Friday, September 4, 2015

Stove cleaning haiku

Easy, Effective.

Bag, Sun, Time, Wash, Like-new Clean.

Stinky Ammonia.




Cheap, very effective, and no sweat.
My kind of cleaning.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Thursday, July 16, 2015

flat bread pizza.... or, on making dinner with what you have

posted by:  jennifer

we had a summer shindig on saturday night.   good company, good vibes, and a good time.

while we didn't have tons of leftovers, we did have among other things two pieces of lavash. so when it came time to figure out dinner on monday this is what i came up with.  flat bread pizza using the lavash.  it turned out wonderful.  

two of the items i used on the pizza came from the day after the party.  you see, neither my husband or myself ate any of the tandoori chicken and veg skewers, or the chicken shawarma wraps on saturday night.  by the time we got to the food table, they were gone. 
 which is good... it means that they were good.  and it also meant that i went and got more chicken shawarma from our local mediterranean market on sunday.   thus, we recreated a bit of our party menu for sunday dinner.   i also made more tandoori marinade, and skewered up some chicken, onions and bell peppers. that took care of sunday's dinner.

monday took advantage of what ever leftovers i had from both saturday and sunday.  and this is what was born.

on the first pizza i used:
  -chicken shawarma
  -greek feta
  -fresh mozzerella
  -onions and garlic sauteed gently in olive oil

on the second pizza:
  -sliced meatballs
  -fresh mozzerella
  -chopped bell peppers and onions (leftover from the grilled skewers)

here is the bread i used.

here are the onions and garlic in olive oil ready to be added.  

i baked the pizza at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until done.  they need to be watched however, because the lavash will start to brown fairly quickly.

happy pizza making!

and cheers!

Monday, July 13, 2015

the penny wall

posted by: jennifer

the penny wall is complete.

you might remember that on a weekend getaway trip last year my husband and i went to santa barbara.  while on this trip were inspired by a penny wall. or i should say a penny covered building.   it was finally time to jump into this project a couple of months ago.

it took about $250 worth of pennies, give or take a few rolls.  this amounted to much explaining down at ye old credit union.  

we decided to use all kinds of pennies.  the only ones that got put off to the side were the ones that looked like someone had taken a file to.  but oh my, the variation in pennies.
so beautiful and cool.  we put our favorite side up.  sometimes heads, sometimes tails. pennies that had been painted on, pennies that appeared to have spent time at the bottom of the sea, pennies that hailed from canada, pennies that we couldn't help but wonder how many hands, what interesting people might have handled.

and we did share all the cool pennies with each other.  my husband and i.  for the first 3/4 of the wall at least.  it did get to the point where we were done with the sharing...  our eyes were on the prize of getting the last row done.  

we used construction grade adhesive to put each penny up individually.  we then grouted, using sanded grout in charcoal gray.  i told my husband that it is a good thing that we are both messy people, because the amount of grout that rained down on the cement below would make a weaker spouse blanch.  

we added a light from barn light electric , and spray painted the vent with hammered copper spray paint.  we found pennies from each of our birth years, and inset them in the trim along the bottom. we took down the scaffolding, and now we can't stop staring.  and smiling.  we are so happy with  how it turned out.   and proud.  


get inspired.
act on that inspiration.
make a wish.
and cheers!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

the fair

posted by: jennifer

a huge (nervous) smile on her face as she goes airborne
    -just for a bit on the goliath slide.

the sky ride
   a.k.a. the ski lift death trap.
   complete with a woman passed on our descent and her ascent, eyes shut, seemingly 
       saying hail marys.

stalking clowns.
   green hair
   screwdriver in his hands
   music box monkey watching.

seeing the backside of thing one and thing two as they race to the swing ride, 
   squealing as they run.

a vitamix demonstration (a la costco) in the exhibit hall.
  and in the same exhibit hall dozens of people laying on mattresses being sold.

hearing "hey mom" by game booth hecklers as they try to convince me to get swindled...
   er, i mean to play their game.

a 9-11 memorial 
  questions from post 9-11 born children on why mom is crying while looking at a pile of 
   metal debris.  a mom who was taken by surprise by said display.  who didn't think twice 
   when two seconds before she passed by a firefighter standing next to a NYFD uniform...
   and then as she looks at what she is really passing by is completely overwhelmed with 

   and as she is trying to explain her tears,   a group of 20- somethings
   pass behind one loudly announcing "single women.  hot stuff coming through"
   and when she finally turns her head, seeing one of the men from the group 
   carrying a man sized inflatable siracha sauce bottle, there is laughter mixed with the

the ninja knife.

the del mar fair
  (san diego county fair officially)

a bunch of random shit.
thrown together.
wrapped in bacon.
deep fried.
served on a stick.


Monday, June 22, 2015

July 4th dilly

What does this remind you of?

Aerial "peony" fireworks?

Instead of traditional red, white, and blue whatevers,
how about bringing these bursting "fireworks" to your buffet table
for the decorations?

A large bouquet for a fountain-effect centerpiece or several smaller vases
festooning the length of the table will bring the highlight of the day's festivities to mind.  Pyrotechnics!

This bouquet is made with dill.  This is one flower head. Arranging this couldn't be easier.  Cut one flower head and put it in your selected container, and then add a stem or two of contrasting leaves.

Dill is easy to grow and sometimes you find it growing wild.  
This dill was picked from my garden. 
It volunteered from a plant grown last year. 
Fourth of July or not, I think this is a nice way to bring a bit of the
outdoors inside, whenever dill is found.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Just the facts, lady, just the facts

I love the tiny, amazing details of nature.
Nothing speaks to me of God as loudly 
as the brilliant design of every living thing.

Here are a few facts 
about solitary bees, Masons mostly, but others as well, that I found particularly irresistible. 

75% of bees are solitary.  Solitary means each bee tends to its own brood.
There is no Queen. There are no workers. They do not live in hives nor do solitary bees make honey. They do not swarm.  
They are harmless and non-aggressive.
Solitary bees are docile, gentle natives of the United States and Canada.
(I think John Lennon could have written song lyrics with this information.)

There are over 1,600 species of bees in California alone.
Over 4,000 species in the United States. The honeybee is not native to the United States. It was brought here from Europe, Asia, and Africa.

At night, male solitary bees will sleep on plant stems, under
leaves, or in flowers. Females may return to their nest to spend the 
night constructing new tunnels and brood chambers.
(A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done!)

Individual pheromones help the bees identify their own nesting holes.

Female destined eggs are laid first, in the back of the nest/tube. The eggs closest to the entrance hole are males: thus the males are the first to emerge in the spring. 
Outside of the nest, the males wait for the females.  As the ladies
appear, the males mate with them.  The female mates only once, and then releases the stored sperm as she needs it. 

Bees encounter nest predation from birds, spiders, and other insects...wasps. If the nest is plundered, the larvae/pupae closest to the entrance will be eaten first. Females are more important to the reproduction of the species. Thus the males are a barrier protecting the females. This increases the survival and fitness of the species. 

Ground nesters need bare dirt. 60 -70% of native California bees dig tunnels into the soil and provision a series of nest cells.  We obstruct ground nesting bees with mulch or even worse, black plastic.

Bees need to warm up to 80 degrees for their wings to function. Mason bees' black bodies can soak up heat even when the air temperature is only 58 - 64 degrees.

One fast flying Mason bee is as efficient in pollinating as 100 honey bees!

The Mason bee has long antennae and black furry legs. They are small bees that don't look like "bees" as we normally think of them.  What cute antennae!

It's easy to enhance bee habitat on your property.
I suppose a good mantra would be
"Let it be."
(I've definitely got a Beatles songbook playing in my head today.) 
Don't be so fastidious in the garden.
Minimize lawn or mow less often.
Tolerate dandelions. (This is one that I need to work on.)

A bee friendly yard has a lot purple, blue and yellow flowers.
These are the most attractive colors to bees.
Provide water and a mud source.
Plant a mix of flower shapes to accommodate 
different bee tongue lengths. Awww.
Plant native perennial plants.

Native bees.
Wild bees.
Solitary bees.
"All You Need Is Love".
Love is All You Need...

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mason bee and Marriage Pickle

where did I leave off?
Oh yes,
Solitary Bees.

But before I go into the black and white information about the bees themselves, let me share my dilemma.  A little gray area of life.

The type of Mason bee house that Duke lovingly took 15 days to make for me for my birthday is a death sentence for some Mason bees. 

Yes, in the wild the bees find just this type of dwelling to lay their eggs in.  Long holes.  Preferably, 5/16" in diameter and about 4" long. (Albeit, not grouped for human interests.) 
if you, me or you, is hoping to increase the population of these brilliant pollinators, the beautiful type of house Duke built is not helping.

The problem is POLLEN MITES.  Mites, the curse of the world.
As I understand it, pollen mites can harbor in solid wood holes.
In the spring the female Mason bee, aka Orchard bee, collects a pea-size ball of pollen and nectar, which is gathered together within a channel...
natural or man-made.
A single egg is laid on top of this pearl.
Mrs. Osmia then builds a wall using mud, as a plaster, for sealing the nest.
The same bee goes off to collect more pollen to repeat the process.
Pollen ball. Egg. Wall. Pollen ball. Egg. Wall. Pollen ball. Egg. Wall...
until the tube is filled with eggs, provisioned with a nutritious mix of pollen and nectar.  Each tiny egg hatches and the larvae quickly begins to develop by eating the yummy food mama bee left for it.
During the summer, cocoons are spun and the larvae then pupates for the next 9 months. 

Are you still with me?
My problem is about to emerge. 
Come spring time, when the fruit trees' flowers start opening like popcorn, the adults are ready to leave their brood chambers.
If pollen mites have taken up residence inside of the chambers, trouble awaits. As the bee crawls out of the tunnel rubbing along passed them, the mites will cling to its wings. The bee is looking to begin its brief 6 - 10 weeks as an adult bee, but because of the mites on its wings, it cannot fly. The bees drop to the ground and die.

People who are "raising" Mason bees use either cardboard tubes, made and sold for this purpose, or they will make parchment paper liners for inside the man-drilled burrows.

 This is how pollen mites are controlled.
In the fall, the tubes or paper liners are removed from the housing and opened up. The cocoons are inspected for mites. If there are any present, they are brushed off, thus protecting the bee wings come spring. 
The cocoons are then stored in a cool dry place until spring.  Some people store them in their refrigerator. When the temperature warms and blossoms pop, the cocoons are set out. The bees will emerge and the process begins again.

From what I have read and seen on YouTube, the type of house Duke built isn't  conducive to the monitoring of pollen mites. And do I even want to be dealing with them? 
Yet, I certainly don't want to encourage bees to nest en-mass, if it is going to be a potential a death warrant for them.
The type of housing that is compatible to cardboard tubes or parchment liners
is constructed differently, i.e., the back comes off and the holes are drilled straight through, for access from the back of the condo for tube insertion and removal. (The chambers in my gift are only open in the front. I'm not sure if I would be able to get the liners out.)

I casually mentioned the mite problem to Duke and he's not buying it. 
Do I hang the Mason bee house and let nature take its course?
Do I try to line the holes with parchment paper liners and deal with any mites there might be? 

What is more important here? Accepting the gift given to me by my loving, sensitive husband of 47 years, without worrying about the bees that might die at the start of their adult life OR do I line the holes and deal with the possible mite problem and possible hurt feelings?

Marriage...and Nature...what a trip!

This post is already long enough. 
Black and white facts later this week.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Solitary bee condo

If Mason bees could read 
(and actually used part of their short 6-10 week lifespan doing so),
I would place this ad in the OSMIA Gazette:

Absolutely Stunning Arts and Craft Homes
available for your Spring, 2016 brood.

Enjoy urban-living at its wilderness finest 
as you fly into your individual nest cells.
No processed paper products. 
Only hand gathered trail branches
placed in a frame of untreated, recycled wood.

Loaded with totally tubular, smooth, 5/16" 
holes, 4" long for your egg depositing comfort.

Nearby water and clay mud.
The high cathedral roof line offers overhanging 
protection from rain.
The South facing entrances will warm you each morning,
 as you overlook
quiet grounds, rich in organic, gourmet pollen and nectar.

Join this exclusive community of docile, solitary, yet
friendly neighbors
in a bio-diverse location.
With on-site security as you provision your 
egg chambers. 

in exchange for open flower pollination
and viewing rights.

This is what Duke made for me for my recent birthday.

I've spent hours reading about Mason bees. 
More about them in a future post.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Thursday, May 7, 2015

guilt of a nimby

a poem by:  jennifer

a blistering day 
and i'm
taking refuge from the sun
sitting in the right side of the car
to avoid the burn.
and i have
the sliding door open
to let in the hot breeze.

while waiting to gather a babe.
from school.

an ice cube shifts in my tea
as it melts.

and i am watching a pincher bug...
  or earwig if you will..
frantically crawling up,
pausing at a crack, on a weather beaten, 
 once orange
 traffic cone.

i could only imagine he was desperate for water,
  on his sun baked plastic island.
bordered by a swath of asphalt
cracked earth and dried foxtails.

and one wouldn't think
that the very next week,
the same she 
who would fish out an ice cube 
and give it to him
   by placing it on his miserable island
(to keep him alive)

would step on his brethren.

seedlings to protect and all.

N ot
I n
M y
B ack
Y ard

am i.


Thursday, April 30, 2015


Today, April 30, is the last day of National Poetry Month.
Thank you Jennifer for keeping poetry alive and well.
Today is National Poem In Your Pocket Day.
Apparently, that means you are supposed to share a poem with others.
I would normally just keep my poems in my pocket, but in an effort to be patriotic, 
 I give you this.


Above the ground you float 
like lilies in a pond.
Breeze and bee set you adrift.
Only your orange flowers
bring you back to earth.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

an achilles heel in the kitchen

a poem by: jennifer

tikki masala, 
  homemade baklava and chicken marsala.

a rich, creamy, tart lemon curd
  and a perfectly roasted thanksgiving bird.

exotic curries,
  a humble stew and a flaky pie crust i can do.

a moist and tender
  (be it slightly lopsided)
      3 tiered wedding  cake...
and yet,
   a complete failure at a simple pancake.

raw in the middle, black on the top
    i try and try, but they are always a flop.

i often concede, and pass the job,
   to the ever successful pancake god.

but when given a request by a sweet, sweet babe,
    i will try again, always their slave.

and surely one day i will serve
   the stack of cakes that they deserve.

but until that day should arrive at my door
  can i offer some pear frangipane or something more?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Regaining appreciation and feeling groovy

I sometimes hold onto ideas, desires, or dreams too long.
I get in a rut of thinking about something in a single-minded way.
You know, for years.
It was one of these standpoints that I changed my attitude about recently.

When we moved into our house, 45 years ago, the kitchen had just been remodeled.  The built-in oven/cook top, the highly-grained, varnished cabinets, the dropped ceiling and lighting, the brick-look floor tiles and the laminate counter tops were in style, modern, up-to-date.
Oh, so 1970's.

As these things go, the appliances have been replaced, ditto the flooring, sink, and faucet.
Not long ago, the dropped ceiling was raised back up, and redone with tongue and groove boards.  New lights were added.

But the 1970 "Daisy" counter tops still greet me every morning.
"Good morning, flower child".

How many times have I wiped those counters off?  Thousands and thousands, to be sure.
So many times that I've worn the pattern off in high use areas.

Those kitchen counters and I have a lot of history together.
In addition to preparing tons of food, and cleaning up from the making and eating of it, I have:

Bathed my babies on them,
Taught cooking on them,
Arranged flowers,
Rolled cookies,
Kneaded dough on them.
I've used them as a buffet table to serve food,
Taught responsibility using them... "(Fill in the blank with a child's name), it's 
your night to wash dishes."  Moaning and tears follow.
I've canned tomatoes, apricots, frozen boysenberries, green beans, and zucchini on them.
Various science experiments have been conducted on them.
Hot glue has been dotted it.

Yet, in spite of all the memories and many people urging me to NEVER replace the vintage counters, I have been "done" with the pattern and material for years.

The other day I received an advertisement email from Country Living magazine showing a new laminate countertop material from Wilsonart, the very company that made my countertop material.
Always dreaming of replacing the old, I went to the Wilsonart website to window shop.  While there, and out of curiosity, I looked to see if my 45 year old laminate pattern was archived. 
No, it's not.
It is still for sale!

Has this pattern come full circle or did they have so much of it stockpiled they decided to keep selling it until it's all gone?  Whatever it is, seeing it there pushed my thinking out of the trench it had been in.
I came around to appreciate this outdated part of my kitchen once again.

I still love that stunning slab of granite I saw in a Texas kitchen, with its vein of blue running river-like through it.  I love my daughter's butcher block counters.
There are many good looking surfaces to be admired. But mine is unique, and although dated, I think I'd miss it, if it was replaced.

So for now, the best counter tops for me are

"Autumn Lights Daisy" Wilsonart Y0039.

Groovy, huh?

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Connecting the sinking of the Lusitania and the memories from the Georgic.

I just finished reading Dead Wake by journalist and nonfiction author Erik Larson.
This nonfiction story is about the last transatlantic crossing of the luxury ocean liner, the Lusitania, in 1915.  Larson takes all the documented history and weaves it so that it reads like fiction.   He brings vitality to a cast of factual characters:

the passengers on board,
the crew,
the captains of both the Lusitania and 
the submarine, U-20, that sank it,
President Woodrow Wilson,
the secret group of Room 40, 
and the ship itself.

Larson elevates history from boring to exciting.
The first book I read of his was The Devil in the White City.  This story takes place in Chicago and reading it before going to Chicago on vacation a few years ago greatly enriched that trip.  This Lusitania story sent me on a journey of sorts, as well.

In 1950 my English mother and I crossed the 
Atlantic from New York to Liverpool aboard the Cunard Line M.V. Georgic. This was the same route that the Lusitania sailed.
Like the Georgic, the Lusitania was owned by Cunard Line.  The only reason I know the name of the ship I traveled on is because I have a menu from a tea party I attended while on board. 

The inward trip that Larson's Lusitania story launched me on is one of questions and reflections.  The questions will probably ever be answered, as my mother died 10 years ago, and my 94 year old father's memory is stuck on a few of his favorite stories.  (Plus he did not make the journey with us.)

There is not a single photo from this trip.  Can you imagine?  How I wish there was a snapshot of me on deck!  Or better yet, a picture of me and my mom together, sea breezes blowing our hair and smiles on our faces. 

We were in England for months and yet there are no photos of either of us from this time.  This makes me so sad.  The only thing I have from this trip is the tea party menu and two brief stories my mother told me.

I cannot remember my mother taking any photos in her life time.  I have no recollection of her ever having a camera in her hands.
In the photo-snapping times of now, this would never happen.
  No photos from such a trip seems beyond grasp.

There are so many questions I want to ask my mother.  Why didn't I think of them while she was alive?  (If I did ask her for details about her stories, she would brush them aside as unimportant.)
How I wish I would have been more persistent in finding out more about her experiences as an English war bride,
a young mother,
the early years of her being in this her new country, knowing no one other than my father,
and, of course, our seafaring adventure and visit to her family in England when I was 3 years old. 

I have already explored a little about the Georgic.  There is even a YouTube video of it.  And because I want to know more about this trip and my mother's early marriage, I may start digging into more resources.
I've heard you shouldn't live in the past, but it sure is nice to visit it. 

If photographs unlock memories, I'm glad I'll leave so many for my children and grandchildren. 

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A lesson from the chickens or easy caterpillar removal

If you are squirmy about wormies, this probably isn't the blog post for you...

 I love to learn new things.   I am open to any teacher, be it 
my 5 year old granddaughter teaching me an art technique, a formal classroom learning opportunity, or
my chickens teaching me how to remove cabbage looper caterpillars from my lettuce leaves.

Last week, being so preoccupied with keeping my lettuce comfortable in the 90 degree heat we were having here in Southern California, I neglected to notice that the big, beautiful leaves of my Black seeded Simpson lettuce were looking more like doilies than vegetables.  I started looking for the culprits.  There was the frass evidence that they were eating and digesting my future salads.   And sure enough, and although their green color matched the lettuce perfectly, I spotted them.  
Cabbage loopers.  

 Being an organic gardener, I began picking the worms off the leaves.  I put them in a box to be delivered to my hens.  Some of the lettuce was so holey, I picked off an entire perforated leaf, with the caterpillars still attached, and added it to the Nellie and Amelia picnic hamper.  I picked 62 of the little gluttons off 18 plants.   (Yes, I counted the smooth, green inchworm-like caterpillars as I plucked them off.  I wanted to tell someone about how many had been on the plants and I thought an actual number made for a more realistic story. Plus worm picking can get boring, so I needed something to keep my mind involved.)  

I delivered the box lunch...
and watched as the girls enjoyed their delicacies.   I also observed that the hens would pick up a leaf and give it a shake before eating it.  The shaking caused the worms to fly off and then the hen would run to eat it before her coop-mate could get it.  This process surprised me, because when I pick cabbage caterpillars off plants they kind of grasp onto the plant and then cling to my fingers with their hairy little feet.  I didn't think a hen head-shake would dislodge them from the leaves.  And how did the hens know to do this?

I was out picking more loopers this afternoon.  I thought about the 
method the hens had shown me the day before.  I  gave the lettuce heads a  tap-tap with my hand.
 Sure enough, the gentle ruffling knocked the caterpillars off the leaves.  They fell off the plants and onto the dirt where they were both visible and easier to pick up.  Teeny-tiny caterpillars I would have never seen on the plants were easily seen on the soil.

I like the saying,

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."    Kalam

It is true and I hope I will always be a student open to all teachers.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

leprechauns don't like our house

posted by:  jennifer

it is the day after Saint Patrick's Day... my youngest went out into the living room first thing this morning and looked around.    (just like she had done yesterday morning, and when she came home from school yesterday)

she came to the kitchen and announced "leprechauns don't like our house."  
I didn't say a word.
then "you know why they don't like our house?   because it's not clean, and so they can't mess it up."

when did Saint Patrick's Day get so out of hand?   I have never particularly like the day.  I hated the whole "you are going to get pinched if you don't wear green" shenanigans when I was in school, and still do. But I think when I was growing up, that is about all involved in the day.
By the way, my kids asked yesterday morning if I was wearing green.  I said no.  and then I said I don't like St. Patrick's Day.... but as I thought about it throughout the day, it is more I don't celebrate it.  

these days though, the leprechauns come into the classrooms at school, and overturn trash cans, leave green footprints all over desks.
I have heard that they even go to houses, pee in the toilet (did you know they have green pee?) and forget to flush.  well, that's the word in the hallways at the elementary school.

now, in all honesty, for a couple of years, I felt the pressure.  The leprechauns did show up here a couple of times... they sprinkled some glitter and left some chocolate coins.

but I think they have got the point.  this is not a good house to hit.  
and it is okay.  Because I don't think ankle breaking size holes, that have been covered with grass, in hopes of trapping a leprechaun, that are dug in the backyard (in the pathway no less) should be encouraged.   

so, long story short, if you want to keep leprechauns away from your house, keep it messy. 
thank goodness they don't like messy houses, because all I need is another creature reeking havoc up in here.