Green gardening

I love free stuff. Don’t we all? Well today in our beautiful 65 degree weather I went outside and got some free landscaping material from my own back yard. I am a gardening nut and we have absolutely zero landscaping outside our house because we basicly live behind my FIL’s workshop on 70 acres of what used to be farm land. My two brother in laws who lived here previous to us never really did much landscaping and the roses and lilacs that my sister in law had here she took with her when the next J moved in so he wouldn’t ruin them.

Today I got fed up with the general redneck mess that was our front yard so I decided to do something about it. I had hauled about 6 good size chunks of shale up from our creek several weeks ago and today I decided to see if I could use them at all. I had raked up a good size section of dead grass from in front of the house and I sat down with a flat chisel and the shale. I managed to get about a square yard of coverage from the shale that I had split into thin slices and laid down like stepping stones. (maybe tomorrow I can get a picture) I didn’t have near enough so I snagged the truck and headed out in our field to the creek bottom where we have a beautiful little waterfall. Due to serious foliage and poison ivy this is only accessible in the winter months so I dragged out several armsfull of shale. Boy were they HEAVY! I got them back to the house and again carefully split them up into thin layers and layed them out. I had help from J13 so we got them in place fairly quickly considering how helpful all four dogs were being by harrassing the neighbor’s brahmas. Once we got all the rock laid out we added some landscape timbers to the front of the bed and I added a few bits of broken terra cotta pot for a bit of color. I had brought a large hollowed out log from where we had cut wood earlier this winter and I filled the hole with potting soil for flowers when it stays warm. I also added a cow skull that has been lurking around our front yard since last summer. The dogs brought it over from the neighbor’s boneyard (I guess) and its been in various places in the yard ever since.

So my total cost today was absolutely nothing except a very sore back and hip for what will soon be a massive improvement to our front yard. I will be rearranging the shale some once I get some flower to plant in the bed and eventually hope to have more green than black, but I think its a great improvement over the hard to mow area it normally is. I still need quite a bit more rock and as I was running out of larg pieces of shale I may branch out into the flat limestone that abounds in our creek but if I do I will be hauling a couple of teenage boys with me because the hill down to the creek is a bit of an obstacle. I’m almost five four and to get out of the creek bed you have to leverage yourself up by a tree trunk because the little hill is almost straight up and about 2 feet high. Eek!

Black velvet in that slow southern style

Well either black or purple I’m not entirely decided yet. Am I talking crazy? I know I must sound like it, but its really quite simple when you know what I’m talking about. My sister in law’s birthday is the day after tomorrow and we plan to have a surprise party for her on Saturday. I was informed to my dismay that her favorite cake was red velvet. The one experience I had ever had with the stuff was at a Golden Corral (buffet restaurant) several years back and the stuff was inedible. Dry and oddly flavored it tasted extremely synthetic and fake. I assumed like most people that it was made with cherries and I decided that the taste was not for me as it was beyond reminiscent of cough syrup. I was game however to give it a shot for her sake. I did some research online and was really surprised to find out that there is no cherry whatsoever in the cake. Further research explained the chemical reaction between the cocoa powder and the vinegar that produces the red color that is also seen in devi’ls food cake to a lesser extent. (who knew??)

I made a trial run on Saturday after I found out we would be having a surprise congratulations party for Jarell at our house. (he got his drillers license YAY!!!)When I say found out I really mean just that. We ended up with 20 people here and boy was I surprised. The cake came out really good despite being a little on the dry side because I didn’t have a correct baking time for the cake pan that I was using.

So now for my true test. My SIL’s favorite color is purple and she loves purple and black together too. Knowing that with the Dutch style refinement of cocoa the effect of the vinegar is greatly reduced I am pretty sure that I can dye the cake purple or black with little or no trouble which is awesome. I know some people out there are probably flinching at the amount of food coloring required but I think life is to short to never eat something because the ingredients might be bad for you.

Whats really special about this cake is the fact that its going to be a layered ice cream cake. At first I was going to make it velvet and chocolate ice cream, but I just couldn’t quite convince myself to do that because I want the contrast in coloring to be really striking so its going to be vanilla ice cream instead. If I can manage it, the whole cake will be coated with chocolate shell topping. For those of you unfamiliar with this miracle product, its basically the stuff the use on eskimo pies  in a bottle. Yum! If that works out as I hope, the cake will be encased in chocolate shell with dark chocolate Ferrero Rocher candies on top. I hope to have pictures to post of this on Friday after I make it. If I can’t make the chocolate shell work for me then it will be coated with a whipped cream style icing provided I can find a recipe that I like.

In a related cooking theme, I’d like to share a quick recipe that I made for dinner this evening because it was ohmygod so good.

I was in the mood for Chipotle burritos but we’re low on funds till payday so I decided to make my own version at home. Armed with a copycat recipe for their famous lime basmati rice I invaded the kitchen. Here’s the results.

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 a medium sweet onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Lime juice
  • 1 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ground corriander
  • 1 can red kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • tortillas

Serves 4

In a 10 inch skillet heat olive oil. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat till slightly transparent. Add rice to skillet and cook for about a minute. Add water, salt and a healthy dash of lime juice and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling reduce heat to low and cook till the rice is done. (about 20-25 minutes) Meanwhile brown the ground beef with a  little salt and pepper till cooked through and drain off the fat. Add the kidney beans and the beef. Coat liberally with lime juice. Add a dash of corriander to the rice (for those of you who need a measurement I’d guess a 1/4 tsp or less) and pour on some more lime juice as well. Add the rice to the beef and bean mixture and cook till warm. Serve this as a burrito filling along with homemade guacamole (for me its a dash of lemon or lime juice, 1 avacado, and some salt to cut out the extra everything) and your other favorite toppings. We had this with salsa, lettuce, cheese, sour cream (for him) and plain yoghurt (for me) and I was in heaven!

Manipulation

final-resting-place-copy

Another one guys. I’m not as sure about how I feel about this picture just yet. It seemed to easy to get where I was going and in my experience, that usually means I’m doing something wrong, right? My DH is no help really because he says things like, “That one looks like it might be real” which is a good thing, but he doesn’t get all bouncy and excited over them either so its hard to tell whether I’m conveying the story that I hear in my head or not.

The man in this picture was connected to my mother’s side of the family in some way or another- not sure how because I don’t have anyone to ask just at the moment. The picture came from one of the many family photo albums that I’ve been scanning over the last week. Did I mention that? No probably not. Well thats what I’ve been doing. Its painstaking work at best and a pain in the neck (and back) at worst because our kitchen chairs just aren’t designed with hours of sitting in mind. Many of the pictures are stuck in those magic magnetic photo albums that used to be all the rage and I’m having a heck of a time getting them scanned. The worst part tho is the ones that fall right out of the album the moment I open it up and won’t stay on any page at all because all the magic is gone.

In other news, I’ve been crashed on the couch all day today with whatever he had the last two days. I am getting so stinkin sick and tired of being…. well sick and tired. The last year or so has been pretty miserable and especially with this homeopathic rememdy working its way through my system I get to be sick rather more often then not. Bleck!!! But it doesn’t stop me from feeling creative, just limits what I have energy for and its still ten times better than before the treatment. For those not in the know, its IBS and really not that big a deal, but it can turn me into a pretty sorry spectacle in a hurry.

Its funny, but I realized the other day that I passed my 200th post mark without even noticing it. I got all tied up with one thing or another and lo and behold I was sitting at 202. Strange to think that when I started this almost a year ago I was certain that I’d be posting every day if not more than once a day and now I’m lucky to get in once a week. Stranger still to know that since I started this thing my mind has become much more observant even if my observations seldom actually make it onto the printed page so to speak. Now my mind is filled with an inner voice that narrates my life not unlike the voice in JD’s head on the show Scrubs. (if you don’t know scrubs, you’re on your own cuz I’m too lazy to link) Even as I type this my mind is rambling about various subjects and I’m trying hard to keep up and on task. Why then, you ask, is it so hard for me to post more often? Well its simply this- either 1) the post in my mind is deemed to menial and boring for blog fodder or 2) My mind comes into the ‘on’ position right before I go to sleep compiling all the day’s entries into some semblance of order but I wait till the next morning at which point there are only fragments of the previous compilation. Maybe if I had a good computer tech to defrag my mind I could get a bit more written, but eh… Then too there is the fact that blogging is sort of a “if you write it they will read” thing but aside from the occasional potentially lurid posts my blog draws only a small crowd of wonderfully loyal readers (and you know who you all are even if I don’t always know) and some days its hard to get myself to write something because the cynical self-esteem lacking individual hiding in my brain says “Pssshhh! Why bother! The ones you deem important are ignored and the mundane is what gets noticed.” No thats not true, but I think most people who blog will agree that they do it so that they can carry on imaginary conversations with someone other than theirselves, right?

Its like when I was talking to my husband earlier and he was staring blankly at the episode of Andy Griffith on the tv. I asked him a simple semi-rhetorical question just so that I could have some actual verbal interaction and he continued to remain transfixed til I said his name. He knew what I had been saying- could repeat it almost verbatim in fact- but had not felt the need to respond (this is fairly common as he is kind of a quiet guy) I then pointed out that I sometimes felt like I was talking to a wall when he didn’t respond to my questions but rather remained quiet through entire conversations. I reminded him that since I am alone almost all day most days, I could talk to walls whenever I (or they) feel like it, but having someone actually respond is a bit more of a privilege. *grins* He had to laugh when I pointed that out but it made me think about this blog too. I want all of you who comment to know I’m very grateful for your thoughts. They mean the difference between walls that can be a bit snooty at times and wonderful warm human interaction.