Thursday, August 22, 2013

On librarians...(and my talk at the Library of Congress)

I used to think librarians were weird.  I've said so many times, getting others to laugh at their expense.   Librarians are at the very least mean and rigid.  Am I right? Once, I tried to check out a book and since the librarian was available, and since there were no people in line, I smiled and walked straight up to the counter.  She told me to go to the front of the line and pointed to the red arrow hanging from the ceiling.  She watched me walk the 8 steps there.  Then she called me up.  WHAT?!  Plus, those librarians...they're always shushing you.  

View from the Library of Congress
In my gardening/food speaking engagements, I've talked with many different groups of people and after speaking at the Library of Congress twice now, I can say that hands-down, my favorite audience is comprised of the group there.  And most of them are librarians!  I'm not quite sure where that OCD librarian I encountered in my past came from.  And all the mean ones from my childhood must have retired because this group of people was excellent.  Intelligent, excited, eager to learn, eager to share their own knowledge, polite, and just an overall joy to meet and talk with.  Among the participants were several librarians and one kind woman brought to share about 40 copies of a booklet comprised of resources on the topic of food preservation.  Leave it to a librarian to show up to a presentation with a freaking bibliography!  Jokes aside, it was really awesome and I so appreciated it.  

Also, what a wonderful place to work.  Each day, there are numerous events going on at the Library of Congress, with programs of a ridiculous range of topics planned throughout the year - many of them open to the public.  These programs are often held during lunch so employees can participate.   It's quite an agency that is based on knowledge, thrives on sharing knowledge, and encourages further knowledge.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Ugh, more of Wendy's homemade crap"

This was a gift of apple pie filling.  The card included photos of the apple picking, peeling, pie making.  This was given mostly to family because the adorable family photos seemed too obnoxious to give to anyone else.  It also included a variety of great recipes to include the pie filling in.  

When I was driving to my talk at the Library of Congress the other day, I was thinking about the jars of canned foods I like to gift to people - my strawberry margarita jam, my habanero pepper jelly, my sweet plums.  I was thinking, boy, I hope people don't think - "Ugh, this homemade crap" and throw my stuff out.  Canners know that a lot of time, love, and money go into making these jars of homemade things!

This was my first homemade gift.  Bruschetta, evoo, melba toasts, sparkly star shaped lollipops.  

As I was driving and in my own head the other day, I was thinking about the pickled cherry tomatoes that I'd just canned and would like to give away to a few select people in my life.  I mean, the cost of the jars, the ingredients (champagne vinegar is not cheap!), the fact that I sweated it out all summer watering those tomatoes...  I lovingly started the seeds in March - spritzing the seedlings daily, regularly adjusting their habitat under the best grow lights.  And the garlic clove?  I planted that garlic last fall, having carefully stored the bulbs from the previous spring!  I could keep going back...

Sometimes I calculate these gifts in monetary terms - a la The $64 Tomato.  Just to see.  So I also add to the cost of supplies, my hourly cost of labor.  I take my hourly wage - which is relatively decent, then I give myself a little raise because having to work full time means my spare time is even more valuable.  All that totals... a hefty sum for the jar of triple berry jam one may receive.

This was a berry jam.  Tea, chocolate, and scone mix.

So for all the people out there who have ever received a homemade treat from anyone, believe me, they are NOT crap.  If you receive a homemade jar of something, consider yourself a special friend - one that is worthy of the sweat, labor, time, and thought that has gone into the giver's gift.  It's a big deal.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

These are my daughter's yellow and red cherry tomatoes.  I'm excited to have these tart little things after they have a chance to sit for about 2 weeks.  They can also be blended with an equal amount of olive oil for an excellent tomato vinaigrette.  This is a canning recipe.  If you like, follow the recipe and instead of canning, store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months instead.

I jotted this recipe down from somewhere a while ago and hadn't planned to share it, but posted a pic on Facebook and it generated a lot of shares and calls for the recipe.  Unfortunately, I don't have the original source.  If this is your recipe and you stumble upon this, sorry!  Let me know so I can properly credit you!

PICKLED CHERRY TOMATOES             Makes about 5 pints

5 teaspoons dill seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 fresh dill sprigs
5 garlic cloves
8 cups cherry tomatoes (pierced with a sterilized needle)
4 cups champagne vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt

Prepare jars for canning.  Toast dill and peppers (I skipped this step).  Divide herbs and spices among jars.  Pack tomatoes in jars.

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to boil.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Transfer liquid to pitcher.  Pour over tomatoes.  Leave 1/2 inch headspace.  Screw on lid, rings till tight.  Process for 15 minutes.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cicada emergence photos

Photo credits go to my husband, a keen observer, who was at the right place at the right time!!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

My amazing day with WUSA 9

I have a great friend Sandy who is so kind and helpful and hooked me up with WUSA news, our CBS news affiliate. Recently, I got to visit the station for their live News at Noon show.  I worked on a news set in college - was the Technical Director of our college news show - meaning I literally pushed buttons 1 through 5 when someone told me to.  Not too fancy, but I had seen TV sets before.  Still, there is a lot of magic behind the scenes, and that was super fun to see!  JC Hayward was friendly and so cool under pressure and was the ultimate professional.  She sits on the media throne in the photo above. See those robocams? They move around themselves.  When one of the producers started calling out "30 seconds!", I swear I starting have a little panic attack for JC, but she was cool as a cucumber.

Especially cool as a cucumber when during a commercial, one of the people in the control room above heard of some breaking news on Twitter about the US Consulate in Italy.  He told her he was still checking things out, but to prepare for breaking news.  Later in the show, the news was confirmed and it was magically put on the prompter and a "breaking news" graphic was ready to run.

There was a lot of changing gears in a newscast.  From a 4 year old boy who was murdered in DC, to the guest from A Chorus Line, to the cooking segment above by one of my favorite restaurants - La Tasca - JC had the audience with her all the way.  I don't get to watch TV news a lot, but I can see how people would be loyal to a great news anchor.  

Above, JC thought a couple of plates needed to be moved.  The producer called out "40 seconds!" while everyone was madly rearranging things.  Again, I almost had a panic attack.  Everyone was cool though, and I got to see the chef begin an amazing dish of scallops and crabs!

Oh, and one of highlights of this day?  In the end, I got booked for a September 2 segment!  I'll be on that set talking about food preservation.  Ahhhh!!  Now I'm really having a panic attack!

Monday, August 5, 2013

My garden wall

Well, I'm not a stonemason, landscaper, or anything remotely close, and when I'm dead and gone, someone's going to be cursing my name as they repair this non-professionally made wall, but I do sometimes wonder at the fact that I made this whole thing with my bare hands...  After a few years, it's weedy.  Last year's derecho zapped a tree that broke a part of the wall (that I've shoddily repaired).  I've got too much to keep up with and this slope hasn't been mulched in years.  Plants are alive but do not thrive, but all in all, I'm pleased - and glad I did it when I did, because I can't imagine taking on this job now!  See this post about the summer when the wall was created.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

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