Mercury Retrograde, Baby Bunnies, and Watermelon Gazpacho

First, I want to talk a little bit about Mercury in retrograde. For those of you who don’t know what that is, here is an informative link. In a nutshell, when Mercury is in retrograde, according to astrologers, it messes up everything related to technology, communication, travel, and logistics. I usually know when Mercury is in retrograde when I have two or three disastrous days in a row. Have you ever had a week where nothing seemed to go right? Maybe you missed appointments, experienced flight delays, your computer crashed, your cell phone broke, and the brakes went out on your car? Next time you have one of those weeks, check to see if Mercury is in retrograde.  It probably is.

I figured out Mercury was in retrograde about two weeks ago, when I knocked over my camera and the lens broke. Then, I had problems ordering a new lens. Then, there were some technical issues preventing us from getting the Conveganence website finished in time for the launch so I wasn’t able to do any of the promotional activities I had planned. Then, I somehow deleted several weeks worth of recipes (about 40 hours worth of work) for the August meal plan. Later that day, I had managed to recover or rewrite some of the recipes, but I lost them again when my power mysteriously went out. The following day, some of my subscribers noticed that a couple pages were missing from the July meal plan. I corrected the issue and sent out a new file, but gmail wouldn’t let me attach it. Finally I was able to send it out, but I noticed I sent out the wrong file type. Then my office chair fell apart.

By Wednesday of last week, I was so frustrated I just gave up. I decided to take a few days off from Conveganence and work on some projects around the house. After all, during Mercury retrograde, you’re supposed to take the time to revise, repair, rethink, reflect…basically anything that starts with a “re” 🙂 My plan was to REfurbish some 100 year old windows I got from Craigslist and REpurpose them into coffee tables. I bought a new workbench for this project, but noticed the screws were missing when I tried to assemble it. Of course they were!

I resisted the urge to scream and/or break something, took a deep breath, and turned my attention to another project: assembling a compost bin I bought a few weeks back. That endeavor took me several days and turned out to be a complete nightmare. After uttering several thousand profanities, I almost managed to finish assembling it. The lid doesn’t close completely, but whatever. I’ll fix it later.

I guess the purpose of this rant was to explain my absence from the blog recently. But now I’m back, with 2 great things: a photo of some baby bunnies that are nesting in our backyard, and a recipe for Watermelon Gazpacho.

Here are the baby bunnies. I took the photo in the upper left corner just 1 week ago. I snapped the remaining 3 photos yesterday. It’s amazing how much they have grown in just one week! All 8 bunnies have opened their eyes and their ears stand up. They are also starting to explore outside of the nest.

babybunnies

 

Aren’t they adorable??

Okay, now for a recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho! A variation of this recipe is in the Conveganence July meal plan. It’s one of my favorite things to make during the summer. I must admit I was skeptical the first time I tried gazpacho. Chilled soup was not my thing. I was in Madrid at a Flamenco theater/restaurant called Casa Patas (House of Feet). I was traveling alone, with only my dogeared copy of Rick Steves’ Spain 2006 to keep me company. Rick insisted that I give the gazpacho a try, and because he hadn’t steered me wrong yet, I ordered it without hesitation. Washed down with some sangria and flamenco, it was just the thing for a hot July night in Madrid.

Since then, I’ve made gazpacho at least once every summer. The watermelon in this version makes it extra refreshing and perfect for steamy Chicago summers.

gazpacho

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes chill time)

Ingredients:

2 large hothouse tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 1/2 C cubed watermelon, seeded

1 fresno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large clove garlic, smashed

1/4 C cilantro leaves

2 limes, juiced

1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions

1) Place serving bowls or glasses in freezer and allow to chill while preparing gazpacho.

2) Combine the ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute.

3) Chill gazpacho in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Serve in glasses. Garnish with lime.

 

Pallet Herb Garden

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen a pallet garden before. A pallet garden is exactly what it sounds like: a garden growing out of a shipping pallet. I’ve been wanting to make a pallet garden for a year now, but the only thing stopping me was my inability to procure a pallet. These things are surprisingly hard to come by, especially when you’re looking for one! Last year I asked people at several hardware and grocery stores, but no one was willing to part with their precious pallets.

About a month ago, I went to Lowe’s to buy my herbs, intending to plant them in traditional planters, having given up hope of ever procuring a pallet. I asked one of the associates in the garden department if they happened to have pallets, fully expecting to her to look at me like I had 3 heads and tell me no, as usual. To my surprise (and delight!) she gave me 2 free pallets! So if you’re having similar issues finding pallets, try asking the nice people at Lowe’s.

In addition to a pallet, you’ll need the following:

– A LOT of potting soil. I used four (4) 17-qt bags of Miracle-Gro Expand n’ Grow.

landscape fabric or plywood cut to fit the back of the pallet. I used the plywood, but I recommend the fabric if you plan to turn your pallet upright instead of keeping it flat on the ground.

– heavy duty staples and staple gun

– herbs and/or flowers. Each section of the pallet fit 4 small pots of herbs, so you’ll need quite a few plants to fill up the whole thing. If you’re buying herbs that grow and spread easily, like cilantro, mint, and basil, you could probably get away with just 2 small plants in each section.

To make the garden:

1) Attach the landscaping fabric or plywood to the back and sides of the pallet with the staple gun. This tutorial has great step-by-step instructions for attaching the fabric. If you plant to leave your pallet garden flat on the ground, you only need to attach the fabric or wood to the back.

2)  If you plan to leave the pallet flat, choose its permanent location and begin working there, as the pallet will be difficult to move once it’s filled with dirt and plants. If you plan to flip it upright, work in an area where it would be easy to transition the pallet from the ground to against a wall.

3) Flip the pallet over, and fill it halfway with dirt. Water the dirt a little bit before you start planting.

4) Plant each herb or flower in the desired slot. Cover with more dirt, and pack in the plants until they are firmly secured. Water the entire pallet again.

4) Even if you plan to turn your pallet upright, leave it flat on the ground for at least a few weeks to allow the plants to develop roots and acclimate to the soil.

5) Make sure to water your pallet every day!

My pallet herb garden has worked out pretty well so far. All of my herbs are in one place, but the dividing boards prevent one herb from completely taking over the whole garden. I planted the herbs I use most often, so I no longer have to go to the grocery store to buy a tiny plastic packet of herbs, only to use 1 sprig while the rest goes bad in my fridge.

Have you started your herb garden this year?

Here is the pallet garden after I first planted it (May 1, 2013).

Here is the pallet garden after I first planted it (May 1, 2013).

 

And here it is a month later...look how everything has grown! Except the dill. I ate most of that :-/

And here it is a month later…look how everything has grown! Except the dill. I ate most of that :-/