Raising Dwarf Puffer Fish

We’ve been very interested in specimen tanks lately.  It started with a beta, then some zebra danios, a cory catfish, plants, snails, and finally…dwarf puffer fish.

They’re the size of the last knuckle of my pinkie, they swim to the front of the tank when my fiancé walks in the bedroom, their eyes move in different directions!  They are curious and aware, at first glance they appear bland and brownish in color.  Upon further inspection the deep greens and bright yellows appear, their spots are as varied as their personalities and we’ve watched their colors darken and brighten depending on their mood.

Dwarf puffer fish can be found wild near shores in India and they are endangered because they are collected to sell as pets.  In the pet store, you can ask if they were caught in the wild or bred in captivity.

The puffer fish has a big personality, think Napoleon Complex, and can be a bully with their tank mates.  For this reason they are often kept in a separate species tank, but please note we have had success with keeping a cory catfish in the tank, they actually snuggle!

Their diet consists of small animals like copepods, krill, and especially snails; we use rams horn, pond, and Malaysian trumpet.  All of these snails are considered pests, you can go to the pet store and ask for some “pest snails”, they’ll often give you them for free.

We set up a snail breeding tank and haven’t had to worry about our puffers eating (they can be picky and can easily starve).  Some say that flakes and  pellets are fine but these guys are hunters and if you want healthy puffers, give them something to chase!

Pictured below are some rams horn snail eggs, we noticed one of our larger snails clinging to one spot for much longer than they usually do (you’d be surprised how much these snails move). After a while it had disappeared and left behind the eggs pictured on the left.  On the right is about a week later, almost ready to hatch!

 

Our puffers have become our hobby, all four of our tanks stemmed from the purchase of these two, trying to get their tank mates just right (none but the cory catfish worked for  us), water changes at least once a week.

While it’s difficult setting up their initial habitat, once you have your tank ready puffers are quite simple to take care of.

 

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Vegan Alfredo Sauce (over peas and noodles obvi)

I was looking for a creamy sauce to mimic alfredo that I could eat with a spoon (I mean pour over real food), after some experimenting here’s what happened.

Ingredients

Rice and quinoa noodles with vegan alfredo sauce and peas, because broccoli is played out (not sorry)

¼ cup fat of choice (I use olive oil)

¼ cup flour

8 cloves of garlic, minced (It sounds like too much as I write it down, but for the sake of reducing salt intake I up my flavors quite a bit)

2 ½ cups almond milk

PINCH of salt (I really can’t help it)

Many turns of pepper

Note: because this sauce is so fatty theres lots of potential to burn, it needs to be watched and stirred gently and consistently throughout cooking.  I find it’s a perfect assignment for my tiniest or most inexperienced helpers.

 Method

While making the sauce, cook pasta according to package instructions

Get your helper and ingredients prepared, things move quickly with white sauce!

Get your medium sauce pot out and on the stove

Oil in on medium heat, let it melt

Add garlic and cook until golden

                Keep a close eye, burnt garlic ruins the entire dish without an effective fix

Add flour and mix until it combines completely

I like to toast it a little extra, browning the flour a bit, in gravies that gives a little more flavor and I assume the same concept applies.

Add almond milk and bring up to a boil

Reduce and simmer until the sauce begins sticking to the spoon and the side of the pan

Add peas to cooked, drained, rinsed pasta and toss

Add sauce to pasta pea mixture

Serve immediately, stores in the fridge but heat gradually if using rice quinoa pasta, it turns into a brick

Chicken and dumplings, sans chicken…or any other animal by-product

Lots of recipes recommend using a faux chicken of sorts; I am a firm believer that the less manufacturing food goes through, the better. Because of this I buy lots and lots of raw ingredients that I then “process” myself by turning into soup or veggie burgers etc.  In this situation, I beefed up (excuse the pun) my veggies to create a filling dinner.

Ingredients:

Peas

Corn

Carrots (3 large)

Celery (2 stalks)

One onion

Baking mix w/ ingredients needed for biscuits

Bay leaf

Salt

Pepper

Six cups vegetable stock

¼ cup flour

¼ Olive oil

Method:

Prepare your biscuit dough! I make two cups worth with this recipe.

If using almond milk (or any fatty milk); pour in a tablespoon of vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes, it’ll curdle and make butter milk.  Gives the biscuits a little more…woomph.

Heat olive oil in skillet, add onion, celery, and bay leaf, cook until translucent

Add carrots and continue to cook until fork tender

This is your mirepoix; the base of many soups made up of portions of carrot, onion, and celery.  The termed was coined in the eighteenth century but it was probably used well before.  This combination for soups is actually seen in many cultures called different things.  In Spain it’s called sofrito, Portuguese speaking countries call it refogado.  Italy has a sofrito as well which is a mirepoix base with spices and finely chopped meats.  Other variations include garlic or peppers; they all have the same goal in mind, creating a flavorful base with nice bits of brown stuff on the bottom of the pan to add complexity and depth to your soup, yum!

Stir in flour until everything is coated and combined

The flour and oil (or another fat of choice) make up your roux: this thickens the sauce and has been in use in French cuisine for over three hundred years.  This method crosses cultures but without variation, fat and flour simply add up to deliciously creamy soups!

Pour the stock in slowly, stirring until fully combined

Bring to a boil, pour in peas, and allow it to come back to a rolling boil

Drop your dough one by one

Spread your drops out in a rotation, it gives the dough enough time to cook so when your fresh dough drops come back around they won’t stick together.

Keep an eye on your temperature, you want a light boil and the lid off slightly.  I have a tendency to over boil this once in a while and I get a huge overflow and mess to clean up.

Cook for twelve or thirteen minutes, I constantly take taste tests to see how done they are but I’m always full by dinner.

Serve it up; this recipe is adapted from my mother’s originally and various sources throughout the internet.  A basic crowd pleaser and a comfort meal for any time of the year (although my mother refuses to cook it between March and September because it’s a “winter dish”).

Creamy vegan sweet potato soup

Came home from the store the other day and realized I bought a second pound of sweet potatoes and hadn’t even touched the first! What a bummer…unless you love creamy root vegetable soups.

Ingredients:

One pound sweet potatoes, cubed

One large yellow onion

One cup almond milk

Bay leaf

Four cups vegetable stock

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Cinnamon; ground for garnish

Method:

Heat oil in a large soup pot on medium heat

Sauté onion and bay leaf until browned and caramelized

                (I set half aside to add in at the end so I had some whole pieces of onion that were never blended which was nice because they actually melt in your mouth)

Add sweet potato and vegetable stock

Boil until potato is fork tender

Transfer in batches to blender or processer, blend until smooth

Transfer back to cooking pot

Add almond milk and bring back to a boil, reduce to simmer

Ready to serve; sprinkle cinnamon over top

Can be stored in the fridge for a few days

Propagating Succulents, 3 months

I started my succulent cuttings around January 26th, it’s now mid-April and I’ve been documenting some really exciting results.

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My last post noted some beautiful, healthy looking roots; these roots led to the cutest, tiniest succulents I’ve ever seen in person.  Here are the final steps to my succulent propagation experiment.

Once roots begin to form, give them some room.  I repurposed an old egg carton to hold each cutting separately.  Continue to spray with water every day until a small plant begins to appear, cut watering to twice a week, once they’re a half inch, once a week.  Once your plant has fully rooted in its final pot, you can treat it like any other hardy succulent, water when it dries completely, give it lots of bright light (not direct, these baby leaves burn!) and enjoy.

Woven Shelves Barstool DIY

Living in the attic of a retired biology teacher gives me a lot of access to many different materials to fuel my DIY obsession.

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I needed an end table and found this bar stool lying around, the main issue was creating shelves in as low-tech a way as possible. I decided weaving would be the sturdiest option with crochet edges to tighten it all together, the shelves then had plenty of tension to support plants, knick-knacks, and brick-a-brack.

 

 

 

 

 

I began by wrapping yarn between two rungs on the stool, I made one consistent layer of yarn, this is what I would weave into.  I then strung a contrasting color over and under every two pieces of yarn, keeping the rows about a half inch apart.  I repeated this process on the top rungs.

 

 

 

 

I knotted the ends together then crocheted a single stitch up the loose ends, effectively hiding them, tightening the weave, and adding a border.

 

 

And that’s that! Free, adorable, personalized end table.

 

Propagating succulents – 1 month

After one month of patience and obsession, I’m pleased to present…roots!  I’ve learned a lot and am excited to have developed a method to continue growing succulents.

 

Propagating succulents seemed too easy, so I had to try it for myself.  First I went down to my local big box hardware store and picked up a few succulents off of the sales rack, they were nice and leggy so I didn’t feel bad taking them apart, and they only cost a dollar each!

I also bought some clear Tupperware to keep the plants relatively safe around my cats, I cut strips out of the top to allow for more air flow and light.

Next I plucked the leaves off and laid them out to callous over, after about a day they were ready to be laid over cactus soil.  I made sure to spray the leaves generously with water once a day.

About two weeks in some leaves had some tiny roots, and after three half of my leaves showed some really beautiful roots.

Today I took out the more mature plants I had my leaves laid out amongst and planted them separate, they require much less water than the leaves.

After taking out the leaves that were wilted and had no signs of roots, I had twenty five promising, rooting plants.  About a 50% success rate.

I’m quite pleased with the results and will be continuing the process until I have ninety wedding favors!

 

Pineapple Stitch Variation

I fell into a Pinterest hole the other day looking for a new stitch to try when I came across a vintage picture of the “Pineapple Stitch”.  I got started right away, this stitch gives a beautiful thickness and texture to the blanket and the color changes were really exciting.

In the post it described a second row that I didn’t like because it began bunching and curling, so I pulled the first few rows and tried again with the following variation.

Chain a row (70).

Insert hook into first chain, pull through skip one chain, insert hook and pull through, yarn over and pull through three loops on hook.

**Chain one.

Insert hook into the stitch you worked last (the second stitch you pulled through), skip one chain, pull through the next.  Yarn over and pull through. ** Repeat to the end of the row.

At the end of the row chain three, pull through very first stitch, skip one, pull through the second.  You should have three on your hook, yarn over and pull through.

*Repeat star to star*

For my blanket: four rows of my primary color (neon pink) then one row each of grey, yellow, purple, and navy, then back to pink.  Because of all the color changes there were a lot of strings hanging off the end that inspired the fringed border.

This was a personal variation of a pineapple stitch I found on Pinterest, it took a bit of finagling to keep the ends even.

 

 

Snow Day Crochet (and other activities that don’t rhyme as well)

We’ve had a few snow days recently, I took the time to finish up a few projects around the attic. 

 

Two blankets combining the moss stitch and half double.  The cats have a really hard time watching me crochet, they usually end up on top of whatever I’m working on.

 

 

We took a walk down to the local convenience store for some supplies, wandered about Fulton Park and held hands a lot.

 

 

Repotted some plants I rescued from the sale section at Lowe’s, hung a string to help keep my vine plant off the floor, it seems happier with the support.

 

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Spent every minute with these guys.

Propagating succulents 

The big idea: “DIY” succulent wedding favors doubling as place cards.

The specs: propagate succulents; create, assemble, find tiny planters; grow 90 by August then let love grow.

Suggestions, encouragement, and random facts welcome!

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A “mama”

 

First step, as always; research.  I’ve scrolled past some Pinterest posts regarding succulent propagation and care, the information was out there.  Turns out, multiplying your succulents is (supposedly) really easy! Simply pluck leaves, lay them on dirt, spray with water, and wait.

I had one very specific obstacle to overcome, the cats.  The succulents do best in a low, flat tray of dirt with lots of indirect sunlight.  Open tops aren’t exactly an option with curious paws about, so I bought  shallow Tupperware and cut out several openings on top; thus deterring said paws while letting in sunlight.

I started these plants two weeks ago, I may be seeing roots but it’s hard to tell, one consistent tip I learned in my Pinterest research: patience.