It's Alive!

Autumn is by far my favorite season. No matter where I have lived it's always been so and that holds true for my new home in Daly City. It seems that fall is the clearest season for us and right now we are still enjoying a beautiful Indian Summer. When the weather cools down a bit it will be time for baking. I have absolutely no baking skills, that's Joey's department, but I do love making my bread machine.
Yes, I have a bread machine and I love it. One of my favorite recipes is an easy sour dough recipe. It produces a crispy crust and chewy inside. Just like it should be. You can find the recipe here. It's very easy, but there is one ingredient you need to plan ahead for - the sour dough starter. You can't wing it on this one. It's a must that you take your starter out at least 24 hours ahead of time and feed it. If not, then you aren't going to be making sour dough that day.
I bought my starter from King Arthur's Flour about two years ago. I tried to make my own, but that was a huge failure. It was much easier to get theirs and start feeding it. Having a starter is kind of like having a pet. You need to take care of it. You need to feed it. I was pretty good the first year about feeding my starter every one to two weeks then I moved here and the starter went to the back of the refrigerator not to be rediscovered until about a week ago. After a year on not feeding it, I was pretty sure that my started was dead. I hadn't touched it in over a year. It was this grayish mass. I was about to throw it out, but something told me to just try feeding it and see what happened. It couldn't hurt and all it would cost me is a cup of flour. I added my flour and warm water and let it sit on the stove.
The next day I looked at the starter and there were about three little bubbles in it. The bubbles indicate that it's alive. Three was not many, but it was encouraging. Maybe I could bring this back to life! I stirred in a little more flour and warm water and put it back on the stove.
I went back a day after that and there were still only a few little bubbles. Maybe it was wishful thinking that it was going to come back to life. Oh well, no worries. I will just throw this out and order some more. I put it back on the stove because starter and very sticky and messy and I wasn't in the mood to deal with it at that moment.
I was really procrastinating on throwing this away so I just left it on the stove for a couple more days. Finally, I decided it was time to say good-bye. When I opened the lid to scoop out the starter, to my surprise, it was bubbling! It's alive!!! I brought my little starter back to life.
So, I guess you can revive an old starter. I think the key is to feed it then just leave it be for a few days. That's what I did and guess what Joey and I are having this week?

Our Pigeons Are So Gay

Our pigeons are so gay. I mean that literally. We have gay pigeons. Your first thought might be, "Wait. You have pigeons?" To which I say, doesn't every gay couple in the Hillside area of Daly City have pigeons? To that, I can answer a resounding yes, since I am pretty sure Joey and I are the only gay couple living in the Hillside area of Daly City. But that is not the point. We are talking gay pigeons. To be exact our gay pigeons.

Let me give you some background. This all started when a homing pigeon named Ellen (she told me), showed up in our backyard and decided that home is where the heart is. Her heart apparently is right on Price in the Hillside area of Daly City. This is usually what happens to a neighborhood. First the gays move in, then the next thing you know the pigeons come. Ellen seduced us with her charms and before we knew it we were building her a pigeon loft. Well, Joey did most of the work. I just assisted. He built quite the pigeon palace. However, in this case the whole "if you build it, they will come" thing did not happen. Why isn't life like the movies? Ellen is a smart girl. Why would she want to live in a loft, no matter how stylish, when she could come and go as she pleases knowing she can always come home to a delicious meal? Ellen is a modern girl and will not be caged. That's fine by us. We applaud Ellen on her individuality and free spirit. But what do we do with the loft? Get pigeons, that's what.

Joey's Pigeon Loft
There is a pigeon rescue in San Francisco called, Mickacoo. They are a the sister organization of Mickaboo the bird rescue I volunteer for. They were having an event in Tiburon and Joey and I decided to go. That where we saw them. Lola and Luigi. Lola is a very large king pigeon and Luigi is a beautiful fantail. We were in love. We asked about adopting them and after filling out the proper paperwork and interviews they were ours. Turns out Lola is really a male. That's just his drag name. His new name is Lorenzo and Luigi is his partner.

So what's so gay about them? Well, besides the obvious, right now they are taking turns trying to hatch the fake eggs we put in their nest. Seems that our little gay pigeon couple is feeling clucky. They are the new normal of Price Street. I guess we all are.


Last night as Joey and I were in bed watching TV with Mojoe I was admiring the little guy (Mojoe, not Joey) and remarking how much he must trust me to sleep so soundly in my hand. What a life he has!

We started this routine when we got Mojoe at five weeks old. We needed to quarantine him from our other birds for a month so we had him in the bedroom. In order to spend time with him, we took him out and watched TV on my laptop in bed.  He always fell asleep in my hand. After the month ended we continued the routine and have since graduated to a bigger house and a bigger TV in the bedroom. I think we all look forward to this time together and Mojoe gets quite mad if we are even late for TV time.

Mojoe as hand-fed and since we got him at such an early age he is completely tame. That doesn't mean he's behaved, he's just tame. Mojoe knows no fear which gets him into trouble. Why would he know fear, though? He really knows nothing besides life with us, which means a loving and safe home, an endless supply of food; and of course, TV time. I never want him to know hardship.

A lot of birds aren't as lucky as Mojoe. In fact, there are so many abused and abandoned pet birds it breaks my heart. What if this had happened to Mojoe? I hate to even think about it.  That's why I volunteer for and support Mickaboo.  Mickaboo is a bird rescue group in the Bay Area that helps companion birds who have been neglected, abused, injured or surrendered. This all volunteer group does amazing work helping hundreds of birds. This isn't cheap.  Last month alone, Mickaboo's vet bills were over $20,000!!!  Can you believe that?  Well, actually I can. Mojoe got in a little scuffle last month and his bill alone cost me $800, so it comes to reason Mickaboo would have huge bills. But, how do they afford it? Well, through donations, fund raisers and events like Chase Community Giving.  In fact, you can vote right now for Mickaboo!  Just go to the Chase Community Giving page on Facebook or go to their website to vote.  By just doing that one simple task you can help Mickaboo win $10,000!  Imagine how much that would help!  Let's give all birds the chance to have a life like Mojoe.

My First Morning Glory

Well, not really my first, but we'll get to that.

This afternoon I went downstairs to water my apple tree and there it was, my first morning glory! A couple of months ago I planted some seeds near my rose bush. Slowly but surely a few vines sprouted up and starting making their way up the trellis and today I had my first flower. This is not only exciting, but very meaningful for me.

You see, when I was five years old we planted morning glory seeds in little pots. When they sprouted up we got to take them home. I gave mine to my Great Grandmother who planted it in her garden. Every time I went to visit her we would go out together and look at my handy work. I was always so excited when she showed me each new blossom.  I always think of that when I think of my Great Grandmother and today that same excitement came flooding back.

Boy, do I love my garden!

Got Fog?

I had some great plans for this Labor Day weekend. All centered around the garden.  As you can see from the picture, this doesn't seem to be the day for that. Daly City is known for it's foggy days, but in the almost year that I have been here, today has to be the foggiest yet. 

Everyone told me it would be foggy here, but since I moved here it's not been so bad. Joey and I live way up on the edge of Daly City right near San Francisco.  We get much more sun than our neighbors by the sea. Today isn't one of those days. I'm not complaining, though. Soon we will have our Indian Summer and that makes this fog worth it.  Happy Labor Day!

The Battle Continues

Powdery Mildew

August is a very foggy month here in Daly City. In fact, I don't think I have seen the sun here in weeks. While the rest of the country is suffering under a heat wave, it's a chilly 55 degrees.  Now, I am not complaining. I will take a cold, foggy day to heat any day. My garden, however, is another story. Plants need sun and my plants have been suffering.  What's worse is that these are ideal conditions for that demon powdery mildew.

More powdery mildew

I first encountered powdery milder on my rose bushes in the front yard and I cured them with some diligence and milky water. It really did the trick.  A 3 to 1 ration of water to milk sprayed on the rose bushes weekly not only killed the mildew and prevented it's spread. This time, though, the mildew was on my apple tree and my climbing rose bush.  How the heck was I going to get up there? I tried to ignore it, but it spread quickly.  Really quickly. As August progressed the fog got thicker, it got wetter and the mildew was thriving.

August 2012 Mid-Day Daly City
As you know, I do not want to use pesticides in my garden. This is especially true in the backyard where sparrows play in the trees all day. But, how was I going to tackle this problem when I couldn't even reach it? With a bit if determination, that's how!

First, I got an extended clipper and pruner and clipped off all the mildew I could find on the apple tree.  Luckily, there wasn't a lot and I could get most of it clipped off. Next I tackled the rose bush. It was horrible. I did this on a ladder and ended up clipping about half of the bush off. Still, there are places I couldn't reach.

Now that I had clipped off the nasty mildew, I needed to spray the tree and bush with milk. For that I bought the Gilmour Pre-Mix Sprayer. I love this thing! I fill the bottle with milk, connect it to my hose and it does the mixing for me while it sprays.  A spray it does. I would say I can spray about 30 feet. Perfect for both the apple tree and the rose bush.

So, how's it working? I am happy to say there are no more signs of powdery mildew on the apple tree and I am getting the rose bush under control. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Or should I say sunshine? Today I woke up to a clear sunny day. It looks like our Indian Summer has come a little early. What more could I ask for?

August 28, 2012 - Daly City Sunshine!

Tomato Pie

One of my favorite websites is Kevin Lee Jacobs' A Garden for the House. I discovered this site only a few months ago when searching for gardening sites. It is indeed a great site for gardening tips, but so much more. It has amazing recipes! In the past couple of months, I have made three of Kevin's recipes with great success: Lettuce Soup, Blue Cheese Dressing and, most recently, Tomato Pie.

I had never heard of tomato pie before. I had heard of The Tomato Tart, but I just thought that was my friend Sabrina and her site. About a week ago a recipe for tomato pie appeared on Kevin's site and I just had to try it! All I could think of for a week was how much I wanted to try this tomato pie! Well, I did last Saturday and I wasn't disappointed. It was delicious! Not only that, it was beautiful. Look at that picture! It has to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever made.

I made a few modifications to my version of the recipe based on a few others I researched online, but this recipe is all Kevin. My changes are minimal. I used two cheeses, added a shallot and drained the tomatoes a bit. Most recipes call for a pie shell rather than biscuits, but I loved the biscuits. I think they make the dish. Try to get the freshest tomatoes you can find, but I will be honest and say I only had time to go to the supermarket and this pie still was delicious.

  • 10 refrigerated biscuits from package (I used Pillsbury Grands Jr.) 
  • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced 
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Fresh basil, sliced thinly (about 10 leaves) 
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated 
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese, grated 
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375. 
  2. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes. 
  3. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with non-stick spray. 
  4. Press the biscuits against the sides and bottom of the plate and form a crust. 
  5. Layer the tomato slices on the dough and give them a couple grinds of pepper. 
  6. Sprinkle the shallot on top of the tomatoes evenly. 
  7. Sprinkle on the basil. 
  8. Combine the grated cheese and mayonnaise together. 
  9. Spread the mixture on top of the tomatoes. 
  10. Bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned. 
  11. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings

Homemade Pasta

Last weekend I decided to make a special dinner - homemade pasta! I have made it a couple of times before and we always enjoy it. There is nothing quite like the texture and flavor of homemade pasta.

I always think it's going to be hard to make fresh pasta, but it's really not. It's just flour and eggs and a little water. You can do most of your kneading in a food processor or a stand up mixer. I make a basic pasta with the following ingredients.
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 3 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

All you do is place all the ingredients in the mixer bowl and mix at Speed 2 for 30 seconds using the flat beater.

Swap out the flat beater for the dough hook. Knead at Speed 2 for 2 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes, folding the past over each time.

Let dough rest for 20 minutes to 2 hours.

Divide dough into 6 pieces and processing using your pasta machine or attachment.

I personally have the KitchenAid KPRA Pasta Roller Attachment. It might be a bit pricey, but I love it. It comes with one pasta roller and two pasta cutters - one for angel hair pasta and one for fettuccine. It's a great addition to my appliances. But I do admit it's a pricey commitment. If that is too expensive for you all you need to do is go to Amazon and they have a large collection of hand crank pasta rollers starting from about $30 to about $70. I would go for the best one you can afford at the time. If you aren't quite sure you are going to make pasta often, you might go with a lower priced model and if you become a pasta wizard you can always upgrade. I will say that since I only make pasta two or three times a year, I would probably go with a mid-priced machine. I have used them in cooking class and they work wonderfully.

Once you have your machine you flatten dough and roll the pasta through the maching at the 1 setting, fold it then run it through again at the next setting. Starting at 1 you move up to the thickness you want. I was making fettuccine so I went to 6. You only fold it the first time. When you have reached the desired thickness hang your pasta on a pasta rack while you work on the next piece. You really do need one of these and they are not that expensive. Mine was $13.50.
Now it's time to cut the pasta. I used my fettuccine pasta attachment, but you can also use a pasta cutter, which costs about $20.00. Cut your pasta and you are ready to go!
The next thing you need to think about is sauce. This is always a hard part for me. I want something very simple, but tasty. I choose two sauces from my favorite pasta book, The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles by Cooks Illustrated. This is an amazing book. I will write more about this next time.

I made a salmon cream sauce and a simple olive oil, fresh tomato and summer squash sauce. Delicious! I will say, though, that the olive oil sauce was my favorite since it let the pasta be the star in the dish.

So, that's my little pasta making adventure. All together it took me about an hour to make pasta, but it's really worth it. There is a huge difference between store bought and fresh so I really recommend it. It's a bit pricey to start out, but once you have the equipment, you will love making pasta.

One Year Ago This Week

My time goes by quickly. It was only one year ago this week that we moved Aurora to San Bruno Skill Nursing. Just a month earlier Aurora had a stroke and was in a facility in Pacifica.  The day of the move I went to get help her get ready and followed the van as we moved her to her new home. She was so jolly about everything even though I am sure it must have been scary. What touched me was how much she trusted me to be there for her and that everything would be alright.

Aurora and I weren't buddies prior to all this happening. In fact, I had only seen her three times in eight years. It's not that we didn't like each other, there was just indifference on both our parts. Well, I will say mine. I don't think she knew much about me. Everyone has their own way of living life and we decided on ours. We weren't keeping it a secret, we just weren't throwing it in her face. Our life our choice. It worked.

When Aurora had her stroke Joey asked me for help and I was more than happy to. We decided to move in together and share the task of taking care of his mom. She would live downstairs and we would live upstairs. Boy, did we have a lot to do!  When it became evident that Aurora was better off where she was we just kept plugging along with the house. It was a good distraction and a tribute to the hard work she originally put into it.

One thing we thought would be helpful for Aurora was to have visitors every day. Joey in the afternoon and me in the evening. We have stuck to that plan for the past year. Joey has been amazing, never missing a day. He's there every single afternoon no matter what. I go almost every day after work, but there are some days I need to go straight to the city. I enjoy my visits with Aurora. We talk, watch TV, play games or sometimes we just sit with each other.  It reminds me of riding to my great grandmother's house after school when I was little. We did about the same things.

So, one year has past and I must say that we are blessed. All of us. We have new life now and are a little family. The folks in the nursing home think that Aurora and I have been close forever.  In a way she has.  As she says, "We have always been friends, we just didn't know it."

We Have a Pigeon

It's no secret that Joey and I are in to birds. I got my first bird in college and had him for 20 years. Since Joey and I have been together our flock has slowly grown. First it was a lovebird, then two, then a conure, some finches and finally our parrotlet Mojoe. Oh, then a few more finches.  Yes, we like birds.

When we started to clean up our garden we added some bird feeders and bird baths so we could enjoy the birds outside as well. There are all sorts of little birds that come and visit us sometime times very exotic ones, but mostly just little sparrows and the like.  We did have a flock of ring necked doves that hung out with us for a bit on their way somewhere, but mostly we just have our neighborhood birds. Oh, and pigeons.  We have also managed to attract a flock of local pigeons.  These are just your normal grey feral pigeons. While they are a bit of a nuisance, they come with the territory. I didn't pay them much mind until one day I noticed something different. Off to the side of these grey pigeons was a bright while and grey pigeon. I knew she was different the minute I walked outside and all the pigeon flew away except her. Just just looked at me as if she knew me.

For the next few weeks this pigeon would follow me around the yard as I did my yard work. She wasn't what I would call tame, but she wasn't afraid of me, either. She kept her distance, but was always close enough to me that I knew she was there. I named her Ellen.

As time passed it became apparent that Ellen was here to stay. I went out and fed her each morning. Putting the food closer and closer to me. Joey fed her every evening when he got home. The other day she even ate out of my hand. As we started to get attached to this bird we also started worrying. What would Ellen do in winter? Would she get cold? I decided to call Mickacoo, a local pigeon rescue group.

Elizabeth explained to me that Ellen was a domesticated homing pigeon that apparently got lost or decided not to go home. While Ellen could withstand the elements, she has no knowledge of how to forage for food on her own. It's most likely that the food Joey and I were giving her is what was keeping her alive. She said homing pigeons want a home and Ellen has probably decided she would like that home to be with us. At first I wasn't so sure I wanted to keep a pigeon, but it was too late. I was already attached.

So, Joey and I keeping Ellen and are in the process of making her a home. We already made the main part of her home with a chicken coop we are converting. Some folks think we are crazy.  Well, most folks do, but I don't care. I am getting old enough that I deserve to be a little crazy! I've earned it. Besides, we didn't choose to have a pigeon. Ellen chose us.

Cookbook Success!

Last Friday I wrote about choosing the recipes for my entire meal from my cookbook library. Well, it was a huge success! My meal couldn't have been any better. It wasn't the fanciest looking meal, but it was tasty.

The burgers were really tender. I had never used my broiler before and they are not all created equal!  My new stoves broiler cooks much more evenly.  I didn't really follow the recipe very closely. I think you could take any burger recipe, mold them into 1-inch patties and you would be set. I broiled them for six minutes, turned them over and cooked them for six more. Then I topped them with a tomato slice and some mozzarella cheese and broiled them for two more minutes until brown and bubbly. They were delicious.

The ratatouille was delicious.  A simple recipe is the way to go, and the recipe from The Joy of Cooking was perfect. I have ignored that book for so long thinking it wasn't fancy enough, but it's just what I needed.

The star of the show had to be the Mac & Cheese from The Best Light Recipe by Cook's Illustrated. This is something I will make again and again. I can't recommend this book, or any Cook's Illustrated cookbook, enough. I love reading the explanations on how they came up with one technique or ingredient over the other. I was worried that this wouldn't taste like the full-fat version, but it did. I see no reason to make Mac & Cheese any other way.

With the success of dinner last weekend, I have decided to do the same thing for this weekend. Head to my cookbook library and pick out some winners. I'm thinking flank steak, but who knows what I will find!

What's For Dinner?

It's been a long time since I have cooked so I decided this weekend we would have a proper Sunday dinner. When deciding on what to make I did something I rarely do - I consulted my cookbooks.  I also did something I never do. I decided that ALL my recipes would come from my cookbooks, not the internet.

I have well over 100 cookbooks, all easily accessible, that I rarely use. It's so easy to go online and Google what you are looking for. However, it makes no sense to have a library of cookbooks and never use them.

I started off with a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cook Book - Italian Style Burgers.  I got this cookbook at Ross probably 15 years ago and used it all the time way back when.  You can still get a copy of it on Amazon for a penny, plus shipping.  These are more like mini meatloaf patties with broiled tomato and mozzarella on top.  They are yummy. This is actually a really great cookbook with beautiful pictures and easy-to-make recipes. In fact, the picture of the burger inspired me to find my next recipe - Low Fat Mac and Cheese. For that I knew right where to go - The Best Light Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  If there is only one low-fat cookbook you buy, this should be it.  I have made several and they have all been delicious.

Next, I wanted to take advantage of all the wonderful summer vegetables so I decided to make a simple ratatouille. I thought finding this would be simple, but it wasn't.  Every book had some fancy twist on this simple recipe and I really wanted simple. I was just about to give up and make green beans when I saw my Joy of Cooking. I had never even cracked this book open before. It was just something I felt I should have. Well, I found exactly what I was looking for - a simple ratatouille. No frills, no twists, no fancy ingredients.  Just a simple recipe.

Yay! I have my menu:

  • Italian Style Burgers
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Ratatouille

I learned something from this exercise. I actually enjoy going through my cookbooks. It really didn't take any longer than looking things up online and it some ways it was probably faster. I didn't take any breaks to check Facebook or get distracted by some ad. Also, I saw a ton of other recipes that I otherwise wouldn't have thought of while I was looking that I just can't wait to try. It is possible to find what I need without the internet. Maybe I am on to something.

A New Tree For Our New Home

I always thought it was incredibly romantic when folks would show me trees in their yards and told the story of how they planted in as a little sapling and have watched it grow for all their years together.  It's a real symbol of a life spent together.

When we had our yard cleared low and behold we had a two spots for trees.  One was already filled by an apple tree, but the other had been hidden away by huge overgrowth.  We didn't even know that spot was there. I was very excited when we found it. We could plant our little symbol!

Now comes the hard part.  What kind of tree to get?  We really didn't want anything big and weren't sure if we wanted another fruit tree in addition to the apple and lemon trees we have. Both pear and plum trees came to mind, but just didn't feel right. Then we saw it. A blossoming plum tree at Lowes. Joey fell in love with it. This was the tree he wanted. One problem - how would we get it home?

This tree wasn't small.  Probably six or seven feet. I have a Mini Cooper and Joey has a BMW sedan. There was no way we were going to fit a tree in there.  We decided that we would wait a couple of weeks, rent a truck, then go pick it up.

A couple of weeks passed and we went back to Lowes to pick out our tree. Guess what? They didn't have them anymore. In fact, no nursery near us had them. Trust me, I called them all. Apparently, the time to start carrying these is in January. January?!!!  If you know us, that is way too long for us to wait. Besides, we had just finished planting everything in the garden and we really wanted to plant our little plum tree.

After some searching online I found exactly what I wanted. Clifton's Nursery in Porterville, California had plum trees and they shipped them!  Who knew you could buy a tree online?! Better yet, I could purchase it through Amazon, meaning I could trust that I would get my money back if the tree never came.

It came.  It's was packaged beautifully and is the cutest thing I have ever seen.  We both fell in love with this little guy.  We got a Dwarf Purple Pony. It's a fruitless, flowering plum tree and only grows to about 15 feet.  Perfect for our yard.

We planted our little plum tree last Sunday. I can tell it's happy - just like Joey and I are.  It's a perfect symbol or our life together.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Joey and I love feeding the birds in our backyard. There are so many cute little sparrows, house finches, brown-headed cowbirds...all kinds of little birds. Recently there have been lots of little ones being fed and taught to eat by their mothers. It's really treat to watch them. Along with all this is an ever growing flock of pigeons.  I personally don't have anything against pigeons. They are birds and part of God's creatures. However, I don't particularly love having 30 of them hanging out on my roof waiting for me to leave my yard. 

My spiritual advisor, Erin Shannon, has always taught me to manifest what I desired and if was meant to be, it would be. (Que Sera Sera.) I really wanted the pigeons to go away. I was hoping that they would just lose interest in Price Street and head over to Hillside. Kind of like how gays lose interest in one bar and start going to another. In my ideal world that's what I wanted to happen.  Well, that's not what happened. Last night we got a Hawk.  Yes, a hawk came to visit our little garden on Price Street.  Worse than that he came for more than a cocktail. He had dinner.

Now I am all for the circle of life and all that, but I just don't want to see it. He got one of the baby birds that we have been watching be trained by his mother. My first thought was, "HAWKS, in Daly City?!"  Really, I thought they were busy in San Francisco.  And just to be clear, Universe, I have been trying to manifest the wild parrots to make their way over here, not their natural predators!

So, now we have a hawk who, by the way, scared the pigeons for about an hour. They are back this morning, albeit in a much smaller flock  but they came along with their little sparrow buddies. They must be our diehard patrons.

I have made a decision. Pigeons, go to town, take care of my little sparrow buddies. Hopefully the hawk will find Price Street much too boring and will make his way over to Folsom.

Garlic Parmesan Croutons

The other day Joey brought home a huge bag of leftover sourdough from work. Usually we just grind them up in the food processor and feed them to the birds in our backyard, but this time I decided to make croutons. This is so simple I almost feel silly posting it, but a friend asked me how I made them so here goes. All the measurements are just approximations. You should just use as much or as little of each of the items as you need.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil (enough to coat the bread) 
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, finely minced 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated (I used Kraft in the container and it worked perfectly) 
  • 4 cups bread cubes, crusts removed and cut in 3/4 inch cubes


  1. Adjust oven racks to the center postion in your oven and heat to 350F
  2. Whisk the oil, garlic and salt together in a large bowl. 
  3. Add the bread cubes and toss until thoroughly coated. 
  4. Gradually add the parmesan cheese while tossing bread cubes 
  5. Lightly coat two cooking sheets with non-stick spray 
  6. Spread the bread cubes onto baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. 
  7. Allow the croutons to cool to room temperature before serving 
  8. Once cooled store croutons in air-tight container

A Visit To Sloat and Our First New Plants

Yesterday Joey and I took our first trip to Sloat Gareden Center in San Francisco. Bernie, our landscaper had recommended it and I have never been to a proper nursery besides Lowes and Home Depot. Sloat is located right near the ocean and with the beautiful sunshine we had it was a perfect day for it.

Main store of sloat is packed with everything you would need for gardening from seed packets, tools, footwear, pots to wind chimes. The prices are pretty steep for most things, so make sure you have your amazon price check application with you.  While Joey and I try our hardest to support our local merchants paying $25.00 more for a bird feeder at Sloats compared to Amazon was just not worth it for us. We bought enough there, so it's not like we walked out empty handed.  We actually bought a lot!

The most exciting things we bought are two new plants for our garden. The ver first we have bought! First we got a Star Jasmine plant.  We have wanted one since even before we started working on our garden and this one just called to us. It wasn't the largest one there, but it's a good size and it's going to grown beautifully in our yard.

Our second plant was a Salvia Leucantha, or Mexican Bush Sage.  We had seen them there other day and feel in love with the fuzzy purple flowers.  I think we are probably going to get a few more of these, but I want to see how the go first. That's the great thing about the garden. It's all ours and we can be little gardening Mrs. Butterworths and take our own sweet time on what we add to it.

I had a lot of garden chores to do, so I haven't transplanted the plants yet. I am going to give them a week to get use to the surroundings then transplant them next weekend when I have some free time. I am so excited! Just those two additions have added a lot to our yard.

I am still really enjoying the whole yard work thing. I spend four glorious hours out there yesterday and could have spent four more. However, the Tony were calling and I just couldn't miss those. (After seeing them, though, I kind of could have.)  I have next weekend, though, and I can't wait to get out there again!

Milk. It Does the Roses Good

One of the things Joey and I inherited with our house is eight rose bushes in the front yard.  I mentioned before I was going to get rid of them, but thought I would try one season of growing them and I am so glad I did.  Look at them!  They are beautiful!! I have really enjoyed watching them grow and the beautiful roses that seem to appear daily.  What I don't love, however, is that powdery mildew and black spot that roses are known for.  

Every day when I get home from work I have to comb my roses for these evil demons.  If I keep on top of it I can keep both at bay - almost.  When it's particularly damp, which is often here in Daly City, it's a big problem.  Miss one day and it's a mildew fest. I searched and search the web for an organic way to take care of this and came across a post on a message board singing the praises for milk and water.  Milk?! For my roses?
Several people said spraying a solution of 1 part milk to 2 parts water and a weekly basis would keep the mildew and black spot at bay. No one could seem to explain why, but it was worth a shot so I gave it a go.

Guess what? It works! My roses are practically mildew and black spot free. Done on a weekly basis it really does keep your roses healthy.  That is the key, though - a weekly basis. Miss a week and you'll be sorry. Trust me, I know.

I kept this little secret to myself because, well, I don't have a any friends that grow roses and I kind of felt silly spraying my roses with milk. Also, what do I know about gardening to give tips?

A couple of weeks ago, my favorite garden blogger, Kevin Lee Jacobs from A Garden for the House, wrote that he was trying the same thing!  Well, if Mr. Jacobs is recommending it, then I must be doing something right. So, if you have roses and they need a little TLC, try the milk and water solution. Your mildew and black spot problems will vanish.

My First Gardening Class

On Saturday Joey and I took a class on safe, effective pest and disease control at Common Ground in Palo Alto. It's my first time to Common Ground and my first gardening class as well. The class was taught by Teresa Lovell from Our Water Our World. She taught us about Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

What is IPM? Well, it's a is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management. At least that's what the EPA site says. Basically you identify the pest to determine if they are good or bad (yes, there are good ones) then determine if they need control. If so look for natural ways to prevent and control the pests.

We talked mostly about ants, aphids, snail and squirrels. Luckily I don't have a lot of any of these, but part of that is that I have found great ways of keeping them controlled. Well, except squirrels, we don't have any of those that I have seen. Pigeons is a whole other story, but that's for a later time.

I found the class really informative and Teresa was a great instructor. After the class we went to the Common Ground store where then have lots of great books, tools and all sorts of organic gardening resources. Joey bought me my first garden hat. What do you think? I think it's very "Whales of August." I love it! I also got my first seed packets. I got sunflowers, nasturtiums and morning glories. I know it's late in the season, but I am going to try my hand at growing them anyway. Our summer really isn't until October, so they might just grow!
We had a really great day at Common Ground and I am sure we will take another class there sometime in the future. If you live in the area you should drop by or check them out online.

A Blank Slate

Now that we've cleared the garden it's time to start thinking about what to put in it. Bernie sent us a list of about 30 different plants that would work well in our yard based on our preferences and the climate.  That's a lot of plants to choose from!  I spent a good hour or so just looking up the common names for them and finding pictures. I have them all organized in folders so I can reference them and play with ideas.  While I am doing that I have begun to pay closer attention to the plants growing in our neighborhood. There are some that I don't think are on our list, but I want to include.  I have been busy with my iPhone taking pictures. I think this process is going to take longer than I thought and it has me thinking. Do I choose all my plants and plant them all at once, or do I plant them as I go?

Our New Yard

Holy shit Honey!

That's what my friend Carla said when I showed her the pictures. I couldn't agree more. In fact I said the same thing again this morning when I looked out my window. Joey and I have been doing remodeling and decorating for the past year and I have to say that this is the first time I was blown away by something. I am not saying that our kitchen isn't wonderful or that the floors aren't amazing, but this - this took my breath away. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I have to go do some gardening.

(Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

View from our Music Room

View from upstairs before

View from upstairs after

View from the top of the stairs

From top of stairs before

From top of stairs after
Our apple tree

Apple Tree before

Apple Tree after

Apple Tree before

Apple Tree after

Our lemon tree

Lemon Tree before

Lemon Tree after

Our beautiful garden!  A blank slate just waiting to be filled.

Roses Are Red

The guys from Dirty Hoe Landscaping are coming tomorrow and I have to decide what to do about the rose bushes in back. Part of me just wanted to get rid of them and start fresh but there is another part of me that feels like they deserve to stay. 

Here's what I am thinking. I really enjoy taking care of the roses in the front yard. Every day when I come home a new rose has blossomed.  It's very rewarding.  However, rose bushes themselves are not very pretty and they are really high maintenance.  If anyone says they are not then they must have a secret I don't have. While I am really enjoying them I am not sure I want to have them in the backyard.

On the other hand, the bushed in the back have survived and proven themselves to be hardy.  They produce beautiful flowers as you can see above. (Those are from the backyard.)

So, what do I do?  My friend, Sabrina, suggested I move the bushes to a little corner and have a rose grove. That is a thought. It kind of would be the best of both worlds. I could keep them but not have them throughout the garden like they are now. There is an area of the garden that would be perfect for this.

Maybe that's what I will do. My own little rose grove.

Caccia Plumbing to the Rescue

One of the biggest differences between living in an apartment and owning a home is having to pay for your own maintenance.  On top of that, finding the right people to do the service is tricky.  Luckily when it came to plumbing a friend recommended Caccia Plumbing.

From the moment you call, you know you are in good hands with them.  Their staff is so nice and helpful.  Our plumber, Angelo, has been to our house several times.  Today it was to help me figure out why I occasionally smelled gas downstairs. This has been going on for a couple of months, but it wasn't constant - just every now and then. We could go weeks without smelling anything then suddenly there would be this little whiff or gas. Or was it?  We didn't know.  We don't use the downstairs room very often and I hardly go in there.  What was even more strange was that the smell was isolated to this tiny hall down there.

Of course I was concerned and placed carbon monoxide detectors all over down there. They never went off.  I wanted to call someone, but the smell was impracticable. I tried everything to recreate it. I turned on our stove upstairs and left that going.  Nope, no smell.  Oven. Nope. Maybe it was the hot water heater. I ran our water and waddled down the stairs. No smell.  The laundry machine?  Not that either.

The other day the smell was a bit stronger than usual so I called Caccia and asked if Angelo could come over and look at it. You know what? He figured it out right away. Our a valve in our furnace was slightly leaking in our garage. So why didn't we constantly smell it?  Well, it seems that it only went into the spare room when we had the back door of the garage open. Mystery solved!

What I really appreciate about this whole process is that Angelo showed me what was going on and explained it so thoroughly. He never makes me feel stupid or talks down to me. Angelo fixed the leak and all is good.

I really appreciate having someone that we can call that we trust for these kinds of things. We have been conned in the past and it's nice to know we don't have to worry about that now. Having a house is enough work. Who wants the extra worry of not trusting people you bring into it?

Thanks Angelo! I always enjoy seeing you, but hope it won't be too soon!

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About Sean & Joey

Joey and I are just a couple of guys living in San Francisco. I love cooking and we both like trying new things. Planning our meals is one of our "together" things. I hope you enjoy our blog! - Sean


This blog is dedicated to the two most important people in my life - my mom, Ernee Jean O'Brien, and my partner Joey Concepcion. They both have showered me with unconditional support and love and have always encouraged me to be myself. I will always miss my mom and I don't know what I would do without Joey.

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