Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Gardening Stuff

Maybe the gopher that ate our squash plants was trying to do us a favor.

Last year we bought a few different types of pumpkins to decorate the house and just for fun I saved the seeds from three of them. Not long ago I found some of those dehydrated and compressed peat pellets in the garage. I had totally forgotten that I even had those. I rehydrated them and put two seeds in each. I have from left to right: ghost pumpkin, cinderella pumpkin, and a giant pumpkin. I wasn't sure if the seeds would actually grow, but you can see they are doing just fine. When they get a little bigger I'll probably transplant them to the formerly-full-and-now-has-one-left squash pit.

Here's an avocado pit I started a while back. It was in a small jar of water on the kitchen window sill with three toothpicks holding it up. It seemed to take forever to start showing signs of life but finally it started growing. The roots started circling the bottom of the jar so I've transplanted it to this bucket that was rescued from a restaurant. I'm not sure if this ever really works but I'm giving it a try!

I've finally planted my hypertufa troughs. The first one, shown here, is a little smaller. I planted it with flat leafed parsley, cilantro, and chives.
This is the second one I made and I put a few colorful flowers in it.
I haven't forgotten my promise to show you how easy it is to make one of these. That is still in the works. I wanted to make sure these two turned out first.

That's it for now!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In The Garden

The garden is doing well with the exception of one of the squash areas. Once again we are plagued with the little vermin known as pocket gophers. Neighbor Dean and we have been working hard to eradicate the pests with early morning, mid day, and afternoon hunting. Dean has been much more successful than we have. (And more diligent, to be honest.) In the last month he's killed about eight of them with his shotgun (very effective, I might add!), my husband has killed one with his shotgun, and I have killed two with my traps.

We've managed to slow the damage but they are continuing to be a bother. Here you can see there is one squash left next to the gopher's hole.

In this picture in the background you can see what that squash pit used to look like.

The squash and melon seed packets always say to plant the seeds in a hill. We've tried that before and with our sandy soil and hot sun it just doesn't work. What does work for us is just the opposite. We dig a slight depression in the soil and build the sides up. The seeds are planted in various spots around the big hole. Then when watering we fill the hole with water. The soil gets wet and waters the seeds and eventually the growing plants and the water doesn't run off to help the weeds grow!

You can see we also do something similar with our other garden plants. We got one of those cheap watering wands (around $10 at Lowe's) that you can turn off and on with the flick of your thumb. This way the water goes into the hole with the plants and the surrounding areas don't get watered. We've learned over time that this method helps keep the weeds down in the surrounding areas. The weeds don't get water and are less likely to grow. We're slow learners...

Another thing I was going to mention is you can see in the above picture how I've pinched the bottom leaves off the tomato plants. I've been doing this for several years now. This doesn't hurt the plant at all. In fact I think it helps because it makes it easier for me to see and get rid of any weeds growing in the water well area around the roots of the tomato.

Here is our first tomato this year! I can hardly wait. I've had some "vine ripened" from the store, but we all know what that is like. Still pretty bland.

Here's the serrano chili. Besides having the fresh sliced tomatoes I am really looking forward to fresh salsa. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it.
The grape vines are really going crazy this year. I have no clue on what the proper way to grow grapes is so we've just been pretty lucky as far as they go.
And finally the little squashes that haven't been attacked by the gophers (yet). I'd better pick them no later than tomorrow. Because we all know what happens when you forget to check your squashes every day! (They turn into monsters!!!)

And now I'm off to Lowe's for one more line of defense against the gophers: the sprinkle stuff they allegedly hate and is supposed to drive them away. We are trying everything we can!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Almost Smith's Cookies

Here in Bakersfield we have a local bakery shop called Smith's Bakeries. They have several locations throughout town. One of their best sellers, especially for holidays and special occasions, are their sugar cookies.

My sister got this recipe from a coworker and these cookies are truly close to Smith's cookies. Topped with your favorite frosting or icing and you've got a sure hit on your hands. As the chef Justin Wilson used to say, "I guarantee!"

This post will be about the sugar cookies themselves. My comments and observations will be in { }. Following will be a post on the icing I used.

The ingredients are: 2/3 cup butter (soft, but NOT melted); ¾ cup sugar; ½ teaspoon vanilla; 1 egg; 4 teaspoons milk (optional); 2 cups flour; 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder; ¼ teaspoon salt.
Mix butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg till light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients together.

Stir in milk. (This is optional, sometimes makes the dough too soft.) {Tina here--I've made this recipe a few times now and have never added the milk.}

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet. Chill the dough for one hour. {It doesn't say to wrap in plastic wrap but I do.}
Roll out fairly thick...
...about the thickness of a pencil.
Bake at 375° {on ungreased cookie sheet} until set but not brown. {For me it's about 12 minutes.)
Frost with your favorite type of frosting or icing.

Almost Smith's Cookies
2/3 C butter (soft, but NOT melted)
¾ C sugar
½ t vanilla
1 egg
4 t milk (optional)
2 C flour
1 ½ t baking powder
¼ t salt
Mix butter, sugar, vanilla, egg till light and fluffy.
Stir in milk (optional, sometimes makes dough too soft).
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
Slowly add dry ingredients to wet.
Chill dough 1 hour.
Roll out fairly thick, about the thickness of a pencil or so.
Bake at 375° till set but not brown. (About 10-12 minutes.)
Cookie bottoms should be just golden or lighter at the edges.
Ice with icing.
{Makes 2 dozen cookies.}
{There was a note at the bottom of the email sent to me. I don't know if it was my sister's note or the lady who sent it to her.}
Sometimes I substitute ground almonds for some of the flour to change it up a bit. I've also added dried cranberries and blueberries to the dough before chilling it.

Sugar Cookie Icing

This recipe is really a great alternative to a buttercream type frosting for sugar cookies. Not that there's anything wrong with buttercream frosting on sugar cookies, but this is a little different than the usual.

I'm not taking credit for this at all as I found it in multiple places on the internet. You know how it goes, once somebody finds something great then word gets out and it gets posted all over the place.

So here it is once again! You'll need 1 cup of powdered sugar; 2 teaspoons milk; 2 teaspoons light corn syrup; ¼ teaspoon almond extract; assorted food coloring.

In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar and milk until smooth.
Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.
And that's all there is to it! I used a one inch kitchen brush to brush the base coat on, then used the fork and/or spoon that I mixed the color with to drizzle the other colors on top.
Yeah, I kind of went a little nuts on the drizzling.
The icing will eventually dry, depending on how many layers/thick you put it on and then you can stack them in a box or jar. I made two batches to get all these colors on.
Are you drooling yet? I had to give all these to my daughter to take to her work with her, because last week my doctor was discussing my "sugar issue".

Hey, go crazy for me!


Happy Birthday to my favorite brother!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Volunteer Banquet

Yesterday I was talking about Gus and his nose, and how hopefully it will heal up before our next Therapy Dog visit for Hoffmann Hospice, the outfit we volunteer for. What I failed to mention was that my son, also a volunteer with Hoffmann, my husband, and myself were going to a banquet that evening. It was the Hoffmann Hospice Volunteer Banquet, held annually, to honor their volunteer workers. I didn't mention it because I really didn't think it was going to be a big deal.

I was wrong.

We all met in the banquet room of Mauricio's, a nice Mexican restaurant about five minutes from our home. We sat with Marylee and her husband. You may or may not recall, Marylee is the one who got me started with the whole volunteering thing with Gus.

After everyone had socialized for a bit we lined up for the dinner and then it was time for some speechifying. There were some potted plants on the table and we were all laying claim to them. A small raffle was held, but none of our group's numbers were called. Then Kim, the volunteer coordinater started speaking. She acknowledged several volunteers who had already given about ten years of service. They all received some nice baskets with some goodies in them. We watched a really nice slide show that showed the volunteers and the patients they visited. I was proud to see several shots of Gus doing his thing. There were also pictures of some of the other Therapy Dogs, of course.

Then Kim started talking about the special program started last year that was especially dear to her. It was the Pet Therapy Program, aka Hoffman Hounds. She started talking about the "volunteer of the year" and I was thinking it was going to be the lady that first evaluated Gus, as she wasn't a volunteer at that time with Hoffman, but now is. Kim was saying how this person (her pick for volunteer of the year) had never had any prior experience doing this sort of thing, yet jumped in with both feet and went to work. I knew that couldn't be the other person I had been thinking of since she had several years of Therapy Dog work prior to coming to Hoffman.

Next thing I know, Kim is announcing MY name as her "Volunteer of the Year". I could hardly believe it. Check out the loot I got!
There was a bucket with microwave popcorn, a box of Good and Fruity, Jujyfruit, a bottle of non-alcoholic grape drink, and a DVD of "Marley and Me". In addition I received a bracelet with doggy charms.
This one is my favorite.

And there was a little pin I can put on my shirt that has a tiny picture of Gus in it. He really is number one!
All the volunteers also got certificates of appreciation and a DVD with the slide show on it. If I ever figure out how to post it here I will.

It turns out my husband had known about this for three weeks. Marylee's main job was to ensure that I made it to the dinner. I really had no idea this was going to happen. While I'm not all that convinced that I deserve the honor of being named "Volunteer of the Year", I'm certainly not going to hurt Kim's feelings by turning it down!

(By the way, we had to play a game for the potted plants. Marylee won!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Results Of Rough Housing

I mean rough play, not poor living conditions! The dogs must have been going at it last night. When we came in from our far back patio yesterday evening I noticed poor Gus's nose was swollen and had the skin scraped off. All I can figure is that he and Clyde, who loves to play rough with Gus, must have been playing. I've seen it before where they are running side by side biting at each other and then almost run into the fence or wall. This time it looks like Gus actually did run into the cement block fence or possibly the stucco on the house.


Hopefully it will heal up pretty quickly. I can't afford another trip to the vet, as I just paid $500. last week for Chester's rabies shot, Clyde's droopy ear yeast infection (very common with long eared dogs), and Ollie's shave job.

We don't have a Therapy Dog visit scheduled for this week, so that will also give his nose some time to heal before next week's visit. (I go every other week now to coincide with when I'm not watching my granddaughter, now that she's more active and mobile. It's just easier on me to not worry about washing Gus properly for our visits and still have to watch her.)

Those silly dogs!

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Love Romaine (Lettuce, That Is)

A few weeks ago we got some six packs from the gardening department at Lowe's to plant in the garden. One of the things we got was Romaine lettuce. I love Caesar Salad, so this is perfect for me.

We planted the lettuce on the side of the driveway at the end of the flowers, in an empty spot, where our strawberries used to be. Unfortunately I kind of neglected the strawberries last year and they ended up turning to toast in our hot, hot summer sun.

Right now the Romaine is thriving, and I've been making lots of Caesar salads. The Romaine is also good in a regular type salad with carrots, onions, tomatoes, etc. I've also heard that Romaine lettuce is better for you than iceberg, which I also enjoy (especially in the Chinese Chicken Salad my husband makes).

Our temperatures are hitting the 90's this week and I'm hoping the lettuce won't bolt too quickly before I have a chance to eat it all!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


My sister asked how long it will take for Ollie's hair to grow back. I'm not really sure, but probably several months. While researching the answer to this question I came across this. It's not really related to the cat hair question but I did find it on somebody's answer about cat hair growth.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

WHAT'S On The Menu?

This has not been a great week for me, which is one reason I haven't posted much. But it cheered me up to see this. It appears one of the painted windows at this restaurant was broken and replaced, but they neglected to repaint the message.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ollie's New Do

Ollie got a new summer do today. Being a very thick long-haired persian type cat she was developing a lot of knots, many more than the unlucky Kneadermeier. So I brought her in to get shaved.

She didn't seem too pleased that I was just trying to make her more comfortable. Look at the stink eye she's giving me!

But it's all for the best and I think she'll get over it in time...

I hope!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday!

Happy Good Friday, everybody!

This year I found the number that I thought I had lost to the sheep shearer. I called him and at the time he was in another county on a shearing job. He said he'd call when he got back.

He called me this morning. Originally I was planning on having him come next week, when I wouldn't have the baby, but it turns out her mom had taken the day off and they were going to be spending the weekend in the Sacramento area. So I asked if he could come today and he said yes.

Daniel, the shearer, got here a little early and began setting up. I asked if he would mind me taking photos and he said "Not at all, just let me comb my hair first!" I like a guy with a sense of humor.

I was able to take a few photos and here they are. The rest of the time I was catching the next ewe and cleaning the shorn wool up. Normally I throw it out, but I asked if he wanted it (sometimes they do). Daniel said he'd give it to his boss who eventually brings it to a wool processing place.

The pictures aren't in any particular order, except for the very last one, which shows all the shorn ewes and their babies enjoying a nibble on the grass weeds.

As a last word I'd like to say if there is anybody out there in need of a good shearer I can highly recommend Daniel. He's been shearing sheep (the huge flocks of 100's at a time) for 35 years. He's very reasonable and a really nice guy. E-mail me and I'll get you his number. I'm not sure how far he'll travel but you can always call and check (I'll bet the bigger the flock the further he'll go from our southern San Joaquin Valley, CA location).