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Silking Stage

It's (nearly) official – I could very possibly be a mama! My lovely corn (Zea Mays) is in the R1 stage of corn growth. That's right, we have silk.

According to this handy information about corn growth stages I found, the VT stage (tasseling) is quickly followed by the appearance of corn silk (silking) which is part of the pollination process.

Hopefully some of the pollen found its way to the ovule. This is the part which evidently turns into a kernel...or, if not fertilized, it all just goes away.

Fingers crossed :)

Smoretini Recipe

A couple weeks ago, in honor of National S'mores Day (August 10th), my friendly neighbor came over to give me an interesting recipe: a martini made to taste like a S'more. A "smoretini," if you will. (And I think you WILL.)

The weekend after that, he had me over to his patio to sample a pitcher of said s'moretinis he'd made to celebrate just that occasion (albeit a tad late, at that point). Now, I don't drink martinis. In fact, I don't even drink liquor (read: booze; not wine or beer). Okay, one of my signature drinks is a Bloody Mary, but that's different.

Anyway. So we sat on his patio and sipped smoretinis in the warm aftermath of a summer's day. Correction: he sucked down 3 (that I know of); I had ONE smoretini. I took one sip and thought, "hello, I'm drunk."

While definitely tasty, I think the recipe he was using – he followed it exactly – could use more Chocolate Liqueur (it didn't QUITE taste like a S'more):

S'moretini Recipe

1 64-ounce pitcher
32 ounces vodka
16 ounces Chocolate Liqueur
1 sleeve of graham crackers (as needed)
1 jar marshmallow creme (Marshmallow Fluff)
1 bag miniature marshmallows (he used full-size)
1 bag wooden skewers
16 martini glasses (less, if you're re-using as we did :)

Pour vodka and chocolate liqueur into pitcher and stir. Refrigerate for several hours (until very cold). Crush graham crackers and place onto a flat plate.

Rim martini glasses with marshmallow creme. Dip glasses into graham cracker crumbs (just as you would for margarita glasses).

Place marshmallows on skewers and toast over an open flame. Pour 3 ounces of cold drink mixture into each prepared glass and serve with toasted marshmallow for garnish.

Enjoy in moderation --- they're strong!

Not that it "goes" with a s'moretini drink, but if you're looking for another recipe, try the one I made for National Spaghetti Day!

Lettuce Wrap Tacos

This summer my friend decided to join a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). Little did she know her fridge would be inundated with lettuce. After snarfing more salads than she could count, she started asking around at work for think-outside-the-box lettuce recipes. I promptly replied with "lettuce wraps" – be nice, I'm not very inventive in the kitchen.

To my credit, I DID suggest using tuna fish salad, egg salad, etc. in said lettuce wraps. I guess that would make them "lettuce sandwiches" more so than wraps, but whatever.

She must've thought I was a prime suspect – I mean, candidate – to try out my own recipes because she came into work a few days later bearing a gift of lettuce. Suddenly, I was the one wondering what to do with all these leafy greens.

I decided to put my idea into action one night when I had the house to myself (read: no husband to feed) and leftover taco fixings. Since I was too lazy to fry up some shells (that's right, I flash-fry corn tortillas 'cause it's SO YUMMY and that's what Mom always did) I figured I could use my new supply of lettuce leaves.

It was delish – and unbelievably light – albeit a tad messy.

The other night, I once again found myself alone for dinner with leftover taco ingredients. This time, instead of the deep green, large lettuce from my friend's CSA, all I had on hand was iceberg lettuce (which we all know is basically worthless unless you're thirsty). While not chock-full of nutrients, it was much easier to eat my healthy tacos out of these conveniently bowl-shaped leaves. Plus the iceberg gave the tacos a nice, crisp crunch the other leaves didn't.

I think next on the list is actually finding a lettuce wrap recipe (somewhat akin to P.F. Chang's) and do it up all the way. We'll see. For now, I'm pleased I "found" a very healthy variety of least when Clint's gone, anyway :)

Me, a Squirrel and Zea Mays

So my neighbor feeds the local St. Paul wildlife in his back yard. Since his town home – a corner unit – is on the extreme end of the lot and abuts the woods, it's somewhat peaceful back there. I don't know how long he's been feeding but he's acquired quite the menagerie. He has a couple of bird feeders there, plus two flat feed pans on the ground (heaven forbid his animals eat off the dirt). In the bird feeders he puts a couple varieties of bird seed and on the pans it's feed corn.

I think the main reason for the corn is the deer, but other fauna partake in the tasty meals: turkeys (we're down to only 3 this year, from the gang-like rafter of 31 we had two years ago), rabbits, ducks (they wait on his roof and quack at him until he puts the food out), and of course, squirrels. Always the squirrels.

For those of you who've never paid attention, the grey squirrel has only 5 life activities hard-wired into its pea-sized brain:
  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Breed
  4. Store food for winter
  5. Scrabble about and run in front of traffic

When food is plentiful – as it is here in our neck of the (city) woods – squirrels have ample time to cache enough to see them through winter. Now, it turns out squirrels are quite resourceful and sneaky when it comes to hiding their food. It seems these "scatter-hoarders" can have up to "several thousand caches each season." Holy cats. 

Originally (until I just checked at Wikipedia – the source of all trustworthy online data) I thought the mature ones cached food in their "dreys" while the young, immature squirrels were the ones digging holes everywhere on the lawn for hiding acorns, corn, etc. Not so.

Which brings us to the point: since the neighbor puts corn out every day, and squirrels love corn, AND they hide their food in thousands of places...obviously the lawns around our town home complex are riddled with squirrel caches. Many of these containing – you guessed it –  corn seeds. 

What happens when you bury a seed and it receives plenty of water? Why, it grows, of course. Now, the lawn service does a wonderful job of keeping the grounds looking very neat, but they're only out once a week and the tiny little corn shoots keep popping up – everywhere – in the grass.

One morning while out with Zada, I noticed a couple little 4-inch corn shoots waving gently in the breeze. Cursing the squirrels I ripped out said shoots (including their little roots) and walked back towards the house. I'm not sure if I meant to throw them away or what, but as I got to the door I realized "now what do I do with them?" 

As I pondered this (this all took place in about 2.4 seconds) I was gazing at the big, empty flower pot leftover from last summer (I'd used it for one of my spruce tips arrangements this winter) on the front stoop. All of a sudden, unable to quash life, I dug a quick little hole and tossed in the minuscule shoots. 

That was sometime in June. It's now mid-August, and my corn is flourishing. I'm not sure how the squirrel I stole from feels, but I'm loving my little crop. At first – since it was sort of a joke – I didn't really water the pot or take much notice. That quickly changed when the stalks started shooting up over the plant growing in the pot in front of it. 

Now I water the corn first – before all my other plants – and check its progress daily. The latest development: TASSELS! I feel like a proud mama.

After all, I sort of adopted Zea (from a squirrel, no less), and he's doing so can I help but feel pride?

What's that? Yes, I've named my corn. "Zea Mays," of course. What else?

 I'll be excited to see the next step – evidently called "silking" –  and whether or not my lovely corn will develop corn cobs.

Auntie Sarah/Sophia Day #3: A Visit to Como Conservatory

This past Monday was Sophia's 3rd Summer Day With Auntie Sarah. Michael brought her over at 8:30am – accompanied by her bike, helmet and camera – and our day started.

I had a few things to finish up before we could start out on our destination: a trip to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory (also known as just "Como Conservatory") to photograph the flowers. Since Clint and I live less than 4 miles from the Conservatory (as the crow flies, anyway), I figured the day would be a snap. We'd get there early (it opens at 10am) and beat the rush. Even on a Monday, I knew it'd be busy.

Well, it didn't take long to realize that Michael had forgotten to leave Sophia's booster car seat dealy – which meant until he could come all the way back across the city and leave it we were stuck at Casa de Danks (he was waiting for the cable guy). I improvised by bringing out the Play Doh, which is a great time-consumer. I watered the plants, picked up a bit, and tried to get Sophia's camera battery door open...of course the batteries were dead.

After the novelty of the Doh wore off, I figured it was time for a glamour shoot. I put some "make-up" – blush, lip gloss and just a tad of my favorite hair product: whip – on Sophia and asked her to strike some poses. Per usual, she happily obliged me. While only (already???) 6 years old, I've caught some of the most "grown-up" expressions on this kid's face. It amazes me. (Good luck with that, Amy, when she turns 16! Gonna be a heart-breaker.)

By the time Michael made it back over, it was already mid-morning...while he ended up getting the stubborn kids' camera to open, I realized I didn't have any batteries in the house – we'd have to make a stop at Target. At that point, it was easier to just let her use my old point-and-shoot camera (it had served me well in the past, although it's time to start looking for a replacement, poor thing) but THAT needed juice, too.

We headed off to Target, and by the time that was done it was lunchtime. I'd originally planned on heading to Como first, followed by lunch, but we were both hungry (and neither one of us is pleasant with low blood sugar). We headed to Keys Café to sit on the brightly-colored "bar" chairs and had a tasty lunch (beer cheese soup and tuna fish sandwich for me; mini corndogs, fries and applesauce for her).

Satiated and ready to photograph the flora, we made our way to the Como grounds...where it took me 15 minutes of driving around (and around) to FINALLY find the last parking spot. We had to walk quite a ways to get to the buildings and Sophia only needed to be carried for a few minutes :)

When we finally got in, I was worried that we only had ~1 hour before I'd need to bundle her back to my place (to pick up her bike) and we'd have to head back to her house. However, with a 6-year-old – even one interested in taking pictures of all the flowers – an hour turned out to be the perfect amount of time.

She wasn't interested in seeing the Bonsai Room, but we did hit the Fern Room, the North Garden, the Sunken Garden and Tropical Encounters. Last – but certainly not least – she wanted to play in the room designated for kids where they can learn while they play.

When it was time to go home, there were no tears...but that didn't deter me. I'm already planning what our next Auntie Sarah/Sophia Day will entail!