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3D Garden Ideas

Since the wildlife is abundant in my yard, and our neighborhood HOA does not allow fences, I have moved most of my gardening to containers on my deck.

While I have been able to continue to grow my onions, hot peppers, peas, and cucumbers in my planting beds, tomatoes were problem. I thought tomatoes would be safe from the critters in the yard and for years I have grown them in planting beds in my yard. However, during the summers of 2018 and 2019, the wild turkeys would peck at them and ruin the fruit. So, at the end of 2019, I purchased a couple large Lechuza planters on clearance for growing tomatoes on my deck. Each of the planters had three removable planting boxes for easy storage in the winter.

At the time, I did not purchased the trellis system that went with the planters because they were not on clearance and would have cost more than the planters cost. Plus, I thought I would just use the tomato ladders I had used in the past when I grew the tomatoes in the planting bed in my yard. Unfortunately, when I used them last summer I discovered that these ladders were too top heavy for the new planters and the planters would tip over when we had a summer storm.

This summer, I sought other ideas for supporting my tomatoes. I originally bought a couple of the smallest tomato cages that are sold at the garden centers near me. Unfortunately, even the smallest cages were too big to fit the size of the planter boxes. So, I looked on line for other ideas. Having made other garden decorations out of copper, I considered making a couple copper trellises. But, again the cost was something that I thought was more than I wanted to spend.

A couple weeks ago, while doing laundry, I walked past my 3D printer and thought maybe I could print some type of trellis. After looking at ideas on-line, I tried out a few ideas. What I finally settled on was some fiberglass garden stakes and then designed some printed connectors that snap the stakes together. So far, they seem to be working well.

While perusing different printed gardening ideas on-line, I came across some plant labels. Did I really need labels for my plants? Well, no, I do know which plant is which. But, I liked the labels and decided to print a few.

Can’t wait to see how my garden does this year.

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Repurposed Glass Bottles

This posting is a bit late, since these were gifts given to my brother for Christmas. But, better late than never.

The inspiration for these gifts were my brother’s strong liking for beer. This is one thing I do not have in common with him, I actually hate the taste of beer. So, to obtain the bottles that I needed for these projects, I had to rely on my sons and some of my friends for the empty bottles.

Glass Art: After taking a class at a local glass supply store, I tried my hand at making glass art from crushed bottles and scrap window glass. This was a fun project, but actually a lot of work.

For the clear background, I used glass that came with a couple frames that I had recently purchased. Because most window and photo frame glass has a thin film of tin, this layer needs to be identified and removed with a chemical solution prior to fusing. After cleaning with isopropyl alcohol, two pieces of glass were then fused together using a full fuse program to make the main background of the project .

For the tree, brown and green bottles were crushed with a frit piston and screened with frit sifters.

To make the trunk of the tree, brown glass frit was contoured on the background glass with some GlasTac.

The green frit was then added to create the canopy of the tree and the surrounding ground. The project was fired using a contour fuse program (1375F max temp).

Finally for display purposes, the project was slumped over a gentle curved stainless steel mold and mounted in a metal base (see photo above).

This was a fun project, but I think the next time I attempt glass sculpture with frit, I will probably use premade purchased frit.

Bottle Projects:

I have previously used empty bottles for wind chimes and as the base of pot melt mushrooms. Most wine bottles have a dimpled or punted bottoms. However, beer bottles generally have a flat bottom. When fired on their sides, flat bottoms fold up nicely. This made these beer bottles useful for making several projects.  After several trials, I settled on using a full fuse program (max temp 1425F) for flattening the bottles on my kiln shelf.

Napkin holder: The flattened bottle was balanced on a napkin holder mold and fired at using a slumping program (max temp 1280F).

Trivet: To make two different serving trays, two and three bottles were overlapped slightly and again fired at a full fuse program (1425F). After firing and cooling, clear adhesive pads were placed on the bottom of the trivets. I forgot to take a photo of the beer bottle trivet, but I did recently make a trivet out of sparkling cider bottles.

Serving dishes: A cleaned and empty beer bottle, sparkling cider bottles or wine bottles (not flattened), was placed in an appropriate sized bottle slumping mold and fired following a bottle slump program (max temp 1280F, with a slow initial ramp at 250F/hour and a 30 min hold at 1100F to allow for the air to escape from the bottle).

These were all really fun projects to make.

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Graves Into Gardens

At first glance, Good Friday seems like a strange name to refer to a day that designates pain and death. If Jesus suffered and died on this day, why is it called Good Friday?

The sins of the whole world were poured out on Christ when he hung on the cross. If you had spoken with his friends and family on the day he died, they would not have said it was a good day. All hope seemed lost, evil and death seemed to have triumphed. So, when only looking at a single day, it really was a horrible Friday.

However, on that Friday, Jesus willingly suffered and died as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Three days later, the forces of evil were defeated and death was destroyed. From that day, we all have a way to be free of sin and death. So, when viewed in the context of events that happen just three days later, the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, it was indeed a Good Friday!

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Extraordinary Bread – Fougasse

Fougasse is a type flatbread baked in Provence and likely to have additions like olives, cheese, or garlic. Traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven, Fougasse was made daily. The time it would take to bake gives an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread can be loaded (hence the French phrase ‘il ne faut pas brûler la fougasse’: ‘do not burn the fougasse’).

One of the shows I like to watch is The Great British Baking Show. I enjoy the creativity of the bakers and the variety of baked goods that the show highlights. So, when the Extraordinary Breads collection included Fougassa, one of the technical challenges from season 1 of the show, I knew I had to try this recipe.

The King Arthur Baking Company Recipe calls for chopped onions and olives in the dough. Since, I absolutely hate olives, I decided to add some seeds instead (sunflower, poppy and sesame). I also made two flatbreads instead of one really large one.

One of the flatbreads was cut with the traditional slits. For the other flatbread, I cut it to look like a palm leaf. While this idea worked well, when I make this for Palm Sunday, I will cut the tips so that they are pointed rather than blunted.

After baking the flatbread tasted great, especially when pieces were dipped into garlic-herb infused olive oil.

I have now baked each of the twelve Extraordinary Breads. I think I need to try some low carb baking for a while.

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Extraordinary Bread – Potika

I am nearing the end of my recent attempt to try all of the recipes in the King Arthur Baking Company, Extraordinary Breads collection. Today’s recipe is another nut filled recipe, Potika. I am very thankful I purchased a large bag of ground walnuts when I was at Fleet Farm a few weeks ago. I was saved the hassle of having to grind the nuts myself!

Each loaf had over 2 cups of ground walnuts in the filling!
I am thankful that my youngest son likes nut bread. He actually ate most of the loaf.
This loaf of bread was really pretty when cut into and it tasted great!

I may try making this again using ground pecans.

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Extraordinary Bread – Cinnamon Star Bread

The King Arthur Baking Company recipe for Cinnamon Star Bread is one I have made several times. It’s actually a rather easy recipe to make and tastes great.

So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and to try something different, I decided to make a savory version of this recipe and try to make shamrocks instead of a star. The changes that I made are not really Irish, but rather Greek in flavor. The color, however, is most definitely an Irish green.

One drop of green food dye gel was added to the dough when mixing.
For the filling, I put 4 ounces of cooked spinach leaves and 1/2 cup feta cheese in my mini food processor and pulsed until a creamy paste resulted.
The dough was flattened into discs. Instead of making one large loaf, I opted to make two smaller loaves.
The filling was spread over six of the discs.
Three discs with filling were stacked one on top of the other with a filling free disk placed on top. Then slits were made through all layer
Two adjacent sections were twisted together to create the three leaves of the shamrock.
After a 45 minute rise time, the dough was sprinkled with sea salt and baked.

These were very tasty and a very green for St. Patrick’s Day. But, I think next time, I’m not sure I like the green colored bread. Next time I make this I will leave the food dye out of the dough.

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Let The Adventure Begin!

Today was my last day of work. I am now officially retired!

When thinking about today, one of the things I had planned to do was to have my own playlist of songs to listen to at work. I figured that it was my last day – so, if there were complaints about my music choices, it really wouldn’t matter since I would not be returning to work at the office again. Well, unfortunately, I forgot that my new phone does not have an audio port. And, our office audio system did not have a lightning plug. So, unfortunately, I was unable to play my selected songs.

On my way home, I did start listening to the songs on my list. One of those songs was “Dear Younger Me” by Mercy Me.

When hearing this song today, it prompted me to think about what advice I wish I had been given when I were younger. These thoughts fell into several categories, one being professional advice I would have appreciated hearing when I was younger. After thinking about it a while, I decided to write my thoughts down and post them on a forum for other Pediatric Dentists. Here is what I wrote:

After five years of planning for my retirement, and then a five month delay due to Covid, my last day of work is finally over. Leaving work today, I felt the joy I would have when heading into a week of vacation. It probably won’t really sink in for another week or two that this is more than a vacation. To my long term friends and colleagues in academia and in private practice, thanks for the many good times and I hope there are many more to come. To my colleagues in the middle of their careers, don’t let crabby over demanding parents get you down. Don’t fret over treatment outcomes that are dependent upon things out of our control. Don’t let hypocritical colleagues and/or partners make you feel any less of yourself. For my colleagues who are at the start of your careers, don’t let your finances dictate your happiness. The adage “money doesn’t buy happiness” is very true. Treasure the small victories in your day and leave your frustration behind. Do yourself a favor, find a hobby or two (or more) to give yourself a mental break and creative diversion from work. To all of you, make each day great, look for the good in every experience and in everyone you meet. And, most importantly, thank God for the many blessings he has given you.

I was extremely surprised to see the response my words had. Many younger colleagues commented that they appreciated my words of encouragement and advise. I’m glad someone will benefit from my thoughts!

I now look ahead to what the future will bring. This is truly the first time in my life that I do not have things planned out. Yes, I have lots of things to keep me busy. Yes, I will still keep doing my various hobbies. But, it’s kind of strange to look at my calendar not have my career dictating my schedule. I appreciate everyone who has made an impact on my life and my career. And, I do look forward to figuring out this next phase of my life.

Pam’s Retirement Playlist
Ain’t Got Far To Go – Jordan Smith
At Last – Etta James
Dear Younger Me – MercyMe
Deep Enough To Dream – Chris Rice
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Done – The Band Perry
Even If – MercyMe
God of Wonders – Third Day
Goodbye Ordinary – MercyMe
I Dreamed A Dream – Susan Boyle
I Won’t Give Up – Trisha Yearwood
If I Knew Then – Lady A
If Tomorrow Never Comes – Kent Blazy and Garth Brooks
My Way – Frank Sinatra
Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac
New Lease on Life – MercyMe
Oceans(Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United
Postcards from Far Away – Coldplay
Teach Your Children Well – Jeff Healey
The Very Next Thing – Casting Crowns
Unchained Melody – Susan Boyle
When We Were Young – Adele

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Extraordinary Breads – Stuffed Bagel Buns

Several years ago, I made a recipe called “Bagel Bombs“. They turned out great and tasted amazing. But, unfortunately, life got busy and I had too many other recipes to try. So, I never made them again.

When the list of Extraordinary Breads from King Arthur Baking was recently release, I saw that a similar recipe was included in their collection and decided it was time to make these tasty treats again.

For my filling, I did not have any cheese powder and really did not want to have to purchase any new baking supplies. I also did not have a malt powder. But, luckily my sister-in-law did have some malt powder. For my flavors, I used what I already had available in my refrigerator. I had a small amount of garden vegetable cream cheese – enough for four bagel buns. I also had some honey butter cream cheese – I decided to make four of these as well. For the remaining buns, I used the 2 ounces of plain cream cheese that I had and mixed it with 1/2 T of lemon paste and 2 T of crushed freeze dried raspberries. This made enough for six buns. Each of these cream cheese flavors were shaped into balls and frozen.

The dough was kneaded and allowed to rise while we were at church this morning. After returning from church, it was time to make the bagel buns. The dough was divided into small portions.

Each ball was then flattened and molded around one of the frozen cheese balls.

The stuffed dough was then boiled quickly in malt-water, similar to how bagels are made. The garden vegetable buns were sprinkled with coarse sea salt prior to baking in the oven. The honey butter and raspberry buns were sprinkled with pearl sugar.

These each taste great, but my favorite (by far!!!) is the raspberry filled buns.

Besides learning a bit more about baking breads, I think the other very useful thing I have learned from my recent baking endeavors it that freeze dried fruits add a tremendous amount of flavor to baked goods. The next time I get groceries, I will probably be adding a few more fruits to my purchases.

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Extraordinary Bread – Dios Beigli (Hungarian Walnut Roll)

Beigli is often referred to in English as “walnut roll” or “poppy seed roll” and it is considered to be a typical Hungarian pastry at Christmas. Its traces can be found in folk traditions as well, where both fillings had their different symbolic meaning: walnut provided protection against hexes, while poppy seeds — which were imported from Eurasia through the Ottomans — meant prosperity. The most popular theory is that beigli is based on a type of a cake from Silesia, while other sources claim that it originates from Armenia. It reached Hungary in the second half of the 19th century. It was first made only by families for celebrations. (Read more at Daily News Hungary)

The recipe I used is one included in the King Arthur Baking Company Extraordinary Breads collection (see recipe here). This is basically a roll of enriched bread dough filled with a lot of walnuts.

The dough is then rolled tight and the edges sealed. The dough is brushed with beaten egg yolk prior to allowing to rest for 40 minutes. This allows the egg glaze to adsorb slightly. After the rest, the surface is brushed with beaten egg whites and chilled for 30 minutes prior to baking. The two egg glazes help to create the beigli’s final crackled appearance.

When preparing the filling, I left out the raisins (due to my allergies). I did a taste test and found the filling tastes very much like Baklava. This should not be too surprising since the recipes originate from the same geographical region of the world.

While I did like this bread, I would have preferred less nuts in each slice or a creamier nut mixture.

Perhaps the next time I will combine a couple recipes. I thought the dough from the lemon braid was amazing. For the filling, honey mixed with the cheese filling and then topped with a walnut paste instead of the fruit filling. This might give an even better Baklava flavored bread. Something to try when I am finished making each of the Extraordinary Breads.