spectating participant

December 27, 2006

Book Review: Vegetables Every Day

Filed under: review, books, cooking, food — suzanne henderson @ 2:50 am

Root Cellaring

First, let me say that if you cook, you should own this book. [Vegetables Every Day] by [Jack Bishop] states that is is The Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Today’s Produce, with more than 350 Recipes. I must agree because this book does cover all the standard, and a few less american-typical, vegetables found in the supermarket and farmstand. I came across this book at a friend’s house and watched how it was used almost daily to add variety to standby vegetables and test new vegetables coming from their recently established (reestablished) garden.

It is the perfect solution to doing more than steaming broccoli or broiling asparagus. Vegetables are listed in alphabetical order with informative introductions on the history of the vegetable, availability, selection criteria, storing conditions, basic preparation and best cooking methods. These details are just a page or two long and are followed with several different recipes for cooking and serving each vegetable. If you’re tired of plain mashed potatoes, this book with offer other recipes to try to help you break out of your culinary rut.

I’ve owned this book for almost two years and it is the most used book in my kitchen and if I was forced to select a single book for my cooking resource this would be it. While I’ve read it cover to cover only a few times — it is normally grabbed in desperation and habit pushes me toward tired approaches to my families favorite vegetables — I’ve taken a renewed interest in it in conjunction with reading [Root Cellaring] by Mike and Nancy Bubel. In preparation for the eventual root cellar and self-sustaining garden, I realize that our family needs to branch out in vegetable variety and this book is a roadmap for this new adventure. We’ll be making use of the recipe suggestions to helps us expand our tastebuds to include more vegetables that are common staples in the root cellar and family garden.

Wether you’re trying to expand your vegetable preferences or just tired of always using the same old preparation for your favorite vegetables - you should own this book. If you get it and hate it (impossible I believe), feel free to send me your copy because I could actually use two as I’m often making more than one new recipes a night when motivation strikes (and when the crisper drawer is overstuffed and items are nearing expiration).

Book Review: Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables

Filed under: review, books, food — suzanne henderson @ 2:23 am

Root Cellaring

[Root Cellaring] by [ Mike and Nancy Bubel] addresses the somewhat forgotten method of fruit and vegetable storage - the root cellar. This book does an excellent job discussing the traditional root cellar while also making considerations for households that (probably) lack this luxury. This book can help you construct something small or elaborate or help you find nooks and crannies around your house to store a fall harvest of vegetables and fruits.

The books lists storage and growing details for each crop that help you grow and harvest them at the right time and use them before they’ve gone bad. Common problems and challenges are addressed along with lists of vegetables that are particularly hardy and are standard in most root cellars (or similar storage location).

While, I felt some of the options listed were not very practical - like burying large barrels of food stores in the yard - there were ideas for every situation. I liked that the book made storing vegetables possible for modern households and lifestyles - with and without modifications to the home (found space versus made space). If you’re just looking for a way to keep your farmstand produce fresh for a few more weeks, this book will be very helpful. If you want to go all and start tilling the ground, you’ve also got a great reference text.

Another nice perk is the Bubel’s month-to-month produce usage list that includes fresh, cellared, and frozen produce - it helps paint a realistic picture of what is possible with proper planning. Overall, this is an excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone who likes to cook and eat fresh produce.

Book Review: Square Foot Gardening

Filed under: review, books, food — suzanne henderson @ 1:47 am

Square Foot Gardening

[Square Foot Gardening] by [Mel Bartholomew] offers a “new” method for gardening - an approach that strays from the typical rows and rows of crops planted with much enthusiasm and lots of work during the growing season. This isn’t a new book, the copy I have was printed in 1981 and I’ve seen recent releases of 2005 (paperback) and a new book titled [All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!].

For the home gardener, novice or experienced, this is a great resource for a new way to look at the work and effort put into the garden. Instead of sowing lengthy rows of crops, using entire packages seeds, you plant just the number of plants needed. This helps limit the strenuous chores of tilling, weeding, thinning, harvesting, and using surplus produce. This ‘new’ method produces gardens that resemble a giant tic-tac-toe with each block being filled with vegetables, herbs, and flowers - the amount you need and (hopefully) no more.

Best aspects:

  • charts listing the space needs, growing seasons, and square foot yields for different crops
  • the simple notion of considering how much fresh produce you’ll eat or process and planting based on that number instead of just going out and sowing until the ground is full of (over) abundance
  • planting individual seeds help save on seed costs (assuming you store them properly, as noted) and reduces the need to come out and thin or pull out perfectly good plants that contribute to overcrowding of the typical garden
  • tiling and weeding reduced to a mere fraction compared to traditional gardening

My only, very minor, complaint is the failure to include planting for storage in terms of root cellar storage. I reread this book following a rereading of [Root Cellaring] and was disappointed to see that canning and freezing were the only storage methods addressed. Obviously, this is a minor complaint because the book is addressing growing food and needn’t include processing options. If your planning on growing foods ffor winter storage, you still need to consider your actual needs so you can still plant what you need and not go overboard (something that seems easy to do when considering the aspect of living off your winter stores for several months).

This is an excellent companion to [Root Cellaring] and a wonderful resource that I’ll be calling upon as soon as we have enough land or space to start our garden. The newer book supposedly includes new methods to make it even easier, but I think I’ll stick with this volume since it provides everything I need and I’m not really looking for more shortcuts.

December 26, 2006

boston for new years

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 8:21 pm

looks like it’ll be a trip to boston this new years. fun fun.

Update: I’m adding to this post instead of adding a fifth post this evening — seems I’m trying to make up for months of poor communication with impersonal book reviews. The reviews are really just for me and my archivist purposes, but we’ll pretend they’re for the masses and some simulation of individual reflection. Of course, there is some merit to that because I’ve been thinking a lot of land and gardening and animal husbandry and what not. It is really related to where my life is going, where I want it to go, and the hoops I’m jumping to get there.

There is some hope that I’ll have more of a handle on my time next year. My workload should reduce drastically by the end of January and that will help me reconnect with the musings of my mind. Hopefully the reunion of passion and motivation will occur at more civilized hours and not in fits of sleepless murmurings such as this one.

nature is feeling as real and the waterless tree that appeared in our living room on Christmas Eve. It was a “santa strikes again” attempt to boost the holiday spirits and draw out smiles from the gals in the house. It was indeed needed and appreciated with proper reception and enthusiasm. But now I look out from the dining room chair to the window, shaded to keep out the neighborly eyes and blaring signs of the multitudes crammed in high density living, and see plastic tree instead of winter nightlight.

I recall the nights in South Dakota, sitting near a frosty window, tapping away on the keys, talking of beauty and love and all these aspiration of something more than the life I was living. That day seems so close, so near, and not years and years passed by with actions born of wishing there by the icy glass.

Has it really been 8 years? Has it only been 8 years? Where am I now in relation to the girl by the window, watching the snow and light drifting among the branches? Is she still there dreaming bright and fresh, dreaming past the constraints of reality, dreaming of something resembling where I am today?

Moments of these pull Utah from miles and miles away into the stillness of night, into hushed silence powered by the white lights of holidays drowning in the night. How soft the thoughts, the words, wishing for a moment of reflection, remembrance of present, not past, with those careful eyes and listening silence, wind-breathing, heart-beating, mind-freeing for just the moment to call upon. Closed in, nature hidden behind white walls aglow and creating false sense of seclusions, reclusion, retreat from realities unwanted in boxes, crates of humanity tied down with trains and routines.

Safe here and enclosed in the quilted comfort of content and exuberant joy, bundled in the soft scent of life and bursting with wonder and refreshment. I want to spin, to twirl, in nothing more but the moment and break free from nothing but the air’s embraces – smiling, laughing, enjoying it all. Oh the feeling of love, beating of life, holding everything back, everything in, and sweeping through my skin in perfect vibration.

Yes, I’m there by the window, I’m there in the wishing and dreaming of something more, broken free of fears of failure, fears of something new, fears of taking the leap – the leap that has led to endless flights and realities far from the winter night outside the window. Comfort in the assurance that I would make it, assurance that I have made it, assurance that I’ll continue to make dreams, wishes, and desires come true. Ever reaching, ever tackling, ever seeking more and never holding the ground as destination, just origination, for life continues outside the cold South Dakota window, outside the Wisconsin paths, outside the Maryland chains. Just a step, just a thought, just a murmuring with so much to be thankful for, thank you, m heart, for all the life that painted my lips, my eyes, and the dreams that you heard out loud, life living, out loud.

December 6, 2006

technical mind glaze

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 7:03 pm

I am coming to the reluctant realization that I am not a geek. I was once a geek, but that reality has faded into jumbled collection of code-unreadable. When I met Chris, I was thrilled to find someone else who was not a geek — well, kind of. I was ecstatic to find someone that didn’t have a laptop tether to their wrist for a large chunk of the day. I loved how we’d talk about all sorts of strange things that never involved computers or the internet, to some degree.

That really hasn’t changed, but there is an ever increasing technical element that sometimes oozes out and drowns every interest receptor I have. Now, I’m glad that he can make sense out of all this antenna stuff - it is great when you’re working at an antenna design firm. But, when it comes down to explaining the intricate details — I really don’t want to hear it. Also, when I excuse myself from the conversation about blah-da-phase-beam-du-da-array-whatcha-call-it, I really don’t expect to have the intricacies described, with imagines and charts, as a way to bring about understanding and engaged participation.

It doesn’t help that all this antenna work really just looks like someone decided to doodle out geometric patterns with a copper pen. Nothing they make looks like my impression of an antenna. The only development I’ve seen, even remotely resembling an antenna, would easily be confused as a clothes drying rack. But, antennas is what the man does and I’m just gonna have to hear about them. And, I guess, it’ll also be my place to sympathize when a finished measurement is just one or two centimeters too big and an entire years worth of work must start back at square one. Yes, I want to be supportive and clearly need to work on putting an interested face on when these topics of conversation surface.