February: My socks are wet and you keep trying to throw me in a ditch



I try not to wish time away. Generally, it’s bad practice, but dang…I’m tired of having wet socks and a numb nose.  I long for a carefree trot around the neighborhood that doesn’t involve fearing a potential face plant. My running pal uses the technique of “tiny steps.” It’s a quick shuffle with your hands at your sides while you navigate the snow and ice-covered streets.  I prefer a general zig zag method that involves hopping to areas that appear “crunchy” as opposed to “icy.” This year we experienced two rounds with the “Polar Vortex.” Here are some tips to help you on your February runs.

1. Smart Wool socks: Those dang air vents on the top of your shoes are too breezy. Smart Wool is super water wicking and it’s wool…so you know…it at least gives you the general idea that you’re warmer.

2. I have officially decided if the Weather Channel app says is “feels like” 0 or less with the wind chill, I’m putting on my pajama pants and I’ll do squats and crunches in my house while I watch Game of Thrones.

3. Run with friends. These friends will have to tell you that your nose is running, because you won’t feel it. Running pals can also remind you about how much of a badass you are.

4. You will feel like you have to go to the bathroom as soon as you get your layers on…its not true. It’s just like when you were a kid and you got your snow suit on.  You really don’t have to go. Ignore it.

5. Your face will have a rosy glow.  Just pretend it’s from a tropical vacation, not wind burn. People will secretly hate you (in the good kind of way).

So…brace up! You won’t regret running, but you’ll regret sitting on the couch (unless of course you’ve instituted rule #2). In that case remember, “Winter is coming!”



Seed Starting Season: an exercise in going overboard

I’ve already started strolling through the garden centers.  Frequently it’s just the employees and myself. There’s something so awesome about taking in a big whiff of greenhouse air…aaahhhh (nerd alert). What’s going on in those greenhouses you may ask? Not even the pansies are on display yet. Don’t let this scare you.  It’s seed starting time!
packetsThis year, I made a real effort to avoid seeds that were GMO (genetically modified organism). Most of my seeds came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. If you’ve never looked through their seed catalog – you’re missing out.  It’s like reading a magazine.

Most tomato seeds can be started inside 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Here’s the list of tomato seeds planted today in my sun room:

Yellow Pear (it’s yellow, it’s small, it’s pear-shaped – end of story)

Cherokee Purple (huge, purple and really true tomato flavor)

Green Sausage (green and yellow streaked paste tomato)

Snow Fairy (tiny 1 foot high cherry tomato plants used in containers. I’m going to flood my garden table at the fair with these beauties. To the girls that won last year – you better be scared)

Dakota Gold (determinant yellow)

Bush Beefsteak (determinant red)

Big Rainbow (big red and yellow striped)

Delicious (apparently this set the world’s record in 1986 for a 7 lb, 12 oz fruit)

Black Cherry (dark purple cherry)

Green Zebra (the name says it all – these are super delicious and attractive)

Roma (typical paste tomato)

Csikos Botermo (nickname “queen of the summer garden” – Wait!  I thought I was queen!)

seed packet


These tomatoes will supply 3 different gardens. The run run rhubarb mini urban garden, my mom’s, and my in-law’s. A couple of years ago they grew 100 tomato plants!  So…that means that 160 tomato plants aren’t truly excessive. Right?

Here are a few seed starting tips:

Never, ever, ever let your seedlings dry out – they will croak!

Use an organic seed starting mix

Use vigilance! Mold will sneak up on you.  Keep the air moving in the room.  On super warm days I crack the door. If you get mold… (insert helpful tip here). I wish I had something handy to tell you. It would be some sort of genius, organic method that left you feeling like the victor.  I usually just prefer to panic and search the internet for random ideas. Sometimes you can fix it.  Sometimes you can’t.  Heartbreak is just a part of gardening *a single tear drips down one cheek*

Water from the bottom. Watering in the tray as opposed to on the dirt will prevent flooding the seeds or the seedlings.  If you use peat pots like I do, they’ll soak the water right up.

traysI’ll keep you posted.  Lets face it.  What else do you have to do between now and May?  You’ve already seen every single Netflix series worth seeing and the Real Housewives are never going to get along. Why not give seed starting a try.


Mix your own dirt and tell Miracle Grow to go somewhere!

I hate Miracle Grow dirt.  It’s overpriced and their version of organic potting mix has the look and consistency of mulch. By the way, their claim that it’s impossible to over or under water plants while using their dirt – lies! Do you mean to tell me that you could plop a plant in the middle of the driveway, not water it, and it’s going to survive?  How about if I stick a plant in a pot with no drainage holes and drench it repeatedly?  I suppose the guarantee only works if you have a receipt and I typically end up spitting my gum in mine. I actually bought some organic Miracle Grow dirt when I was having a dirt emergency (my local garden center was out of Vermiculite – I’ll explain what that is later). Compare the dirt in my mini corn field experiment to the super black awesome dirt that I mixed at home.

Crap-tastic Organic Miracle Grow Dirt (notice the huge, chunky wood chips)

Mel’s Mix is super soft, easy to weed, organic, less expensive, and plants love it!

Mel’s Mix is a dirt recipe from the book “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. This dirt has 3 basic components.  Compost, Peat, and Vermiculite. You can get these items at your garden center.  You will probably not find all of these things at Lowes, but they will probably be at a feed store or grain elevator. I could give you a specific recipe, but it’s not that important. Each should take up 1/3 of the overall mix.  The Vermiculite (natural mineral) helps retain moisture and keeps the soil light. It’s generally easier to mix on a tarp in the yard, but if you’re a mini gardener, you can mix right in the pot.  Use equal parts peat and compost and sprinkle enough Vermiculite that it’s present throughout.  I bought a big bag of peat and a big bag of compost ($3.50 each).  The Vermiculite was $10, but I used a third of the bag. These supplies are enough to fill4-5 big pots with Vermiculite to spare.  The moral of the story, look and feel like a pro and get armpits deep in this dirt.

As my friend Erin (the Boston Marathoner and general badass) says, “Get after it!”

Strawberry, Thyme, Rosemary, Balsamic Vinegar, Black Pepper Jam (that’s a long one)

It’s 94 degrees in Columbus Ohio.  Standing over a hot stove to make jam was probably not the smartest thing in the world – but when strawberries call…

My running pal, Shawn-sation, came over for a jam session.  Shawn is the collaborator on jams such as “The 14 miler”, “The 4 miler”, “Slap your momma strawberry jam” as well as the persimmon mishap of 2010 (we wont talk about that one).


Fast stirring

1TB Rosemary

1TB Thyme

5 1/2 C. Sugar

5 C. Strawberries

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar

A healthy hello of black pepper – 10 chunky turns on the pepper mill

4TB Powdered Pectin

1Tb Butter

Add all ingredients except the sugar. Stir until boiling. Add the sugar.  Bring it to a boil again and let it ride for about 1 minute (until jam thickens).  I usually accidentally/on purpose drip some on the counter and test it by running my finger through.  If it doesn’t lose it’s shape right away – then you’re good-to-go.

Follow the usual procedure for packing the jars and using the water bath (process in water bath for 10 minutes).

This jam is super good with goat cheese…mmmmmnnnn goat cheese. Next time, I plan to go a little heavier on the herbs and the pepper.  I was afraid of over powering the strawberries.  I love this jam so much, I can see using it as a regular breakfast jam – Ka Pow!



Thyme and Rosemary from the backyard.

I love a good fight

I’m home, minding my own business, when I get a text from our friend Joey that said:

“I challenge you to a chili cook-off.  The recipe must include a side of hot sauce including Pantalones Enfuego Habaneros found in my freezer.  The judges will choose anonymously and the winner is featured on a top shelf blog, Run Run Rhubarb.”

At this point, we sling some fighting words back and forth and I accept the challenge.

I'm going to use some of my canned peppers to win this chili cook-off.

I made a promise when I started Run Run Rhubarb that I would always tell the truth.  Here’s the truth about chili and I – I basically strongly dislike it under most circumstances.  Smelling it cold and left over in the fridge, sends me running and begging my husband to get rid of it. I hate the look of floating meat (gross I know, but I’ve pretty much always been this way). The first chili that I loved was made by my friend Jamie.  It’s sweet, spicy, and vegetarian (with an occasional sweet potato).  My friend Kelly’s is awesome too – thick, also vegetarian, and served over a roll. My recipe is inspired by both Kelly and Jamie and it uses my mother-in-law’s homemade salsa.

OK, so I have to win this thing with a vegetarian chili.  Curious about the recipe? So am I!  I’m a free stylin’ chili makin’ type of gal.  I’ll write it down as I go.  The results will be shared on this website. I’ll even tell you if I get my ladle handed to me. In regards to the  “side of hot sauce” I have a few ideas in mind…

Why couldn’t someone send me a smack talking text challenging me to a pie bake off or a jam competition?



Hot cha cha hot sauce

I have accepted the fact that this year was a tomato failure. The squirrels had a daily buffet of my garden, but they certainly left my hot peppers alone.  I’ve done several hot pepper jams this year. Today I decided to try my hand at a hot sauce.

Burn your face off

Here’s how you do it.

Cut the stems off your peppers and puree in a food processor or blender.  You can make this entire sauce in the food processor. Warning: Do not touch with your hands – and for pete sakes, don’t touch your eyes! You’ll be sorry! I didn’t have any gloves so I put my hands in sandwich bags.

My pepper puree made about 3-3 1/2 cups

2 cups white vinegar

2 Tablespoons of kosher salt

2 Cloves of garlic

Dump into a sauce pan, and bring to a boil.  Process cans as usual. That’s it!

My hot sauce is green – looks kind of cool.

Did you know, Tabasco sauce is fermented for 3 years before sale?  I don’t have that kind of patience.