Friday, February 29, 2008

Looks like Spring

Isn't it nice when plants you like reseed or naturalize? Below are some flowers I'm enjoying that I planted a few years ago. And yes, I'm finally emerging from hibernation mode. It's totally mental because I live in northern California. All of a sudden, flowering quince, Japanese camellias, wild lupine, saucer magnolias and daffodils have exploded into color and that's just something you can't ignore.

I've even started torturing my teenage son on the drive to school by offering him twenty bucks to name neighborhood flowering trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. One of these days, I'm going to have to pay up... because he's starting to remember the names.

On the pizza front, I'm making my first batch of homemade dough tonight using King Arthur's Sir Lancelot flour. Wish me luck. Or, rather, wish my son and his friends luck. They're my culinary guinea pigs.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A little rant.

I usually try to stay focused on the positive aspects of gardening, but this morning I feel like a little rant on this blurb that showed up in my Home & Garden feed. The Bee is calling for 100-word reader submissions on the topic of nosy neighbors. As stated, all submissions become property of The Sacramento Bee.

I've been seeing a lot more of this lately; Newspapers and magazines which have slashed or outright decimated their gardening content to the point where you can barely line a birdcage with the stuff, are now asking us to write their articles for them... for no pay... and they get to keep all rights to our submissions.

I don't think so. We need to nip this nasty journalistic habit in the bud.

Call to Readers: Curious neighbors?

Got a nosy neighbor, a world-class buttinsky? Seen them peering through fence slats, focusing the binoculars, hiding behind the drapes? If so, we want to hear about your neighborhood busybody for an upcoming Home & Garden story. Are they good, bad or just annoying? Please e-mail your story of 100 words or less to All submissions become property of The Sacramento Bee.
Here's another...

A little help from readers, please

Do you take your love of gardening to work with you? Is your workspace overflowing with greenery? I'd love to know - and see - how you decorate your cubicle or desk with plants for a coming story. Send me an email telling me about the plants on your desk or in your cubicle. Send along a photo if you can. Send comments and pics to h& and put "cubicle plants" in the subject line.

I'm also interested in hearing from readers who grow houseplants that bloom, especially during winter. Tell me about your plants and send a pic to h&, and put "indoor plants" in the subject line.

Be sure to include your full name and the city and state where you live. And thanks for the help.

No, thank YOU! And can I make you a pot of coffee and bring you your slippers after I write that article for you?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yep, I've seen 'em.

Warmer weather brings mosquitoes' buzz back
Drain standing water and wear repellent to fight the bite
By Hudson Sangree -

Last Updated 6:07 am PST Monday, February 11, 2008
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B2

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pizza #2

Hits: This one crisped up better than the first, probably because I transferred it to a pre-heated pizza stone after a few minutes (easier said than done). Also, pesto is just delicious on a pizza.

Misses: The T.J.'s Canadian bacon turned out to be a thicker cut than you normally want on a pizza, but it still tasted great. After awkwardly transferring the pizza from a metal pan to the pre-heated pizza stone, I accidentally turned my oven off for the remaining baking time. That made the pizza crust a little on the chewy side.

Next, I'm going to try making my own dough using my Kitchen Aid mixer. Oh, and I think I need a metal pizza peel.

02/13/08 edit:

Other things I've gleaned from the web recently:
  • Place pizza on lowest rack in oven.
  • Go easy on the sauce... less is more.
  • Don't cover the entire pizza with cheese... always make sure you can see through to the bottom so you don't create a seal.
  • Use bread flour (King Arthur's Sir Lancelot is preferred by some) instead of all-purpose flour
  • Heat up your pizza stone for about an hour before baking pizza.
  • If you're rolling out your pizza, don't flatten the edges.
  • A little sugar or honey helps activate your yeast.
I also discovered lots of interesting pizza video tutorials on the web. Some are funny, some are strange, some are slick productions, some are homespun, some are awful, and some are very instructive. Most of them will make you hungry.

In the slick and instructive category, you have Tyler Florence.

Tyler Florence Making Pizza Dough

Tyler Florence Making Mushroom Pizza

Saturday, February 09, 2008


My home pizza baking project was overall a success. I was pleased with how large (approx. 16") and thin the crust was, but it didn't crisp up and brown on the bottom as much as it should have. This is probably why people use pizza stones... to try to replicate commercial pizza oven conditions. I think I have some brick-like pizza stones... somewhere... and will try to find them. I may also have taken it out of the oven a bit too soon.

Tonight, I'm making another pizza; this time with pesto instead of red sauce and Canadian bacon instead of turkey pepperoni. I might also get a little crazy and use kalamata olives in place of the regular ol' canned sliced black olives.

Meanwhile, I'll get back on and see what they recommend for achieving a slightly crispier, darker crust.

Mmmmm...... pizza.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pizza? Garden? Or a Pizza Garden?

I have been feeling doubly guilty about not blogging much and not gardening at all lately. What can I say? Except for the first hint of green at the base of my dormant perennials and a few cruelly random sunny days, the garden is still looking pretty bleak and mucky and frost-worn.

I find myself indoors a lot, wearing my UGGs and my North Face winter coat. It's 59 degrees outside, for God's sake. What's wrong with me? I can be such a pansy sometimes.

Aside from recent quandaries about where to cast my vote in the California Primary, what to do with the rest of my life, and how to save Britney... and all the abandoned animals... and planet earth (not necessarily in that order), I have also been doing some serious thinking about pizza.

My taste buds are easily bored and since my son inherited the same trait, I've been trying to find ways to curb our trigger-happy gourmet pizza delivery dialing habits; especially considering I'm usually feeding his ginormously tall best friend too. Sure, we've tried take-n-bake, but the crust just doesn't have that artisanal taste or texture we're craving.

My brother, the ex-chef, says he's going to teach us how to make pizza from scratch. Won't that be some wholesome down-home family fun? Until then, I bought some Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough to try. Pizza fanatics on the fantastic site say good things about T.J.'s dough. These people are deep into pizza. Read the forum and you'll see what I mean. I want to be just like them.

So far, I've assembled nearly all the ingredients and tools I need to make two 16" pizzas. It's become sort of fun tracking my expenses because it's looking like I can make two fully loaded pies for under eight bucks total.

By chance, I came across a little article about a pizza garden today. While theme gardens aren't usually my thing, it's a cute idea and reminded me that not only can I assemble my own pizzas when I feel like it, I can also grow some of the ingredients!

If you think about it, pizza is made from really basic stuff: dough, tomatoes, olive oil, cheese, herbs, veggies, and meat if you like. I'm no locavore, but it's neat to think that I'll be making sauce from my own tomatoes and herbs this summer. I miss you so much, fresh basil and tomatoes. And pizza? I want to marry you.

Anybody else out there still hiding inside? Anybody ever make their own pizza from scratch or part scratch? Anybody out there ever make their own pizza sauce from garden-grown tomatoes? If so, I salute you and would love to know how it turned out.