Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who knew I had such a green thumb?

Let me remind you that I'm a city girl, in case you missed something from that last post. My idea of camping might be a nap at the cabana at the nearest Marriott. Or a Winnebago in the woods, only if equipped with air conditioning, a flat screen and surround sound.

Get it?

So imagine my surprise at being able to have a kick ass garden in the middle of the desert.

I start planting in March, and lately, we've been enjoying killer peppers, zucchini for days, and some eggplant caponata.

Here's my eggplant patch, and with a baby just poking it's head out.

And a zucchini plant, with leaves as big as tires.

And basil - so gi-nourmous, I wonder about the radioactivity in our soil. Yucca Mountain is a mere 80 miles away.

Oh, don't get me wrong, as much luck as I have with some of these plants, I experience the exact opposite with others. I can't grow cukes, no matter what I do to help them along. Cilantro? Forget it. Dill? I'm better off buying it at the store.

Did I mention peppers?

I have three tips for growing a garden in poor conditions. First, when planting, make sure you're starting with good soil, even if that means hauling some in. I hauled in 80 tons of rich soil, and made raised beds with it. My neighbors told me I'd have trouble with growing things in this caliche laden soil, so good soil should be your priority.

Second - throw in a healthy handful of nutrient, whether it's compost, or something that your local nursery recommends. We have a pretty great chain of nurseries here in Las Vegas, and they package their own line of products, made especially for this soil. I used to think - who would buy dirt? Now I get it!

And finally, if you're like me, you can barely remember what you wore yesterday, let alone remember to water the garden every day. So I have an automated drip system, which waters these plants twice a day, in the very early morning hours.

Now if I could only figure out how to grow a cucumber.... I'd be pretty content with this year's crop. Anyone have tips for me?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What is wrong with this story?

Look, I'm not the outdoor-sy type, not even close. I don't even try to fake it. So camping out in the wilderness isn't something you'd find me doing ever. Notinamillionyears ever.

I've done it twice, which was two times too many.

But even I know that when you're camping, you're supposed to not leave food around for wild animals to find. The only thought worse than sleeping in a bag on a bed of dirt would be looking up to see a bear in your face, trying to figure out why you're there.

So this story in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my eye, if for no other reason than the cruelty of it. If they could get close enough to shoot it, couldn't they have simply tranquilized it?

As one person commented... more idiots with guns.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

There are a few subjects that fascinate me to no end - and the possibility of alien life is one of them. So of course, as the title of the new X-Files movies says - I want to believe.

There are some people who will snort at that, I get it.

I don't even care if you think I'm nuts.

But I try to be open minded about things. Watch the video below, and
tell me that Dr Edgar Mitchell, a former NASA astronaut, is a quack. I don't think so.

Oh, and if you're an X-Files fan because of David Duchovny, here's his blog.

Finally, for anyone who wants to believe, here are some interesting stories for you. Enjoy.

I'm off to the Farmer's Market, but I'd rather be at the movies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A little summertime diversion from my woodworking

Even though I've occasionally seen the show Survivor in the past, it's not something that make a conscious effort to watch. The best part of it is the human dynamic, the wild card of seeing a particular idiot being called out for being....well, an idiot.

But mostly, reality shows leave me longing for...well, again... reality.

But there's just something special about the Food Network's show - The Next Food Network Star - that fascinates me to no end. Maybe it's the combination of someone having to put together a whole package - cooking skills, appearance, camera presence - all while learning this in front of a camera, for the world to see.

In my own little way, I got a taste of that when I recorded those four Watco Application videos a while back - I had no idea that filming something was that hard, and trust me, it shows in the quality of the videos.

The reason I bring this up - this coming Sunday, the Food Channel is going to run a marathon of the entire current season of The Next Food Network Star, or the NFNS. It's the only sort of marathon I would ever consider doing. If any of this sounds vaguely interesting, you should check your local TV guide for a time in your area. I'm pretty sure they're going to run all the shows, back to back, culminating at the final show, where this season's winner will be revealed.

So - they're down to three finalists. If you've been watching, who do you think will win?

You have Aaron McCargo Jr., a executive catering chef from Camden, NJ.

Adam Gertler, a server/ex-restaurateur/performer from Philadelphia.

And Lisa Garza from Dallas, who is immersed in food, doing everything from owning an event planning/catering business to designing and selling her line of kitchen aprons.

On a gut level, Aaron and Adam's food appeals to me the most. They make comfort food, like barbecued and smoked meats that take a lot of time and effort. I'm not likely to make meals like that, so I've enjoyed watching how they simplify things. But in the last challenge, which took place in Las Vegas, I think Aaron really bombed by making three pasta dishes out of the five he was supposed to create for his buffet. Anyone can make three pasta dishes, what was he thinking? His "I wanted to keep it simple" idea might have cost him the show. Aaron might be the underdog, so I'm in his corner. But his food lacks something inventive for my taste.

Adam finally managed to pull together an awesome meal, but I had the feeling it was almost a little too late. His cooking has been really up and down, and that might not be a risk that the Food Network is willing to take. Sure, he's very likable and seems like a guy you'd like your daughter to bring home, but consistent? It's debatable, and that's too bad, because he has other nice qualities.

Which takes me to Lisa. In the first few weeks of show, I was prepared not to like her. I'm not sure why, maybe it was the perfect skin, the great hair, her stylish outfits, her polish, her poise... she just seemed like she had so many great things going on, that she would be a natural favorite. I never root for those people! Like I said, I'm always in the underdog's corner.


There's just something about Lisa that makes me want to watch her. Maybe when she slipped and fell on one of the earlier shows, it metaphorically brought her off that pedestal that she appears to be on. As the show has progressed, she's become more down to earth, more vulnerable, which makes her
more likable.

My vote? Who do you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Layering Waterfall Glazes

The platter above is one of my favorites to make - I call it a Potsticker Platter because it has a small bowl formed into it, perfect for holding a dipping sauce. Honestly, it could hold anything - salsa, marinara, even some barbecue sauce, in a pinch.

The Waterfall Brown glaze that is featured in my favorite ceramic glaze book (Mastering Cone 6 Glazes) is quirky and wonderful. I've layered it on this platter - the brown version, and my own variation - a green version. Add some texture...and the WOW factor enters the picture.

Double click on the picture below to see a close-up of this marvelous effect.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Swamp coolers

I never knew what a swamp cooler was, until I moved to the desert. They're quite common in some parts of the country, like the south, or southwest, but I never lived in one of those places. Hence, my ignorance.

I installed one in my studio a couple years ago, and while it doesn't provide that cool, dry air that you get from an air conditioner, it does help. Last week, we were in a heat wave, and the weather topped 115˚ here. That's just brutal, no matter how much one (me, for example!) likes the warm weather.

My online buddy, Steven, sent me a link to an interesting company, called Airzee, out of Arizona. They make a swamp cooler that actually looks and acts as a security door for your home. Some neighborhoods don't allow the unsightly installation of a swamp cooler, but when it's disguised as a door, it's barely noticed.

Pretty great idea, wish I had come up with that one!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Who loves their Mac?

It's confession time. I'm one of those people who is in love with their Mac. That's my computer, not the cheese casserole.

So I've been in a bit of a funk lately, maybe because I'm experiencing those 5 stages of grief about my laptop.
You know, the model that Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described in her book, On Death and Dying. See, I'm beyond the denial, bargaining and anger stages, and have moved on to despair. Acceptance is on the way, I hope.

We (my computer and me) probably have some codependency issues happening, but that's another topic for another day.

After a little research, I found a program called Coconut Battery, that will analyze my machine and tell me some stuff I've wondered - how old is it? How is my battery doing? How does the current battery capacity compare to when it was new?

See, I have no idea how old this lap top is, but it's possible it's about 5 years. I've barely had a relationship with ANYTHING for five years, let alone a laptop. But this particular machine has been the finest one I've owned, and trust me, I've owned a buttload.

Where am I going with this?

Just a few days ago, I noticed a speck on my track pad - you know, the place where your finger steers the cursor around your screen. In the scheme of things, I would rank the track pad as a pretty important component to the machine, although certainly in a pinch, I could plug in a mouse and get by. But I'm yawning. One of the endearing features about the Mac IS the trackpad.

Back to the speck - I noticed it, and as I tried to wipe the speck away, I walked into that first abyss of grief - denial.

I'd worn a hole in my trackpad.

All the lipstick in the world won't make this situation better; the trackpad is on it's last leg. Hence... so is my machine.

I have so many problems with this machine, it's amazing it still even starts up. The hard drive is full. I mean FULL. I can't even put a single photograph or song into it, let alone save a document I'm working on. And worst of all, I recently read that when your hard drive is more than 90% full, the capacity for your machine to run smoothly is severely diminished.

Oh... so that's why it's been acting jiggy lately?

So a little research brought me to a site called coconut-flavor, where you can find Coconut Battery, a freeware program that deals up some fascinating data about your laptop - how your battery is functioning, how many times you've charged the sucker, and how old your machine is - in real years, not dog years, which is how it's behaving.

Not only that, but Chris, the program developer also wrote Coconut Identity card, which will tell you where and when your computer and iPod was built. I know, it's sort of geeky, but I need to know this information. I'm trying to decide if it's "time" has arrived.

Oh the things we learn...

For the record, my machine was built in November, 2003, in Taiwan. The battery function officially sucks, and it's has been charged so many times, it's basically worthless. When I disconnect from a power source and run directly off my battery, I have about 8 minutes of working time. Try watching a DVD on a plane with those numbers; you won't get past the opening credits.

Now if I can only find the number of that Mac Hospice I heard about....