Recipes and Garden Parts

Here are the Noncation recipes for Lemon-Sage Roasted Chicken and Warm Eggplant and Goat Cheese Sandwiches.  I made Broccoli Slaw, too, but that was a cheat:  1 bag of ready-made broccoli slaw, 1 cup of prepared cole slaw dressing, ½ cup of raisins, and 1 small package chopped peanuts billed as desert topping.  Mix, eat, love.

Guess what I found this morning?  Seedlings!  Four hollyhocks and three sunflowers.  The peat pots were nice and soaked, and a little bumble bee was having a grand time slurping the extra water off of them.  My pictures of all this were abysmal.

My fancy water pail

But here’s my fancy water pail for your amusement.

Sometime last Tuesday, while I was gone to The Sing-Off again (which was much shorter this time, and Daddy treated me to dinner after!), my spearmint plant fell over and the whole thing slid out of the pot.  By the time I found it the plant was completely dried out, crunchy leaves and all.  The stems and smallest leaves closest to the soil were still somewhat succulent, so I cut it back hard and brought it inside to convalesce at the kitchen window.

Spearmint before

Spearmint before

Spearmint after

Spearmint after

The rest of my beautiful plant fit into one small teabag.

The rest of the spearmint plant in one tiny teabag.

Spearmint tea

Honestly I wanted peppermint anyway, not spearmint, so I picked up this lovely



along with another spearmint for Jess, to help repel the aphids attacking her garden.  And I moved everything to an east-facing porch so they won’t scorch in the fierce sun and heat pounding down on us.

Aw, so perty

Aw, so perty

The east porch is also adjacent to the site of their future permanent home

Dirt and waning tomatoes today, herb garden eventually.

Dirt and waning tomatoes today, herb garden eventually.

School started for Drew last week.  A smooth transition into freshman year of high school.  He is going to start a club…I told you guys about that already, yes?  The Nerdist Club?  He’s ready to go with a faculty advisor, officers, members, a first activity/ fundraiser, even an endorsement from the creator of The Nerdist!  Now he just has to wait for the paperwork to become available, get 50 signatures (which will be super-easy, he says), and off he goes.

School starts for me tomorrow. I don’t want to goooo!  Technically school starts Tuesday, because all of the classes I registered for are on Tuesdays and Thursdays:  English Lit, Modern Drama, and Short Story Writing.  However, only English Lit is required; the rest of the classes I actually need were full, so I picked up Modern Drama and Short Story Writing as fillers.  I will attempt to add Biology and Cultural Anthropology by showing up to the first class meeting and hope that that teacher lets me in.  I have a list of 8 class meetings to try throughout the week.  If I get into any of them I will drop one or both of the fillers.  Ugh, what an ordeal.  Last year this was all very exciting, but this year I’m over it.  I’m sure once school starts and I’m into my routine, meeting new teachers and new classmates,  I’ll be fine, but today it’s hot and sticky and I’m being a cry baby.

One more load of laundry into the dryer, then it’s off to bed.  Good night, blogosphere!

Noncation 2013: Day 3

7:00 am:   What am I doing up?  My room never properly cooled off, so I didn’t sleep well.  And at some point the rubber band fell out of my hair, so I spent the last hour or two of semi-sleep flipping my whole head whenever I changed position.  I know I should stay awake but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  One of my eyes feels swollen.  I’m whiny and cranky.

7:15 am:  Andrew is up.  Guess he doesn’t need to change his schedule after all.

8:00 am:  Feed animals.  Start feeding Sprite half of a tiny can of food twice a day.  She eats it with her body as far away from the bowl as possible like she’s stealing it.

Pilot, Sprite, and Sahara.  Missing the fish and a turtle.

Pilot, Sprite, and Sahara. Missing the fish and a turtle.

It’s hotter downstairs than upstairs, which actually feels pretty good now.  I find another rubber band and pile my hair on top of my head.  Screw this noise, I’m going back to bed.  I’ll start changing my schedule tomorrow.

11:45 am:  Wake up permanently.  I am ashamed.   What time should I tell the blogosphere I woke up?  11:00?  10:30?

12:15 pm:  Call Jessica to arrange pick-up.  I tell her about the nightmare I had that her dad started a Nazi-like religious cult and locked a couple hundred people inside, including his family and me.

12:30 pm:  Shelly calls.  She had been looking forward to seeing the San Diego Mission, but her parents got into a big fight so they are coming home instead.  At some point, though, they calmed down and decided to make it up to her, so now she’s calling from the Mission San Luis Rey.  Next stop is Mission San Juan Capistrano.  That’s the one the swallows come back to.  Bug Bunny said so all the time, remember?

1:00 pm:  Shelly calls three times in a row while I’m in the bathroom.  I call her back and get voicemail.  I call Mom.  “Why did you call Janine?”  she asks Shelly.

“To complain!”  I hear her say.

“Oh.”  I can hear my mom roll her eyes.  Shelly put her purse down to take a picture and forgot about it.   She didn’t realize it was missing until they had toured the whole mission.  She and Mom scour the place, but it’s gone.  Shelly wants to come home right now.

Scene of the crime:  cemetary at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.

Scene of the crime: cemetery at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.

An old friend of Shelly’s, Janice (rhymes with Bernice), shows up with her mini offspring while I’m on the phone.  They are 2 and 5, and tiny even for their ages.  They’ve had a long day already.  Janice makes them lunch then pulls out her cell phone to make some calls.  The kids bring a bowl of Cheetos upstairs to my room, exploring and chatting while I type. One of them finds a purple plastic Easter egg and oh, it is on and crackin’ now!

They also find my Thinking Cap.

They also find my Thinking Cap.

Our stairs are steep and treacherous, so the five-year-old bounces down them on her tush for safety.  She starts playing one-man fetch:  she throws the egg down the stairs as hard as she can to break it in half, then retrieves it.  Each time she descends, she tries to muster the courage to walk it.  Eventually she gets it.  “Look!  Come quick!”  she calls.  “I can use my feet now!”

2:30 pm:  Make the Friday Night Switch:  Drive to Monrovia, pick up Jess, drop off Drew.  The drive makes me extremely nervous considering my illegal car, but Drew’s face would probably melt off if he missed a Friday night at the weekly street fair.  I leave a pile of picture books for Janice and the kids.

Finally stop at the market for the odds and ends I really need now.  I feel so accomplished.

4:00 pm:  Wipe spilled juice and unidentifiable sticky off the books while the kids are still napping.

There’s never a wrong time for a Christmas story, especially when you’re small.

When they wake up they end up back in my room.  I bring out my wooden treasure chest for them to scrounge through, a leftover from the pirate-themed surprise party my family threw for me a few years ago.  I let them each keep a plastic gemstone ring, a string of party beads, and a plastic cocktail pick shaped like a sword.  They try to con me out of more.  I make a mental note to stock it with more give-away trinkets.

5:30 pm:  Shelly posts on Facebook that they are at her aunt’s house.  They are definitely on their way home.

7:00 pm:  Warm eggplant and goat cheese sandwiches with broccoli slaw for dinner.  Jess posts on Facebook that it’s the best vegetarian meal she’s ever had, EVER!

7:15 pm:  Shelly calls.  They’re in Arcadia, one city away.

8:00 pm:  The intrepid vacationers arrive home.  They’ve tied their record for shortest summer vacation ever.  Mom still has another week off of work.

10:00 pm:  Reverse the Friday Night Switch:  drop off Jess, pick up Drew.

And thus ends Noncation 2013.

My Backyard – The Summer Tour

It has been a tough few months.  I finally hit my breaking point, and hermited myself away to calm down and regroup.  I absolutely hate writing when I’m in a bad state of mind, so I took to reading voraciously instead. The time has come, however, to unhermit myself.  So last weekend I grabbed my camera and documented the better aspects of my reclusive little world to share.

It is definitely summer here.  We have been in the 90s (30s C) for a good couple of weeks now. I staked a claim for myself in the shade of our big redwood tree in the backyard to get away from our oven of a house.

My new throne.

My new throne.

It is theeee best place to sit and read.  It’s also a nice place for a nap, which is unfortunate for the neighbors because I snore like a freight train.

The view from my chair, looking up.

The view from my throne, looking up.

The four trunks of our coast redwood tree.

The four trunks of our coast redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens).

Once the yard is completely in shade, which is at around 4pm, I might turn on a sprinkler and water something nearby to feel the spray carried on the wind.

four o'clocks

Like these four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), which grow wild in a little corner of the yard.

Or my sister's little garden.

Or my sister Shelly’s border garden.

If it’s particularly hot, I’ll sit directly under the water, which is kind of boring really because I can’t read or tippity-tap on my laptop, and no one ever wants to join me.  I need to suffer mightily to go that route, but go it I do.

The grass is dead in the majority of the yard.  Even the usual weeds such as clover, couch grass, and dandelions, have all but disappeared.  There is still some color to be found, though,

From Shelly's garden to the front of the house:  dead grass, green fruit trees.

From Shelly’s garden to the front of the house: dead grass, green trees and shrubs.

and interesting things abound.

busted pots 2

Tree stumps bursting from nursery pots

These are near the four o’clock colony.  I think they were silk floss trees.  My step-dad, Rob,  propagated them from seeds he liberated from a tree at a golf course,

busted pots 1

Ceiba speciosa, if I’m correct.

and then apparently forgot about. They took root where they stood, wimpy plastic pots be damned.  During a bad windstorm in 2011, Rob worried that they would fall onto the neighbor’s property and cause damage.

spiky logs

Spiky wood pile.

So now they’re firewood.

Have you ever seen one of these?

Homalocladium platycladum

Homalocladium platycladum

It’s known as ribbonbush, ribbon plant, tapeworm plant, or centipede plant.  It is native to the Solomon Islands.  This one is at the edge of Shelly’s garden.

Ribbon plant "leaves"

Ribbon plant “leaves”

It has  long, flat, segmented “leaves” that are actually flower stems.  Tiny flowers pop out along the edges.

Homalocladium flowers

Homalocladium flowers

Here’s the color I promised:





Purple lantana

Purple lantana



Passion flower and fern

Passion flower and fern

Passion flower face

Passion flower face

And this???

And this???

I have no idea what this little orange flower is,

The orange flower's vine

The orange flower’s vine

but its vine is gigantic.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.  By my best estimate it’s 15-20 ft tall, 60 ft long, and 30 ft wide.  It is tended by at least three different property owners. It was here when my parents bought the house over 30 years ago.   Come to think of it, so was that passion vine, and the lemon tree.  Of course the redwood tree.  Oh!  And the black walnut tree!

Black walnut tree, as seen from my bedroom window.

Black walnut tree, as seen from my bedroom window.

When we moved here this tree had a huge hole decayed into the trunk, like a child’s drawing minus the owl inside.  Rob said the tree was rotten and told us not to eat the nuts, and said it would likely die within the year.  Obviously it didn’t, and a couple of summers ago we discovered that the hole has completely healed over.  We’re still scared to eat the walnuts, though, so the squirrels and wild parrots get their pick.

At the base of this tree is another border garden of exotic plants.

Garden under the walnut tree.

Garden under the walnut tree.

Taro, aka elephant ears.  (Colocasia esculenta)

Taro root plant (Colocasia esculenta). Since we grow them for decoration, we call the plants elephant ears.

Nestled into the tree itself are some amusing knickknacks:

Large glass fishing float

Large glass fishing float

Lion's head

Lion’s head

M 'n M man

M&M man

Other curious things are scattered around the yard, too.

Cony sentinel

A cony sentinel.

Cast iron cockerel

Cast iron cockerel left.

Cast iron cockerel right.

Cast iron cockerel right.

An ugly cactusy thing with pretty yellow flowers.

An ugly cactusy thing with pretty yellow flowers (and another bunny).

Logs from a downed oak branch, a casualty of the 2011 windstorm.

Logs from a downed oak branch, a casualty of the 2011 windstorm.

Lantana berries

Lantana berries

Old ferns tangled up in the rangy passion vine.

Old ferns tangled up in the rangy, spider webby passion vine.

Today is overcast and the heat isn’t quite so bad. Cross your fingers that it holds!

Mellow Yellow Monday


Yellow Parasols

Yellow parasols, courtesty of National Geographic.

I hate summer.  I don’t do heat well at all, especially when it’s humid. I feel like old wilted lettuce.  It’s hard to think or write or do anything, really.  These past couple weeks I’ve been living in my car, it seems, with the A/C runing full-blast.  I have to jump in the shower fully clothed before I go to bed, then sleep in front of a fan.  It’s usually this way until the very tippy end of October, and then I’m dissapointed because the rest of the seasons aren’t as rainy as I want them to be.

I can see myself in the above scene in a sarong, sipping mai-tais and other rocket-fuel concotions cleverly disguised with fruit and tiny paper umbrellas.  Every so often I’d venture out from under my pretty yellow parasol to stroll along the white sand and splash the azure water with a French-manicured toe.  Only it should be raining.  Thunder would be nice.  A light wind wouldn’t be amiss, either.  The resort staff can worry about the puddles and wet sand I track in.

Mellow Yellow Monday


Potato chip bag

Empty potato chip bag.

It is disgustingly hot today. 98°F (37°C) in the shade on the north porch that never sees sun.  I’m at my parents’ house because I thought it would be a good central location for the people who needed my help today.  Alas, everyone’s plans changed.  I remain, however, in this climate-uncontrolled remnant of the past my parents call home.  You see, If go back to my own home I will bask in the air conditioning while I play mindless PC games, check my Facebook and email every 20 minutes for counterfeit signs of human connection, and get absolutely nothing done.  So here I sit in front of my laptop, next to a box fan, under a ceiling fan, blowing around a bunch of hot sticky air and trying to convince myself that it’s not so bad today.

Friends, 98° in the shade is a bad day.  I can’t fake otherwise.

So moving on to this happy yellow potato chip bag.  Rob hands it to me after emptying it and says, “Hey, check out this contest!  You know, people actually win these things, sometimes two or three times!”  You’ll notice near the bottom right corner, the bag says I could win a million dollars.

It makes me nauseous.  Deep-fried starch on a hot day doesn’t sound appetizing in the least.  Some fresh salsa sounds good, though.  Pico de gallo, specifically: tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and salt.  No jalapeños, no black pepper, not even garlic. Yum. I could eat that with a spoon right now.  It’s just gazpacho without the cucumber, after all.  “You should enter,” Rob says.  “You’re creative.”

Gaaawwwgh! Okay.

So I enter this goofy contest. Turns out it’s an app on Facebook, which doesn’t thrill me but since I have nothing better to blog about, I click it. I invent a flavor name (“Summer Salsa”), pick 3 ingredients (tomato, onion, and cilantro), and give it a description based on my inspiration (something about being hot hot hot today, an August heat wave, and pico de gallo).  It kicks back my description for adult content. wHaT?!  After three tries I take out the “hot hot hot” part, and that does the trick.  I even don’t want to know what kind of person would blush at that.

I can’t say my new flavor is creative, but there it is.  Maybe I should come up with “Potato Salad,” but what kind of flavor ingredients would that include? Pickles? Hard-boiled eggs?  Mayonnaise?  HA!  Wouldn’t that be the most white-bred potato chip flavor ever?

I think I’ll go work on that.