Archive for cats

School’s Out!

harvest 8.18.16
the harvest basket ~ one evening last week

In the past few days since school ended, I’ve had time to look back at my poor neglected blog — never did I dream that over a year has gone by since I posted *anything*! Well dear friends, school is out, not only for the summer this time but for GOOD. I completed the requirements for my bachelor’s as of August 9. I’ll have to wait a few more weeks for the official conferral of my degree, but I’ve finished! This is the realization of a lifelong dream — and the exorcism of my only regret — not finishing college when I was “college-aged”. If you’re reading this and think it’s too late to go back to school — I hope you will think again. It’s *never* too late and I am proof positive. If I can do it, anyone can!Β  πŸ™‚

finito!
4.0!
a wee bit o’ bragging πŸ™‚

I couldn’t have done it alone, however. I’ve been fortunate to have the unending support and encouragement of my fabulous kids, friends, colleagues, and of course — dear Gary. DGΒ endured endless evenings alone while I studied — he took care of the house and the garden and the cats — all while acting as proofreader for each and every paper I wrote — quite ably, I might add.

I am forever grateful.

The big and little gardens in the North Woods are flourishing. It’s been a hot summer and many days we need to water twice. We have been blessed with loads of tomatoes (ripening early!); peppers hot and sweet; corn; squash (winter and summer) and cukes; chard; beets and carrots; lettuce growing in the shade; papdi beans and pole beans flowering; mini-melons and asian eggplant galore; herbs, too! Although it’s only the end of August, the kitchen is overflowing with good things to eat and preserve. My *other* dream of vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes is coming true this year — although a few have to be taken inside early as the birds are going nuts over them! πŸ˜‰

heirloom tomato salad
the first tomato salad of the season — a celebration!

How does your garden grow? I can’t wait to hear πŸ™‚

juvenile rose breasted grosbeak

juvenile rose breasted grosbeak with berry

juvenile rose breasted grosbeak enjoying the viburnum crop!

Comments (9)

Ringing in the Season with Curry Leaves Galore

tiny christmas tree
our tiny tabletop tree ~ complete with clementines and christmas candy

When I moved to northern Michigan, I knew I would miss the proximity to the Indian and other Asian grocery stores that I loved so much. Now, nearly two years later, I have learned to handle this minor inconvenience. I shopped around town and discovered ghee and a few other staples at Meijer’s supermarket — who knew? Meijer’s even boasts an expanded produce section — think bottle gourd and small brinjals and greens of every description — once I even found fresh methi there and I nearly cried!! I found a Latin American store which sells rice and tapioca flours, dried chiles and cumin, and many great veggies such as chiles, cilantro and limes which are cheaper and fresher than the supermarket variety. I grew my own Korean radishes in the garden for making kimchi. The one thing that eluded me was curry leaves.

Then I happily stumbled upon NJ’s Grocery in the tiny village of Lake Leelanau, on the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula. NJ’s is a sweet little hometown grocery store, offering the usual everyday groceries, produce, its own small meat counter and deli, and… homemade Indian cuisine!? How lucky could I be? Just a half hour’s scenic drive up West Bay from work there was a tiny Little India awaiting me, complete with a few dals and spices on the shelves. One look at the dishes on offer and I knew someone must have access to … ahem … the elusive curry leaves. Of course I am not shy, so I asked πŸ™‚

Rosie, the kind lady in the kitchen, was good enough to sell me some of her stock of lovely curry leaves — albeit frozen — which I otherwise would have no hope of obtaining. This is what I have been using in sambhar and other dishes since I arrived in the north woods. Then I traveled back to Boston for Thanksgiving last month. I ventured out with little m on a shopping extravaganza. From Patel’s in Waltham I scooped up bags of Haldiram’s cornflakes mixture (dear G’s fav!), some of my fav Gujarati fafda, a few harder-to-find spices, and about 10 packages of dreamy looking fresher-than-fresh greener-than-green curry leaves to carry home with me.

fresh curry leaves podi
precious cargo ~ fresh curry leaves and the tasty podi they made!

Back in the north woods, I immediately cooked up several sambhars and curries absolutely loaded with my fragrant find.

chicken curry with curry leaves galore!
chicken curry with curry leaves galore!

I froze a couple of packages, but I can *get* them frozen now. I searched and searched for the perfect way to preserve my bounty. Finally I decided on this tasty-looking recipe from Sangeetha of Spicy Treats. I made it tonight and it is absolutely divine! I followed Sangeetha’s recipe with few changes — I increased the garlic, reduced the red chilies, and forgot the jeera! 😦 Nevertheless, I was so happy with the way the toasted curry leaves ground to a fine powder with the fragrant dals and hing… the first time I have made a podi that came out so soft and … well … powdery! Thanks for the great recipe, Sangeetha πŸ™‚

curry leaves podi with rice and ghee
the fresh curry leaves podi with rice and ghee… mmmm

Of course, I saved a couple (ok, a few) packets of curry leaves from the deep-freeze because… I now am sufficiently encouraged to try my hand at ISG’s famous sambhar powder!

rice with curry leaves podi and ginger-lime rasam
the yummy curry leaves rice with ginger-lime rasam from Anushruti’s Divine Taste ~ another delicious recipe!

pinks and gibby
pinks and gibby are sleeping by the fire ~ all is cozy in the north woods

Comments (2)

Tomatoes (not enchiladas)

gibbily francis
gibby is waiting for the enchiladas…

I sat down to talk about enchiladas. Tasty enchiladas. Tasty, authentic, homemade enchiladas. Enchiladas from the fabulous Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table fame. That will come someday, because they were really *really* tasty enchiladas!!

This morphed into a garden post. It’s mostly about tomatoes, with a wee bit of my outlook on life. The good, the bad, and the ugly πŸ™‚

A riddle:

Q: What do you get when you cross a man with a disappointing tomato crop and a lady whose glass is half-full in spite of the tomato vines dying too soon?

A: I’m not sure what you would get, but around here we got a mess of watery, tasteless tomatoes tossed on at the compost heap.

That is sure to make some raccoon very happy tonight πŸ˜‰

the little tomatoes that could
little tomatoes that could — left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and a generic beefsteak

Ahhh, garden tomatoes. They can make your heart leap with joy, or they can crush it like a vise. How we yearn for them in the winter. We gaze longingly at the colorful pictures in the catalog, and after much discussion, choose and order the seeds. We watch for the postman, and worry that the package may arrive to an empty house and oh — horrible thought — freeze if we aren’t home! It may sound crazy but it’s true. That’s how we think up here in the north woods.

Then comes the happy day when the seeds arrive, to be safely carried into the warm house. There is much oohing and aahing over the pictures on the packets. We feel like pioneers. The garden is everything, and the tomato is king. Surely our tomatoes will look just like those pictures, and taste even better. We get out the calendar and talk about the last frost date.

From tiniest seeds planted with care by the warmth of the wood stove while the frigid February wind blows, the emerging seedlings are tended as one would tend a child. As winter wanes, we watch them anxiously — are they too leggy? too wet? too dry? It’s all in the hands of the garden gods. When spring finally arrives, the hopeful little babies are set out in the garden. If it’s a good year, we are rewarded with more fruit than we can handle — jam and chutney flow through our veins. Other years, the vines struggle and the fruit we harvest may not be as tasty as we’d dreamed way back in the chill of February. Still, any tomato plucked from the garden is a thousand times better than the hard, waxy balls from the grocery store.

If the tomatoes aren’t great, one could argue that it’s an off year for the garden. I respectfully disagree.

In the spirit of my lately-completed law class (with a hard-won “A”, too!), I offer the following evidence πŸ˜‰

corn in silk and tassel
Corn is in tassel and silk

The peppers (hot and sweet varieties) are a success as usual, and there will be carrots for weeks to come. Papdi beans are coming on now. Pole beans are flourishing among the sunflowers and we are entertained by the bees (finally!) visiting.

sunflowers reach for the sky
sunflowers growing heavy with seed for the birds

Brussels sprouts plants are standing tall. The winter squash and Korean radish have exceeded even my optimistic expectations — with the latter literally vaulting out of the ground! Who knew?

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts plant ~ waiting for the autumn chill to form the sprouts along the stem

korean radish
korean radishes average over a foot long ~ can’t pick them fast enough

The herbs are growing nicely — some already dried for winter use.

fresh basil
yes, that is the outdoor garden sink full to the brim with fragrant basil ~ I made pesto with that πŸ™‚

It’s true: with the notable exception of those pictured here, this year’s tomatoes have been something of a bust.

Still I can’t complain!

amish paste tomatoes
amish paste tomatoes grow in various sizes and shapes

amish paste tomato
amish paste tomato showing few seeds

For years I dreamed of attending the Carmel Tomatofest in sunny California — not for the California sunshine but for the amazing array of heirloom tomatoes on display. Check out the photo on the link above — it’s good enough to eat, and lucky attendees could try each and every one! The classic Tomatofest has since merged with another festival featuring even more good things, but its tomato-only avatar lived on in my mind. I always wanted to have a mini-version of my own. Today, thanks mostly to dear G’s hard work, I finally made it happen. Only four varieties were featured — all the testers could handle πŸ˜‰

mini tomato fest in my kitchen
lined up for the taste test from left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and beefsteak — tomato fest in my kitchen!**

We may not have a huge tomato-canning venture this year, but nevermind. There is plenty of tomato bounty left from last fall, and crop is not a total loss. There are some ripening yet, and the cherry tomatoes are doing well. If the garden gods smile upon us, we’ll have tomato fest part two in a few weeks with a few other varieties — either way I have a feeling that tomatoes will be simmering before September is out. Besides, I managed to make a small batch of ISG’s tasty thokku the other day. And that made me very happy.

ISGs tomato thokku
ISG’s tasty, spicy tomato thokku

We take the bitter with the sweet in this life.

I firmly believe there’s no great loss without some small gain (though I am not sure dear G would count attracting raccoons as a gain). πŸ˜‰

For me, it’s all about enjoying the moment and trying to be happy with and thankful for what I’ve got. It’s really not that hard. Anyone can choose to be happy, or choose to be unhappy.

I choose to be happy, and I won’t let anything stand in the way πŸ™‚

**For anyone interested (and for my own journal!) the results were:
Park’s Whopper (7.6 oz) — tartest taste, my #1, G’s #4
Mr. Stripey (9.2 oz) — sweetest taste, a little spicy, unanimous #2
Golden Jubilee (5.6 oz) — a little sweet, peachy, unanimous #3
Beefsteak (5.9 oz) — G thought “pretty good” I thought “bland, watery”, G’s #1, my #4

Amish paste was not rated — it’s more a mealy cooking tomato.

Comments (3)

The Little Garden in the North Woods

Hello friends!

It’s been a long winter/spring/start to summer — I have hardly had a moment to play at blogging since I went back to school in October.

law book
they called the class “criminal procedure” ~ really it is Constitutional law to keep me awake nights reading πŸ™‚

The terms are 8 weeks long, with no break in between save at Christmas and late August. Finally the school heard the students crying for relief; beginning the end of August we will have a week’s break after every term. At last!

Here is where I am working these days… wouldn’t you like to come visit!!? πŸ™‚

view from work
view from my ‘office’ window ~ beautiful caribbean-colored grand traverse bay πŸ™‚

And here are some photos from summertime in the north woods.
Dear G built the ‘little’ garden for me — a giant raised bed — and the plants are growing huge. Now if only we would see a little fruit!

little garden in the north woods
view of the new little garden from the dining room window ~ pure green joy!

tomatoes and ichiban eggplant in the little garden
heirloom tomato plants and ichiban eggplant grow large in the little garden ~ waiting for the heat to bring the fruit

little garden in the north woods
the little garden grows corn and various squashes…

korean squash vines
hoping for some korean gray squash

three sisters garden
a ‘three sisters’ garden ~ plant corn, plant beans to grow up the cornstalks, plant squash to keep the weeds down ~ but the squash are taking over!

buttercup blossom
a buttercup squash blossom with baby squash ~ we need bees to pollinate and there is hardly a bee to be found

indian gourds vining out
snake and ash gourds are vining out…

hopeful beefsteak tomatoes
hopeful “beefsteak tomatoes” of an unknown heirloom variety

black prince tomatoes
black prince tomato plants grown from seed ~ they are flowering now

amish paste tomatoes
the big garden is full to bursting with plants ~ here are amish paste tomatoes and carrots

amish paste tomatoes
amish paste tomatoes coming on ~ we were picking these in October last year

sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are reliable

pepper plantation
Dear G’s favorite ~ the pepper plantation with about 10 varieties! already picking banana peppers here πŸ™‚

serrano peppers in the pepper plantation
yummy serrano peppers ~ my fav!

korean radish growing
korean radishes are starting to heave out of the ground ~ time to make kimchi soon

garden table by dear g
the awesome garden table complete with a sink ~ dear G built it so we can wash veggies outdoors!

first korean radish
and the first korean radish ~ ready for a bath

cherries in the yard
we got a few cherries from the trees in the yard before the birds claimed them…

bird pond
the bird pond with teepee of brush for the bathers to hide in ~ that huge pile in back is just part of the wood dear G has already split for winter warmth

philadelphia vireo
a philadelphia vireo waits to snatch a drink from the pond

male redstart at the pond
dear G got this great shot of the male redstart at the bird pond ~ he’s the orange and black fellow on the right πŸ™‚

And last but not least, the kitties πŸ™‚

lemur the dreamer
lemur the dreamer is the outdoor kitty in summer

gibby
his name is gibby (like gibbous moon) but I like to call him gibbily francis πŸ™‚

kitties
pinks snoozing and daisy snuggling ~ view to the front yard behind

All is cozy in the north woods. How does your garden grow?

Comments (4)

Happy New Year!!

Just a few shots of low-key holiday happenings here in the beautiful north woods…

Wishing you lots of love, good health, and happiness in 2014!

winter birds
pileated woodpeckers in the front yard

meg in the leelanau peninsula
a wintry trip up the leelanau peninsula to show miss m sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore

sleeping bear nat'l lakeshore at Glen Arbor
sleeping bear point as seen from glen arbor ~ snow covered dunes

the new kitchen aid!
for christmas dg and I got ourselves a mutual gift ~ a kitchen aid mixer!!! seen here after whipping up maple buttercream frosting for miss m’s cookies πŸ™‚

pileated woodpecker
pileated woodpecker at the window suet feeder ~ this amazing woodpecker is the size of a crow and so beautiful! we have three around the yard…

red haven peaches
summertime dreaming… locally grown red haven peaches

summer bounty in Oct
more summertime dreaming… the mess of tomatoes still ripening indoors in october

spice cabinet
dg built a new wall cabinet for spices and things… here it is in progress

the tree
the tree

Comments (2)

A Wee Christmas Verse and How To Wrap A Cat

‘Tis the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a kittie is stirring, not even to chase a mouse.
The stockings are hung by the wood stove with care
In hopes that Saint Kittielaus soon will be there.

The kitties are nestled all snug in their chairs
While visions of kittynip dance in their heads.
I’ve thrown down my apron, Meg’s picked up her book,
After hours in the kitchen, we’ve nothing left to cook.

So from Pinks and Daisy, from Gibby and Lemur
From little old Squeaker, asleep by the fire,
We wish you much happiness, your joy our desire.
And let us exclaim as we purr out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a good night!

xmas eve kitty buffet
pre-christmas kitty buffet

xmas eve daisy
daisy, asleep in her chair

xmas eve pinks
pinks has decided he will not be starring in how to wrap a cat for christmas — the sequel

xmas eve squeaker
little squeaker is going on 22 yrs old…

xmas eve deer
magical deer outside ~ late afternoon on christmas eve

german apple pancake
we made german apple pancakes!

the golden boys
the golden boys

my christmas gift!
the best gift any day of the year ~ miss m is here!!

Comments (3)

Weather With You ~ Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans

spicy brinjal with shelly beans
spicy brinjal with shelly beans

More lyrics, tonight πŸ™‚

This time it’s an old favorite by Crowded House.

Listen here or just read, here πŸ™‚

“Walking ’round the room singing Stormy Weather
At 57 Mount Pleasant Street
Well it’s the same room but everything’s different
You can fight the sleep but not the dream

Things ain’t cooking in my kitchen
Strange affliction wash over me
Julius Ceasar and the Roman Empire
Couldn’t conquer the blue sky

Well there’s a small boat made of china
It’s going nowhere on the mantlepiece
Well do I lie like a lounge room lizard
Or do I sing like a bird released

Everywhere you go
Always take the weather with you…”

— excerpt from Weather With You
(Neil Finn / Tim Finn)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Given that choice, this bird will sing, thank you πŸ™‚

If only Nupur had time for another series; let’s say: The A-Z of Weather and Veggies!

I am prepared with “S is for Snow and Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans” πŸ˜‰

wall 'o beans oct 4
wall ‘o beans ~ beginning of october

wall o'beans oct 23
wall o’beans ~ this morning

A heavy, wet snow fell overnight and the sun rose feebly over a winter wonderland complete with frosted trees and garden. Sadly, the weight of the snow was such that the sweet old apple tree out front was nearly toppled. Time will tell whether it recovers.

apple tree snowed under
the poor apple tree ~ nearly touching the ground

With snow covering the plants, and more lurking on the horizon, we hurried to finish harvesting the last of the garden. A few days ago we got in the last of the tomatoes and brinjals, a lot of peppers and a few other goodies. It had been unusually warm so we let the garden grow…

late harvest in northern michigan
late harvest in the north woods ~ few days ago

Today, in the fickle in-and-out sunshine of late afternoon, we picked all of the shelly beans and *another* big mess of papdi beans. I have no doubt these papdi would keep growing and growing. They are flowering yet. Perhaps next year I will plant them where they don’t have to be taken down with the fence! πŸ˜‰

fresh papdi beans ~ variety priya
latest, greatest, and probably last mess of papdi beans ~ these will be prepared simply so DG can get a taste of them πŸ™‚

OK, but what on earth are shelly beans? Good question!

Shelly beans are described nicely here in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and also here at BBB Seeds.

I have grown them in the past, but I didn’t know them as shelly beans. I knew them as horticultural or cranberry beans, and cooked them in succotash only.

Mom sent a few seeds of those cranberry beans for the Michigan garden. Planted in July alongside the Priya papdi beans and the long beans (of mixed variety), they flourished as did the others. When I mentioned the pods were turning cream-and-red, Mom told me to hurry and pick them for shellies.

Shellies. Who knew? I think we picked nearly two quarts of them today.

It may be a little late for them in stores or farm markets. It’s certainly late for them here.

shelly beans in the pod
shelly beans in the pod ~ greener pods yield plain beans, while the ripe cream-colored pod yields speckled beans

After learning about them, I knew what I had to do. I shelled those lovely beans. And then…

I thought of my great kitchen buddy, ISG — and how she always pairs brinjal with beans to such great effect. I know a good dish when I taste one; after years of tasting ISG’s recipes, I had no hesitation. Shamelessly taking my cue from her, (and mostly from her recipe), I dove under the bed to dig through my stash of spices. Armed with fresh coriander seeds (is that an oxymoron??), I headed for the kitchen.

Thus was born…

Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans

for the curry

a mess of brinjals (I had about 20 in all, small and medium)
one large red onion, diced, divided
4-5 medium fresh tomatoes, pureed (about 2 cups)
1 c shelly beans, shelled and boiled 30 min in salted water, drained
thick tamarind water from a large piece (about 1/2 cup)
jaggery to taste
salt to taste

for the paste

dry roast:
1/4 c coriander seeds
2 TB cumin seeds
a few methi seeds
a few curry leaves
3-4 red chiles, seeded (I used fresh from the garden chiles!)

Saute half the diced onion until lightly browned, then grind with the above to a paste.
Set aside.

for the seasoning

1-2 TB canola oil
curry leaves
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing
half the diced onion

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To prepare:

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. When the oil is ready, add urad dal, curry leaves, hing, and mustard seeds. When the seasonings are hot, add half the onion and saute for a few minutes while you prepare the brinjals.*

Add brinjals and saute over med heat until they begin to brown and wilt. Clear a space in the center and add the ground paste. Cook this over medium heat, stirring, until the paste is fragrant. Keep stirring to coat the brinjals.

After five minutes or so, add tamarind water and pureed tomatoes. Mix well. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook about ten minutes. Now taste and add jaggery depending on the sourness. Add a pinch of salt, cover, and simmer until brinjals are tender.

Uncover, stir in the cooked shelly beans and additional salt to taste.

Serve with hot rice to soak up the spicy gravy, and pass the ghee, please!

spicy brinjal and shelly beans curry
oh so spicy brinjal and shelly beans curry ~ thanks for the great idea, ISG!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Slit long brinjals in four pieces, leaving tops intact. Make four cuts in smaller round brinjals. Cut any large brinjals into pieces to match the size of small brinjals. I even had some really tiny ones which I just slit in half as above. I did this while frying the seasonings, so I did not have to worry about discoloration.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are now five cats in the house…

lemur and gibby
the golden boys ~ lemur and gibby

pinksdaisy
pinks and daisy

Little 22 yo Squeaker is out in her cozy bed by the furnace…

All the kitties are safe and warm. All is well, and winter is coming…

I love it here πŸ™‚

the kitties are in :)
the kitties are all snug inside

Comments (7)

Older Posts »
%d bloggers like this: