Exploding Egg

A mad attempt at patio gardening

Just so you know, I’m so bad at growing plants that I’ve actually killed a philodendron before – a houseplant that is so hearty you almost have to willfully try to put it out of its misery.

Philodendron

Philodendron

Not that I was trying to kill it. These things just sort of happen.

The only things I’ve been consistently good at growing are cats and despite my black thumb, catnip.

My cat, Tao

My cat, Tao

That said, I decided to once again try my hand at growing some vegetables on my patio this year. Poor plants.

This year, though, I’m hopeful – mainly because I actually asked the nice garden gal at Fred Meyer’s for advice and LISTENTED to her.

So we’ll see if this works.

First off, she told me to get bigger pots than I had been. So I guess I wasn’t giving them enough root room in the past.

Then she told me to use any kind of dirt that was on sale, because it didn’t matter. The main thing is the plant food.

Osmocote

Osmocote

This stuff called “Osmocote” – apparently it’s the shizz. And as a bonus – you toss a spoonfull of the stuff on top of the dirt around the plant once, then leave it and it takes care of business for four months.

Then I picked some plants.

First I chose a couple catmint – which is supposed to be like catnip except it hasn’t really passed the sniff test for my cats (Tao and Zoo) so far. But hey, catnip is the only successful thing I’ve grown so far, so what the heck, right?

Second, I asked her the million dollar question: “What can survive me?”

For patio gardening, she said something called “bush vegetables” are key, because they survive container gardening very well. I picked Baby Bush Zucchini and Bush Cucumber.

I also picked a couple types of small tomato plants: Juliet Grape and Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes. She said the smaller tomatoes do just fine in containers and they’ll produce well into October.

And I picked an Italian Roaster Pepper – she said all the pepper plants do well in containers.

And finally I picked a Green Globe Artichoke, which needed a mondo massive pot and won’t produce anything but flowers in the first year, she said. I guess you can grill the flowers, though, and they’re tasty.

The artichoke plant and perhaps the catnip are the only ones that will survive the winter. And next year I should have artichokes growing on that sucker, if by chance it survives.

So, all that done, planted, and set up on my patio now, I figured I’d do a photo section, chronicling their growth (or possibly, their early demise).

Wish me luck, kids! Cheers!
-SueVo

Day 1: 5/4/2013

Day 1

Day 1 (2)

Day 1 (3)

Day 1 (4)

Day 2: 5/5/2013

Day 2 (3)

Day 2 (2)

catnip (old plant transplanted and still alive!)

catnip (old plant transplanted and still alive!)

bush zucchini

bush zucchini

catmint 1

catmint 1

artichoke

artichoke

catmint 2

catmint 2

bush cucumber

bush cucumber

Italian roaster pepper

Italian roaster pepper

Juliet tomato

Juliet tomato

Sweet 100 tomato

Sweet 100 tomato

Day 3: 5/6/2013

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bush zucchini

bush zucchini

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Hmm…. What do you think folks? Should I give them names? Any suggestions?

Day 4: 5/7/2013

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Day 5: 5/8/2013

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Day 6: 5/9/2013

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So I got a little advice this week from a friend. She said watering in the morning is way better than watering at night. Helps keep the plants from getting too sun fried in the daytime.

She also said strawberries do OK on patios and are pretty easy to set up. That might be next!

Day 7: 5/10/2013

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Day 8: 5/11/2013

Added some new friends to the mix today.

Got a strawberry plant, which the gal told me should last for years. Just need to keep it near the house and relatively unfrozen in winter months. They like to vine, so I’m going to try to encourage it to wind around my patio grate.

Also got some herbs. The herbs aren’t as picky about space – the gal (it was the same one as last week) said they’ll grow to whatever size your planter is.

I got another catnip, because my cats have absolutely NO interest in the catmint (although apparently you can make tea with it so it’s not completely useless). I also got peppermint, Italian parsley and basil plants and some kale.

I wanted just one kale, but they only came in five-packs, so now I have five of them growing. Should make for some good salads, at least.

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Day 9: 5/12/2013

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Day 10: 5/13/2013

I’m noticing that my tomato plants are starting to look way bigger than just a week and a half ago. So are the bush plants.

Keep up the good work, little plants!!!

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Day 11: 5/14/2013

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May 5, 2013 Posted by | Plants, Portland | , , , , | 4 Comments

If you ever wondered if I was certifiably insane…

Here is some proof that I am. Today, in honor of Thomas Gibson responding to me on Twitter, I have sacrificed six eggs. Check out the full goofy effect here – and check the last few seconds for a laugh:

The aftermath is here:

Chief Straus and the unsubs

The Fox, The Reaper and the other unsubs

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Criminal Minds, Portland, Science | , , | 5 Comments

Portland Goes Soccer Happy

Oh yes, soccer fans in the United States are growing in number.

Check out this dude — he’s watching Germany play Australia this morning at my neighbor’s house, and for halftime he’s jumping around at the traffic intersection yelling Go Germany!

World Cup fever hits Portland

Love it.

June 13, 2010 Posted by | Portland | 2 Comments

Portland: A Whole New Kind of Weird

As I strolled out of Fred Meyer yesterday, I came across yet another object of profound weirdness that made me pause, take out the camera and ponder.

Bikin' on the highway... heavy metal thunder... er, maybe not on this thing...

A little too big for the bike rack? I think so...

Portland is, perhaps, the capital city for weirdness in the U.S. — and things like this seem a lot more common here than in other places I’ve visited.

That’s something you just have to love about this rainy green land.

As I approached this particular odd looking contraption, I also noticed a stack of business cards with a note that said “take one” — so I did.

This thing is a “omah garsh freakbike,” according to its owner, Robert Stapleton, who has a blog about them called omah garsh freakbike fanatasy.

Looks like the dude is even going to teach a class on June 21 (ahem, which is Ray Davies birthday, for those of you not in the know) about how to build your own freakbike.

These things are part art, part recycling and part just plain odd. I don’t think I’d personally ride one, but you have to appreciate them — they are pretty damned cool.

He also sells several types of freakbikes, and has trykipeds, three wheeled inline bikes that appear to be made of recycled BMX parts, advertised for $100 each.

On his site, he also notes that “I don’t like MEAN people and cars that hit me when I’m ridin’ my bike!”

I hear ya, buddy, although at least you’re pretty noticeable on those things.

Go check out his site. It’s a trip.

Cheers,
-SueVo

May 21, 2010 Posted by | Portland | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Portland: Salvadore Molly’s — A Hunk O Burnin’ Stomach

Over the weekend a few friends and I decided to check out Salvadore Molly’s, a restaurant that’s made its mark on more than a few well-known foodie radars.

My friend, Ria — who I discovered has a stomach made of an iron far stronger than my own — noted to me as we ordered that “This place knows hot. It’s not weak northwestern hot. It knows hot like Albuquerque knows hot.”

Molly’s is probably most famous for its Great Balls of Fire habanero cheese fritters:

Great Balls of Fire: Tread lightly, and carry a big bag of tortilla chips when you attack these puppies.

Of course, both of us having spent quality time in New Mexico, we had to order them.

And yup. They’re hot. Tasty, in a mouth-searing sort of way, but definitely hot.

The balls aren’t even the hottest part — it’s the sauce. Ria actually drenched one of the things in sauce and munched it on down. Me, I had a few tears in my eye after only a tiny bit of sauce on mine.

Adam Richman from Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel ate five of these things once for his show, surviving the food challenge to get on Molly’s wall of fame. Here’s a clip of that from YouTube:

I think one of them was plenty for me. It was good and all, but lets just say the Balls of Fire are also very good at cleaning your pipes for some time after the meal.

I will give you a little tip from New Mexico on how to fight the searing mouth problem, though. Water doesn’t help. Eat tortilla chips, or something bready. It takes the sting away much more effectively.

Balls of Fire aside, the dish I thought was really good was the Louisiana King Jambalaya. You can tell your server on a scale of one to 10 how hot you want them to make your food. I said “somewhere in the middle” and ended up with a dish that, for me, had a perfect amount of zing.

Louisiana King Jambalaya -- yum

The shrimp, chicken and smoked sausage mixed great with the veggies, rice and spices to make this just wonderful. I’d certainly mow one of them down again.

Another friend — they were camera shy, by the way — got the vegetarian Barbados Mac Pie, which is Molly’s take on Mac and Cheese. It has fire-roasted tomato in it and is baked in a banana leaf.

I didn’t try it, but it looked great.

Barbados Mac Pie

We ate out on Molly’s patio, which was great on a warm sunny Spring day. The restaurant atmosphere is pretty low key, and the margaritas looked awfully tempting, although I didn’t surrender to my desire to drink one.

The next time I find myself hankering for some heat, I’ll be back to this joint. I’d recommend it for some unique and tasty food choices.

Cheers,
-SueVo

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Portland | , , | 5 Comments

Portland: Mmmmmm Doughnuts…

OK, so eating doughnuts when trying to lose weight is at best, well, counterproductive. But how can you resist when Portland has so many wonderful and creative doughnut shops?

Unfortunately, my first attempt to bask in the glow of local doughnuts was thwarted when, after finding Voodoo Doughnut Too — part of the doughnut store that made cereal and voodoo doll doughnuts famous — I realized that I had no cash on me and that the store’s ATM was out of bills.

Rather than finding an ATM and driving back, though, I decided to head home — because at least I figured out where the store is. I’ll be back soon.

In the meantime, though, I headed over to a store that takes debit and credit cards and makes a few interesting and creative doughnut types of its own.

I speak, of course, of Acme Donuts, famed for its peanut butter and jelly doughnut — among other strange varieties.

Acme Donuts on Powell

I’ve eaten their doughnuts before on various trips to Portland, but I haven’t been back since I moved into the neighborhood a few weeks ago.

I have to say, their version of my doughnut heaven could very well be this thing:

An Orange and Bits doughnut from Acme

It might not be the most symmetrical of doughnuts — not that that’s a requirement for tastiness — but the chunks of orange and what might have been pineapple drizzled all over the thing are just drool-inducingly good.

I actually brought back seven different doughnuts, the store’s version of the baker’s half-dozen. But I’m trying to restrain myself so, other than taking a bite of the PBJ doughnut, the rest are still intact and sitting on my kitchen counter.

I did, at least, walk over there. And I spent this morning putting a desk together, so hopefully I worked some of the calories off.

Maybe I should go eat more of that PBJ doughnut, or try one of the other ones. The Cara-Maple doughnut also looked really hard to pass up. You can’t go wrong with caramel and maple.

Doughnuts on display at Acme Donuts

More doughnuts on display at Acme Donuts

And even more doughnuts on Acme's shelves

Then again, maybe I should wait a little bit first — where one doughnut goes, others are sure to follow.

The store also has a few varieties of vegan doughnuts — but watch out. We already know that vegan tagging gangs roam the streets here in Portland. Then again, maybe ordering a vegan doughnut could save your life.

Yup, this town has vegan taggers. Beware!

My advice, if you find yourself on southeast Powell with a hankering for Homer Simpson’s favorite snack, check out Acme. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of ways to work off the calories later.

So many doughnuts, so little time

Cheers,
-SueVo

Update: After trying several doughnut types, most of which were wonderfully tasty, I have to say that the store’s jelly just really isn’t for me. The jelly (that’s jam for you across the pond) isn’t at all sweet and tastes sort of bland. It’s not too overwhelming in the PBJ doughnut, where the peanut butter masks it, but in a pure jelly doughnut, well, it really did nothing for me.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Portland | , , | 2 Comments

Oregon: A Trip To Lincoln City Beach

I’ve always been an ocean worshiper. There’s something about that vast expanse of water and waves that just feels, on an almost elemental level, like home to me.

Perhaps that’s because millions of years ago, our distant ancestors first evolved there and only later crawled up on land. Perhaps that’s because for ancient humans, the ocean always meant an abundant food source was nearby.

Or perhaps that’s just because the ocean is, well, cool.

Waves hit mussel-covered rocks on the Oregon shore

Since college I’ve done this sort of goofy thing, paying respect to that elemental force, by pouring libation to Poseidon whenever I get to the coast.

And that grounding energy that comes from the ocean is part of the reason I moved here.

Several years ago, I got a reward back from Poseidon for my respect to that force.

I was in San Diego, covering a conference, and I sneaked out onto some rocks in the harbor by the city to give Poseidon his due — a little red wine. Visitors aren’t supposed to go out on those rocks, but I couldn’t reach the water without risking it.

As I poured the wine and looked around, I suddenly noticed hundreds of brightly colored crabs surrounding me — they had crawled up on the rocks and were just everywhere.

It was so fundamentally cool, sort of like the ocean recognized my worship of it and encouraged me to continue.

Water creeps up on shore between rocks at Lincoln City Beach

Flash forward 12 or so years, and I’m still pouring libation.

Do I think Poseidon is a real guy that’s going to bless me or something? Probably not. But I do believe in paying respect to the idea of him, or to whatever it is that the water brings out in me.

Sunday was my first beach trip since I moved to Portland about two weeks ago. My friend Leo, his wife Korie and their son Max were nice enough to bring me with them to one of their favorite spots, Lincoln City Beach.

It’s a rocky beach, great for agate hunting and for finding interesting creatures in tide pools. Walk a little bit in either direction, and you get back to normal sand without much rock.

But the rocks are a great attraction — teeming with all sorts of life, including this crab that ended up being quite the unwilling tourist attraction for the day:

Leo holds up his new friend

Being the sarcastic carnivore that I am, I couldn’t help but look at this guy and think about eating him for dinner — perhaps with some of the mussels that covered the nearby rocks.

Mussel coated rocks at Lincoln City Beach

Should I feel bad about seeing these wonders of nature and thinking they’d be tasty? I don’t really. I eat things like them all the time. It just brings home the reality that we, most of us anyway, have to kill other animals so that we can live healthy lives.

It was also great fun to watch 5-year-old Max playing in the waves — doing what kids do best: Enjoying the day with a completely Zen-like ecstasy:

It was an unusually sunny day, which kept the sand warm so that after playing in the freezing water Max could be properly insulated by his Mom:

Korie tucked Max into a blanket of sand

The other cool thing about this beach is that you can drive right up onto the shore with all your beach equipment.

Visitors park on the sand at Lincoln City Beach

Of course, it’s a pretty steep ride and you risk getting stuck if you come down in the wrong vehicle.

But watching people do that is part of the mischievous fun of this particular beach.

This guy looks like he's just asking for trouble

Fortunately the beach-goes are also pretty friendly and known to help the inevitable few that do get stuck in the sand.

So, with the salt air in my lungs and my body still tired — but in a good exercise kind of way — I have to say it was a just a wonderful day.

I’ll leave you with my favorite shot of Max and one last video of watching the waves. But don’t worry, there will be plenty more beach trips to come. I promise.

Max, checking out a tide pool

Cheers,
-SueVo

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Musings, Portland | , , | 4 Comments

Portland: A Trip To The Farmers Market

Today I ventured out at some Godless hour of the morning to go to the Portland Farmers Market at PSU (Portland State University), my first trip ever to a Farmers Market of any sort.

Charlie, my not-so-native native guide (we’re both from the same Massachusetts hometown), brought me there as part of my Portland initiation. And this looks like another experience I’d like to repeat.

Stalls full of locally grown produce, like these snap peas, await visitors to the Farmers Market

There's also a host of pear and apple varieties

The market only takes cash, something I didn’t quite realize before we left. But fortunately I had enough for some coffee and to pick up a catnip plant for my kitties, some homegrown spinach, radishes and — well, while I probably shouldn’t have spent the money, on some fresh caught steamer clams.

The clams will meet their firey death this evening, poor guys.

But don’t tell the vegans. They appear to have gangs roaming around the streets, tagging things with graffiti.

Vegans mark their turf -- watch out for them

Now I’ve seen my share of nasty, swear-filled gang tags, but running across a Portland parking meter tagged with “Vegan” — well that really cracked me up this morning.

Man I love this town.

The market also has lots of fish, meat and locally made cheese — I tried and bought some Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Chive and Smoked Pepper Farmstead Eola Jack, which was just too good to pass up.

My crack dealer... er... I mean my steamer clam dealer

And I discovered a vinegar producer (Blossom Vinegars) — which had a really nice honey vinegar that’s their take on Balsamic Vinegar.

The food stalls were pretty good too. Charlie and I had some very tasty breakfast burritos from one of them.

There’s also another very cool aspect of downtown — protected biker lanes, which you can use to travel to and from the market.

We took Charlie’s eco-friendly car this morning. But as we parked in what seemed like the middle of the street he told me it’s a new thing done by the city — the parking leaves a strip for bikers to use that is protected from moving traffic.

Protected biking. Who knew?

I took my bike out for a spin yesterday and noticed that this really is a very bike friendly town. The cars actually stop and look out for you — which is good because at one point I wasn’t paying attention yesterday and could have been run over.

There are streets across the city designated as bike highways. And signs that point out places where only cyclists may enter.

I need to get in shape still, and build up my stamina, but with a town so inviting I can’t wait to get out and ride some more.

What’s next? Stay tuned.

I hope there’s a beach in my near future.

Cheers,
-SueVo

May 8, 2010 Posted by | Portland | , , , , | 4 Comments

Portland: A Trip To The Tao Of Tea

When the man who forced you to stop “defiling your coffee with sugar” at the tender age of 19 then tells you, at age 40, that you WILL go to a tea house with him and write about it, well, there’s just no way you can refuse.

So it was yesterday when my old friend, Charlie, dragged me out for a trip to the Tao of Tea, which claims to be “Portland’s oldest tea house,” established in 1997.

If this guy insisted that you drink tea with him, would you refuse?

We Bostonians knew about tea well before 1997 — in fact we had a habit of throwing it into the harbor back in the 1700s. But being a stranger in these green lush lands, I’ll take the tea house at its word, for now.

While it was built in 1997, the Tao of Tea actually has the feel of a much older, more Far East abode. The walls are made of “black bamboo, old reclaimed wood, copper and stone,” the store’s Web site says. And the place is decorated with old tea pots and equipment that appear to date well before the Portland tea revolution of 1997.

Inside the Tao of Tea

The place has a rock fountain in the corner and smells of old wood and incense. It almost feels like your walking aboard a ship used to carry tea across the Pacific or Atlantic in the 1800s.

The fountain is a nice addition to the woody feel of this place

Charlie and I got the 100 percent organic Red Bush Chai, which is “a caffeine free blend of South African Rooibos and uplifting spices,” the company’s Web site says.

I’m usually more one for a big jolt of caffeinated goodness, but it was the evening, and the vitamin C from the Rooibos struck me as a good idea.

They bring the tea in pots and, for the Chai, you can have it with whole milk, rice milk or soy milk. Lacking an option for 2 percent milk, I went for soy and Charlie went with rice.

The rice milk Chai was a bit sweeter than the soy, and the soy milk was a little thicker than the rice. Both were very tasty and went well with this weird pizza-looking thing that Charlie ordered.

Not quite a pizza, this wheat bread was topped with honey, dried cranberries and shaved coconut

The pizza thing — which was a sweet bread with fruit and honey on top — seemed like a good evening before-bed snack for the health food conscious types that are so prevalent in this town.

A glam, close-up shot of the pizza thing

The original Tao of Tea store, located at 3430 Southeast Belmont Street, also has a wholesale facility next door, with a wide variety of tea for sale in those big metal urns. It was closed last night, but I have a feeling I’ll be back soon to check it out when it’s open.

Charlie said he plans to drag me along to some other interesting Portland sites soon, and I have my camera and pen at the ready so I can share them with you.

Until then,
Cheers,
-SueVo

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Portland | , , , | 2 Comments

Burgerville: Beefy Goodness

Today I’m waiting for an appointment to finish up the sale of my Albuquerque house so that I can get on with the rest of my life.

While waiting, I took a stroll down to the mecca of all Portland burger chains: Burgerville.

My local Burgerville, amidst green things that I think are referred to as 'trees'

The restaurants, which populate Oregon and Washington, are fast food but also very local, almost good-for-you fast food.

The burger I had today was 100 percent Oregon vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free beef. The bun was lightly toasty on the inside. The veggies fresh without a hint of the typical McDonalds wilt.

Yum

This place is all about sustainable, local food, which you can easily tell from the taste.

Beyond that, Burgerville is also into recycling and generally keeping as much evil as possible at bay:

This is not something you'd generally see when leaving a restaurant in New Mexico

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of evil to be had down the street. Rumor has it Portland has the most strip clubs per capita of any American city.

You can even have beef with your strip club:

Hot girls and steak, eh?

For my part, though, I think I’ll stick with Burgerville.

Cheers,
-SueVo

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Portland | , , | 2 Comments