Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fungus Among Us

One of the things I was really looking forward to with our move here was having a garden. We planned and we mulched and we built and we planted. But I have to say, it was a dismal year for our garden.

I was most looking forward to the tomatoes. I planted 6 tomato plants and thought we'd be eating garden-fresh tomatoes July through August. I thought there would be an abundance of tomatoes and I would cook and freeze spaghetti sauce, and can diced tomatoes.

But, between a late frost and a really harsh hot wave, white flies and tobacco hornworms (which look just like tomato hornworms, but the horn is a different color), I think we harvested about 15 tomatoes. Total. I pulled off the last of the green ones today because the garden boxes are not getting enough daylight and the days are not hot enough for them to really ripen up. We'll force them ripe indoors.

The only thing that did really well was the basil. I think next year I will focus my gardening efforts on establishing a thriving herb garden. I started noticing how much we were spending on herbs while we waited for the basil to establish itself, and now that I've learned the deer typically do not eat aromatic plants like herbs, I won't have to worry quite so much about fencing them out.

I'm thinking of building up a rock garden near the kitchen side of the house, and now I am considering having the area do double duty by planting herbs in the rock garden. I know for sure I'll plant some mint in a container since it's very difficult to find in our local grocery stores. I'll do basil again, and I also use quite a bit of thyme. I use a lot of parsley and cilantro, too, though they may not grow as well in the space I am looking at using. At least I know I'll save some money by not buying herbs. (It just really cheesed me that I was buying tomatoes all through the growing season.)

And I'm thinking I should look into mushroom farming—it's the one thing that seems to grow here without any effort. Or at the very least, I should brush up on mycology to see if the mushrooms growing here naturally are even edible. (The deer seem to enjoy them.)

I spotted this bright, white mushroom from the kitchen window; it was peeking from behind a tree. It was so bright, I actually thought it was a piece of trash or a plastic bag that had blown into the yard.

It's nearly as big as my hand!

And they just seem to pop up all over

In addition to the basil, the okra seemed to do really well, though I still need to work on how to tell when they're ready for picking. We got some really big okra, but they were dry and tough as wood when I tried cutting them up to cook with.

But we managed to put them to good use as entertainment.

Additionally, we learned that the cages on our garden boxes were too low to allow several of the plants to grow to full height. If we do the vegetable garden again next year (and I'm pretty sure we will) we will build a 10' fence around the garden area to keep the deer out instead of using the chicken wire cages we built. Live and learn.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the Edge

Arrrgh, I know yesterday was talk like a pirate day and not today, but if the power goes out again while I'm trying to write this post again, some body's walking the plank!

In one version, I got all introspective once, talking about how Monday is mom's birthday and we're still not speaking and all the emotional crap wrapped up in that. Then the power went out.

Then I tried waxing eloquent about the gorgeous weather we're having on the edge of Fall and how when I woke up this morning to the fresh, crisp air I knew nothing could go wrong. Then the power went out.

And then I was trying to sort out my thoughts on East of Eden, our book club read for September (book club was tonight). And the power went out.

Now I'm just going to plow through this and get it up! (Before the power goes out!)

Okay, I made the Chile Rellenos Quiche again, and this time I took some pictures. They're up on the original post.

Anyone recognize this vintage Tupperware cheese grater? Mom was going to toss it out when she moved, but for some inexplicable reason I love this thing and it stirs many memories. Of what? Well, of grating cheese, what else?

I've also tweaked my profile over at Pintrest—instead of just having one board for recipes, I've now split it up into recipes to try and recipes I've tried and liked. Usually when I want to make something again, I Google +casawayward +"the name of the recipe" then find it in the search results. Now, I can just go to Pintrest and look at my Tried & True board and it will be there.

I am interested to see how writing up my recipes here and pinning them up there will play out in terms of analytics, traffic to the blog, and just general functionality. 

I am still on the job hunt. There have been a few nibbles recently, and I'm still in the running for a web-based editing/writing position for a company in Poland. (I wonder if I will need to visit the main office? Better get a passport.) But for now, I am still freelancing and work is slow. I keep waiting for the Fall publishing season to take off. And, I'm still waiting.

But I checked in with my pool of freelancers that I send work to, and two of them are not available for Fall, which will be tough because Fall has a large list of titles, but it's also good in that it means I will pick up more of the slack. The person I report to had encouraged me to take a lot of the proofing jobs for myself, but that felt somehow wrong to me since I know my freelancers are also depending on the work for income. But now that I know they aren't available I have no problem picking up that extra work.

I have been teetering on the edge of just making a go of freelancing as my sole means of income. Right now I still spend a lot of time combing the job boards, writing cover letters, and sending out resumes. But if I am really going to do this, I need to stop doing that and put all of that energy into networking and drumming up additional clients. It scares me senseless and yet I know I could do it. I guess I just would have liked the option to decide on it for myself, set aside a nest egg, and ease into it instead of falling into it this way.

I read a report on freelancers the other day, you can download the full report here (the report is a bit large, but is mostly graphs; the page I'm linking to is just a summary), and it has me feeling more positive and confident about freelancing and I am seriously considering embracing it and seeing where the path takes us. Like I said, though, I just wish I had more time to prepare for it. And I wish we both weren't out of work as I make the transition.

Still teetering.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Cheese Stands Alone

Yesterday was kind of a weird day. I played hooky from work. Well not really, but I feel like I did. The freelance project is not due until Friday (actually I wasn't given a due date, that's just the date I set for myself, if I had sent the job out to another freelancer I would have allowed for a 1-week turn around), so it's not as if I blew off working.

But I could have worked, but I didn't. It's a dangerous thing, really, this freedom to choose when and if you'll work. I suppose if I'd had another project lined up right behind it, I wouldn't have taken a day off. And even though the project will be done on time and on budget, I am still feeling a wee bit guilty about it.

So instead of working yesterday, I went into town and got my hair cut, opened a small business checking account (finally), and went grocery shopping (and got the cheese!). And later I took a leisurely evening stroll.

And the cheese is not alone—it's standing next to the cheddar and the Swiss. But I was. Scoob went to a tech career fair in downtown Raleigh yesterday morning and his back was really hurting him when he got home, so I did all my running around by myself, which was nice. I rolled down the windows, opened the sunroof, and turned up the tunes. It was a perfect day for a backroad drive.

I had been waiting for my final Assumed Name papers from the county before I could open the checking account. But they arrived a while back and I've had a couple payments for freelance work sort of sitting and waiting. My final severance check was last Friday, so I figured I had better get on the ball so we have at least some sort of cash flow.

Anyhoodle, you know how you always feel a bit better, spiffier, after getting your hair done? Well, opening the checking account also rekindled that "I've started my own business" glow (it also rekindled that "Holy frijoles, I started my own business. Now what?!" panic, but I don't think you can have one without the other).

Then, at the grocery store, I helped an elderly gentleman load his groceries into his truck. He was wrestling with a walker and his shopping cart and was clearly in pain. And so I introduced myself to Joe, loaded his groceries into his truck, untangled his walker from the shopping cart, and chatted with him a bit about the area, then went about my shopping. In addition to the Pepper Jack cheese, I got a big ol' Boston Butt.

I made a fantastifabulicious pork roast last Thursday and we finished off the last of the leftovers Sunday night. But pork shoulder was on sale (why do they call pork shoulder a butt?) and Scoob wants me to make it again. In fact, I do believe he said he likes it more than his kalua pig! But, before I make that again, I'll make the Chile Rellenos Quiche and use the avocados in a pasta dish before they turn.

Finally, my walk. I temperature has cooled down quite a bit for the last several days, we've been in the mid-70s to low-80s with low humidity all week and it has been lovely! It's even been dropping down into the 60s and 50s overnight, so we're sleeping with the bedroom windows open again. I love it! But who knows how long it will last, so I grabbed my camera and just walked.

I told Scoob, It's like living stained glass

Afternoon sunlight in the pink muhly fronds

Playing with the sun

Tobacco drying shed and old oak tree

Afternoon glow from a shaded clearing

I just liked these leaning trees and the Carolina-blue sky

Our house, nestled in the trees

Interesting peeling bark

More light and shadow in the trees

It's grand old oak tree.
I do miss the huge California live oaks,
but at least this one is right around the corner.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Leaping Lizards

I had planned to cook yesterday's Chile Rellenos Quiche again so I could get a picture up with the post and y'all could pin away to your heart's content, but one thing I've really noticed about grocery stores here—Pepper Jack cheese is hard to come by in a 1-pound block size.

I can find it sliced for sandwiches without a problem. And can even find it in the 8-ounce size with some regularity. But 16 ounces? Make an offering to the gods of groceries and you might have a chance of finding it.

Our last two grocery shopping trips have been at Lowes just because we were running other errands that took us in that direction and I've only ever found Jack sliced there. (That sounds weird.) I can usually find the 16 ounce size at Food Lion, but it's nearly 15 miles from Lowes, and I'm sorry, it's just not worth the cost of gas. But next time we're grocery shopping at Food Lion I swear, I'll get the cheese, make the quiche, and get the picture!

(The other thing I've noticed about grocery stores—the bread selection is abysmal. Good crusty sourdough is scarce, as is cinnamon raisin bread, though we've found a pretty good locally-baked seeded loaf. Still, I've found myself toying with the idea of baking our own bread. Considering each loaf costs $3.50–4.00, plus the fact the nearest grocery store is 10 miles from home, baking our own bread might really be worthwhile.)

So yesterday, I was wandering about the house topless (it happens from time to time, we live in the country surrounded by trees) when Scoob came in from the garage and spotted me. I was actually on my way into the laundry area to get a bra and shirt, but at the moment he saw me I was nekkid from the waist up. And he dared me to go outside like that.

Whatever! Please, it's just us, the birds, the deer, a groundhog, and a fox. And maybe that wild turkey. (And the postal carrier if we time it just right.) So I flung open the garage door to the outside…

Much to my surprise (and probably his too), there was a little baby lizard sunning himself on the door when I threw it open. Next thing we both knew, he was airborne, and landed on my bare bosom. I may have yelped just before he dropped into one of Scoob's boots on the floor.

I figured the lizard probably saw more of me than he ever wanted to, so I put on a shirt before fishing him out of the boot and setting him outside again.

Ahhhh, nature.

Not this lizard, though.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chile Rellenos Quiche

Oh, I have been holding out on you, people. My rendition of this Chile Rellenos Quiche recipe is super easy to throw together. I almost always have the ingredients for this on hand, which is especially helpful for those nights when I don't have a clear dinner plan. And the leftovers make for a yummy, protein-rich breakfast the next morning. I've made it several times now and we love, love, lurve it!

You can find the original Chile Rellenos Quiche recipe on the Taste of Home website. They've got the nutritional information there, but I've made a number of changes so it probably isn't relevant to this version.

I'm tempted to just dive in to the whole quiche pie.

Oh, but a slice is nice.

Chile Rellenos Quiche

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40–45 minutes

    2 Tbsps corn meal
    3 eggs
    ½ cup low-fat mayonnaise
    hot pepper sauce to taste, optional
    1 6–7 ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
    1½ cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese (reduced-fat if you can find it)

  1. Preheat your oven to 450°. Evenly sprinkle the cornmeal over the bottom of your pie dish and toast for 3–5 minutes in the oven.

  2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, mayonnaise, and hot pepper sauce, then stir in the chopped chiles and the cheese, and pour into the dish.

  3. Bake for 30–35 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
I love the flavor of green chiles and this really hits the spot. It may not be the healthiest recipe, but by eliminating the pie crust altogether and cutting down on the amount of cheese, I think I've at least made it healthier than it was.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

I absolutely love seeing signs of fall! I am really enjoying the little evening walks Scoob and I started taking recently, but summer has decided to show us she's not done yet, so we haven't been out for several days. I think (hope) we're having our last really warm spell (it's 88° but feels like 95° with the humidity and we're expecting thunder showers all afternoon).

Scoob doesn't understand why or how much I enjoy walking with him. If it's just me walking, I'll find a perfectly rational reason to blow it off, so I like walking with him. I also just like spending the time with him, even if we're not talking. When we spend time together at the house, it's either mealtime or TV/movie time, or there's some other distraction.

Another reason we've postponed our walks—Scoob is injured! We're still not sure what he did, but he laid down on the living room floor with my one evening and when he tried to skooch close to snuggle we heard a pop and he started howling in pain. He thinks he overworked some back muscles working in the yard. I think he torqued something in his back when skooching around on the floor. (I don;t think he wants to admit he hurt himself doing something so "everday.") Either way, he has been in a lot of pain for about a week and a half.

Even though he wanted to wait it out, I finally called the doctor to make an appointment for him and made him go last Friday (his last day of work).  Scoob almost never takes anything for pain, headaches or whatever. But with this he had been taking the maximum dosage of ibuprofen, graduated to taking some of the Vicodin I have for my migraines, and then to the Percocet left over from my surgery. The doctor couldn't really do anything for him except give him his own Vicodin Rx and some muscle relaxers. I've noticed he's backed off on the pain killers a bit, so I think he's getting better, but he says the pain is still the same.

In other news, I have spent my Labor Day sending out invoices for my freelancing work, sending out my resume and cover letters for job postings, applying for unemployment (but I need more info from my employer before I continue), and debating the wisdom of cleaning house on Labor Day.