Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Recipes for a Cheapskate: Tomatillo Salsa

While I don't have a crop of tomatoes yet, I do have a lot of chiles and onions.

It's time to make this season's first batch of salsa.

I pick a handful of chiles, using a pastry box to keep the varieties separate. Serrano is on the left and the unknown variety on the right is a very much hotter chile.

I have to go to the store to get a tomato and some tomatillos. I peel the sheath off of the tomatillos, peel a small onion from the garden, and toss in a mixture of my red chiles.

Now, I move out to the patio and light up some coals on the barbecue.

I get a perforated tray to put the small chiles on and roast them, the tomatillos, tomatoes, and a couple of ears of corn for kicks on the grill over indirect heat. I'll move over to direct heat towards the end to get some char on them.

Finally, it all goes into a blender where I add minced garlic and salt to taste. Then it's done.

Most of this I will freeze until later this summer when the bell peppers are ready to eat. Then, I'll mix this salsa with cream cheese to make stuffed bell peppers.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thoughtful Thursday

Not a lot of words today. Just sitting and enjoying the fruits of my labors. 

I'm sitting in my patio chair, listening to some tunes, and enjoying a cool cocktail. I've got a camera with a nice zoom lens.  Let's see what I can see from here, starting with the hanging basket at the top.

The grapes will be ripe soon, I can't wait to taste them.

This red bougainvillea is on it's second bloom...

...as is our newest bougainvillea member, this coral colored guy.

Finally, as usual, the yard is surrounded by these fragrant, white plumerias.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
YAHQQLIGAN under CC-BY license

Chukchansi Park is the home of the Fresno Grizzlies, the AAA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Opened in 2002, it’s a downtown park designed by HOK Architects, the same firm that designed such major league parks as Camden Yards in Baltimore. The name comes from a nearby Indian tribe who bought the naming rights to promote their casino.

Usually a contender, this year the Grizzlies are dead last, 8 games behind the Tucson Padres.

Here are the stats…

Year opened: 2002
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $46 million
Capacity: 12,500
Field dimensions: Left field – 324 ft.; Center field – 402 ft.; Right field – 335 ft.
Home teams: Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League, AAA) 2002 –present; Fresno Fuego (USL Premiere Development League – soccer) 2007-present
Events attended: one game

This is one of those minor league parks that looks almost like a major league park. Sitting just west of Fresno’s downtown, it’s probably the best looking structure around. It has a great view of downtown but mostly of the buildings backsides.

The seating bowl consists of two decks, with another level of suites above that. On the first base side, the upper deck is a club with private seating. The park entrances come into the concourse level at the top of the field deck. This is where you’ll find most of the wheelchair accessible seating. There is also accessible seating in the upper deck and in the cheap seats in left field. Ticket prices run from $8 to $24. You will pay a couple of dollars more if you buy at the game. The best wheelchair seats, right behind home plate, are the $17 or $19 (depending on if you buy them in advance) dollar tickets. You can also sit in that private section along the first baseline in the upper deck for $40, $50 on premium nights.

If you have a large group, there’s a pool and spa area you can rent out in center field starting at $35-40 per person (it also includes your food). There is also a plaza behind home plate that features a carousel for kids.

We had no problem just walking up to the ticket window and purchasing three tickets (one wheelchair, two companions) directly behind home plate for the Independence Day game with post game fireworks.

There are no bad seats here and the game views are excellent. Food choices are mostly the regular ballpark fare consisting of hot dogs, pizza, and burgers. Beer selection is rather pedestrian too with the most premium brew on tap being Tecate, but it is not expensive.

Very limited accessible bus service is provided by Fresno Area Express (FAX) with the downtown circulator trolley, which stops running at around game time, and the 38 bus, which runs late enough on weeknights but not on weekends. There are vast parking lots across the street on the third base side.

A good, competent ballpark…not a gem…but definitely a fun place to watch a ball game.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Prodigal Son Returns

This is our guava tree. We used to grow it in a giant pot on our patio. The tree did very well there and gave us a lot of fruit.

The tree, grown from seed believe it or not, got to be top heavy. A stiff breeze would knock it over.

We transplanted into larger and larger pots to no avail. I'd fill the bottom of the pot with heavy rocks and it would still tip over.

Every flip would shock the plant and we'd get less and less fruit.

Finally, my wife had it transplanted into the ground at the far end of our backyard.  The tree grew, looked healthy but wouldn't produce fruit.

Years went by but, finally, this year looks good. Here's a flower from the tree.

Of course where there's flowers, there should be fruit. Lo and behold there is fruit.

Lots of fruit.

Hundreds of fruit.

After a long sojourn, the tree appears to be back. Guava will be back on the menu for this fall and winter.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Previews at Cheapskate Farms

Our last post showed you what we picked this week, this post will show you what's coming soon.

The future is all about chiles. So is the present, as a matter of fact.  This one is a very hot one that I do not know the name of. We got the seeds from a batch of chiles my wife's uncle grew. I just know that it is delicious and the hottest chile in our garden.

These jalapenos will be ready soon too. We're growing them in a pot on the patio.

Way, way down on the heat scale...in fact, they have none...are the bell peppers who make up for the lack of heat with their great flavor. I love growing this and they make for a great, late harvest food.

While our heirloom tomatoes are still taking their sweet time setting fruit, this cherry tomato in a hanging basket will be ripe soon.

In other news, a branch of our plumeria broke off.

Here is a closer look. This is quite common, they are very brittle, but you can stick the broken stem in the ground and it will grow into a new plumeria tree.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Progressive Park, Cleveland, Ohio

Fomerly know as "The Jake" - Jacobs Field - this stadium is home to the Indians.  The team has been in business for over 110 years and took the World Series in 1920 and 1948.  Since then, they've mostly been known as a hard-luck team, even a joke sometimes (see the great baseball comedy Major League for a good example). 

They did have a good run in the mid 1990's when they had players like a young Manny Ramirez on the team.  In 1995, they were the American League representative to the World Series but lost to the Braves. 

They returned in 1997 to face the Marlins and were two outs away from taking it, but closer Jose Mesa blew the save and the Indians lost game seven in the 11th inning.  This was a great series that we got to watch from a beachside bar in Puerto Vallarta...ahh, good times (see below)!  We had fun with you, Marlin Bob.

As of this update...June, 2013...the Indians are again in the hunt, only a game or two behind the Tigers in the Central Division.

Progressive Field replaced Cleveland Stadium, which had been literally falling apart, in 1994.  It was initially named after the team's owner, Rich Jacobs.  In the midst of one of the team's greatest eras, the stadium sold out 455 consecutive games over a five year period.  Here are the stats:

Opened: 1994
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
Construction cost: $175 million
Capacity: 45,199
Field dimensions: Left field - 325 feet; left center - 370 feet; Center field - 405 feet; right center - 375 feet; Right field - 325 feet
Home team: Cleveland Indians (American League, MLB) 1994 - present
Events attended: None, but took a tour.

In 2000, lawyer Larry Dolan bought the team.  With the Jacobs regime gone, there was no need to keep the name.  Naming rights were sold to Progressive Insurance in 2008.

Wheelchair locations abound throughout the stadium.  Also available are swivel seats to transfer into and aisle chairs with swing-away armrests.  Wheelchair and companion seats are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.  Ticket prices are dynamic...meaning whatever the market will bear putting the team in a position of scalper.  As of this writing, that means around $10 - $96.

Public transportation is available from the RTA which runs buses and trolleys to the stadium with a covered walkway available on game days from the nearest trolley station.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see a game there when we were in Cleveland.  The Indians were in Anaheim at the time, taking on our home team, the Angels, so we can't speak to the game experience here but it sure looks like a nice place to see a baseball game.

Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chiles, Sweet Onions, and Corn...Oh My!

Harvest season continues here at Cheapskate farms. Although, I don't have time to cook it this weekend, I need to harvest the corn before it's too late.

Out in my 4-foot cornfield, five stalks continue to grow.

Here are a couple, with ears sheathed in red husks (although the kernels are still yellow).

Our Serrano chiles are turning bright red, so I'll pick those too.

In the onion patch, the bulbs want to be picked so bad, they're pushing their way up through the soil.

I'll pick these for now and save the rest for later.

And here is this week's harvest, 4 ears of corn (one is hidden), sweet onions, and Serrano chiles.

There're still three ears of corn left that can go another week or two, tons of chiles, and two more groups of sweet onion bulbs to pull up after we eat these.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's The Middle Of July...Where Are My &*$#@ Tomatoes?

This year, I decided to try growing heirloom tomatoes instead of the usual hybrids. I harvested the seeds from some fruit I bought at the farmer's market, so I don't know what the exact variety is.

I planted in February, transplanted late March, and now...finally...it's just starting to flower. Usually, I'd have scads of tomatoes by now but these are taking forever.

Next year, I'll be planting hybrids as well...quick growing ones.

The zucchini's getting close to played out.  I've just got a few of these smaller squashes coming up now.

The plant started to grow over the walkway, so I took this stick and am attempting to hold it back in the planter.

The chiles are really pumping out the fruit and we'll be harvesting this from now til...who knows? These last a long time.

Finally, the dragon fruit is producing it's first flower of the season. Incredibly spectacular looking fruit but a bit on the bland side.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Battling the Smut!

The grapevine is the focus of our most intense efforts in the summer. This is when the fruit is ripening and, if we're not careful, we could lose the entire crop if we fail to pay attention.

Our vine is a Ruby Red Seedless that produces delicious, medium size, red berries.

We've chronicled our other efforts at keeping the birds and rodents away from it with our wire and netting barrier.  Another problem is fungus.

Ruby Reds are a little more susceptible to fungus than most grapes. When prepping the plant at the beginning of the season, I sprinkle liberally with sulfur dust and then again when the fruit starts really showing, usually in June.

Still, as you can see at the top, the fruit is starting to turn to the ripe color but the dirty black stuff is smut...a type of fungus.

Left untreated, it will split the fruit open before ripening.

So I got some sulfur dust, poured some in a spray bottle, filled with water, and started spraying. And spraying, and spraying.  Plant's about soaked in a sulfur solution now.

Keeping my fingers crossed that the fruit will make it to the end of summer harvest...

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Frederick Dennstedt under CC-BY-SA license

Los Angeles, and its neighbor to the south Anaheim, have the third and fourth oldest stadiums in baseball with Dodger Stadium opening in 1962 and Angel Stadium in 1965. They are two of the most wheelchair unfriendly stadiums in the major leagues. Angel Stadium will get its due, but today we’ll talk about Dodger Stadium, which sits at #16 on our list of stadiums.

Home to the Dodgers, who moved west in 1958 from Brooklyn, the stadium is visually striking…built into a natural bowl with views of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, and downtown Los Angeles to the south. It is on top of a hill in Elysian Park, just above Chinatown and next to the police academy.

Here are the stats:

Opened: 1962
Surface: Santa Ana Bermuda Grass
Construction cost: $23 million
Capacity: 56,000
Field dimensions: Left field – 330 ft.; left center – 375 ft.; Center field – 400 ft.; right center – 375 ft.; Right field – 330 ft.
Home team: Los Angeles Angels (1962 – 1965), Los Angeles Dodgers (1962 – present)
Events attended: Too many Dodger games to count.

It may be old but it wears its age well, at least visually. Many partial rehabs have been done, most recently by former owner Frank McCourt adding premium seating behind home plate and around the dugouts. McCourt kept promising a $500 million rehab, but his divorce and his dispute with Major League Baseball kept that from happening.

The McCourts are just  bad memory now.  New ownership is in place via the Guggenheim Group that includes Stan Kasden and Magic Johnson. Paying way more than the team was valued...over $2 billion...it remains to see how their investment will pan out. The team is not doing real well in 2013.

Dodger Stadium is known for its harsh security measures. Beach balls are confiscated immediately and popped. You cannot wander around the stadium outside of the section you are sitting in. The riff-raff are zealously kept away from the beautiful people here. The stadium also has a reputation for violence in the stands and parking lot...a visiting paramedic from Palo Alto is permanently disabled due to a severe beating he took in the parking lot on opening day - and now has a $50 million lawsuit against the team for not providing enough security.

Ticket prices and concession prices had also steadily risen under the former management as have other snafus such as building high-priced baseline seats with poor views, a concession tent in the sun with no air conditioning, and paying a psychic six figures to beam good energy toward the team. 

One of the first thing the new owners did is lower the parking price, infamously raised to $15 under the McCourt regime. It is not $10.  The Dodgers now use tiered pricing for tickets. The four tiers have tickets ranging from $8 in the upper deck to $160 for a field box seat.

Wheelchair seating is adequate and fairly easy to buy. Mostly around the top of the field section. The team’s web site is woefully inadequate for information, only letting you know that wheelchair escorting ushers and handicapped parking is available.

There is no regular public transit to the games but a shuttle serves the stadium from Union Station in downtown. If you have a ticket it's free, otherwise it's $1.50 each way.  It’s a long walk uphill from the nearest regular bus stop on Sunset Boulevard.

Food prices are expensive but they do have some variety such as sushi, garlic fries, etc. Their signature item…the Dodger Dog…is awful. The only thing going for it is that the sausage is longer than the bun. (I will give the Dodgers one thing in this area, though...as much as I don't like the food there, it is still miles ahead of the Angels whose food ranges from mediocre to inedible.)

Now that new management is in place, we've got to get back to the Ravine. Hopefully, we can add a current in-person report to this soon. Nice going, Dodgers...hope the future holds good things for you.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Too Hot to Handle

I had a slate of chores to do this weekend but a heat wave hit and temps spiked to over 110 on our patio (that's about 44 degrees for my European friends). 

Had to take a breather and take it back up next weekend. The lawn did need mowing but I just hit the worst spots with the weed whacker. 

This zucchini was in danger of going overripe, so I went out and got that too before I died of heat stroke. It's big enough for the three of us to feed on for a week.

I'll try to pick it back up next weekend...


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved