obligatory birthday post

7.28.2018

I turned 35 this week - and it went totally fine.

There are no secrets about my life really. I'm not married, I don't have kids. I haven't adopted a dog. It's really me and Eleanor the cat. Sometimes I'm insecure about that and other times I relish in the selfishness of my life. I do whatever I want, whenever I want.

Ideally, I wouldn't be alone. I'd have a partner that would make dinner a couple nights a week (maybe). They'd get the mail. They'd probably encourage me to try new shows on Netflix. They would probably do other things too - but I'd never let him cut the lawn. That's my job.

However on my 35th birthday this week, I was not hit with any reluctant emotion about being single. I did think about being a parent, but not specifically about being a partner. I was reminiscent of what my own parents 35th birthday had been like. Kids scrambling to blow out the candles, homemade gifts (probably). It didn't make me sad, just slightly reflective.

When you blow out the candles on a cake, you aren't supposed to tell people what you wished for because then it won't come true. I don't believe in that anymore. How are you supposed to get your wish if you don't manifest it by telling people your goals?

I wished for patience and happiness. I have worked through anxiety over the last couple years and while there are many routes to that - patience is one of mine. Patience to let things happen and not be anxious about what could happen. Happiness to just celebrate the single moments and not borrow from the potential future problems.

At 35, I didn't feel old. I wasn't worried about time suddenly passing me by. Things I hadn't quite gotten to yet. Instead, I felt a sense of responsibility to get life together and own it. Instead of feeling slightly insecure and a novice about home ownership, realize you are 35 and that's completely reasonable.

I'm not going to get my life together overnight (nor is it a total disaster :-)) but it's an inspiring age to realize life is incredibly real and to be educated about it. Take care of my finances better. Take care of my health better. Be gentle with my head and embrace the speed of my heart.

ye old garden update

7.22.2018


It's been quite a hot second since the last garden update... and things are doing well. I hate to say "Great" because I feel like that is the fastest way to jinx anything - especially a garden. So how are things going? Pretty solid. Last year there was this period of crazy rain the first big growing month, but this year the weather has been friendly to the garden overall.

I'm loving the layout but never actually got around to filling in the revised slate patio area. Maybe one day this week I'll bring back the remaining required stones to complete it. I'm hosting a gathering in early August and it would be nice to show off a completed project. Or at least as completed as a garden ever is.



Veggie Updates:
  • spinach // failure. no other words for it.
  • carrots // not as thick as last year but that's because I planted less. Looking good so far.
  • cucumbers // thriving so much its nuts. I gave two to the mail lady and one to a neighbor. Chances are I'll give one to the UPS guy when he comes on Monday.
  • squash // unclear. totally buried by the cucumbers.... they are taking over the garden.
  • snap peas // almost past their prime. I'll do a final harvest in the next day or so. Cautiously optimistic that I can get another batch in this year.
  • beans // really shooting up. No beans yet, but lots of white flowers.
  • peppers // another weak year. They were looking so good at the start but now they appear to be shrinking. I really didn't know that was possible.
  • tomatoes // Overall, great growth! Initially it did look like I was going to have a "4th of July" tomato on the 4th but now its that 22nd and they are just turning a shade of red. The Midnight Snack cherries are also turning and will be ready in a few days. Black Truffle has tons of fruit growing and those are my favorite
Flower Updates:
  • Dusty Miller // it's alive for sure but by no means as productive and big as prior years. I had to replace a few of the legacy plants after the winter. It is clear that Lowe's doesn't do as well as the variety I used before from Floret Flowers.
  • Dahlias // all of them popped up. Need to remember to stake them soon. I really want to keep them upright this year so preserve some of the blooms.
  • Gladiolus // All 6 popped up but only 5 are looking strong. I have no idea when these babes will bloom but I'm looking forward to it.
  • Cosmos // first round of seeds were a failure. second round of seeds is doing well. 
  • "I can't remember" // Obviously not the exact name of the seeds but something else that I planted. They do look deceptively like crab grass.. but are hopefully going to be flowers. I'm 90% confident that I'm not growing crab grass.
  • Sunflowers // I expanded this section of the cutting garden by probably an extra foot this year and it has really made a difference. Last year it appeared that only one row of taller flowers was growing and this year it is more like 2.5 rows. It's very thick. The birds did a real number of the first couple rounds of seeds so I'm not sure what is left... but two sunflowers did bloom this week.

oreo icebox cake!

7.13.2018


It really feels like a lifetime since I did a recipe post - but here we are ... and I have one. Actually I have several but here is just the one I can write up right now. This recipe also comes with me admitting something. I might like Oreos.

I'm always a proponent of making cakes over buying them - always. It's like making a sundae but not putting sprinkles on the top. Why not just finish the job? That being said, we have a lot of great bakeries around us that make great cakes. I just really like to spend time in the kitchen. This cake is both incredibly fast... and slow at the same time. It takes virtually no time to prepare but you need a solid 7-8 hours for it to set.

But you've got some options here:
+ make your own whip cream ... or use cool whip. Since this was a special occasion, I went with full fat heavy whipping cream. But, any other time I would probably go with cool whip. It's just so easy and still tastes great.
+ fun stuff in the layers! If you are looking to spice this up a bit, toss in some small fruit or sprinkles at each layer. It'll add in some color and fun. I went with rainbow sprinkles since this was a birthday, but I would absolutely add in raspberries the next time. They squish down nicely unlike strawberries or blueberries.
+ whole or broken up oreos? I went with whole since this was my first cake but I think the next time, I'll do a combination of both. With the size pan I used, I had three layers of oreo and whip cream. I would do the bottom and top layer as whole oreos and in the middle do broken ones. Not only will this make it easier to cut up but I think it would also be fine aesthetically.

  1. Make your whip cream (or use cool whip). For the 11-12 inch pan, you really need a lot of whip cream so use the quart of heavy whipping cream.
  2. Once you've made your whip cream, reserve about a cup of it to the side for the decoration later. With the rest of the whip cream gently fold in cocoa powder. You will need at least 1/4 cup but add more if you like it chocolate-y. 
  3. Line the bottom of your springform pan with oreos. If you use an 11 or 12 inch pan (I can't remember exactly), it'll be 19 exactly! But don't stress, just make sure you've got a nice even layer.
  4. Add a thick layer of whip cream to the top of the oreos and spread it out to all the edges and in all the cracks. Then add in another layer of oreos! If you'd like sprinkle in some fruit or decorative sprinkles here before your next layer of whip cream. 
  5. Repeat the layers until you make it to the top of the pan. The top of the pan should be whip cream.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 6-8 hours. If you are tight on time, you can put it in the freezer for a bit. The goal of the fridge time is not only to set the cake but also to soften the oreos, so you really can't just shorten the time completely but doing all freezer time.
  7. Once your cake is set, pull from the fridge and run a knife along the edge of the pan just to free it before opening the springform. This will prevent cracking.
  8. Using the reserved white whip cream, you can decorate the top. I put it in a small plastic bag, cut off the corner and piped some small decorative circles. 

Shopping List
2 bags of oreos (make sure you have 60)
1 quart of whipping cream
sprinkles

22 hours on Martha's Vineyard

7.12.2018

... otherwise known as when I held my brother and his girlfriend hostage... and made them do everything I wanted to do. But actually, it was a really great day. One of these days I'll have to actually stick around the island for more than 24 hours and relax more - but until then, I'm leading action packed adventure trips.

Similar to last year, we had a small hit list of things we wanted to try and do - but really added a whole bunch more this time. And just like last time I talked Hertz into giving us a beautiful new Jeep Wrangler for the price of a Nissan Versa. It was amazing.

Fast Start
After catching a midmorning boat to the island, we landed in Oak Bluffs. Even though our rental car was in Vineyard Haven, we capitalized on the hiccup by immediately riding the Flying Horses Carousel. The fun part of this Carousel is that everyone tries to get the brass ring. Although none of us got it, there were some valiant attempts. Then we hopped in an Uber to pick up our rental car in Vineyard Haven... and then lunch in Edgartown. It was admittedly a ridiculous idea to drive this route but we had been to R+B for lunch last year and it was a home run. I (still) had a BLT... and it was (still) great. Perhaps even better than last year.


Gay Head Light & Menemsha
It is hard to resist a trip to Gay Head light when on the island - especially when I have learned it is open to the public. After lunch we shot over to the other side of the island to enjoy the view. The top of Gay Head light is really unlike any other that I've been in. It was borderline spacious. I'm used to them being so hot, tiny, and crowded. The view was also quite incredible. Totally worth $6.

Since we were in the area, I convinced my hostages we should also look at Menemsha. I had prepared myself for a big challenge finding parking... and there was none. It wasn't until several hours later that I realized there was plenty of parking because it was a TUESDAY.

While we were walking around Menemsha I ran into this plein air painter I first saw 3 years ago in nearly the same exact spot. I hesitated on whether to say something to her but I introduced myself and told her I had taken her picture 3 years prior... and it was one of my favorite photos.

Evening Activities
During our last trip to the Vineyard we missed out on a trip to Felix Neck for a little birding. Felix Neck is a Mass Audubon property with trails and educational opportunities - but we were just in it for the trails. Our grand master plan was to order a pizza for takeout and while that was cooking away enjoy a nice walk at Felix Neck. Jake spotted three birds he hadn't seen before so that was a victory in my book.

We grabbed our pizza from Edgartown Pizza and took it over to Chappy for sunset. This might be one of the best ideas I've ever had - but we also totally lucked out. We caught the On Time Ferry across the harbor and found Chappy to be deserted - not a soul in the parking lots. So we took the pizza for Wasque Point and enjoyed it on a picnic table looking out onto the water. Pure heaven. We checked out another spot on the island over by Dike Road as well. Given the time of day, the island was just gorgeous with all the big field open space... plus we saw some big deer a couple times.

The last part of the day could be called "circling Edgartown for parking and finding nothing". Despite it being a Tuesday night ... and everything else on the island vacant and easy to access... downtown Edgartown was still BUMPING. The "kids" got ice cream and I stole bites of both options. There was a live concert happening on the fish pier that seemed planned and also neat... but I was getting tired. We closed out the night with a round of National Parks Monopoly and Hogan's Heroes VHS tapes. Yes, VHS tapes.

Morning Stuff
The best and worst part about traveling with me is that I am up early - and I've already done an adventure before you get up. In this case, my morning adventure switched up our breakfast plan from Vineyard Haven to Katama.  I missed sunrise at Edgartown Light but still enjoyed the easy walk out of there. It has been a lifetime since I was in Katama - and it speaks to me now more than it used to perhaps... especially on a week day. At 6 am the beach is deserted and just a light ocean fog rolling around. Heaven.

After picking up the hostages at the house, we grabbed breakfast at Right Fork Diner. The cool part of this place? It is right on a bi-plane airfield along the ocean. You can sit and eat bacon... and watch old planes take off.

Next time? I'd like to explore the Farm Institute in Katama and maybe spend more time just sitting at the beach. My current regret is that I didn't buy this dumb tanktop at a "cheap" t-shirt store in Edgartown. It was $19 ... and I didn't feel like I needed another tanktop. That is still the truth... but with all my free time from work I am crushing my current tanktop inventory. 

I'm a tomato farmer

6.11.2018


So the garden is officially in - and slowly taking root. Over the last two weekends I've been slowly selling off the remaining tomato baby seedlings. While I was a little disappointed in their size, people have been so thrilled when they buy them. Go figure. I'm not exactly paying my mortgage here but I've covered the cost of the garden this year. 

Costs incurred? Seeds, 2 replacement parts for the irrigation system, hay for keeping the weeds down, marigolds for keeping the bad bugs away, and dahlia bulbs.

Some of the tomato babies have totally taken off and others are moving at a glacial pace. The black truffle is a couple days away from having flowers which is incredible. There is a chance that it could beat the "4th of July" whose actual job is to be the first to fruit. 

Here's what actually ended up going into the garden number wise:
  • touchon carrots
  • spinach
  • kale (1)
  • romaine (1)
  • Japanese cucumbers (1)
  • yellow egg squash (2)
  • snap peas
  • kentucky beans
  • herbs (mint, basil, chives, parsley, oregano, cilantro)
  • peppers (3)
  • hot pepper (1)
For the tomatoes, it might be the most diverse crop yet:
The birds have been absolutely killing any attempt I've been making at carrots and flowers. I wasn't aware that they liked to eat cosmos seeds but apparently they do. After two rounds of sunflowers, I'm reverting to starting the seedlings in the garage and then will transplant them out. I'm going to be pretty pissed if these birds crush my sunflower dreams.








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