August 12th – “Mercury turns retrograde in the sign of Virgo today…”

You’d be wise to be more alert than usual when it comes to dealings with friends and groups, as well as business income and dealings with business associates….Fortunately, this is a great period for looking back and seeing things in a new way.”

The last time Mercury was in retrograde (back in April and May), things did not go so well. My health deteriorated, I was behind on work, and I had major communication issues with others. This time around, I planned ahead.

Yesterday, I handled all my important business transactions and mailed a signed contract. Now that that’s off my hands, I’m postponing all communication with new contacts until after September 5th when retrograde ends.

The timing is great for me because there are a number of things I want to finish up on before I put myself out there. I’ve made some decisions and haven’t worked out the details yet. This is the perfect opportunity to look back and see things in a new way. It will give me a chance to revisit, revise, and refine the steps I need to take to move forward with my next project.

I’m sure some of you don’t believe in Mercury retrograde effects, but I don’t feel like taking any chances right now. This morning, I went to harvest vegetables in my garden and found a creepy looking tomato. Every year there are some deformities with the tomatoes, but I never imagined I would find one like this:

IMG_9200[1]

If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is!

 

 

August 4th – “If a friend is in need, let them know you’re at their service. Make time for them.”

It’s summer, and as usual, I’ve disappeared for a while because I am trying to focus on a number of things at once. What makes summer especially busy for me is the added responsibility of managing a garden.

For once, I’m doing a pretty good job of harvesting, consuming, and giving away my fruits and vegetables before things go bad. I’ve made several loaves of zucchini bread,

IMG_9194[1]

pots of apple sauce,

IMG_9198[1]

and pints of strawberry rhubarb jam.

IMG_9193[1]

There’s nothing like fresh broccolini and kale for dinner!

IMG_9192[1]

I even had enough energy to pick wild blackberries on my jogging trail.

IMG_9183[1]IMG_9185[1]

Now that I’m caught up, I have time to listen to a friend in need.  

July 19th – Content yourself with just working like crazy around your own home. Bet you’ll find quite a few things to get done, too.”

The garden was neglected for almost an entire week. I had disappeared for a few days for work and a short trip to Minneapolis.

There’s a big Scandinavian population there and I got to try their cuisine.

Herring with cucumbers, fermented apples and potatoes in buttermilk sauce

IMG_9154[1]

Kropkakkor (dumplings)

IMG_9153[1]

Salmon GravlaxIMG_9152[1]

There’s also a big bunny population there.

IMG_9155[1]IMG_9156[1]

I arrived a day too late and found out that there was a Weird Al burlesque.

IMG_9161[1]

 

By the time I returned home to tend to my garden, these giant things showed up.

IMG_9166[1]

My partner watered the plants while I was away, but didn’t harvest anything.  I was only gone for 6 days! There’s no stopping zucchini’s once they start growing. I found quite a few things to do in the garden today. 

May 23rd – “Nature nurtures your soul to its very roots.”

IMG_9073[1]Seven years ago, I spent four months in Hong Kong. It wasn’t my first trip overseas, but it was my first time staying in the city for more than two weeks. It was then that I realized that I did not want to live in a city anymore. I lived in the suburbs of Hong Kong and even that was too crowded for me. Yes, it was convenient place filled with all sorts of amenities, but I would have traded the air conditioning for peace and quiet. A New Yorker I met  once described Hong Kong as “New York on steroids” and I think that it’s an accurate description.

I’m sure my city friends will be annoyed at me for saying this: I think there is something dehumanizing about city life. The city eats away at my soul. It makes me wait in endless traffic, rush from one place to another, and buy $3.50 croissants and teas for breakfast without hesitation.

San Francisco is much slower than Hong Kong, but sometimes when I’m there I feel like I am disappearing into the masses, and the city is using my soul as its energy source. Perhaps I don’t have the same defenses I once had when I was young, or maybe Hong Kong broke me.

On the days that I’m home, I spend my time admiring the flowers and plants I help grow. I have been planting vegetables for the past five years and only started bringing flowers into the mix last year. Boy, it makes a huge difference!

IMG_9072[1]IMG_9075[1]IMG_9079[1]

IMG_9078[1]

The little fig trees I have aren’t flowering yet, so I too some dried figs to make a new recipe.  

IMG_9076[1]

Fig Bars

Filling

⅔ cup to 1 cup water

8 oz pack of dried figs, diced

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup

 

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in pot and gently boil for about 7 minutes on low heat. The filling is ready when it is a thick jam consistency.

IMG_9088[1]

Dough

⅓ cup shortening

⅔ cup maple sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cup flour

1 ¼ cup wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

A few dashes of salt

1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cream shortening, sugar together until smooth. I didn’t do a good job on mine, so there were little specks of shortening!
  2. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until combined.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. If dough is dry, add a teaspoon of water one at a time until the dough sticks together.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll dough into a 14 x 14 inch square. Cut into four long pieces.
  7. Add filling to middle, then fold both sides to cover filling.
  8. Place bars seam side down, and bake for 14 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice.

Original recipe here.

May 10th – “Make sure you have all of your starters or seeds in the ground so that they’ll be ready for the harvest.”

Done!

Starts and seeds were planted into the bed about a month ago.

I have some tomatoes,

IMG_9049[1]

radishes, microgreens, volunteer brussel sprouts,

IMG_9050[2]

broccoli, lettuce, and green beans.

IMG_9051[1]

I’m already starting to see some of the results! It’s very early for tomatoes to be on the vine, but maybe these are super early girls. IMG_9052[1]

May 6th – “You’ll be right in the center of all the action today, so get ready for excitement.”

IMG_9039[1]

I had been waiting for my strawberries all spring to ripen before picking. The first round was eaten by slugs and beetles. After I got rid of the slugs and beetles (by slaughtering them in a bucket of soap water), I thought my strawberries were safe. I was wrong.

The next week, there were seven almost ripened strawberries. I said to myself, “Tomorrow they will be ready!” That was the last I saw of them.

IMG_9040[1]

In the morning, I brought my metal colander with me to the garden to collect the strawberries. There were none.

All the ripened strawberries I eyed the day before were gone. Whoever ate them had a good nose and could smell which ones were perfect for picking. The only thing the culprit left behind was a dug up plant, leaving all its roots helpless and exposed.

There was no reason for it to uproot the plant. It served no purpose. I think it was leaving me a message, telling me, “You better have more for me next time, OR ELSE!”

Since my thief was a very capable and competent opponent, I threw a net over the strawberries and held it down with a row of potted date and olive plants. I had the net from last year to deter the birds from getting my berries. There, I thought. Let’s see what you do now!

It struck again that night. There was only one ripe strawberry available and it took it. It knocked over one of the potted plants to get to it. I could tell it wasn’t satisfied with the offering, because I found another dug up plant.

There wouldn’t be many ripe strawberries for a while, so I thought I would be left alone for a while. I was wrong, again.

I had forgotten all about my mystery strawberry thief because it had been several weeks since the last strawberry incident. It was 3 a.m. when I heard the first knock at the cat door.

It was a gentle knock, not loud. When we had 3 cats in the house, I could tell which one was coming and going by the sound of the cat door. Mr. Ox was loud and clumsy, making a “BANG” when he went in and out.  The Bowie was hesitant, but quiet, and the door would rock back and forth a few times before she exited, making a “tick, tick…tick, tick” noise. Little Rooks was the swiftest. He had been using the cat door for years and came in with just one, “tick.” The Bowie and Mr. Ox passed away this last year, so it’s just Little Rooks now.

At first, I thought it was Little Rooks because the door didn’t make much noise. The motion was gentle, but whoever was there didn’t make it in on the first try. It knocked on the door quietly again and got in. I could hear its claws on the hardwood floor and saw a dark cat-like figure walking through my bedroom. I sensed something was off.

My partner was doing his very early morning meditation in the living room and Little Rooks had taken his spot on the bed next to me. I was too sleepy to get up right away, so I reached into the darkness to the other side of the bed to see if could feel a lump of feline fur. It was there.

Slightly surprised, I sat up to see if I was mistaken. Little Rooks looked at me with bright confused eyes, wondering why I woke him up and what the big deal was.

I jumped out of bed, almost giddy, because I thought it was either Reggie or T.S. Eliot, two neighborhood cats I was forever trying to invite into our house without incurring the wrath of Little Rooks.

I walked into the living room where our surprise guest was searching for the kitchen. I still couldn’t make out who it was, and called out a little too loudly to my partner, “There’s someone here,” causing our mystery creature to scurry wildly into the bathroom.

I turned on the hallway light to get a better look. It didn’t wait and darted back into the bedroom, then out the cat door as I pursued.

Our bedroom has a sliding glass door. From there, I could clearly see who was sneaking up on us at 3 a.m. in the morning. It stayed right outside the cat door for a few seconds, waiting to see what my next move was. I had never seen this animal before, but I knew it was our strawberry thief. It was surprised that it got caught, but had not given up its mission to forage for food in our kitchen just yet. I could tell by the look in its eyes.

I screamed excitedly to my partner in the other room, “It’s a RACCOON! It’s a RACCOON! He’s still here! He’s right outside!” Two seconds later, my partner appeared in the bedroom with a long stick and plans to bop the creature on the nose, but the raccoon was gone.

By the time I got back to sleep, the sun was already up. I gave in and started my day. I went outside to check on the strawberries, and to my surprise, they were still there. No uprooted plants. I don’t know what its next move will be, but I will be waiting.

raccoon-1000383__340

April 23nd – “Music, art, bold patterns and accessories—adorn your life with whatever makes you feel most joyful.”

 

I started the day off with a big serving of waffles. I made regular ones for my partner and had oat flour ones for myself.

IMG_9005[1]

It’s excellent topped with Greek yogurt, berries, and maple syrup. I actually like it better than whipped cream!

IMG_9006[1]

I like to eat mine like a sandwich.

IMG_9007[1]

 

Oatmeal Waffles

¾ cup oat flour

1/ teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

3/8 cup soymilk

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

A few dashes of cinnamon

 

Toppings: Greek yogurt, berries, real maple syrup

 

Directions:

  1. Throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Cook in waffle iron.
  4. Top with Greek yogurt, berries, and maple syrup. This recipe makes about 1.5 waffle or 2 small ones. Perfect for 1 person. They’re softer than normal waffles, but has more flavor.

Here is the original recipe.

 

After breakfast, I did some reading. I finished The Haunting of the Hill House by Shirley Jackson

IMG_9018[1]

and started on a collection of short stories by John Steinbeck.

IMG_9019[1]
The two writers could not be more different. Jackson is obsessed with giant mansions and socially inept women who live in a world all their own (aka crazy women). Steinbeck is interested in the lives of ordinary folk (aka working class) who don’t live in big houses.

However, based on the two books I read, Jackson and Steinbeck do have some things in common. They are both great at creating vivid pictures of their characters and there is a strong element of violence that invades their stories.  In The Haunting of the Hill House, the story ends with the main character killing herself by purposefully driving her car into a tree. In 3 of the 4 short stories I’ve read by Steinbeck, one man falls to his death, a white quail is accidentally killed, and a scientist murders a cat and dissects its body.

After the cat story, I put the book down. Morbid or terrifying stories like these don’t bother me if they are written well. I enjoyed reading both writers, but I had enough time inside and wanted to get out into the sun!

In the afternoon, I went to the farmer’s market and bought more vegetable starts for the garden. I planted the starts and harvested rhubarb.

IMG_9009[1]

They’re a bit thinner and longer this year, so I’ll need to split the plants up this fall to replant. When rhubarb plants have enough space to grow, their stalks grow thick. Tomorrow, I’ll use these rhubarb stalks to make mini pies! Stay tuned!

 

April 23rd- “The moon is sashaying through Pisces and your flamboyant fifth house, coaxing you to add more color to your world.“

My yard is wild and unkempt. In nearly every corner of the yard, you’ll find patches of weeds which help keep beetles, spiders, and other critters hidden from plain view. This doesn’t prevent colorful flowers from springing up.

IMG_9004[1]IMG_9003[1]IMG_9002[1]IMG_9001[1]IMG_9000[1]IMG_8999[1]IMG_8998[1]IMG_8997[1]

I clipped a few sprigs of color and brought them inside to enjoy for the rest of the day.

IMG_8996[1]

April 22nd – “It’s important for you to get into the earth today, so roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.”

We are well into spring here in the West Coast, so it’s time to fill the garden with tomatoes, peas, and broccoli.

IMG_8931

These green onions have been in the soil since fall. They didn’t get eaten in the winter because I was waiting for them to get bigger. I thought they were yellow onions! Doh! That wasn’t a problem because I love green onions! After I pulled them out, I used them right away for lunch.

IMG_8934

Green onions go well with just about any salty recipe. I use them for fried rice, rice soup, steamed fish, fried noodles, and to garnish meat.  Today, I decided to have them with chicken wings and a side of brussel sprouts.

IMG_8939IMG_8936

 

Soy Ginger Chicken Wings

Marinade

Soy sauce

Vinegar (or another acidic liquid like orange juice)

Garlic, diced or chopped

Ginger, diced or chopped

Honey

Garnish

Sesame seeds

Green onions, diced

Directions:

  1. Mix all marinade ingredients together. I don’t measure and just do it to taste.
  2. Add chicken wings to sauce and marinade in refrigerator for 15 minutes to 2 days. It’s totally fine if you don’t marinade it for a long time, but the longer you let it sit, the better it gets!
  3. Heat up a pan, add oil, and cook chicken wings for about 20 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

March 28th – “Someone is creeping up into your territory — decide now how you want to defend it.”

There were a lot of creatures creeping into my territory today.

IMG_8980[1]

In the garden, I was greeted by a little mud colored frog living in some plastic pots that were still muddy from rain. He was the size of a quarter and very cute. I put him in the shade and he hopped out of the pot when I wasn’t looking.

IMG_8977[1]

It was not until an hour later after I was done potting the fig and date plants that sprouted into my garden that I noticed the rhubarb. They were doing really well from the excess rain we had over the last few months. The rhubarb had strong stems and plenty of big leaves.

IMG_8978[1]

The only thing that didn’t look so good were little holes in the leaves. I knew who the culprit was.

IMG_8979[1]

No, it wasn’t this guy.

IMG_8972[1]

These shiny pretty beetles have been snacking on my rhubarb plants.

IMG_8973[1]

They like eating the leaves and don’t go for the stalks. I don’t mind sharing the leaves with them (because leaves are poisonous to humans and we can only eat the stalk), but the rhubarb will die if it isn’t able to absorb sun from the leaves. The first year the bugs came, they ate most of the leaves, severely weakening the plants. I don’t want that to happen again, so I need to defend my territory.

I can either kill the green beetles with my fingers or spray some neem oil on the leaves. There’s still plenty of neem oil left from last year, so I’ll save the beetle squishing for another day.