Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homemade Orange Flavored Cooking Oil

This time of year I always get a case of oranges from the store. We need that vitamin C! After exhausting the orange zest for every type of baked goods, and alternating using the rind for chicken recipes - today I thought I'd make flavored cooking oil. Adding a little orange brightness into the oil would add a special something to stir frys and many other dishes - and use up these rinds! Waste not want not.

Dried Orange Rinds
Low Heat Extraction of Orange Oil

I had already dried several days worth of orange rinds. I did not try to remove the whites at all - just rough chopped them a bit and then placed into a pan and popped onto the stove.  I placed roughly 3 cups of light oil in the pan and turned on low heat. I used corn oil - you could use anything. I had thoughts of using some coconut oil - wouldn't that be a fun combination?  

Strained Orange Flavored Oil

After leaving on low heat for a few hours I turned off the heat and let it cool down. Then strained the oil.  You can see the rinds turned brown and or white - perhaps I had the heat a bit too high.

The flavor of the oil does have a nice subtle zip of oranges! I'll call this experiment a success.

Thank you for being a grey, snowy and wet day which sparked my creativity!

I guess I should be singing something by Anita Bryant :)

Teresa Marie

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sinclar's The Jungle at Chicago History Museum

I recently participated in a book review class at The Chicago History Museum on Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.  The book was on my list to read this year and I thought participating in a book group would be fun. In a way taking me back to high school or college days when I probably should have read this classic.  Years ago I tried reading The Jungle and hated it; this time I loved 2/3rds of it! (This blog is not a review of the book, rather a review of the offering by The Chicago History Museum and my experience taking the book club.)

I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book - focus on a period of time in Chicago that I find fascinating. On a recent trip to The Dreihaus Museum (blog review here)- I became very interested in how the majority of the populace in Chicago lived at the time. That's why The Jungle got onto my reading list. The juxtaposition of the lives portrayed in the book versus the Marble Mansion is quite stark.  The facilitator from the Chicago History Museum added good commentary on the historical inaccuracies or questions that exist in the book. That was perhaps my favorite part of the book group.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Arts & Crafts at Clarke House Museum

This year I'm getting to know Chicago better - most recently I attended a class and tour at the Clarke House Museum. It was a treat!

The Clarke house is Chicago's oldest house - currently located in the Prairie Avenue Historic District.  It was build in 1836 - this is just one year before the city of Chicago was incorporated. Standing through the Civil War, the Chicago Fire, and so much more. Check out their website here.

The Clarke Museum offers several classes on period handicrafts - I registered to take a class on Band Boxes. I'd never really given them a thought - however, I had seen Martha Stewart make one! So I signed up to learn more about how people lived in this period which I so enjoy.

Chicago's Historic Prairie District
Mansion on Prairie Avenue Chicago

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seed Planting and Starting: That time of year

This morning I purchased seeds for this year. I went mostly flowers because a Master Gardener friend in Wisconsin is growing all vegetables and we are going to split up the plants! So excited about this. It does put some pressure on me be successful.

My prior seed starting efforts included clayless seed bombs (prior post here) as well as some home-made seed starting trays (post here)  This year I will again make up the seed bombs as they worked so well in the guerrilla garden. However, I am adding commercial seed trays because of the volume of seeds I am starting this year.

Potting Station from old Bakers Rack
Here is where the work begins - my seed starting / potting station.  This is an old bakers rack that I sourced off CraigsList for ~$50, then added the wood/plastic tops to create work surfaces. My thought was to have it inside in the wintertime and then outside in the summertime. In reality, it stays inside all the time and I use it all year round.  I love this space and have tried to make it as productive and efficient as possible. It holds potting mix in containers, seeds, small pots, and hanging are bottles of various herbicides. Also holds pre-mixed fertilizer, root hormone, and other chemicals in different storage containers. On the right side you can see the pots with Sedums that I directly placed a few moths ago. They continue to do well and will head out into the garden in a few months.  I'm starting to lay out the seeds for the season as well as to accumulate some of the recycle materials I use as pots. The bottom of milk cartons will work well for the ginger root or cannas. Yogurt containers are just like little pots - just put holes in the bottom.  This is pretty messy now :) but not as much as it will be shortly!!

My selections of seeds for this year and plan for starting them are:

Flowers to start in trays:  I will start these around March 10th (6-8 weeks before last frost) assuming that our last frost will actually be earlier this year (Damn Climate change)

  • Echinacea, Warm Summer US7,982,110 - Exceptional 1st -yr flowering cone-flower from seed.
  • Coleus, Chocolate Covered Cherry  Non-fading bald pattern for sun and shade.
  • Coleus, Giant Leaf Mix - Mix of texture and color
  • Asclepias, Butterfly WeedProlific bloomer. My white butterfly bush needs friends ;)
  • Carnation, Giant Mix - My grandmother used to grow carnations, let's see if I can too!
  • Tradescantia, Blue & Gold - Wildflower is easy to grow, I liked the vibrant golden foliage with gentian-blue flowers which will be a good match to the purple ones I already have
  • Red Hot Poker - so hope these take, I love the Shock & Awe drama this brings to the garden
  • Blue Flax - interesting for the border
  • Holly Hock - a deep purple almost black color to mix with the pink ones I have already.
  • Wing Begonias - these seeds are 2 years old, they are last priority to start in trays.
Flower Seeds to start in seed bombs:  My seed mix this year will be mostly new Shasta Daisy seeds but I will make two batches mixed with other seeds. One batch will include a few packs of old "Garden Flower Mix Perennials" these seem to be taller flowers of many colors. I will place these carefully in the north-most edge of the guerrilla garden where they will be full sun.  The second batch will be the Shasta Daisy mixed with old "Moss Rose" seeds. These will go to the front edge of the rock garden where Shasta Daisy took from seed bombs a few years ago.  I will make these up and place them in the garden approximately April 15th.

Vegetables to Direct Sow: To be completed approximately May 1st - once I get the vegetable garden roto-tilled and plan made (that's next on my list!) Might add some more veggie seeds/plants depending on what my girlfriend has for me.

  • Chinese Cabbage, Pak Choi, Toy Choi Hybid; it grows fast so I will make several staggered plantings to enjoy over a longer period of time.
  • On the Deck Sweet Corn - this is going to be the architectural element in my large containers this year!

While on gardening sites, I found this little piece of technology that I just "had to have" - the Suncalc sunlight calculator.  While I roughly know the amount of sun each side of my garden gets, it will be interesting to measure it throughout the season and within a few feet across the garden. I have many trees and sometime just a few inches makes a great deal of different in whether a plant thrives or dies. 

This morning I'm singing "Come Rain or Come Shine" by Barbra :)

Teresa Marie

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Review Chicago Antique Malls - Part 2

This time of year many antique Stores have sales - which is just another reason to go exploring. This past weekend I took a tour through Wilmette, IL and Glenview IL hitting several antique malls and sole proprietor shops. Continuing my series sharing impressions on these locations and providing comparisons and resources for like-minded antique hunters. 

This Blog discussed the following retail locations (links to their websites as of Feb 2013):

1) Antiques & Porcelain by GK (1705 Glenview Rd, Glenview IL, 60025 847-724-3059)

2) Glenview Coin & Collectibles, Inc

3) Collectors Corner Antique Mall (901 Ridge Rd, Wilmette, IL, 847-256-1136)

4) Heritage Trail Mall - Wilmette, IL

5) Josie's (545 Ridge Rd, Wilmette, IL 60091, 847-256-7646)

Exhibit A and  B - High priced seed pods & pots

All these shops in Wilmette are within blocks of each other. Antique shopping on Chicago's Northshore is not an exercise of bargain hunting.  I found several examples of shops that were very pleased with their items for sale. I enter into evidence Exhibit A and B - the $32 flower pot with white paint (hello, I could make that for $2) and the $55 dried Catalpa seed pod (well that's what it looks like to me.)  Just points out that beauty is in the eye of the beholder! That said, I had a great time window shopping and found some truly gorgeous items and took their pictures!