Archive for the ‘musings_home’ Category

>Mad Science And The Potted Plants

>For the past couple of months WizKid has been working on a science project for his end of the year final. In Connections Academy these are called “portfolio” assignments and generally come with a rather hefty grade value attached. This particular assignment is worth a whopping 42% of his over all grade.

Being Mr. Little Grow Green who wants to save the ecosystems of the world, end poverty, eliminate pollution, waste and over consumption and do away with false foods (yes mom has taught him well), he chose a basic project of hydroponic mediums vs soil for plant growth.

The concept was simple; take three identical plants (basil) and plant each in a different growth medium.
One in plain potting soil.
One in gravel and sand.
One in nutrient rich water.

Over the space of two months record if any had a better growth rate than the others and if there were any noticeable advantages or disadvantages between the three.

To be honest the results were nearly what we expected and not overly surprising.

At first the basil in sand struggled and had to be watered every day. I think the gravel to sand ratio was too high, favoring the gravel, and the sand couldn’t hold enough of the water. A nylon rope was threaded through the hole in the bottom of the pot to act as a wick to draw moisture unto the roots.
It was very touch and go for several weeks but that little guy held in. Then one day it just started growing really well. Wiz thinks the roots finally grew enough to absorb the water it needed.

The soil pot did great of course as soil plants do. The only annoying issue, and one of the reasons we want to have all the plants in the house hydroponic, is soil becomes it’s own ecosystem and a breeding ground for pests. Little tiny flies especially that never seem to go away.

Th water plant did good for a few weeks but it started growing algae and it was very difficult to control. Sad to say it finally succumbed to the greater power. Such a tragic day when herbs die.

We had a moment if silence in the kitchen for our lost comrade and made basil baguettes in its honor. (with the healthy basil of course)

Over all I preferred the sand medium of the three and I would like to employ this method again. I do think I will mix a good portion of perlite or vermiculite in with the sand to give it that extra water retention power.
The benefit of this is it’s virtually a pest free medium. The disadvantage is the pots are far heavier and if you decide to plant something say like a tree, you’ll need a dolly truck to move it.

WizKid is nearly finished with his Power Point and I have no doubt he will get a perfect grade.
As for mom here, I couldn’t be prouder.

Doesn’t hurt I got two healthy basil plants out of the deal as well.

A girls gotta be practical right?

-——————-——————-——————-——————

Want to try your own sand plant? Here’s a basic instruction to get you started with the modifications I will use next time. I’ll add more photos to the post when I do another one of these.

Note: these instructions are based on an 8 inch pot, adjust all sizes, weights amounts etc accordingly based on the size of pot you use.

Materials

1 8 inch plant pot with a drain hole and water dish
1 plant of your choice; I prefer herbs or edible flowers..
Enough fine play sand or decorative sand (found in the flower arrangement section of Walmart or craft store) to fill the pot 3/5 full
1/5 pot worth of aquarium or small pebble decorative gravel
1 bag perlite potting mix (the bubbly white stuff you see in plant soil)
6 inches nylon, cotton or other water retention rope, 1/2 inch minimum
3 or 4 square blocks of wood or other flat solid material that are 1 inch wide by 1/4 to 1/2 inches high based. PVC ring fittings are also ideal. They come in all sizes and are rot proof and can ensure a perfectly even base.

Assembly

In a sturdy bucket mix 4 parts sand to 1 part gravel to 2 parts perlite.

Gently gently clean all dirt and soil from plant roots.

Unwind of carefully fray both ends of the rope. Then In plant pot, thread the rope through the hole leaving 2 inches dangling outside the bottom of the pot.

Holding the rope in the center of the pot add about one inch of the sand mixture to hold the rope firmly in place. You may want to place the pot on a rag or towel to prevent the sand from draining out of the hole.

Here’s the tricky part; dangle the plant in the center of the pot letting the roots pool just slightly on the layer of sand. with one hand hold the rope and plant together being sure the rope and roots are closely entwined or touching. With the other hand add a 1/2 to 1 inch layer of perlite on top of the first sand mixture.

Keeping the plant centered, gently add sand mixture to the pot up to one inch from the top (this will vary depending on the size of your pot, use your judgement).

Place the wood blocks evenly spaced in the water dish. These will become a support for the plant to rest on giving space for the rope to lie unobstructed at the bottom of the plate.

Carefully place the plant on top of the blocks, it’s heavy so make sure you know where you’re going to put this baby ahead of time.

Feed the plant with nutrient rich solution every day at first to soak the sand and perlite giving the roots time to adapt and suck up enough water.

Water as needed.

NOTE: if you find the plant is not absorbing enough water from the plate you can remove the blocks and place the plant directly in the dish. Be sure to coil the exposed rope in the center so it is not pinched or the plant unstable.

Did you try this project? Would love to hear from you.

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>My Kitchen Addictions

>It’s well known I need to invest in company stock or get help for my serious dependence on all things Apple.

What you may not know however is I have several other “infatuations” hiding in the drawers in my kitchen. I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re obsessions or addictions since any good cook knows you have to have the tools of the trade.
Medicine Man likes to refer to it as “my martial art”. He says cooking is my own form of Zen practice because Of how it soothes me.

Some women go ga-ga over a new pair of shoes, or jewelry or the idea of spending hours trolling the jungles of dressing rooms and clothing racks to emerge laden with packages, boxes and bags of new clothes.

EWWWWWW!!!!!

I dread shopping for clothes and would happily employ a fashion guru to measure me, buy my clothes and pick out my outfits each day. DRAG!

My kitchen is my sanctuary. The place I pay homage to names like Betty Crocker, Julia Childs and Le Cordon Bleu.

Today I found these, I needed them, I did….no I did seriously. I needed more. I had to throw the others ones out because they had been chewed, melted, chopped and mangled. It was time to replace them.

They’re by Nordic Ware and I just loved the colors! I picked up this four pack of large spatulas and in addition a three pack of adorable little matching ones.
Ok…I also picked up a set of two others that were specific to cake and frosting and had these super pretty clear handles.

Out with the old..in with the new.

These colorful little beauties will be added to the drawer entirely dedicated to wooden spoons and spatulas.

Please don’t ask me how many I have of those and in how many different shapes and sizes.

It’s really quite embarrassing.

Outside of cooking utensils I have to come clean with my other two……dependencies. Yes that is an appropriate name for them, well at least one of them.

Measuring cups. You have to have them. Cooking DEPENDS on them. You NEED them. And personally I am of the mind you can’t have enough. So here you are, here are SOME of my measuring instruments and I don’t feel the least bit guilty for any of them.

That’s nothing compared to some kithens I’ve seen. But if you’re not happily enslaved to your kitchen like many are, here’s a quick lesson for you (and justification for buying as many measuring cups, bowls and pinch pots as your hearts desire).

The most important thing you should do before cooking anything is to prepare your ingredients. The French refer to this as ” mis en place “. It means “established” or literally “put in place”.
The reason being is everything should be out and ready to add as soon as the recipe calls for it. This prevents overcooking, burning, coagulation or any other myriad of problems that are just waiting to spoil a wonderful dish.
The other reason is to ensure you don’t get half way through your recipe and find you are missing a key ingredient because everything will be “in place.”

I love them all dearly but the shot glasses are my favorite because they make measuring out small amount of liquid easy with no mess.

And yes you don’t have to say it….my camera and I were NOT getting along today. It’s really a love-hate relationship at this point.

This brings us to my WORSE addiction. I can’t help myself and other than using “mis en place” and the fact I love single serving sized dishes as an excuse…I have none for this….

(sigh)

I can’t help myself.

I LOVE ramekins. If butter were a dish…it would be a ramekin in my world. The only reason I don’t have more is I have no more space in my kitchen for them. I would have a whole pantry full of them if I could.

I would have them in every color of the rainbow, every shape and size imaginable and die happy.

The best thing you could do is keep me away from Amazon.com or Home Goods. ESPECIALLY Home Goods where they seem to have the more incredible rotating stock of ramekins.

See those with the scalloped edges up there? Just bought them a couple of weeks back and you don’t want to know how hard it was to walk out of the store with just the white. They came in purple, teal, red, yellow and green as well.

PAINFUL!

So there you have it. Those are my worst addictions in my kitchen…..but not my only ones.

Do you have cooking or kitchen obsessions?

Go on….admit them here.

I’m certainly not going to judge.
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>Oh How Does Your Garden Grow

>Mary Mary quite contrary….how does your garden grow?

What do you suppose made her so contrary anyway? I personally like to think she was a nice person albeit a tad odd.

Not sure what silver bells or cockle shells had to do with a garden and perhaps the whole “pretty maids” all in a row was a little creepy.

Lemon balm – an unassuming little thing

I like to think it was all metaphorical.. so that brings us back to Mary was odd…not psychotic.

If that was her only fault then I’d say she’s alright in my book.

chives & thyme

I’d like to interview Mary. I’d ask her what she liked to grow in her garden? How big was her garden? How did she make things grown big and healthy?

italian parsley and chives

I bet Mary had great ideas. She must have right, they wrote a poem about her. Ok technically a nursery rhyme but a poem all the same.

sweet parsley

Mary and I have a lot in common. We both like to grow things. I’d like to teach her about hydroponics. I bet she’d totally dig hydroponics. Oh that’s my next major project.

monster chives

Hmm I wonder how that poem would sound..

Mary Mary, not-so-contrary how does your garden grow?
“With air pumps, tubing and PVC, and plastic bottles in my window”.

Hmm doesn’t sound to bad Mary. Very Earth friendly and I bet those pretty maids prefer it much better.

thyme all grown up

I like to think Mary would grow edible flowers and herbs; perhaps a vegetable garden.

Personally I love my herbs. I planted some of my favorites in two strawberry pots just over a month ago. They both flank either side of my front porch.

Appropriately each is topped with a strawberry plant ; WHICH I discovered have little tiny white flies munching away on my new berries.

Time to bring in the soap spray and do them pesky critters in.

tarragon

The humidity dries them out pretty quick so keeping them hydrated with nutrient rich water takes about a gallon of water each every other day. Thirsty little buggers for sure.

They seem to like it out there as they’ve nearly swallowed my pots. I can’t complain though. Nothing beats cooking up some yummy new recipe and plucking fresh thyme, rosemary or chives.

There’s dill in there to if you look real close. No really it is….look closer; it’s hiding behind the behemoths lemon balm and oregano.

hiding dill

Good thing I didn’t plant those puppies in the Earth, at the rate their growing I’ve have full fledged ground cover by now.

not so unassuming lemon balm

But on further review perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad either. Have you ever smelled lemon balm? Call me Lemon-cream and call it a day!

The only problem is they’re growing so fast I can’t use them fast enough to keep them controlled.
Thankfully I have wonderful neighbors who have an open invitation to use all they wish.

And they’re even growing a few I didn’t plant, like heavenly cilantro.

As for the basil, mint and rosemary – they’re keeping safe watch over the backyard. In fact a pretty little bird loved my mint so much she built her nest in one. Maybe we’ll have little birds soon.

>The Lesson Of The Dirty Dishes

>Dear Dad,

Do you remember how we used to wash dishes by hand while sis and I were growing up?

Do you remember the dishwasher we were never allowed to use except on holiday and…. to stack the dishes we washed by hand in……so they could dry?

I still don’t know what confused me more; the fact we would go through all the trouble of stacking clean wet dishes in a dishwasher so they could dry or the fact that is was green; olive green. Really Dad? Olive green appliances?

I mean sure it was the 70’s and well if there’s three great and tragic losses from that era they are
the death of John Lennon
Elvis Presley and….

all pragmatic and reasonable fashion sense.

Seriously, butterfly collars?
Bell bottoms??
Shag carpets?
The Pinto!!!??

I still have nightmares about bright green, yellow and red polyester, elastic waist, bell bottom pants mom bought me in kindergarten. I think I’m scarred for life.

And color….our house was electric blue Dad….and it was considered NORMAL! (it only took you 20 years to get a single coat of brown paint on it but hey it all counts when you live on a street called “Artistic Circle”.)

But I digress…..we’re talking about dishes and the dish-DRYER machine.

I can’t technically call it a dishWASHER because I think it actually WASHED dishes less than a dozen times in it’s long, pampered life.

Every day we would neatly stack all the dishes in neat little rows and then did we turn the machine on to DRY the dishes?

NOoooooo….

We propped the machine door open with a bowl to let them AIR dry?

Dad, I need to understand this logic? In the time it took us to go through this dish drying ritual we could have hand dried them and had them all neatly tucked away safe in their cabinets and drawers.

I love you Dad, with all my heart…..but

This was a little odd. But hey I do have to give you some credit here. At least you weren’t as odd as Grandma and you actually had us put dishes in the dishwasher.

And why did she feel the need to use hers as onion and potato storage?

Regardless, every day as I would wash, stack, prop – I secretively swore to myself “Tara one day you’re going to have a dishwasher and you’re going to use it every day, to wash every dish. Never again will you wash dishes by hand……Madge can keep her Palmolive!…. I won’t need it.”

Now I’m all grown up and I’ve always had a dishwasher.

Oh the glory of stacking dirty dishes into that precious machine, filling it with it’s magical soap and the delightful sound of the whirr and hum as the motor kicks in.

I can read a book, paint my nails, lounge on my porch, bake lava cakes; all while this wondrous work horse churns away blasting my dishes clean……and yes it even dries them.

Oh the sweet heaven.

That is until it goes on strike which mine did recently.

The dirty dishes would go in and to my horror dirty dishes would come out.

What is this? Does it not love me anymore? Do I not cherish it enough? Does it love someone else more? Perhaps it’s looking for a career change?

Oddly it was only those on the top rack. The bottom were clean. So being the resourceful daughter you taught me to be I put my head to the problem.
But cleaning the filter did not work.
Flushing the drain did not work.
Offering weekends and holidays off did not work..

I got desperate….I called the repair man.

After a thorough inspection he tells me “You can’t put anything in this middle section on the top shelf. And you can’t put anything down here in this middle section of the bottom shelf. Anything in the middle of the racks will prevent the water from spraying properly and your dishes will not come clean.”

“But..then all the dishes won’t fit.” I declared perplexed, “What about the rest of the dishes?”

Mr. Repair man looks at me and says

“You could always do them by hand.”

WHAT?! Is he KIDDING?

I was despaired, dismayed, it was unthinkable; inconceivable. He was kidding right?

Alas he was not and after several more vain attempts at getting them clean in the machine. I had no choice but to pick up a sponge and wash them…..

with my hands.

Well Dad, I have to tell you something…..I’ve come to enjoy it. Weird I know. I don’t even use the dishwasher any longer; I don’t see the point, I’d only have to rewash them anyway.
Dirty dishes start on one counter and always come out spotless on the other.

Oddly the whole process has become therapeutic in this weird way. It’s almost meditative and gives me a little quiet in the evening. Just me, the dishes and warm water.

Besides, I’ve had plenty of experience.

It’s a simple process really; water, soap and a towel. But along the way I’ve found a few friends to help me.

After all this hullabaloo about bad detergents causing problems in the landfills, rivers and ponds, I stick to soap that is natural & biodegradable. Plus this one just looks pretty sitting on my counter. Don’t ya think?

I’m no Bar Keeper but this can of magic likes me anyway. I think it even considers me it’s friend. Don’t tell it but I think I may have a crush on it. What it does to my pretty stainless steel pots and pans is nothing short of a miracle. There’s no gook, gunk, burn or junk that can withstand the awesome power of this can.
They look like new every time.

Then there’s something from nature….

When everything is washed and stacked, this sweet, unassuming little orb of yellow tartness makes my counters and stove sparkle like gold and gets all the smells and stains out of my cutting boards. Plus it makes my hands nice and soft. –
Sorry Madge….

And where might you ask, do I put them to dry? Not in the dishwasher that sits, retired, filling up valuable space under my counter. No they have their own little place to sit and dry, stacked neatly and prettily. They even get a nice view out the fifteen foot windows that face the woods.

These are some very happy dishes.

So Dad, there you are, a lesson learned is one that comes full circle. You always told me don’t discount something forever because you may grow to like it.

I did. I enjoy doing my dishes.

by hand.

But I still don’t like mushrooms.

Now what to do with my unused dishwasher?

I guess I could store potatoes and onions in it.

>Food For Nothin’ and Your Dinner For Free

>No this isn’t a new version of the song by Dire Straights but with our economy it could be.
I copied this right from Oprah.com after watching todays’ show about saving money. What better place to put this than on my blog. 🙂

Here’s ways to save on groceries. There are only three of us in this house and somehow we spend a ridiculous amount of money on groceries each month (around $1200). Sadly much of it goes in the trash.

Ok so I’m game. I’ll play along and for the next month see how much I can save at the local grocer. Anyone who wants to take the challenge with me I would love to have the company. Here’s what to do:

5 Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Stephanie Nelson, founder of CouponMom.com, says it’s possible to fight the rising cost of groceries without sacrificing your favorite foods. Try her simple coupon saving strategies the next time you go to the grocery store:

Plan your meals and shopping lists around featured sale items.

  • Use your store’s weekly sales ad flier to plan your menus for the week. Then, write your shopping list around the items and brands that are on sale.
  • Taking a few minutes to make a detailed plan will save you the time of making unplanned trips to the store during the week—which can ruin your budget.
  • Planning ahead also helps you avoid impulse shopping during your trip.

Know how your stores’ savings programs work.

  • Do they have “buy one, get one free” deals?
  • Do they double coupons?
  • Do they offer a store discount cards that gives you automatic discounts?
  • Do they have special store coupons?
  • Once you know your stores’ rules, you can combine them to pay the lowest possible prices for your items, such as using two coupons with a “buy one, get one free” deal. Combining strategies can result in free items.

Use grocery coupons, ideally when the item is on sale.

  • Buy the Sunday newspaper—75 percent of grocery coupons come from the newspaper. Buy two to three copies per week to save dramatically.
  • Go online—grocery stores often have their best deals and printable coupons on their websites.
  • Many stores offer electronic coupons that go directly on your store discount card. 

Stock up on common items when they hit their lowest price.

  • Don’t buy a year’s supply, just enough to last until the next sale (two to three weeks).
  • Boneless chicken is on sale every other week at Stephanie’s grocery store, so she buys two weeks of boneless chicken every other week to store in her freezer. This habit saves her family of four $325 a year on this one item.

Be flexible about brands and stores.

  • Buy the brand that’s on sale with a coupon, or get the store brand if it’s less expensive.
  • Shop at the store with the best prices for your items that week.

>Just Whistle While You Undig

>Why is it so hard to keep the house clean? 

It seems I get everything cleaned up and in a few hours it’s a mess agai
n. There’s only three of us in the house but gosh this place gets so messy so quickly.
The kitchen counters will be decluttered only to find they have vanished once again under piles of paper, mail, trinkets, nicks and knacks and cruddy crap. I just don’t get it.

I guess it comes down to being mindful to put stuff away and furthermore having a place to put the stuff. Not just any place but a ‘specific’ place. You know the old saying “a place for everything and everything in it’s place”. Yeah well who’s going to come in and give me
the organizational closets and cupboards, drawers and caddy’s to put everything? That stuff costs money.

The work is never done right?

Sadly you’d think with me home all day there would never be a mess but oh contraire mon’fraire. Have I mentioned how much stinking crappola there is to keep up with for “work”? Oy vey. Time is definitely something I need to find more of. Or perhaps just manage it better. Like now. I should probably be doing some of that icky horrible cruddy crap work but here I am writing up a blog. But isn’t this also considered “work”? Well actually I think it is. 🙂

Snow White had it going on that’s all I can say. She has squirrels and birds, deer and raccoons and rabbits to help pitch in. I need to get me some of those. Or hey the Shoemaker had his elves and Cinderella had mice. What do I have? A 9 year old who’s been spoiled for so long the idea of assigning him chores AND expecting him do actually do them correctly is actually absurd to him. I had him wash his breakfast dish this morning. Well I just went to look at it and a dog could have licked it cleaner that my son washed it. Ugg.

Oh and the chore chart with a timer. Not happening. I can’t get him motivated to put the effort into anything. But let’s not get me started on THAT soapbox.

So for now we just keep doing what we do and whistle while we work. Why because a clean house is a happy house. Not to mention one free of infestations There’s always work do to. Laundry piles up each day and the dishes are always in use. But I could make the beds more often and we should remember to put the stuff in the bathroom away when we’re done using it. Little things make a big difference I know.

Well time to go get busy. Hope you all have a clean day.
Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to work I go….