Sunday, August 24, 2008

Liquid Cheese Crack

I am a fairly healthy eater. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I make my own bread and English muffins each week, using whole grains and little sugar. I eat red meat rarely and chicken about once a week. And I eat very little processed foods. Our recycling bin rarely has more than peanut butter jars and coffee cans in it. This is how I have come to eat after learning to listen to what my body wants and needs.

So even though I try to eat mostly whole foods instead of processed, that doesn't mean that my body doesn't have it's little quirks. Case in point: Snyder's Hulless Puff'n Corn.

I can't remember exactly why we bought it the first time. Most processed foods don't even appeal to me--they taste like chemicals. But something attracted me to it and we bought a bag.

The first thing you need to know is that Puff'n Corn is a highly processed food product. The label hints that it's popcorn with the hulls magically removed, but actually it's an extruded corn product coated in a cheese-flavored powder.

The second thing that you need to know is that Puff'n Corn should be a controlled substance. It is instantly addictive. One bite and we were in a cheese-corn frenzy. Neither Kevin nor I could move our hands from bag to mouth and back again fast enough. The little cheese-flavored nuggets melt in your mouth--you barely have to chew them.

And they taste fabulous. Snyder's proudly proclaims that the bag contains "Our Famous Cheese Flavor." I don't know what cheese flavor means and I generally avoid "flavored" food products, but my principles get put aside in favor of this cheesy, melty goodness.

This Liquid Cheese Crack has become my food vice of choice. I've only had it twice: once about a month ago and then again yesterday. As with any overindulgence, binging leads to a hangover of feeling bloated and full. But, I know that some day in the future, I'll be minding my own business at the grocery store, diligently purchasing my fresh fruits and vegetables, when I'll hear the siren song of the liquid cheese crack and will heed its call.

How can I resist?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fire Fire Burning Bright

Sometimes you need the someone to remind you to stop burning the candle at both ends. And that instead, you need to open a bottle of wine, enjoy good food, and watch a different fire burn.

Life's been busy lately. We're gearing up for fall at work, I'm committed to my fiber art, the garden is growing at a ghastly (but delicious) rate, and life maintenance needs continue as always. So to admit that I was a touch grumpy towards the end of last week is not terribly surprising.

As I was leaving work on Saturday, I called home to ask about dinner and if I needed to pick anything up. Kevin told me not to worry because he had already had the evening planned.

A recent fallen tree left us with piles of pine firewood to burn. Rather than have one big bonfire, we've decided to burn it slowly in our patio fire pit. Two weekends ago, we had our first fire and burned through a portion.

So Saturday evening, Kevin decided we would have another fire. He picked up a bottle of wine (a yummy Argentinian Malbec) and some finger foods. We cut up chicken and veggies, sliced a loaf of bread, and cracked open the wine.

And we started a fire.

Well into the night we lingered over the wine and good conversation as we watched the dancing flames and listened to the wood crackle.

By the end of the evening, as the fire dimmed and the embers glowed, I was completely relaxed. Kevin knew exactly what I needed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Last Night's Musical Accompaniment

'Cause I'm B.L.T.
I'm dynamite!
Oi! Oi! Oi!

I don't even like AC/DC, but it's just so appropriate!

But I do like Bacon and Lettuce and Tomato, especially from our own garden. Look at the size of that beauty.

We have so much tomato leftover that BLTs for lunch await!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Now it's Getting Exciting

I'm posting this entry from our backyard. It's a gorgeous day in Central PA and I couldn't bear the thought of sitting inside.

So I packed up my laptop and various accoutrements and headed outside for fresh air and Vitamin D. As long as no little ants crawl inside my laptop and fry themselves (and my motherboard), I think this will be a great day.

While the our backyard is pretty nice, the biggest excitement is happening out front. Our garden is thriving. Check that. Our garden is absolutely out-of-control. We had no idea that tomato and squash plants could get so big. Here Kevin shows off our waist-high squash monster.

We have an heirloom tomato plant growing called the Mortgage Lifter. Apparently, these tomatoes grow large; in some cases, up to two pounds apiece. Here's our first. The scale isn't clear from the picture, but it can sit in two cupped hands. We'll make BLT's tonight to celebrate.

Every day or so we head outside to harvest what is ready. For the first couple weeks, we would get to pick a zucchini or two and maybe a couple of cherry tomatoes. But now our garden is really flourishing. Here's last night's bounty: three crookneck squash, a zucchini, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a small red tomato, a small yellow tomato, and our monstrous Mortgage Lifter.

Our food bill has dropped dramatically as we plan meals around what our garden is producing. And we are eating so well. Thursday night I made a Zucchini and Chick Pea Curry that was delicious. Friday was homemade pizza with Pesto and Yellow Tomato Sauces from our garden. And yesterday I baked two loaves of zucchini bread: one sweet and one savory.

Having our own garden has been a revelation. We had no idea it could be so satisfying. We're already making plans for expansion next summer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Squash Monster

Every time I walk out to our garden I sing to myself the B-52's song "Rock Lobster." But I have to admit to slightly changing the lyrics and singing instead about our Squash Monster.

There are five plants growing together in this massive clump of foliage: two zucchini, two crookneck squash, and one butternut squash.

We probably shouldn't have planted this beast so close to the house.

But, on a positive note, if we manage to survive the squash onslaught, we might be able to pitch a cheesy movie to the Sci-Fi channel.

Would anyone actually watch "Attack of the Squash Monster" or does it hit too close to home?

Monday, July 21, 2008

We've Got Mail(box)!

Up early this morning to install the mailbox before the afternoon delivery. The bottom of the hole was a little muddy from the rain yesterday and overnight, but not too bad. Kevin scooped out a couple handfuls of mud and then we were ready to install. This was remarkably easy. We eyeballed it level and straight and filled in around the post with dirt. A few tamps with a rubber mallet and we declare this mailbox ready for business.

Beautiful, isn't it?

So what will be our next great home ownership adventure?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Good Tilled Earth

The very act of gardening connects you to the earth. Digging and planting, watering and harvesting--all the basic gardening tasks require a return to soil. You could say gardening grounds you. In the Lord of the Rings, hobbits are known to "love peace and quiet and good tilled earth."

Having all of 6 weeks experience as gardeners, you'd think we could say we agree. But we've not had the pleasure of working with good tilled earth. Our soil is rocky and full of clay. Little shovelfuls are all we can take. We are constantly prying out little stones. Digging and planting require patience, perseverance, and even physical strength.

Today we worked on planting our largest item yet--a new mailbox. (The township sent us a notice requiring new house numbers for emergency services. But the post was rotting, the flag was missing, and the hole on the top meant our mail got wet on rainy days. So rather than slap some lipstick on a pig by sticking numbers on, we decided to replace the lot.)

The old wooden post was installed on a metal fencepost in the ground, which meant we had to dig a new hole. Kevin was less than enthusiastic about digging a hole in our rocky soil, so I decided to do it. I grabbed a beach blanket, my radio headphones, and a small gardening spade and set to work.

After twenty minutes, Kevin came out to see how I was doing. We measured six inches deep, which was about one-third of the way. Another twenty minutes and we measured again. Ten inches. It seemed it was going to take a while yet. Kevin ran back into the garage and grabbed a rubber mallet and giant screwdriver. (We found this screwdriver somewhere--we can't exactly remember where--and it has proven to be the most useful tool ever.)

This was genius! Now I could loosen the soil by pounding the screwdriver with the mallet. After another twenty minutes or so, I had reached 16 inches, which was more than adequate for setting the post.

What a great hole! Neither too narrow or too wide and deep enough to secure our post for a very long time.

Inside for lunch, a little TV and knitting break, and what turned out to be a very necessary post-digging nap.

Next we had to attach the mailbox to the post for installation. As we were working on this, a thunderstorm rolled in, requiring us to tarp over the hole. But look how smart this new mailbox looks. It's bigger than Kevin's head!

Sometime in the very near future we'll stick the post in the hole, infill it with dirt, and try to level it as best we can. But for now, we will celebrate our little hole in the ground.