Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Houseplant Rescue - Can This One Be Saved?

In the past I have written about my ability to salvage neglected houseplants, bringing them back from the brink. I've got a new plant in at the Whitelees Houseplant Infirmary. This poor Jade plant Crassula ovata was once was a majestic specimen that lived at my neighbour's place. I will admit that I did covet the plant from time to time as it was very beautiful. It started to lose condition a couple of years ago when the plant was moved to a north room in their house. Less light meant sparse growth and the thing started to look unloved. Then around Christmas it was knocked over. The jade plant was put in the (unheated) garage to be re-potted. Jade plants really don't like the cold at all. It sat there for weeks in the dark with its roots exposed. I offered to give it first aid and was told that it would be brought around to our place.

The jade plant arrived yesterday afternoon while I was out walking the dog. It was sad to see a once vibrant plant clinging to life. I dragged the plant in the house and re-potted it. The few remaining leaves are withered and the root system is all but missing. I have done what I can do. It is now sitting in a sunnier spot where I can monitor the progress. If it doesn't pull through, I know I have done my best. If it does rally, I'll have a wonderful mature jade plant.
In 2008 I wrote about a citrus tree I had over-watered. Over watering is a bigger and more final killer of houseplants than under-watering. I didn't think that the little bit of water that remained in the plant tray week in and week out would be a problem . . . . . It was a problem.
Look at our fecund little tree now! It took two years, but the little tree did it! I think I'll make some lemon curd or lemon marmalade with these efforts. I want to get the most out these hard won lemons.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Must Stop Baking!

I've actually gained about seven pounds since losing my job. I have been walking the dog more and cleaning the house but I've also had open and unfettered access to the oven.
This week alone I have made cinnamon rolls, lime pie, apple pie, ras malai (a milky Indian or Pakistani desert), blueberry muffins, a carrot cake and a red velvet cake. Out of principle, I sample everything I make. Such was the case this week, except for the carrot cake. The carrot cake was a present for a neighbour's birthday. It is probably bad manners to give somebody a birthday cake with a slice taken out of it. I did however make graham cracker treats with the left over cream cheese frosting using some treasured graham crackers. Graham crackers aren't widely available in the UK . A life without s'mores - think of it! I have a dwindling supply due to a very generous gift from cousin Carey. I broke into the last box this week after I found I had too much left over frosting to throw away after icing the cake. There is something so comforting about frosting sammiched between the two halves of a snapped graham cracker and a glass of milk.

I tried my hand at a red velvet cake this week with white fluffy seven minute icing. The cake was much redder while it was still in batter form. Once baked the cake didn't have that scary red hue that one associates with good southern cooking. The cake was red enough for domestic consumption. The whiteness of the seven minute frosting looked pretty next to the red brown cake. I was intimidated with the frosting recipe as it called for the use of a double boiler (which I don't own). I found that two of my sauce pans when stacked will work beautifully as a double boiler. The icing turned out well. It was as white and as sticky as I remembered from my childhood. Seven minute frosting was the covering of choice for angel food cakes when I was a kid. There was enough frosting to cover two or three cakes, but by then I had enough of being economical and I rinsed the remainder down the sink.

I knocked the Valentine theme up a notch with some Barbie brand pink and white sprinkles that have been languishing in the cupboard.

As I write this there are three slices of apple pie, about four ras malai balls floating in their milky sauce, and three quarters of a red velvet cake left in the house. I need more eaters as I for one am not having another bite. It's back to plain broth and skimmed milk for me until this weight goes.