Sunday, August 12, 2012

Primary Passions

I just saw a tweet that said "Blog your passions, not what you think people want you to be passionate about" by @sarahkayhoffman. I don't know Sarah, and her tweet was a re-tweet, but I'm glad I got it.

I think there is a ton of wisdom in this little less than 140 character sound-bite.

If a blogger wants to "make it big" (which I do) with their blog there is so much to think about. What is your niche market? Are you a food blogger? A fitness blogger? A mommy blogger? Or something else entirely? How do you find a niche? How do you market your blog and connect with your readers? Do you put ads on your page, sign up for various pay-by-click programs, pay for a website? There is much more.

There is also a significant amount of competition for readership (not a bad thing) and an unintended (I think) level of trying to fit in with, or copy (in the manner of copying is the finest form of flattery) the platform and content of other bloggers. Some of this is human nature, but it can create challenges when deciding where one wants their blog to go, what they want it to be about and who they want to connect with.

I have pretty much decided that my blog is about my life. That is what it says ---- > over there on the side bar. This blog is about my life and the stuff I do. It is also about ways to improve our world. And that means that I blog, also, about the things I am passionate about.

I don't think it always comes across as an obvious passion, though. In light of this, I thought I would take a moment and be specific.

My primary passions I focus on here in this blog (and in life) are the following (not in weighted order):

1. Food
    - Non-Genetically Modified Food
    - Agribusiness/Globalization of Food
    - Growing my own/Preserving my own/Cooking with my own

2. Fitness
    - My own journey and struggle
    - Motivation (for you and me)

3. Inspiration/Happiness
    -The Secret/Universe
    - Goals/Future
    - Living the life I want, right now (---- > it says that over there, too).

4. Animals

5. Love
    - Christopher

6. Adventures!
    - Life is an adventure and I try to live it!

Those are my primary passions that I share about here. I talk about lots of things, books I read, movies I watch, restaurants and other places I go, but really, I am here talking about the things I am passionate about. Food, Love, Fitness, Inspiration, Adventure, Animals (my kitty girl) and the things that I BELIEVE fit within that frame of reference for me.

If you are here reading, I hope you enjoy what you see! If you want to see more of something or more information about something, drop me a note! I would love to hear from you.

Also, remember you can find me on twitter @BlurbColumn, on Facebook under Blurb Column, and on goodreads and pinterest under Corrie Beebe.

If I say something you find valuable I would love it if you would share with your friends and followers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sweaty Saturday

I know the rest of the country has been suffering a heat wave and drought, but our summer has been relatively mild. We got a bit of a late start to our hot temperatures, and most days have been beautiful and in the mid 80's to mid 90's. Just over the last week or so have we kicked it up a notch and crept into the 100's.

Since Chris is not on call this weekend, we decided to go on an adventure. We packed up our kayaks (they are Chris' old whitewater kayaks) and headed south.

Sorry babe, didn't mean to cut your face off, but my android phone only has the actual button for the picture on the face side of the phone, making self portraits nearly impossible.

We took off down I5 and the farther south we went the hotter it got.

Did I mention we have no AC in the suburban?


First stop: Redding.

Sometimes ya just need a little In-N-Out. :-) Chris got a double double animal style. I just went with a regular add sauce and pickles, no onions. The place was bumpin'! We had to wait for a seat and people were vulturing tables all over the place. Oh, and did I mention it was about 106 degrees?

We were one of a very few cars on the freeway with our windows down.

I guess they have AC. (The AC hasn't worked in the suburban for...uhm...years. Ten years? A long time. Somehow we manage to take at least one long trip every summer somewhere in a hundred plus degree heat.)

After Redding and In-N-Out we headed north again to escape the heat find a place to kayak. We originally were going to stop at Lake Shasta, but decided after a little googling on my phone to visit Lake Shastina instead.

Lake Shastina is about 10 miles off of I5 at exit 751 just north of Weed, California. It is not a huge lake, but it is tucked away in ranch country in Northern California. There is a campsite on the South end, but it was a little sketchy. I think people were living there. So we headed around the lake and found a nice sandy beach area with walking access.

We lugged the kayaks and gear down from the road and spent an hour or so paddling around aimlessly on the smooth water. The lake was darn near empty.The water was calm and warm and it was so peaceful!

After paddling around we headed back to the beach for some more relaxation.

As the sun started to drop lower in the sky we decided it was time to pack up and head north.

On our way home we were passed (and then we passed them) by a guy hauling a beautifully restored Pontiac GTO. So pretty...

We have a lot of fires going in the surrounding mountains from the thunder storms that came through last weekend. It is making the sky very hazy with smoke. The pictures don't do it justice, but as we came out of the Siskiyou's into Ashland and South Medford we were treated to an amazing red fireball of sun.

It was an amazing day. We sweated our way through Northern California to Redding, enjoyed a yummy lunch, went exploring and found an awesome lake to relax by, and saw beautiful scenery on our way home.

It was a sweaty day, but an excellent way to spend our Saturday.

How was your Saturday? Is it hot where you are or are the temps cooling down now?

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Friday Five 8/10/12

1. What I'm Reading:

For one of my classes I was obligated to purchase a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. I am opposed to this for several reasons, the biggest is that there is plenty of "good" news sources available for free online, and the other main reason is that now I have a newspaper showing up on my doorstep six days a week. I don't have the time or inclination (or need for the class) to read the paper every day because I get the majority of my news online. AND (this so annoys me) NOW I have to dispose of said (mostly unread) newspapers each week. In the digital era, dear instructor, this is so unnecessary. Anyway, so, I am skimming headlines and perusing articles from the paper. Sporadically. But mostly, they pile up around the house until I have completed the required assignment, making my house look messier than normal, and then I have to pay to recycle them. Lovely. As if education weren't expensive enough.

*edit-I see I talked about this on the last Friday five...apparently I wasn't yet as annoyed with all the newspapers all over my house!

Now, this lovely stack, is a mixture of text books and research books for a paper I am writing. I will be skimming, perusing and flipping through each of these tomes, in addition to various online articles and texts in order to write a paper about corn, the global food supply, communication and conflict. In fact, a great article just showed up about why YOU should be concerned about the drought in the US.

Think you shouldn't care about the drought?  Click the link there and see why you should.  

 2. What I'm Listening To:

Okay, for some reason I just love this song. I haven't watched the video (it already looks weird) but I dig the song. Gotye, Somebody I Used to Know.

3. What I'm Watching:

A Place Called Chiapas is a documentary film about the Zapatista uprising in Southern Mexico in the early-mid 1990's, particularly after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was put into place between Canada, the US and Mexico. I wanted to really get a lot out of this film. I admittedly know very little about NAFTA or the Zapatista's. I was hoping to get much more detail about both, than what this documentary provided. It did show me some very interesting information about the campesinos of Mexico, and how their lives and needs intersect, sometimes violently, with other groups and the government of Mexico. I would call it a 10,000 foot overview of some of the problems in Mexico, but not an in depth exploration, which is too bad because I was hoping it would inform my above mentioned paper a bit more.

On a more fun note, I watched all three of the Bourne movies over the last week or so and was reminded how much I enjoy them! I had no real interest in seeing the latest film, mostly because I didn't see how they could make another film without Matt Damon, but after watching the previews I am kind of excited about the new film, too! 

And on an even FUNNER note, I had not even heard of this movie until today, but am totally making Chris go see it with me. This looks HILARIOUS and...I do love me some Tommy Lee Jones, and Meryl Streep. Hope Springs.

4. What I'm Eating:

The short answer is food from the garden, in one form or another, and lots of it! Having a garden is awesome! I have made a variation of this dinner of pasta, pesto and veggies three times in the last week. It is always good, a little different every time, and sooo fresh!

I didn't take a picture but last night we had tacos that were stuffed with peppers, tomatillos, tomatillo sauce all from the garden, plus black beans, onions, garlic and chicken. Chris had his with his own homemade cayenne pepper sauce, too. So delicious!

We also had leftover corn poblano chowder from earlier in the week, which was also filled with our own garden fresh delights!

Earlier this week I made salmon steaks and seasoned them with fresh thyme from the garden. We are still eating lots of cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant. Love it!!

5. What I'm ...

I need to find a good number five. I don't have time to visit pinterest. I sometimes put what I'm thinking or what I'm looking forward to, and I suppose I could keep #5 open as a whatever strikes my fancy, but I'd like to have something to put there each time. Any suggestions?

For now I'll tell you what I'm looking forward to: being done with summer session of school. It hasn't been bad, but I will be glad to be done and have a few weeks to myself before I kick off a very heavy fall term. I have 7 months until I graduate. It will fly by, but some of it will be challenging. So, in this moment, I am looking forward to wrapping up summer session, and having a few short weeks to breathe and shift my focus, before diving back in to a more than full time schedule come fall.

Bonus #6: If you want to waste five minutes of your life watching me and Roxie play...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Boats, Cats, Pickles & Pesto

A couple weekends ago Chris and I had a busy weekend planned, but wanted to get out on the boat, so, as I wrote about, we took our morning coffee to the lake. It was lovely.

This past weekend, Saturday was over 100 degrees. We had another busy weekend, but again, wanted to get out on the boat. I suggested that perhaps we have ourselves a little "dinner cruise."

Saturday late afternoon we hooked up the boat and headed to the lake.

We made a little pit-stop at KFC. :-) I is terrible food, but once or twice a year Chris and I do a picnic of KFC. We get an 8 piece bucket with 2 sides and enjoy it.

When we got to the lake is was probably 4 o'clock or so. The water was pretty calm for a hot late afternoon, but the lake was pretty busy! We headed up to our favorite spot in the no-wake zone to relax and cool off.

I had to break out my fancy koozy for a refreshing beverage.

Chris and I relaxed, listened to music, sat on our swim steps and cooled off in the refreshing lake water. Later, after dinner, we enjoyed a glass of wine.

We got off the lake around 8:45 or so and headed home. It was a beautiful and relaxing way to escape some of the heat!

Other fun things we did over the weekend include MORE PICKLES!

 We also did some more harvesting, including POTATOES:

We already harvested the GARLIC, but it was dried and ready to be cleaned up a bit.

Of course, I took some pictures of Miss Roxie.

Hanging out in the hosta.

"Helping" me with thank-you cards.

 Which clearly wore her out...

 Hogging the bed...

 And, of course, giving me serious attitude...

The rest of the weekend involved some amazing food.

Homemade pizza with my own garden fresh pesto, local tomatoes, onion, green olive and mozzarella, baked at 500 for about 15 minutes or so, and then topped with garden fresh basil.

 I'm not sure I can adequately describe the deliciousness that was this pizza.

And apparently I am on a pesto kick (I have some to use up from last year before I start making more from this years basil) because I made this pasta dish with pesto, green olives, some onion, red bell pepper, tomato, garlic, garden fresh green beans, garden fresh zucchini and garden fresh eggplant. So fresh and good!

The week has already gotten away from is Tuesday night and I have been elbow deep in homework most of the afternoon. I wrapped up one of my summer classes and am nearly done with another. The third I have a bit more time on. The home stretch of the summer session!
Time for me to go make dinner. I'm going to come up with another concoction of some kind to use more eggplant and zucchini! Wish me luck!

Friday, August 3, 2012

What To DO With It All?

We have been talking this week, primarily, about garden stuff, what we planted, how we water, the square foot gardening method and things we have learned along the way. It has been great to have so much interest, both here and on Facebook, plus so much conversation. I have learned some really cool things! Thank you to everyone for reading and participating.

Now as we head into August, the fruits of our labor begin to really ramp up!

Last night I went out and spent about a half an hour doing some harvesting.

I picked three zucchini (two off one of my volunteer zucchini plants), a mess of pickling cucumbers, more than half a dozen japanese eggplant, a tomato, some Green beans and 5 slicing cucumbers. I also have more peas out there that need to come in, which I will probably do later today.

What the heck does one DO with all this food? Especially knowing that there should be a whole lot more coming right on its heels?

At this point I'm throwing out a serious request for eggplant recipes. When I planted this eggplant I thought I might get a couple or a few. I have gotten dozens!! Help a girl out!

Anyway, as I have talked about in the past we do can some of our harvest. This year we have made dill pickles, dill beans and bread and butter (sweet) pickles. Of course we eat as much of the food fresh as we can, so I am eating about a cucumber a day (just by itself, mixed in with things, on salad, or with hummus) and the green beans have been added to some delicious pasta dishes. The peas we just eat or add to salads.

But there is just the two of us, so we have to preserve the food in some fashion. I like to use my freezer.

Now, some people are against the idea of freezing your garden harvest because if the power goes out for a long time you could lose your harvest. It is possible, but we rarely have power outages here and so for now I am taking that risk. Another reason I have, thus far, opted for the freezer is because I do not have a pressure canner, which is required to can certain low acid food items because boiling water alone doesn't get the food hot enough to kill bacteria.

I use my freezer to preserve a lot of my garden bounty.

Last October Chris and I did a freezer inventory, which is very important, because as anyone with a freezer knows, freezers are kind of like the dryer-and-the-sock scenario. Stuff disappears in the freezer. You put something in there, but it disappears in and amongst all the *other* stuff you put in there. If you are going to use your freezer as a serious food storage device I highly encourage you to do (at least) a twice annual inventory.

Here is what our inventory looked like from October 2011. This is from both our chest freezer and our kitchen freezer.

Chris emptied out the freezer and I wrote down and tallied how much of what we had. We had A LOT of stuff in there because it was just the end of garden season and we had packed it full of garden bounty, plus all the regular stuff.

Last week, Chris and I did another freezer inventory. This time I was trying to get an idea of what we still had in there from last years garden so that I could do some meal planning and get those items used up before I started filling it up with this years harvest. This list is not quite as comprehensive, because I know that I still have some jam and hot pepper sauce and a few other things hanging out in the bottom that I haven't used, but it is a pretty decent representation of what is in there. The strawberries, plums, blueberries and muffins are all newly added. All the scratched out items have been used in the week or so since I did this inventory.

Here is the really cool thing, the things (from my garden) that I still have consist of:

2 snack size baggies of roasted corn
1 snack size baggie of green beans
1 sandwich size bag of smoked peppers
a whole lotta baggies of pesto and pesto cubes (which means I need to get those added to food asap!!) I had quite a bit of tomatillo sauce cubes but have used two full sandwich size baggies this week, so I made a dent in those.
some tomato juice cubes
grilled zucchini
shredded zucchini (though I just used 6 cups worth a couple weeks ago and made 3 batches of muffins which are now in the freezer)
blackberries (making a dent in those this week by adding them to my cereal/yogurt breakfast)
and a baggie of lemon juice cubes.

That's it!! That is all I have left in the freezer of last years garden!

What this means is that I did an excellent job of actually using the food that I grew and preserved, throughout the fall, winter and spring, to feed Chris and I.

For some reason I am ridiculously proud of myself about this.

My answer, then, to the question of "what do you do with it all???" which I get asked fairly often, is freeze it! Freeze it, and then use it all year long!

Do you freeze to preserve? Or do you can? Or do you dry?

I do a bit of all of them, but primarily, at this point, I freeze. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Review of Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

In one of my early blog posts, I talked about the process we were using called Square Foot Gardening as created by Mel Bartholomew.

Mel is a smart guy, but Mel is an engineer by trade. If any of you have ever known an engineer then you might understand what that means. Mel is very methodical and has a "set" idea about how to do things. What I have found is that what worked for Mel didn't always work for me, and so I have made some adjustments.

First of all Mel says in his book that plants only need six inches of dirt to grow in, except for some root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and potatoes, which need at least 12 inches. With this in mind we built our first set of boxes using 2x6x8 boards. That is 2 inches, 6 inches deep, and 8 feet long.

Chris and I have found that this really wasn't enough dirt for our plants to do well. For one thing the dirt compacts A LOT. What started out as fully filled boxes ends up only being about 4 inches of dirt by the time all the compacting has occurred. This year we built up all the boxes by adding another frame to each box. So now, all of our boxes are 12 inches deep like the one in the background of the picture above (which was used for root vegetables the first year and is now our potato box).

Another thing that Mel talked about was his "Mel's Mix" of soil, which he proclaims in his book to be the perfect mix of nutrients. Mel's mix is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite. As noted when we first created the garden, vermiculite is not available in quantity here in S. Ore. So, that was problem number one. Problem number two was the idea that we needed so much peat moss. Some peat is good because it helps retain moisture in the soil, but our boxes ended up with WAY more peat than was needed and it actually prevented plants from growing in some of our boxes.

This year we added a significant amount of our own compost that we created, plus another several yards of regular dirt and "garden mix" soil. We had to get more dirt to fill up our double deep boxes, so it was a good opportunity to get the peat broken down and more thoroughly mixed in throughout the garden.

Mel also is a fan of the wooden slats to separate out the squares that make up the "square foot" garden. After one year of doing the wooden slats, Chris and I ripped them all out.

Yes, they look cool, and I can see how an engineer like Mel would be seriously enamored with them, but in my opinion, they just don't work.

What I mean is that they take up quite a bit of the overall space available, and they are not very forgiving when trying to remove plants that are done and add new plants. They ended up being a pain to deal with. Mel is against using twine, but Chris and I have found that twine works great for us! We can re-string the boxes with ease if needed and the twine takes up much less space and is much more forgiving. For example, last fall I planted spinach and this spring it went crazy. We had pulled the twine off of that box and needed to re-string it this spring. It was very easy to manipulate the string around the spinach without causing damage.

This picture shows the double deep boxes and the twine squares, plus the new mix of dirt.

Mel also argues that because of the perfect mix of soil the plants will need little to no fertilizer. Uhm. Well, I have not found that to be the case. This year in particular, I have been fertilizing with a generic miracle-grow type fertilizer every couple of weeks. This seems to help quite a bit. My soil still seems to be lacking in nitrogen or something because the plants start to yellow a bit, and then once we fertilize the yellowing disappears. Now, some yellowing is just natural, as plants get bigger and the older parts start to die off in favor of the newer growth, so don't freak out if the older parts of some of your plants yellow and die.

So, that is my review of some of Mel's gardening ideas. I do still (for the most part) follow his spacing, which is 1, 6, 9 or 12 plants per square depending on the plant (cabbage =1 per square, carrots = 12 per square) but I am not married to it and will often use my own experience instead of his guideline.

Overall: Mel gave me a lot of great ideas and the confidence to actually get started on a garden project. He had good advice: Don't start big! Don't plant stuff you won't actually eat! But I have also found that what worked for Mel doesn't always work for me. It is a great reference, and I still turn to it for information, but I turn just as much to people I know and the internet for answers and information.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sweet Tooth

I have a crazy sweet tooth. It really sucks. It sucks because I can gain weight like no body's business...and sugar just packs it on. But I love cookies and ice cream, especially. LOVE them. Love. love.

Anyway...Tonight I wanted some chocolate chip cookies, but I don't have any chocolate chips (on purpose...for just this reason!) but, after digging around in my "baking box" I came up with an alternate solution.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.


So I whipped up a batch and as I am mixing it all up and feeling guilty about making cookies I don't need to eat I remembered one of my great ideas of the past!

Freeze the dough.


Here's what I did: I made up the dough.

 Then I made one full sheet of cookies and baked them.

Then I got out a sheet of parchment paper.

I dumped the remaining dough onto the parchment paper.

Then, using the parchment paper so I didn't get my hands icky, I made a dough log.

The dough log got cut in half (there was a lot of dough)...

...and placed into a zip-top freezer bag, labeled and stuck in the freezer.

Now my pigging out on cookies is limited to the one cooked batch, but if I want to make a couple of cookies later I can just cut slices off the frozen dough log and bake them. Portion control!