Friday, July 25, 2014

Past Trip: One Happy Island, July 2014

No not Staten Island, but Aruba, which is 15 miles north of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. A steady breeze keeps it cool even though most days are sunny, the ocean along the western shore is calm and inviting. Aruba is one of the ABC Islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles.
Our hotel's beach, but we hung out on the beach further down to the left
Just so you don't get the 2 confused, one is a Happy Island and one is where I live and for further comparison.

                                Staten Island               Aruba
Location(Lat/Lon)   40.3N, 74.8W            12.3N, 69.5W
Area (sq. mi.)           58.5 excluding lakes  69.5 no lakes
Coastline                  57 miles                     42.5 miles
Highest point           410ft. Todt Hill          617ft. Mt. Jamanota
July Temp                86F (humid)               82F always and dry and no hurricanes
July Water Temp      72F                            80F
Sand                         dirt brown                  white and soft
People                      basterds                      warm and friendly
Population               472,000                      110,600
Time to Newark       20 minutes                 5 hours
Discovered*            1520 (Verrazzano)     1499 (Alonso de Ojeda)
* by Europeans

Very similar and both are visited by about 1.5 million tourists each year, yet no one actually gets past the ferry terminal in Staten Island, while in Aruba tourists stay for weeks and come back year after year.

Highlights:
  • No work
  • Nice Breeze
  • Nice sand
Lowlights:
  • Surf was not up, so I did not get to take a lesson
  • seeing people who should not wear such small bathing suits
Lodging:
Holiday Inn located on Palm Beach 20 minutes from the airport.
Same configuration as our room, but our view was of the parking lot.
Dining:
All within a short walk from the Hotel. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel along the beach, each evening we cut through a different hotel to gain access to the beach.

Taste of Belgium - Belgium, had mussels and fries and beer
Aqua Grill - Seafood [fish soup, mahi-mahi, coconut flan; salad, red snapper, 2 chocolate brownie martinis]
Hostaria da Vittorio - Italian,  my favorite of the Italian restaurants we ate at. [brushetta prosciutto, orechiette with broccoli rabe & sausage,  strega; pappardelle speciale, panna frutti o al cioccol]
Gianni's - Italian, right on the main strip, had a lot of staff. We tended to eat early and there was quite a line to get in when we were leaving. [fried calamari, spaghetti with octopus, tiramisu; salad, pasta primavera, brownie ala mode]
Papillion - French [shrimps on toast, seared tuna over rice; crab cakes, Grouper, mousse]
Le Bistro - Located in the open air mall across from the hotel. The food was good, but we were just wondering where our food came from. [salad nicoise, snapper Arubiano, key lime pie; salad, red snapper with shrimp, mousse]
There is a fountain/light show at night in the mall. It can be missed.

And we also ate at another Italian restaurant which is not worth naming, though you have to walk along Palm Beach Noord a ways to get there. I had the insalata di Mare as an appetizer which was good, but our entrees were just OK. Other than this place all the food was very good

I would go again.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mid July Flowers


Current Blooms:
Salvia
 Gladiolus, some suggest digging them up in the fall depending on the zone you live in, we are borderline so we leave them in
 Pink Threadleaf Coreopsis
 Echinacea purpurea, had planted 2 last summer, but only one camp up this spring
Cilantro flowers
 Campanula cochlearifolia 'Elizabeth Oliver'
 Pink Chintz Thyme
 Dwarf Astilbe
Calluna Vulgaris "Alex Warwick" a heather


Sunday, June 29, 2014

2014 Garlic Harvest

Another real nice weekend, biked at the beach.

Garlic:
Harvested 97 new heads of garlic, last fall (October 13, 2013) we planted 98 cloves, not a bad result. We still have some garlic left from the last harvest, though it has been sprouting for awhile.

The spinach and lettuce were done and so we moved the zucchini to the garlic bed and the eggplant plants to the barrel planter.

Smoked Duck:
Brined and smoked a duck this weekend.
Bought a whole 5 lb duck, separated breasts(they were a bit thin) and leg/thighs, rendered fat from all the remaining skin, everything else went in the freezer for stock.
Brine:
 0.7 liters water
 60 g kosher salt
 16 g sugar
 7 g pink salt
 2 cloves of garlic, halved
 bunch sage, smooched
 bunch thyme, bruised
 3 bay leaves, man-handled
 3 g juniper berries, stepped on
 1/2 cup Madeira
Receipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn

Sat the breasts and leg/thighs in the brine for 6 hours.
Let them rest in the fridge for 12 hours
Smoked them for 2 hours using Mesquite.
Came out very tasty, ate the smaller of the 2 leg/thighs for lunch Saturday and Sunday.
Last time I just brined the breasts.

Estate Management:
Minimal this weekend.
Put shade cloth in the skylights, filled a crack betwixt the sidewalk and the curb cut with cement, light gardening, mowed the east lawn.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Start of Summer 2014

Spend Saturday morning trying to free a stuck tub drain stopper, the kind that has a cylinder inside the drain pipe (trip lever tub drain). The cylinder had not been used for a long time and after using WD-40 and vinegar it finally came free. I pulled it out, cleaned it up and reinstalled it.

Current Blooms:
A new Edelweiss, "Mt. Everest" from Edelweiss Periennials.
A Gentiana, Gentiana veitchiorum 'Goetterdaemmerung'  I bought it because of the name. It is the last opera in the Wagner Ring Cycle. Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung. It will have deep blue flowers. 

Another Edelweiss from Edelweiss Perennials, this one is Leontopodium discolor and is native to Japan. The flowers are just past their prime.
Iris and a day lilly.

Beers in the Fridge:
Still have porters in the fridge, but have added summer beers and ales to the collection.
Trader Josef's Blonde Ale - just OK
Smuttynose Brewing's Summer Weizen Ale, brewed with chamomile flowers, better but didn't notice the flowers
Konig Pilsner brewed in Duisburg, Germany. Smelled very flowery, taste was just OK, easily forgetful except for the flowery aroma. Don't expect to buy it again.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Second Sunday after Memorial Day, The festival of St. Mattress the sleepy

A productive weekend compared to last weekend. 
Installed 2 attic replacement windows, had purchased them easily more than 2 years ago and was saving them for the next time I was made redundant. Yesterday seemed like a good day to work in the attic(not too hot) so I put them in. Things went fairly smoothly. The expanding foam I sprayed into the window weight cavities kept oozing out of one location, I guess I did not wait long enough for the foam to dry. Otherwise all went well.

Installed foam gutter protectors over each gutter drop outlet on both sides of the house. The foam guard is supposed to be used along the whole length of the gutter, but the problem is really just the drop outlet which gets clogged by one or 2 large leaves or a small clump of debris and then the whole system backs up. The foam cross section is a right triangle which would have allowed debris to flow to the drop outlet, so I cut 2 inches off each end and flipped the pieces and glued them back to the guard creating a square cross section at each end. When I positioned the guard over the drop outlet I trimmed the square cross section to match the contour of the gutter. I hope this keeps the drop outlet clear.


Had yet another idea for a trough design, I wondered how it would look if I lined the mold with small sized bubble wrap with the smooth side facing out. I hoped the pot would pick up some of the texture of the bubble wrap. Also included the fiberglass mesh tape embedded between layers of the hypertufa mix. Tried to keep the sides thin, but they ended up quite thick.

I used tape to keep the bubble wrap in place while I built up the sides of the trough.
Came out looking like a honeycomb pattern, more detailed than I had expected.
 This was the small trough I made on Memorial Day.


Beers in the Fridge:
Actually felt like buying beer this week, all I had left were 3 kinds of stouts, not my first choice for these warm spring days. Even so didn't feel like drinking any of it till Friday.
I picked up;
Boddingtons Pub Ale owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, I buy this frequently.
Paulaner Hefe-Weizen wheat beer. In Germany the labels are Hefe-Weißbier, I guess people want imported German beer, but not that German.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day weekend

A real nice weekend, a mix of reading outside in the yard(Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, 1965, about a fictional Swedish Detective Martin Beck. It was very good, set in the 1960s when people got telegrams and sent letters and had to wait around for information) and some minor miscellaneous odds and ends. Also ate chips and dip, ice cream sundaes, pizza, homemade cinnamon Nutella rolls, and chicken wings, drank beer, mint Mojitos and Mimosas. A real nice weekend.

Had an idea for a new trough design.
In place of using hardware cloth(wire mesh) as a frame,  I though I'd try to sandwich fiberglass mesh tape normally used when taping drywall between 2 layers of the hypertufa mix.
I made a 1:1:1 mix of Portland cement, feather stone dust and sifted peat. I also added some fine vermiculite, some extra Portland and added a concrete bonding additive for additional strength.
I used a plastic container as a mold and put in a thin layer of mix on the bottom followed by strips of the fiberglass tape.
I then added additional mix over the tape and worked it in so both layers fully encapsulated the mesh. I then went up the sides of the container in the same way, sandwiching the mesh between layers of the hypertufa mix.




Hopefully, the trough will be strong and lightweight.

Current Blooms:
Clematis, Nellie Moser
 Hardy Geranium, cinereum 'alice'
Our newest Peony, Scarlet O'Hara, it fades after a few days to a pink.
Dwarf Coral bell - Heuchera grossulariifolia

Beers in the Fridge:
Nothing new, running low, need to pick up some summer beers.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Plants 2014

New plants(so far) this year are from
New Plants for 2014:
Erigeron linarfolia?. Yes, the "?" is on the tag.

Two new Erodium, I have had them in troughs before, but they didn't overwinter so I have them right in the ground as under plantings in the Peony Garden.
Trough with 2 new Primula, existing Dwarf Coral Bells and Dwarf Coreopsis - alpina 'Alba', Tickseed.
Trough with all new plants, Capanula Saxifraga, 2 Saxifragas and an Arenaria. The Saxifraga didn't do well last year in this trough, but I think the plants didn't have enough soil and were too high above the top of the trough.

After the soil settles in the troughs, I will add gravel to retain moisture and keep dirt from splashing up onto the leaves.

 Current Blooms:
Armeria Juniperifolia, Thrift/Seapinks
Lewesia
Coral Bell
Star of Bethlehem in the East Foundation Garden
 Lily of the Valley
Dianthus
Spanish Blue Bells, are growing in several of the garden areas