of the back so all closures could be hidden by a future over gown. I just need to figure out what the over gown will be. And I need to hem the thing. The wool bolt was a LOT longer than the linen bolt, so I can't just leave the selvaged end a little long. I think I'll take this opportunity to actually trim the hem as well. I never do that, but I ought to.

Following are pics of how it all came out. The pattern I used was a scaled pattern from the book The Tudor Tailor.

Front and back of kirtle showing buckram side of lining and buckram layer. Nothing is going to go in those channels, they're just for strength.

Front and back of lining side of lining and buckram layer.

These next two images are after I have already attached the fashion fabric, the wool, to the buckram and lining layer and connected the front and back at the shoulders. What you are seeing here is an inside view after I've attached the edging. The pattern only calls for edging at the armscyes, but I went ahead and edged the entire bodice.

Here you can see the "Right" side of the bodice once it has been completely put together. I had a little trouble with the edging at the center front bottom so it's not very perfect.

And here's a view after I've put in the handsewn eyelets. I arranged the eyelets for spiral lacing which I have not ever done before.

Finished kirtle inside out. The skirt was pleated and then whipstitched onto the bodice.

A closer look at how the skirt attaches to the bodice.

Finito! Except the hemming.