Friday, April 29, 2011

Week 3: A Little of This and A Little of That

Last weekend I spend most of my time transplanting over 250 snapdragons and approximately 118 nicotiana plants into the 3-hole packs.   Besides transplanting the flower seedlings I found time to transplant most of my tomatoes, ground cherries and tomatillos seedlings into individual pots.  The weather was wonderful outside last week but I spent most the weekend in the basement trying finish transplanting all the seedlings.  I only have two starter trayes left to transplant that includes 30 paste tomato plants, 18 eggplants, about 50 purple basils and another 50 green basil plants left to do.

I was hoping to start my cucumbers, butternut, acorn squash, and pumpkins last weekend but there is only so much time in a day.  I did find some time on Sunday morning to go outside and plant golden pea pods, sugar snap peas.  I put in more short rows of radishes, carrots and spinach.  The spinach and radishes from the earlier sowing sprouted a week ago.
I have run out of room on my plant stand, so I moved my cabbage, Brussels sprout, broccoli, cauliflower, and petunias out to the 3 season porch.  I would like to bring them outside to harden off but the nights have been in the mid to upper 30’s and I am worried that it is too cold for them.  The plants are more protected on the enclosed porch and seem to be doing well.
Today is the first day this week we will see the sun and I am hoping to rototill one of the gardens where I want to plant the cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  I may just plant them before I harden them off outside.  If I do that, I am going to cover them with a ground cloth to protect them from the direct rays of the sun.
This weekend I will finished transplanting all my seedlings and plant the cucumbers and squashes in started pots.  I use to never start plants for cucumbers and squashes but in the last 4-5 years I had the replant seed directly is the soil least twice before they germinate.  When I mentioned this problem to other gardeners, agree that they are having the same problem.
Wednesday evening on my way home from work, I stopped at the local nursery and pick up more soil and flats for the weekend project.  So I am ready to finish the last of the indoor gardening this weekend. 
Note: We got frost this morning.  I guess it was a good thing that I did not put the plants outside to harden off.  I just hope the radishes and spinach that sprouted in garden survive.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another project is completed.

This Monday I refinished the legs to the second foot stood and attached them to the stood.  Here is the finished product. 
I am very happy with the color and fabric selection.  I needed a different color other than gold or red in furniture and the newly recovered stood nicely compliments the gold colored wing chairs. 
I ordered the fabric for the dining room seat cushions.  The dark orange contrasts well with the colors in the rug.
I have pieces of foam left from other projects and this foam will be used to fill the seat covers.  I have enough foam to cut two whole cushions from it.  I will still be able to use some of the smaller pieces by gluing them together before I cut the pieced foam into more cushions.  I will save money by piecing together the extra foam together;   foam is expense right now because the cost of oil is so high right now.  
I plan on making six seat cushions.  I will be putting a zipper into the back of each cushion so I can remove the covering when it needs to be washed.  It will be nice just to be able to wash only the covering and not the whole cushion.  There has been many a time when the washer would become unbalanced and it takes forever to dry the old cushions.
After I finished working on the dining room cushions I plan on replacing the fabric on my outdoor umbrella.  There maybe one more project after that but I am starting to see the end unless another great chair turns up.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Comfort Food

What is better comfort food than mashed potatoes and meatloaf?  With all the cool wet weather we been having it is nice to prepare a meal with the old favorites. 
Meatloaf is one of those dishes that can be made in a million different ways.  I have seen recipes that include several different types of ground meat such as lamb, pork, beef and veal.  The recipes also use a variety of fillers too: oatmeal, bread cube or crumbs, and rice.  I bet you could cook up barley or some of the newer grain products and use them in place of the conventional fillers.  I had one friend grind up a variety of vegetables and add it to the ground meat.   Of course chopped onion is a must in meatloaf and garlic is nice too. 
What types of seasoning are good to add in it?  Well, I add ketchup or barbecue sauce, brown mustard, salt and pepper.  But don’t let that stop you from experimenting with other flavorings, adding salsa to the mix sounds good.  Finally, I add an egg to bind all the ingredients together.
I make my mashed potatoes with Yukon Golds, I was first introduced to this potato when I lived in Madison and spent every Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market around the Square at the State Capital building.  I love the light creamy yellow color and texture when I use them to make mashed potatoes.  There are many way to mash your potatoes from uses a masher, ricer or food processor.  Many experts do not like using a food processor but I prefer it.  I never liked lumpy mashed potatoes and using a food processor is the only way I found to easily get a creamy smooth mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes are a comfort food right?  So making it way you like is the only way it will ever meet that comfort food criteria.  I add a little butter and milk when mashing the potatoes into a smooth creamy texture.  Sometime I will replace the milk with sour cream to jazz the potatoes up.
When serving this meal I usually steam up some green bean or pea pods.  I like include cottage cheese but I have none at hand for this meal.  For me, meatloaf is never meatloaf without more ketchup or barbecue sauce topping it.
The meatloaf recipe below is what my Mom made when I was a kid.
Mom’s Meatloaf
Makes 1 loaf size of a bread pan
  lbs ground beef
 1     cup old fashion oatmeal
¼     cup ketchup or barbecue sauce
1      tablespoon brown mustard
¼     teaspoon pepper (I prefer white)
½     teaspoon kosher salt
1      large egg
1      medium onion, chopped
4-5 slices of bacon


1.  Preheat the oven to 350oF.
2. Add the first 7 ingredients above into a large mixing bowl and thoroughly mix the ingredients together with your hands. 
3. Place the mixture into a bread pan or form a loaf and place the loaf onto a baking sheet with slightly raised edges.  Cover the loaf with the bacon slides.
4. Place loaf on the center rack in the oven.  Bake 1 to 1½ hours until loaf edges appear to be brown.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Jewish Coffee Cake

Nana, my father’s mother, obtained the recipe from a friend she used to visit in Door County, WI.  The first time I tasted this coffee cake I asked her for the recipe.  My grandmother died in the mid 70’s but I do still have good memoirs of her and as I said before certain recipes can help keep those memoirs alive.

I have made some change to the Jewish Coffee Cake since I first made it.  The changes made were to omit the 1 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoon vanilla and replace them with 1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt.  The best cinnamon I found to bake with is Vietnamese cinnamon.  The cinnamon is very fragrant and imparts a wonderful taste on baked goods.

I bake it in an angle food or Bundt cake pan.  After removing the coffeecake from the pan, find a pretty serving platter and sprinkle with a little powder sugar for a nice presentation. 

Jewish Coffee Cake

Coffee Cake Ingredients

1 package White Cake mix
1 package Instant Vanilla pudding (small package 0.8 oz)
4 eggs
½ cup of oil (I use olive oil)
1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt

Dry Mixture:
¾ cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of cocoa
¾ cup of broken pecans

Preheat the oven to 350oF.
Mix the coffee cake ingredients about 5 minutes with electric mixer.  Grease angel food or Bundt Pan. 

Put a layer of the wet mixture in bottom of angle food pan and then take a teaspoon and sprinkle the dry mix over.  Then add another layer of the wet mixture; take your spoon and sprinkle more of the dry mix over it then add the last layer of wet mixture.  Now take the spoon and push the dry mix down into the cake gently.  If any of the dry mix is left on top and not mixed with the cake dough it will just sit there and will have to be removed so get it swirled into the cake batter the best you can.

Bake in the oven for 55 minutes.  Allow to cool, remove from pan and sprinkle with powder sugar.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week 5: Spring is a Tease

The weather has been wonderful over the last few days.  Sunday the temperature was in the upper 70s and maybe made it into the 80s.  I been keeping an eye on my bloodroot plants and yesterday the white flowers fully opened. 

I found a small daffodil blooming in the south garden along the house.  I lived in this house for 7 seven years and never found any daffodils before this.   The single Hyacinth plant is just starting to show its flowers.


Saturday, I did find time to plant short rows of French Breakfast Radishes, Bloomsdale Spinach, Dragon Carrots, and Detroit Red Beets in one of my raised beds.  There is a large planter next to the back porch stair which I also planted with lettuce.  It was wonderful to be able to dig in the garden and smell the freshly turned soil.

I also found time to plant the tomatoes, eggplants and basil in the seed starter trays.  Here is the list of what I planted.




     Amish both are red paste.


     Chocolate Cherry (Deep Red color)

     Sunsugar Hybrid (Golden Color)


     German Pink (Pink color)

     Brandywine (Pink color)

     German Green (Green) I find it hard to tell when the fruit is



      Celebrity (Red)

      Delicious (Red)

      Black Krim (Dark Red) It makes the best tasting BLT.

      Green Zebra (Yellow and Green Strips with Green meat)




    Dr. Wyche Yellow, I grow this before and the salsa tasted


    Green Husk



    Rossa Bianca (Large white and purple fruit)

    Udumalapet ( 2 to4 inch purple and yellow fruit)



   Genovese (Large fragrance leaves)

   Napoletano (large leaves good for salads)

I spend most of Sunday transplanting the impatiens plants into 3 packs.  The cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and cabbage were transplanted into single containers. 

The reason why I choose to name this “Spring is a Tease” is we are just getting a taste of what it can be like since tomorrow the weather is changing back with temperatures between the 30s and 40s with possibly of snow this Saturday.

PS: Maestro been enjoying the weather too.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Week 8

I was hoping to report that I planted my tomatoes and basil last week but that never happen.  I did take a trip to the Restore in Prairie du Sac on Saturday.  The restore is located at Broadway and 9th street once I reached that corner I wondered if I was it the right place until I look to north on 9th street and saw a number of car parking in front of a lot.  I turned down the street and found the Restore sign, parked and walked in the lot.  I walked down a curved muddy driveway and found four sheds stuffed with recycled items.  One shed was filled with old appliances, another with doors and pressed wood cabinets, the third with filled with old door and molding and the last was filled with newer molding, light fixtures and varies other things.  I was only interested in the old moldings and doors for my 1930’s Sear’s bungalow.  They did have two paneled doors with an upper panel longer than the bottom but they were 30 inches wide but I am looking for a door that is between 24-26 inches wide.  I need this size to fit the linen closet I am going to put in the hallway between the bedrooms and bathroom.

After looking through all the stuff at the Restore and I stopped by the antique shop in the neighboring Sauk City before starting back home.   On the trip home I planned on making a detour down County B to the out skirts Plains, WI to pick up 6 lbs of low fat block cheddar cheese.  The factory is just east of the city on a pretty country road just off County B.  The turn off is well marked with a sign for Cedar Grove Cheese pointing in the direction to turn.  Besides buying the low fat cheese, I also enjoy their smoked cheddar so I just could not resisted buying a pound.  I also indulged in buying small wedges of smoked cheddar with smoked salmon & dill and smoked Gouda. 
When I got home I had three phone messages waiting for me.  One from my brother and another from my father telling me that my Dad had two stokes Friday night.  The last message was from my brother telling me that Dad was now at the hospital.  My father lives in Alaska so I have been on the phone every night to check on his condition.  Yesterday, my father was released from the hospital and the more intense therapy now begins. 
Not much got done on Sunday, so that day was a waste but during the week I did get out every evening to pick stones out of the grass.  Since my driveway and all walkway are stone I spent the first week or two throwing stone back into driveway after the snow melts.  I try to get the stones removed before the grass is actively growing.  It is just easier that way.  In between picking out stones, I did find time to picking up broken sticks, branches, pine cones and leaves and putting them on the burning pile.  Last night I was outside well after dark attending to the fire.
I did find time to fill 5 seed trays with soil and if it is raining tonight I will be planting my tomatoes, eggplant, and basil.  I also turned over the soil in one my raised bed and plan to sow beets, radishes, spinach, lettuce and carrots this weekend.  The weather forecast has Saturday rain free so that should be the day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Upholstery Projects

Over the last 6 months I have been working on three projects another wing chair and 2 foot stools.  The wing chair is the second chair in a pair I brought for about $30 a piece.  The first chair I reupholstered before the antique wing chair and I put off the second chair because I was so excited do to fix the antique chair first.  This past winter I spent Monday nights working on this second chair.  I was very lucky to the frame in good shape so no repairs were need.  The first pair of the wing chairs did have framing problems.  The wings needed to be reinforced with plywood braces and extra screws.  The second chair just required the foam and stuffing be replaced along with recovering it in the new fabric.  I did change the shape of the back by eliminating all the buttons.  I just felt a less formal look would better fit a bungalow decorating style.
The last 3 classes I have been working on the foot stools.   These foot stools I found at a garage sale and they are in excellent shape except the colors just do not go with my house.  So what can I do but recover them.  These have been the easiest project I have very done.  Since I knew who owned them in the past and that they were well cared for and clean.  All I did was cut off the cording and remove the feet then I recover them with new fabric.  It only took about 2 classes to do one stool.  I am still working on the second one and will most likely finish it next Monday. 


My next project will be making cushions for my dining room chair.  I am in the process of picking the fabric out.  I change my mind a dozen times already on either the color or pattern.  I need to make up my mind so I can order it.  My preference is the orange and gold leave pattern for now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wagon Wheel Chili

I found this recipe when I use to read fashion magazines in the last 70’s and 80’s.  It was either in Seventeen or Glamour.   The recipe was named Wagon Wheel Chili because the original recipe had wagon wheeled shape macaroni.  I have never liked macaroni in my chili but if you do please cook up 8 oz wagon wheels, mix them into the chili before serving.   The recipe also called for 1 cup sweet pickle and used kidney bean instead of black beans.  Here is how I make it.

Wagon Wheel Chili
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground beef
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 quart jar tomatoes
1 quart jar tomato juice (I substitute 1 quart tomatoes and blend it)
2 cups chopped onions
3 cloves of minced garlic
4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons medium hot chili powder
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon ground cumin seed
½ teaspoon oregano leaves
½ teaspoon white pepper
2 cups dried black beans or 2 15-oz cans drained black beans
Low fat cheddar cheese (optional)
1.      Put the 2 cups dried black beans into a 4 quart pot and add 4 cups water.  Let the bean soak overnight.  Drain and rinse bean and put back into pot.  Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil and cook until beans are tender.  Drain bean and put aside until later.
2.      In Dutch oven, brown the ground beef and turkey in olive oil, stirring frequently until and meat is well broken up. 
3.      Add tomatoes, tomato juice, chopped onions, minced garlic, and salt.  Also, add the following seasonings: chili powder, bay leaf, ground cumin seed, oregano leaves and pepper. 
4.      Simmer, covered, 1 hour.  Stir in black beans and Cook 30 minutes longer.  Remove bay leaf.
5.      Serve with shredded cheddar cheese on top.
Serves 10.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Elections

Today is a big day for Wisconsin the WI Supreme Court Justice’s seat will be decided today. The news media have been reporting that this race is about Scott Walkers budget repair bill and they are right it is. Voter turn out will be big in Madison around 70% greater than the turn out for the governor’s race. The state elections board state they believe the state will only have a 20% turn out overall. I believe this is too low since so many people believe the budget repair bill will be decided in WI Supreme Court and this elections is too important not to participant.
Wisconsin off year spring elections are normally about school board and municipals elections. The City of Madison has a big mayoral this year which will bring out the vote in town. Where I live there are just some school board seats to vote for.

On Voting Day I try to not to campaigned who to vote for and I sure it is easy to guess that from past blogs but to urge you to vote. I always believe that voting is the most important responsibility for a citizen. You should go and vote today and make you wishes know and if you do not then I do not want to hear one single complaint or agreement with policy decisions because you choose to lost that right by sitting on your hands and not pulling that lever.