Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alfie the Bonsai

My brother and sister-in-law are starting to make bonsai trees. This is their baby, alfie, who is soon going to be made into a bonsai (maybe next year). Bonsai are an amazing example of how nature can be brought into a small space. A couple of Bonsai sites for those living in the NE United States:

The Bonsai society of New York:
The American Bonsai Association:
Evergreen Garden Works (Bonsai Articles):
Article on the challenge of Indoor Bonsai:

Although the internet is a great resource for learning bonsai, it's also a good idea to get books to help you along (even online books!) I tend to read at the bookstore just to get hints from a wide range of books. I'm going to try to go a bit deeper when my trees from the arbor society arrive in November!

Until soon!

Tea (and Coffee)

Caffeine-free tea has become a new favourite of mine, because we got two beautiful tea pots for our wedding. Having a pot of tea that retains heat (as the one in the picture does) nearby helps me to avoid wanting to constantly get up from my work/reading/studying to find food or a snack. I recommend having tiny tea cups (as found in Chinese restuarants) so that the tea in the cup doesn't have a chance to get cold. Rooibos tea, a South African tea that is available all over the world these days, is considered to be really good for your stomach and circulatory system.

My dad had an excellent suggestion for those left over coffee and tea grounds. They're usually acidic, so they're a great addition to soil nourishing acid-loving plants. An example of an acid loving plant is the tomato plant. It's a great way to avoid throwing away grounds if you don't have the space or garden for a compost heap.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reading Books on a Pda

I am a book accumulator.

Of all the things in the world, I tend to accumulate books. I haven't really found a good way to deal with this proclivity, but two things that I've realised are
(1) It can get expensive, particularly if you move often and don't want to accumulate too many things
(2) It can get heavy if you can't decide which book you want to read (which can stop you from wanting to walk as far, etc)

One solution literally fell into my lap, in the form of a second hand pda.

With this, you can read documents for class in plain text or pdf format. You can read all the classics for free, and you can avoid taking up space and having a massive collection of paper that you are not using. My pda uses very little energy-- it has to be recharged about once a week if I read while on public transportation and at night for that week.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Simple, Natural Pesto

You and I both know how precious pine nuts are. So this idea has to be pretty good and cost efficient for me to be suggesting it! Pesto is a great pasta sauce because it is actually relatively quick to make, given that you're not actually cooking anything.

My mom in law actually gave us the pine nuts, so I'm not sure how much they would cost. But 1/2 cup of pine nuts will probably give about 7-8 meals, which means it is still very cost effective.

I noticed that pesto in the US, even pesto from specialty stores:
a) does not really taste like pesto in Italy, where pesto originates from
b) contains a lot of "extras" that shouldn't really be there -- partially hydrogenated soybean oil, preservatives, potatoes (!?) etc.

So the benefits of making your own are very great
a) It takes about 1/2 an hour
b) You can use up the basil you've been growing
c) You know what's in it
d) You immediately have a few meals prepared, that don't take up very much space in the fridge.
e) It's quite healthy

One issue in the US is that it's really hard to get real parmesan, which makes a big difference. Parmesan that is any good is exorbitantly expensive. I would substitute for any other hard aged cheese that doesn't have extra ingredients-- Romano is probably ok.


Basil, leaves only: as much as you want, but about 3 cups is a good amount
about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan
about 1/2 cup pine nuts
about 3-5 cloves garlic
some olive oil

Chop up the basil, pine nuts and garlic with your best knife. This is what takes time. You just keep chopping until you have something that could be worked into a little block (see above picture for an sense of how much you need to chop, but it also depends a little on personal preference)

Place in a container that you want to keep the pesto in, then add some olive oil. I added about 1/3 cup, but don't be afraid to guess the first time you try the recipe.

Let me know how the attempts go!

Coming soon: how to use sage (any suggestions welcome), ideas for coffee and tea grounds