Friday, December 31, 2010

Oh My Kindle

Last week, the hubs and I went to his work holiday party.  It was a lot of fun, good food, open bar and best of all, good company.  Every year, they have the party at a fancy catering hall and we have to buy tickets to attend.  It's pricey at $60 a ticket, but it's the holidays so it's okay to splurge once in a while.  There is always a raffle that everyone looks forward to.  They sell raffle tickets and raffle off prizes.  Some of the prizes are gag gifts, it's like that game show, "let's make a deal."  If your ticket is chosen, you can pick a box or an envelope.  Sometimes the box is something great, but sometimes it's a goofy prize.  The hubs bought 20 tickets, and during the raffle, his ticket was called.  He chose the box rather than the envelope and won this!  A new Amazon 3G Wireless Kindle!  The hubs was so excited since he's wanted one of these.

He was really, really lucky!  Because the envelope that he could have chosen had a $20 giftcard to Dunkin Donuts.  He got the better deal if you ask me.  He's been really enjoying his new gadget.  He's downloaded some great books and short stories.  This past week, you'll find him in his lazy-boy reading his Kindle with Sebastian Kitty on his lap.  At first, I was pretty skeptical about an "electronic" book.  But I am pleasantly surprised with the screen resolution, it's pretty easy to read.  It also has a really long battery life!  I'll have to look for some gardening books that we can download!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Superhero niece

For Christmas, my 4 year old niece asked for only one thing from Santa. She wanted superhero underoos. My sister said that she's been obsessed with Superheros and villains. She can name every single Superhero from the Marvel comics franchise and their powers.  When I looked for Superhero presents for her, I quickly realized that they don't make them for little girls, it's geared more towards little boys. It's interesting to me that even at a young age, society (toy industry, fashion trends, retailers) dictates what girls and boys should like and play with.  Why don't we just let the kids choose?  So all of her presents from us were from the boys section. This didn't matter to her, she loved every single one of them.
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Birthday Dinner

My mom's birthday was 4 days before Christmas.  We took her out to dinner to celebrate. Since we knew that we would be doing a lot of cooking for Christmas, going to a restaurant was an easy choice for us.  The family decided on a Chinese birthday dinner, and we went to our favorite restaurant.  Here are all the dishes on the lazy susan turntable.  I love lazy susan's because it's like food roulette. Hahaha.  Does anyone know how the name "lazy susan" came into existence, I've always wondered that.  We had a feast, consisting of pepper steak, sweet and sour pork chops, snails in black bean sauce, Chinese crispy chicken with prawn chips, chicken and beef with Chinese broccoli, and fish and tofu casserole.
Here's a close-up of the pepper steak, it came to the table sizzling hot.  The steak was so tender and literally melts in your mouth.  Delicious!
Here's a closeup of my favorite dish, Chinese crispy chicken with prawn chips.  The skin of the chicken is super crispy, while the meat is juicy and flavorful.  Traditionally, you squeeze lemon juice over the chicken just before eating it.  Yummy goodness!  Behind it is the plate of snails.  I love seafood, and snails are one of my favorites and are a special treat.  Surprisingly, many people I know hate seafood and would never try snails.  However, having a dad that is a chef, we grew up eating and trying everything.  I owe my diverse palate to him, and he's taught me at an early age to always try new foods.  So if you are adventurous with seafood, definitely get an order of snail in black bean sauce the next time you go to an authentic Chinese restaurant.  It's heavenly.
We had a fantastic meal, and mom was very happy that we were all so full! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Presents for Gardeners: Part 1

Remember all those boxes that came in the mail?   Well, the hubs did good. On Christmas day, I opened my presents and one of them was this lovely gift. I've been dreaming about owning a dehydrator ever since we started the garden.  So this is one gift that this gardener really cannot wait to use.  I'm just crossing my fingers that this is a good dehydrator.  I read on Subsistence Pattern's blog, about his problems with their Nesco, so I am a bit nervous.  Hopefully this one doesn't break down like his did. 
This is the version we have. Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator.  I asked my husband for this one because it comes with 5 trays, and was more affordable than the Excalibur brand.  It also received 4 1/2 stars rating on customer reviews on Amazon.  I can't wait until the summer harvests so I can try dehydrating tomatoes, zucchini, and onions! Once I use it, I'll provide a full review on the product.
What cool gifts did you get for Christmas?

Christmas Rewind

We've had family over since Christmas day, so I've been behind with blogging.  My sister's family flew in from Chicago and my mom and dad and other sister's family came in from New Jersey.  We hosted them for 4 days.  I live here with just my husband and 3 cats, so it's nice to have a full house.  I've also hadn't had time to blog because we had a blizzard that dumped 29 inches of snow onto Staten Island.  We received the most snow out of all the 5 boroughs, the snow is amazing, but after 3 days of it, it starts to get annoying.  Slush, black ice, public transportation suspended, a complete travel nightmare.  So, what does one do when you are snowed in?  You eat, and you eat.  For Christmas, my dad made an amazing meal.  He's a professional chef so he does all the holiday cooking, which is a special treat for us because he never cooks at home.  Something about not bringing work home with him.  (hahahaha)  Here's a view from the head of the table, where my dad sat. 
For an appetizer, he made shrimp cocktail.  This was delicious!
For dinner, my dad made stuffed green peppers, stuffed eggplant, potatoes au gratin, filet mignon and mussels with black bean sauce.  We also had hot and sour soup for an appetizer.
The potatoes au gratin were made with potatoes grown on my husband's father's family farm.  My dad makes it incredibly rich, not only does he put heavy cream in it, he also puts sour cream, cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. Holy cholesterol on a plate! 
He stir fried the mussels chinese style with black bean sauce, garlic and scallions.  This is my favorite way to eat mussels.
Hope you all had a great  Christmas!

Monday, December 27, 2010

We are snowed in

Blizzard of 2010!
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Striped Christmas Present

There's a cat in this photo. Do you see him?
No?  How about now?
Still no?  Okay, here's a photo closer.  See him now?
Really, no again?  Okay, here he is!
How about from another angle?  Little Sebastian Kitty is the funniest cat ever.  He spends hours hanging out under the tree.  Even behind all these presents.  He loves it.  The only reason I know he's behind there because sometimes I hear him rustling.  Funny kitty!
MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Someone really loves the Christmas Tree

Little Sebastian Kitty just can't get enough of the Christmas tree.  He sits there for hours, takes naps under there, he just loves it!  I find it amazing that he doesn't claw at the tree, or try to knock down the ornaments.  What a good kitty!
I'm going to be so sad when Christmas is over and we have to remove the tree.  Sebastian is going to be so mad when the tree is gone.  Shhhh, don't tell him.

My Other Neighbors Rock Too!

Yesterday, I wrote about how we got cookies from our neighbors across the street. We had given them a box of chocolates and they gave us homemade cookies. I say that's pretty awesome! We didn't give presents to expect anything in return. We like our neighbors, they look after our house when we were away, and vice versa. It's nice to have good people as neighbors, it really makes the neighborhood. Today, we dropped off a box of chocolates to our other next door neighbor, who are also great people. They know how much we love gardening, since we shared our homegrown veggies with them.   And one time they gave us new lumber for our garden projects because they had some left over from their house renovation project. How cool is that? So my doorbell rang this afternoon and I was greeted with my neighbor and this box.
Okay, I must say, we do have the BEST neighbors!  Staten Island is known for their Italian bakeries, and she brought over one of her favorite cakes.  It's a Napoleon, with layers of flaky dough, cream and powdered sugar.  This is one of my husband's favorites, he's 1/4 Italian and has grown up eating amazing Italian pastries.  We are going to save this cake for tomorrow's big Christmas dinner.  I told the hubby that there better not be a piece missing.  Hahahaha
I realize now how gardening has created some real friendships for us.  We really enjoyed growing organic food and sharing it with others.  Not to sound real cheesy, but maybe we can create world peace through gardening.  :) I mean, cookies and cake make me feel really peaceful inside.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Neighbors Rock!

Last month, I wrote about how my neighbors are pretty awesome! All season long, we shared the fruits of our labor, they got all our extra habanero peppers when I found out they love spicy food!  So today, I brought over a box of chocolates to wish them a Merry Christmas.  In return, they handed me this!  Oh my goodness, home baked Christmas cookies!  Woohoo!  I have been so busy with freelance work and getting the house ready for holiday visitors so I haven't had any time to bake anything.  So getting a plate of goodies made me smile from ear to ear.  My neighbors....rock!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm Drooling!

I received a catalog in the mail yesterday, and it's an amazing one! A David Austin 2011 rose catalog.  I've been wanting to "upgrade" and expand our rose bush selection so I ordered this catalog to pinpoint which variety of roses I wanted to try next.  This catalog does not disappoint.  They are all pretty spectacular looking, so it's going to be pretty hard to pick which ones I want to grow.
Each rose in the catalog comes with gorgeous photos and a detailed description of the rose.  I wish it also had a "scratch and sniff".  Hehehe.  I bet they smell amazing. 
I know I definitely want to try an Abraham Darby ever since reading about this rose bush on Davy's blog.  His rose bushes are amazing!
I can't wait to put in my order!  I wish Spring would hurry up and get here already!  I'm so bad at waiting!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You Will Not be Missed!

Today we said farewell to our old fridge, two guys from Con Edison came and carted it away in their big box truck. They were faster than I could get my camera, so I didn't have time to take photos of them carting the fridge, but here you can see them loading it into their truck.  You're probably wondering, why did our electric company pick up our refrigerator? Well, it's part of their recycling program. In our electric bill, we received a flyer about a recycling rebate program hosted by Con Edison that offers their customers a $30 check and free pickup of any old working refrigerator. This is part of their push for customers to replace old equipment with high-efficiency energy saving appliances.  In essence, the $30 is part of an incentive for customers to go green.  They will also pick up any old air conditioner units as well for $35 and $100.  We don't need an incentive to buy greener appliances, we strive to save energy and the environment, but getting paid to do so, it's definitely a nice bonus!  Before you buy or discard your next appliance, check to see if your municipality or energy company provided rebates.

All the Way from California

For Thanksgiving, I wrote about how I went to Trader Joe's to pick up cheese for a platter I was bringing to our relative's dinner. I mentioned in the post how Trader Joe's had these great tote bags that were regional to the area.  Like these New York bags.  I love using re-usable bags, it's a great easy way to be "green".  Byddi Lee sent me one all the way from San Jose, California!  I've never been to San Jose before, but if it looks as good as this bag, I wanna go there! Thanks Byddi Lee for the nice gift!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Farewell Pumpkins

We had two pumpkins sitting on our front porch in the fall.  They looked great.
We left the pumpkins outside, and we noticed some kind of critter started to attack it.
So I decided to bring it inside and cut it up, and everything but the seeds went into our compost bin.  I didn't save any seeds to plant in out garden because these are not baking pumpkins.  If we are to grow pumpkins, I would want sweet ones that are tastier for baking and eating.  I figure, pumpkin plants are really large and if I sacrifice gardening space for them, I at least want them to be delicious ones.  These pumpkins we had are watery and tend to be tasteless.  I think the critters, aka evil squirrels enjoyed them though.  ;)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Out With the Old, In With the New!

When we moved into this house last November, there was one appliance that was the bane to my existence.  The fridge was this wreck, that was probably at least 15 years old.  Definitely NOT energy efficient and the motor roared like the little engine that could, you could almost hear it say, "I Think I Can, I Think I Can".  During this summer's 100F+ heat waves, we prayed that the fridge would make it through and not break down, it was definitely on it's last legs.   What I hated most about the fridge was that the doors were missing all it's shelves.  On the refrigerator door, we had to use string to hold our condiments in.  This was less than ideal, because you had to be careful with not swinging the door too much or salad dressing would go flying!
The freezer door was even worse!  Again a missing shelf!  I wonder what the previous owners did to this fridge, where all the shelves on the doors were missing.  It is indeed strange!  In our household, I consider ourselves very.... frugal.  It's a way of life for us, because we hate to spend more money than we have to.  That however, does not mean we don't strive to live well.  When we knew we had to buy a new refrigerator, we could have bought a new one right away, but we decided to wait until the day after Thanksgiving the following year, because we knew that appliances would be discounted so much that it would be affordable for us.  So that meant we had to live with shelveless fridge doors for an ENTIRE year. Everyday I cursed that fridge and said a little prayer that it wouldn't completely break down.
On Black Friday, our main goal was to buy our new fridge.  The deals did not disappoint!  We found the perfect fridge for $700 off the list price!  An amazing deal!  It was worth the year's wait.  The best part is that it's energy star rated and energy efficient which will save us money on energy costs.  Love, love, love that!  However, we quickly learned, nothing is ever that easy.  When the delivery of the fridge came, the delivery guys broke the news that the fridge would not fit through the front door!  It could fit through the back door if we took off the doors and the trim.  (sigh)  We had the delivery guys move the fridge into our garage...
The hubs spent the following day removing the screen door, the two back doors, and all the trim!    You can see the screen door on the right of this photo.  He also had to remove all the doors off the refrigerator. We used a dolly to move the fridge from the garage to the stairs and then he and I had to lift the fridge up the porch stairs.  We bought the forearm forklifts to lift the fridge.  It helped a lot, but it was still SO heavy!  There were a few times I thought this fridge would topple down the stairs!
We finally got the fridge into our kitchen, it cleared the back door with 1/4 of an inch to spare.  A very tight fit!
This is the inside the left door of the fridge.  This is the part of the fridge that won my husband over.  When he saw this door, he said, "I'll take it!" :)  With the amount of work it took us to get the refrigerator into our kitchen, he deserves this!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eggs with Fresh Dill

Not too long ago, I wrote about how I bought some herb plants at the farmer's market.  The herb plants ended up on my kitchen counter where I have easy access to them when I'm cooking.  Among the herbs was this amazing stalk of dill.  I love fresh dill, and it goes great with eggs!  I made omelets with a small sprig of fresh dill, 1/4 of an overly ripe avocado, and herb goat cheese!
I love the creaminess of goat cheese with the contrast of the fresh dill.  It is so flavorful!  The only thing that would make this 1,000 times tastier is if we raised hens and these were our own eggs.  One day... one day...

Writing Holiday Cards

I've been really busy working on a freelance project. I haven't had much time so I am way behind on writing Holiday cards. I usually try to get these out the first week of December, and here we are 7 more days until Christmas, and I am just getting to writing these now. I also finally picked up stamps at the post office, I just love the evergreens they have on these stamps.
This year, I decided to include marigold seeds in the cards.  What a great way to spread the love of gardening!
The marigolds we grew in the garden did amazingly well, and collecting the seeds is so easy.  I loved this project so much that I think this will be my new tradition!  Have you sent out your holiday cards yet?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Has Come Early

The doorbell just rang and I was greeted by the mail woman.  I didn't order these 3 boxes, my husband's name was on all 3 of them!  I think he went overboard shopping, he's in big trouble! ;)

Radish Seed Pods

Last month, I wrote about these seed pods that grew on one of the radish plants.  At first, I didn't even know they were seed pods, and someone in the garden blogging community confirmed that they were.  That's what I love about the blogosphere, everyone is so knowledgeable.  Since I'm a newbie gardener, practically everything is new to me, so I always write about things I have questions about and without fail, someone always knows the right answer!  You all are amazing!
I pulled the seed pods and put them on my kitchen windowsill to let them dry out.  When I opened the pods, there were about 6 seeds inside.
I can't wait to plant these in the spring.  These pods grew from a heirloom radish, so I hope the new plants will grow seed pods too.
These are all the seeds I collected.  I wonder why this is the only plant that produced seed pods.  Of all the 20+ plants in my garden, only one plant had the pods, does anyone know, do I have to leave the plants in longer to produce seeds?  If I do that, does the radish get too woody to eat?  I've noticed that if I leave the plant in too long, the radish is really bitter and not tasty.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making a Door Stopper

Our house is 109 years old, so it is drafty in places where there is no insulation. Especially in our pantry, where it's particularly cold. I decided to make a door stop to put on the bottom of our back door to try to stop the draft from coming in from the pantry. I'm not that good at sewing, so this is a simple project that I can handle since it's just straight seams.  I had some fabric in the house that I purchased a long time ago, and didn't have a use for.
I cut the fabric to fit the width of the door.  Then sewed up two sides.
To stuff the door stopper, I used old t-shirts and clothing that I don't wear anymore.  I figure it's a great way to recycle old clothes.
These are all the clothes I used to stuff in the door stopper.
Here is the new door stopper in action.  Not bad for stuff I had lying around the house.  And it's less drafty now!
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