Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mmmm...Indian Food Without the Buffet

Monkey and I have fallen into a daddy's out of town/it's girls' night out routine on Thursday nights. Generally we head out for pizza and maybe ice cream; although we have been known to hit the Thai place or grab a taco.

Tonight our friends, Bette and Craig called and asked if Monkey and I would join them at a new Indian restaurant in town. I agreed and as the restaurant is just down the road from our favorite shoe store, I figured I could knock out the annual shoe buying for Monkey on our way to dinner. (I'm not going into the fact that Monkey gets all the cool clothes and shoes and I get nothing. I have to get over how cute she looks and make her wear dresses made out of flour sacks so I can shop at BCBG again...)

So as we get into town tonight and I pull into a parking spot I get a flat tire. I've been thinking that maybe the drugs haven't been working so well for my stress lately, but I have to tell you I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, "I'll deal with you later, you little bastard of a tire." And Monkey and I went shopping. Those drugs are good.

Monkey had her heart set on a pair of $80 pink clogs. $80. Pink. Clogs. Who would buy those for a three year old? Even on my old budget I'd be hard pressed to do so. $80. Sheesh. We came to an agreement on a cute little pair of suede mary janes. They are a neutral taupe with small, tasteful pink flowers on the side . And I'm not lying... Monkey said, "These will go with more than those purple ones, Mommy." The child frightens me. Monkey wore her new shoes out of the store and I stared longingly at the racks of women's shoes as we left. Someday I too will have new shoes.

Now back to the flat tire. I wanted to change it, I really did. But there was Monkey and traffic and I was parked on a hill. I decided to wait until after dinner. Craig took over and called AAA, which came and fixed "his" tire while we dined on heavenly samosas and exquisite pakoras. I toasted him with a Flying Horse Beer and Monkey sucked down glasses of ginger ale from the bar.

I sort of judge Indian places by the quality of the lamb vindaloo (my favorite and everyone must have their own standard) and I have to say it was some of the hottest I've had on this continent. Lovely. Monkey plowed through the chicken tikka and we adults shared the vindaloo, a shrimp masala and a veggie dish full of okra. It was quite good. I was pleasantly surprised and will be dragging Big Daddy there as soon as he gets back in town.

Wednesday's Egg Count: 4
Today's Egg Count: 5 (!)

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new layer!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

At the Easel

Today I painted for the first time in a long time. The studio/garage is finally devoid of much useless rubish and I have room to work. I also have 10 canvases lined up and ready to go. There is no excuse not to work. I will post paintings soon, I hope. Big Daddy stole my camera to take some pictures of rocks, or grass, or foundations. I'm not really sure what exactly, but I want my camera back.

I guess I can always use my phone. That would be my new cell phone with the camera. I have once again joined modern society. I'm not sure that I actually need a cell phone, but I may need to call someone... someday. Right now I just call Big Daddy. He's the only one that calls me. And because I abhor people who talk on their cell phones and drive, you will most likely not see me using it in my car. I will probably never use all of my minutes or send 50 text or photo messages in a month, but you never know. Somebody other than my husband may call me. It could happen.

I'm so excited. Jamie is going to send me two peonies that have been struggling in the Georgia heat. I love peonies and miss the ones in my old garden. If we hadn't sold our house and moved across country in the span of 3 weeks in March, I would have dug them up. As it was I managed to bring a handful of hostas and a gardenia I've had in a pot for five years and remembered to pack the child. Thank you Jamie. I promise to take good care of them.

Today's Egg Count: 4

And My Mother Calls It Bogging

I'm sure most of my neighbors have no idea what one is either. I think most of my friends know what a blog is (in some vague sense) only because I've explained it to them.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Weekend Roundup

We stayed close to home this weekend. Saturday morning was an open house at Monkey's school. The Nutella cupcakes were devoured rapidly. Someone wisely cut them into halves and then quarters so everyone could get a taste. I'll be making them again. I had to use six of my little pullet eggs to equal the three eggs called for, but the dark orange yolks of grass fed chicken eggs gave the cupcakes a wonderful golden color. That night my friend Kelley and her family came over for barbeque and porch sitting. It was all very yummy. Kelley made dark chocolate ice cream using eggs from hens I had given her. That's what I call sharing the wealth.

Sunday was spent cleaning out the garage to make way for my new studio. We will be adding heating and cooling so it will be practical for me to work there year round. It was a giant purging session with boxes to go to the yard sale at church, books to the book seller, clothes to Good Will and one giant trash pile. Seriously, I can't figure out why we packed some things to bring all the way across country to never use. It's a mystery, but it's now going away.

Friday's Egg Count: 3
Saturday's Egg Count: 3
Sunday's Egg Count: 3
Today's Egg Count: 4

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First Day

According to my trusty calendar from Jesse Israel & Sons it is the first day of Autumn. It also says that it is a good day for fishing. And did you know that the gestation time for a squirrel is 28 days? This calendar is chocked full of useful information. I digress...

The sumac, dogwood, sourwood, tulip poplar and hickory (as shown in the photo) are starting to change. I love Autumn here. It seems to go on forever. You can watch the gradual change from the higher elevations down to the valleys. It's truly beautiful. I've heard that on some trails you can actually hike from "winter" at the top of a mountain, down into late summer at the bottom. I'm feeling the need for a long hike.

Another seasonal phenomenon is occuring. The house is surrounded by big, fat, brown spiders spinning giant webs. I continually run into the webs and then do a crazed dance to make sure no fat arachnid has attached itself to me. It is a good thing we have no close neighbors. The spiders are everywhere. When I go for walks in the morning with Gigi I'm constantly doing the fat spider evasion dance. Then I feel like I have spider webs on my face all day. Yuck. I am no fan of spiders, but I leave them alone and hope they will do likewise. Except for the black widows I've been finding lately (three in two weeks!). They die swiftly and horribly. Yuck. Can I say "Yuck" one more time? Yuck.

Today's Egg Count: 4

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Bad, Bad Thing

Today I introduced Monkey to Nutella. Her life will never be the same. No jar will ever be safe. I've created a monster. A chocolatey hazelnut-covered monster.

Today's Egg Count: 3

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Busy Busy

I've been slammed with stress causing deadlines and little rest. This gets heaped on top of dead electronics, car insurance due and an apparent glitch with my bank account involving our health insurance (which is automatically withdrawn) going up $50 several months ago and me not knowing about it. Everyone is apologetic, but the damage is still done. Let's put this one down as the fault of the U.S. Postal Service Employee who can't seem to get the right mail in the right mailboxes... Damn her. Oh, and I guess that will learn me to balance my checkbook every month from now on.

On the good news front here's the egg count from the last several days:
Saturday: 3
Sunday: 4 (!)
Monday: 3
I've two eggs so far today. I have a dozen! I'll wait until later to make my final count. At least one of the girls is a late afternoon layer.

Today I had to buy a new printer. The old unreliable Epson finally bit the dust. I decided on the Canon photo printer/scanner/copier. It's big and sleek and slightly intimidating. While bigger than the old printer, it also replaces the flat bed scanner that took up space on my desktop. I'm quite impressed with the quality of copies and prints, not to mention the ease of scanning.

I'm planning on baking these (thanks to Jamie) later in the week to take to Monkey's school's open house on Saturday. They sort of have a no sugar policy with snacks, but, seriously, how can they ever expect to attract more students with that idea? Besides it's not a school day.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Assault on the Yard - Day One

One would think with a landscape designer for a husband and a gardener for a wife that our yard would look fabulous. It's more of a case of the "cobbler's children don't have shoes" than the cover of Garden Design here on the mountain. Of course, nature gives us such a display that it's easy to forget about the flower beds and foundation plantings. And in our defense, Big Daddy is much busier than he ever was in Kansas City and we don't have access to loads of free plants (the one thing I absolutely, truly miss...), or work crews to help me with maintaining the yard. Oh and did I mention that our old, often photographed and published yard was the size of a postage stamp. The new yard is a pasture.

Yesterday was yard beautification day. I've been so busy with the vegetable garden and Big Daddy has been traveling so much that the yard and beds around the house have gotten away from us. The weeds were winning. So I pulled on my work gloves and grabbed pruners and the weed eater. Big Daddy armed himself with rake and hoe. We attacked with a vengence. The fire ring was cleaned out. The bed in front of the house was defrocked of weeds and given a nice little trim. Roses were pruned. Tired zinnias were removed. Crab grass was slaughtered. I then mowed the lawn into a state of perfection. Someday I will write an essay on why I love to mow, but not now. You'll have to wait.

Last night after Monkey went to bed, exhausted from her day of watching our labors, B.D. and I decided to use the newly cleaned fire ring (which, we've only used once since building!). We built a fire, drank a few beers, kicked back and enjoyed the full moon. It was one of those moments that crystalized why we moved here. We could hear a screech owl on the edge of the forest. The only other sound was the occasional car down on the road or a barking dog across the valley. Monkey was sleeping peacefully and safely in the house. The dogs were playing in the yard behind us. The chickens were sleeping in the hen house. Stars were shining and we were at peace for a while.

Later today we will tackle the blueberry patch and the edge of the woods. I plan on removing the overly-invasive and alien japanese spirea that has popped up around the yard. There is a maple leaf viburnum planted by the former owner that need to be moved to a more appropriate location. And if I'm up to it, I have over 100 daffodil bulbs that my mother gave me to plant. A gardener's work is never done.

Friday, September 16, 2005

It Must Be Near the End

I finally pulled the tomatoes out of the garden. I think I procrastinated because the act of ridding my garden of the tomatoes would mean that the season is coming to an end. I don't think I'm ready to say goodbye to Summer yet. This year it didn't really seem like we had a summer. It was spring, it was wet, and now the nights are getting cool and I'm noticing a hint of change in the color of the surrounding hills. Fall in all its glory is still weeks away, but I'm starting to see the signs in the fatigued garden and the faltering flower beds.

My plantings for the fall vegetable garden are starting to grow. The tidy little rows look out of place next to the overblown vestiges of summer's excess. The peppers, filet beans and black-eyed peas are still producing. There is still okra. The beets are ready to be pulled. I'll cut back the basil in the next couple of days and make pesto to store in the freezer.

I can look back at this year's garden and plan for next year. The cucumbers did terrible compared to the year before. It was the topic of conversation last week at the farmers market. Hopefully next year will be better. I think we'll stick to picklers. The cole crops failed for a second year in a row (although we did get some tasty little broccoli heads). I don't think I'll waste garden space on them again next spring. The peas did well for an early crop. I have a few ears of corn. I may try some more next year; more for effect than production because we can get wonderful fresh corn here. I need to plant it earlier and I think it will do better. I'll also have to keep on top of the squash borers and powdery mildew if I want any pumpkins. They started out magnificent, but crashed hard. I don't think I'll try watermelon again. I have two tiny ones on one vine. I've discovered that I can grow monster gourds. I'll grow more. Maybe I can do something artistic with them...

As always, the radishes, beets, and carrots did well. Although I think I'll plant less carrots as we just couldn't eat them all. One mound each of crookneck squash, spaghetti squash and zucchini gave us more than enough. I've decided to continue some tomatoes and junk others. Carolina Gold, Mountain Pride, Cherokee Purple, Mr. Stripey and Sausage all held up well. Orange Oxheart and Pineapple didn't do as well. I'll try a few new heirloom varieties next year. A chef, who is a friend of a friend, asked if I could grow some edible flowers for her. I can plant those in the garden and the beds around the house. I have all fall and winter to think and plan and dream. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a bumper crop of raspberries and blackberries next year.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Meet Me at the Fair

On Saturday we made our way to the Mountain State Fair. We started with the two of the basic fair food groups - corn dogs and a blooming onion. It was exquisite. It was then off to see the giant Smokey the Bear. When I say giant, I mean GIANT. This thing is huge and animatronic. There's a guy who sits in a little trailer and controls his movements and voice. A friendly ranger stands next to Smokey and talks to the kids. The conversation is relayed to the guy in the trailer who then makes Smokey talk. So, there was Monkey talking to Giant Smokey like it was an every day, run-of-the-mill experience for her. Monkey loves Smokey the Bear. I wish I had taken a picture of Smokey. I may have to go back to the fair to snap one.

Then we wandered over to the livestock barns, stopping on the way for a pony ride and a meander through the petting zoo. We checked out the 4-H chickens and poultry displays. We gazed at rather cute little Shetland Sheep ( I want them!). We marveled at the gigantic brown eyes and ridiculously long lashes of the llamas. We petted the Sheriff's Mounted Patrol horses.

Then at Monkey's insistence we headed to the Midway and dropped a load of money on ride tickets. We used most of the tickets up on the giant ferris wheel. From the top we could view the whole fair. Monkey proclaimed herself taller than Smokey. We were on top of the world.

We sampled more fair food groups - snow cones and cotton candy. Then we made our way to the garden, food, craft and produce tents. I am so going to enter things and sweep the fair next year. I ignored my friend, Kelley's, urgings to enter the contests. She won two blue ribbons for her perennials. We checked out the jams and pickles, gawked at the giant pumpkins and perused the various quilts, shaws and scarves.

I think my favorite was this, a picture of chickens made out of a multitude of beans and seeds. Fabulous.

Big Daddy was enthralled by the allure of the beekeeping booth and thinks we should get a hive or two. When I suggested this last year, the idea was poo-pooed. After he saw that little queen shaking her thing in the display case, he's under their spell. And as B.D. is so busy working out of state these days, it looks like I'll have to go to Beekeepers School 2006 sponsored by the Buncombe County Beekeepers Chapter and County Extension Services. They apparently have a raffle and 250 lucky new beekeepers get two free hives. I'm sure all those little honey makers will be a good addition to my garden.

We then caught a little of the classic tractor pull, complete with waving American and Confederate flags.

We passed by the chewing tobacco booths, visited the NASA booth for tattoos and stickers (Stickers are Monkey's favorite. She is three after all.), admired the National Guard Apache helicopter and the accompanying NASCAR racing car. I'm not sure why the National Guard sponsors a NASCAR car, but there must be some reason... Then we chatted with the friendly North Carolina Highway Patrolman and his police dog.

We were handed bibles by the Gideons and Jesus Loves You balloons by the Baptists. We picked up a Green Ash seedling and a Smokey the Bear ruler from the Forestry Service (oh, and more tattoos and stickers!). It was hard to drag Monkey away from the PBS Kids tent and all their stickers and characters and tattoos. What is it with the tattoos? The fair is full of free stuff!

We saw the 4-H kids sporting their finest clothes to show their animals. I loved seeing the old folks all dressed up for the fair. I didn't quite realize that so many women still went for the permed hair and straight, big bangs held up by the magic of hairspray look. It was an eye-opener. We spotted more than a few mullets. And there were some scary choices in eye shadow color. And why is it always necessary for some women to wear short shorts when, Lord knows, it's the last thing they should be doing?

We finished off the day with some lemonade and Nachos, completing our consumption of the fair basic food pyramid. Monkey and I both passed out as soon as we got home with sun-flushed cheeks and way too much transfats and sugar in our bloodstreams. I love the fair.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sacred Summits

Today we will be going to cheer on a few friends who are racing in this. I suggested to Big Daddy that we start training for next year and he just chuckled. It would mean trading in my mountain bike for a road bike. Maybe I'll just trade in his bike for a new bike. But then again, I'm not a fan of hills except for the flying downhill, fast part...

Later I'll update on the time we had yesterday at the Mountain State Fair. Now that was some fun!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Up Before Dawn

I let the dogs out just a few minutes ago. The air is crisp and chilly. The sky is magnificently clear. The sun is just starting to lighten the edge of the mountains to the east. I could still make out Orion overhead along with Taurus, the Pleiades and Cassiopeia. Mars and Venus were still shining bright. I love those little quiet moments when I'm the only one stirring.

The rooster has started to crow. He's an early riser. I'm sipping my first cup of coffee and the day looks good. I'm going to ignore the fact that I have bills to pay today. The money is there, it's just the act of writing the check that irks me. The mail doesn't leave the post office until 2:45, so there's plenty of time. I have another half an hour before the Monkey has to get up and get ready for school. Somedays I think I could quite easily become a morning person.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

That "Ranch" Doesn't Even Have Cattle...

I've yet to process all of my thoughts and feelings on Hurricane Katrina and the after-effects. Big Daddy, however, has come up with a few thoughts:

"There is a big ranch in Crawford, Texas that isn't being used. The guy who owns it should open it up for a big tent city to house everyone. I'd say it's the least he could do."

"Somebody should sell Mardi Gras beads for donations. We should all be wearing Mardi Gras beads! Those guys that make them should be donating them to help raise money for New Orleans, considering how much they've made over the years."

Big Daddy is heading out tomorrow for Virginia, but he'll be back Friday night. I'll miss him.

I already miss New Orleans.

God bless everyone affected by that storm.

The Incredible Edible Egg

I have eggs. They are tiny, as is normal for first eggs. I had one on Monday and one yesterday. Let's hope for another today. One of my little Dominique hens is laying them. Let's here it for Heloise!

Has it been a week since my last post? I'm sorry for the lack of news from the mountain. My mother-in-law was visiting. Unfortunately my office is also the guest room. It was pretty much impossible to get to my computer. My space has finally been returned. The smell of perfume is still lingering, but will fade. Ah, solitude (at least during the mornings when Monkey is at school)... There is a lot of work I have to catch up on.

I prepped another row in the garden for planting yesterday. I'll be planting kale this afternoon. I also need to clean out another row for some more spinach and lettuce. I'm waiting until the weekend to rip out the tomatoes. Big Daddy wants to make some green tomato pickles (or relish, I can't really remember) and he'll be home Friday night.

Gigi is demanding my attention right now. I think I'll take her outside and work on some training exercises. She was spayed last Friday. I've been trying to keep her activity level down, but it's a little hard. We'll go do some sitting, downing and staying for a little bit and then I can pull weeds.