Harvest 2015: Bok Choy

I never would have grown bok choy (also known as pak choi) were it not for Cook Smarts! The first time I saw it in a CS recipe I was admittedly a bit apprehensive, having never cooked it or purchased it before. But we loved the meal, a savory stir-fry, and every time it came up in the menu again we were excited. When I saw bok choy seeds available I decided to try them out.

I’m glad I did! I planted a few squares of Bopak bok choy and it took off nearly instantaneously.¬†Apparently we have an excellent climate for bok choy. You can see it to the right in this photo:

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The Bopak type matures quickly and can be picked as a baby plant, if that’s what you want. That’s what I had been doing, but unfortunately I have/had a flea beetle problem on all of my greens. It started out as tolerable but then they really started decimating things so I pulled all of the greens except the lettuce and cooked them all last weekend. I have diatomaceous earth on order and am hoping it will help so I can try again!

This is a plant that can be seeded a few times over the course of the season, though I’ve read to not plant while the weather is hot, given that bok choy prefers cooler temperatures. If the DE helps, later on in summer I’ll try planting bok choy again to see if we can get a fall crop.

I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to try bok choy, and I’m happy that everyone in my family enjoys it, and that it’s easy to grow. At the grocery store, it costs around $4 a pound, so I think I’m ahead of the game, economics-wise.

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Slow Down

Early last week I woke up feeling kind of awful. I am prone to UTIs, for some unknown but terrible reason, and this one took me down hard. On Saturday when I got out of bed I told Matt I had to go to the ER — with no walk-in clinic availability on the weekend (and spotty walk-in times during the week, honestly) it was my only choice for meds, and I could feel that tell-tale pain crawling up my back. I’ve had a kidney infection before and it sucked, and I did not want to deal with one again.

There’s something to be said for a small-town emergency room on a Saturday morning, though. I was barely in my seat in the waiting room when the nurse called me in for triage, and she didn’t even send me back in — once I told her what was up she ushered me into the emerg department and I saw the doctor pretty much instantaneously. It actually took more time to get my antibiotic prescription filled at the pharmacy than it did to get in and out of the hospital.

Matt and M had been out yard saling while all of this was happening, so they swung back home and grabbed me for a lunch date. When we got back, Matt mowed the lawn while M played around in the backyard and I took a seat by the fire pit and watched. I had roughly 500 things to do that day — endless laundry, wanting to clean up, dealing with shuffling food from freezer to fridge, writing… the list went on. As it always does.

But I wasn’t feeling good. And my kid wanted to play. And my husband was working nights and needed to nap. So I shoved it all aside and sat there and let all of my to-do list discomfort wash over me while I made the active decision to slow down and not worry about it.

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I am a planner. I like to know what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, and that it’s going to get done. I hate being idle, but find myself idle more often than not because I am so overwhelmed and out of breath from the go-go-go that overtakes me. I get things done in fits and spurts, and then I feel bad that I didn’t do more. But not on Saturday. On Saturday I let M thoroughly soak herself at her water table. I laid back and willed my meds to kick in. Matt was the most productive, mowing the front and back lawns, and once he was done we all headed inside and slept in the big bed, all together, for two hours.

As soon as the nap was over it was a mad dash — I was trying to make dinner while M was freaking out that she couldn’t go outside again and Matt was stressing about getting ready for work. It was rushed and anxiety-filled and not very fun. It was a good reminder of why slowing down can be preferable to racing. The tortoise and the hare and all that.

Tossing the to-do list isn’t always an option, and sometimes we will have to rush, without having any other choices. But there’s something to be said for looking at the Big Saturday List of Priorities, then moving “Sit outside together” and “Take a nap” to the top. I got one load of laundry done. I didn’t clean a thing. And it was okay. And my kid had a blast, and we went out in the sun, and another bit of summer had joy attached to it instead of pressure.

How do you remember to slow down? Any tips for balancing to-do, must-do, and relaxation?

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Flashbacks

For the Facebook-less among us, there’s a feature that rolled out a few months ago — On This Day. It’s a Facebook-centric version of Timehop, which for the Timehop-less among us means this: every single day you have the option of logging onto Facebook and seeing what comments, photos, posts, etc., you put up on that same day, a year ago, two years ago, and so on, until you hit the end of your Facebook lifespan.

I was one of the first people at Wilfrid Laurier University to have Facebook — I remember when it was brand-new, having every single person in my university who also had Facebook on my friends list, and trying to convince everyone I knew on campus to sign up. We were all using MSN pages at the time, to broadcast our drunken shenanigans to the internet at large.

When I look at these “2 years ago, 5 years ago” blurbs, on Facebook or on Timehop, or when I feel a bit nostalgic and log onto my old Livejournal that is almost TWO DECADES OLD (gulp), I think a few things.

First off, I am so glad that the internet and social media in its current form did not exist when I was an adolescent. I know the internet is forever but I think I have successfully wiped a lot of my youthful indiscretions from the easy-to-access internet, at least. When Facebook was new to WLU (which means it was probably old hat to lots of other networks) it was only open to people with educational institute email addresses. There were no parents or great-aunts or bosses on Facebook, then, so it felt a-okay to share party pictures.

This one seems safe.

This one seems safe.

MSN spaces (if that’s what it was actually called)? We put EVERYTHING there because there was no such thing as worrying about online privacy. Same with LiveJournal, and hi5, and Myspace, and so on. I have no idea what the equivalent is now — Snapchat? — but I’m kind of glad I’m out of the loop. And I’m glad I have no intentions to try and be the prime minister or anything like that.

If I had spent the entirety of my adolescence online, in a way that could be pulled up on a “what you did this time six years ago” app, I would probably spend every morning cringing myself to death. As it is, I am glad that Facebook put a delete post functionality into the app, so that I can excise embarrassing things from public review.

So — that’s lesson #1. But there are lots of other things I think about when I read these miniature blasts from the past, especially this time of year, when I start to get wistful thinking about carefree high school summers, which so did not feel carefree at the time.

A lot of the people who crop up in these posts are people I don’t speak with anymore. Some of them are actually no longer people I would consider friends, whether we had an intentional breaking-off, or just faded away. My family moved away, suddenly and permanently, after I went to university for my first year and pretty much lost touch with most of my high school friends, save for those with whom I was/am extra-close. So seeing these blurbs makes me feel a bit sad, but also happy, because these are people whose lives I occasionally and idly catch up on, who are doing well, and I still cherish a lot of those ridiculous teenage memories.

And, when I project myself back to high school, about to graduate, ten years ago almost to the day, I wonder, would high school me be happy with who I am now? My main goal, especially in that last year, was to get out and never be one of the people who came back, so I guess I was successful in that regard. I am not a world traveller, or someone who is making a huge impact on many lives globally, and that’s a bit of a departure from the dreams and wishes I had even five years ago, but I am making an impact on some of the most important people in MY world.

This is all a very convoluted way of saying, if I could go back, ten years into the past, I would tell myself this:

  • Everything you think is heart-wrenching and painful and awful will not be like that forever. Ten years from now you might look back on it and laugh to yourself, or feel a tiny bit of wrenching, but none of it will ruin your world.
  • Enjoy all of that freedom and potential while you have it.
  • Take pictures — don’t post them on the internet! And back them up somewhere, because five years from now you’ll screw up your computer and lose them all.

Of course, I know I wouldn’t listen to me, and would just roll my eyes at my future self for being sanctimonious. Now, get offa my lawn.

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Review: Very Healthy Spiral Slicer

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Very Healthy Spiral Slicer from Varietyland, provided to me at a discount. I’ve been intrigued by spiralizers ever since I started using Cook Smarts — we aren’t paleo eaters but I do try to sneak veggies into our meals as much as possible, and some of the recipes out there for veggie noodles look fantastic! I’ve tried making ribbons with a regular peeler, but I’d heard that spiralizers make for a much better texture, and are way easier and faster to use.

There are a few things about the Varietyland spiral slicer that instantly appealed to me. First of all, it’s dishwasher-safe, which is vital in this household. It’s compact, good for people like us who are lacking in drawer space. And, it promised to be easy to use. I don’t love having a zillion kitchen gadgets, but if they serve a good purpose I can deal with it — and this turned out to be one I’m glad to have!

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Garden Tour – The First One of 2015!

I’ve been trying to write this post for days! The garden is in its usual state — somewhat neglected but doing okay. One day I will get a chance to get up and weed properly, and this fall we’re probably going to sheet mulch a lot to try and get things under control. Until then I have plants growing amidst the insanity. Some are doing well, some are not… we’ll see how the season turns out.

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First up, peas and beans! This takes up the majority of one side of our house. We weren’t growing anything there, aside from the random things left behind by previous owners and some transplants (hostas, tulips, wild leeks, chives). I’m growing three kinds of peas and two types of pole beans. The cats keep digging up the beans so I don’t know if we’ll get any, but the peas are doing well so far. Some of them seem to be rotting a bit at the bottom which makes me nervous.

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I planted an assortment of things in the fire pit garden this year. The soil is not awesome and needs to be replaced/modified, so the flowers here are a bit slower than elsewhere in the garden.

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I planted pansies which are holding up better than I thought they would — it’s the part of the garden that couldn’t grow anything last year! Along with that there are gazanias and portulaca, and a few climbing nasturtiums.

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To the side of the fire pit is one of the stairway gardens. I’m working on filling it in with sedum and other groundcovers, in the part where I dug up the creeping thyme (which I left some of, along the stairs). The pansies are there for colour this year, but again, I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up.

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Petunias in containers in the tiered beds! They’re super colourful and I’m a big fan.

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The top tier is doing very well this year. All of the perennials came back, bigger and brighter — even the aster bloomed this year! The lupines I seeded last year popped up this year and I think there will be another one next year. There’s a bit of everything in here, from cosmos to marigold seeds, and some things have volunteered themselves like one solitary giant sunflower.

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On the other side of the stairs I’ve dug out more of the thyme and planted whatever random things we had left — it’s not a great garden because the soil sucks, but next year we’ll fix it up.

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I rehabbed the side garden a bit, too. Again it needs to be amended next year, but this year I planted some marigolds and peppers. Above it there’s hanging baskets, containing Tumbling Tom tomatoes, and cucumbers that all died (boo). Ignore the strip of grass under the baskets… I need to weed all of that.

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The upper raised bed is the best soil we have going and the things in there are thriving! I have a flea beetle problem, though, so that’s a bummer. I sprayed a homemade repellent yesterday and haven’t checked to see if it worked, yet. Up here there is bok choy, carrots, and other greens.

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And finally, the big veggie garden, which is a mess of weeds and encroaching grass. Things are mostly doing well here, aside from some bitten-up greens and one tomato that apparently was dug up by cats. There are also a few squash/tomato plants jammed into a rocky, weedy garden above — it’s another space that needs to be mulched in fall.

Along with this I have some hanging baskets of flowers, the front perennial bed that I basically ignore because it does well on its own, and the giant pumpkin which is planted on our front lawn because the grass sucks anyway and Matt is going to reseed it, probably next year. Nothing is growing in about half the yard, because the pine tree above acidified the soil too much — we’re hoping if the pumpkin grows, that we can train the vine to take up that area (which has been amended with dolomite lime).

That’s it! I feel disheartened by all of the work that still needs to be done, but compared to last year the garden is in better shape, and was planted a lot earlier. We’re making progress!

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