31 August 2012

Top Five Friday: Hereeeeee's Tommy Toes!

Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.
~ Tom Robbins

ll this talk of tomatoes is making me hungry.  What’s that? 


We weren’t talking about tomatoes?  Well, I sure have been thinking about them!  Between pulling up weeds from around them, to falling on my acreage in front of them, to picking my very first one.  And still the majority haven’t ripened yet!


Well, I’m sure you have been gathering your harvest up every week ~ if not from your backyard, then hopefully from your local farmers’ market.  And since summer is fast drawing to a close (where the heck did it go!?), I thought you might like to add some new recipes starring your favorite tommy toes. 

Tommy is coming along nicely.  If only he'd turn red!
Photo copyright M. D'Eigh

The best tomato sandwich will always be two slices of toasted white bread, one slice of cheese, a huge dollop of mayo, and a fat slice of tomato.  It screams sum-sum-summertime.  Now I use gluten free bread, Daiya “cheese”, mustard, and a fat slice of tomato.  And I still feel the summer wind, come blowin’ in, across the sea…

Sorry, got carried away by a memory. Where was I?

Oh yes!  This recipe is the humble tomato sandwich taken to Texas heights.  You can still use gluten-free bread ~ I won’t tell anyone.

I love this woman.  She makes raw simply “raw-some.”  And makes this foodie feel right at home.  While I may miss many things when I try to live an 80% raw lifestyle, I don’t miss taste.  And this soup is just what the weather man ordered for a hot day.

Plus, I get to trim my basil trees.

My first ripe tomato!  Well, almost...

Pasta can be so heavy, especially when it’s hot outside.  You just want to take a long nap afterwards.  How do the Italians do it!?  Wait.  They take a long nap afterwards.  Ahhhhh!

Anyhoo, this “pasta” is a veggie, so no food como side effects.  Heavenly with a light white wine.

This one is a keeper for gluten addicts.  The recipe doesn’t include it, but I’ve found that frozen puff pastry is too young to leave it out on its own – layer it with butter or better yet, lard.  Otherwise, it gets dry and cranky and rebellious.

Summer isn’t complete without at least one fresh-made Bloody Mary.  I like mine without a whole lot of hot sauce.  

 Sigh.  There's always fried green tomatoes....

One thing only I ask of you – do not put canned tomato juice in this one.  Juice your own.  So much better. Look Mom! No MSG or toxins in my blood! Yay!

Y’all be safe out there this holiday weekend.  Enjoy the last long weekend of summer!  

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are your favorite tomato recipes?  And what are your favorite varieties?

29 August 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: The Bloodythirsty Gardener (Or How I Hurt My Back)

Don't eat me. I am an inchworm. I am useful. I measure things.
~ Leo Lionni

erhaps that is true of the inchworm, but not so for tomato hornworms.  The big green nasties hide underneath poor tommy toes leaves and chomp, chomp away!  I was hoping he would pass my wee garden by, but alas!  While I took my early morning garden stroll on Sunday, I saw through his (or her) disguise!

I am Manduca Sexta - hear me chomp through your tommy toes!
A little research showed that Manduca quinquemaculata was innocent of veggie-cide; it was actually his cousin, Manduca sexta, alias tobacco hornworm.  Although much good mistaken identity did my tomato plants.  Those bad boys aren’t as selective as one would think about the vegetation they consume.
I tried scolding, I tried poking but he was having none of it.  His buffet was not to be interrupted.  Squashing was not an option ~ gardener I may be, but a girlie girl I am to the core and squashing anything living is just. . . .ewwwwww!
As an organic gardener, not using poison is also a no-brainer.  Actually, that is bass-ackwards: it should be that using poison is a no-brainer, because people with no brains use it.  Who wants to eat poison through their food, even if it’s residual poison?!
So how to get rid of the plant murderer?
The Sustainable Executioner
The answer (I thought) was on the plant next door, the garden-hood watch, so to speak.  Since she moved to her digs, Tia has been catching aphids and growing huge!  It’s either her increased diet or she’s preggers.   Which would be very cool!

I looked at Duca S and Tia and realized that by the time he made it anywhere near her place, he would have eaten a good many leaves.  And this criminal activity could not be allowed to continue.  So I helped.

Tia is a beloved member of the garden-hood watch, but webs still freak me out.  I think it was that Sinbad movie I saw when I was 7.  And Shelob didn’t help my phobia either.  I picked up a dead leaf and pushed him on. 

His body was baby-skin soft.  I felt like I was the criminal for a moment.  After all, wasn’t I killing a butterfly before it had a chance to sow its wild oats? (My later research said no, left to their own devices hornworms turn into moths – large and interesting, but not pretty butterflies.)

It took some odd maneuvering, but I finally got the leaf onto to the far side of Tia’s web.  Then I crouched down and waited for the show to begin.

Just call me the Bloodthirsty Gardener.

If I had been watching this on NatGeoWild and it were lions and antelope, or wolves and reindeer, I would have shivered and cried at nature’s cruel but effective means of culling the herd.  But somehow, insects just fascinate the scientific side of my brain ~ except of course for dragonflies and butterflies.

Tia took her time, but finally the rocking of the web drew her attention and she raced up and her long legs began feeling Duca S’s big long body.  And then something happened I could barely believe.  Duca S reared up and used his big head like an arm and hit at Tia!

Breakfast was putting up a fight!

Boy, do I know what that’ s like: acid reflux!  However, my food is not normally alive by then!  Tia waved her legs over him for a few more seconds, trying to get in her spider-novacaine, but finally had to retreat defeated and hungry. 

All this was new to me, so I wanted to get a better look and see where this story was headed.  And promptly fell with all my weight onto a leftover 2x6.

Which is how I ended up spending two days flat on my back, nursing some very bruised glute bones and a sore spine. 

I don’t know what happened to Duca S ~ I’m sure he crawled off none the worse for wear and began munching on my plants again.  As for me, my days as a fight promoter are over.  I’m just going to let nature take its course.

Unless I start squashing.


Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What pests are eating your garden and how are you dealing with them?  Don’t get hurt out there!

28 August 2012

On the Road to Recovery: Or Why You Haven't Heard From Me

It is in human nature to relax, when not compelled by personal advantage or disadvantage.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

r when one is flat on one’s back

Wretched writer, leaving my dear reader friends alone both Friday and Monday with nary a word!

Rude, I say!

Such it is in the age of instant messaging, tweets, etc.  However, it was not for lack of wanting, but for lack of both cell service [which runs my home internet] and general physical equilibrium.

Thursday and Friday I wrestled with some demon food that held me up in knots.  I finally calmed the monster down with some medication.  But by then it was Saturday morning.

Blight it!*

Then Sunday, I fell in the garden [yes that garden!] and brusied by back and few other choice bones and was, literally, flat on my back [and a heating pad] until this morning.

I’m still sore and still a little cranky for having lost four good days to do something creative or useful.  But glad to be on the road to recovery.  I promise a full report tomorrow, on Hobby Farm day, as the agony and the fury happened there.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

*One of the things I did do over these past four days is read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Knife Sharing series.  If you like fantasy stories with a whisper nod to the Shire, take up and read.  I couldn’t put them down!  One of her main characters loves to say "Blight!" A lot.

22 August 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: The Garden of Fall Eatin'

You can never have enough garlic.
With enough garlic, you can eat The New York Times.
~ Morley Safer

ifficult to believe that it is almost September.  Where did the summer go!?
Not that I’m complaining.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and I wait for that gloriously ochre-coloured season with as much patience as a kid waits for Santa on Christmas Eve.
But time enough to enjoy shorter days, cooler nights, and the promise of pumpkins and firelight.  As a gardener who planted late, I’m focused on harvesting my tommy toes in the next couple of weeks.  They’re still going strong and growing up before my very eyes.  I just hope the deer or squirrels don't get to them before I do! 
Aphids and other winged thieves will no longer be an issue: Tia moved her web to the middle of the tomato plants and has put by a huge feast for herself.  I’m thrilled.  I was worried she wasn’t catching anything over on the skunk cabbage (don’t ask). 
The Garden of Fall Eatin’
Now is the time to start planning the fall garden.  Thank heaven for living in Zone 7!  I need to plan and order my Autumn newbies quick ~ the time to plant will be here before I know it.  Here’s my list so far: 
Cabbage (Red)
Perennial Onions

Garlic is one of my favorite crops.  I put it in almost everything.  Sautéing fresh garlic in sweet cream butter smells like home and comfort.  Add some spinach and mushrooms and you have a wee bit of heaven on your plate.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Have you started planning your fall garden?  What’s on your list?

20 August 2012

Creative Perceptions

Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.
~ William James

erceptions can be dangerous.  Especially if they’re the wrong ones.  In the latest issue of Mary Jane’s Farm [love, love, LOVE that magazine! Can you tell I love it?], Rebekah Teal has an article about her truck, Elvis Rebekah also owns an SUV and she’s noticed that people respond to her differently when she drives Elvis.  And not in a positive way.

How snobby and shallow of those people! 

And I must admit, that is pretty shallow: judging a person based on their ride.  Yet we do it all the time.  I’m as guilty as the next person, although mine is a little counter-current cultural: if I see you driving a truck, I automatically think you’re polite, can build and/or fix anything with your own two hands, and like homemade biscuits.  Which is just silly, because I drive a truck and I can only lay claim to two of those perceptions!

However, my own perception of who I am and what I’m capable of changes when I drive my truck.  When I drive my truck, I feel like I can fix or repair anything.  I can't, but that fact doesn't change my perception.

Okay.  So how does this pertain to art?

Creative Perceptions
Perception plays a key role for any medium.  Specifically, as a writer, my perception of my own characters ~ be it a fictitious one, or not ~ influences how you the reader perceive them.  Is my language sympathetic?  Are you meant to like this character and side with them?  Or is my language harsh and cold, leading you to hope that this character “gets what’s coming to them?”

Brainstorming for new artistic ideas can sometimes be like waiting for rain in the desert.  Better to do a rain dance then sit around.  And I’ve spoken before about ways we can prime the pump.

Why not change your perception?

If I feel like a different person when I drive my truck, I can tap into that feeling, expand it, apply it to a character, express it in a poem, or write about in a blog post.  Don’t have a truck?  Test drive one!  Or test drive a luxury sedan or sports car.  There’s no law that says you can’t test drive a car even if you have no intention of buying it. You may be surprised at the views you encounter along the way.

Including the one from the driver’s seat.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What changes your perception of yourself? Of others?  Cars? Clothes? Job title?  How can you use that change to change your art?

17 August 2012

Top Five Friday: Books Julia Child Would Have Loved

She died with a knife in her hand in her kitchen, where she had cooked for fifty years,
and the death was solemnly listed in the newspaper as that of an artist.
~ Janet Flanner
ulia Child would have been 100 years old this week. 

What an amazing person!  She picked up cooking later in life and turned it into a passion and career.  She never let the number of candles on her éclair dictate what she could or could not do.

In honor of her Centennial Birthday, here are my top five books that combine wit, humour, life, and, of course, food.   

Babette’s Feast - Isak Dinesen
It has always been one of my dreams to re-create Babette’s famous dinner for 12.  I might have to find a substitute for the sea turtle ~ I think they’re on the endangered list now. 

This book embodies all that I believe about food and culture.  Most Americans eat like that narrow, puritanical community: without joy and without fellowship.  The only difference is the gruel they ate might actually have been nutritious, whereas there isn’t much in the Standard American Diet (SAD) that is even food, let alone nutritious.

To leave this story off this list would be tantamount to heresy. 

Photo: Joop Hoek

Love in a Dish. . .And Other Culinary Delights – M.F.K. Fisher
Who says a mentor has to be alive and kicking?  No shelf of cooking essays is complete without something by M.F.K. Fisher.  She was a master essayist on everything gastronomical. . .and then some!  I soak up her witticisms and wisecracks like so much French bread in mushroom gravy.

The Bread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf – Sara Mansfield Taber
Honestly, I was a little floured with envy when I read Taber’s account of her quest to find the quintessial loaf of French bread.  Talk about the best job ever!  It is an intimate look at how important supporting the local economy is and just what goes into making a loaf of French bread.

Great, just talking about it makes me want to run to the kitchen and get my arms floured up.

Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover’s Courtship, with Recipes – Amanda Hesser
This was the first book I read that combined an an engaging story with usable recipes.  After devouring it, I was hooked on books that married superbly written true stories and mouth-watering recipes.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver
Anyone concerned about where their food comes from, what has been sprayed on it and whether their strawberry’s DNA has been crossed with a toad [okay, that’s a bit of exaggeration – but not much!] knows about this great book.  Kingsolver took her family on a eat fresh, eat local one year adventure that is still going on today. 

It is a must have on any kitchen shelf: your cooking is only as great as your ingredients.  I like mine to travel as little as possible.

Happy Birthday, Julia!   Thank you for showing us that any age is a great age to be as long as you approach with joy, passion, and with your heart and hands wide open to give and receive.   

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

And thanks for the coq au vin!

15 August 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Giddy Over Gardens (and Dragons)

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,
but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.
~ Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

am garden-giddy. 

Spying firm, light green tomatoes peeking from beneath large, healthy leaves does that to me. 

So does seeing how humongous my basil has grown and the lovely dark green of my rosemary.  The mint I planted in pots died a slow, agonizing death, but the health of my ground-rooted plants heals the ache of that flora-cide ~ still searching for the cause of death and a motive. 

photo copyright 2012 Mikaela D'Eigh
When I make it home before dark shrouds my little beauties from my loving gaze, I spend a couple of hours gently pulling weeds, snipping blooms off the basil, lightly watering, and talking to my plants and the beneficial bugs that protect them.  
This time in the garden is akin to time spent in prayer and meditation.  My bare feet connect to the ground and its energy,* I take a deep, cleansing breath of the twilight air, and give thanks to God as I understand Him for the gift of Himself, this land, clean water, and loveable creatures.

Playing Favorites
When I first cultivated the ground and began planting my tommy toes, there was one dragon-fly that would flit shyly around.  I always talked to him in a quiet voice.  Each week, he ventured closer, until now he brushes close to my hair and sits on nearby plants and watches me putter around the garden.

photo courtesy of Jose Angel Astor, 123rf.com
I adore dragon-flies.  They remind me of fairies and their colours are quite stunning.  So imagine my delight when this past weekend I counted four additional gossamer-winged guests!  The first one must have communicated that I’m an okay sort, because the new ones don’t seem frightened at all and fly and dip around me when I call and coo at them.  I have noticed a couple of their brothers or sisters in the train station parking lot, but I confess I’m too embarrassed to talk to them with my fellow commuters walking nearby.  Go ahead and say it.


That is what is so great about living in the boons.  No matter how I feel or what kind of day I’ve had, I can go outside and talk to my plants, insects, and animals and there is no one to raise a judgmental eyebrow and tap their head.  And without fail, my tension fades with the sun.  As I tuck my tomatoes in for the night, I feel a little punch drunk.  And why not?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

*There is some science to back up this revitalizing feeling, called earthing.  I have found some information online about it, but need to do more research before I recommend any sites to you, dear readers.  If you  have thoughts, share them in the comments.  More to come in future Hobby Farm posts!

14 August 2012

Ben Hatke Gives Away Legends of Zita the Space Girl!

My alphabet starts with this letter called yuzz. 
It's the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-ma-tuzz. 
You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond 'Z'
and start poking around! 
~ Dr. Seuss

en Hatke is awesome.  Not just an awesome person (although he is that).   Not just an awesome artist (although he is that too).  He is also an awesome writer.  And he is giving away both a hard cover and paper back copy of his latest creation: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, plus an original watercolour.

To enter, go to his website and enter a comment.  You will prove your awesomeness if you do.

I did.  And I am determined to win that hard cover!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What!?  I am proud to be GenX ~ I like the word awesome! 

10 August 2012

Top Five Friday: Shutting Up the Critics

The cost of not pursuing a dream is greater than the cost of failure. 
~ Jeff Goins
he way of the creative soul is hard.  We are misunderstood, maligned, and often, the people who should be the loudest in our cheering section, are the biggest naysayers.

This is certainly true in my own life.  I am blessed to have a small, but heavy-hitting cheering section ~ people who love and accept me unconditionally and offer both honest encouragement and constructive criticism.    

Photo credit: 123rf.com

But human nature being what it is, one rotten apple spoils the entire bushel. It is a mystery to me why what one negative person says carries more weight than the accolades of five positive people.  But there it is. 

And the biggest naysayer in my life is always close at hand, ready to pounce on every mistake, every false step.  Even all my successes carry a taint of “could have been better/not good enough.”  “Who is this wretched person!?” you cry indignantly, “Keep away from them as much as possible!”  But that would require an out of body experience.

Because I am my own worst enemy and my harshest critic.

Shouting Down and Shutting Out
Scientific American had an article in February of this year on the bias against creativity.  Although many say they value innovation and people who ‘think outside the box’, when it comes to practice, being innovative means taking risks, and most people are risk-adverse.  And by risk adverse, I mean, failure-adverse.

No one likes to fail.

But innovation doesn’t exist apart from failure.  News flash, dear readers: no one is perfect.  No one succeeds on the first try.  As great as Michael Phelps is, he didn’t come out of the womb doing a killer backstroke.  He had to learn how to swim; had to discipline his body and his mind to become faster than the best in the world.

So what is a beaten up creative to do?  Obviously, we must surround ourselves with positive and supportive and wise people.  And we need to drown out the naysayers as much as possible. 

As a visual/verbal creative, that means I read every article, post, book, and essay on creativity and artistic encouragement I can find.  Invariably, two things happen:

1) I’m comforted and inspired by the realization that I’m not alone;
2) My creative bottom gets kicked into gear and I go create something.

Today, I give you the top five articles that shut down my biggest critic and flamed the creative fires this week:

Jeff Goins is one of my favorite writers/bloggers on creativity and the art of writing.  His style is easy on the eyes and is always practical.  It’s like having a personal writing trainer.  I may complain about the pain of being creative, but those groaning muscles get toned and built up with every post he writes.  Here, he reminds us how important art and creativity is, how vital we are to life of the world and our social circle.

Personal boundaries are important for everyone, but especially for creative souls.  For whatever reason, our work isn’t seen as work (if I sweat blood every time I sat down at my desk, would that convince you?!!?), and since many of us work out of a home office, the boundary lines are more apt to get blurred. 

On top of that, most of us come from dysfunctional families where boundaries were ignored trampled on, and/or destroyed.  So a lot of healing needs to take place if those necessary fences are to be mended properly.  I’m a big advocate of seeking wise professional help ~ sadly, there are a lot of idiot shrinks out there who simply add new wounds to the old.
I’ve never met Steve Edge, but I love him already.  His advice to dress for a party every day and the party will come to you is very wise.  If you wait for inspiration, for the right time, the right place ~ the Muse may pass you by.  We’re only given today, not promised tomorrow.  So put on your party outfit and create.

Best story: how he re-branded DB Restorations.  Brilliant.
Changing your routine up is a good way to shake off negative thoughts and nasty comments.  Last Tuesday, I started a new art therapy class.  It’s been years since I’ve picked up a paintbrush, but once I started mixing colours and exploring shades and tones, the joy of sweeping the brush across the paper filled up my tired heart and began to heal old scarred wounds.
Another great article by Jeff Goins.  He talks about how the curse of perfectionism is part and parcel of being a creative: we keep striving to get our project to look just like the ideal vision we see in our minds’ eye. 

As long as the ideal vision doesn’t prevent us from actually bringing it to life, than use it to keep reaching and creating.

In the end, the best way to silence the critics ~ whether internal or external ~ is to create every day that we’re given.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are the ways you shut out the naysayers and self-doubt?  What articles have inspired you?  Please share with us!