A Weekend of Garden Fun

I took a trip to the Bay Area this weekend to do some Mom-chores. But I managed to fit in several nursery visits, where I got my fill of some great bedding plants, and even got a few seeds to try! I didn’t take any pictures at the nurseries, but they are both worth a mention, in case you are ever in the area. First up was one I have mentioned before–Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore.

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One of the features of Alden Lane Nursery is the huge oaks throughout the nursery.

And the next one was new to me, Half Moon Bay Nursery. Half Moon Bay has a lot of nurseries, but for some reason we have always missed this one. It is huge, with a great variety of plants, and I also appreciated all the signs telling about the plants. I also thought their prices were quite reasonable.

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Half Moon Bay Nursery was so large that we only saw a small part of it. We are looking forward to our next visit!

When we are in Half Moon Bay, we always stop at this orchid nursery. It is immense, and is just overwhelming to see all the different varieties of orchids that are available. Most of them are quite reasonably priced.

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I arrived home with all my little plants, and did a quick yard inspection with the dogs, and was happy to see some new plants in bloom!

The flowering almond looks better than it ever has:

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Some pretty daffodils:

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And the tulips have made it through another year. I was afraid we had put those brick pavers right on top of them!

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Little Zoey needed a bath as soon as I got home.

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Rain is predicted through tomorrow night, so I am planning to spend some time in the garden on Tuesday, weeding and planting my little treasures:)

Feeding Time at the Zoo

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Okay, here’s a weird topic. Who knows, maybe there will be someone out there in the world besides myself who is interested in it…

I’ve been thinking for a LONG time about how I mostly eat unprocessed food because I believe it is healthier. But I feed my dogs processed food every day of their lives. Think about it. Is there anything more processed than dog food? This fact, combined with the extremely high price tag of the elite dog foods, and my mistrust of their ingredients, all factored into my adventures in making dog food!

So I scoped out the web, and most of the information was from companies trying to sell you supplements in case you missed some of the VERY IMPORTANT micro ingredients that your dog might miss in that processed food. The other information seemed to be from people who were just kind of guessing at what dogs need. So, gleaning information from here and there, and then looking at what was in some of those high priced dog foods, I set out to make my own. Here’s what I was doing a few weeks ago. I was heading towards completely eliminating the processed food. In this batch, I actually put some of the processed dog food, so I wouldn’t have to do anything but scoop it out at feeding time.

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My grocery store sells 10 pound bags of chicken thighs/legs very reasonably. I bring it home from the store and they go directly into a pot with some water, and simmer them for an hour and a half. Take them out, cool them off, and the meat practically falls off the bones. I am very careful to keep all the bones out of what I feed them. One time I checked, and the meat I actually got to use was 7 pounds, which made that meat 82 cents per pound. The same store also has yams very reasonably priced, and since a lot of the dog foods are ____meat and sweet potatoes, I figured that was a good addition as well. I noticed that most of the better foods also included peas, so I grabbed a bag of frozen peas. Of course, rice is used in some foods, so I added that, and I always feed my dogs carrots. Oh, and I had some apples I didn’t particularly like, so those got added in as well. They LOVE the apples.

After the chicken cooks, I use the leftover liquid, which has quite a bit of fat, and I cooked the rice and the yams in that. I put all of the liquid in the dog food.

You can see that that was a LOT of dog food up there. And that only lasted a week. I froze most of it, to keep it fresh, but that takes a lot of freezer space.

I don’t know how much longer my adventures in dog food making will continue, but since then I have adjusted what I do quite a bit. I decided to go with a mix of half homemade and half processed food (just in case there really are some VERY IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS in that processed dog food.) And I eliminated the peas after I noticed that they went straight through the dogs… The rice was only a filler, so there was no need to cook that. This week I added one beet, because I noticed that beets were also included in some of the higher priced foods.

I think a lot about how dogs in the wild would eat. Of course they would not cook their food. But I am just not willing to go the raw diet route. I don’t think they would be eating a ton of grain or vegetable material. Which made me think about how they would never have to brush their teeth or have a dental cleaning done in the wild. So the chicken is what I am mainly adding, along with some yams, carrots, and the beet. Of course there are other meats I could add, but the chicken is the most economic choice. This week I added up what I purchased for their homemade food, and it was $8. I’m pretty sure I’m not saving any money over the cost of the premium foods. But I feel like maybe its a little better for them. BTW, I don’t feed junk processed dog food. Right now I am using Diamond Naturals food or the Costco brand food. Both are grain free, since I have sensitive little doggies who seem to be allergic to a lot of things.

Anybody else out there making their own dog food??

As much as Chloe chews on bones, I am hopeful that she will never have a problem with her teeth!

As much as Chloe chews on bones, I am hopeful that she will never have a problem with her teeth!

A New Room and A Clean Dog

J. the Contractor came back last week to finish up a bunch of things. He put the fascia boards on both rooflines. For the longest time, this little shed remained the old red  of the cabin, because there was no point in painting it, since the siding needed to be replaced. Its so nice to see it now, when I walk up the road.

That’s the old window from the dining room that we saved to put here, on the “wet studio.” It will provide lots of light and good ventilation when I am working in there. BTW, its called a wet studio, because that is where I will do all my dying and any other messy creating I need to do. You can see the kitchen door there, and the small deck. So I can just go out the kitchen door and down the stairs to this room.

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Because of the roofline, the door was not a regular size. So J. the Contractor built a door! And he used the glass and the door knob from the old door!

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Here is the (almost) finished room. I got the same light fixture that I have used in the studio and my laundry room. I love how bright the light is–its LED lighting. J. used wood that he milled himself from local pines for all the shelving and the walls and ceiling. I love the coloring of it, so I’m leaving it natural for now. There’s so much storage now– I’m sure eventually I will use it all. The back counter is about two feet deep, and that side counter is just one foot deep, but J. thought of making it the right height for me to eat, in case I wanted to eat while I was working out there. I sanded those two surfaces and coated them with polyurethane. I also ordered three anti-fatigue mats for the floor.

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The only thing that’s not done is the backsplash. Somehow, when we did the house, we ended up with three boxes of white subway tile. So I saved that, and J. will be back in a couple of weeks to do the backsplash. There is a nice laundry tub (J. did something or other to finally fix the water pressure problem) and a full size stove! I talked to J. about getting a used stove, and it just so happened that he wanted to get himself a gas stove, so he was willing to sell me his old electric stove very reasonably. When you dye wool, it needs to be heated for the dye to set, so that is why I wanted a stove out there. You can see the small granite top between the two. That is from where they cut out the piece for the sink in the kitchen. J. had the tools to cut it just the right size for that small counter. And of course the bigger piece of leftover countertop is on the other side of the stove.

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I had this idea, to make narrow shelves near the door opening, and have the shelves closer together so I could use it for all my dye jars! This is the coolest thing. so much nicer than any other place I’ve had for my dyes.

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And since the water pressure was finally fixed, and we were still having days with high’s in the 70’s, I had no more excuses to avoid washing Noah. The laundry tub faucet is adapted so you can just attach a regular garden hose to it, so I can wash him with warm water. After we were all done, he had a photo shoot. There is a “pet” setting on my camera, and I usually forget about it. But it is really cool–takes the picture at the lightest touch immediately, and somehow focuses as quickly.

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Its so nice to have all this work done. Now we’re in for a week of storms, but as soon as the weather clears up, I hope to be out playing with my dyes in my new wet studio. I am one lucky girl.

 

Breakfast Boredom

For a couple of months, I’ve been bored with my breakfast choices. How could this be? I have majored in breakfast recipes, and I have all kinds of choices besides my recipes. I have cereal in the cupboard. I have oatmeal. I have cottage cheese and yogurt and all kinds of fruit available. Nothing excites me.

As you know, I like sweet stuff for breakfast. Scones, muffins, pancakes, etc. All low-fat and sugar free, of course. So when the boredom started creeping in, I thought about switching to savory for a while. And then Helen posted her breakfast casserole recipe. Turns out I had all the ingredients in the house, except I had bacon instead of sausage. So I tried it. I ate it once for breakfast. It was really really good. But I didn’t like it for breakfast. It turned into a lunch item for me. This kind of recipe is really good, because it gives you the basic proportions of things to make it really tasty, but you can vary the add ins. I did add a few mushrooms to it.

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Maybe its okay to not be excited about breakfast. Maybe its part of getting older. I’m not as hungry in the morning as I used to be. I’m experimenting with just having my coffee, and then having breakfast a little later.

Okay, its not in the breakfast department, but I tried another new-to-me recipe, and I LOVED it. It was via Biz’s blogwon ton soup. I used to love won ton soup. This was another recipe that is so useful because it gives you the basic ingredients/proportions, and again, you can vary the ingredients. To me it was just the right taste–a delicate flavored soup, with plenty of hearty ingredients. I used broccoli, and I couldn’t find the mini pot stickers (I thought it was brilliant to use pot stickers for the won tons,) so I got regular sized ones at the stores. I just did my own math, and made three big dinner sized servings for myself. They came out to 225 calories each.

Tonight I am going to try Biz’s idea of lasagna soup. This time I’m just using the basic idea/proportions, and doing my own thing–making my Darn Good Spaghetti Sauce as the base, and adding chicken stock to make it soup. Then I am going to use my edamame noodles (I’m determined to find a good use for those!) and I will just top it with some mozzarella cheese. This can’t help but be yummy.

A Ridiculously Early Spring

We usually have one warm week in February. I look forward to that, because traditionally that is when I can give the big dirty dog a bath. This year, pretty much the whole month has been warm. As a result, this is the earliest I can remember having blooms in the garden. And the dog has not been washed yet. Having some water pressure difficulties in the new “wet studio.”

The violets are always the first sign of spring.

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The paperwhites have come and gone, and now these little cluster daffodils are blooming.

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This is the Henry Lauder Walking Stick. Its putting on a good show this year. It always has something interesting going on with it.

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The first camellia. At least the first one that the Queen has not eaten.

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The forsythia. It might look a little sparse, but I am very proud of this bush. It was one of the first things I planted when I moved here (almost 30 years ago!) and it was in complete shade. So by the time we moved it a couple of years ago, it had about given up. It has made a good comeback, and I am excited to know that it will thrive in its new place.

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The bridal veil bush is showing off before the flowering almond!

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And hyacinths and larger daffodils are starting to make an appearance.

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MLG was here yesterday and cleaned up all the debris from the big windstorm we had last week. With it looking so tidy, I am encouraged to go out and do some more weeding and clean up. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Food

Since I’ve been home for a bit, I’ve gotten a little creative in the kitchen. I had broccoli and some pre-cooked bacon in the fridge, and it reminded me of that yummy broccoli salad. So I put together my own version of it, using yogurt instead of mayonnaise, and counting the calories. So yummy. I ate all four servings of it (one at a time:) ) so you know it was good. It keeps really well for several days. Here’s a link to the recipe. 

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I found a little more of that 85% dark chocolate in the pantry, and made some walnut-raisin clusters. I just weigh out each ingredient and add up the calories, and then make as many clusters as I need to end up with the right amount of calories per cluster. In this case, I ended up with 8 nice sized clusters for 100 calories each. I put it on popcorn so you could see what size they are. Since the chocolate is so intense, this is a very satisfying portion.

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I also whipped up a batch of my “Winter Fruit Salad” for the sewing ladies that came over this week. That is a really really good recipe. And of course you can vary the amount and types of fruit you include.

Butternut squash! I got a big one at the store, and I made butternut squash “fries” (baked) and had plenty left over to make some of my mac and cheese with butternut squash. There was still some left over, so tonight I am going to combine that with some onion and potato and chicken breast and MARSALA SPICE!! Yum yum yum. Thanks again to Lori for gifting me with that wonderful spice blend.

Oh, and an example of a recipe that’s not quite what it seems… I bought a package of chia/flax seed blend, and they had a recipe for one of those one minute muffins on it. It was pretty calorie dense–about 350 calories–but I decided to try it this morning. It came out so pretty that I took a picture of it.

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Then I tried it. VERY dry and not worthy. I put it in the compost pile, and had one of my cinnamon rolls. 200 calories and most worthy:)