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flora corner

I grew up in a small community off of Flora Corner Road. When giving directions to my house, you had to start with “know where the Wonder Bread is? Turn there onto the road with the cows.” Well, the Wonder Bread distributor apparently closed this month and the cows have been gone for many years. The cow fields have laid grown corn or soybeans since the cows left, and  the fields across the street have always grown corn. Ever since the cows left, I’ve always wanted to walk around that area, just to see what’s there. The houses on the road are, with very few exceptions, all older and smaller and with larger properties. Most of the people on the road have some sort of summer vegetable garden, and one of the farmers on the road grows a large crop of sunflowers that’s just gorgeous for a few weeks every summer. Another always has an interesting crop of scarecrows.

My parents still live in the house I grew up in, so I still drive down that road all the time. There are 3 new, smaller developments right at the end of the road my parents live on. But they’re not an eyesore. The homes are larger and they are in a wooded area with a decent amount of land per house.

flora corner

Now, a developer has started building homes in the spot that used to be a cow pasture. The one home that is almost complete is large and gorgeous and on a hill where a barn used to be. I’d love to live there, with 5 or 6 homes as neighbors and a few acres to call my own. But the developer wants to built more homes there. How many more? 100 buildings, equaling 1,700 more residences (including, presumably, townhomes etc). Yes. One thousand seven hundred residences on what is currently 384.5 acres of beautiful old farmland (that could, incidentally, still be used as farmland).

Our County Commissioners are set to designate this land for rural preservation, but if they don’t do it before the builders start building, then the builders win. They can build their 1,700 residences. I’m sort of horrified. But I’m also thrilled that the community has come together to fight back. Lots of residents showed up at the zoning meeting, my parents have been passing out flyers and petitions, and someone in the community started http://savefloracorner.com/ (saw the sign for the site when I was driving by last week.)

flora corner

St. Mary’s County is considered rural, but even now I have a hard time describing it as such. We have a Naval Air Base (PAX) at the southern end of the county, and that accounts for some growth. But slowly over the past few years, I’ve seen numerous stately old farm homes (that I’d always wanted to poke around in) torn down, and numerous corn fields turn into developments where homes 4x the size of mine stand on a piece of property 1/4 the size of mine. We are a waterman’s and farmer’s county – turn down many of our side roads and you will eventually end up at the river or a tributary after passing lots of corn and soybean fields (maybe even a few lone tobacco fields). I’d really like to keep it that way. We’re a Chesapeake watershed community.

flora corner

My husband and I desperately want to buy a few acres, secluded a little on some old farmland or cleared woods, so that in 15 years or so (depressing it will take that long…but that’s a different story) when we can afford to move out of our apartment-sized house and build our dream home, we have a beautiful spot to do so. Several of the places I’ve thought would be a gorgeous spot for a house or two over the years now sport about 50 homes. It’s crazy, it’s ugly, and I hate it. One of the developers that most frequently does this is actually the one that a BFF’s parents work for, so they will remain nameless. But I hate that these companies – may of them local – look only at profits and build McMansion communities instead of building a few nice homes for a few nice families in the same spot. Of course equally to blame are the cash-strapped farmers who sell to the developers instead of doing it the hard way and dividing up their property so people like me can afford it and buy for the future.

I know I have few readers who are local to me, but many of you can probably sympathize with the situation. I’m sure this is not the only area where this is happening. If you support keeping your hometown rural, I’d really appreciate it if you could take a minute and send the pre-written sample letter to the Board of County Commissioners asking them to keep my hometown rural, too. Let me know if you do – I may be able to send out some personal “thank you gifts.”

flora corner

Maybe the scarecrows will help scare them away. (I didn’t get a photo of the one he always does with a bent traffic cone that looks like a witch hat in my drive-by-shooting.)

scarecrows

[There are more barns, but I didn’t want to go behind the padlocked gate to get closer to them for photos – at least not today. They already took down one silo closer to the road a few years back.]

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egg rollsPeople are often confused when I say I’m making egg rolls for dinner, but ever since I found these little egg roll wraps, I’m addicted. This egg roll recipe I made up is SO easy it’s insane. So if you find the wraps, give it a try! I’ve only been able to find the wraps at my local grocery store chain and not at WalMart, so I’m not sure how widely available are. I use the Nasoya egg roll wraps. They’re refrigerated, and my grocery store actually keeps them in the produce section near the tofu. Any ingredients below that look/sound funny are probably available in the Asian ethnic foods aisle of your grocery store.

INGREDIENTS:
-Asian 5-spice powder
-Asian sweet chili sauce
-soy sauce (I use light for less sodium)
-one bag of pre-cut/pre-mixed coleslaw mix (found with the bagged salads)
-egg roll wrappers
-large, deep skillet for pan frying
-oil for pan frying (I use vegetable oil with a touch of sesame oil)
-duck sauce, hot mustard, or whatever you want to serve them with.

START THE OIL
Put enough oil in the pan to go up about halfway on the eggroll (or you can deep fry if you want, but that’s a pain to me) and turn the oil on medium heat. If you have a frying splatter guard, you’ll want that out.

MIX THE FILLING
Using as much if the coleslaw mix as you want (depending on how many egg rolls you’re making!), dump it in a big bowl. Add a pinch of the 5-spice (not too much or it will overpower and taste like crap. A teaspoon would be almost too much if you’re using the whole bag of coleslaw, so use that as a guide). Add about a tablespoon of the sweet chili sauce (adjust for amount of coleslaw) and a small splash of soy sauce. You can let the mix sit for a few minutes if you want, but I usually don’t. You don’t want it to be watery, but you can of course drain or squeeze it out before putting in the wrappers if it’s too liquidy.
*You can also add pre-cooked shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or whatever else to the coleslaw mix at this point. It needs to be pre-cooked, though, because the eggrolls will only fry for a minute or so!
eggroll filling

MAKE THE EGGROLLS
The eggroll wrappers are small, so don’t overstuff them if you don’t want to make a mess while frying. A decent pinch of the filling will do. My eggroll package has instructions, but wrap them up like so:
*Note: If you want them to be thicker or the insides to be chewy (I sometimes like that chewy second layer), then double up on wrappers.

1. Put a small amount of filling on a wrapper.


2. Roll one end up over the filling and tuck it under a little.


How to roll an eggroll

3. Fold in both sides so it looks like an envelope.


home-made eggrolls

4. Continue rolling towards remaining unfolded edge. Last edge will stay in place once fried crispy.

FRY THOSE BAD BOYS
Make sure the oil is ready by dropping a tiny piece of wrapper in and seeing if it fries. You want it to fry quickly, otherwise it will just soak up oil and be nasty. If the oil is ready, use a pair of tongs and place a couple egg rolls in the oil. IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG for them to fry. I’m talking like less than a minute. Once the one side is a nice golden brown, flip it over. Note that it takes less time the longer that oil is on there. Once both sides of the egg rolls are done, move them to a drying rack or some paper towels and put in the next batch.
eggrolls
eggrolls

That’s it! Seriously! Just writing this blog post made me want some like NOW. I usually serve them with some simple stir-fry (HINT: you can use ramen noodles as the noodles!). If your work has a toaster oven, it’s a great re-heat for the next day at work – I always make extras for that purpose. I usually try to hoard away a thing of Chick-fil-a Polynesian sauce to dip them in at work.

egg rolls

YUM.

If your store has wonton noodles, you can also make some quick crab rangoon: mix cream cheese, 5-spice, and imitation crab, fill wontons, fold however you like, quickly fry.

Let me know if you try it! I should have taken a pic of the inside of one, but I didn’t think about it. I’ve passed this recipe on to a couple people already who have been amazed at how easy and delicious it is. Impress your friends and make them think you slaved over the eggrolls. They’ll never know. I won’t tell. I promise.

Happy Birthday to my mom! I love you, Mom! ❤

mom baby pic

Tommy, Mom Mom, my mom, Pop Pop, Teeny, Sue Sue

My mom’s only baby pic..minus one sibling (Sparky, the youngest).

mom and dad

My parents this past Christmas. Doesn't she look like HER mom?

She’s still pretty adorable, no? I, personally, think she should break the below look back out, though! 🙂

1973

1973 - the year my parents got married

Love you, mom!

I recently read some gardening books. Unfortunately, I didn’t love any of them! Oh well. But I at least finished 2 of them. Here are my reviews.

farm cityFarm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Got this book from the ‘free basket’ at work. I don’t think we published it on audio. 4.0 out of 5 stars MY REVIEW: This isn’t a bad book, but it’s not quite what I thought it would be. While the author, Novella, does discuss vegetable gardening, the focus really becomes the ANIMALS she raises on the small empty lot behind her rented apartment in the run-down city of Oakland, CA. That’s all fine and dandy, but since she’s raising them for food, it’s a little…depressing?

Now I am a ‘mostly vegetarian,’ so there’s that factor. And I get the whole ‘I raised the animals myself so they had a better life prior to dying’ deal. But a lot of times I feel like people are just trying to convince themselves in that case. And still, Novella is looking at bunnies and ducks and pigs and thinking how cute they are and how happy they are and how DELICIOUS they will be all in the same breath. I get that meat comes from somewhere and blah blah blah, but it’s kinda disturbing to me. I read the passages where she kills the animals and I’m fine with it, but it still just seems gross.

I don’t think I could be friends with Novella, even though I DO admire what she does and think it’s really cool. She’s got that kind of self-righteous thing going on that you probably have to have to raise 200 pound pigs in a small city lot. And she kind of admits it and all, but in a way that makes me think we would never get along. Which is fine. Just saying.

So anyway – it’s a good book for what it is, but I thought I was going to be reading more about veggie gardening and general garden experiences – the animal raising, dreaming about eating of, and butchering takes up probably 90% of the book. The veggies (and beehive, even) are really incidental.

The Town that Food Saved
Got this one from being a member of Amazon Vine. I love Amazon Vine! My mail lady probably hates it. MY REVIEW:
2.0 out of 5 stars – I really TRIED to like this book. I think I’m the target demographic: I garden, I am increasing my garden space, I have shelves of seeds in a room in my house right now, I have been a CSA member, I support local food. But I couldn’t get past about 50 pages of this book.

First of all, the whole beginning seems to be justifying why the book exists, ie why local is better. If you’re picking up the book at all, you probably already agree, so I found myself skimming along for that part, saying ‘blah blah ok let’s get to the story’.

Then when the story started, I just didn’t care. I mean I guess I kind of knew that the story would be about the local farmers etc, but that’s kinda ALL it’s about. The author, who started the book after writing an article on the town (NY Times, I think? Or something similar), just kinda goes from farmer to farmer and explains what they do and why and how – but NOT in a way that makes me care at all.

For example – for the first 50 pages that I read, EVERY TIME he mentions his one main guy, he also mentions the name of the organic seed business he owns. Every time! Very annoying. I flipped through the rest of the book – one guy does greens, one couple slaughters animals…I get it, but I’m not interested in these people enough to read it. I get that it’s nonfiction, but you’ve still got to make it interesting. One reviewer I think got it by saying that it’s more like a literal retelling of events than a story.

Kind of a shame, because I feel with a different writing style this book could have been enjoyable. As it stands, I’d recommend you just read the article or some googling or something if you’re interested in finding out about how this town’s local food movement took off.

$64 tomatoThe $64 Tomato
Bought this one a while back from the bargain bin shelves at the local college. 4.0 out of 5 stars – MY REVIEW: I am a gardener. I’d LOVE to have acres to garden, but I don’t. I have a small yard. This guy gets a big giant fixer upper house and eventually puts in a garden. And we hear about him tending it. Here are my only problems….

He pays for some lady to design the garden. WHY? Build raised beds. Done. To me, a serious gardener would this on their own. Granted, he DOES do a lot on his own, but throughout the book it seems like he wants someone else to do the hard bit of starting things for him. And for some reason that irks me! Part of being a gardener is doing the hard part, too!

In the end, I did enjoy the book, but I often found myself saying “you’re calling someone else and you call yourself a real gardener?!”. I mean really – he hires someone to cut his grass!


If you read any of these, I’d love to hear your opinions!

I was in Michaels over the weekend picking up a picture frame and some random stuff, when I realized that if I stuck around for a bit longer, I’d get to use a coupon for 25% off all items that started at 4PM. That worked out better than my 40% off one regular price item coupon, since the only regular price item I had was like under $5. So I browsed around a bit longer and ended up over at the jewelry section, where I found a bunch of adorable silver-plated charms. They were only $1.99, so I figured I’d get one. Well, I ended up with three – a watering can, a rake and shovel, and a flower in a pot.

I thought it’d be cute to wear them together but didn’t want them just on a chain, so I picked up a packet of large split jump rings and also a packet of smaller mixed-size (non-split) jump rings (I needed those anyway for a few charms). I kind of love the results. I added it to one of many silver chains I already have and wore it today (I showed it off on twitter this AM). Not too shabby for about $10 worth of materials, half of which can be used for many, many other necklaces and charms, too!

Here’s how it turned out (close-up and far away for size reference, or check the twitpic linked above for medium-range):

gardening necklace - closeup
garden necklace - view

I’d love to get into jewelry-making more. I love doing stuff like that and come up with (I think) good ideas a lot, but I just don’t really have space to keep stuff or work on it, so I’m reluctant to buy tools. I guess at least I can do that at any time though, unlike all my mosaic stuff which is really a warm-weather activity only. Any readers do any jewelry-making?

My hubby has to work tonight (sadface), so I’m writing this quick post as he gets ready for work. Most of our xmases are done – we just have to figure out when we’re going to do xmas with hubby’s parents.

We decided to stay small for xmas this year. We’re going to take a weekend trip somewhere in lieu of big gifts. I got hubby a “player” Tiger Woods tee he wanted (ha), a nice display case for his signed Cal Ripken bat and ball, The Hangover to play on our new Blu-Ray, and a University of Maryland decal for his truck that’s the same as his UMD tattoo. He got me a garden cart (since the small shed is *garden only* now and I have room for such luxuries!), a sterling key necklace that looks like one of the fancy Tiffany ones, a sterling and jade turtle necklace (we are both Terps!), and a nice pair of the red Ethel gloves I wanted (yay Amazon wish list!).

This was taken last Sunday, but it is still a white xmas! Enough snow still that the ground is totally covered.


Family photo 2009


If we did Christmas cards, this would totally be the winner for next year.


my Mom Moms xmas ornaments. Also a rescue xmas cactus my mom got me from Lowes.


I got a garden cart!

Why don’t wordpress captions like apostrophes?? Anyway – I hope everyone had a great day today, Christmas or no!

I’m a grinch. I get grumpy at Christmas. I hate (*hate!*) Christmas music. We put out outside lights (I enjoy doing that because my parents never really did when I was growing up), but we are *not* putting up a tree (Edit 2009/12/09 – ok, so we put up a TINY one – see pics). But here’s the thing: I actually like Christmas. Christmas eve and Christmas day. We used to go to my grandmother’s house on Christmas eve, then a lot of the family would come to my parents’ house on Christmas day in the evening. There was good food, family, and a lot of pitch.

And I hate to be one of those people that says “It’s the *commercialism* of it all—but really it is. Well that’s part of it. Christmas is almost concurrent with Halloween. Skeletons and witch hats are just in front of the plastic Santas. Having worked in retail for a few years did not help. Christmastime is just horrible, and the weeks following are just as bad (returns and people who are mean about them). I celebrate Christmas secularly (which, let’s me honest, most of us do), and it always rubbed me the wrong way when you could tell people went out of their way to say “Merry Christmas” instead of Happy Holidays or whatever. I celebrate it, too, but you can tell when someone is a “war on Christmas” type and feels that it’s their duty to spread Christmas cheer whether you like it or not. While, you know, buying 6 pairs of jeans for their whining granddaughter.

Plus, do people ask in February if you’ve started doing you Easter shopping? In August if you’re ready for Halloween? I like the Christmas holiday, I don’t like the Christmas *season*. It’s just too much. Everywhere you go the generic adult contemporary has been changed to Christmas music. I have to hear “Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire” while filling up my tank (and really, how many Christmas songs are there? I feel like there are about 15 with 7,593 versions of each – the worst is that one by the Waitresses). There’s garland in the grocery store, and again the clerks say “Merry Christmas!” when I buy my milk (What if I was Jewish? Would I be offended? It IS rather presumptuous.) It’s just. too. much.

So this year hubby and I decided no tree. We’re only really going to do stockings for each other anyway. We buy what we want, and we’d rather save up for a trip early next year (when I will *hopefully* have an extra week of leave for my 5th year with my employer). I enjoy buying gifts for those I can buy gifts for: my parents, for example. I like getting people things I think they’ll like. But when you feel like you have to have “enough” for someone or spend a certain amount, it gets tedious and just seems to be missing the point (fwiw, all of my shopping so far has been done online). We’ve had real trees since we moved in. Our house is very small, and though we now have a shed to store a fake one in, it’s still space better used elsewhere. A big tree in our living room just gets obnoxious quickly, and a small one seems pointless. The first year the tree was lovely, but last year it browned quickly and I think every single needle fell out before I got it out the door after the holiday.

So, grinchiness aside, let’s take a look at current and past Christmases at the jennahsgarden household.

It’s that time of year when posts will be fewer and farer betweener. Yesterday we had a lovely typical Southern Maryland mix of cold rain, sleet, and snow – just enough to ruin plans to go to Bethesda for a friend’s housewarming party (it was snowing a lot more up there). It usually doesn’t get quite this cold quite this early here, but oh well. I emptied out the few remaining ceramic pots I had out and put them in the *now garden-only!* shed.

Today we pretty much finished the whole shed deal! I don’t think I’ve posted a pic of it yet – still have to do that. But hubby and I went through everything in the AM and grouped like things together, and then I made a BIG list of things to post to Freecycle. Whatever was not taken we’d take and donate somewhere. Well everything was taken!! Almost everything – I still have 2 small outstanding posts, but see this pile below here? ALL of it has been taken or will be taken tomorrow AM – plus 4 large lawn and leaf bags full of men’s clothes that were picked up before I thought to take a pic! And hubby didn’t have to take a darn thing!

freecycled!

How great is that? Everything from comforters to poker chips. I highly encourage you to check out your local freecycle or start one if there isn’t one. The goal is to keep things out of landfills and give people an easy way to reuse things. I still have not ever taken anything from freecycle (have seen and missed some good things though, and currently there are a lot of plants listed because people can’t take them indoors for the winter), but I have given away:
1. a riding lawnmower that didn’t work any more (engine problem)
2. a pile of scrap wood
3. lots of misc old sheets and towels
4. old clothing
5. old comforters
6. old kitchen stuff

…and lots more! Not only am I keeping stuff from the landfill, but finding someone else who can use it. And the fact that they pick it up makes it SO easy! Who knows how long that stuff would have been sitting in the shed if we had to find somewhere to take it ourselves. One person who took a few things even said that since she was going to Habitat for Humanity tomorrow, she can take whatever other random stuff I have left and donate it to them for me with her stuff – YES! Awesome! There were a few more boxes of random stuff I left for her with a big “thank you.” The lady who took the 4 large bags of men’s clothes told me that her nephew from Florida was unexpectedly going to be staying with them for a while, and he came with only shorts and flip flops packed, plus her hubby is the same size. A batch of the home-related stuff went to someone who just moved and didn’t have a lot to start out with. I gave some wedding gift bags and photo albums to someone last week who said her sister is getting married soon.

How does it work? Each chapter has its own guidelines, but for my local one all you do is pick to put up a new post and make the subject “OFFER: item desc, location” then type a brief description in the body of the email. You can post a list of items as well and indicate that in the title (I chose to do all my separately which was a bit of a clusterfark organization-wise for me, but I never look at the lists myself so I wanted other people to see all my stuff individually). People look at the freecycle posts and send you an email via the post – you can take first come first serve, fastest pickup, etc. At this time you can give the person your address and directions and any pickup instructions (after a certain time, will be on the deck, need to knock and ask for help, etc). After that you generally want to post a “PPU: item, location” post that tells everyone the item is pending pickup and you will move down the list if that person is a no show. Once it is taken, either you or the taker will should post a “TAKEN: item, location” post so everyone knows its gone (though you will likely still get a few take offers from people who haven’t seen it yet).

Most freecycles will also have days where you can post a “WANTED” listing. There are special rules about this, but the general idea is basically the same. Right now waiting on the deck I have a box of juniors’ size clothes that are for a woman who placed a wanted for winter clothes for her daughter last week. I just responded and said I knew I had some and would get back to her when I had a chance to go through them and pack them up for her, so we’ve been in contact all week and she should pick them up tomorrow or Tuesday.

And if it seems like a ton of messages, don’t worry. I just set up a rule in my email that all posts from my local freecycle posting address will go to a special freecycle folder (be careful – you don’t want all freecycle posts to go there, or you may miss people replying to your posts) – then I don’t look at it unless I want to!

You really can get everything on freecycle – as long as the offer is *free,* you can list it! There are plenty of kitties that need a good home, people who cut out coupons for baby formula and save them up, lots and lots of baby and maternity stuff, plants and bulbs for sharing, furniture – everything! Below, though, is my favorite freecycle post ever, from my local freecycle. I share this one whenever I can!
tater tots

So um yeah, you can even get tater tots! Do you use freecycle? What have your experiences been?

Actually, I think cats aren’t supposes to eat tomatoes (at least not green ones or tomato plants). But since I have nothing else to say and I just ran across these (thank you icanhascheezburger widget!, here are some lolcats. Note: Kittehs pictured are not my kittehs.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Does that last one look familiar? Yes, I think it does.

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