Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Croque Monsieur

To call this the French version of toasted ham and cheese is doing it a disservice. If you've never had one, it's toasted bread, spread with Dijon mustard, a little sliced ham, Gruyere cheese, topped with another slice of lightly toasted bread. Then a white sauce with Parmesan and more Gruyere is slathered over the top, then more Gruyere, and the whole thing is baked and then broiled. I don't want to know the calorie count or fat content.

I had one at Brouers' in Seattle, and it was an eye-opening experience. Since that time, I've been looking for a recipe, unsuccessfully. One day, I was channel surfing, and landed on the Barefoot Contessa, and lo and behold, she was making Croque Monsieur!

I've never tried any of her recipes, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. Last night I gave it a shot, and made it with Cream of Tomato soup. I didn't want to just make grilled cheese, I wanted to celebrate the fact that the stitches came out and I could use my thumb again. I like to celebrate by cooking.

Anyway, I have to say, it was incredible! I just wish I hadn't run out of bread. It really put the soup to shame. I think I need to serve it with something more sophisticated than tomato soup; maybe a potato leek? Vichyssoise?

Doh! I gave myself away. I didn't do Meatless Monday last night. I really wanted to celebrate and make Croque Monsieur. Well, it was low-meat, at least.

Friday, April 24, 2009


The thumb is forcing me to keep my house and yard-work to a minimum, which is driving me crazy. I can't find any gloves that will fit over the thumb guard, and desperation is about to set in. Not that housework is high on my list, but even my slovenly standards have a limit.

I did get a little done today. I managed to trim the clematis by the front door, pull some weeds, and get rid of a bunch of old pots. I removed the early spring planter, and swept the front walk. It looked so much better!

Thing 2 helped me pot up the tomatoes into 4" pots. He labelled everything and watered the plants in. It was nice to have a helper. There were 16 plants in all. They needed up-potting about a week ago, but at least they're done now.

We had frost last night. It was 28 degrees this morning. The average last frost date for my area is supposedly April 9th, but it's never been as early as that, and I'm giving it a couple more weeks this year before I subject the tomatoes to the chilly weather, even if they're in kozy koats. I think April 20th is a closer average last frost date.

Okay, I can't concentrate. The guys are playing "American Woman" on Rockband, and it's really loud and lousy....

Monday, April 20, 2009

First Blossoms

Okay, the ornamental plums are all out, but it's the pears, cherries and apples that I hold my breath for:

Other things are coming up in the garden:

Peas in the one photo, and chives and caraway in the other.

And more blossoms - it's spring!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


OK, I'm a clutz. I was slicing potatoes using a mandolin, and not using the safety equipment. Three and a half hours in the er, and seven stitches later, my thumb is throbbing.

So now I'm not supposed to use it (typing with one hand, here) for two weeks. No dishes, no gardening, no laundry. I guess it's time for the boys to really chip in around here!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Finishing Tasks

I am a great one for starting things, but really bad at finishing, as is evidenced by all the unfinished knitting projects in my office. So the last few days I've been really working at finishing up things that really needed to get finished.

So yesterday, I finally (only ten days late) seeded the April 1st lettuce, spinach, and radishes. I don't know why I put it off. The ground was all prepped. It took just a few minutes to fertilize and plant the seeds. Lack of inertia, or activation energy, or something. Wednesday I am due to plant the seeds for the scallions. At least the weather is supposed to be warmer!

I also finished both baby afghans today. I'll toss them into the wash, and Mr. E can give them to the twins' dad at work. They're nice and soft, and I hope they like them!

And, finally, I finished the taxes. Woo-hoo! I'm not sure I'm going to do it anymore. It's getting way too complicated for my wee brain. Now, at least, I can clean up all the paperwork and regain my desk space.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Is it a sign of the times? Or are we just lucky that it hasn't happened to us yet?

My husband occasionally has to park on the street in a not-so-great neighborhood in Seattle. His car is a beater - old, with 200,000+ miles on it (it still gets over 30mpg, though), and as is his wont, he'll drive it into the ground. In this not-so-great neighborhood, his car has been keyed several times, but between the old paint and dents, it hasn't been that big of a deal.

Yesterday, someone broke into his car. They punched out a small back window and unlocked the car (courteous of them, as it will cost less to replace). They climbed into the front and took the spare change - maybe a couple of bucks, if they were lucky. They left empty-handed other than that (we think). They didn't take the cassette tapes :-). His car has no CD player, and there was no MP3 player, iPod, or the like in the car - usually he listens to books on tape from the library. I bet they doubted that someone could lead such a spartan existence.

The ironic thing is, a couple of weeks ago, we were parking downtown, and I was collecting the spare change out of my car so it wasn't in sight. Mr. E laughed at me, and said that no-one would break into a car for the spare change. I told him of a time when I was at the UW, when someone did to a girl on my floor's car (oddly enough, during the last big downturn of the economy). He laughed it off at the time.

So now his beater is sporting a new duct-taped window. The pride of the neighborhood :-)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beauty Day, Eh?

Many years ago, I road-tripped to Edmonton, Alberta with my husband and a couple of friends. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. We left late on a Friday night - one of the friends was returning from a business trip - and drove all night. We crossed the Canadian border from somewhere in Montana, I think, as a beautifully sunny day dawned.

We stopped for gas and a restroom break just over the border. Another couple also stopped, and the woman greeted us with "Beauty day, eh? What a glorious day to be alive!" At the time, I'm sure I snickered, being young and stupid. She was probably not much older than I am now. The rest of the trip is a blur - we stayed at the West Edmonton Mall, and you could see the curvature of the Earth from our hotel window. But what I remember most is that woman's "Beauty day, eh?"

Today was a "Beauty day." Low 70s, a light wind, blue skies, and snow on the mountains. I am fairly sore from yesterday's exertions, so Mr. E helped turn the rest of the two beds for me. I transplanted the lettuces, cabbages, and broccoli, adding compost and fertilizer, and watering them in with Alaska Fish fertilizer. Oh, and I got my mile-and-a-half in.

Top left: shallots Top right: budding pear Lower left: broccoli seedling Lower right: budding apple

With the warmer weather, all the fruit trees are getting ready to burst forth. Spring is so full of promise! The promise of warmer weather, of ripe fruit, and good, wholesome food.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Time to Get to Work!

Got lots of work in today! I started with a mile and a half walk. I need to get in shape for Bloomsday! It's a 7.5 mile run/walk event that I do with my "sisters", M and J. J runs, M and I walk. I have a month before it happens, but I was really sedentary this winter, and today's walk really let me know it :-). I'm going to do 1.5 miles every day for five days, then bump it up to two miles for four days, then up to 2.5.... The main thing is that I'll need to do it every day, rain or shine (or snow, or....) No more loafing.

Once it warmed up (below freezing last night), I dug in about two quarts of homemade organic fertilizer into the onion area, twirled it into the soil with a garden fork, raked it out and got the onions in. I have six four-foot rows, each a foot apart, which is too close, I know. I planted the seedlings about four inches apart, so with luck, if the blasted varmints leave them alone, I should have 70+ good-sized onions. That will hopefully last me six to eight months (no counting chickens here....)

Next came the peas. I spread a quart and a half of organic fertilizer along the 25 feet of row that they'll go in, and also added 2-1/2 cups of bone meal. I twirled that in with the garden fork, and then came the laborious process of planting each seed. Thankfully, Thing 1 helped out with the twirling and the planting. Chit-chat makes everything go faster, and we were done pretty quickly. About eight feet, double row of Lincoln peas, and 16 feet of Early Frosty. It'll be interesting to see when they're mature. Did waiting until April mean that I won't have peas until July, like last year?

Unfortunately, the ground was too wet to dig up from all the rain we had on Wednesday and Thursday. So I just weeded out the areas that I still need to plant. That's a pretty full day, anyway. Today finished in the low 60s (degrees), so it'll be good to dig tomorrow.

I made another batch of fertilizer, and need to go find some more components of the mix, as I'm out of just about everything that goes into it.

I'm totally wiped out, so it's a bath and early to bed for me.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Portland Road Trip

Today was very, very wet. Perfect day to road trip!

We went to Portland, Oregon for the day to visit two of our favorite places - OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), and Powell's Books.

OMSI, if you've never been there, is a lot of fun for adults as well as kids. It's much more hand-on than the Pacific Science Center. You get to move blocks with people-powered cranes, try to build the fastest sailing ship, see who can make the best paper-cup flyer, and investigate acids and bases in the chemistry lab.

There was also a DaVinci exhibit. They built some of his "inventions", but the part I found fascinating was all the research done on the Mona Lisa, and what they think she originally looked like before time took it's toll. Much brighter! She looks jaundiced in comparison.

After that, we visited VooDoo donuts (YUM!) and then we spent some time at Powell's Books. I picked up a copy of Steve Solomon's Gardening When it Counts - Growing Food in Hard Times. Looks like I'll get to peruse it tomorrow since it's so wet, and then Saturday and Sunday will be full of gardening.

This is short - it's been a long day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mother Nature Playing April Fool's

I looked out the window this morning. It is April, right? No foolin', it was snowing.

Not again! Another late spring, two years running. I can handle one year, but two in a row? It's enough to make a gardener cry.

So, no, I didn't get any planting done (it's probably a good thing I didn't), and won't now until Saturday, when it's supposed to dry out and warm up.

My tomatoes are slowly growing in the garage, under lights. It'll be a while before I'll be able to get them outside. It took forever for the cherry tomatoes to emerge. Frankly, I'd given up on them. So now I'll need to thin them to one plant per cell. The first leaves are starting to show on the earlier plants, and it won't be long before they'll need to be moved to four inch pots.

In the meantime, it's still winter, so there's a fire in the wood stove, and I'm working on baby afghan #2 which is now big enough to snuggle under. I really do need to finish it soon....