Archive for Great Lakes

Gardening in the Cool of the North Woods

back garden complete with bat house
the little garden in the north woods ~ the red house on the pole is the bat house that dear G built to entice the creatures to our yard and gardens ~ first he built the house, then he hauled in a tree trunk and affixed the house to the top, then he *dug a hole* to set it in the ground ~ he is so clever :)

Hello friends!

I’m thankful to say that the 5th term of school is over and there are still a few days before the 6th begins. We were able to take a quick trip to the Upper Peninsula in search of boats and birds and agates… then home to tend the gardens before heading back to work tomorrow.

grand sable dunes
sunset over grand sable dunes in the UP ~ storm rolling in

It’s been a very cool summer — things are growing, but s l o w l y….

back garden
the little garden out back ~ corn tops out at about 8′ high!

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts growing in the big garden ~ waiting for fall to produce

korean radish
korean radishes have been a surprise success ~ I’ve already made Maangchi’s Kkakdugi with a few!

korean squash
korean squash baby with blossom waiting to open

maybe a kobocha?
winter squash have been another surprise success ~ this one’s a mystery ~ buttercup? kabocha?

pepper plantation
the pepper plantation is flourishing in spite of the cool weather

ridge gourd blossom
beautiful ridge gourd blossom

summer squash
summer squash was planted late

sunflowers bring the goldfinches and other birds

Tonight I made rasavangi with the first of the brinjals (yep, first! in August!?) and a Korean squash. It was based loosely on this recipe from Sruthi’s Kitchen — completely delicious!

Sadly the tomatoes all have a disease which is killing the foliage — but doesn’t seem to stop the fruit from growing. Here’s hoping for heat to ripen them before frost.

How does your garden grow?

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 :)

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!!? :)

view from work
view from my ‘office’ window ~ beautiful caribbean-colored grand traverse bay :)

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 :)

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 :)

And last but not least, the kitties :)

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

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

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)

Weather With You ~ Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans

spicy brinjal with shelly beans
spicy brinjal with shelly beans

More lyrics, tonight :)

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

Listen here or just read, here :)

“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 :)

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” ;)

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! ;)

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 :)

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

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 :)

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

Comments (7)

Up North Rocks

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan rocks — literally and figuratively!

Just back from a glorious mini-break, I am happily faced with two hundred-plus pics to go through (not bad for three days!) and a garden full of produce to preserve.

I promised pickles for dear sra and pickles I shall post soon.

For tonight, just a quick few photos from the lovely autumn days in the UP. The river shots are just for my dear friend ISG — we all know she is a river girl at heart! :)

muskallonge lake
muskallonge lake ~ view from the eastern shore

lake superior
lake superior shoreline

a tiny agate
a tiny agate… (lake superior rock!)

tahquamenon river
the tahquamenon river

cut river
the cut river where it flows into Lake Michigan

lake michigan ~ view from US2
looking west from US 2 ~ Lake Michigan in the UP

More UP fun to come — but next up — pickles, chutney and perhaps tomato jam :)

Comments (1)

Going “Up North”

beanstalks grow on this huge sunflower...
beans are climbing up this huge sunflower…

Now that I live in the “northern lower”, a trip “up north” to the Upper Peninsula isn’t such an undertaking — all I need is a few days off and a car as opposed to a few weeks off and a plane ticket!

Here is where I am headed…

When I get back I hope to have some great new photos — perhaps even some foodie stuff too! (such as pickles, sra?) :)

lake superior ~ yum!
lake superior

Comments (2)

It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, OOPS I Mean Toledo! Moving Home Part Four

Warning warning! Long post, not much food either. I’d best hurry along with this ‘moving home’ story before I’ve been home a whole year!

Do you ever make up your own lyrics? I did :)

I was playing with words when I put this title down — I was thinking (and singing in my mind) “it’s a long way to tipperary, it’s a long way to go… it’s a long way to tipperary, with the sweetest guy I know…”

Then I came to google the song and found it is an old WWI song, which has been translated into Kannada as something of a parody — how cool is that :)

If you care to hear the song, in English or Kannada or instrumental — here are a few links — I don’t pretend to have done thorough or proper research ;)

version one ~ mitch miller big band

version two ~ TP Kailasam Eternal Song ~ kannada

version three ~ dixieland

the lobby at erie

gallery of fossils
gallery of fossils embedded in a rock wall ~ outside the motel lobby at Erie

what was this...?
I wonder what creature this was in its long-ago life…

From Erie, with its fascinating fossils in the rock outside the motel, we drove down past the harbor where we saw one lone tug-barge combo, similar to this.

No time to stop for photos of the harbor, nor of the gracious homes lining the waterfront road — we were Toledo-bound and the temperature was rising fast. I was excited however, for today! Because we like the beautiful freighters that ply the Great Lakes (some might call us boatnerds), I planned this leg of the journey to take us along the shores of Lake Erie. Erie was the only one of the five Great Lakes I had yet to see, and it’s home to several port cities I had read about for years.

We set off early, in order to take the scenic route and avoid highway driving as long as possible. Traveling west on US20, we crossed the state line into Ohio.

ohio welcomes us!
requisite state welcome sign for the scrapbook

My first glimpse of the real Lake Erie was just a few miles ahead, at Conneaut (I didn’t count the harbor at Erie PA!). There, the dormant grasses waved in the morning sunshine and I was able to walk down onto the sand and bask in the beauty of the wide open water. Something about the Great Lakes speaks to me; Lake Erie on this hot blustery day did not disappoint.

wild grass at conneaut
grasses at conneaut

lake erie at conneaut
lake erie at Conneaut ~ hot and hazy day

lighthouse on lake erie
west breakwater light at Conneaut ~ loads of gulls on the jetty, and loads of ducks in the water ~ probably mergansers

From Conneaut, we meandered along Lake Road to the next stop, Ashtabula — home to an active Coast Guard Station, interesting bridges, and a rich maritime heritage. Ashtabula County itself is evidently home to many covered bridges as well. I wish there had been time to visit the Hulett unloader at Point Park. A vacation to Ohio may be in order!

ashtabula lift bridge
lift bridge at Ashtabula ~ every flag along the way was at half-mast for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing…

coal conveyor at ashtabula
interesting coal conveyor at Ashtabula

closeup of the conveyor
close up of the operation ~ complete with old coast guard house and fish tug tied up to the dock

vinca in bloom at the Ashtabula CGS

Leaving Ashtabula, we continued along the back roads through Geneva-on-the-Lake, a little tourist town which was still boarded up for the winter. You could envision it humming with summertime activity; like so many places on Cape Cod, the shuttered shops seemed to call out “come back on Memorial Day!” as we passed by.

By now it was nearly 100F in the car; concerned for the cats, we headed onto the highway to skirt around the crowded metropolis of Cleveland. Exiting west of the big city, we made one final sightseeing stop at the port of Lorain. The wind had really picked up and the water was a little choppy. A complex of purple martin houses stood at the shore — a surprise perk!

lakeview park
lakeview park at Lorain

lighthouse at lorain
lighthouse at Lorain

purple martin in flight
purple martin takes flight on the edge of Lake Erie

here's lookin' at you, kid!
purple martin on his front doorstep ~ here’s lookin’ at you kid!

Taking leave of Lorain, it was back onto the freeway to be blown — and I do mean *blown* — directly into Toledo. Never have I known such a strong crosswind while driving. Across the farmland of western Ohio, it was all I could do to hang onto the steering wheel! What a relief it was to unload our weary selves, along with two weary, hot little kitties, at the motel in Toledo. It was raining hard — severe thunderstorms had passed shortly before our arrival. In the aftermath of the downpour, I ventured out for our only takeout meal of the entire trip — the famous Tony Packo’s (apologies to any non-meat eaters)!

Notes on our travel through Ohio:

By this time, we were wise to Miss Daisy’s ways and let her ride in her cat carrier. There, she was somewhat shaded from the sun and content to be in her own little house. The carrier has mesh sides, so she always had a view of big brother Pinks riding along beside her in his bed. It was an unseasonably warm day for mid-April. In the car, the thermometer quickly reached 90F, then 100F.

Worried about the cats in such heat, we made frequent stops to be sure they were hydrated. For me, it was like having babies again.
We soaked paper toweling with cold water and squeezed it into their little mouths to be sure they were getting a drink — like it or not. Both cats got sponge baths at every stop, too. I can never thank dear G enough for being so diligent and helpful in caring for the kitties on that trip — and ever since.

They are truly now *our* kitties :)

ohio kitties
kitties in the hot ohio sunshine

a weary dear G, leaning on the steadfast Subby ~ Toledo after the storm


Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, we are swimming in cucumbers and more. Coming soon: pickles!

a million pickles!

Comments (7)

Cleaning The Fridge and Shrimp with Bamboo Shoots in Spicy Coconut Curry

celebrity tomatoes
here come the tomatoes ~ if only they have time to ripen!

In the new home, I find myself sharing kitchen space. It’s a most delightful experience for me. Who wouldn’t love to have another interested cook in the kitchen — especially one who is willing to chop all the onions I desire, and even asks, “how finely chopped do you want them?”!!

That is none other than dear G, a whiz with onions, pizza crust, and much more.

When I arrived with my assortment of must-haves, a full fridge swelled to overflowing. I knew it could be transformed into a more functional space, but I couldn’t just swoop in and take over. The situation called for tact and timing. Fortunately, what I may lack in the former, I often make up for in the latter.

That, or I am just lucky ;)

The other day I discovered the Chill Out and Clean Out over at
One Hot Stove. Talk about great timing! Here was the perfect opportunity to pitch my plan. Thanks Nupur!

Given the green light from G, I set out in earnest to fix the fridge.

I thought about how I cook — I am constantly bending and stooping and digging to find something hidden way at the back of the bottom shelf, simply because the jar is big and heavy. Why not have easy access to the things I use most often?

I also wanted to open up the space to make it easier to find *anything*.

One hurdle was the sheer number of bottles and jars. Mustards, relishes, homemade pickles, and numerous ingredients for my cooking passions, Indian, Korean and beyond — many of which require refrigeration — are in residence.

The first idea, which allowed me to free up plenty of shelf space, was to store the smaller bottles of less frequently used condiments (Chinese mustard, for example, or Jamaican jerk paste) in one of the crisper drawers.

Then I removed a middle shelf which made a narrow space, perfect for hiding cans of cat food, sliced turkey, bits of cheese, half an onion, and the like. I found a suitable plastic box to act as deli drawer, and placed it on the bottom shelf. Take that, scraps of cheese and onion! Another box on the top shelf holds condiments that won’t fit in the door, but would tip easily on a wire shelf.

In the door itself, I placed the condiments we use most often — now they’re at our fingertips. The giant bottle of ketchup has been relegated to the back of the top shelf — but at least it’s easy to find! ;)

G is not so sure about having a drawer full of condiments instead of veggies. I hope those veggies sitting out on the bottom shelf — always in sight and easy to grab — will translate to fewer forlorn, forgotten bunches of green onions melting away into green goo in the corner of the ‘crisper’. You know what I mean :)

One result of the reorganization is this: I have resolved to stop buying giant bottles of anything unless I know it will be used quickly (jars of ginger and garlic paste would be an exception, for example). When my evil penny-pinching twin whispers in my ear that I will save 3 cents per ounce if I just get that gigantic bottle, I am going to remember just how long it took to use up the gigantic bottle — not to mention the contents aren’t so fresh at the end of year four ;)
A savings of pennies per ounce may seem wise at time of purchase, but if I have to pitch out that bottle months down the road, I will have wasted more than I saved to begin with.

I have also resolved to redouble my effort to cook with what’s on hand rather than giving in to my frequent I-feel-like-chicken-tonight whims. In that spirit, I made a coconut curry based partly on a favorite of mine: Goan Shrimp a la Bong Mom, and partly on
this delicious looking recipe which I found showcased at
Divya’s Recipes. Thanks ladies!!

I had shrimp in the freezer. I added bamboo shoots that I picked up at Asian Delight Marketplace when the kids flew home. Hooray for Grand Rapids — the closest ethnic markets are just hours away! ;)

Shrimp and Bamboo Shoots in Spicy Coconut Curry

For the paste:

4-6 dried red chiles
6 cloves garlic
6 peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2″ cinnamon
a few cloves

Toast the above until fragrant.

Grind to a paste with:

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Keep aside in the grinder.

For the curry:

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (sprinkle the shrimp with turmeric and a little salt and leave to rest while cooking the following)

2 tsp canola oil
1 big onion, chopped
2 green chiles, seeded if desired, and chopped
curry leaves to taste
2 TB dried coconut (optional but adds great aroma!)
1 tomato, chopped
the reserved paste
3 medium fresh bamboo shoots, diced **see note below**
1 can coconut milk

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pot, add the onion and chiles, and cook for a few minutes. Add the curry leaves and optional dried coconut. Saute over medium heat until the onion turns color and the coconut aroma fills the kitchen :) Add the chopped tomato and cook a few minutes longer.

Add the reserved paste. Rinse out the grinder with a little fresh water and add this to the pot too. Cook a few minutes, to bring out the flavor of the paste.

Now add the diced bamboo shoots and mix well. Let this simmer for 20-30 min over med-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the dish is nearly dry and very fragrant, add the coconut milk. Raise the heat to medium high and watch carefully, stirring often. When the curry is just below the boil, add the shrimp and mix well.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for about 6-8 minutes or until the shrimp are just pink. Time will vary depending on size of shrimp.

When the shrimp are pink, remove from the heat and cover. Let it sit for an additional 5-10 minutes to be sure the shrimp are cooked through. They will continue to cook from the residual heat, and in doing so should not become tough.

This is a very interesting and rich, flavorful dish, which I served with soft barley rice (1 c rice, 1/2 c barley, 3 c water — soak for 30 min then cook per your usual rice rule).

As usual, it was even better as leftovers the next day.

**note on bamboo shoots — I purchased water packed shoots that looked something like the photo here. I wish I had those on top when I took the ‘before pics’ of the fridge, but I did get a shot of some narrower shoots packed in similar fashion. Bamboo tends to be very bitter tasting to me — I cut these puppies up and brought them to a boil in lightly salted water, then drained them, covered in fresh water and let them sit a good 30 minutes before using.

Let me add that it’s well worth the effort/expense to try these fresh(er) shoots as opposed to the garden variety canned version. Even after all that boiling/soaking/further cooking, they are so crunchy and tasty!


I am too late for Nupur’s deadline, but I thought it would be fun to fill out the virtual survey regardless!

before pics of fridge

eek! what a mess!
yikes, what a mess!

good grief! :)

and more...
and the drawers…

The most unusual/exotic/interesting item in your fridge: homemade kimchi

Three items you always have in your fridge: ginger and garlic pastes, tamarind, sesame oil (only three!??) :)

The oldest item in your fridge: strawberry jam from the Keweenaw Peninsula, purchased in 2006!

Item(s) from the fridge that needed to be used and how you used it/them up in meals or recipes: ate up the aforementioned jam on toast :) made milk into yogurt, didn’t cook for a week eating leftovers, consolidated all store-bought horseradish and spicy brown mustard and ghee into one jar each, and so forth.

after pics of fridge
easier to find things!
lighter and brighter ~ complete with homemade yogurt in mason jars, yum!

look mom ~ nothing falling over!
much better!

my favorite!
and my favorite part ~ the condiment drawer!

And that’s all folks… I can’t believe how long this post is. If you made it this far, you deserve a medal — or at least a serving of shrimp and bamboo shoots! ;)

shrimp and bamboo shoots in coconut curry
shrimp and bamboo shoots bathed in rich coconut curry

Comments (6)

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