Monday, July 30, 2012

Basil and Mint

I initiate every summer by planting a bunch of herbs in this washtub.  Now the chives and the mint are established and regrow themselves every year.

Chive blossoms


I can't walk by the mint without pulling off a leaf and wadding it up between my fingers so I can smell it's minty wonderfulness!  Other than wadding it up between your fingers and putting it in iced tea, what do you do with mint?  Recipes please!

Last year, I planted basil seeds and was SO excited when I managed to grow lots of little tiny basil plants!

Some of them even got to be kinda BIG basil plants.  I still aspire to have huge basil BUSHES someday!

This year, I kept forgetting to buy basil seeds.  But then, recently, I was in the produce department at Walmart and had the choice of buying three sprigs of fresh basil in a package for $1.50 or a 14" tall basil plant with 8 stems in a pot for $2.50.  Easy decision!


Isn't fresh basil glorious?

My favorite basil recipe:  Fill a large ziplock bag with about six chicken breasts, some olive oil, some garlic, some basil torn into pieces, and one lemon squeezed into the bag and then slice what's left and throw it in too!  Refrigerate while it marinates for anywhere from an hour to a day.  Then bake.  It is wonderful!  

Then, if you have leftover chicken, shred it up and add mayonnaise and raisins for a wonderful chicken salad!  

Hmmm... maybe I'll make some pesto too!  I usually make it with pistachios instead of pine nuts.  Tastes the same to me!

Friday, July 27, 2012


I am not a gardener.  I can kill plants just by looking at them.  Or, it may be that thing about forgetting to water them.

Recently, I heard that thirsty plants "cry" for water by making a high pitched sound that humans can't hear.  That makes me so sad I just might remember the water thing a little more readily from now on!

I plant tomatoes every year because I adore fried green tomatoes.  It's hard to procure green tomatoes unless you grow them yourself or talk the tomato guy at the farmer's market into bringing you some.

Usually the tomato guy method is the most productive because my tomato plants rarely grow actual tomatoes.  And not until late September if they do.

I love this shot!  It just glorifies the tomato plant to new heights for me.

I have four tomato plants this year.  They are in stair-step heights.  I think it has to do with the progression of the sun and the shade from the redbud tree.  This is the tallest one.  I almost threw it a party when it reached the height of the picket fence!

I learned something about tomato plants this year from my friend Don Bennett who runs Tri Cycle Farm, a local community garden.  He told me to pull off anything that grows out of the V where two parts of the stem split.  He said these sprouts are non-productive and they sap strength from the rest of the plant.  I've been doing this and these are the strongest plants I've had in years.  

He also made me pull off the first set of blossoms so the plant could grow stronger before it starts producing.  That was hard but I did it.  Now I have new blossoms!

And another favorite shot -- reaching for the sun!

Wish me tomatoes -- the green kind!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Free Kitchen

I've got that itch again.

It's the itch to play with houses.

I used to get to play with houses for a living.  I renovated my rental properties (sometimes over and over again -- because it was necessary).  Then I moved into flipping houses.  It was wonderful fun -- except for that moment about 75% of the way through when all the problems have shown up and the money's almost gone and I would always think "WHAT HAVE I DONE?"  But it always came together in the end.  The panic was just part of the process.  I watch other flippers go through that same stage on every episode of house flipping shows on TV.  I learned to remind myself that the panic was normal and not reason to never renovate another house.

I still itch to play with houses.  Someday, maybe I'll get to do that again...

For right now, what I am just CRAZED to do is to challenge myself to create a whole kitchen FOR FREE!

I don't mean pot holders and area rugs and pictures on the wall.

I mean I want to create a WHOLE kitchen in an empty space that has no cabinets, no appliances, nothing.  Just an empty box with some pipes sticking out of the floor and some wiring available.

It would probably be pretty easy to get my hands on someone's discarded kitchen cabinets -- someone who's upgrading and just wants to get rid of the old ones (and who hasn't taken a sledge hammer to them in the removal process -- it always drives me nuts when people do that).


I kinda like the bigger challenge of doing it without real kitchen cabinets.   I like the idea of freestanding and flexible pieces.  Who says a kitchen has to be done the "normal" way with cabinets bolted to all the walls?  In fact, 100 years ago, kitchens were ALL freestanding pieces.  That's why Hoosier cabinets were invented.  I'm ready to be a rebel and to embrace some old-fashioned elements and some new-fangled style!

I really like Katie Brown's non-traditional kitchen.  Remember her from HGTV?  All the pieces are movable so that thing could be repositioned for filming purposes.  But hers is a little more built-in that I want to do -- though I do LOVE the rustic, reused cabinet doors.  I'm also not planning on pouring concrete counter tops (though it COULD happen I suppose!).

That's her daughter, Prentiss.  I think that's SUCH a cute name!  Don't know the dog's name.

This is the left side of it. 

See how the dish storage is just wood cubbies?

I also love this very simple, RAW bathroom.
 Love the old school sink with FOUR faucets!  And the peely mirror!

As for appliances, I don't think they would be too hard to procure for free.  Everyone is crazed about stainless steel appliances right now.  I have them so I'm kinda over it.  Non-stainless appliances have become the red-headed stepchild of kitchen design lately.  Heck!  I wouldn't even mind some good, ole, bullet-proof, avocado green models because you've just gotta love a chalkboard paint fridge (though I would use black chalkboard paint)!  I could go CRAZY with the chalkboard paint!  Might just have to do a whole wall -- or two.  Or more. 

I'm also thinking I could paint a stove with black appliance paint.

And the front panels of lots of dishwashers are removable.  I wonder what fun material I could think of to put on the front of a dishwasher?  I wish corrugated tin wasn't quite so... corrugated/bumpy.

Counters present a challenge but, with freestanding pieces, I would need less counter surface.  I've also seen them done with painted plywood or even glass.  Or there's always concrete.  But there are other possibilities as well!

Sinks and faucets are findable.  Maybe not porcelain farmhouse sinks that cost several hundred dollars but white or stainless sinks are out there -- often with the faucet still attached.

I don't need anything top-of-the-line (in fact, I think the concept is wasteful and the phrase is offensive to me!) but I would intend for the end product to be cool, functional, and magazine-worthy.  As is the goal with all my free projects, you can gets lots of stuff for free, but the real fun is to end up with free stuff that doesn't look like it was free!  There are lots of dirty blue velour sofas on the curbs of America.  That is not my idea of good freesourcefullness.  Neither is just slapping in stuff to fill the spaces.  I love to really have my creativity challenged.  I love to elevate free junk to unexpected heights.

I saw a kitchen ceiling in a magazine recently that was sheathed in old garage door panels.  Sounds gross but it was really great!  I'll have to look through a ton of magazines and see if I can find that photo to show you  But it just goes to show that you never know what you might find or how you might use it.

There will be more on this free kitchen stuff.  I should warn you.  I'm obsessed.

Does anyone have a gutted kitchen and about six months before they want to do any actual cooking?

I could make it pretty for you!