Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bar Party!

So two of my good friends, Brian Christensen and Kari Baardson (They're #1) took the Utah Bar exam on Wednesday, so we decided to throw a Bar Party for them. Amy Norton and Julia came up with some very clever ideas for refreshments. We had candy bars, lemon bars, a salad bar, an open bar (so to speak. Stocked with such Mormon-friendly drinks like lemon-lime soda, juice, and sparkling cider), some Law & hors d’oeuvres, a time to grill (hamburgers and hotdogs), The Firm (jello), and twelve angry cupcakes (a spoof on the movie twelve angry men. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard that it’s pretty good).

I helped out by making some of the hors d’oeuvres and the twelve angry cupcakes (complete with little cardboard jury box and racial diversity). I made two kinds of savory cream puffs, and mushrooms stuffed with zucchini (from my garden!), shallots, garlic, and little shrimp with a mixture of mozzarella and gruyere cheese on top. I was a very picky eater when I was a child (what child besides myself didn’t like French fries!? Weird) and never thought much of either mushrooms or shrimp. I volunteer for Chef Jim Light up in Salt Lake every now and then, and he has helped to expand my culinary horizons a bit. He has made both shrimp and mushrooms that I have really enjoyed, so I thought I’d give it a shot myself. It turned out pretty good! Some people REALLY liked them. I’d still have to say that it’s not my absolute favorite thing in the world (no pork-products involved, after all. Though bacon would make just about anything taste better. I might have to throw some in next time J ) Amy made these little things that were basically little squares of puff-pastry with some mozzarella, homemade pesto, and half of a grape tomato baked in mini-muffin tins. I couldn’t get enough of them! One of the cream puffs had chicken and almonds, a bunch of spices, and a touch of worcestershire sauce. The other ones were rosemary with a little bit of gorgonzola, and a whole lot of mozzarella and gruyere cheese on top. It was a first for me to make cream puffs that weren’t sweet. I think they turned out pretty good, but there are things I would do next time to tweak them a bit. They flattened out for some reason, especially the ones with the cheese. I probably put way too much on there, but I love cheese! Especially gruyere. Gift Idea: If any of you are around for my birthday in November, you can just get me a block of the cave-aged gruyere from Costco. It would keep me a happy camper for weeks! Yu-ummy!

Many people came to the party and we had some great times talking. Rob graciously offered to grill the meat for us, but was wearing a new shirt, so he took it off to avoid getting it messy. Watching other people watch him was one of the highlights of my evening, I must say! Good times! Rob never fails to liven up whatever situation he finds himself in.

Well, it was fun. Congratulations one more time to Brian, Kari, and anyone else who survived the taking of the Bar Exam this week!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We Be Jammin'

I summer. I really do. The warm sunshine, all of the fun things to do, and most especially this week, fresh apricots! There's nothing quite like a perfectly ripe apricot, so fresh that it is still warm from the sunshine. mmmmmm....

Problem is, I don't have an apricot tree from which to partake of their deliciousness. Luckily, I'm fairly shameless when it comes to asking for things that I want, so when I drove past a house last Friday that had a huge apricot tree in their backyard that was just loaded down with little orange morsels of goodness, I decided that I would swing by the next
morning and ask them if they would mind me picking some, with the idea that I would either pay them for what I took, or just do some extra picking for them so they wouldn't have to do quite so much themselves. So I packed my handy-dandy ladder into my little car and headed on over. The people were super nice, especially considering that they had every right to have considered it a bit rude for me to have invited myself to their house. I picked one grocery sack full, and grandma took it inside to start making some jam, and I picked steadily from about 10 to noon, being joined at different times by the lady of the house, her husband, and her sister. I did leave more that I had picked for them, but I ended up taking about 4 plastic grocery bags full of apricots home.

So many apricots! I've already dehydrated some, have munched on a lot, will be canning some of them whole, but I'm going to jam a most of them I think. I got through two batches of jam last night! I have some extra jam I didn't have room to process in the canner, so I may have to make some little tartlet shells to put it in!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Way, hey, blow the corn down!

So both Saturday and Sunday evenings ended up being rainy and windy. The rainy I'm down with, seeing as I know I live in a desert and appreciate rain, and also because if water comes from the sky, I don't have to water my garden as often. Not that I mind hauling the hose to my little patch of garden and walking to the train tracks to turn the water on and off, but it's nice to have a break every now and then. Even though it had rained, I went to check on my garden. OK, I admit that the sunshine of this morning made me forget that it had rained just a few hours before so I went to water my garden, only to find the ground sufficiently moist in and around all of my plantitas. I walked the length of my garden, even picked a zucchini that was getting a little large, and cried out with dismay when I got to the far end of my garden. I have six little rows of corn planted, and as of Saturday Morning they were all standing taller than I am, but this morning the end three rows were all laying down flat! So sad! I tried to pick them up, but having had a taste of laying down, they didn't want to exert the effort it took to stand up. So I found a rock-buddy for each lazy corn stalk. Seriously, I got a bunch of double-fist sized rocks and stood each corn stalk up, and put a heavy rock right next to each corn plant. I'll go back tonight to make sure that the corn is still upright. I have no idea if this will keep my corn up, or if bending so close to the roots has already doomed those ones, but it kind of hurt me to see my corn laying down so sad-like. Turns out white people just don't do corn-rows well. I did the best I could, promise! (The pictures here are from July 10th. Corn is still happy and tall)

So My garden is doing well, for the most part. The bugs seem to like some plants more than others. For example, the green peppers, and the beets have a few leaf-holes, but the tomatoes are pretty much untouched. The canteloupe leaves have so many holes that they look like lace, but the winter squash is healthy, and bug-unfriendly for some reason. Oh well! We're supposed to do the whole organic thing, so we're not allowed to use pesticides or inorganic fertilizer and whatnot. So I went to the gardening store a few weeks ago to see what was available. Seeing as how, months later, I realized that I should be making some attempt at fertilization. I did use compost at the beginning of the whole gardening process, so that probably helped in minimizing the damage from the lack of proper nutrients and whatnot. So I wander around the store for awhile but none of the fertalizers were labeled 'organic' so I asked one of the gardening-store guys about organic fertalizer. They gave me some flak, and went on a bit about how the inorganic stuff is so much better. I explained the whole community-garden thing, and after they couldn't convince me to sneak out at night to use the stuff they thought I should, they pointed out the bone meal and fish emulsion to me. Bone meal for phosphorous, which is good for fruit production, and fish emulsion for nitrogen for leafy greenness.

A word on fish emulsion. It is pretty nasty stuff. It's a thick unhealthy-brown liquid that smells foul. The garden store guy described it as "smelling beyond-foul. It smells as if you took a Utah Lake carp (utah lake having a reputation for being rather filthy) who had a bad case of gas, and then letting it sit in the sun for a few days before putting it in a blender. But trying my best to keep to the organic thing, I bravely purchased a little bottle of the fish gunk. I also ordered some seaweed extract stuff from Burpee's website. So I went and sprinkled some bone meal around my plants, and diluted some seaweed powder into a spray bottle and sprayed around the base of my plants, and then put a few tablespoons of fish yuck into a 5-gallon bucket which I then filled with water and poured out the base of my plants. Organic Fertilization... Check! I'm not sure that it did all that much, but I'm fairly satisfied with myself having done it, so there you go.

I have lots of baby plants: tomatoes, beets, green peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, ornamental squash, pumpkins, watermelons, spaghetti squash, and corn! The only things I've eaten so far have been peas, lots of yellow squash and zucchini, and a few beets. My heirloom tomatoes are doing pretty well, and my winter squash has pretty much announced it's domination of the entire garden. Lots of fun stuff will come from those vines, I'm sure.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Spark in the Dark

Here's another funny story for you.

So I spent the 4th of July weekend at my Mom's new house in St. George, helping her move in, re-paint the rooms that were wild colors (like pearly salmon, and bright royal blue), and making several Wal-Mart runs for things like groceries and new trash cans. It was fun, and the house is super cute. Jared (my 2 yr old nephew) spent the day with us because his mom and sisters and Audrey all drove up to Provo to see Hannah Montana at Stadium of Fire, and Jared just would have gotten cranky. So he spent the day with us, riding his trike and playing with the hose in the back yard.

We all took a break the evening of the 4th to go to a "Neighborhood BBQ" around the corner. It was fun, the people there are really nice. My mom has pretty much moved to Mayberry. Seems like a fun neighborhood. We ate burgers and patriotic jello and talked to people while Ron and some other men launched water balloons at the Bishop's house and Jared went down a blow-up water slide, getting soaked for the 3rd or 4th time that day.

When people started busting out their little stashes of fireworks, we stayed and watched for a bit, but then headed home to light a few fireworks of our own. Ron and Verenda went and finished up some painting while I went out with Jared and started in on the 'poppies' (the little paper twists that pop when you throw them hard at the ground) and the sparklers. Once I showed him how to face downwind so the sparks weren't flying at his face, he had a lot of fun with them. He got to waving them pretty vigorously. So much so that at one point a small bit of red-hot sparkler flew down the front of my shirt and burned itself out between the girls. Ouch! I wasn't wearing a low-cut shirt or anything, I think the trajectory was just right for it to make it in the gap at my neck and land further down that I would have thought probable. I know it wasn't a paper spark like go up from fountains and such because it took a good number of seconds to burn itself out between my skin and clothes. Both of which have little holes burned in them now. Luckily, it seems to be in a fairly non-sensitive area, so other than the initial burning, it is a pretty pain-free injury. But makes for a decent story!

Beware of 2 year olds bearing sparklers!