15 February 2012

baby steps of progress

Squeeeee! They've sprouted! 

Look at that sweet, little, tiny baby lettuce!
Granted, these are radishes and leaf lettuce, which are notoriously easy. 
But still...my garden is growing!! 

Hello, row of radishes! A couple more weeks and I'll eat you!
(I way overexposed and supersaturated the pictures so the sprouts were more visible.)

14 February 2012

wake up feeling like crap...no more!

I just discovered this super-awesome app for my iPhone. It's called Sleep Cycle alarm clock and the premise behind it is ingenious. Since we go in and out of varying depth sleep cycles throughout the night, this alarm clock monitors you and within a designated time window, will wake you when you are in your lightest sleep.

From experience, the effect is that your alarm goes off almost like you were expecting it. It's as if you are "sleeping 'til you wake up" but somehow an alarm is involved. I love it. Hopefully, gone are the days of hearing a strange beat from the far side of my dream, slowly and confusingly realizing I was actually sleeping and not knowing what is going on before I remember that Disco Inferno is my alarm and I'm supposed to be waking up. (Yeah, yeah, it's a run-on, but I think it really lets you experience the confusion I'm talking about.)

Apparently your body moves, or doesn't as the case may be, depending on which cycle you are in. This app uses the sensitive accelerometer in the iPhone and monitors your movements, resulting in a graphed record of your sleep. I'm a graph person. I love analyzing and finding patterns. To me, the alarm feature is just an added bonus.

At left is my graph from last night. At 2am, you can see I came out of a pretty deep sleep since my dog had put me in such an uncomfortable position. I  kicked her off. Then at 6:30-ish am, my 2 year-old wanted to get up. I coaxed her into going back to sleep. (You can see that shortly after 7am I was in the deep, deep throes of la-la land, so I'm not sure when she crawled out of my bed.)

The cool thing is that after a few nights, I've noticed a pattern. One, I've been entirely horrible about going to bed at a reasonable hour, but that's nothing new. Second, I've noticed that I am consistently in light sleep or even awake in the six o'clock hour. If I can just go to bed earlier, it seems as though I should be able to wake up "for good" at that early hour. Heck, I just might become a morning person after all.

PS - This app costs $.99 and is well worth it in my opinion. 

06 February 2012

fresh veggies? yes, please.

We have a motto here about our yard:

Don't waste your time growing things that aren't edible or useful.

Take out your frustrations and give that bag a good stabbing.
In that vein, all the beautiful but pointless ornamentals planted by the previous owners have died. Well, not quite all of them. The ornamentals that were strong enough to make it through the Houston summers and random freezes without any help from me have lived. I'm rather proud of those tough little suckers.

The now rather empty flower bed surrounding our back patio is starting to fill up with kitchen and medicinal herbs. Parsley, Oregano, Chives, Horehound and Rosemary, to name a few. But herbs haven't been enough.

I've been wanting a vegetable garden for quite some time now, but it didn't ever make it to the top of the priority pile. See, vegetable gardening is a very labor-intensive task. I'd first have to section out part of my yard. But we have a sprinkler system and I'd have to make sure I wasn't getting in any pipe's way. Then I'd have to rototill, and since our soil is crappy clay crap, I'd for sure have to add all sorts of stuff to it to make it growable. But I wouldn't want to since it's so much work, so raised beds with new, good soil would be the next best option. But that's a lot of work because I'd have to...Are you getting the picture?

Oooh! Such a sinister gardening moment!
Well. God bless Mother Earth News magazine. I love checking out their back issues from the library and in the April/May 2010 issue I found the answer to my problem: a no-dig garden! You simply buy bags of gardening soil, cut them open and plant directly into them. Brilliant! No roto-tilling, partitioning of yards or amending soil. Plus, I could start as small as I needed to.

First, you jab a bunch of holes in one side. They suggest a screwdriver, I used the handle of a spoon that one of the kids had left out from their grub digging. Either way, this puppy needs some drainage holes. I also suggest massaging the bag to distribute the soil evenly. Mine was rather compacted to one side. Plus, who knows, maybe that soil is all stressed out from being handled so violently.

Yep, collards.
Now that your bag of soil is all relaxed, flip it over, making sure that the soil is distributed nice and evenly. Get yourself a nice sharp knife and cut the plastic off  the now-top of the bag, leaving a good two inches on each side. You don't want all that nice soil falling out now, do you?

That's it. Your garden is ready. Just plant whatever seeds you want and ta da!

Another nice thing is that I was able to label the bag. And with my radishes, since I'm going to plant new ones every week, I was able to mark where I had already planted a row of seeds. It was awesome!

The last photo is my finished vegetable garden. In SE Texas it's time to plant collards, radishes, beets, lettuce, green onions and leeks. That's what you're looking at. Each  month I'll add something else to the garden. As soon as my seeds come in the mail from Fedco Seeds (highly recommend ordering from them), I'll be planting cabbage and some other stuff which I can't remember right now. So I'll go pick up another bag of soil and do it again! I'm so excited!!!

There is a bit of rain on my parade though. I have to be very careful where to put this dream realization. My HOA, I'm sure, is against having bright yellow plastic bags sitting on my lawn. I think I placed them where they are not visible from the road...hopefully. We'll see.

I'll let you know how this works out. I won't promise you a play-by-play, but I can let you know if this li'l experiment ends up working...or not. 

03 February 2012

Thank you, Mr. Pushpesh Pant.

Dinner tonight came from my latest library visit: India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant. Delicious! We had the Baghare Gajar (savory carrots) and Khoya Matar (peas with thickened milk). The peas were a little strange as they took almost an entire box of dried milk that you proceeded to saute in ghee first. Didn't work quite perfectly but the taste was divine.

My mom fried up some chicken strips with Indian spices. (I told her, "Mom, I'm going to make some carrots and peas. You're in charge of the chicken." This may not seem a big deal, but was, in fact, a little mean, since at that point the chicken was frozen solid in the freezer. Sorry, Mom!) We also had a Masala Milkshake. (A super yummy, non-iced, blended milk drink with almonds, cardamom and rose water. Oh so good!)

I've already made another meal with India: The Cookbook. It was superb.

This book is going to mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.