Monday, January 21, 2008

Taking Care of Business

What a rollercoaster I've been on, but I'm not complaining. Let's see. Did I mention that our old Crosley chest freezer had been complaining? I think that thing, bought a couple of years secondhand even, is about 27 or so years old. It has never had many problems, so when it became temperamental a few days ago, we thought "it's about time." Fast forward to having the repairman out to the tune of $50 labor and $20 for the hard start relay. At today's rate, that is quite reasonable. When we questioned to him the reasonability of repairing that old unit versus buying a new one, he exclaimed, "Oh, no! You'd never get a new one nowadays made that well." So, it is chugging right along.

Next challenge: I noticed a little sensitivity in a tooth that had had major repair a few years ago. The pain seemed to be hanging on, so on a quick trip to the dentist and an assessment there, it didn't take long to determine that I have a rather significant abscess. So, in order to get that taken care of, I have been on antibiotics for a week, and on Wednesday I will have a root canal. That strikes terror in the heart of most people, but actually, technology has improved so over the past years that it is not that much of an ordeal. Here's hoping. However, I am facing rather complicated repair to other teeth, so Piggy Bank, here we come. My main problem has been remembering to take the meds at the time they were due.

Another challenge that I have dreaded so terribly bad was that in December my laptop computer konked out. With the holidays, etc., I was not in the frame of mind to deal with calling Dell Support and possibly getting someone across the world to talk to. Ever done that? I have tried that, and it is one of the more stressful things I've come across. So, having a backup computer, I put it off, thinking that I would come up with a solution that I could handle. I did have the paperwork that says the computer is still under warranty. SO, this afternoon, just like I had an epiphany, I went to Dell Support Online and chose the option of their chat support. Now why had I not done that before? This very nice person walked me through some questions and tests and decided that they would replace the motherboard and have a technician come to my home to do that. How simple was that? So, I am awaiting a call from the technician, and then I will be back to my spoiled self with my laptop baby back in operation hopefully.

The only thing I think we have done today that was productive in this very chilly weather we've had (didn't get above 45) was that hubby took the kitchen refuse to the compost bin. While he was out, he gathered some purple top turnips, and soon I will be preparing that for supper. Gotta have a little cornbread to go along, of course. The green tops from the turnips that I don't add to the pot will go back to compost.

Each day has its own challenges, and I'm sure tomorrow will have its share. But today I am proud of getting that issue of the laptop taken care of. How I dreaded that!


Monday, January 14, 2008

Revving up for Spring

We're trying to get psyched up for spring and was pleasantly surprised to see a display of Burpee seeds this weekend. Shouldn't be too surprised as the valentine candy was out the next day after Christmas. To keep our spirits up, we selected a packet of Burpee Pickler cucumbers, as that promises heavy yields. We do have our spot picked out with more sun for our cucumbers this year. Also, we ran across the sunflower selection and picked Chianti Hybrid, which looks beautiful (burgundy red) on the packet, and the Mammoth, which produces edible seeds (looking out for the birds here). This must be what came up last spring from around our bird feeder. That was so much fun to watch grow and then leave for the birds. The last packet was of the Mexican sunflower, Torch Tithonia. From the picture, we believe it to be the kind of flower we see in the landscapes of the local Mexican restaurants and is so pretty and "fiery."

Also included in our spending spree was the purchase of a couple of rolls of lawn edging within which we plan to confine our semi-raised beds. This will require several more rolls, but interspersed along with regular shopping, maybe it won't break the bank. At some point, one has to decide if the return is worth the investment, but in this case, we think it might be. We don't want to see our hard work washed away with the first heavy rain. Also, unless we run into another close-out on landscape timbers, we probably won't be buying those in bulk.

Our outside chores are pretty much confined to pruning the old apple tree that succumbed to the freeze/drought last year. At least we are getting most of the dead limbs cut away and will decide later if the entire tree goes this spring. There goes the resting place for zillions of hummingbirds and others, and a convenient hangy-downy place for bird feeders and anything that needs off the ground. Temp today is 45, but the sun is shining, so that may entice us to do our power walk around the garden!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Soup Anyone?

Generally, I like soup. Husband doesn't care for it if there is anything else. That doesn't keep me from indulging on these chilly, wintry days. But I do try to choose a healthful soup. Lately I have had this extreme craving for tomato-based foods, expecially soups. The other day I had this bright idea to cruise the soup aisle at the supermarket. Almost as being lead to do so, I saw this display of Progresso Soup, and there to my wondering eyes was...ta-da....Vegetable Classics Hearty Tomato. The calorie count is not bad at 110 per one cup, but there is more sugar and more sodium than I would prefer. Actually, it is quite tasty and probably wouldn't hurt much for an occasional indulgence, but I did get ideas about flavoring my own. BTW, Progresso does have low sodium products which are great.

Along these same lines, I scan Heloise's Hints in our daily newspaper where she often has great recipes. On this particular day, someone had mentioned her recipe for cream soup. She calls it her No-Fat Cream Soup. Think of the possibilities here. You will need: 1 cup nonfat dried milk powder; 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes; 2 tablespoons cornstarch; 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder; 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed; 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed; 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container. This mixture will make about four to six 4-oz servings when water is added. To make soup, add 2 cups of water to the mix in a large saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until thick. Add 1/2 cup of a main ingredient of your choice and cook until done, adding water if necessary. You can add ingredients to suit your taste. Heloise says that you can use instant potatoes or powdered milk to thicken up most soups. The contributor to this article said that she had used a jar of pureed butternut squash. This soup is on my to-do list.

Heloise's interesting link is for recipes and other hints. The above-mentioned clipping goes on my fridge for sure.

Monday, January 7, 2008

All In A Day's Work

Ever tried to shop when your eyes are fully dilated? It's a challenge. Today was my annual checkup with my opthamologist, and as expected, I got the dilation bit. Later, we were cruising the produce section of a Wal-Mart Supercenter and found some enticing items. Their hazelnuts were greatly reduced, so considering the regular price, I thought .99/lb wasn't a bad price! The zucchini appeared to be fresh, as did the eggplant. Also we found sliced baby bella mushrooms. There was a special on green bell peppers at 50 cents each. We found the fresh young chicken leg quarters which are so nice to roast. So, even though we really did not need to grocery-shop today, we couldn't resist these bargains.

Back at home, there posted on the fridge was my copy of a recipe for oven-roasted veggies from the South Beach Diet, which I love. Dinner was so easy to do, adapting the veggies I chose for tonight. The eggplant will have its day tomorrow, oven-roasted, of course.

After pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees, into a large roasting pan I sliced two small, tender zucchini, the green bell pepper, one sweet onion, added the baby bellas, salt and pepper, and about 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, tossing to mix and coat. This was roasted about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. While this was doing its thing, I put two servings of the chicken leg quarters on a separate roasting sheet and did that at the same time with the veggies. They were small and were done not long after the veggies. So, that was dinner along with a beverage, fairly healthful, and easy to do.

This recipe could include any version of the veggies one prefers: asparagus, summer squash, red or yellow onions, scallions, to name a few. Easy to do, healthful, and really delicious.

The eyes are back to normal now. Tomorrow's challenge will be finding an appliance repairman to check out our aging chest-type freezer. Also, there is a chance I will get a call to do some backup medical transcription for a friend. As Gilda Radner once put it so succinctly, "It's always somethin' ."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Belated Merry Christmas/Happy New Year!

I have absolutely no idea where to pick up here. That's what I get for doing a large draft of what I wanted to publish but sent it to draft because I was dilly-dallying, this in December. The unthinkable thing happened--my 'puter went kaput. At this point I am getting my information together, hoping that there will be something left in the warranty. Luckily, I have a backup until I can get my pet back. (I'm so spoiled to my laptop!)

We have had a good taste of winter here in Northeast Mississippi. Some days have been mild and fairly warm, but others are bitter cold, so on those days I feel content studying my Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and planning with Friend Hubby how we want to incorporate some of those ideas in our garden this spring. I like the idea of the trench method of gardening, and I am hoping that will help cut down on the laborious watering such as we experienced this summer.

I had wanted to mention that our two generous neighbors have gifted us with a huge amount of small oak leaves, even bringing them to our compost "fence." We are adding to that our household scraps of remains of veggies, egg shells, coffee and tea dregs, etc., and this coming week, hoping that our schedule will slow down somewhat from the holidays, we hope to visit our local garden center and find a good, affordable, source of "mature manure" to help speed the process of composting. I do know that our state cooperative extension service has much helpful information on gardening, and that office is just about a mile from my home. A visit there would be something to do on a cold day. I want to get a kit to test the pH in my soil so I can proceed in a more educated fashion in amending the soil. Besides the oak leaves, we have our own supply of pine needles, which afford an ongoing supply of straw. Our little patch of mustard greens and turnip greens has about seen its best days, and those green tops will go toward composting. I did read from one interesting blogger that she had given up on the mixture of the greens and browns, etc., and just let nature take its course. That might work, but I have all this stuff to get rid of anyway, and I just cannot stand the thought of throwing that away when it can "give back" whence so much of it came.

Sometime in December before the rains/cold came, I had spent a coupla hours spading a row where we will be considering "trenching," just to see how that would go. It went well, but then weather and the holidays intervened. I had done a little display of the veggies I had canned from our own garden this year, and it was with a little pride that we could show and share with family/neighbors what we had been up to.

As far as things other than vegetables, our pink camellia has just bloomed probably better than it ever has. I don't know its name. It usually blooms by Christmas. The dark red one has many buds, usually blooms after Christmas, and I hope the freezing weather hasn't ruined that. Camellias are just gorgous and really add welcome cheer in winter arrangements. The hawthorne next to it has started blooming, but the weather has slowed that down. Of course, jonquils will be blooming in a day or two. Ah, Spring! If I can find some pix of the camellias, I will post that. Friend Hubby is the photographer amongst us, but we aren't so well organized yet on where he puts those things. That would be a nice job for me on a cold day--organizing photos!