Please Don’t Fart on My Asana


I practice Bikram Yoga.

Before you dis it, hear me out. I know there’s a lot of slap talk about it because of Bikram himself who has made a pretty penny from T M-ing his sequence of postures. I don’t care about all that. What I care about is whether it works for me and it does.

Before Bikram Yoga, I could not stick to any form of exercise, nor could I stick with a  yoga practice. Holding my leg in the air for five minutes and deep breathing just didn’t cut it. For some sick reason, I love being in a room that’s over 100 degrees farenheit, sweating my life away as I hold various nutty/frustrating postures. The fact that my brain is often yelling “Let’s get the FUDGE out of here! I’m dying” is one of the challenges I embrace. Yeah, the postures never vary (except when an instructor is feeling particularly motivated and makes us hold a posture WAY longer than the standard minute) but that’s what’s good about it. You work and work at a posture until you think you know it, and then it deepens and gets better and better beyond that.

Anyway, this is not a rant about why Bikram yoga is good. Like selecting wine, if you like it then it’s good for you.

No, I want to vent about my session today which started out all fine and dandy. The heat was blowing, I was lying on my mat in Savasana waiting for the class to start when a none too lovely aroma filled the air…something like rotting cabbage.

Some yogi or yogini nearby was letting off stink bombs. Now, I know that we all have gas, and yes, sometimes we can’t control it…but this wasn’t the first time. And it wasn’t like it was just once…no, it was peppered throughout the entirety of my 90 minute class…usually in the toughest posture requiring deep breathing – the exertion being the reason for said stink bombs. Talk about a test to see how inward one can go. How can one deep breath with that kind of gas floating in 110 degree air? Seriously, I didn’t know whether to breath or gag. Not to mention, in the silent room, it was hard to not blurt out, “Seriously?!?” The gas was so enveloping I felt like others might think it was me. Talk about leaving pride and ego at the door.

To Stinky-McStinkfarm- please, please,please release your gases in the bathroom before the start of class…or adjust your diet, I detected too much asparagus and or vegetal matter. Not all of us are cut out for vegetarianism.

Gack! Too much info. Sorry. Just needed to vent…

would have loved an actual vent this morning…

S

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Le Jardin c’est Magnifique!


No credit to myself, the garden is looking pretty swell.

It’s my hubby who goes out every morning and waters the place. He also fought a valiant battle with earwigs and won. It took a bit to come up with a strategy, but once implemented the earwig populations was decimated. Our beer traps were not working so well- it caught snails and slugs but they weren’t the main issue. No, my hubby launched his attack at night, headlamp beaming on the hopelessly exposed earwigs who had unwittingly emerged from their day time hiding places to manger (pronounced “monjay” en Francais) on our romaine. The strategy? Flick as many possible into a bowl of soapy water. The survivors who missed the dip: death by rock.  I myself was not out there. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep over the din of rock hitting its target- Crack! Crack! Crack! It must have been satisfying because he was out there for quite some time. He proudly showed me the shriveled and mashed carcasses the next morning.

I won’t show you shots of the massacre lest it unsettle you. But here’s a lovely escargot, another garden terror. Our method of snail removal is to toss them over our fence into the back field. This guy is blissfully unaware of his upcoming aerial flight.

Our spring onions have been way over grown since fall. We decided to keep them in to see what would happen. After all, isn’t this just one grand experiment?

Last month they started flowering, and now check out the seeds:

Unsure of how to harvest, but unwilling to resort to google, I simply picked up a bowl and started massaging the heads until the seeds fell, en mass, into the dish.

My sister had taught me a nifty trick with morning-glory seeds: to separate seeds from the husks, simply blow. Seeds are heavier and will remain in the dish. So I figured, maybe it’s the same deal with these seeds. Thankfully, I was right and didn’t end up with an empty dish.

So now we’ve got seeds galore. Not sure what to do with them as it’s a little late, perhaps, to be sprouting them for this year. But I feel like such a pioneer when I gather seeds instead of buying them at the store. I feel like, “wow, I am da shit, I keep a self-sustaining garden”. The next step would be to actually label the seeds I harvest as it makes for some awful guess-work when the next season comes around. So, yeah, I’m a pioneer but not a very organized one…

The elephant garlic that started to magically grow this year, having skipped the previous year when it was actually planted, had started to grow flowers on top. We caved and googled ” when to harvest elephant garlic” and learned that we were really late. For some reason we thought we had to wait until the stalk shriveled and dried. Not so, you’re supposed to wait until the bottom leaves brown but the rest is still green. Then stop watering for a few days to allow it to begin to dry and then pull it from the ground. So we scampered out to the garden ( as if a few extra seconds would make us any less late in harvesting the things) and we gingerly pulled them out and found:

Note the little garlics hanging off the roots. No idea what that is exactly- must be its way of propagating itself. I imagine if left in the soil we’d have a whole planter box full of elephant garlic come next spring.

They cleaned up nice. Hopefully they will “set”, that is, dry nicely. Maybe we don’t even have to really worry about that since we only have two and I plan on consuming those bad guys quite soon.

Our green beans are growing..or should I say green bean singular. I think I will need to buy a miniature frying pan, because at this rate, that’s what I’ll be serving up, one green bean at a time. I can’t imagine that we will ever have a handful all at once…but you never know.

I leave you with a few more shots of the garden and its bounty!

S

Yay Success! A Succulenteur’s Propagation Story Has a Happy Ending!


Hellooo!

So, way back when, I started a little propagation  experiment with some cast off succulent leaves I found at the local nursery.

Check out my April post title “Never Go Near A Garden Center a.k.a. Human Magnet” to see where it all began.

This is mostly a success story, but as with all good stories there is also a little bit of bad, so let me get that out of the way:

Back in April when I got some new succulents I bought one that was called Bear Paws. Loved them. Planted them right alongside the other one I’d purchased. I kept them indoors out of the frost, coddled them, kept them in filtered light and spritzed lightly with water. It did great for several months, and then inexplicably, the paws started to drop off. At first I thought it was because the curtain had snagged one and amputated a paw…but over several days they all started to droop and one by one they fell off. Needless to say, another one bites the dust. I don’t even have a picture to show you because it all happened so quickly there is literally nothing left to show.

On a happy note, even though it’s neighbor died a horrible and inexplicable death, this succulent is thriving and starting to form a flower!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But oh how I loved that Bear Claw. I will have to give it a go one more time. I will not be defeated!

Now on to the success story! Remember the cast off leaves and the bed of Perlite and the beginning of growth? Check this out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what I’d been waiting for, the original leaf is now shriveled and discolored which means the new plant forming at its base has used up all the leaves good stuff and needs to be planted. Glad to oblige!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out that root action!

 

I just so happened to have the perfect little planter: a retro, made in Japan, cute as can be, ceramic girl with puppy planter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Et voila! If I can do it, you can too! All it required was patience waiting for the little bugger to start doing something. It’s really quite enjoyable to watch the process inch along.

So get busy, start scouring for those poor abandoned succulent leaves at your local garden center!

 

 

S

The Art of Staying Calm in the Face of Paperwork!


I hate paperwork.

And yet, the winding path of my life has led me to a point where paperwork is the order of the day.

It started small, as all things do.

In the very beginning it was just a small thing:  a social security number( rather a Social Insurance Number since I started out my paper filled life in Canada) so I could get my first job…then income taxes. Once in, the ball kept rolling. Then it was license and then travel visas…then I went and fell in love with a California boy and whoops, here we are married (marriage license, more paperwork) and in the process of becoming a landed immigrant -mondo paperwork!!

Currently we are looking for a home and went almost to the end of a purchase in which paperwork for the loan and purchase, appraisals, insurance was ..monumental…(sigh)

And now… I’m trying to truly launch my artist’s career becoming legit by getting a business license and seller’s permit…and boy oh boy am I in for it! I attended a free small business seminar and simply put, had my mind blown by how regulated and fraught with paperwork going into business is. I am at the point where I could freeze out of sheer overwhelmed-ness (I know, not a word) or slowly begin to slog forward, as I have with immigration and with house buying etc. It’s helpful when you have a partner to slog along with you (lots of paperwork lingo is confusing, so it’s good to have a second opinion!).

But isn’t there more to life than paperwork? How did it all come to this? When did papers begin to rule our lives? I know it’s necessary, without regulation we could devolve into chaos. We want freedom but we don’t really want freedom, to go back to the days of yore when we had to defend the homestead shot-gun in hand. Were there building permits? Heck no! Building inspectors? Heckity heck no…but there were taxes, always the taxes.

My utopian dream would be a world in which no paperwork need be filed. No, scratch that…I’d be content with a career that was so successful I could pay someone else to do the paperwork.

The fear is that there will be so much of the paper stuff that there won’t be nearly enough time for the art stuff. I know I am just riling away at the injustice of it all whilst everyone reading this is just thinking ” that is just the way of the world, suck it up  girl!”

And that’s what I am going to do.

I am grateful that our paperwork and checks and balances keep us from a situation where we have to bribe our bureaucrats and officers etc…..at least…not for such little things as business licenses…..

I’m probably revealing how very little I know.

What I know is art, and I’m going to try to keep that my focus.

Deep breathe. Paperwork will be taken care of one step at a time. Keep creating.

S

Grilled Oysters and Salmon, Oh My! And Baby Birdies Make a Ruckus


I had an “Ah ha! Ho ho! Hee hee!” moment just last week as I cruised through the aisles of the local grocery, desperate for  a quick meal but not ready to totally compromise on quality.  Standing at the meat counter I was eyeing the salmon, debating between the chilean farmed fish for 8.99 per lb and the wild caught at 19.99 per lb. Reason won out and I decided on the affordable since fish is always a hit or miss with the hubby, and then what caught my eye was a nice pile of these suckers at 89 cents each. The guys at the counter are always awesome and ended up throwing in a few extra.

Back at the ranch I had my hubby start-up the grill whilst I prepped the salmon, skin on of course!

Salmon:

On tin foil drizzle liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Lay salmon skin side down.

add salt and pepper on top (to taste)

add slices of lemon on top. Fold tin foil mostly closed.

Once the grill was ready, the salmon went on. Couldn’t tell you exactly how long since we usually determine its done-ness by poking at it. Roughly 10 minutes.

Then on went the oysters which required only a minute or so.

This folks was literally the fastest meal we’d every prepared. And all our weariness from the day was usurped by our excitement over  this special treat.

Once the oysters come off the grill, all you need are lime wedges and Tapatio sauce and you are good to go. Be sure, as you crack it open with a sturdy knife, to not spill the delicious juices – you’ll not only burn the crap out of your hands but you’ll also miss out on the added tastiness of the brine.

please try to ignore the purple on my thumb; as an art teacher to kids, I bring my work home with me on my clothes and hands!

Now, my hubby is not a fan of fishy stuff, but he loves this. Surprising indeed! And I have encountered all manner of gloppy, slimy, uncooked, fishy horrors during my stint in Korea, but this is nothing like that. It is pure yumminess all the way and you should try it!

Here’s how the salmon turned out:

And because the tin foil was not all the way closed, steam was allowed to escape and the skin was able to get crispy:

Laying the skin down on oil with salt is key to crispness!

And, because I don’t like to do without greens, here’s the simplest greens prep ever:

Steam a nice bunch of collards, turnip, spinach or mustard greens ( I cheat and buy a cleaned and cut bag with a mix of all of those greens at Trader Joe’s). If you use any of those greens it will take only 5 minutes since they cook up super fast. If you use Kale, expect about 20 minutes. Remember that it shrinks down like crazy, so don’t be afraid to steam what looks like a gargantuan amount.

Remove from water, drizzle a teaspoon of light soy sauce and a half teaspoon of sesame oil on top. Gently mix. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top:

Highly recommended: canned beer. It serves two purposes: 1. a yummy pairing with delicious oysters and 2. as a beer-can trap for awful slugs that keep eating our garden veggies.

Die slugs, die!

It really works! Cut the can in half, fill with about an inch of the beer you can’t finish or has gotten too warm to be refreshing anymore.

Okay, okay we’ve talked about slug death, now on to life! Baby bird life!

The joy of the grill is not just the food but the entertainment we get from the birds that visit our little yard. Right now we have a bunch of hungry blue bird babies and two very tired parents who are continually feeding them. It’s truly remarkable how non-stop it is. Approximately every minute one of the parents lands with some grub to put in their gaping mouths. The babies are making quite a racket with their chirping.

It’s a cut-throat brutal world for the birds. There’s always a threat that another bigger bird will come and drag the babies out for a wee snack. Mom and dad are very watchful and are always suspicious of us. We are always hyper aware of the chirping and when we don’t hear it we fear the worst. But so far, so good.

One wonders how the fattened up babies are going to squeeze out of that hole!

It’s nice to know everyone is well fed.

So try out the oyster thing, it will be well worth it and it’s about the easiest thing you could prepare for a meal.

S

Keep It Simple Genius: Pearl Barley, Quinoa and Veggie Salad


Folks, you know how I don’t like to spend loads of time doing domestic chores. Cooking falls somewhere in the middle. I groan about having to do it at times when I’m just off work and would rather be vegging or doing something creative. But as it turns out, cooking can also be an amazing creative outlet as well and I try to look at it that way. Recently (actually, in April) one of my fellow bloggers sent out a challenge to the blogosphere  to create something out of left-overs, the “Great Leftover Challenge”  at http://dannyskitchen.me/. Well, I didn’t answer the call but now I’ve come around so I’ll post this in honour of the competition I did not participate in. My absolute favourite thing to do in the kitchen is work with what I have left over in the fridge and try to come up with something that completely reinvents it. That to me is the most creative and seems to come to me rather more naturally than a brand new dish. Also, if I don’t have to nip off to the grocery store for any filler ingredients, I consider that the biggest success and triumph. Let me share with you my triumph:

This is what I had in the fridge: Pearl Barley from  the previous night’s BBQ, a half tomato and  1/3 of a box of quinoa.

So I rummaged through the fridge, mind working through possibilities, and this is what I dragged out:

I set the quinoa to cooking. I’ve seen it prepared other ways, but my way is to rinse the quinoa several times to make sure of no gritty chunks ( I lose some grains in the process since they are so dang tiny), then bring water to a boil and put the quinoa in. When it comes to a second boil, stir and then leave it on low until all the water has evaporated. Pretty much exactly as one would prepare rice (though I’ve seen other methods of rice making as well that go against all my asian roots and makes me cringe).

Then comes the chopping and the grating. I happened to have the veggies that I had, but that in no way should limit you. As long as you have crunchy veggies, this dish will be a success. I happen to like the texture of cucumber and cauliflower in salads and was lucky enough to have them in my fridge at the time.

So here’s the ingredients list, just keep in mind it is infinitely changeable:

pearl barley

quinoa

1/2 tomato

1/3 cauliflower

1/2 cucumber

2 celery sticks

2 carrots medium-sized

1 bell pepper

Sorry folks, I’m kind of a pinch of this and that cook. As you will see later, I’m not much for measuring and I rarely follow recipes. I’d say I had approximately a cup of barley and a cup of quinoa.

My personal preference is to grate the carrot into the salad. Easier to chew and it seems to absorb more of the yummy dressing in this state.

Oh yes! And a wee bit of red onion finely sliced or diced. I took a pic to illustrate how little I use. Too much and it overwhelms the salad and also makes for dragon breath that will haunt you for the rest of the night and maybe into the morning!

Don’t forget that this is a wonderful time to fill your compost. If you do not yet have a compost, get on it! It’s absolutely brilliant. It took me a while to convince my hubby that we needed one. He thought it would just attract wildlife i.e. rats and our yard was too small. But I worked on him and we ended up building a small one. He is now a convert. It makes fabulous soil for our little garden, and it feels lovely not tossing all this organic matter into the landfill.

*Side note, the best compost bucket in the world is not the ones they sell specifically for compost but this plastic OXO brand container. It is marketed as a container for pantry items like cereal, etc. because the lid has a top button that you depress and it seals the container. Well, it absolutely works as a compost bucket for exactly that reason: it seals. No smelly fumes emerging into the kitchen AND it’s easy to clean unlike traditional buckets that have all sorts of inconvenient grooves for stink to settle into.

Okay, back to the salad.

As I mentioned earlier I’m not a measurer and as a result I invariably realize mid-way that  I have  chosen a vessel too small for what I am creating. Since I am a salad monster, I should have known better and just gone for the largest bowl possible. But for me, starting smaller helps to reign me back a bit. It is always helpful to have a bowl that is slightly too large so that when you get to the dressing it part of the process, you can easily mix without all the ingredients falling out.

Bowl transfer

Last but not least, when all fresh veg are happily sitting in the bowl, toss the cooked quinoa and some raw sunflower seeds (optional) on top. The quinoa is still warm from cooking, but as it mixes in quickly gets cooled by the veg.

And now for the dressing. Remember, keep it simple my geniuses. If you have a favourite salad dressing in the fridge, good for you! Toss it in.

If you like making your own dressing, do so and toss it in.

I am a sour/vinegar fan and so I favour this totally made up recipe of mine, which I will now attempt to share but keep in mind the measurements are approximations. Keep the phrase “to taste” in mind and make adjustments accordingly. My salad was rather large so measurements are also large.

Asian dressing:

1 lemon or lime (I actually prefer lime but had none on hand and dang it I was not going to the store!)

3 tbsp virgin olive oil

1 dash kosher (or any) salt. Celtic sea salt would be awesome!

2 tbsp light soy sauce (all soy sauce is not created equal and come in many flavours. I recommend Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce)

Rice vinegar (to taste) approx 2 tbsp

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp  agave

1 tsp sesame oil

 It wouldn’t hurt to sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds as well. I know my Auntie R would approve.

Then mix this whole shebang together and…

voila!

A salad even my hubby can enjoy. For me, the essential ingredients are those that give it a variety of texture: the cauliflower, sunflower seeds and grain. I’ve never used pearl barley before, but it was very nice. In lieu of that, brown rice or spelt would do…any grain you enjoy.

So, I hope you give this a try. It’s super simple (any and all ingredients can be substituted with something similar) and pretty quick so long as you don’t mind a little chopping.

Cheers!

S

Attempting to be a Successful Succulenteur and Other Garden Hits and Misses


Many posts ago I started on the path of succulent propagation.  My biggest experiment was using the “let it sit” method with a few leaves I’d gathered that had fallen from a succulent plant at the garden center – NOT stealing as they would have been considered cast offs and no doubt swept up and tossed.

So, to refresh, the method is to let them lie on a bed of Perlite in filtered light until they push out roots and then begin to form their own little plant. A while ago they put out a few tiny roots, but check it out now! The little plant is starting to form at the base ( you’ll probably need to click on the photo to enlarge it so you can really look closely):

 

Also, the heads of my Hens and Chicks have robust roots and are more than ready to be planted…if only I had a place to put them…

 

And, as I may have mentioned before, the art of becoming a succulenteur is really about experimentation. I just made a new observation about one of my succulents. It could almost seem to be a deliberate experiment with two test groups, but in reality it is all just coincidence that I had the same succulent type planted in two very different locations. One is outside in full sun, the other in filtered light. Check out the difference between the two!

 

The first one is in full light, the second in filtered. Note how in full light and heat they have balled up and tightened. In the filtered light they have opened up and stretched that neat webbing to its max. Both are doing well, but they adjust to their conditions in order to do so. Also, the one in full light popped out a lot of babies ( off shoots) in early spring due to lots of consistent rain…unlike the ones in filtered light which rely on my non-consistent watering patterns!

 

On the garden front…well, the Bok Choi bolted. This is the third attempt and the third failure. We’ve had really odd changes of temperature. I’m pretty sure the week of scorching heat is what caused them to bolt. But if it weren’t for the heat, I’m sure the pests would have done them in:

Note all the munched leaves.

 

Our little planter with chard turned into a potty for some nocturnal animal. All the sprouts were dug out and I believe if you look close enough you can even see a turd in the bowl. Boo!

Okay, since we’re on the track of failures at the moment, I may as well tell yo that some of my succulents started looking rather weird in the way they were forming their leaves. Also, I noted aphid-like critters on some of them. It seemed to be spreading, so I uprooted the ones that looked diseased.

 

Also, because of the funky weather, my living rock succulent’s flowers shriveled up and died without actually blossoming. I thought the whole plant would die, but it seems to be doing okay if you disregard the desiccated flowers at its center.

 

Onwards to brighter things! The Romain is doing fantastic. We had our first garden salad of the year a few days ago. The roses are in bloom, my Lambs Ear are taking over the entire patch and the bees are loving the flowers that just started blossoming from them. My Lavendula Dilly Dilly ( yes, the actual name of the lavender I planted, of course I chose it for its name!) is getting ready to bloom as well.

 

 

 

 

Our Purple Iris has run its course

 

 

But replacing it is a new kind:

 

And my established Hens and Chicks are also blooming:

 

And finally, after three years here, a lovely California Poppy has decided to join our accidental garden!

 

Annnnd we have a blue bird family in our little bird house. Every time we step into the garden you can hear the little babies chirping from inside, saying “feed me, feed me, feed me!” Our presence in the garden worries the parents who stand around with worms and insects in their beaks flitting to the roof of the house then away again unwilling to reveal to us where their precious babies are. And in accordance the babies fall silent too; until my hubby and I freeze in our actions to the point of shaking with the extended exertion of it until finally the mommy or daddy decide we’re no longer a threat and finally deliver the food to the anxious and voracious babies.

Mommy and…

Daddy!

 

Also, now that it’s getting hot, we are visited by our friendly neighborhood lizards who love our concrete step leading into the garden.

 

All in all, we are rather happy with our little backyard. We haven’t invested as much time in it as the previous year, but it is still a delight. Everything seems so alive and so active.

 

 

So, despite some failures in the gardening department, on the whole I think it is much more of a success. I’ll leave it at that!

 

 

S