The end of an era

Well, that might be a bit too strong of a statement.  But I said my good-byes to the folks on the state master gardener advisory board on Friday, and it certainly feels like the end of an era.  I had a great time, felt like I was making a difference in the state program, and loved having a reason to visit the Arboretum every quarter or so. I will miss it.  But I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to serve on the board–I definitely learned a lot and I will remember the experience for a long time.

Of course, before we left the Arb, we had to stop in the gift shop. :)

I was looking for a(nother) sweatshirt, but didn’t see anything that tripped my trigger.

I did, however, find something awesome.  I have a thing for umbrellas–I love them.  I have at least five–I like my umbrella to match my current purse and work bag. (Even though it usually doesn’t even get used on a regular day.)

I have a really pretty bright pink one that looks like a Gerbera daisy when it’s open–that’s been my favorite for quite a while.  Until I saw this one.

I’ve always loved Monet, most especially Water Lilies. And I think this is just beautiful.

They had a matching bag, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend quite that much.

So now I’m really looking forward to the next time it rains. :)

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Off to the Arb

We’re off to the cities early tomorrow morning, so you get your Friday post one day early.  (I’m sure you’re all thrilled.) ;)

I’m on the master gardener state advisory board for the U of M, and the meetings are held down in Chaska at the Arboretum.

I’m sorry to say this is the final meeting of my term.  Board positions are three years, and you can’t be elected two terms in a row. But I know upper Minnesota positions will open up again (one every year, typically), so I’m thinking I might apply again in the future. It’s been an enjoyable and educational experience, and it’s always great to meet with other gardeners.

It’s been amazing to spend some time at the Arboretum.  I had never been there before being elected to the board, and now I’ve had quite a few chances to see the Arb in different seasons (meetings are quarterly).

I do wish that I had one more meeting to attend, because the Arb in June is beautiful.  But I’m looking forward to walking through the greenhouse, and, of course, checking out the gift shop. :) I’m sure my wardrobe could stand one more Minnesota Landscape Arboretum sweatshirt. One of our friends is actually getting married at the Arb this September, and I think fall there is even more spectacular than summer, if you can believe it.  So that should make for some incredible wedding photos!

This time, though, it’s going to be a real quick trip–down Friday morning, meeting from 10 to 2, then an evening with friends, and back home to Moorhead on Saturday because we have birthday plans with my sister on Sunday. (Happy early birthday, Carlene!)

I’ll be back on Monday, possibly with a photo or two of the Arb in April. Happy weekend to you all! :)

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Spring breezes

What a beautiful couple of days it’s been–I’ve actually had a few windows open here and there to get some fresh air in the house. (Trevor hates it when I do that when it’s below 70 degrees outside.)

It’s been a good long time since I’ve actually seen my living room curtains waving in a breeze from the open window.

They are predicting the low 70s for today, but also 15-30 mile an hour winds.  So, it won’t be quite as nice as we’d hoped. But maybe it’s time to think about getting the deck furniture out–I know I would have sat outside for a few minutes after work yesterday if the chairs had been there.

It’s so wonderful to see the sun and feel a breeze that’s not a polar wind. ;)

Happy Wednesday–and if you’re in the Fargo-Moorhead area, enjoy the weather!

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On the upswing

There are still a few bits of snow or ice left in the yard, here and there, but mostly it’s melted off. It was in the high 50s yesterday, and I wish the yard wasn’t so wet–it would have been wonderful to get out and just do a few chores. But tromping around on the soggy grass isn’t good for the soil, so I guess I’ll have to wait.

But things are looking up–I mean, it IS April, but the first couple of days of the month were kind of cold and miserable.  They’re predicting 70 this Wednesday; I can hardly even remember how good that feels.

It looks a little bleak at the moment, but it’s preferable to all that white stuff that was everywhere just a week or two ago. In no time at all, the grass will start to green up.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather, and can’t wait to get out and at least clean a few things up (not least of all the garbage that’s blown into the yard from all sides).

We’re on our way to actual spring! :)

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Addicted to herbs

Hmmm. . . maybe that wasn’t the best title.  If you stumbled on this post by accident, let me just tell you now, it’s about HERBS FOR COOKING. So if you’re thinking of something else, you’d better just move along. ;)

Anyway, my sister and I were talking the other day about using fresh herbs in cooking.  I’ve only started doing that within the past few years–about the time I started paying more attention to using local, seasonal produce. Also I got a couple of great recipe books that dealt with just that kind of thing, and one of the similarities of a lot of those recipes is that they use fresh herbs.  Well, if they’re in season, it totally makes sense.  But the thing is, I got used to using them, and now I feel the need to have them all winter long.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it can definitely be an expensive thing. So, as I’ve mentioned before, when I buy fresh herbs, I try to keep them around as long as I possibly can.  With basil, the thing that works best seems to be just cutting a tiny bit off the end of each long stem and popping the stems in a glass of water on the table. It keeps for months that way, and you can use leaves from the bottom and it will actually keep growing from the top.

The other thing I’m always on the lookout for in the winter time is little potted herbs–they may not be super happy inside my northern house in the winter, but they will at least last longer than cut herbs. I found a cute little pot of thyme, and although it’s not really mature, and it may not last long, the stems are super tender–I can really use them along with the leaves, which is unusual.

Here’s what my kitchen table looks like lately.

I just feel like fresh herbs add so much to recipes–I’ve turned into a true believer. :)

And while we’re on the subject of herbs, here’s an amazing thing.  This is the lemon thyme (a perennial herb in my vegetable garden) I picked in October–washed, dried, and put in a baggie with a damp paper towel. It looks as fresh as the day it was picked.  This stuff is amazing.

(Hmmm. . . this photo looks a little sketchy, maybe, considering the title of this post–I promise, this is lemon thyme.)

I think maybe I’ll celebrate my rather large milestone birthday this weekend by cooking something with lots of basil and thyme, and maybe some lemon thyme as well. Perhaps it will keep me looking younger. ;)

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The tomato paste solution

It’s a scenario that most of us cooks have been through time and again.

The recipe calls for two tablespoons of tomato paste. So, you open a 6-oz can of it, because that’s the only size it comes in, right? You use your two tablespoons out of the can, throw some tinfoil over the top of it (or, if you’re super-organized and sensible, you actually transfer it to a small plastic container), and toss it in the fridge.

Where it sits until it molds. So you throw it away. And then the next day you’re cooking something else that calls for two tablespoons of tomato paste.

And so on.

Well, I found a solution; perhaps you’re all way ahead of me and are thinking, “What the heck is wrong with her that she didn’t know about this stuff?”

Here it is.

Tada! Is this the most genius invention ever?  Have I been living in the stone age that I just discovered this stuff about a year ago? Ok, don’t bother answering that second question.

I love it–it’s like a tube of toothpaste (except you really don’t want to brush your teeth with this stuff, trust me). ;) I’m sure it’s probably much more expensive than the little cans, ounce for ounce.  You know what?  I have NO CLUE how much it costs. And I don’t care.  I know it’s cheaper in the end, because I’m not wasting a half a can every single time I need some.

Two tablespoons, one teaspoon, just a smidge, whatever. You can use however much you need at the time, and eventually you end up using THE WHOLE THING. :)

I know, I’m easily impressed.  But I’ve also started buying garlic paste and pesto this way. If I could buy crushed ginger this way, I’d do that, too. (Although I actually started buying the ginger in a little glass jar, which is basically the same idea.  And also genius.) This wonderful little tube of tomato paste comes in a little box, and you can find it by all the canned tomato products.

Try it, you’ll love it. I promise. :)

 

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A touch of spring

I bought these beautiful tulips during one of my trips to the grocery store last week–I just couldn’t resist them. I thought they’d be so pretty on my Easter tablecloth.

 

I’ve been feeling the spring weather–it was pretty decent yesterday (around 50, I think), but even so I spent the whole day inside. It’s still way to wet to do any yard work without doing damage to the soil.

But, I’ve been enjoying the slight rise in temperature. And then I got to work this morning and heard that all the Fargo-Moorhead schools are closed today, because we’re supposed to get a big storm.

It’s April tomorrow, and my birthday at the end of the week. . . I will admit, it’s rarely real warm on my birthday, but it would be nice if we were at least done with blizzards by then. :)

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Seed trial time

Well, not exactly time for the seed trials–but I got my seeds in the mail yesterday! Such excitement!

If you are new to this blog, you might not be aware that we’ve participated in the U of M master gardener seed trials the past few summers.  We’ve done green beans, zinnias, and turnips, among other things.

This year is the year of the spinach! :) I requested carrots and spinach, but I know they had a lot of volunteers so they had to stick to basically one type of seed per person. But I’m excited–I’ve never grown spinach before, so it will be a learning experience in many ways.

The types of spinach aren’t labeled, as such, because it’s a blind test.  But I do know that these packages contain these varieties:  ‘Bloomsdale,’ ‘Donkee-savoy,’ ‘Galilee,’ ‘Olympia,’ ‘Renegade,’ and ‘Tyee-savoy.’

I will be looking forward to the taste test. :)

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Two steps forward. . .

And then one giant step back. :) There was a dusting of snow on the ground when I left the house this morning–it’s below 20 degrees and feeling pretty wintery.  But we know at this point, it can only last so long.  (I keep telling myself that, anyway.)

This is the pot of grasses that was covered with snow just a few short weeks ago–it doesn’t look much better uncovered, at this point. It’s time to empty the pot and get it ready for some pansies.

It will probably be a few weeks until pansies are available–and I’ll probably only be able to find them at the big box stores–but once I see them I’m going to snap some up. If put them in pots that can be moved, we can always put them in the garage at night if it gets too terribly cold.  Although pansies are pretty tough–I’ve had them live through temps in the teens at night.

I’m sure we’re all getting impatient for the decent weather to get here already.  We’ve had a  couple of gorgeous days, and then it goes back to being cold and blustery again.  I guess it’s just giving us a little taste of the beautiful weather to come (eventually). I’m feeling fairly patient at this point. . . we’ll see how long that lasts. ;)

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Little by little

Spring is here! Theoretically, at least.  Hey, I’m not complaining–when we went from 5 or 10 below to 40 or 50 (above) in the space of a few short days, I’m sure we all felt like, “Finally, winter is over!”  I’m sure we will still have our share of cold, windy, yucky weather, and hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if we still have a blizzard, or even two. BUT.  At this point, you just know it can’t last that long.

The snow is melting in the yard, actually pretty quickly.

Remember that tiny little spruce tip that was barely poking out of the snow in my front garden?

Well, there is it, fully emerged (well, almost) in all it’s blue spruce-y glory.

I just may try to do a little yard work this weekend–and when I say “yard work,” I pretty much mean put away the winter evergreens (which are now quite brown) and pick up all the garbage that has emerged from the melting snowbanks.

Happy Friday, and Happy Spring! :)

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