Miss Gioia

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Remember the tomatoes that I planted way back in August? They finally, finally bore fruit. It was a meager harvest, for sure. But a good one. I held Gioia up to the hanging basket, and she picked them one by one. We carefully washed each cherry tomato and ate them immediately afterward: one for me, four for Gioia. She was a fan.

Seven months of waiting. It was worth it. Hopefully this summer's plantings will be more bountiful. I just need to start the seeds on time...


Sunday, November 9, 2008

(Really) Local Food

On my flight back from the US in September, I read Barbara Kingslover's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. Such an interesting book. I started in Atlanta and finished it just before we touched down in Tokyo. If you have any interest in gardening or the local food movement, then this one should be added to your library.

Barbara's experiment, namely a year of eating things she had either grown herself or bought from people who lived nearby, was ambitious and dramatic. Raising baby Turkeys in the Spring in order to "harvest" them at Thanksgiving. Planting trays of seeds which were moved into the ground as soon as possible. Leaving bags of unwanted squash on the neighbors' porches because there was nowhere else to put them. Canning, canning and more canning in preparation for winter.

I was impressed. Almost inspired. Reading this book made me want to move to Appalachia and grow my own asparagus. Better to start small, though. Perhaps with the (less ambitious) plants on my porch.

Barbara completed her experiment, even thrived because of it. Food for thought for all of us.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Handy Man

My husband is so fabulous. I needed a sunny ledge for my seedlings, so on Sunday, he put up this trellis with a shelf that hangs above the balcony sink.

He also worked on a play kitchen for Gioia. We had an option to buy a ready made one in a local store. But even if we ordered the kitchen now, it wouldn't arrive until January. Which is not very Christmas-y. I had been eying some of the fabulous do-it-yourself play kitchens, which have been featured lately on Ohdeedoh. We decided to make one instead of buying it. When I say we, I am not really being honest. Really I cajoled Chris into breaking out the power tools and building one similar to this one. It is not finished yet, but I definitely see lots of play food in Gioia's future.

A fabulous Handy Man. Wouldn't you agree?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

One little tomato plant, three squash plants, a few eggplant seedlings, some kale .... that's pretty much all that made it through the last typhoon. I am not sure if these survivors will produce anything edible, as I planted them so late in the season. But who knows. I keep watering and watching.

We do have a bumper arugula crop growing in the window baskets. Maybe we can have a yummy autumnal salad this weekend. The seeds came from a UK company, so every time I pass these little leaves I get the urge to say: Rocket...RRRRocket. It makes me laugh.

I have already gone through the seed catalog to make my wish list for next year's "real" season. Flowers for hanging baskets, lettuce mixes, beans. Hopefully next summer will be more successful. At least we have learned to bring the plants in during typhoons. That's something, anyway.


Friday, August 29, 2008


The seedling experiment has begun. I have four types of squash, egplant and tomatoes started.

Let's see what survives on the balcony.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008


We have been making Gioia's baby food from scratch since we brought her home in February. Which means we have made a whole lot of trips to the grocery store looking for things to grind up in the Cuisinart. I don't think I have ever bought as many vegetables in my whole life as I have in the last six months. Of course, that statement doesn't count the summer we belonged to our Chicago-area CSA and had a bunch of excellent goodies delivered once a week. But for that, I basically just wrote a big fat check in the fall and boxes stuffed with greens and vegetables arrived the following summer. So while I bought a lot of veggies then, it really wasn't *intentional* veggie buying like we do now.

The problem is, though, that there is not really a big variety of veggies to be bought round these parts. Gioia has been living on weekly staples of winter squash (in tropical Taiwan, yes), sweet potato, lotus seed, broccoli, cauliflower, edamame, tofu, beans, and peas.* The carrots here frighten me with their scary florescent orange color, so I haven't made more than one batch of those. Carrots also have a high concentration of nitrates, so probably best to avoid homemade versions anyway. Spinach is also not safe for little bitty kiddos, which has made me wary of all kinds of greens. Chinese people eat a lot of greens, so that rules out half the supermarket.

There is not much else to be had. I am sure she is sick of the same old vegetables day in and day out. I am. Where is the summer squash, the zucchini? I did find sweet corn a few weeks ago, but that was after months of hunting.

So three weeks ago I broke down and ordered a bunch of seeds on the internet. Lo and behold, they actually made it through this little island's customs department (even though the package was clearly labeled SEEDS). When I was in Chicago last week, I bought 72 little seed starting pellets, the kind that expand with water.

It is quite late in the year to be starting seeds. But there are two reasons why I am going to try. First, Taiwan is pretty temperate. Even in the winter it is still above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Second, I am really, really bored of the blah blah blah I keep dropping in the grocery cart every week. Even if I try and fail, well, I will have tried. And perhaps I will learn something for next spring's round.

*Lest you think we are negligent, she eats other foods too, like yogurt, chicken, whole wheat noodles, fruit (apples, bananas, mangoes, pineapples) and Cheerios. Of course there also is the super baby cereal (with dried beans) from this book, which we mix with egg yolks every other day.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Butterfly on My Porch

The plants that my Dad and I planted in hanging baskets on the porch are full and lush now. I looked outside this afternoon and saw this ginormous butterfly. It is hard to get a sense of scale in this picture, but he was at least four inches wide. As I snuck outside to try to get a closer shot, he took off and flew around for a while. He looked almost like a little bat, all dark and fluttery.

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