Friday, July 30, 2010

Setting Up Shop

I've been thinking about how I might be able to make some money doing something that I enjoy while I'm trying to figure out my next employment move - unless I can figure out an alternative to the traditional 9-5.

I carry my camera pretty much everywhere with me. It's not a great fancy camera but it's a good camera and I try to take at least one photo a day but I haven't had anything to do with these photos... I notice lots of cards in local shops with photos on the front and find myself thinking "I could do that" or "I took a picture just like that". And I've spent a fair amount of time poking around on etsy. So, I decided to set up a shop on etsy. It's a bigger undertaking to get everything set up then I anticipated but I'd set myself a deadline of today to have items for sale on etsy so you can now buy some cards in my etsy shop. It's still a work in progress but is at least a start.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toothbrush Holder

We have one of those suction cup toothbrush holders, it holds 2 toothbrushes and sticks to the mirror. Well, it's supposed to stick to the mirror but lately it falls off the mirror so toothbrushes end up in the sink or the trash, thankfully not the toilet... so we need a new solution and something that would hold the heads for our electric toothbrush.

Today I tried to make a toothbrush holder. I wanted it to hold two regular brushes, two electric brush heads and be easy to clean...

I used:
a glass - it's pair had broken so we haven't been using it
wire hanger
pencil - everyone has one with the eraser gone that they don't use anymore
nail polish
pliers with wire cutters
box cutter

cut the eraser off of the pencil, metal part included so there won't be rust, painted the pencil with nail polish to seal in the pencil lead and seal out any water

cut two pieces of hanger, painted them with nail polish, twisted one around the pencil and bent it to stabilize the pencil in the center of the glass, twisted the second piece around the pencil and instead of bending over the glass, twisted to hold the toothbrush heads

So, now we just have to see how it works. It holds what I need it too and should be easy to clean, but it's a bit of a gamble to see if the polish on the pencil will be enough to protect it from water from the brushes or if the wood on the pencil will get messy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pickle Jar

About the only thing I remember about reading Ethan Frome in high school was a day spent analyzing an incident involving a broken pickle dish... this creeps back in to my mind from time to time when I think about pickles...

In summer I find myself eating more pickles, craving the salt, that crisp crunch and juicy cucumber. So I decided to get some pickling cucumbers at the farmers market today. I looked up how to make pickles and it is a more involved process than I had anticipated. Spending the afternoon over a stove, boiling things, did not sound appealing in this heat. And, I'll admit, I've never been one for taking the long way to do something if I think there may be a quicker way. For example, when I bake brownies, instead of sifting three times and adding things slowly I throw everything in to the bowl of the mixer together and they always seem to turn out. So I decided there must be an easier way to make pickles, especially since I'm not making them to preserve and keep around, I know I'll be able to eat them within a week. So I tried two varieties with other items I have on hand, in some glass jars I found - one's an old jam jar.

The Basic:
cut pickles in rounds and fill a jar
pour in white vinegar to fill 3/4 of jar
fill rest of jar with water
add lots of salt

A litte Jazz:
cut pickles in spears
fill jar with pickles
add fennel tops
add garlic cloves, cut in half
add fennel seeds
pour in white vinegar to fill 3/4 of jar
fill rest of jar with water
add lots of salt

So, now I'm going to try to be patient, I'm going to try leaving the pickles in the fridge for three days, and then start snacking!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bicycle Built for One

Another beautiful day... I am thankful for this day, this beautiful weather and for being able to be outside and enjoying it instead of in an office (some days this summer I have missed being in an office simply for the air conditioning). I needed to get some groceries and it seemed like the perfect day for a nice bike ride. Having to keep the bike in the basement I often walk instead of using it because it feels like such a hassle to take it up and down...

Today, no excuses, I brought my bike up, put the saddle bags on, took a long ride down the bike path and stopped by the grocery store on the way home. I picked up the ingredients to try a new recipe that I think I'll add some lentils to and make a fruit salad so we can have a picnic dinner in the backyard tonight.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Invasion in the Yard

Japanese knotweed strikes me as one of those things that's been around since the dinosaurs and would survive atomic explosions.

It is an incredibly beautiful summer day. The humidity is gone, it's lovely and warm, not disgustingly hot outside, so outside seems like the place to be. I have been making many excuses for why I haven't been doing much in the yard - mostly because of the hot and humid weather. Our yard gets direct sun for most of the day but in the morning and then late afternoon are great times to work in the yard, so today, first thing, I headed out to weed. That's where the knotweed comes in. The back quarter of our yard has knotweed sprouting up everywhere. We have dug 3 foot holes tracing roots into the ground, we even resorted to spraying in the hopes that we could stop digging holes in the yard... the ones that get sprayed die but five more grow right up around them. Although I hear there are some benefits to this w
eed, if we were beekeepers or needed a laxative but neither are the case, so we'd like it gone.
Today's activity was to attack this invader.

At the bottom right of the picture you can see how thick the main root is, about 2 inches in diameter. I dug and pulled and threw remnants into the yard waste (because I don't want to risk it in the compost), until the sun crept in and heated up my work area. With that kind of a root, which probably runs across the yard and in to the neighbors yards too I'm not sure we'll ever be rid of this weed, but if I can get out there in the morning and pull it up when it breaks through the top layer of dirt then we should at least be able to control it.
If not, our yard will probably look like this!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Free Rain

Today my plan was to take advantage of one of the free summer activities in the city. Friday night there's a free movie on the grass by the river, you can bring a picnic, watch the movie, enjoy being outside... it was finally a little cooler than it has been and as I was coming home from a walk I was trying to think about what I had in the house that could become a picnic dinner when I felt a drop. It was not alone. It started as a light rain that I thought might pass until I ended up waiting under a bus shelter in a downpour for a bus to come take me home. So, my plan was thwarted, no picnic and a movie outside, even if the rain did stop in time the grass would be a wet mess to sit on... so we chose one of the movies we have and had a picnic and a movie in the living room instead.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Picture This

After spending an afternoon with friends, thinking about all the things we'd done together, I was inspired to go looking for photographic proof of our adventures. As I began my search I realized that I had not kept anything organized, photos thrown in a box and what seems like every digital photo I've ever taken dumped on my computer. I grew up with 'collectors' who had a vision for the someday need or repurpose of random items and I inherited some of that and have been fighting against it recently to get better at downsizing and only keeping what I need (meaning I use). I still have lots of random items around but I'm trying. Photos have often been one of those things that are hard for me to let go of, it's like throwing out a memory, but if I'm not looking at them anyway then why hold on to them and if there are so many photos I skip over to get to the 'good ones' or I don't bother looking for the 'good ones' because there's too much to skip over then what am I doing? So, I've started what will be a much over due project because it will take time but I am going through my photos both printed and digital and throwing many of them away. I may also take it a step further and scan in all the prints so that everything is digital and I then also free up some space on my shelves.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peanuty Pumpkin Leaves

Today at the farmer's market one of the stands had a pile of pumpkin stalks, leaves, tendrils, all still attached... While I was looking at other things at the stand, two women were very excited to see the pumpkin stalks and filled up three bags with them. Witnessing that kind of a response to these pumpkin parts combined with my curiosity about learning how to eat the whole plant, I was sold and bought a bunch.

I did some research and from what I found you only eat the leaves. Most of the recipes I found had the same instructions so I went with this Pumpkin Leaves in Peanut Sauce. The other ingredients in the recipe where things I already had in the house, even the suggestion of serving over pasta, so it worked out well. I ate the peanut pumpkin leaves over udon. It was fun to try something I wouldn't usually cook and discover something I would cook again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Early Bird Owns the City

I like getting up early. This does not mean that it's easy for me to get myself out of bed or that I even consistently get up that early since I'm not having to get to work. This morning though it was easy. I was excited because I was going to spend the afternoon with friends and my ride was leaving from downtown so I got myself together early to do one of my favorite things that has been long neglected... an early morning walk around the city.

I highly recommend early morning walks. I need to do more of them. I don't live downtown anymore and sometimes I miss it but I'm not far enough out of the city for any excuses to not spend time in the city (although I come up with plenty of excuses). So, this morning, I got up early and headed downtown. The streets were quiet, I walked through the garden and got to watch some baby ducks. It feels like you have the whole city to yourself, like you are in charge and out to survey your kingdom. There were a few people here and there, we'd nod to each other in recognition and continue on our own paths, enjoying this rare quiet that changes the perspective on the place. And if you stay, get a coffee, grab a seat on a bench, you can watch the city awaken, watch people begin to emerge, traffic begin to form, the city's heartbeat begins to pulse - harder, faster - as it awakens and you slip back from your role as head of the kingdom and slip in with the life of the city.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Childhood Treats

After writing to my grandma last week she must have stayed on my mind. As I keep searching the fridge for food I keep running into chocolate syrup. And yes, there is a connection. All of the cousins love lunch at grandma's house. One of the best parts about it was these shiny metal cups in bright colors we would fight over and then we could fill them... we'd get to make chocolate milk to go with lunch. So today I'm recreating a happy memory and using up some of the stuff in my fridge.

chocolate syrup

put syrup in a glass, add milk and stir until mixed, add more syrup if not chocolatey enough
For a more adult version and a little kick (no not booze although that would work too) add some coffee

Cheers to grandmothers everywhere and happy memories!

Friday, July 16, 2010


The lost art of letter writing. It's always exciting when an actual letter or postcard comes in the mail, mixed in with the bills and fliers, this little piece of connection to someone. My grandma is great at writing letters. My parents haven't sent a Christmas card in longer than I can remember. Now with email, text messages, social networking, the art of the letter has started to disappear. It is 'more green' to use email than the postal service but the less mail there is the less postal service jobs there will be and there is already plenty of unemployment...

I received my monthly letter from my grandma, telling about what my cousins are doing, reminding me that I haven't been very good at keeping in touch... so today will be about keeping in touch, instead of going out and buying a thinking of you card, I'll make a card.

I have a lot of digital photos on my computer, so I picked one for the audience, a photo from our recent hike up Katahdin which will also give me something to write about. Now I'll just have to go buy a stamp...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vinegar and Elbow Grease

It incredible that you can add vinegar to your food as well as use it to wash the floors, remove wallpaper glue and I'm sure do many other things. And since I have vinegar in the kitchen I don't have to go out and spend money on any fancy products.
There was awful wallpaper in the bathroom (jungle print, a fabric paper) so I pulled it off when we first moved in. I did not however, finish the job, so around the walls it looked like this
So today was a day to finish what I'd started. I had an old cleaning spray container in the recycling so I took that, put in vinegar and warm water, used a multi-purpose tool with a flat edge and had at it, spraying the paper until thoroughly wet and then it scraped right off easily.
Since it's a small room I knew we'd have enough paint kicking around to be able to finish this project I'd started months ago. I found paint, then I removed the shelves, toilet paper holder, face plate around the light switch etc. and started painting.
Now it feels like we have a brand new bathroom all with just a coat of paint.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Crispy Kale

Rainy day today... a little relief from some of the heat is great but getting motivated to get out of the house today was a little more challenging. Since, it's farmers market day for the market just blocks away I knew I had to find some motivation.
I got there about a half hour after the market opened. It was busy because people were out there during their lunch break but because it was early I had my pick of fruits and veggies so the crowd was worth it.

I've been seeing kale chips at the local market but they charge about $7 and with the weather a little cooler it didn't seem like a bad day to turn the oven on so I got a bunch of lacinato kale and crisped it up.

olive oil
garlic powder
chipotle chili pepper powder

Turn oven on to 250
wash and dry kale, cut stem out, chop kale into the size chips you want, put in large bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, add salt and desired spices (I tried with garlic and chipotle but think you could use whatever flavor appeals to you), toss together, put in single layer on cookie sheet and put in the oven for 1/2 hour until crisp

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Latte Ice Cream

I keep thinking about a coffee shop in Manhattan that makes delicious maple lattes with real maple syrup... I thought about experimenting with making one from home but in this weather I don't want hot coffee. One of those things I've been putting off is making homemade ice cream, utilizing my Kitchenaid mixer so I decided to make Maple Latte Ice Cream. I looked up some ice cream recipes to get a basis to come up with my own formula. This made a small batch. I've been keeping the ice cream freezer bowl in the freezer so I didn't have to wait the 15 hours for that to be ready to use.

2 cups nonfat milk
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. in a pot on the stove bring milk and half and half to just before boiling, stirring periodically
  2. add maple syrup and salt, stirring constantly, remove from heat just before it boils
  3. separate eggs, beat the yolks together until smooth
  4. whisk yolks into milk mixture, put back on the stove and heat until it just begins to boil
  5. remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and coffee
  6. put in the fridge for 6 hours to cool
  7. once cool, set up ice cream maker, pour the milk mixture in and mix on stir for 20 minutes, if it is not solid enough put ice cream in a freezer safe container and put in freezer to solidify

Monday, July 12, 2010

Eating the Compost

At a visit to the farmers market over the weekend I picked up some radishes. We compost at our house but those greens do take up a lot of space in my bag so sometimes I ask the farmers if they will keep the greens (for their compost). So, when purchasing the radishes I asked if they would keep the greens.
"Sure, if you want, but you know you can eat
radish greens" the woman replied
"Just saute them"

So, I kept the greens. I was bit nervous because when handling radish greens I often have a small alergic reaction, my skin gets irritated small red bumps, but curiosity won out. Here's what I tried
1 bunch radish greens (dirt and bugs washed off)
3 cloves garlic
olive oil
I put some oil and garlic in a frying pan, threw in the radish greens and sauteed until thoroughly wilted. They weren't bad. If I'm paying for the greens anyway when I get radishes I may as well eat them too!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Give It Away

Everybody has things that they're not using and will probably never use but other people may get some use out of these abandoned treasures. I have been putting off sorting through old clothes, dishes. household items that for me are just taking up space. Although at one time I used them they haven't been used for at least a year and I don't have that much space in my apartment to keep things I am not going to use. I also do not see the point in holding on to something that I'm not using when someone else could enjoy using it. Although sometimes sentimental value makes it hard to let go of things.
Today I tackled those corners in the closet, the back of the dresser, the top of kitchen cabinets...

I collected this pile of clothes and miscellaneous items that have been neglected in recent years and took them down to the Goodwill. It was great to get the house cleaned up a bit and make a charitable donation, since it's not a good time for me to be making monetary donations to charities it provided me with a way of giving back without having to open my wallet.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Take the Long Way

I have found that I often feel an urgency to be home during the hours I would have been at work. This is crazy. I should be enjoying and exploring and not sitting on the couch. We had rented a car to go to Maine over the weekend. After returning the rental car my first instinct was to jump on the bus and rush home... but I was also half a block from the bike path that runs back to my house. So, today I took the long way. I've never walked on this part of the path before although so it was a new adventure and a lovely 5 mile walk.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Want s'more?

One of the best parts about camping is the s'mores. I always end up coming home with extra ingredients, so why not use them up making s'mores at home? Today's new adventure was an experiment with making them at home.

Here's how I did it...
gas stove
fondue fork
graham cracker

Get your graham cracker ready, put the chocolate on top, roast the marshmallow over a gas burner (be careful! it cooks quickly and catches on fire easily), once browned and crisped the way you like it put it on the prepared graham cracker and devour.


Cheap and easy aren't just college nicknames anymore. We ended up going to a family reunion in Northern Maine for the 4th and decided to extend the weekend a bit staying the cheapest place we could think of, a campsite. Since Baxter State Park was on our way home we headed there. What a great inexpensive vacation! Since we did car camping, we didn't have to pack in anything so we could throw anything we thought we might need in the car.

It also meant a few days without internet or cell phone reception. It's incredible how those conveniences suddenly seem like a sacrifice to be away from. As if it is some great challenge to not have this access, it was really a wonderful thing to be able to be present in the moment and connect with the surroundings. Being without the social network of a workplace it can seem especially hard to give up anything that seems like it would be losing more connection to people but to do it for a few days was great.

July 5th my new cheap things for the unemployed for the day... camping (which I've never done in Maine before or at all for at least ten years) which was a great, inexpensive way to vacation - which are current qualifiers for vacation.

And I saw my first moose. He was just hanging out in a pond,munching on pond things...

July 6th...hiking. We hiked the Northern End of the Appalachian Trail, up to Baxter Peak on Katahdin. Hiking is great, connecting with nature, getting exercise, gaining some perspective and clarity...

There were no tent sites available our second night so we spent the night in a lean-to, which was a first. It was a great way to stay - not having to try to fold the tent back up into it's little bag removed some stress. And had there been a rain storm this would have been more effective in keeping us dry than our tent.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Starting Small

I know that I need to drink more water... so today I'll start off with a small thing for today, dressing up my water so I'll drink more of it.
I found a half gallon bottle (who doesn't have a growler kicking around?), cleaned it, put in a sprig of mint, half a sliced lemon, left it in the sun for an hour and put it in the fridge.
After every glass I'm refilling the water and three glasses in the water is refreshing with a little flavor and the added water still seems to be getting the lemon mint flavors... and so far it's getting me to drink more water!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


This independence day I am going to celebrate my independence from work!
After nine years of social service I am not sure what is next for me. I need to reconnect with my passion, rediscover what I enjoy doing and take advantage of this time, this time to decide on next steps and this time to get back to all those things I have put off, around the apartment, the yard, and all those foods I talk about cooking, crafts I talk about trying, or walks I talk about taking... so I am going to try, try to do one new thing a day (except for weekends because everybody needs a break).

Today's new thing... starting this blog.