It's Been a Month?

Has it really been nearly a month since I last blogged? What on earth have I been up to?

I'm not exactly sure why I haven't posted anything, but I have been spending a lot of my "free" time maintaining the property.

T got a brand new riding mower so I could mow the lawn instead of just bugging him to do it. He was the only one who could do it before since all we used to have was some @$#@$@ old used mower from the 1980s that he tried and failed to restore to full utility. It would only start if you gave it a jump start from a car battery, it backfired all the time and stalled, and lacked modern safety features. I refused to go near the thing.

But I'm happy as a clam riding the new mower. It's much easier than using the large tractor with a mower attachment-- the little tractor has a center-mounted blade. It's maneuverable enough that I don't really need to also use a push mower, just a weed whacker. Although I am not sure if it might not actually be faster to just use a push power in certain spots rather than have to drive the tractor in tiny circles to get all the little bits of tight locations.

What I am discovering, though, is that it takes a long time. Right now I spend four hours a week mowing if I do everywhere. As you can imagine, not every week do I mow every location. I use that time riding around the property to think about different landscaping ideas. I've thought of a few things, but nothing major. I am hopeful that I will have some big ideas by the end of the season. By then I will also know if four hours of a mowing per week is sustainable. I really don't mind it now, but since I am new to using a riding mower, it is still a bit of a novelty for me. It remains to be seen if I will continue to find mowing to be an enjoyable hobby, or if I will get bored of it and come to resent the time spent. One old coworker of mine was an older woman, and I remember she used to just loooove to get out and mow on the weekends. She'd tell us about how she'd just ride all over her farm mowing for hours, and she loved it. That's pretty much how I feel now. Although I'm not sure for FOUR hours. I love it for the first two hours, the last two, less so. I ran out of gas before I was done today, so I might try breaking the job down into two two-hour sessions. Then I might double my weekly enjoyment, if it turns out that I enjoy the first two hours per day rather than just the first two hours per week.

Every week I also do something a little extra to neaten up the property. Today I cleared all the weeds from around the a/c units, and also cut back some overgrown vines near the back porch. I will not weed whack today, I am too tired. Besides, minutes after I finished mowing, it started to rain. I was happy with that timing.


  Coffee + Endorphins = Good Day

I woke up still miserable from yesterday and contemplated just crawling back into bed for a few more hours. T dissuaded me, reminding me that I got a full night's sleep and all I needed was coffee. I drank the coffee, but that didn't perk me up, although it did make me realize the malaise that I was feeling had often been cured by some vigorous exercise in the past. So I went out for a jog.

I haven't been jogging in ages, since the combined weight of the boys in their stroller is over 65 lbs. It is a challenge to push them over the gravel just walking, let alone jogging, and I haven't been using the babysitter time to jog lately, either. But the weather was good, so off I went. I wasn't jogging fast or far, but I did pick up the pace enough for the last mile to get a nice blast of endorphins.

Now that I'm resting for a few minutes, I have a much better attitude than I did upon first waking. I am newly energized and motivated to get out there and do what needs to be done. First, while T is taking the boys to get gas, I will use the weed trimmer to neaten the edges. Then I will mow. Then I will shop. Then T and I get to go out tonight!


  Tomorrow Might Be A Shopping Day

I really dislike going shopping on Saturdays, it's hard to say whether it's more difficult to shop alone on a Saturday or with the children on a weekday. But I have to return some chair cushions, and hopefully find acceptable replacements in order to finish a renovation project. I would also like to get something to use to cover the sectional on the porch, it really needs help and I am NOT going to buy anything new while W is in such a destructive phase.

W has been breaking things every day. He doesn't mean to be breaking them, but he's poking and prodding and twisting and tossing around and tying things together and dragging them and who knows what, so things are just getting broken left and right. I don't care when he breaks his toys; since I don't buy him new ones, he just has to deal with it. But it's seriously annoying when he breaks MY stuff. I used to let him play with all kinds of non-toys, but lately I've drastically curtailed it. No more playing with baking equipment or anything in the kitchen, or in the bathroom, or in the garage. Although the door on the garage has been broken for over a month so it's hard to keep him out, he's always sneaking in there and wreaking havoc. I hope this is just a phase, and he'll soon get a clue about how to stop breaking things. M is no longer the one most likely to blame for broken objects.

I had planned on doing the shopping today, but Ws's behavior was so bad I couldn't leave the house with them. So I'm doubly irritated tonight not only because of a bad day, but also because my day off might not be as relaxing as I'd been looking forward to. Eh, I'll probably just push off finishing the project and hope for the best. I just know from past experience that if I don't finish something right away, it could be months before it gets done. And since I'm working on an outdoor chair, I won't get to use it now for the most pleasant weeks of spring if it remains undone. Well, I'm done worrying about it for tonight, I'll just sleep on it and let tomorrow unfold as it will.


  Redneck Martha Stewart

Originally, I purchased some pretty plant stands to use as outdoor side tables. I was going to have some acrylic squares cut to fit the top. But for the past five years, I've just used them as-is, suffering many spilled drinks over that time from putting the glass down on an unstable location on the filigree since I never got around to ordering the acrylic.

Since I was expecting company yesterday, and didn't want my guest to have to negotiate the tricky problem of the filigree tabletop, I went ahead with Plan B.

Step 1: Grab a piece of scrap wood from the nearest trailer:

Step 2: Snip off a piece of fence wire from the rolls in the weeds at the end of your driveway:

Step 3: Drill some holes in the wood and wire it to the top of the metal plant stand:

Step 4: Enjoy the sun going down over the mountains without worrying about spilling your glass of wine:

Take that, Martha. I will be queen of my own redneck crafts empire.


  Independent Confirmation of My Yummy Bean Cakes

I've already written in the diet section of this blog about how much I enjoy my vegan fried bean cakes. I think they are both healthy and delicious. But neither T nor W have been interested in eating them (although M gobbles them up), so I wasn't sure if they were actually delicious, or just to my particular taste. Earlier this week, I got my answer.

Our regular sitter came over in the late afternoon so I could get relax and get ready for a nice dinner out with T to celebrate our anniversary (FYI, big props to Hamilton's for a delicious vegan dinner). Since she arrived at 4pm, she would be eating dinner with the boys, and I really didn't have much in the house, but I gave her a few suggestions for easy things she could fix, and offered up my leftover bean cakes. I figured she would just make a tuna sandwich or something.

But when I walked in the door later that evening, the first thing she said was, "those bean cakes are SO GOOD!" She admitted to not thinking she would like them, but nibbled one cold, and when she liked it, she went ahead and heated a few up. She liked everything about them, from the strong flavors to the texture (creamy inside, crispy outside). She was particularly enthusiastic since she admitted to being so surprised, she really was expecting something bland and lackluster.

Encouraged by that affirmation, when it was time for me to whip up a new batch today, I decided to try making some southwest-style. I used equal parts black beans and pinto beans and then added salsa flavors-- tomato paste, onion, garlic, green pepper, and jalapeƱo. Once the paste was made, I used corn meal instead of bread crumbs to bind the patties. These are my best version so far. So good, I would serve them to non-vegan guests-- I'll dress them up into hors d'oeurves by topping them with dollops of salsa or guacamole. I might add cilantro to the paste the next time I make them.

When I run out of these (which will be soon since I scarfed down quite a few today) I might try my hand at creating an Indian-style bean cake, flavored with curry. After that, perhaps Asian-style since I just got some new spicy ginger seasoning. Or since I have a little sourdough left from my loaf today, maybe I'll make the leftover end into breadcrumbs (versus my usual habit of making croutons from day old bread) and brainstorm a San-Franciso-style bean cake.

The only problem is one of marketing-- neither "bean patty" nor "bean cake" really communicates to people how good these little bites are. So I am open to suggestions. "Vegan protein bites" is similarly too hippie-sounding. These do not taste like your typical vegan food. Way more flavor.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I've come to the conclusion that vegans probably don't make their food any blander than most people, but the problem is that most people are not very good cooks. It's just that when you start with meat and other animal products, they have more intrinsic flavor than many plants, so it's slightly less noticeable when they use poor cooking techniques. But by using the proper amount of flavorful ingredients, seasonings, and techniques, it's not hard to come up with some good stuff without using animal products. It is my guess that the majority of vegans avoid animal products for moral reasons, and so would be too put off to attend cooking school, since they'd be required to cook all kinds of animal stuff to get through the course. Hence the proliferation of bad vegan recipes available online, since they are just muddling through. Although I think they are teaching more vegan techniques in the cooking schools now that as the population is aging more and more people have various dietary restrictions. Even in my own short course we spent one day learning some low-salt techniques (that was the big restriction if you were catering an event for old people 10 years ago).

I've gotta give props to the chef at Hamilton's, I had three courses, all vegan, all delicious. I did choose the restaurant because I read somewhere that the new chef had an interest in vegetarian food, so I'm not surprised, but it was good enough I'm not likely to take my chances elsewhere too much, I might just go there again and again until my experiment is over.

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