Jultember: a sequel of sorts...

i always find myself experiencing the same sequence of emotions whenever i manage to talk myself into one of these post-a-day exploits. whether it is a whole month or even just a single week, it is always the same thing.

there is usually a great deal of regret on day two, and i have to talk myself out of using that second post to cancel everything i said on the first day. something like: please ignore the post from the previous day as it was the sleep deprivation talking. [that part is usually true.]

i inevitably get sick of hearing my own "voice" about halfway through the thing, whether that is the middle of the month or like... Wednesday... in a week of posts.

then something magical happens as it draws to a close. i find myself almost lamenting that it is done, and that is where you find me today. i am sipping a large cup of coffee on a crisp, clear morning in late Jultember, and all i can think is... why did it have to end so soon?

there are at least a dozen things that i hoped to get around to during these few weeks. there was the animal park, the pants-bags, the phantom tomato, and the epic failed crafty project that ended in (literal) bloodshed to name a few. so, now i am going to have to make another list and hope that i eventually get around to talking about that stuff.

which brings me the subject i had set aside for today. this one is a sequel of sorts that should be filed under "stuff i said i would get back to... but never did".

i did a series of daily posts during July of last year, and i wrapped up that month by talking about some fiber i had dyed in an uncharacteristic fit of nostalgia after finding out that the Batman of my childhood had passed away.

it was my intent to follow that up with two more posts on the spinning of the fiber into yarn, and the knitting of said yarn into some sort of thing. problem was, i kept stalling hard when it came to the last bit. simply put... the yarn was far too precious for me to ever use it for anything.

i must have looked at about a hundred different possibilities—everything from a scarf to a pair of house slippers—and nothing seemed special enough for this yarn. so i proceeded to do what one naturally does in such a situation. i hid it away in the depths of my stash, and made a pact with myself to never mention the thing.

so, after many pep-talks—from myself, to myself—i think i am finally ready to talk about it.

i took about a million pictures while spinning this yarn, and i would be doing it a grave disservice to try to compress the experience into just a few of them—plus i really want to share the process of turning fiber into finished yarn... and my pretty pictures. so, i will do a mini-series of posts sometime in the near-future focused on that subject... and i promise i will not wait another year to get it done.


Jultember: nerd two ways...

i have met a few people over the years who claim that they almost never dream. my mind boggles at the possibility of such a thing. there is a virtual circus of activity inside my head every time i close my eyes for longer than a blink.

some of those dreams play out like a movie with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and i occasionally find myself struggling to stay asleep because i do not want to wake up before it is done.

some of those dreams help me sort out the confusing details of things: like that time back when i was having trouble remembering the ascending sensory pathways and descending motor pathways in cross-sections of the spinal cord... until i fell asleep one night and dreamed that i was a pulse of energy traveling from one part of the body to another, up and down those pathways. it all made perfect sense when i awoke. everyone has dreams like that, no?

there are also those dreams that rip me violently from my sleep and leave me almost afraid to ever close my eyes again.

then there are the dreams that serve as a magic window into the ludicrous corners of one's personality. i begin a lot of days with a good laugh when recounting the absurdity that was rolling around inside my head while i slept.

i had a dream recently in which i was walking outside of a building, and there were two men engaged in a heated conversation about something. one of them had a look that screamed "professor of some super-smart subject", and he was arguing with a younger man who i presumed to be either a colleague or maybe a protégé.

as i got closer, i could hear what they were saying. they were arguing about someone's theorem about something or another, which made no sense to me at the time. then i noticed that there was a wall of formulas projected onto the very air behind them (like something out of an Iron Man movie). and every time one of them spoke, the arrangement of formulas would change to reflect whatever they were talking about.

then one of them said something about "Oppenheimer's theory...", and the image on the invisible wall of formulas switched to a black-and-white photograph of a man.

i was instantly captivated.

i started walking forward with my eyes fully fixated on the image, and i passed right between the two men who took no notice of my presence. they went on arguing, but the picture of the man on the screen remained the same. and i just stood in front of it with my mouth agape.

it was as if life finally made sense.

i woke up a short while later, and just laid there in a complete mental fog, trying to figure out where i had heard the name Oppenheimer. it was then that i heard the faint sound of my favorite animator at his computer, so i got out of bed and the very first thing is said to him was...

me: sweetie... who is Oppenheiner?

after a few taps at his keyboard, he began to read...

him: Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of Ca...

i raised a hand at this point to call for a halt to the reading. it was coming back to me.

him: why are you waking up and asking me about Oppenheimer?

so i told him about my dream. then i got to the good bit... the thing that had absolutely captivated me.

me: it was the sweater he was wearing!
him: of course. 
me: i had moved closer so i could examine it up close. and while the two of them were still throwing theorems around behind me, there was only one thing running through my mind.
him: which was?
me: i can make that!

then he just shook his head at me with a look of amused-pity on his face. i get that look a lot around here.

him: so all your dream proves is that you are a nerd two ways.

he can mock me all he wants, but i guarantee you there will come a day when he is walking around looking flustered, and i will ask him what he is looking for, and he will say the words that will make me smile... have you seen my Oppenheimer sweater?

want to know how seriously i take my absurdity? well...

for the past couple-few weeks, there has been a Google search for "oppenheimer" among the like five billion tabs that open automatically when i start my browser. its sole purpose for being there was to make sure that i did not forget about the thing. most of all, it was a reminder to find a pattern for something similar.

yes, i could make up a pattern of my own at this point, but that would send my OCD tendencies into overdrive, so it is far less stressful to find a pattern and start from there. besides, it was not a complicated garment. it was a raglan-style sweater with sleeves that were much darker in color than the body section. kind of like the long-sleeve baseball shirts he is so fond of wearing.

his current favorite one features Skeletor's face on the the front, so i am already aware that there will be an inevitable request for something equally absurd when i eventually get around to making the Oppenheimer sweater.

see??? it is already a thing!

after much searching, i finally settled on a sweater that bears the inspiring name of CB29-09. [i agree... the model is adorable.] i am going to offer the making of this sweater in exchange for a drawing that i have been begging him to do for almost a year now. [if you have been here before, you may recall a similar scene regarding my gnus.]

yes... my life really is steeped in absurdity. that is the point of the thing.

i bet she is dreaming about that sweater too.


Jultember: reflexive-protective-position...

i fell down a virtual rabbit hole late last night, and i was more than an hour deep into watching videos of people making different types of Asian noodle soups before i managed to crawl back out. naturally, that is ALL i have been thinking about today.

my appetite has been a bit lacking of late, so i have been spending most of the last few days with a hot beverage always close at hand, and really only having one meal for the day. as a result, i had a cappuccino and one or two cups of tea during the earlier part of the day, but i was saving my appetite for a bowl of noodle soup.

naturally, i was not going to make the thing. it is near impossible to cook for one, and the last thing i want is to spend the next three days looking at the same pot of soup every time i open the fridge. i left the soup-making to the experts.

so, i ordered my soup, and i proceed to take the necessary steps to keep the interaction to an absolute minimum at the door.

payment method? check. phone in hand so i can buzz them in at the front door? check. then there was that other thing.

i should point out that it was post-sunset at this point, and i had made a point of closing the drapes because the rest of the world did not need to see me wandering around in a t-shirt and not much else.

i did not want to traumatize the delivery person, so i grabbed a pair of pajama pants and tossed them over the arm of the sofa, so that i could pull them on as i was walking toward the door. then i waited.

i had this all planned out: the phone rings... i grab it and say "hello, all the way upstairs"... then i press the button to open the door... then i pick up my pajama pants and quickly pull them on while i am moving toward the apartment door. no problem!

what could possibly go wrong... right?

so, i sat cross-legged on my favorite sofa with my computer in front of me on the table, and i proceeded to engage in what i usually describe as "minding my own business" until it was time to answer the door.

finally... the phone rang, i answered and said my bit, then grabbed the pajama pants in one hand while simultaneously unfolding my legs to place my feet on the floor.

that is when it happened.

in my overzealous attempt at standing, i managed to send one foot racing just a bit too quickly from atop the sofa, and i miscalculated the precise trajectory required to make contact with the floor. what it did make contact with, however, was the side of the solid-wood table.

not gonna lie... i screamed when it happened. it hurt so much!

so now i drop the pajama pants and go into some sort of reflexive-protective-position, with both hands trying to cradle the injured part of that foot. this was not a run-of-the-mill toe stub. it was the kind of impact that could easily result in a broken toe, or at the very least, in a bloody, dislodged toenail, so i fully expected to see something oozing when i moved my hands away from the affected toe. it looked okay at this point, but it was still hurting more than anything ever should.

this was when i remembered that i needed to answer the door.

i grabbed the pajama pants from off the floor, and gingerly managed to get the injured foot through one leg, but i had to sit back down on the edge of the sofa to do the same for the other side, as there was no way i could stand on one leg with that throbbing foot.

so i start hobbling toward the door, wincing tearfully every time i have to step on the injured foot, while also trying to pull up my pajama pants which are somewhere around my knees at this point.

it was magical.

i heard footsteps out in the hallway, so i unlocked the door and opened it a bit to save him the trouble of ringing the bell or knocking on the door. naturally, i managed in doing so to bang the lower edge of the door right up against the might-be-broken toe, so i dropped down into the reflexive-protective-position and started whimpering once again.

and that is where the delivery guy found me.

crouched over by the partially-opened door, holding my foot with one hand, while struggling to pull the waistband of my pink-and-black snowflake pajamas up past my hips with the other.

i am sure that there is now a special symbol next to our address in their records, and we may be banned from ever ordering food from them again. but, on the plus side, i am fairly certain that my toe is not broken. it hurts very much, and i have to walk on that heel to take the weight off the front of my foot. still, i can move the toe, so nothing appears to be broken, although that toenail will likely pop off in a day or two. joy!

and, yes... the soup was really good.

oh, and while i am on the subject of 'protective positions', i almost forgot what i intended to talk about today.

we decided to keep the trough of strawberry plants indoors following the work on the balcony. i was fully prepared for the leaves to start turning yellow and dropping after having been removed so abruptly from the sunny outdoors, but they just kept on growing...

and so did the fruit. i seriously had no idea that a couple strawberry plants could be so productive. there is more fruit in those two little clusters that i have gotten all Summer so far. and there are heaps of other such clusters of fruit in various stages of growth all over the plants. when i think of how many strawberries i could have been enjoying all Summer, i just want to find the nearest squirrel and punch it in the nose.

i am even doing the pollination bit with the feather, but the plants seem to keep producing strawberries even when i forget.

and the Little One has even more places to get into trouble now. i am going to pretend she is not sticking her tongue out at me. the nerve!

i want to blow this up to billboard-size, then plaster it on the exterior wall for the squirrel to see.

this was my first time growing strawberry plants, and i was not sure what i would do with them when the Summer was through. i know that strawberries grown in the ground can be covered up with a thick layer of hay/straw (hence the name straw-berry), and they usually bounce right back come Spring.

however, with strawberries in pots, there is simply not enough insulation in a container of soil to protect them from the worst of Winter (especially in a place like Canada), so people usually either wrap up those pots and store them in a garage or shed over Winter... or they just plan to buy new plants come Spring.

i really hate waste, and i enjoy the challenge of growing things, so i did a bit of googling, and it turns out to be pretty easy to keep strawberries as indoor plants over the Winter. the biggest concern is ultimately light. as long as they are getting enough light—and water, or course—they can be treated pretty much like you would any regular indoor plant, although a few site did stress not to keep them too near to a heat source.

i was sharing all of this with him, and i was so proud of myself for having taken the initiative to figure all of that out, when he proceeded to burst my bubble.

me: so i walked around the whole apartment, trying to find the most ideal spot where they would either get enough light from a South-facing window, or where we can rig up a plant light. but i also have to make sure they are warm, but not too hot. i weighed all the options and i am thinking maybe...
him: oh, i already decided that they're going on the shelf over the water heater.
me: that's what i was about to say.

and he did not even waste an hour of his life reading articles and watching You Tube videos from leading garden experts to come to that conclusion. i hate when he does stuff like that.


Jultember: who broke who first...

i am having one of those days where i want someone to come to my home and make me cupcakes, then hand a plate full of them to me along with a very large cup of tea... then leave instantly without ever saying a word. you know... one of those days.

i have been failing miserably at finishing up a few knitted items i have on the go at present, but i want to share a recently completed thing. ta da!!!

the pattern is Saco Stripes by Pam Allen, and it was been the bane of my existence for a full year... or more. i was working on this top back when i was cyber-stalking newborn lambs last Spring—as in, more than a year ago. i finished it shortly thereafter—as in, i followed all of the designer's instructions (while only making a few minor alterations of my own). however, it never quite managed to seem done, so it remained at ninety-nine percent in my Ravelry projects for the next year... or more.

then something magical happened one day this Summer while we were playing a bit of Codenames: Duet. [random aside: i highly recommend that as a board game for two, if you are into that sort of thing. it is especially entertaining when being played with someone who you know far too well, because you get the added challenge of trying to think like they do when stringing together wholly unrelated things... but that is not the point of this thing.]

so, there we were playing our game, as you do. and i was sitting there with my ninety-nine-percent-done top on my lap, holding it up and turning it this way and that, while contemplating what i could do to salvage the thing.

him: did you block it?
me: not really. i want this to be a light summer top that i can wear and toss in the washing machine without worrying about blocking, but it is just going to keep curling along the edges, and that is going to annoy me exponentially.
him: it doesn't really take much for that to happen.

then i gave him the look that lets him know he is asking to be pinched.

him: maybe add an i-cord around the edge?
me: maybe... but i don't know.

then i took my turn at the game and returned a short while later to staring at the pile of knitted fabric on my lap.

me: actually, i am afraid that the fabric would just curl up along the i-cord.
him: yeh, i was just thinking the same thing. maybe some garter stitch?
me: meh. i'm not a fan of garter stitched edges.
him: then just do a few rows of ribbing. that will stop the rolling up.
me: yeh. i think that is the only real option. either that or i learn to love the roll.

then i paused for a moment and took a serious look at him, sitting there next to me on my favorite sofa, his eyes cast upward in a contemplative fashion as it was his turn to give the next clue in the game.

that is when it dawned on me...

there he was, casually tossing out one suggestion after another in an effort to cure my crafting dilemma... and—worst of all—he actually understood what all of those terms meant!

me: i feel like i owe you an apology.
him: why?
me: did you hear yourself a minute ago?
him: yeh. i was just thinking how crazy it is that i know what all of that means.
me: i think i broke you
him: yep. i think so too.

then we put aside our game, and watched the latest movie from that cult favorite Writer/Actor/Producer/Caterer known to the world of bad-movie lovers as Neil Breen. i spoke previously about him (and the completely bonkers dream i experienced after watching one of his films). well, after much anticipation, we were finally able to get our hands on a copy of his latest... uhm... work of art...?

this one is called Twisted Pair (2018). there are no words to describe how much he manages to outdo himself in the production of this particular one. forget the usual "so bad... it's good" label. this one was "so bad... i wanted to throw my computer out the window when i was done watching the thing". i am not going to dwell on the specifics of the movie (as that is not the point of this thing), but i would just like to make a prediction: the person whose legs we see during the film (but we never see their face), is in fact a third brother. i expect that to be the big plot-twist when he releases the sequel... because he is insane enough to think this steaming pile of garbage needs to be revisited.

we were somewhere in the middle of discussing said likelihood, when i had the second grand revelation of the evening.

if you go back a few years or more, you would arrive at the point where i would frequently walk past the studio door, then screech to a cartoon-like halt when i get a glimpse of whatever nonsense he was watching.

it was always the same thing.

me: uhm... what are you watching?

then he would clear his throat, which i knew from experience meant that he is about to put on his "announcer voice", which he uses when telling me the name of the most ridiculous movies. something like...

him: it's called... ahem... [super-deep voice]... Vampire Vixens from Ven.... hey!!! where'd you go?

because i would usually start walking away by the time he got to the second word of the title.

fast-forward to the present, and i welcome a dose of the absurd. we spent last October watching a ridiculous movie-a-day, and it was fabulous. i spend more time these days watching reviews of "so bad it's good" movies on the You Tubes than anything else.

and there i was in that moment, where we followed up discussing how to salvage my knitted garment by watching a Neil Breen film, and all i could do was shake my head and wonder...

who broke who first???

[the rest of this post is meant to serve as project notes for the top.]

as noted above, i finished the top at the end of last Spring, and i (frankly) was not crazy about the thing. all of that rolling fabric at the edges was driving me insane, and i was not going to commit to blocking what was supposed to be a quick wash-and-wear garment every time i wear the thing.

for the non-knitters reading this: this top is made of the same basic knit fabric as a t-shirt (just with much thicker yarn). if you ever cut into a t-shirt, it instantly rolls up along that raw edge. the hems and collar are the only thing that stop that roll from happening. this top of mine lacked any such borders, so it was behaving like cut t-shirt fabric on every edge. you could see how that would drive a person crazy.

after rejecting several possible fixes (see above for his contribution in said process), i decided to go with a very narrow trim of two rows of ribbing followed by two rows of stockinette stitch (plus the pick-up and bind-off rows). the ribbing was just enough to stabilize the fabric, while those two rows of stockinette made for an attractive tiny rolled edge. this bit of re-finishing was applied to all the edges of the top.

you can see the difference it makes in this one image. the armhole on right side of the photo has been re-finished while the one on the left has not. likewise, the back section of the hem was re-finished, but the front was not (neither was the collar edge at this point).

a closer look at the shoulder straps (?) shows the difference between the two armholes.

but the most dramatic difference is at the hem. the front and the back of this top were the same length before i added that trim to the back.

see? same length.

i went with a split-hem with four rows of ribbing at the front edge and six rows of ribbing at the back (plus the aforementioned two rows of stockinette before the bind-off), so those two trims are more substantial than on the collar and armholes.

right off the needle, you can already  see the effect that bit of re-finishing had on those edges.

the top was given a soak previously, so i just gave it a blast of steam from the iron this time around to relax those new edges.

i love how neat that looks at the underarm.

not bad, eh?

one-hundred percent done!!!


Jultember: that ain't happening...

i finally managed to get a much-needed chunk of sleep, and i was still super-groggy when i woke up. i would have stayed in bed a bit longer, but my tummy had other ideas. so, there i was having a breakfast of pizza leftover from the previous night—you know, when i was being all classy with my wine glass full of ginger ale. i am struggling to keep my eyes open, while he is messaging me for ideas of what to cook for his mom.

there is a running joke in our home about never being able to share recipes with other people because so many of the things we make around here tend to involve some whole other recipe for some whole other thing. case and point...

him: what did you put in the basting sauce when you made the shish kabobs with pork, pineapple, and peppers?
me: uhm... stuff.

seriously, who asks a question like that when you are still half-asleep?

i knew i had taken some photos of that meal, so i pulled up a few of them to try to reverse-engineer a sauce from an image. yes, the lunacy is strong with this one.

it began with some pork cutlets which i cut into strips and marinated with some sort of mixture of some sort of stuff. then i accordion-folded the strips onto bamboo skewers with pieces of onion, sweet pepper, and pineapple.

at some point, i dumped some extra... uhm... stuff into the bits of marinade in the bowl, and that new mixture became the basting sauce, which was applied a couple-few times while the kebabs were cooking.

then they were done. and they were really good.

so, i stared at the photos for a while, but nothing was coming back to me. then it hit me...

me: so i figured out what i used for the marinade, which was the base of the sauce.
him: so what was in that amazing sauce?
me: first you need to grow some thai basil, then use that to make a batch of thai basil pesto. then you can start to make those kebabs.
him: oh no!!! it's one of THOSE sauces! well, that ain't happening.

pretty much.


Jultember: Mother Nature's candid camera...

[random aside: i am drinking ginger ale out of a wine glass, because i am fancy like that.]

with my favorite animator out of town, i have been forced to spend more time on the balcony than i am used to, as he handles most of the day-to-day care of the outdoor plants. why is that, you ask? because vertigo, i respond. pretty much.

i was harvesting some tomatoes this morning, when i noticed that the lemon balm had gotten a bit out of control again, so i decided to do another round of thinning it out so it does not overcrowd the peppers. problem was, that container is at the far corner of the balcony, meaning that i had to take more than one large step out of the door to reach it.

so, there i was, in full-blown panic mode, when i noticed some guy out on his balcony about half a block away, and he was leaning on the railing with what i presumed to be his phone in hand, looking in my direction. so now there would be an audience for when the panic peaks and i manage to injure myself in the resulting dis-orientation overload... and it would probably end up on You Tube.

his presence there only served to increase the panic i was already experiencing, so i hurriedly collected the lemon balm and double-checked that i had closed the anti-squirrel cages around the tomato plants before taking the few steps that would bring me back to the safety of the doors. naturally, he was still watching.

i wanted to wave hello at this point with a tomato in one hand and a bouquet of lemon balm in the other, but that would be a violation of my introverted curmudgeon code. so i just sat down in the doorway and took stock of my morning's harvest while waiting for that feeling like i was on three roller-coasters at once to go away.

vertigo is one of those things that you have to experience to be able to fully understand it. even then, it does not make sense. no exaggeration... i used to have to get rescued from not-tall trees all the time back when i was a very young lunatic. similarly, i used to sit on the park swing and rock back and forth a bit, but my feet never left the ground. even now there is a firm understanding in place in our home that should there ever be an emergency that requires us to exit via the fire escape, he will have to clobber me over the head till i black out, then drag/carry/shove me to safety, because there is no universe in which i am ever setting foot out on that contraption.

why then am i living four-and-a-half floors above ground level, you ask? because i like the view, i respond. seriously, we are at canopy-level with the big  trees, and it is breathtaking most days. there is an almost-forgotten world of activity in a treetop, and it is right there at eye-level. you could be standing there, sipping a hot beverage, and a hawk would go flying by so close that you feel like you could almost reach out and touch its wings... though i do not recommend giving that a try. and, while i genuinely wish the squirrels would stop invading my space, there is so much humor and even the occasional touch of awe to be found in their antics up in the treetops.

have you ever observed a squirrel as it prepares for a rainstorm? i have. they chomp through the end portion of small branches, then drag the tuft of leaves back to their nest-hole where they lay one tuft on top of another until they have a thick enough layer to keep out the rain... kinda like layering palm leaves atop a small hut. problem is, squirrels are just possibly the most inefficient builders in existence, and they usually end up dropping the vast majority of the leafy branches, which go sailing to the ground. it is like watching Mother Nature's candid camera when they are in storm-prep mode. if you ever walk or drive down a tree-lined street and see the leafy-ends of lots of branches strewn about on the ground, just know that there is a squirrel somewhere up above your head trying desperately to storm-proof.

i should add a bit of a post-script regarding my tomatoes yesterday. i think i may have started something. i was describing the process to my mom as i was making it, so she decided to make it with her tomatoes. then i showed the photos to my favorite animator (who is still at his parent's place), so he gave it a go today with some of the tomatoes from their garden. it was a hit all around.

guess where this little guy is gonna end up...!


Jultember: drizzle like you mean it...

i put a serious dent in the big bowl of tomatoes from the balcony garden project. i was going to take the lazy route by dunking them in hot water to loosen the skins before peeling and chopping them to be frozen for later use. however, i decided to try a different approach at making use of too many tomatoes.

several (i did not count) tomatoes were cut in half and arranged on a parchment-lined baking sheet scattered with sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano. the tomatoes were sliced horizontally for maximum toasted-surface enjoyment.

i also tossed  in a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves. the garlic will not add much to the flavor in this form, but i have a lot of garlic on hand, and i can always find a use for roasted garlic... so why not?

next came a sprinkling of salt, sugar, and black pepper, followed by a few drops of balsamic vinegar applied to each tomato piece. then came some rosemary and even more oregano, thyme, and garlic (peeled and rough chopped this time around). finally, the whole thing was coated with a generous drizzle of olive oil.

this is no place for a miserly splash. drizzle like you mean it! it will not go to waste. the resulting tomato-garlic-herb-infused oil can be put to good use in so many delectable ways.

then into a 375°F oven for approximately forty minutes.

the tomatoes were fork-tender—and my tummy was rumbling—so i removed a couple pieces... strictly for quality-control purposes. at this point, it still looks like slices of raw tomato that have been dressed with some sort of vinaigrette, but i assure you that is not how it tastes.

the tomatoes have not been cooked nearly as long as for a typical pasta-type sauce, so it lacks the almost ketchup-like sweetness you find in those jars. it maintains all of the fresh-from-the-garden flavor, only enhanced with the almost-smoky flavor of toasted garlic and herbs. even the few drops of balsamic i splashed onto each piece of tomato seems to have undergone a tasty toasty transformation in the oven. so good!

then there was that texture.

although the knife feels like it is slicing through room temperature butter, the tomato still holds its shape when cut. see? no mush.

however, there was still a bit more water in the tomatoes at this point than i wanted, so i returned the tray—minus the two tasting pieces—to the oven for another fifteen minutes, then i turned off the heat and left it sitting in there with the door closed for another twenty minutes or so.

just give me a crusty baguette and a bottle of wine, and go talk amongst yourselves... all both of you.

those bits of garlic are toasty and the fresh herbs are doing that lovely, smokey thing that makes me smile.

i want to bottle this stuff. it is sooooo good.

my initial plan was to freeze most of it and leave a few pieces in the fridge for eating in the next day or two. i am still home alone, and i did not really envision a scenario in which i would eat so many tomatoes before the week is through.

but now... i am not sure.

i can easily see drizzling some of that flavorful oil over a bit of pasta, then topping it with a couple-few pieces of roasted tomatoes to be smashed and mixed in with the pasta as you eat. add a bit of freshly shaved Parmesan cheese, and that would be my idea of a truly tasty meal.

or maybe in a bowl of ramen... or maybe atop a juicy burger. no ketchup necessary with this one.

luckily there are more tomatoes waiting to be picked, because i get the distinct feeling i will be making this again before the week is through.


Jultember: a quiet Saturday evening...

i dropped a lemon-zinger tea bag into a quart-sized jar of water and filled a bowl with chunks of cantaloupe before settling on my favorite sofa, so you know another wild Saturday night is about to ensue. hopefully the neighbors will not call the cops again like they did last time it got this rowdy around here.

Summer is winding down rapidly around these parts, and you can already see splashes of orange, red, and gold among the treetops. most telling of all is the return to sleeping curled up under the blanket and the ever-present cup of hot tea during the waking part of the day.

i really love this time of year.

there was a bit of a lull at the end of the Summer, and we had planned to use some of that time to tackle a few projects around our place. there are still a couple rooms to be re-painted since we moved... more than two years ago. we also had plans to reupholster both of the sofas, which we feel slightly-less incompetent at attempting following the recent disaster-free revamp of the dining room chairs. there was also talk of renting a sander and refinishing the living room and dining room floors.

the Universe, however, does not take plans into consideration when deciding which things should be thrown askew. so he is off at his parent's place for a while, and i am holding down our little fort. so it is a quiet Saturday evening for one... instead of the usual slightly-less quiet Saturday evening for two.

perhaps it is for the best i was alone, because i was watering the plants as the sun was setting, when i spotted something in the corner of one of the troughs.

clearly the plan of leaving the cherry tomatoes uncovered to distract the squirrel away from the two larger tomato plants is not having the desired effect.

i sent him the photos, and he was highly amused. if he was home, this would have been seen as a definite escalation of the ongoing hostility between him and the squirrel. however, as it is my problem for the while, he finds the whole thing hilarious.

as for that squirrel... (s)he is about to find out that i am the mean one around here.


Jultember: puzzles for sadists...

every once in a while, i turn one of my photos into a jigsaw puzzle, and i did so last night with a cicada shot i took yesterday. he decided he would do my puzzle. a few minutes later, i get what is possibly the single best comment ever.

him: your puzzles are for sadists.
me: i know. that's the best part of the thing.

i have a folder somewhere on the puter where i keep dumping images with the intent of giving them the same treatment... one of these days. i took a cursory glance at some of the ones i have set aside for said purpose thus far, and i had to laugh. 'twould seem that i do tend to specialize in puzzles for sadists.

and how do i respond to this realization, you ask? naturally, i made another one. this time, it is a bowl of cherry tomato halves. you are most welcome, sadists.

those cherry tomato halves is step two in the construction of what may just be the world's best tomato salad. allow me to take you back to step one.

this has become the go-to dish around here when the little yellow bucket starts overflowing with tiny tomatoes.

1) i transferred a few handfuls of them into a bowl, which i topped off with some locally-sourced basil, oregano, and thyme.

yes... it is quite nice to have a garden, even such a tiny one.

2) next comes the tedious part, that bit from the first photo. all those tomatoes were sliced in half, then placed cut-side up, with a sprinkling of salt added after each layer. if you squint a bit, you might some little white flecks on the cut surfaces of the tomatoes in the first photo. those are bits of kosher salt.

3) it is absolutely critical to allow that salt to sit undisturbed on those cut surfaces for a few minutes (or more). as the salt dissolves, it adds a depth of basic flavor that cannot be recreated by dousing the tomatoes in dressing. i use this time to strip the herbs from their stems and toss them on top (in no particular order).



basil (which i ripped into smaller pieces)...

4) then i drizzled on some balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and added a sprinkle of fresh-ground black pepper. (i did not bother taking a photo at this point because it looked the same as the step before).

5) now comes the good bit. top this off with a healthy crumble of feta cheese.

one quick toss later, and i had a dish that even a tomato non-lover would get excited about. we served it up with some wings hot off the grill, but you can easily make a light meal of this salad alone.

i was so excited after the first bite, that i celebrated by opening a bottle of beer that was part of my summer sampler.

this is Coup de Grisou. it is a Belgium-style spicy buckwheat ale that is brewed right here in Montreal.

i already have future plans for this beer. mostly, i want to try using it in a lobster bisque, which would be an adventure unto itself, because clearly i like to make my life complicated. that's the best part of the thing.


Jultember: zero cicadas were harmed...

i am always threatening to punch a cicada in the face, as that noise they make drives me up a wall.  

you: what kind of lunatic threatens to punch an insect?
me: i do.

today i got my chance.

(s)he was climbing on the anti-squirrel barrier around one of the tomato plants. [that is a quarter-inch mesh grid, so you can tell that this is one big bug.]

i was moving in to try to get a better shot—with my camera, not my fists—when (s)he flew off. so i can truthfully state that zero cicadas were harmed in the making of this post.

and, speaking of tomatoes...

this was harvested from the balcony garden project over the course of about twenty-four hours.

want to know a little secret? i am not that big a fan of tomatoes.

i like growing them, but i am not usually bursting with joy when the time comes to actually eat them. those little guys will likely end up in tomorrow's dinner, and i am considering peeling and chopping the bigger ones so i can freeze them for later use.

sad part is... there are even more of the things waiting to be picked, which leaves me thinking that maybe i should just get a couple deck chairs and do what sane people do on their balconies come next Summer.


Jultember: new Jim...

so, about that guy i met on Sunday (who i have already pre-warned of very likely future-harassment from me)...

as i noted when i was  talking about the fiber festival, all of the pretty hand-dyed yarns do not really do a whole lot for me. when i go to events of that kind, i make a beeline for anyone selling fiber for spinning (like the stuff i showed you a couple days ago).

best of all, though, is anyone selling raw (unwashed, right off the sheep) wool fleece, like this stuff.

that was part of a whole fleece i bought at last year's festival, and i will talk more about what happened once i got it home, maybe tomorrow... maybe.

i was so disappointed at the showing of raw fleece at last year's festival that i went so far as to leave a (lengthy) message on their contact/suggestion page begging them to fix that for this year. imagine my glee when i was checking out the schedule/program for this year, and there was the phrase WOOL BARN!

yes, please... and thank you very much!!!

i was on the fence about even going to this year's festival, but that was all it took to make up my mind. so off we went.

the wool "barn" was a smallish tent with a few tables holding a few fleeces. i walked around, poking at each one, pulling out a tuft or two of wool to subject them to the thorough fondling that is an understood part of assessing the thing for future use.

that is when he showed up.

he had been deep in conversation with some folks when we got there, so now he turned his attention to us, launching right into his practiced sales pitch. the "barn" was an effort of the wool growers co-op.

wool barn guy: do you know about the co-op?
me: yep. i bought fleece from them on several occasions.

i am fairly certain that my response derailed his planned presentation, because everything shifted instantly into casual conversation mode. we introduced ourselves. his name is Nathan.

Nathan: where you guys from?
me/him: Montreal.
Nathan: really? the accent sounds so different.
me: that's because i'm from Brooklyn and he's from outside Toronto.

then we chatted on for a bit. then things got interesting.

me: i think the first whole fleece i ever bought was from you guys.
Nathan: was it a good experience?
me: oh, it was fantastic. that is my go-to stop after that. even when i want something specific that i know you won't have, the co-op can usually put me in touch with a farmer who does.

this is where it got even  more interesting.

me: there is one guy there that i probably drive crazy every once in a while. his name is Jim. do you know Jim?

then Nathan gave me a strange look.

Nathan: Jim retired a while back. i used to be his apprentice, so now i am doing that job.

then we marveled at the smallness of the world, and he shared a few humorous anecdotes about Jim. we chatted on for a while, and i warned him that if he ever gets a message from someone who describes them self as "that crazy lady from Brooklyn", that would be me. then my favorite animator and i wandered off to look at other things.

our tummies eventually began to rumble, so we went to a booth in the food tent where a farmer guy had been roasting a whole lamb, and his wife (who is a cheese-maker) had promised us that we would not be disappointed if we returned to try some when it was ready. it was being served along with what she assured us would be the best cheesy-potatoes we ever tasted.

so we tracked back that way to have lunch.

we paid for two plates of lamb, potatoes, and salad, which he took over to a table while i went to look at a booth that was selling beers. i showed up at at the table a few minutes later with a bottle of hard cider for me, and some (non-alcoholic) ginger beer for him. [he hates the taste of most alcoholic things, which means that i have a designated driver for life. trust me... i know!]

he had chosen a table at the far end of the food tent, over near the small stage we had walked past earlier when some ladies were giving a demonstration about angora rabbits. the first time we walked by, she had what looked like the world's biggest ball of fluff up on a table, and she was carefully snipping away bits of its massive cloud of fur. when we passed by later, another lady was siting in front of a spinning wheel with a different equally-super-fluffy bunny on her lap, and she was spinning directly from its fur (they molt naturally, so it does not hurt).

the stage was empty now, and they were setting up for a new speaker. i was in the middle of sitting down when i noticed who it was.

me: oh, wow... it's new Jim. 

then we both laughed.

him: is that what we're calling him?
me: oh, you know he's gonna be "new Jim" from now on.

and, yes... those potatoes were spectacular.


Jultember: my 'not pleased' face...

i intended to talk about the interesting character i met on Sunday, however my current level of exhaustion does not allow for such a thing, so i will save that for another day.  for now, i am going to eat an incredibly early supper consisting of a slice of the gluten-free strawberry shortcake  i got from the market.

it is neither fancy nor special, but this is one of the few gluten-free cakes (or breads) that does not leave me feeling like i need to drive back to the store to give everyone who was involved in making the thing my not-pleased face.

and speaking of situations that warrant the not-pleased face...

i had to cheat a bit to get yesterday's post up before midnight, so i ended up hitting the "publish" button before i was actually done with the thing, then i went back and did a healthy amount of "editing" (a.k.a., adding most of the stuff after the fact).

this was mainly because the power decided to go out on the whole street (and probably through a larger section of the neighborhood) as i was in the middle of typing. this is a thing that happens far too frequently around here, and the usual Canadian response is a non-bothered "oh well... it'll be back on eventually", which is more infuriating to this impatient New Yorker than the power outage itself could ever be. i am fairly certain i was making the face just then, standing there, doubly-frustrated by the darkness and the ever-positive Canadian commentary

we lit a couple of my homemade candles to prevent anyone from smashing their toe into furniture or walking into walls, both of which i seem to do every now and then... even when the lights are on.

then we spent some time out on the balcony, staring up at the stars, the number of which had multiplied in the relative darkness of the unlit streets. we had a clear view, and i found myself thinking of my (maternal) grandfather who used to sit with me out on the porch at night and point out all the sorts of interesting things in the sky.

then there was a strange, screech-like noise from what seemed like less than an arm's length away from where we were standing, and i did not stick around to figure out what it was coming from. this resulted in him being shoved sideways in my haste to get back inside.

it was bad enough that time a bat was flying around my living room, but the absolute last thing i wanted was to find myself tangling with one (or more) of them in near-total darkness.

so, in i came, and i served us both a bit of ice cream so that we could get a head-start in eating it should the contents of the freezer start melting in the power outage.

then the lights came back on, and life went on.