Thursday, May 7, 2009

One Last Hoorah

Rob and I went canoeing a few days ago. It's been a while, since he is always working these days. We both took a day off to go down the Santa Fe one last time before I leave town.

Unfortunately, it had been so long since we used the canoe that some large ants had moved in. A lot of them. Into both the front and the back of the boat, or as Rob insists I call them, the "bow" and "stern." I want to mention here that since I am not a pirate, I don't feel the need to use this fancy boat talk.

Anyway, we had to submerge the canoe for at least ten minutes to get rid of them all. 



But they were invincible! They floated toward shore in hordes and simply got out and began marching.


All those white dots in the above photo are ants. Here they are up close.

We didn't canoe very far -- just down to Blue Springs, where we canoed up a side spring run, and then back out and down to Ginnie Springs for some R & R. 


See the turtle (also known as a cooter)?



Rob demanded I take a photo of him.



A snake swam up to our canoe at Ginnie Springs and glared at me. It was kinda freaky, but I don't think the snake was a poisonous one. Still, who wants to be that close to any snake? It literally came up to the side of the canoe. Too close for me.


I'm in Europe right now, but wanted to finish this entry before I got back and became concerned with moving to D.C. (five days after my return). 

So this was my last Florida outing for the forseeable future.

Goodbye, river.


Goodbye, springs.


Goodbye, Florida.

Tree Giveaway

A bunch of friends and I went to the GRU Tree-mendous event a couple weeks ago. GRU is our local, community-owned utility, and once a year they give away two shrubs and trees away to anyone with a recent utility bill. People go nuts over this event. I'm not even kidding, you have to get there before dawn to ensure a good place in the line that forms before the gates open.

When I got up it was still dark out (shocking for anyone who knows me). I drank a lot of strong tea that morning. We got to the giveaway location a little after 7, and were still 1/4 mile back in line!!!!!!


I got two gingers for Kim, since I don't need any plants. I mean, I'm trying to unload any plants I haven't killed yet, since I am moving in three weeks. Afterwards, we got breakfast at a new joint. It was actually really fun, despite my lack of sleep.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moving

I haven't posted for a while because I've been trying to figure out what to do with this blog in both the short run and the long run.

Short run: I got a job in Washington, D.C. and am moving there at the end of May. Plus, I'm going to be in Europe for half of May. My energy is pretty much completely focused on these two things right now and I doubt I will get around to blogging in the next month or two.

Long run: I haven't decided if I'm going to rename this blog and keep it alive, or shutter it. Certainly the focus would change, if I kept it (or started a new one), although it would probably concern many of the same things.

I don't know. I need to think on it some more.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cooking, Cont'd

I was going to post another recipe on Friday, but it was after 5 and I needed to go home and cook dinner for some friends. And today I don't have this recipe with me, so I'm going to wing it a little bit. I'll come back later and doublecheck the accuracy of what I write.


Southwest Corn Hash
Source: The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen

Notes
This cookbook is great because everything is super easy and fast to throw together, yet extremely flavorful. The dishes are mostly sides and so far I've been very happy with almost everything I've made from it. This particular dish is great for cooking in-season in the spring and summer and it was really, really yummy.

Ingredients
2 ears fresh corn, scraped off ears (you could probably use about 2 cups frozen)
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
A couple of scallions, minced
Olive oil

Procedure
Heat up olive oil in a large pan at medium heat. Add red pepper and onion. When they begin to soften, add jalapeno, garlic, and corn. Saute for five minutes. Add salt and pepper and scallions, and turn heat down to low till you serve.

When this was ready I added cilantro and grated monterey jack cheese, and I would definitely do that again. I served the hash on a bed of romaine lettuce, topped with nutritional yeast tofu (recipe below).


Nutritional Yeast Tofu
Source: Self

Notes
When I make up my own recipes I never really measure anything. Sorry.

Ingredients
1 slab firm tofu (preferably one that you've frozen but which has defrosted in the fridge; this is to keep the tofu holding together nicely), cut across the short side into slices 1/4" thick
About 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
A couple tablespoons nutritional yeast
A couple of teaspoons cornstarch
A couple of tablespoons flour
Salt (1/8 teaspoon? 1/4? I don't know)
Oil for pan

In one bowl, combine almond or soy milk and cornstarch, whisking to combine. In another bowl, combine flour, nutritional yeast, and salt. Heat oil in large nonstick pan. When the oil is hot but not before -- this is very important -- you'll start adding the tofu. First take each piece of tofu and dip it in the milk (first whisking to re-suspend the cornstarch), then dip it in the nutritional yeast. Make sure each piece is coated thoroughly on all sides, then drop it in the oil. Repeat for rest of tofu. Fry it up on both sides. Pat excess oil off and eat it on top of the hash above or with your breakfast or whatever you feel like.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Cooking

Okay, I'm sorry again I haven't written anything. In the gap, I've done some more vegetable gardening, resurrected some seemingly dead plants, went to the Kanapaha Spring Festival with Sally, went to the Spring Arts Festival with Robin, and took photos of none of it. Sometimes I just want to experience my life instead of blogging about it.

To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about blogging. Unlike many people in my approximate age group, there are actually many things about my life that I like to be private. Plus, I just don't know how many things I do are that interesting to other people. Don't get me wrong -- I'm an avid blog reader and consider myself to be an extremely curious (you might call me nosy) person. But I'm not always sure I want to be on the other end of that spotlight.

But every week or two I feel ok about blogging. Sometimes I enjoy the exercise of examining my daily life. Or whatever.

Anyway:

In the summer I do not like to cook, and consequently end up eating a lot of salad. This is probably mostly because I live without A/C and the heat diminishes my appetite. So in the past few weeks I've been milking the tolerable temperatures for all they're worth. Here are recipes for two tasty meals I recently made.

Red Coconut Curry
Source: Self

Notes
I doubt coconut milk is real low-fat (sarcasm), but it sure is delicious and coconut is supposed to be some kind of miracle food, so who cares? Live it up. This dish takes about 20 min. tops and is delectable. You can also add potatoes or corn or anything else you feel like.

Ingredients
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 lb-ish collard greens, rinsed and chopped
2 carrots, diced
1/2 lb-ish tempeh*, cubed
Red curry paste, to taste
1 can coconut milk
Salt to taste
Some rice (basmati or jasmine)

Procedure
Heat up some coconut/olive/whatever oil in a pan over medium heat. Throw in the tempeh and saute it until it's brown. Then add the collards, red pepper, and carrots. Cook for five or so minutes. The greens will start turning bright green. Add salt.


Turn heat down a little bit and add coconut milk and curry. I used more than a tablespoon of curry, because I like some heat.



Stir till blended, then let it warm up slowly. Serve over rice.

*We Gainesvillans are lucky enough to have a local tempeh maker, Jose, who sells his tempeh in frozen cubes that have been marinated in soy sauce and stuff but you can use regular tempeh plain and cubed, or marinate it yourself.

I have to run but will write more about cooking and maybe other stuff later this weekend.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fishin' on Newnan's Lake

It is definitely spring. It's very warm and there is pollen everywhere. Last weekend was a great time to go fishing.


I went out to Newnan's Lake with my friend Brandon, who has a canoe. I have never met anyone who likes to fish as much as Brandon. Here is his "I am so happy I am fishing" face.



I really like to fish, and I love canoeing, so I was stoked.


It was pretty much a perfect day, warm and breezy.




We saw and heard tons of birds -- it was actually pretty cacophonous! In the water, there were ducks, herons, and egrets (small and large). We heard a barred owl hunting in the woods. Fishing from high above the water were a bald eagle and a pair of osprey.

We fished for a while near the ospreys' nest. See it? It's on the left, and one of the ospreys is watching over it while the other hunts.


I zoomed in a bit. The nest is in the dead center of the photo, and the osprey is perched on a branch just above it and to the right.


That was a fantastic day.


Oh, Brandon caught a catfish (for a change!), which he threw back, and I didn't catch a thang.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Christmas Cactus

I bought a Christmas cactus at my department's student club annual holiday plant sale a couple of years ago. When I got it, it had multiple gorgeous fuschia blooms. Then it entered my house and slowly lost them all.

Christmas cacti are trained when to bloom by growers. They need to have light only during the day for something like six weeks before they bloom. Well, mine's in my kitchen, and I definitely don't make sure it's in the dark all night. So it hasn't bloomed since I got it.


Until now! For the past month or so, I've been getting one beautiful bloom at a time. When one dies, another opens up. It's nice to stare at while I do dishes (the plant is above my sink).

Kitties and Puppies

So it doesn't fit in with my blog's mission at all, but who can resist kitties and puppies? Everyone loves them, right?

I recently got a cat. His name is Mr. Cheeks. He is very soft and cuddly and he sounds like a pigeon (seriously).


My friend Mary recently got two of the sweetest kittens I have ever met.



Emily's son got a puppy for Christmas. He's a lab, so he's already ginormous, but that doesn't mean he's any less puppy-acting. For example, somehow he got ahold of a fish head and carried it proudly around the yard while we were gardening the other day. (They always have weird crap lying around.)


And my parents got a new puppy!!!! Her name is Lucy and she's a mastiff.


Cutest. Dog. Ever.


Roast chicken pose.


She's very curious and affectionate. If you think these are traits common to all dogs, you haven't met my parents' last two dogs. They're both Bouviers de Flandres; the Bouvier is a Belgian cattle herding breed. My parents' dogs are infuriatingly aloof and indifferent -- well, the one that's still alive is, anyway. The other one was. But he recently went to the Great Dog in the Sky.


So it's kind of nice to have a friendly dog around for a change.

video

If you watch that video, the banging sound is my mother chopping vegetables.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vegetable Gardening!

I have not really grown vegetables in the past year or so. Well, I've sort of tried ... but only in containers ... and then I don't water enough, and the plants are too far away from my hose ... it's just too complicated to grow things in containers.

I've been wanting to grow some veggies in the ground, but I rent, and don't want to tear up all the grass, and I also don't think my landlady would like it. Plus it's kind of expensive to build beds and stuff. (Excuse excuse excuse excuse is what Tom would say but we can't all have neon-green thumbs. Hmph.)

Anyway, I was explaining all this to Emily (my boss), who told me I should just garden with her this spring. Eureka! Emily lives on a farm and has beds already built. We both have plenty of seeds, and gardening is more fun with someone else (in my opinion).

So about a week ago I drove out to Wacahoota Road and weeded and sweated and planted seeds. Here's what we're growing (we tend to over-do things when we get together):

Tomato seedlings in a grow box


Tomatoes from seed


Hot peppers and marigolds


Zinnias and basil


Eventually we will plant all those seedlings in Em's raised beds. These are the two we weeded that weekend.


We also planted some seeds directly in the raised beds: okra, four different kinds of sunflowers (I love sunflowers!), and some other stuff.


We are also going to buy some veggie and herb seedlings this week and plant some more stuff in Em's rows.

Our garden is going to be awesome!!!

The Big Apple

I went to NYC a couple of weeks ago to take a test (long story). I had a fantastic time with my friend Joel and his girlfriend, Susan. We ate lots of delicious food and I was able to enjoy many of the perks of a big city, which I have been missing, without the hassle, which I have not.

Some of the highlights:

Farmer's market in Brooklyn


At the farmer's market, locally produced jams and honeys and breads ... yum...


Great restaurants. At this restaurant I ordered this tea flower. The tea came wrapped in a little bundle that looked like tobacco. As the hot water seeped into it, it slowly unfurled like a flower. I think it was jasmine.


What I love about traveling is that there are so many new things to try. I miss that when I live in Gainesville.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Regret

I've neglected you, blog, and I am sorry. I've got some ideas about things to post but am just running behind. Will try to get to them tomorrow.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Notable Happenings

I was out of town for a bit again. Here's the latest news:

1) My car's odometer has reached 177,777 miles! I was going to take a photo when it got to 7/10ths of a mile, so that it would read 177,777.7, but then I forgot and now it's way past. I have had my car almost twelve years.

2) Between the drought and the constantly see-sawing temperature, I have killed almost all of my plants.

I haven't done anything nature-y lately and need to get on that. Maybe this weekend.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Favorite Recipe

I love quinoa. This ancient Latin American grain (pronounced keen-wah) is an utterly delicious complete protein. If you add a few other things, it's like the perfect meal eaten warm or cool, by itself or as a side dish. I usually make this on the weekend and eat it all week as a snack or for lunch.

Ingredients
2 cups quinoa
3 radishes, diced
1/3 can chickpeas (or if you use dried chickpeas, around 1/3 cup reconstituted chickpeas)
1/3-1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/4 cup feta, diced/crumbled
1/3 lb cubed tofu, sauted
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2-3 green onions, minced
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup currants
2-4 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Toast the quinoa at medium heat in a pan with about 1/4 cup water, making sure all the quinoa is moistened -- there should be no excess water. Stir frequently until quinoa browns (do not burn) and pops like popcorn. I think this has something to do with a natural pesticide coating the quinoa has, but all I really know is that toasting it before cooking it makes it nuttier tasting.

Then add 3 1/2 to 4 cups of water and after it boils, turn the pot down to simmer with a lid on for 10-20 minutes. (My stove is wonky, so I can't be precise about this.) Keep an eye on it to make sure all the water evaporates and the quinoa gets softish but not all mushy. It's a fine line sometimes. The quinoa should be fluffy.

Then add some olive oil and salt and pepper while it cools, stirring a bit to release some of the heat. When it's cooled off some, add all the veggies and other stuff. Between the quinoa, feta, walnuts, and chickpeas, it's a mega-proteiny dish. I usually eat it on a bed of chopped romaine lettuce, sometimes topped with a black bean-jalapeno dip. But any way you eat it, it will simultaneously fill you up and gives you tons of energy (no after-meal nap required).

You can vary the ingredients and their amounts however you want -- I just happen to like a lot of different flavors in my meals. For example, you can try subbing parsley for the cilantro or chopped figs for the currants. (I try to have one sweet thing in my quinoa to offset all the savory flavors.)

This dish will keep for up to a week, although the chickpeas and feta shorten its lifespan by a few days.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring Is on the Way (In Which I Discuss a Trio of Disappearances; One Appearance; and One Potential But Feared Appearance)

Signs that "winter" (really, it's Florida, so winter is like a pimple on the face of the tropics) is almost over:

1) Appearing robins. Every January, robins descend on North Florida on their way south, or north, or somewhere. When they show up, they flash their orange breasts all over town. These omnivores crawl over seemingly every bit of foliage and ground looking for grubs, berries, insects, and anything else they can get their beaks on.

I love robins and we never see them any other time of year, so it's always a bit thrilling when they suddenly show up en masse, all over my yard and even sometimes at work. They were here for a few days last week, but now they're gone to other climes.

2) Disappearing cranes. Last weekend I went to see the sandhill cranes on Payne's Prairie, but most of them were gone. There were still a few hundred around but it was nowhere near the number that were here just a week or two ago.

3) Appearing gators. On the prairie walk, we also saw a bunch of large gators sunning themselves in and near Alachua Sink. They've been hiding out in the mud for weeks because we got a pretty Canadian cold snap. We must have seen twenty or thirty gators basking in the sun that day. Some were fairly close to the trail.


4) Appearing blooms. Yesterday I went for a long solo bike ride on the Hawthorne Trail, and noticed that the native chickasaw plum trees are starting to bloom.

Just short while to wait for boiled peanuts and sleeping in the living room. And the next installment of the cockroach war. God forbid.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Split Rock Walk

A couple weekends ago my friend Lauren and I went on a hike in the woods. We checked out Split Rock Conservation Area, which is just west of town near I-75. It's a bit odd, because even though this is a city park that is open to the public, there are no signs indicating where it is, there's nowhere to really park, and there are no facilities or maps available. I guess they don't really want anyone going there. Too bad!

The park is 241 acres, and a trail loops around it for a couple of miles.



We went off-road to try to find the fabled split rock and the creek that runs through a marshy area.


We were unsuccessful, but we got to see some cool ecosystems.


I liked the bark on this tree.


The ground was very squishy. For some reason I wore my boots instead of old tennis shoes. Bad idea.


At another point we wandered into the woods.


Then we came back to the trail and lay in the sun to call a few people who might be able to tell us how to get to the rock and/or creek.


No one could help us, so we just walked on the trail some more. It was a very fine day, so I did not mind a bit.