Saturday, June 29, 2013

four tomato plants, forty dollars and four hours later

    You see, the best luck I ever had growing tomatoes was when I was living in the middle floor of a triple-decker in Medford MA. I bought some cherry tomato plants on impulse outside at the local Rite Aid, (the one we could walk to, on the corner of Rt 60 & Rt 28, on the border with Malden).
    I put the tomato plants in giant plastic flower pots on the back porch and they produced wonderful tomatoes. The only plant that didn't produce tomatoes was in the smallest of the big pots, so I reasoned that you need big pots to produce tomatoes.
    Fast forward thirteen years and on impulse I buy a 4-pack of cherry tomato plants from the Farm and Flower Market in Manchester NH. I planted them in the only surviving pot on the back porch but I knew it was just a temporary tomato home. Weeks have gone by. The tomatoes are too big and one is toppling over. My husband has suggested the idea that he might build a "raised bed" garden for them at the end of the driveway, but that has not happened.
    Today I take one of the kids and we go to Devrient Farm to get a bag of potting soil. They're out, but I leave with a flower pot containing a 'pickling' cucumber plant, and some fresh off-the-truck strawberries to just eat. They suggest Goffstown Hardware for the potting soil.
    I look in Big Lots for big pots but don't want to pay $14 for an ugly one. I try Goffstown Hardware store and the hardware guy sells me a 'kit' for building a raised garden bed ("These were on sale last week, but today I'll still give you the sale rate of $29.99." "Will it fit all four tomato plants?" "Oh, yes.") and a bag of garden soil that the guy says will be big enough but I don't think so. It remains to be seen.
    I spend an hour searching the house for a screwdriver with the right bit and my electric drill ("Before I married, I had an electric drill with all the bits in the package. Where is it? And where's the case for my profile sander? Why is it out of its case? And how do I know the missing drill bits aren't buried in this sawdust? Can't you clean the sawdust.." most of which was said downstairs while my husband the target of all this was upstairs. Probably a good thing.) and then trying to figure out the relatively simple directions for putting together the 4x4 raised bed kit: four posts, eight boards, 20 screws, and 4 square caps for the posts.
    I dig out the section near the front door where we've decided to put it. Not as sunny as it ought to be, but the underlying soil is good there, unlike near the driveway where it's not. It's also a pretty spot to add a 4x4 mini-corral, so we could always plant shade-loving flowers if the tomatoes don't work out. For this season, it's also a good spot because we'll see the tomatoes as we walk in and out and remember to take care of them.
    I cut up the grass by stepping on the shovel. I find lots of small rocks and four very large flat-ish rocks, three of which I pull out of the square. With all those rocks out, it is now a sunken garden bed. After pulling out the third rock and standing it up against the 'raised bed' fence I was just too tired to do any more.
    Shower and supper. To be continued tomorrow.
    Tomatoes and their new cuke pal are still on the back porch.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I just started reading The Casual Vacancy

It's great to read JK Rowling freed from Potter: her wicked observations of character allowed to be from a grown-up point of view, and her characters with access to modern technology such as mobile phones and websites.

I've got a library-booksale tape cassette version of the first Harry Potter book playing in my '97 Corolla. In a recent crisis, "there wasn't enough time to get an owl to Charlie" to modify a plan to collect an illicit dragon. Too bad Charlie and the kids didn't have access to telephones. What magic.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Cold Potato-Dill Soup : Instant

I threw this together the other night and it came out pretty good, considering the level of effort. Decent comfort food. Fat-free, if made with skim milk.

Ingredient list with approximate amounts:
  • 1/4 C Potato Flakes (We use "Idaho" brand)
  • 1/4 C Hot Water
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 2 or 3 ice cubes
Spices shaken in from their bottles. Very rough guess as to amount. Add "to taste":
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Directions (Serves 1):
Fill the electric tea kettle to its minimum amount and turn it on.
Pour the instant mashed potato flakes into the bottom of a deep soup bowl.
Stir in the dill flakes so that it's a nice-looking mixture with the green mixed into the white.
Also stir in the garlic and salt, so that it can all dissolve when you
Add the hot water and stir it until it dissolves and is smoothly mixed in.
Stir in milk until smooth.
At this point, it's not cold enough, so add the 2 or 3 ice cubes and keep stirring until they melt.
Sprinkle some paprika on top.

Nice cold summer soup, with minimum effort. I hope you like it.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Oz the Great And Powerful - Comments, with Spoilers

There was a lot that was good in the movie but it had two major flaws.

The biggest flaw is that if you're going to set up the story at the beginning with a lot of real-life issues that need to be resolved, then he needs to go back to Kansas at the end to resolve them. I'm all in favor of Oz being a real place, so he has to stay in Oz because Dorothy has to meet him there later, but if that's the ending you're going to have then you need a beginning that allows for that. The ending set up was one where he apologizes to his friend and proposes to the woman he loves. Smooching her avatar at the end does not provide the necessary closure.

There was a marvelous moral closure from the setup where Oscar tells the woman he loves that he doesn't want to be a good man like his father, he wants to be great. Then at the end of the film Glinda points out that through his experience he has learned that goodness is better than greatness. Lesson learned, but we needed to see it acted upon.

The other flaw was the actor playing the future Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis as "Theodora"). Yes, it was a cartoon role with simple lines, but a better actor would have given it the range it needed, and the range that would have made it enjoyable to watch.

Her sister "Evanora" was better, but she kind of suffered from lack of plot. She didn't have enough backstory or motivation. Something missing.
There are parts of the story that just seem inadequate, like it was created without enough love.

Nothing was missing in the opening sequences. The movie was great and moved wonderfully for the entire in-Kansas part. Although you had to question whether the magician's audience really were so unsophisticated that he couldn't have just said said to the little girl something along the lines of "I'm an illusionist, sweetie. I don't perform miracles. I'm sorry." People nowadays don't expect magicians to be actually performing magic, but we love to watch them anyway. Was the 1890's audience that much different? But, OK, the action flowed through the Kansas sequences, so questions like that really weren't a problem.

The tornado scene was a lot of fun.

I liked the mechanical creation of magic as a solution to what seemed to be an impossible task. That was a great piece of the plot. The fog and mechanical robots to trap the evil flying baboons was a great idea. The projection of Oz in the cloud of smoke was a wonderful effect and fairly set up.

I loved the beginning with Kansas being both black and white and also a smaller square screen. Then Oz opens out as wide and colorful.

I did find the colors kind of not quite right. The look worked for the Alice in Wonderland movie, but it didn't please me as Oz. Of course, that's the set designer's prerogative. I did like the dramatic landscape, cliffs and trees.

The people traveling in bubbles was from one of the books. It was fun to recognize that.

When the movie came out I was afraid it would be Gregory Maguire's blood-soaked Oz. It was a relief that it wasn't.

The opening credits were great. The closing credits dragged, and the song changed before the credits were over from the waltz that fit the grand-retro mood into a contemporary sort of thing that didn't go with the mood at all.

Another thing that felt unresolved was that the Wizard had an entire bottle of glue. Why not look through the china town and see if there's anyone else they could glue together? I kept expecting them to get around to it and they didn't. They seemed to be setting it up with the china girl asking for him to grant the wish of restoring her family. But then they didn't do it. It seemed wrong.