travel, Uncategorized

If You’re Not Living Like A Local, You’re Missing Out

I wrote this recently about blooming where you are planted. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about living like a local and please feel free to share with others!

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/if-youre-not-living-like-local-youre-missing-out

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Making the lawn “bloom”


When approaching my landscape, I tend to have less is more approach to grass. My vision includes ornamental plants, more rocks, more mulch, more edibles, more edging, more pavers, more planters, and much less grass! I envision well-planned beds that will be easy to maintain and tiny plots of grass that are quick to mow.

But it takes time and resources to create those spaces.

And a lawn has its purpose.

The lawn is for running around and playing in; it’s meant to be enjoyed.

I have always thought grass is boring…

until now.

I noticed recently while at a park the manicured turf had many dainty yellow flowers growing along with the grass without looking “weedy”. When cut to the ground the flowers still popped up close to the same level as the grass.

I also love the idea of creeping thyme and other alternative lawns.

So I started looking for alternative lawn seed online and I found it.

It’s a blend of hardy drought tolerant (once established) grass seeds mixed with daisy seeds. I shall scatter it over all the bald spots I poured boiling and soapy water over (to kill the pests that ate the grass) and over the bald areas where the builders never laid sod (turns out they laid it in half the yard, as opposed to being waterlogged spots I previously assumed).

Stay tuned to see how the Fluer De Lawn grows as well as learn about herb de lawn!

Uncategorized

Okinawa, I can’t wait to…

When you live overseas, you spend an awful lot of time lamenting the usual comforts of home. How often I have heard my friends say “Gee I can’t wait to shop at Target (or Ross, Barnes and Noble, etc)” or “I can’t wait to be stateside again so that I can eat Mexican food, be near family, go on road trips, not have to travel 24 hours to get anywhere…” I’ve enjoyed being stateside with family for a season and I’m giddy about moving back to the states after three years away. But for now, I can’t wait to go back to Okinawa for the final part of our tour because:

I can’t wait to walk on the Seawall as often as I like. I can go from my house to the coast in about three minutes just to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. If I forget to bring water, there is a soda machine around just about every corner.

I can’t wait to get my toes pampered at Cocok’s! Where else in the world do you get a full pedi treatment complete with canvas worthy, hand painted designs on every tiny toenail while sipping tea and looking out the window at the ocean with the ultimate 90s ballad playlist in the background?

I can’t wait to have another round of Sushi-Go-Round with an all you can eat sushi belt conveyor-ing it’s way right to my table. I can’t wait to kick off my shoes to properly sit at a low table and sip green tea between sushi servings!

I can’t wait for some girl time at Coffee Casa! I’m so ready to order a latte and have the delight of finding out how they designed the frothy foam on top, then eating breakfast that is as pretty as it is delicious!

I can’t wait for sakura season! It’s already started but soon I can enjoy it. When else in my life will I be in Japan while cherry blossoms are in bloom?

I can’t wait to go back to the new mall–mainly for the food. There is so much Thai, Hawaiian, and Japanese food there and my husband claims, “The best steak I have ever had!” The new mall has American, European, and Japanese stores. Normally, a trip to the mall is something I could “take or leave” but this one I will take week after week!

I can’t wait to get our favorite take-out from Nepal Spice Kitchen every Sunday! All week I cook and then Sunday my husband provides curry. It is wonderful.

I can’t wait to explore some of the places I haven’t made it to yet, to practice conversational Japanese, and spend time with the locals.

I can’t wait to shop at the 100 yen store for random treasures, kitchen goods, and unique keepsakes!

I can’t wait to hear my friends tell stories like this: “I was at the post office and I left my cell phone on the counter and forgot about it. I drove off to run other errands and 30 minutes later realized I was without it. I went directly back to the post office and there was my phone, on the counter, unmoved, and untouched even though it had busy with people while I was there.” I heard those stories–all the time!

I can’t wait to see how kind the people are there to mothers of young children–giving us preferential seating, helping us with luggage at the airport, loaning us strollers, letting us go to the front of the line, and providing “nurseries” in almost every public place for mothers to feed their babies.

I can’t wait to see the sunset over the ocean–something I didn’t get to do this last year. I want to take lots of pictures, sit in the sand, and collect lots of shells and sea glass!

I can’t wait to takes lots and lots of pictures everywhere! I want to take pictures of our family, the island, the food, and the little things that are unique to Okinawa.

I can’t wait to make a few more memories that I will cherish for a lifetime!

When I first moved away, Texas was home. Now, home is wherever my husband, daughter and I are together. Right now it is Okinawa, and I can’t wait to go home.

Easy Gardening, sprouting new seeds

Grow Your Own Salad: It’s Easier Than You Think!

If you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say Kool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck. –Jeff Foxworthy

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again. Even if you think you have an ordinary beige thumb and are destined to kill every plant that comes into your possession, there are some things even you can grow! If you would like to give gardening a try, this is a simple place to start. If you are already a seasoned gardener who invests a great deal of effort every spring and you are aching to get started, this will tie you over until the weather warms. I’m going to show you how to plant a salad box!

This grow box with the very large reservoir is what I like to use for tomatoes and peppers but since I’m between seasons, I’d like to do something with it. Recently this box had a harvest of hot and spicy Jalapeños but alas the plants became leggy and anemic looking as the weather changed and they were spent. Sometimes you can cut the stems, leave them there, and watch them regrow later (in mild climates you can do that); but I would rather start seeds in my windows and have fresh plants in the spring because they will likely be more fruitful. I was reading about crop rotation and there is a more thorough way to do it but for my purposes I’m going to have a short rotation to refresh my soil. If I simply replant peppers in this box over and over, any soil born disease or pests that have begun to take up residence will be encouraged to stay. If, however, I place in this box plants that are from a different plant family, these pests may become disinterested and find another place to go. In India, farmers plant a wide variety of crops close together and they don’t use pesticides. As a result, their plants are not pest free, but the pests don’t have opportunity to have a stronghold. This is what I want. I also get a little bored. So, this why I planted salad ingredients.

By the way, if you don’t have a grow box, don’t let that stop you. You could plant any of these items with a little soil and a container that says Kool Whip on the side! 😉 Just poke holes in the bottom of the container and you’re set; it’s really that easy! But seriously, the grow box does make gardening very easy (http://www.agardenpatch.com/)

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I planted five different things in rows within this grow box. One row of green onions, one row of garlic cloves, one row of Mesclun seeds, one row of Simpsons Elite lettuce seeds, and one row of Arugula seeds. I planted everything about a week and a half ago and here is what it looks like today.

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The Green Onions and Garlic Cloves from my kitchen scraps grew very fast! They are some of the easiest plants I’ve ever grown.
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The Arugula was faster at sprouting than the other two but I see I few tiny sprouts in there.

How to:

The Green Onions were originally bought at the store and we used almost all of the green leaves in our cooking leaving behind just some of the end with the roots. I poked them into the dirt in a row and I was done. I broke off a few cloves from a head of garlic and poked them into the soil in a row with the pointy ends facing up and I was done. For each set of seeds I sprinkled them in a row directly into the soil on the pot and lightly brushed them around that row in the dirt and I was done. The seeds don’t even need to be completely buried because they are so tiny. The furthest you would plant them into the soil would be ¼ of an inch so really no digging is required.

In this chilly but sometimes warm and sunny weather, lettuce grows easily. It’s not hot and it’s not freezing but we still get a little sun so the seeds will sprout quickly and the lettuce won’t get scorched. Just water when the soil looks dry. Usually in cooler weather, the soil stays moist longer so you won’t have to water as often. Another great thing about the lettuce is that you don’t have to wait for it to grow into a head in order to harvest it; baby leaves taste great! The Onions and Garlic should deter spider mites and aphids plus they grow easily and compatibly with the salad greens. The green leaves that sprout above the garlic cloves are also edible and have a mild garlicky taste the way chives have a mild oniony taste. Part of the fun with growing salad is that you can grow varieties that you don’t get at the store. I also find that I’m more likely to eat it when I grow it. It’s much fresher tasting when it comes from my balcony than it is from my fridge. If I forget to water the plant and it dies, it will still have lasted longer than the lettuce in my fridge. Finally, there is no guilt if the plant dies in a few weeks because you know it’s a short growing season and you were able to enjoy a harvest in no time at all. It’s a win, win, win scenario if you ask me!

My final tip? Watch for skinny stems and tiny flowers that may sprout from the plants (lettuce, onions, and garlic). If you want to extend the life of the plant, cut those stems off before the flowers dry. If you want to collect seeds to plant again someday, watch those cute flowers turn into seed heads and gather the seeds before they blow away!

Have you tried growing any salad greens? What have you learned? Do you have any great recipes you’d like to share or feedback on my salad box strategy? Please leave me comments and share your experiences or questions!

Garden to table

Tamales, it’s been too long!

Cooking and gardening involve so many disciplines: math, chemistry, reading, history.

David Chang

As promised, I’m going to show you my homemade tamales made with garden fresh green salsa. I can’t take credit for this recipe; my source is “Simply Mexican” by Lourdes Castro. Let’s get started.

You will need:

A package of corn husks

1 pound of chicken

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 onion

Salt to taste

Salsa verde (Green Tomatillo Salsa) 1 ½ – 2 cups

2 ½ cups masa harina

2 cups of chicken broth, maybe a little bit more as needed

¾ cup solid vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons of salt

A big pot

A mixer

Water

Aluminum Foil

I froze a portion of the salsa I made last time and I made sure the portion was the amount I wanted to use for this recipe (so none would be wasted). I pulled the salsa out to thaw and then began poaching the chicken and hydrating the corn husks.

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I poach the chicken the same way I start a chicken soup. You place the chicken in the pot and just barely cover it with cold water which will make the broth more flavorful. The same principle is followed when adding vegetables. I also placed quartered onions, oregano, and garlic cloves in the water and made sure all the ingredients were just covered with enough water (1/2-1 inch of water above ingredients). If you are using the stove top, you’ll bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 35-45 minutes. If you have plenty of time, you could simmer it for several hours but never bring it to boiling for a more flavorful broth. I personally used a pressure cooker which allows me to skip those technicalities (pressure cooking does wonders) so alternatively I set the pressure on for 20 minutes then let it slow release. After the chicken is cooked through, let it cool in its broth to retain moisture. Then you can shred it with two forks, a kitchen aid stand mixer, or your hands. Reserve the leftover broth for your tamale dough.

Stir the shredded chicken and salsa together making sure you have just enough to coat the chicken (set aside extra chicken if you need to). Set this mixture aside and make your tamale dough by first mixing together the masa and chicken broth; then beat the vegetable shortening separately until it is fluffy. Add a little bit of the masa mixture to the shortening a little at a time until all is incorporated then just add a couple more table spoons of broth and beat for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle baking powder and salt over the dough and mix in.

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Now here comes the fun part (tedious part, the part that reminds me why I only do this at Christmas). You’re going to assemble the tamales. Are you ready?

Set up an assembly line as such:

  1. A bowl of hydrated corn husks
  2. A bowl of tamale dough
  3. A bowl of chicken mixture
  4. Several torn corn husk threads for tying
  5. A bowl or plate for assembled tamales

First take a corn husk and hold it with the narrower pointy end up. Spread tamale dough all over the bottom half of the husk leaving a one inch border on the left and right sides. Put some chicken filling lengthwise down the center of the dough. Pick up the sides of the corn husk and carefully press the edges of dough together. Fold the remaining flaps over to one side, fold the empty top section of the cornhusk on top of that, and tie a thin strip of extra corn husk around the tamale. Once you have assembled all of the tamales, you can create a steamer with the foil, water, and pot. Just make a big ball with the foil, place it in the center of the pot, and add ½ inch of water to the pot. Stand the tamales around the foil ball with the pointy ends up. Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for 40 minutes.

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Your finished tamales should then be ready to enjoy with rice, beans, and perhaps some extra salsa and another favorite Mexican side dish. Mmmmmm, Muy Bueno!

tamales

Uncategorized

Bible Scholars Needed… help from home!

This post was written by a friend of mine and I love what is being done through this organization. Please read this:

Language of the Heart

Today an unprecedented strategy is underway to provide open-licensed resources in dozens of languages for Bible translators worldwide. Open licensing allows anyone, anywhere, unrestricted access and use of these tools to advance Bible translation in their language.

We are working with existing copyright owners in an effort to release existing resources in a way that serves the global Church more effectively. But in the meantime our team is pressing forward to create new resources that will be available to the global Church immediately. Bible Scholars Needed

We are recruiting Christians with seminary training in Hebrew or Greek, Old or New Testament, theology, or hermeneutics to expand our team and speed these resources to Bible translators. We have a particularly immediate need for Old Testament scholars.

This is not an exclusive offer. We are looking for dozens of people willing to collaborate in this effort as part of a decentralized team. Location is not…

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Garden to table

Long Awaited Tomatillo Salsa!

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,”

        says a lot of people.

Yum! I was so excited the day I learned how to make fresh salsa. I especially love the flavor of roasted vegetables. My first salsa was a traditional tomato-based variety in which the ingredients were cooked under the broiler in the oven. I also enjoyed making enchiladas with chicken and the canned green salsas but one day I asked myself, “What would happen if I substituted tomatoes in my salsa recipe for tomatillos?” I’ll tell you what happened! I quit buying canned green salsa!

When we lived stateside, tomatillos were a staple at the local grocery store. We never hesitated to buy bundles of them and whip up fresh salsa every week. We used it in our enchiladas, tacos, as a snack with chips, and eventually I learned how to make tamales with it.

This changed when we moved to Japan.

We have still been able to make red salsa, but the green we have had to live without for nearly two years. Why? Tomatillos are not shipped to the commissary. I tried to grow them; I failed. I tried again this year; I succeeded! Our long wait for fresh tomatillo salsa is about to come to an end; hurray!

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Tomatillos and peppers

Today I will show you how I make my salsa. It can be used immediately or frozen for a later date (which is my plan). I was very happy to be able to use my freshly grown tomatillos, serrano peppers, and purple cayenne peppers today!

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Purple Cayenne and Serrano Peppers–Aren’t they festive?

You will need:

8-10 tomatillos (consider the size)

1 small purple onion

1 green bell pepper

1-4 spicy peppers (to your taste) such as jalapeño, serrano, cayenne, or poblano

2 garlic cloves

¼ cup of chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon cumin (we call it comino)

Optional: salt and pepper or lime juice to taste

Oven broiler or grill

Broiler safe cookware

Instructions: First place tomatillos without their husks into a bowl of water for ½ hour. This will reduce the sticky texture on the outside. You can heat the broiler during this time.

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The removed tomatillo husks would make a great addition to the compost!
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The tomatillos are taking a water bath for approximately 30 minutes.

Next, dice all vegetables into large chunks and discard the cores and stems of the tomatillos and peppers. Place all veggies into the oven safe dish.

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Cut off the stems and make the veggies ready to go straight to the blender after cooking.

Cook under the broiler for approximately 10 minutes until you see some charring on the veggies. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

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Slightly charred and very flavorful, the vegetables are ready to be made into a delicious salsa.

Place all of the cooked veggies and remaining ingredients into a food processor and chop to desired consistency.

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I leave a lot of seeds because we like the heat and the texture, but you can always remove them before adding to the blender if that suits your taste.

Now you can add your salsa to your desired recipe, place in a freezer safe bag for later use, or enjoy it fresh with chips immediately.

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Ready to be used on a later date, the salsa is packed in freezer safe bags with the air squeezed out.

 

Next time, I will write about how I intend to use this salsa—in homemade Christmas Tamales! Joy to this household, a taste of home has come! That makes my heart sing.

How do you use your tomatillos? I would welcome any growing or cooking ideas you have!