Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Zombie Mouse Stoner...

Yes, you read that right... surely you know me well enough by now to expect some silliness when my sweetheart returns to work after a few days off.

At loose ends, bored to within an inch of my life; what better to do than play with kiwi fruit and the rocks in my head? Here's what I'm talking about...


Is it possible I've been watching too much Walking Dead?


I suspect our beady-eyed Mousekowitz thinks so; he's definitely puzzled by his metamorphosis from innocent fruit to mindless monster.

Fun fact about me: I am a tried and true stoner... no, not that kind of stoner! I mean, as in rocks. 


I began collecting rocks as a young child, although certainly not the semi-precious kind. Back in the day, I gave the family endless hours of entertainment when Pop started tossing my rather, erm, extensive collection of rocks... I protested by exclaiming that my rocks had 'sentimental value'. That was a big mistake! For years I'd hear things like "better not take out the bin, it has sentimental value", and so on. Nope, it never got old. At all.

This is a small part of our current collection; fortunately the Great Scot likes collecting rocks almost as much as I do. From the top we have Bloodstone aka Heliotrope, moving to the right, the next stone is Sunstone, followed by (continuing to move to the right around the circle) lapis lazuli, yellow jasper, turquoise, blue lace agate, mahogany obsidian, a citrine 'point', obsidian, and moonstone. In the centre is a tourmalinated clear crystal - the black line in the middle of the stone is a 'needle' of black tourmaline. I've been thinking of using some of my many stones to make a representation of the solar system... just trying to figure out if I would prefer it in mobile, or mounted form.

Good thing: The shoulder is mostly good now, and I'll be putting up new curtains and a 'friendship ball'... what I've always heard called a witch ball... in shades of turquoise.

Question of the day: Are there hobbies you enjoyed as a child, which you still enjoy as an adult?

My answer: Well, I obviously still have rocks in my head, and I'm still passionate about reading - am currently reading Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee - so, yes, there are childhood pursuits which still enthrall me.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sunday Selections #234

We're On Our Way!

Welcome (back) to Sunday Selections; a once - weekly meme originally begun by Kim at Frog Ponds Rock as a way of showcasing the many photos we take, but don't always use.

The rules are very simple: 

1. Post photos of your choice, new or old, under the title 'Sunday Selections'.

2. Link back to River, who now runs the meme, somewhere in your post.

3. Leave River a comment, so she knows you've joined in and so she can come visit you.

4. Hop over to visit Elephant's Child's blog!

Andrew often joins in as well, you can check him out Here.

So, our holiday this week just past: It began auspiciously; easy travel and perfect blue skies decorated with mountains of candy floss (cotton candy) clouds. Click on photos to 'super-size'; it's calorie-free!


As we neared Cincinnati, where we had intended to visit the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the traffic grew steadily heavier, and the skies darker and more ominous. Ut oh, not looking quite so favourable, although Cincinnati itself still has a riverfront charm all it's own.


An older commercial building on the way into the city...


Part of downtown Cincy, with lots of traffic joining us on the roads.


Bridge over the Ohio river, heading south into Florence Kentucky; just past the bridge and over the hill we ran into a cloudburst which left the pavements steaming. More humidity, oh joy...

But then we reached Florence, where I'd booked our room, and we followed the directions I'd googled faithfully - only to end up in the back of beyond. For three hours we drove, we googled, we checked the motel's website, and called the motel not once, but twice for directions. No joy, we always ended up further away. Finally we stopped to get another room, since even the locals had no idea where our motel was located, or the street. It was quite aptly named Cavalier Blvd, considering the attitude of it's employees. The hotel, not ours, we stopped at had no rooms available, nor did any other motel in town... apparently there was a huge festival on in Cincy, which explained yet another mystery: not being able to reserve a scooter at the Botanical Gardens. 

Thankfully, a clerk on the other motel's desk was the one person in Florence (apparently) who knew where ours was located. We got there and immediately fell in disgust with the place; so not worth the three hour search, but it would do for laying down our heads until we made our escape in the morning. The two good things we found in Florence were the sunset and food. (In my defence, I like having all my important ducks in a row when travelling... things like motels, directions, etc... but was trying to be a bit more, erm, spontaneous.)

Taken by GS.

Food! Food is good!


Wouldn't you know it, as we were leaving the next morning the weather was perfect... A good harbinger of the lovely time we had in Metamora -- once we found it, lol.


Heading north again; spotted this Radisson with a view of the Ohio river bridge to the left.


Older homes typical of Cincinnati.. tall, skinny, and long.


A sunnier view of the Cincinnati skyline. So you may compare the two, a view of the Indianapolis skyline.


I always know we're getting closer to home when I spot this house in the town of Plainfield, Indiana; it's charmed me since I was wee:


  • I'm going to be a bit lax about visiting blogs for the next couple of days; my apologies. Fell the other night, (Went face-first into some stacked totes, lol, I'm so graceful.) and whilst nothing is broken I'm very sore. Oh, and have I mentioned how much I despise carpet burns? I do, I really, really do.


To learn more about Cincinnati's history and architecture go HereHere, and Here.

Good thing: It's been a lovely week with my sweetheart, I'm sorry to see it come to an end.

Today's question: When travelling, do you prefer having things planned or being spontaneous?
My answer: I like having the 'structure' planned... how to get there, where to stay, etc... whilst leaving a bit of room for those unexpected gems which crop up.

Today's music is more Ben Cooper; I'm so impressed by his creativity, expansive view of music, and... and... and... He did the music on the last post, and here is a very different offering from he and his group 'Radical Face'. Some of you may recall this vid.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Crazy Container Lady #5 - Whaddya Do With That Stuff? (+ a recipe)

Fertiliser (and compost!) talk will have to wait for next week; this week is going to be about Rosso Sicilian tomatoes. You see, five of these babies were ready to be picked and brought inside to finish ripening when we returned home from our wee trip. I brought them inside to finish ripening because chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons love them too, and will eat every one if I don't rescue them first. They're able to climb up on the deck to get to our tomatoes, and I wasn't taking any chances with these babies: (All photos my own unless otherwise noted, photos taken by my sweetheart are marked with a GS. Click on photos to embiggen.)



The really big one in the middle, looks like this from the other side...


 This is actually three tomatoes grown into one; I may have added some 'eyes' just for fun.

These are great stuffing and sauce tomatoes, let me show you why -


The seeds and 'gel' form a ball in the center, rather like a sweet pepper, which makes it particularly easy to process. It's also very attractive sliced.


Tomato flowers! No, I didn't alter the tomato in any way, other than slicing it.

So, what do you do with these tomatoes? Well if you also happen to have some peppers from your garden, which I just happen to have, and there's an onion handy, you make a tri-colour roast. Recipe for which will be posted after the song.


Here, however, is some of the prep... Rosso Sicilian tomato, Napoleon sweet pepper; oregano, thyme, and purple ruffles basil are from the garden as well. Before it goes in the oven, it looks like this...


And that's one of the things I do with that stuff.

Good thing: Watching the Great Scot's eyes light up when I handed him a jar of Branston Pickle, the first he'd had in nearly 15 years. To learn more about Branston Pickle, go Here . Chocolate Flake and McVitie's Dark Chocolate digestive biscuits are on their way, thanks to Craig putting me on to that shop. 

Today's Question: What do you call the last meal of the day, dinner or supper?
When I was young, lunch was dinner, and our last meal was supper... now I use both dinner and supper for the last meal.








Recipe: Tri-Colour Roast


2 lb. beef roast (I generally use a chuck roast.)
4 thick slices of bread of good bread, grilled or toasted (thick slices of eggplant, similarly prepared, can be substituted)
4 slices of good, melty cheese of your preference
2 Rosso Sicilian tomatoes, or other 'meaty' tomato
1 large Napoleon sweet pepper, or other tasty sweet pepper
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
1/3 c. red wine
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 Tbsp. fresh basil
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place roast in oven-safe pan with a tight-fitting lid, and pour red wine over. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss everything else on top. Cover with lid and place in oven; cook for 2 hours, or until roast is falling-apart tender... shred with two forks and spoon over freshly toasted or grilled bread (or eggplant slices). Top with a good cheese and serve immediately. 4 servings, with leftovers roast and veggies.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Adventure That Almost Wasn't

You know those days everyone says you'll laugh about in future? Yup, it was one of those. Fortunately, we're already chuckling.

It began innocently enough, but rapidly went downhill from there. Tuesday, our anniversary, was a trainwreck from the time we hit Cincinnati to the time we left the area again. The sudden rainstorm in the city, after a day of fleecy cotton clouds against a perfect blue sky, should have been a warning... (All photos by myself or the Great Scot, {his are marked with a GS} unless otherwise stated. Click on photos to enlargen.) 



More about that some other time; let's get to the good stuff!

It started with a Smelly Feller... okay, it's properly 'the Smelly Guy', or 'Smelly Himself' (aka Steve) but as soon as he introduced himself as Smelly, I couldn't help but think of him as Smelly Feller. It's just so, so mellifluous. And silly. I think we're all aware of how highly I approve of creative silliness. Well, and food. There is a near-perfect meeting of both in Mr. Smelly and his bride. 


The Smelly Feller himself, pardon the blurriness - it was a shaky time of day.

He and his wife, Brenda, own The Smelly Gourmet. (Click HERE to learn more about they, and their unique - and uniquely named- establishment. They have a video on their website featuring Smelly. Hmmm, does that make it Smell-O-Vision?) We spent an hour and a bit with Steve and his lovely grand daughter, wandering the premises and sampling their wares. Amongst other things, they give every customer who visits a sample of their fantabulous popcorn, which is grown for them by family. You know I love popcorn, right? That it heads my 'I Like' list? Take it from me, this is definitely great popcorn, and the seasonings they have on offer are amazing! I sampled a seasoning called Hot Sh*t; (properly pronounced Hot Shot for those ragamuffins who immediately thought something else) it starts out surprisingly sweet on the tongue, only to develop a nifty, complex, but not over the top heat. I grabbed some sour cream and chive seasoning to bring home this time, but next time it's Hot Sh*t for sure! 

It's a sign!

The Great Scot isn't quite the popcorn afficianado that I am; nope, he's all about the coffee... coincidentally, they just happen to have an European Coffee Bar. This time, my darling opted for a vanilla cappuccino, which he quickly declared the best he'd ever had. I asked for a vanilla iced coffee since I wanted something cold, but coffee, and received the best iced coffee of my life. Rich, smooth, and just sweet enough without being 'knock you into sugar shock' sweet. Even if I hated iced coffee this would have changed my mind.

GS

The Smelly House; lovingly restored. The downstairs, back deck, and the patio they're building serve as their shop; the upstairs is their home. The Great Scot and I fell in love with the place before ever setting foot inside.

Mind you, coffee isn't all they serve - I spotted hot chocolate, tea, and cold drinks; but wait, there's more! Smelly makes a mind-boggling number of different paninis; offerings like made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese, creamy ribeye and mushroom soup, cobbler, and so on help round out the menu. You might have to roll me out in a wheelbarrow on my next visit, lol.


A closer view.

Smelly, who is a gentleman raconteur of the first order, (BIG kudos to him for not even blinking when faced with my tremouring self asking to take his photo, and write about his perfect wee shop for the blog) and his wife Brenda, are extraordinarily creative folk, whose creations are displayed around the downstairs area. They are for sale, both in their shop, and on their website - we purchased a few things, and will be going back for more! If you ever drop in, or contact them via the online, tell him Jacqueline of Randomosity said hi.

We sat out on their back deck to sip our drinks, enjoy the perfect weather, and drink in the views... many of their wares are also displayed there, and there's the frequent, fiesty, visitors:


I managed to capture him whilst he was taking a drink from one of their feeders; right before he zipped off to noisily chase away another fiesty interloper. We so enjoyed watching him take advantage of the Smelly's clever and very original feeders. Another view of the deck...


Such a welcoming spot.

The Smelly Gourmet is located in the tiny, historic, town of Metamora, IN. It's a pre-Civil War canal town (from the 1830's) which has retained it's canal, along with many other historic features... many folk now run shops, eateries, and other businesses from their homes. A horse-drawn canal boat, and a train, still run regularly here. To learn more about Metamora go Here and Here.

A few more photos of Metamora:

(Detail of the iron fence around Smelly's. You'll find out how the name originated when you visit their website.)

View of the canal from one of the 'walking' bridges.GS.

Farmer's Bank turned into a home.

Beautiful gazebo in a small park.

Striking stone home/business.

Metamora Museum of Oddities. Love this unusual cross made of drainage pipe, etc...

Old, still working, grist mill.

Another view of the canal and grist mill. GS

Good thing (s): Being able to walk around, a lot, the last two days; meeting wonderful people, and watching what promised to be a mis-adventure turn into a true adventure.

Today's question: What is your secret (or not so secret) fear? That my life will have been pointless.

Songs of my life... appropriate for my life, and for this day in particular. I know it's a BBC advert, but it's still my favourite version:






Monday, July 20, 2015

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese Recipe for the 'A Beer For The Shower' Guys

And anyone else who wants it. I told them I'd share a couple of weeks ago, and kept forgetting - sorry guys!



Lobster Mac

1 1/2 lbs. cooked lobster, or mixed lobster and crab
1 lb. dried radiatori or conchiglie pasta
4 c. milk
2 c. Each:  grated smoked Gruyere*, grated white Cheddar, and cubed Fontina
1/2 c. flour
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. Each: white pepper, nutmeg, and Old Bay seasoning
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add pasta. I don't add salt or oil to my pasta water, but you can do so if it's your preference. Cook for 6 minutes and drain, rinsing with cool water... pasta should be slightly underdone; set aside.

Warm milk in a small pan, do not allow to reach a boil. In a large pot on low heat, melt butter and add flour; whisking continuously. Slowly add warmed milk to your roux, still whisking, and allow it a couple of minutes to thicken. Stir in cheeses, seasonings, salt to taste, lobster or lobster and crab, and pasta, and pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake at 375 F. for 30-35 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and pasta is slightly browned on top. Serves 6-8. (You can also use individual gratin dishes.) I don't do a breadcrumb topping on mine, but don't let that stop you.

Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe, which you can find Here.  * You can use regular Gruyere, but try the smoked at least once - the smokiness combined with the sweet lobster, is a match made in heaven imo.


Good thing: We're going to be gone a few days; a short trip for our anniversary. Botanical gardens; lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Question: Are you a homebody, or do you like slipping into those travelling shoes? Answer: A bit of both; when I was younger I'd hop in the car without hesitation, circumstances now dictate that I'm usually found at home but I take the opportunity to gad about whenever I may!





Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sunday Selections #233 -It's up now, really!

This once-a- week-meme was originally begun by Kim of Frog Ponds Rock, as a way to showcase some of the many photos we all take, but don't get around to showing on our blogs.

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under theSunday Selections title
2. link back to me, River, somewhere in your post
3. leave me a comment so that I know you've joined in and can come over and see what you've posted.
4. hop on over to Elephant’s Child to see more of her wonderful photos.
  Andrew often joins in too, and now he is back from holidaying in the summery northern hemisphere,we'll get to see some of his photos :)

 Sometimes, like River and Elephant's Child, I go with a theme but tonight's selections will be relatively random. Enjoy!

This first was spotted in a big discount store we avoid shopping at as much as possible... we were walking past the girl's department and spotted it. I call it a 'Wallyfly'.


It flew around, and in front of us, for several yards.



Another of the baby cucumbers, looking like it was feeling as sickly as Buddha... who is feeling better, overall, and regaining a little weight.




A blurry photo of Geraldo,(San Geraldo Mitchell, to be exact) curled up on my computer bench; said bench made by a family friend I helped care for until his death. The bench never fails to make me smile and think of him. Sorry for the photo quality, it was a shaky night.



Another photo of the purple pepper plant; I just love the faint purple tint on the tips of the flower's petals.


Another blurry photo of Geraldo on the bench; he's definitely plotting mischief! (I use the bench at my computer so he or Buddha can hop up beside me.)


We ripped out most of the lettuce several days ago, thinking the season had ended, but some stems were left... they're growing back. Guess it wasn't ready to quit! Unfortunately, they're going to have to make way - it's time for planting autumn crops, and golden beets are going in that trough.


The Rosso Sicilians really are going nuts; if you look closely you can see 8, just in this photo of one section of the plant. I've counted 11 total on the one plant. There are three plants! I suspect that the Rosso Sicilian has adapted to the local growing conditions, etc... long enough to be considered a landrace. To learn more about landraces, go Here.

Good thing: In thinking about new things to do with the blog, I came up with the idea of asking a random question on each post, and answering it myself of course. You can answer in the comments, if you choose to... but no pressure to do so.

Today's question: Is there a type of weather you prefer, and if so, why? I love misty, foggy weather; it can make even the most mundane landscape mysterious, ethereal, and thought-provoking.

This video of the Everly Brothers singing 'Rose Connelly' was made several years ago for the documentary 'Bringing It All Back Home' the mutual influence of Irish and American music.


Crazy Container Lady #4 - Go Play In The Dirt

That title's looking pretty pugnacious up there.

I mean it though. No offence, but just go play in some soil already: (All photos my own, unless otherwise noted. Click on the pics to embiggen.)


Well looky there, it's a bucket of dirt - pretty handy to have around, especially if you want to grow stuff like this - 

Picked my first Napoleon sweet pepper today; it's the tall one on the left.


Did you know that a link between playing in the dirt, and easing depression has been established? To learn more, go Here.

The soil, dirt, is one of the toppiest in your top ten list of things which make for a great garden; container or otherwise. 

Where I live, the soil contains clay, a lot of it. Clay soil holds moisture - perhaps a little too well - and is heavy and hard to work. It compacts, and stays compacted. Sandy soil, on the other hand, doesn't hold... not it's shape, nor water and nutrients. Loam? It's the practically perfect blend, with lots of organic matter as well. Loam is also fairly difficult to find, and what there is has been worked to death.

Rosso Sicilian tomatoes are beginning to colour up! I know now, btw, why the RS tomatoes are growing so well, and producing so many babies. I even have photographic evidence, but it's far too scandalous to show here. Who knew what these naughty tomatoes were getting up to when my back was turned!

This is yet another reason I love container gardening; we can create soil that is tailor made for what we want to grow. For instance, whilst many plants prefer soil that is normal or slightly alkaline, ('sweet' soil) many important food crops... including tomatoes, carrots, and leafy greens... like a slightly more acidic (sour) soil. For more on which plants grow better in acidic soils, go Here. It's easy to customise the dirt in containers; not so easy in the standard row garden.



One might also wonder what has gone on, or in, the dirt in your yard/garden... are there fungi, diseases, and pests just dying to attack your seeds and plant babies? Have pesticides or herbicides been used? If you're in an urban setting, industrial chemical or pollutant spills/build up might be a concern. You can put together soil that doesn't contain, say, Japanese beetle grubs, or fungi/virii that cause plant wilt, etc... You can even ensure that your growing medium is completely organic. You can do it, really... it's easier than you think.

A cluster of purple peppers.

You can go the easy but expensive route, and buy it all pre-bagged; and don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't do just that if it's what you want/need to do. There are no 'I sweat more than you' contest winners, lol. It is, however, possible to replace some of that money spent with a little elbow grease and ingenuity, thereby saving a little cash.  Here's how: (I'm using 'parts' rather than exact measurements since we all have differing sizes and numbers of containers.)

Basil trimmings which have decided to root themselves and make new plants for me; awfully nice of them.

Depending on how much soil you need to make, get out your wheelbarrow or a big old tarp. Dump one part good-quality garden soil, or potting soil if you prefer, in your mixing area. I prefer organic, and garden soil usually - although not always - has far less (to no) vermiculite than standard potting soil. Vermiculite is supposed to retain water, which it does, but it also doesn't release it well and that keeps it sequestred from your plant's roots - which kinda defeats the purpose of having it in the first place. It's also a nonrenewable resource.



Okay, to your potting/garden soil add one part peat (sphagnum) moss or coconut coir. IMO coconut coir is preferable: it wets down more quickly than peat, is easily renewable, and there is the option to buy it's organic version. You can also buy it in bricks or in bulk, online for a reasonable cost. So now you have your bagged soil, peat moss or coconut coir; to this add 1/2 part each: good quality compost or well-aged manure, and ground corn cob animal bedding. 

I know it isn't very clear, but I am SO chuffed! The Black Vernissage tomato experiment has produced it's first baby!!! If you recall, I sowed the seeds directly into their outside container in mid-May, just to see what would happen. It's done so much better than I'd dreamed!

Why the corn cob? It replaces the vermiculite quite nicely, but will actually release water back into the soil as needed... it also breaks down slowly, further enhancing the quality of your dirt. Go on, play with it, you know you want to. Next week: Holly Golightly... with the fertiliser.

After the storm...




Good thing: My sweetheart has next week, including our anniversary, off, yippee!

Another 'song of my life'.