Thursday, May 26, 2011

I've been in San Antonio, TX for business this week. It's a happy coincidence that my company's headquarters are in SAT, as are my father and my sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews.

I went to dinner with Dad, Sis, and stepmom last night - what a great evening. We started talking about family and history, and sis and I were asking Dad about growing up during the depression. His father (grandpa) used to run a coal yard. Dad has black tattooed scars on his knees from playing on piles of coal as a child and skinning his knees. He was sure to specify - "it was hard coal - which isn't as bad for the environment as the soft coal they're using now." In those days folks used the coal to heat their houses (up north / in Pennsylvania).

Dad talked about how his father kept delivering the coal to people even when they couldn't pay... And eventually he didn't have a coal yard any more, and was as broke as all of his customers. I saw a tear in my Dad's eyes (a very rare sight indeed!!)... He remembered his father and mother, years later when they had money again, trying to track down the milkman to pay him back for the milk.

Find out about your history, people! Ask questions! Appreciate the sacrifices, the joy, the hardship and the success of the long chain of people that led to your two feet being planted on this earth today. Don't let it slip away unnoticed. My mom died 12 years ago... I only wish I could talk to her about her story.

I love my Dad SO MUCH. I'm so grateful for every meal I get to share with him. I'm blessed.

He's having some health problems now; I appreciate any form of positive energy you may care to send our (his) way. Thanks for reading.

Meatless Monday - Super Easy Enchilada Casserole

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'd planned on making a stir fry for dinner but realized when I got home that I'd forgotten to get tofu, so that got scratched. Instead I threw together a super easy enchilada casserole. I wasn't planning to do a Meatless Monday post going in, so there's no photographic evidence, but here's a quick recap. You could probably just use whatever taco-like ingredients you have on hand and be OK.

1 can crushed tomatoes (all "cans" are what, 12, 14 ounces? You know, a standard can.)
1 can black beans
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 can corn
corn tortillas (I think I used 12 or so)
1 medium onion
1/2 green bell pepper
1 package taco seasoning
1/2 package sliced mushrooms (the kind you get in the vegetable section) - I used baby bellas
shredded cheese
enchilada sauce of your choice - I used one (15? 16? oz) jar

Pour the crushed tomatoes into your casserole pan (I used a 13 x 9 pyrex dish). Spread around fairly evenly. Put down one layer of corn tortillas, not overlapping much except where the rounds meet - it's OK for there to be little spaces between where 4 tortillas meet up.

Dice the onion and green pepper, and cut the sliced mushrooms into smaller pieces if you want (mine were annoyingly thick). Saute the onions, pepper and mushroom until nicely cooked (I'm assuming you've done this part before and know the routine, cook onions some, then add green pepper & cook some, then add mushroom).

Rinse the black beans and distribute them onto the tortillas. Follow with the corn, spoonfuls of the refried beans, a light sprinkle of taco seasoning, and the cooked veggies. For the taco seasoning, I used less than 1/2 the package total, and sprinkled it on (very lightly) once after the canned ingredients and once after adding the veggies. Chop the cilantro and distribute it on top of the other ingredients. Distribute a small amount of shredded cheese, followed by 1/2 of the enchilada sauce across the entire surface.

Put another layer of corn tortillas on top and top it off with the remaining enchilada sauce and a thin layer of cheese.

Cook in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, and enjoy!

Bee update

Sunday, May 1, 2011

We got to fully open and examine the hives for the first time yesterday since we installed the bees. We were able to check and make sure that the queen had been released a few days ago, but today was the first real look to see what was going on, removing each of the frames in our 8-frame deep boxes.

Hive # 1 (the westerly hive, to your left looking up the hill) has seemed much weaker than the other. There's always less activity there and it just didn't seem to be thriving in the way that Hive # 2 is. Hive # 2 is always "buzzing" with activity, and Hive # 1 usually has about 1/3 the amount of action.

We'd worried a bit that we might have released Hive 1's queen accidentally when we were taking out the bee delivery box and queen cage, so we opened up that box first (with quite a bit of apprehension about what we might find). We were so happy to discover that the bees had built out two of the black plasticell frames and gotten a start on another two, and there were eggs and larvae already in development (meaning we still had a queen!). Shortly thereafter, we actually saw her majesty herself on the frame. It was a very exciting moment! (I think she's somewhere in this shot:)

We inspected both hives and, interestingly, both seemed to be about on a par as far as rate of development. I think Hive 1 has less bees overall but their progress is very close to Hive 2. Both hive-top feeders were completely dry, so we made a point to fill them both up so that the bees would have food and support to continue building, until such time as they have their own reserves.

Before we got out there, I was a bit apprehensive and nervous about fully opening and looking at the frames in the hives, but once we did I realized how much I love it and how exciting it is! I could just watch the bees all day - they are amazing creatures.

Here's a great shot (if I do say so myself) of John inspecting one of the frames:

And one of me, grinning like a fool just after we'd seen the queen:

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