Monday, June 25, 2012

Harsh reminder of why I don't log into Yahoo Messenger anymore.

For almost a year, the most I have done on Yahoo Messenger has been to log in every month or so as invisible to check offline messages. But over the weekend I was thinking about a person I used to enjoy chatting with but lost track of. I decided to log on and see if their account was even still active and maybe, just maybe... have a chance to say hi and see how they had been.

Their screenname didn't even show up on my friend list, so no luck there. But this guy I used to enjoy chatting with as a friend messages me the instant I log on.  For about ten minutes he is acting as excited as a kid at Christmas to see me online and gushing over how happy he is to get to chat with me again.

And then asks what I weigh now.

I get an icky feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know the guy is exclusively into tall supersized women but from the start has respected the fact that I'm in a committed relationship and am not looking for anything but somebody to enjoy friendly chat with. Because we're just friends and would never be anything more, it really shouldn't matter what the number on the scale says. But apparently it does.

I type the number and the response is "Oh, so, you're still losing?" I reply that yes I am, slowly, but steadily.

He never responds. Not because he had to log off or lost his connection. But because I am no longer fat enough to be worth making small talk with.

 It shouldn't matter to me, no big loss and all... but I still felt a little bummed out over it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rich Sweetness 132 melon review

The first ripe Rich Sweetness 132 melon of the season, one more followed the day after, and I got a third one today. I let the first two drop from the vine on their own. They only had a few inches to fall, so no damage done. I noticed that they are a lot darker in color than the photos I have seen of that variety. The third one is lighter in color, the same as the photos I had seen, and didn't slip from the vine by itself, it came off in my hand when I lifted it to get a better look at the color. So, still ripe, just not as ripe as the first two. I wish I'd taken a photo if it, but I sent it along in a veggie bag to my inlaws without even thinking to.

But to the one in the photo....

The melon itself has a strong almost tropical melon fragrance, very pleasant. I can imagine an entire bowl of them filling a room with their scent! I chilled it in the fridge before cutting it because I was told that would enhance the flavor. As you can see from the photo, there are a lot of seeds in these tiny little melons.

They look a lot like a lemon cucumber from the inside, and the flesh is just a pale off-white. Once you remove the seeds, you're left with a thin layer of edible firm-fleshed melon. There isn't much to these little things, but the flesh that there was tasted very good. I've heard reviews that these melons were bland, but the melon in the photo wasn't bland at all. It was sweet enough for my tastes, and flavor-wise seemed like a cross between a honeydew and cantaloupe. Just a pleasant melon flavor overall. Maybe letting it get ripe enough to slip the vine on its own added some extra sweetness? I don't know, but I will sample the next one like I picked this morning for comparison.

You can't really tell from the photo, but the size of each melon is that of a medium lemon. So you get four decent little slices of melon from each fruit. Enough for a snack, or to add to a fruit salad or melon cup. Since they are such compact plants, you'd want to plant a lot of them to make sure you had enough to satisfy you. I will be planting more for sure and more plants at a time.

But since they're an heirloom variety, you can save seeds. And each little melon has enough seeds to start an entire crop from! I harvested the seeds from this melon to save to plant some more and try for a Fall crop. I scooped the seeds out, separated as much of the gel and membrane as I could by hand, and then gently rinsed them in a fine mesh sieve, rubbing off as much of the rest of the melon goo as I could. Then I dropped the seeds into a bowl of water, and scooped out any that floated and discarded them. The seeds that sank, I patted dry with a paper towel, and spread out on a glass plate to dry in an area with good air circulation to finish drying.

As you can see,  that's a lot of seeds from one little melon!  Overall, the plant has exceeded my expectations. It's a great fruit option for containers in hot climates. And since it can be trellised without having to make slings or other supports for the melons, it doesn't take up a lot of precious space in urban gardens. It'd work well on a balcony or patio garden, Even trellised up some lattice against a sunny wall or fence. The vines are pretty enough for edible landscaping too.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Garden haul of the day: First melon, only(?) cucumber, and more...

Things I picked in the garden today:  A foot long (at least) Japanese Heirloom cucumber, several Fairy Tale eggplants, and a Rich Sweetness 132 melon.

The melon went from green stripes to brick red and orange over the span of like two days. I didn't think it was ready yet, I expected the colors to be brighter from photos I have seen of this variety of melon. But, when I went to check on my plants today, it was on the ground, it had slipped off the vine on its own. And it smells really fragrant, so it's ripe! I was told by an experienced gardener to let it sit on the counter for a few days and then chill in the fridge a couple of days before eating it to get the best flavor. I'm going to do it becuase all their advice has worked so far. But damn, that's going to require more patience than I'm used to!  There are about ten more of these little cuties in various stages of development on the vines, and hopefully more will set after I am able to harvest a few more. I need to see if it's too late to plant seeds. Maybe not. It might not hurt to give it a try. They're heirlooms, so I can save seed from what I harvest, so no shortage of them, plenty to experiment with.

The cucumber seems to be the only one so far to make it to maturity. I don't know what the problem could be except it got so very hot so fast this Spring and I got my cucumber seeds in the ground a month later than I planned, but still at the very end of the suggested planting time. They do well in Fall, so I think I'll just give them another try in a couple of months. But, that's one huge and funky looking cucumber! I hear the flavor is mild and refreshing. I'll find out tonight because I'm making cucumber-yogurt salad to go with supper.

And then more of the Fairy Tale eggplants too. I haven't decided what to do with them yet. I know I want to try smoking some to make a spicy smoked eggplant spread. If we BBQ on Sunday, I'll give it a shot. I've got some poblano peppers that need to be picked, I was going to put them on the grill, then pop them into a closed container to sweat the skin loose, peel them, and make stuffed peppers. Probably do them at the same time as the eggplants.

Tomatoes are pretty much done. The temperature is too high for them to set fruit, so the last of the green ones will ripen and I can try again in Fall. I took the last big harvest of them and made another batch of homemade spicy marinara sauce to freeze. The peppers are all doing well, I'm about to harvest a LOT of the orange Yummy peppers in the next few days. I think I want to make sweet and hot pickled pepper rings with them. I've got a couple red jalapenos, to slice up and use in the jar, maybe add some carrot and onion too for a mixed pickle? The green beans are done, and the other eggplants are straggling along right now. I'll try fertilizing them again, but the older plants may just be worn out.

Still lots of lemons on the lemon tree, and a few oranges on the orange tree. The satsuma tree got sick (citrus leaf miners) so I picked the fruit I had left on it to take some of the stress off. It seems to have worked because it's bouncing back. The blueberries are about all done, but putting out new foilage, so that's good. Herbs are going well for the most part too.

Now, it's time to start pulling up tomato and bean plants and planning for Fall.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Garden to Table: Roasted Fairy Tale Eggplants

As I showed before in an earlier blog, the Fairy Tale eggplants, fresh from the garden. The bowl they're in holds approximately a quart, and they're only a few inches long.

I trimmed off the green tops, and then sliced each eggplant in half, down the middle. Afterwards, I tossed them in a big bowl, with some olive oil and a little bit of black pepper and sea salt. I arranged them on  a couple of small baking sheets (I only have a countertop oven right now) cut side down and baked for 30 minutes at 375. At that point they were done enough to serve but I wanted them really roasty and dark, so I flipped them and cooked a further 15 minutes.

When they came out of the oven, the insides were very soft. Next time, I will let them cool, scoop out the insides, mix with a little lemon juice and some spices, and make something kind of like Baba Ganouch. As they are, the skin is tender enough to eat too, so I just popped them in my mouth in one piece. You could also take a spoon and just scoop the inside out of the skin and eat them that way too.  Or just eat like you would an artichoke, leaving the skin behind.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

10 years older, 100 pounds lighter.

As I was going through my old scrapbooking things, I found some photos from an outing we took almost ten years ago to the day, when I was at my highest weight. I know I'm just over 100 pounds smaller now, and am really noticing a lot of changes in terms of how it feels to live within my body at this size. But I never really noticed the visual changes. I guess because it's been so gradual, over such a great length of time, it was too subtle to notice from month to month and year to year. I remembered the outing, but have very little recollection of day to day life at that size, except for the fact that I really wasn't happy and felt very much trapped and limited by mobility problems, health issues, and the logistics of having to function at that size. But all that aside, I was smiling in the photo, and I do remember having a lot of fun that day. Life wasn't unbearable, but it just wasn't anywhere near as good as I knew it could be.

The main difference now, is that I have more mobility and independence. I grew up and into adulthood being extremely independent and that was always something I valued. When I lost that independence, I lost part of what makes me feel like me. Driving the car we owned was impossible back then, and even if I could have squeezed behind the wheel, I could barely walk, so what would I do once I drove where I wanted to go? If we'd have had the money to buy a different car, a motorized wheelchair, and a lift mechanism, maybe it'd have been easier to live with. But as it stood, the only way life would get better was if I was to change my body.

And I did. Without resorting to surgery or deprivatory diets. Without punishing exercise regimes. Without self-loathing or body hatred. I worked out the problems, took steps to correct them, stayed with it, and remained patient. I learned to eat intuitively for health, took control over bad food habits, and found ways to exercise that did not hurt. Over the years, those things have allowed my body to take care of itself, and return to a more natural weight (for me) and a better state of health.

I lost some friends who embrace a die-hard anti-weight loss philosphy. But I gained more of a life in the process. Fair trade in my opinion. We only get one life, sometimes you have to do whatever you feel you have to do to make the best of it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fairy Tale Eggplants!

My "Fairy Tale" eggplants are starting to produce like crazy!  They set in little clusters of miniature eggplants, that are purple with gray-ish streaks, although one of the plants is coming out more of a grayish violet color. Nothing wrong with them, just a slight genetic variant. At maturity, the plants are at most a couple of feet tall, and the eggplants 3-4" long. They are growing beautifully in 5 gallon buckets and similar sized decorative pots. They'd be perfect for a patio or balcony garden, They've already earned a permanent spot in my garden, and I'll be ordering seeds for next year. I lucked out and found the plants at a garden center for 99 cents per transplant size plant. I planted 10 total, and after one got eaten by a caterpillar and stray cats dug up one and seriously damaged another, I have 7 healthy plants and one that's straggling and struggling along.  They're somewhat decorative little plants too. They make broad green leaves with flowers that have a very slight violet tinge. They only need a short stake at the main stem, that is completely hidden in the foilage. I can see next year planting them at the back of a flower bed, fronted by a low-growing plant, maybe lavender colored Alyssum?

As to what to do with the actual eggplants? I'm going to take these and just remove the green tops, slice them in half down the middle, brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt, and then just roast them in the oven. I hear they grill up very well too. I'll have more to try that out with by the weekend. But you could do anything with them really. The skin is perfectly edible because it's so thin, and they have a minimum of seeds. Baba Ganouch or something similar? Cube them up into small pieces, roast them, slightly mash them, mix with some lemon juice and spices, and chill to use as a bruschetta type spread? Hollow a bit out of the center and stuff them for dainty little appetizers? So many yummy possibilities!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scrapbooking: Taking new interest in a former hobby.

Above is a scrapbook layout I made several years ago, 2005 I believe it was, of our day at the Houston International Festival. It was one of the last handful of layouts I made before I took a long break from scrapbooking and concentrated on using my papercrafting tools and supplies to make cards and artist trading cards instead.

My scrapbooking style was never really artistic or trendy. I just used it as a way to make glorified photo albums of occasions, events, outings, friends, family, pets, and other random parts of our lives that I wanted to document. Pages of photos with pretty papers and other embellishments to help capture memories. 

From the beginning, I knew I was a textbook example of a non-traditional scrapper. Not having kids (by choice) is the biggest and most obvious reason why, but only one of many. I really enjoyed going to scrapbook crops, and for the most part it wasn't really a problem being different, because we all had plenty in common for idle chit-chat while we were working. But, as the scrapbook hobby trend started to fade, and the crops were held less frequently and with fewer participants, an element of exclusionary cliqueishness and junior high mean girl pettiness began to emerge among some of the women.

A couple ugly experiences with those kinds of women put me off of going to scrapbooking crops, and after that I gradually stopped working on layouts at home too. And then I didn't even take and print out photos like I used to. There is a span of about five years where I only have a few sets of photos from things we did. I lost a lot of photos in a computer crash, but that doesn't account for all of those years,

But, last year, a childhood friend of mine spent a few days visiting Houston, and one of the things we did was flip through my scrapbooks, because I had some layouts with photos of people she remembered from back when as well. That got me thinking about it again, and within the past couple of weeks, I've started going through my supplies, and CDs of photos, and preparing to start up with it again.

My town is hosting a couple of all-day scrapbook crops this Summer at a community center, and I think I want to go to at least one of them and see what it's about. Also, I found out about a town not too-too far from me that has a scrapbook strore that is supposed to have a really friendly group of women who come to the crops.

This weekend, I bought a few supplies, and ordered some photo prints to work with. Maybe I'll get back into it. Even if I don't enjoy the crops anymore, I have my sewing and craft room to work in now.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Garden update: Tiny little melons!

Looks like a tiny watermelon, right?  It's actually a Rich Sweetness 132 Melon that's as big as it's going to get, but nowhere near ripe yet. When these tiny little melons ripen, they turn a vivid yellow-orange color with red-orange stripes. It's a rare heirloom variety from the former Soviet Union, and I have to say it's exceeding my expectations in the garden. I planted it because it can be grown in containers and trellised. The melons are only about a quarter pound each, so they don't have enough weight to pull themselves off the vine before ripening. Also, I read that they're good for hot areas and are drought tolerant. The temperatures are already in the 90's and we're not having much in the way of rain. I have 8 vines going, four each in two large pots. I put a tall square tomato cage in each pot, and trained a vine up each side and then onto the fence they're sitting in front of. Each vine has at least one fruit on it. There are about a half dozen at full size, just waiting to turn color and several more tiny ones, the size of olives or so. They'll supposedly produce all Summer and into the Fall, barring some kind of insect or disease problem. So far, so good though. A few leaves here and there look kind of scuzzy, I need to trim them off this weekend.

The reviews on the flavor are mixed. Most people say it has a very mild generic melon flavor. Which I might like, so I'm lookin forward to actually tasting one. If nothing else, they'll make good additions to fresh fruit salad, or maybe cubed up and drizzled with a little bit of Midori and then chilled. I still have seed from the original pack. It lists as having 15 seeds per pack, but there were probably twice that. And being an heirloom, I can save the seeds (which I probably will) .