Monday, December 27, 2010

Shameful, Neglected Gardens

For someone who generally spends a lot of time in her garden, it had been an unbelievably long time since I was there. First it was the rain for almost the entire month of October that kept me out. More rain during the first two weeks of November followed by a week of snow and another week when the afternoon temperatures hovered around 16 degrees continued to keep me from working in my garden. Not particularly conducive to gardening, December's weather hasn't been much better either.
Light rain was falling today as I walked along the muddy paths in my gardens. Both of my plots at the Happy Valley Community Gardens look terribly unkept and so obviously untended. Dead, dried twigs stick up where they should not be, and low growing weeds threaten to take over. A few herbs, sages and celantros, fortunately still show signs of life as does my strawberry bed. In anticipation of next summer's sweet berries, hopefully there will be a day or two with no rain so that I can get in there and pull the weeds from in between those strawberry plants.
This is the embarrassingly shameful state of my Garden Number 02. Give me my rake and a sunny afternoon and I should have it cleaned up in a couple of hard working hours.
Same with Garden Number 01.

Shameful, neglected gardens!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Leg of Lamb

Slow cooked in the crock pot is how I fixed the boneless leg of lamb for our Christmas dinner.
Into olive oil I mixed minced garlic, rosemary, thyme and grated orange peel.
Then I rubbed the mixture over the lamb roast until it was completely coated.
Next step was placing the roast into the crock pot, adding a half cup of water and setting the crock pot to cook on low for eight hours.
It absolutely could not have been any easier! After only a couple of hours, the aroma from the leg of lamb roasting with all that garlic and the other seasonings was absolutely wonderful. The drippings in the crock pot, strained and cooked with a little flour made a very flavorful gravy for the mashed potatoes. Served with oven-roasted carrots, what a delicious and easy to make Christmas dinner.
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My recipes for a Christmas leg of lamb dinner.
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Leg of Lamb in the Crock Pot
1 Leg of lamb - 4 to 6 pounds, boneless or bone in
1 Tablespoon olive oil
5 - 6 Cloves fresh garlic
1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
1 Tablespoon rosemary
1 Teaspoon thyme
1/2 Cup water
Set crock pot for 8 hours on low and preheat while mincing garlic cloves. Add minced garlic tod to olive oil. Grate the orange rind. Add the orange rind, rosemary and thyme to the garlic and olive oil. Mix together and rub over the meat until it is evenly coated. Place in the crock pot and roast for 8 hours. Check with a meat thermometer that the internal temperature has reached 180 degrees F. Remove from crock pot and let set a few minutes before carving.
~~~
Gravy in the Crock Pot
Drippings from crock pot from roasted leg of lamb
2 Tablespoons flour
Hot water
Remove drippings from the crock pot, strain and return to the crock pot. Set the temperature for the crock pot to the highest setting. In a cup, stir enough hot water into the flour to make a smooth paste. Slowly pour the flour and water mixture into the strained drippings in the crockpot and bring to a boil. Stir continually for another five to ten minutes until the flour mixture has cooked in and the gravy begins to thicken. Remove from the crock pot and serve over potatoes and lamb.
~~~
Oven Roasted Carrots
2 Pounds carrots
3 Tablespoons sundried tomatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Peel carrots and cut in one to two inch chunks. Place carrots in a shallow baking dish (I use the bottom of my broiler pan) and drizzle with olive oil, stirring slightly in order to coat. Place in preheated 425 degrees F oven and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the sundried tomatoes and stir to mix in. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes. The carrots should be oven browned by then and tender when poked with a fork. Remove from oven, place in serving dish and serve.
~~~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Red Cozy

Filled with hot water, mine warms my sheets before bed now.Last Sunday as I sat on the hearth waiting for Kristi to return home so we could yell out "surprise" and start the party, I cast stitches onto my needles and began working the knit 2, purl 2 ribbing.
I used this pattern - Hot Water Bottle Cozy. Working black stripes in to add a little interest since I omitted the pocket shown in the pattern, it took only a couple of evenings for me to finish. Except for knitting the body of mine an inch shorter than was indicated in the pattern, I really didn't need to make any other modifications for the cozy to fit my hot water bottle perfectly.
The pattern provided two options for finishing the bottom - the Kitchener stitch to graft the bottom together, or binding off and stitching a seam. New to the Kitchener technique, I followed the link provided in the pattern to the instructions for the stitch and was pleased with how it turned out.If I make another hot water bottle cozy, I think I shall bind off and stitch a seam so I can compare the two techniques.
How cozy on cold winter nights!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Surprise!

It was Kristi's 50th birthday and we helped her celebrate with a surprise party.

Happy 50th Kristi!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Canal Swims

Even in December, it's impossibe to keep Torrie out of the canals. He loves to fetch and swim!

After what felt like too much rain, this was our first day in weeks where we had sky, blue sky. It felt good to be outside, enjoying a sunny afternoon.
Fortunately, there's a gravel path that cuts through the meadow so even with the extra pools of standing water around, for the most part, I keep my boots dry.
Torrie managed to stay clean too.
~~~~~

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Relatves

Nephew Tim has recently moved back home to Whatcom County and beginning a new long-haul driving job the first part of January, had time today to join us for our weekly luncheon at Lynden's Northwood Casino. It's hard to beat a $2.00 buffet, and even with my severe allergy to pepper, I must confess, there is more than plenty there that I can safely eat.

On our drive back to my home in Ferndale after lunch, we decided to stop by the two cemetaries along the way and pay tribute to some of our relatives.

My sister-in-law, Tim's mother, Linda.


My grandfather, Tim's great-grandfather.

My grandmother, Tim's great-grandmother.

Gone but not forgotten!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making My Own

I'm testing a new pattern for fingerless mittens. My daughter sent it to me indicating she wanted some for Christmas. It's a Martha Stewart pattern and I feel that sometimes Martha Stewart is a bit of an over achiever. I've read through a few or her patterns - and recipes - before and they can at times be a little on the complex side. I to test out the new Martha Stewart pattern before making up the pair my daughter asked for.

Turns out this pattern is easy, peasy. Yeah Martha Stewart, at least this time. I should be able to knit up a pair in an evening or two while watching a movie. I love having something to show for my time - especially when I'm simply watching a movie.

These red mittens, for me. Jen wants black.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Willow

Willow is often the stage name she is know by when performing the songs she writes at the local venues, but we know her as Sally. Here she is, performing a few of her original tunes during our inpromptu, non-traditional Thanksgiving Day combined with Fred's birthday celebration this year at my place.

Tradition

I know, I know, based on the last couple of years, it would appear that our Thanksgiving tradition has changed. But really, it's going to take more than two years before I consider our Thanksgiving traditions "officially" changed.

Our tradition, spend Thanksgiving at my son's in Rock Island. In the freight fowarding business of getting pretty pots of plants shipped to their correct destination at the right time, the winter holidays turn into crunch time at the office for him. Having a more flexible schedule myself, it's always made more sense for us to make the drive over the river, through the woods and over the mountains to his place for Thanksgiving.

Traditionally, our Tanksgiving weekend starts with our arrival at his place right around the time he's getting home from his office on Wednesday evening so we can walk over to the Rock Island Bar and Grill just in time for dinner. I think the reason I feel so at home at his local Rock Island Bar and Grill is because it looks, smells, sounds and feels remarkably like our own Big Lake Bar and Grill on this side of the mountains where I frequently find myself on Friday and Saturday nights with carloads full of my friends. They're both the type of place where after a few visits, you've become one of the regulars, you and the owners address each other by your first names, you say hi to the other regulars, you know all of the members of their regular playing bands by their first names and shortly after 9:00, the tables are cleared and the dance floor is crowded. Well, all of that and the fact that both of their buildings could have been built with maybe the same blueprints and they both have a tiles of black and white checks for their dance floors.

The last two years though, my son and I have had to postpone our Thanksgiving traditions due to inclimate weather. We're only a four hour drive apart, but with a steep two lane winding mountain pass in the middle, sometimes the safest way to spend the holiday is to simply postpone our traditions.

That's what happened this year. Snow was pounding Steven's Pass, even here on the coast. We woke up to a couple inches of snow that ended up turning into six by Thanksgiving Day's end. And, it was a similar story last year too, but. Really though, I do consider it our "tradition" to soend Thanksgiving in Rock Island.

We plan our visit to begin around the ti

Saturday, November 20, 2010

16 Degrees

It was only 16 degrees and a thin layer of compact snow and ice covered our streets as the sun came up this morning. It feels difficult for me to compose just the right scene for a picture that conveys the message that it "is" cold outside. I stood inside where it was warm, and sipped a mocha as I looked out at the cold, icy street and took this picture through the glass and felt rather glad that I didn't have to go out and drive my car away just yet.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sun Between the Rains

A typical November day in Ferndale, Washington usually includes rain. It seems too dark, too early, too soon once we've set our clocks back that one hour for the Daylight Savings time adjustment too. That's why when we do have that rare sunny break in our sky, we rush out and run through the meadow grasses along the canals at Sandy Point. Torrie even made the most of it by jumping in for a swim part way through his run.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Campfires and Hiking

Tucked in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, the Excelsior Campground near Nooksack Falls became my home away from home for the weekend.It was our annual Common Ground camping trip with 25 friends from Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties and more than 35 joining in for hiking and steak dinner on Saturday. What a fun group we had! We went to Nooksack Falls for some sightseeing.
Then we hiked the Bagley Lake Trail around Bagley Lake near the base of Mt. Baker.
Even though it was the middle of July, we soon discovered that a good portion of our trail was covered with snow.
It was sunny and warm so we didn't let a little snow stop us, and later we all had a great time playing in that snow.
The evenings found us all gathered around the fire pit for campfire-karaoke, wild dancing around the fire, roasting marshmallows to make S'mores and great conversations. One night, trying our best to keep our feet dry, some of us even ventured down to the shore of the Nooksack River to observe constellations and the Milky Way Galaxy in the very dark summer sky. Here are more pics from this year's camping trip.
~~~

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So much fun was had by all that we're already looking forward to next year's trip.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Beat the Heat

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are more known for our rain storms and cool marine air than heat waves, so it's no real surprise that we struggle to cope once our temps reach the upper 80s and lower 90s. So, what do we do? We head over to VanderYacht park and join the crowd playing in the Nooksack River. There's Torrie, just coming to shore after swimming out to fetch his new red ring.

We meet up with our friends Buddy and Kriss at the park.

Torrie found some Golden Retrievers to swim with.
How wonderful that river felt. It's a great way to beat the heat!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Spitfires

My Spitfire nasturtiums for this year's Seed GROW project are growing - but they sure look puny. They are not yet even beginning to look like a vining, trailing plant. When compared to the giant, deep green leaves of other clumps of nasturtiums in the gardens, these Spitfires have small leaves and their stems are spindly. Those other, non-Spitfire nasturtiums have formed showy clumps of plants with giant, colorful flowers. Yet these Spitfire, not even beginning to form buds. Apparently slow growing, I'm curious if our growing season here will be long enough for them to even bloom.
I picked this beautiful armfull of giant snapdragons from plants that managed to survive last winter.

Soon ready for harvest, the fava beans are forming sturdy, long pods.

The romaine lettuce is beginning to form huge heads. I can't wait to try this red variety.
Looking so stressed when first set out, even the tomatoes are managing to grow and produce. This is one of the Mortgage Lifter tomatoes. I'm not sure if those black marks on the edge of the leaves and top of the tomato are a sign of blight or signs of the extreme stress the plant suffered when first planted out in the garden, but I hope this tomato will be tasty once it ripens.
These radishes sure look tasty!
With an average high temperature of only 58 degrees for the month of June, my gardens have managed to slowly grow. Now, suddenly (finally!) we are having a heatwave with daily temperatures in the 80s and even a few days promised to be in the 90s. Let's see if those Spitfires start looking better now that it's summer here in the Pacific Northwest.
~~~
I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the Seed GROW Project. Thanks, to Renee's Garden for the seeds.

Monday, July 5, 2010

BBQs

Celebrating the Fourth of July with friends with a BBQ in Ferndale, we were also invited to join friends from Island and Skagit Counties at their beach BBQ the very next day. It was the fourth of July weekend, so why not attend two barbeques in two days? This is where we were, on this beautiful beach enjoying an afternoon and evening on a beautiful summer day.Complete with friendly games of horse shoes, badminton competitions, golf balls being hit from the yard onto the beach below, paddling around in the bay in kayaks, great food, great conversations, plenty of music and dancing on the lawn and a bonfire in the fire pit on the beach in the evening, a wonderful time was had by all.
Many thanks to Will for so generously welcoming us and sharing his beautiful home with so many friends.
What an absolutely beautiful day we all enjoyed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

When the Concert Ends

What a lovely view over the bay as the concert ended at Boulevard Park. In the park enjoying the classic rock tunes performed by one of our local bands, the Walrus, with a group of friends, this weekend was no exception.
In full bloom, giant plumes of heliotrope blossoms graced one side of the trail we walked along to reach the park. How pretty!
Walking to the top of Taylor Dock after the concert, I was curious who M. White was.

And if M. White knows that they are loved.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Espresso

About a month ago, the knob broke off of our espresso maker, rendering it completely useless. The machine wouldn't turn on, wouldn't turn off and it would no longer froth milk. Turns out, it was some sort of little plastic gear inside that had broken, and there was no way to repair it. I considered not replacing the boken espresso maker because, I had a back-up French Press and a backup Melitta Coffee Maker also on hand in my kitchen. So for two weeks I made the morning coffee with the French Press. Perhaps a little on the lazy side because two weeks was about how long it took me to grow absolutely tired of cleaning the coffee grounds out that coffee maker, so next I pulled out the Melitta coffee maker. The Melitta coffee maker was certainly easier to clean - about all there is to it is to pull the fiber filter out and toss it in the garbage, but unfortunately, regardless of how many spoonsful of ground coffee beans I put in the Melitta filter, I found the Melitta coffee disappointingly weak. So, off to the espresso coffee maker store I went!
Now, as of this morning, we're back to having those wonderful hot, foamy, chocolately, frothy cafe mochas.
Absolutely yummy, I think they taste better than at the coffee shops!