Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nail Polish

So if you know me very well you might be asking yourself, why does the girl who hates feet have a picture of her own feet on her blog. Well my friends, don't think I didn't ask myself a similar question as I was taking this picture earlier today. The answer is, I found a great new nail polish which fits in with the less chemically lifestyle I've been trying to live. You see, I do my nails every week. It's not a chore really because in addition to the fact that I can't tolerate chips in my polish, I actually enjoy the process. What I have never enjoyed however, is the smell. By the time you're done you feel like you just huffed a tube of glue and if your significant other happens to be in the room then so do they. Enter, water based nail polish (ta da)!

Water based nail polish has a lot of things going for it. First, it has no smell. Literally, none. The remover also has practically no smell, or you can also just use some good ol' fashioned grain alcohol. Both work just fine. Second, going hand in hand with the no smell is the lack of harsh chemicals in water based nail polish. No solvents involved. Third, it comes in a wonderful variety of colors just like regular nail polish.  Finally, depending on the company you go with, it's not much more expensive than a normal high quality nail polish.

There are only two negatives I can think of regarding water based nail polish. First, it does not wear as well as regular polish. If I was using it for my hands I would be very disappointed because it chips a lot fast than regular. On my feet however, it lasts perfectly for at least a week and for me that's plenty. Its definitely worth having to touch up my nails to not have to endure regular polish smell. Also, you can combat the chipping by making sure your nails are clean and dry before you begin, and doing it before bed so they have all night to cure. Second, it takes a little longer to take off. I noticed this more at first than I do now, but you will spend a little more time rubbing to get it off. I think over time you just figure out how to rub better and how much remover you need on the cotton swab.

If you're interested in learning more about water based nail polish or wish to order some you can find it here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Simple Sauce

Being a tomato lover who lives with a raw tomato hater, I have had to adjust. Big juicy slices of raw tomato sprinkled with salt no longer cuts it as a veggie option at dinner time, so I've had to come up with new ways to incorporate my lovely beauties into meals other than just slicing them. One that I've become quite fond of, is making a fresh chunky sauce out of them. It can go over just about anything from pasta to fish. This is an especially good use for tomatoes that are left over from other meals (such as burgers) and are about to go bad. Last night I cooked up this sauce and then quickly cooked two tilapia fillets in it. Yum.

Simple Sauce

3-4 Roma tomatoes (or whatever you have lying around)
2 tbsp. of olive oil
1 tsp. each of assorted dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano, parsley)
.5 tsp. of dried rosemary and thyme
a small handful of Parmesan cheese
several gloves of garlic or the dried equivalent
salt and pepper to taste

1) In the pan of your choosing add the olive oil, all the herbs/spices and Parmesan cheese. I used the shaved Parmesan and chopped it so that it was finer. If you are using the powdered Parmesan, a couple good shakes should do.
2) Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan.
3) Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes are nice and hot. Really once this happens you can stop anytime. The longer your cook, the less chunky your sauce with be so go with your mood. I prefer it just barely cooked because you can really taste the freshness of the tomatoes, but if you cook it longer it will more closely resemble store bought sauce in texture.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fruits of Our Labor

I know my mother already has a ripe tomato sitting on her counter, but I'm still very excited for this little guy.

He is my first of the season to set. In fact, I was just going out to take a picture of the fact that one of my tomatoes was finally flowering, and instead found this little guy sunning himself in the early morning rays. While many of my tomatoes appear to finally be getting their growth spurts, a few seem to be destined for the green waste bin. This includes my German Lunchbox tomato which hasn't grown at all over the last month and is now turning yellow. It was our first year trying to experiment with doing all our tomatoes from seed. Honestly, I think I'd rather buy them at the nursery, but alas, this way was much cheaper. Perhaps next year we will be a bit more experienced and have more success and less heart break. Of all the tomatoes we are growing this year, only one was purchased at the store. Who can resist a giant Roma for only $1.99!? It will soon take the German Lunchboxes place. 

In the backyard even more good news awaited me, my Rattlesnake Pole Beans are going crazy! They are now almost six feet tall and we had to add a new level of fencing for them to grow up. In addition to their beautiful purple flowers, they now have many healthy bunches of beans. I will pick some for my favorite green bean recipe, but most will be allowed to get bigger for shelling and eating fresh. It's always fun when experimenting with new plants go so well.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Truth About Fruit Trees

When I was a kid, most of the places we lived had a few fruit trees in the yard. I remember in Indiana we had three apple trees, none of which ever seemed to do very well, but during the summer rains I loved to go out and pick apples. I'd hang a plastic bag from my wrist as I balanced precariously on the low crook of the tree, reaching for the green rain washed apples. They might not have tasted very good, but there was something about the rain that made them taste sweeter to me.

At my current home, I may not be able to pick apples in the rain anymore, but fruit trees have become an even bigger part of garden life. We inherited two wonderfully established green apple trees, a Mandarin orange tree and a lemon tree with our property. Since we've moved in we've also added an apricot tree and a pineapple guava tree to our front yard. I think we've about maxed out our tree potential, but I always have my eye open for a new spot I could wiggle in another one (perhaps an olive or fig).

Even though full size fruit trees offer many of the same benefits of non-fruiting trees, such as shade and beauty, there are a few things to consider before you plant one in your yard. The first is, what are you going to do with hundreds of peaches/apples/pears/etc. that suddenly become ripe in your backyard? Do you make preserves? Do you have family and friends that would like some? Along this last line, trading with family, friends and neighbors who have different fruit trees can be fun. There is nothing sadder than driving by a fruit tree with half it's fruit on the ground because it's owners really don't have a use for it or have forgotten it's even there. I had a friend a few years back who had an orange tree that was brimming with ripe fruit, when I asked her if I could have some for making marmalade she exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, I forgot we even had one. I just bought a bag of oranges at the store!"

The second thing to consider, is the mess a fruit tree makes. Even if you try your best to pick the fruit as it ripens, there will be some that ends up on the ground. If you are planting citrus or apples, this isn't such a big deal as their smell isn't bad and their decomposition is slow. If you are planting stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums, etc. you are in for a different mess entirely. They attract all kinds of bugs rather quickly, have a smell that tickles the nose in an unpleasant way and turn into mush quite fast. I might be being a bit dramatic about this but you should know what your in for and be prepared to regularly pick up fallen fruits.

The last thing I want to mention is dwarf vs. regular fruit trees. I have become a fan of either regular or semi-dwarf fruit trees over dwarf varieties lately. From my readings and personal experience, the dwarf varieties never seem to produce enough to make them truly worth the work. Semi-dwarf trees will still stay on the smallish side and you're getting more bang for your buck; and if you have room a properly trimmed full sized tree will give you even more. Of course if you just want enough to enjoy as a summertime snack here and there (or something that can go in a pot on your patio), dwarf is fine, but if you are looking to can produce for the winter, try to fit in a semi-dwarf or regular.

If you feel you are ready for the above mentioned things then you are ready to try a fruit tree. Just be sure to research the specific needs of the species of tree you're buy so that you are sure to get fruit and no just a sickly barren tree.