How to Slice Watermelon like a boss.

I love watermelon, and it deeply saddens me that it will be a long time before I get to eat a melon from the Texas valley again. The melons here in Colorado tend to be smaller due to the shorter growing season and they’re definitely more expensive in the store. The upside to seeing melons in the store and at the farmers market is the definitive proof that it IS possible to grow watermelon in Colorado. Come Springtime I plan on growing my own batch in cloth bags in the front yard. Wish me luck.

Sarah and I went to the Farmer’s Market right by our house on Thursday at 1:00 pm right before they closed which is the perfect time to go get fresh fruits on the cheap. I convinced one nice farmer to sell me two watermelons for $6 which makes me one happy camper.  Sarah also snagged us a bunch of peppers and sweet onions to cook with later.

Pears, Onions, Peppers. Watermelon

Our haul from the farmers market.

In my years of life I have attempted to cut watermelon several ways, “traditional ways” you may call them, and none of them work nearly as well as the way I’m going to teach you shortly. I learned this method from watching Giada De Laurentiis in passing at Will and Britt’s house. This method maximizes the amount of red flesh you get off of the rind and is incredible simple.

*Side Note I often confuse Giada De Laurentiis with Gianna Michaels and I like to think that Gianna would also host a really enjoyable cooking show. But I digress.

Gianna Michaels in a yellow skirt SFW

Not quite the same as Giada. Better, some would say?

Let’s slice some melons shall we?

Watermelon and Santoku knife on cutting board

Prepare your tools and your workspace.

First you’ll need to secure your melon, cutting board and knife. I prefer a really sharp Santoku knife to do my prep on fruits and veggies. If you’re interested in learning more about sharpening kitchen knives I suggest you read this great tutorial on the eGullet forums.

Watermelon being sliced in half

The step is to cut your melon in ‘twain.

Once you’re ready to get down and dirty cut your melon in half perpendicular to the stripes, or short-ways so you have two melon ends to deal with. We want to be able to set the melon on its cut side so it has a stable base for the next step.

Half of a watermelon on a cutting board with a santoku knife

Halved melon is in halves.

From this point we’re going to start shaving the rind off of the delicious melon meat hidden within. Confused yet? Keep reading and all will be revealed.

Watermelon half being shaved with a santoku kinfe

Shave the melon at a nice shallow angle to start sneaking up on the red meat inside.

By starting at the stem at a shallow angle and slicing the rind off you can get right to the edge of the edible fruit and not waste any of it.

Watermelon having the rind shaved off

First shave. Note how only a little red was exposed with the first cut.

Continue in a circle around the melon until you have the rind completely shaved away. I’d guess that it takes makes 10-15 solid slices to get the rind completely removed.

Watermelon with half of the rind removed

Half shaven at this point

Remeber the key is only to remove green and white material with each cut, if you’re seeing red on the rind you’re cutting too deep or too much at once.

Watermelon without it's rind on a cutting board with santoku knife

That melon is naked!

Once you’ve shaven the rind off take a moment to admire the sculpture you’ve just made. i always think of a geometric turtle shell once I’m done. The turtloid from Sonic 2 springs to mind honestly.

watermelon cut into slices

Vertical slices first.

Once the melon is naked (with the rind removed) it’s ready to be cut however you choose. I like to make cubes or spears depending on how I’m feeling. Today I opted to just make spears which requires one less step than cubes.

Start your slicing by making 3/4″ vertical slices through the fruit.

Gridded watermelon

Horizontal grid.

The next step is to slicing the melon again in 3/4″ horizontal stripes, effectively making your melon a 3/4″ grid of melon spears. From this point you could cut the melon spears again to make 3/4″ cubes, but I prefer spears so I can eat them with my hands and fit them in a bowl easier.

Sliced watermelon with a glass bowl over top

See how nicely it all fits into that bowl?

I put my bowl on top of the melon and then flip the whole cutting board so the mellow lands right side up and all together in the glass bowl.

Limes, lemons and a santoku knife

Now we add the secret ingredient.

Limes! There’s something about their tart sweetness that has always called to me. A glass of iced sweet tea with Lime is perfection defined to me, so it’s no surprise that I add lime to my water melon.

Bowl of watermelon with a lime being squeezed on top of it

This is where the magic happens.

Add as little or as much as you like; I like to use one whole lime for one whole watermelon which results in a nice balance of sweet and sour.

Watermelon in a bolw with a lime wedge

This is my idea of the perfect healthy snack.

That’s it! Now all you have to do is eat the melon before your friends and family starting poking around and asking for a piece.

Next time I’ll show you how I brew iced tea.

-Devin

Watercolor Sunflowers for the CSK Group.

I’ve recently been meeting with designers and showing my portfolio around in the hopes of getting constructive criticism and jobs. After my interviews I always like to send a handwritten postcard of my own design as way to show my skills and stand out from the crowd.

I decided to do some technique building exercises as postcards to knock out two birds with one stone for two of the cards. The exercise was to help me learn how to mix my three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) to make all the other colors I needed. I’ve learned that by using only 3 colors to create the rest of your palette your final result tends to be a much more cohesive painting.

Two color wheels and a color bar

Showing the differences in blending warm and cool colors

I actually mixed up my reds on these wheels which makes makes them incorrect. I will make a new set eventually. The Color bar on top is a proper 12 color palette made from 3 cool color primaries.

Color bars in watercolor

Here we find color bars showing cool/warm reds blending with cool/warm yellows and blue.

Notice the way you can make many, MANY different shades of green by using a cool yellow mixed with a cool/warm blue.

Ink drawing of Texas with the Texas flag

Austin is from Texas so I had to show him some love.

I also added a quick pen drawing on the back of each of my cards just for kicks.

Ink drawing of an eggplant

An eggplant for Greta because why the hell not?

That’s a pretty sweet eggplant right?

I also sat down recently with Keith, Cristi, and Lori of the CSK Group for an interview about freelance design work so I made them a card as well.

Sunflowers from Google Image Search

This was my reference photograph.

The plan was to paint a field of sunflowers using CSK green as one of the main colors.

Sunflower Watercolor, initial sketch

Here’s the initial sketch I made after dividing the image into 4 quadrants.

My first task was dividing the image into a 4 equal rectangles and then sketching those onto the canvas to plan out my painting. I enjoy using a hard pencil to do these sketches to get nice light lines, something in the H4-5 range.

Sunflower Watercolor, first wash of color

First light wash of green to get started with color.

Once I was pleased with the sketch I mixed up a green and diluted it quite a bit to give myself a nice light green wash to put down on the paper. The green looks more brown/yellow here due to the warm light I have in my craft room.

Sunflower Watercolor, stems and leaves first color

Putting the first bit of CSK green down on paper.

At this point I’ve put the first yellow wash on the flower petals and have added the CSK green I mixed up to the stems and leaves of the plants.

Sunflower Watercolor second wash of yellow on the petals

Second wash of yellow on the petals

I then added a second wash of yellow on the petals and a darker green on the stems.

Sunflower Watercolor, petal shadows

A purple grey was mixed and added to the flowers to add a sense of depth.

I’ve learned that adding more of the same color does not result in deep shadows as one might expect. To do proper shadows a grey color made from the opposing color on the color wheel is often best. The sunflowers actually have a very light purple wash across them to create the shadows.

Sunflower Watercolor, seed wash

Adding a brown wash with a green center.

At this point in the painting I’m still very pleased with it. I honestly could have stopped right here and been perfectly content, but I opted to keep going for a more realistic flower, the results sadly are not to my liking. These things happen though and by making the mistakes now you learn not to make them later. Notice how I used a wet in wet wash on the center of the seed to give a grown to green flow without a hard edge.

Sunflower Watercolor, sky wash

Added the wash for the sky, and the shadows below

At this point the painting has taken on a much different feeling. I added the blue wash to the sky and added the light wash of dark green for the under shadows of the leaves(leafs). The paining is suddenly much cooler thanks to that under-shadow wash.

Sunflower Watercolor, seed texture

Seed texture with varied amounts of success.

I was nearing the end of the painting and it was time to add the final details. Details can make or break a painting, especially if it’s a botanical watercolor for documentation purposes. I added the seed detail with a varied level of success. You’ll notice varying levels of paint density on different flowers which unfortunately cause hell on the depth of the painting. Sometimes you have to know when to say enough is enough I suppose.

Sunflower Watercolor, darker shadows

Adding darker shadows

Looking at the reference photo I realized that my darks weren’t nearly dark enough and added a little more to bring it around. The biggest hurdle when painting is determining how much detail to add, this was the same hurdle.

Sunflower Watercolor, complete

Completed painting with a nice photo filter

Here’s the completed Painting after it had been posted to Path and filterized. All in all I’m pretty pleased with the way this painting turned out. I hope they enjoy it (and hire me for some freelance work soon).

-Devin

 

 

Pad Thai Dinner Party

Sarah and I love to cook and we love to have friends over for dinner, so it was starting to bug us that we hadn’t had any guest other than Grant since we moved to the Springs. Luckily we’ve both made friends with Jonathan and his wife Lindsay, who joined us for dinner on Thursday.

Devin with a mouth full of grean onion roots

Cthulu cometh.

That’s what it looks like when I channel Cthulhu using the green onion roots we’d been growing in the windowsill. Since we were having Pad Thai for dinner we needed to make our rounds to the grocery stores for items to make the evening a success.

Our first stop was to the farmers market where we scored all sorts of fresh fruit and veggies for $15. We also had a really great pretzel strudel thing from a small vendor but I can’t seem to find anything about them online. Anthony’s Pretzels maybe?

After that it was off to Lee Hing Inc. to pick up shrimp and tamarind.
Lee HIng Inc. always has the most interesting produce so I can’t help but stop to take photos.

Chinese eggplant at Lee Hing Inc

Delicious.

Chinese eggplant: much smaller than “regular” eggplant.

Thai eggplant at Lee Hing Inc

Thai eggplant looks really good with a filter on it. I want to paint a bowl of these.

Thai Eggplant: even smaller with a green color and white striping.

As usual we made it out of the Asian market for a shockingly low amount of money, which pleased us. We even had lunch at their little cafe. It was worth the $5.95 we paid I’d say.

After a quick trip to Safeway for other groceries we returned home where Sarah immediately got to work baking the crust for our pizza while I started the menu.

Brownie cookie on a stoneware pizza stone

It was a perfect brownie, which meant it was too wet for our fruit pizza. Lesson learned.

The pizza stone worked perfectly for this dish.

Devin's dinner menu wireframe

Quick sketches to get the layout organized

You may be wondering why I made a menu for our dinner? If you’re wondering that, you obviously don’t know me very well, but I will say that the original inspiration was the themed dinners that Laura over at cincinnatinomerati.blogspot.com makes for her husband when returns home after being away on what I can only assume is business(she may have mentioned business)).

Devin's dinner menu, top portion.

Here we see the Salad Detail and Logo I made for Sarah and I.

This was a really fun project since I had to complete it quickly and wouldn’t have time to fix any huge errors. See that tassel looking thing on the top left in red? That was me covering up an accident, but if you’re not a painter/designer you’d never have thought second about it. I also really enjoyed creating that letter mark for Sarah and I, I’ll probably continue to use and refine it on future dinner party menus.

Devin's Dinner menu, completed in the leather frame

Completed Menu.

Here’s the completed piece. You may notice that the Pad Thai bowl is excessively deep, that’s just how we roll around here though. Big Bowls, for big appetites. *Cut To Rick Ross Enjoying some Pad Thai*

He’s the bawse, you know?

Lindsay posing with a salad.

The dressing on the salad was light but tasty.

Here we see Lindsay showing off the delish salads that Jonathan helped prepare. I made us a really light dressing and the secret ingredient was ranch. Not a whole lot, mind you, but just enough.

Sarah's Fruit pizza

Look how awesome Sarah made the pizza!

The pad thai was devoured (Jonathan and I put away some solid helpings) before I could snap any photos, but the pizza was captured at least.

Devin's post dinner Thai Tea shots

A perfectly sweet after dinner treat.

I totally forgot about the Thai Tea I’d made until well after the meal was done. We’d been enjoying wine and beer so no one minded. It was late at this point (9:30-ish) so I suggested we just enjoy Thai Tea shots, and of course everyone loved them.

Avery

Avery came too!

After that the Cavner family loaded into their car and headed back home, and Sarah and I watched an episode of the Shield Season 6.

Now that I’m done here I’m going to go paint some sunflowers for a thank you card I’m sending out.

-Devin

Container Gardening

Sarah and I have been training our green thumbs for quite awhile now and we’ve had mixed results most of the time. Our first garden was at our house on Old Post road in San Angelo where we had a small garden of lettuce and spinach in the back, and a few rows of broccoli in the middle of the front yard.

Small Watermelon plant in a circle mound

We attempted watermelon with no results.

When we moved to our house on Carlton Way, we didn’t really have much room for a garden in the ground so we decided to try our hand doing a container garden. We had a lime tree, tomato, basil, carrots, herbs, lettuce, and strawberries. Each of those met varying degrees of success as well. Carrots grew extremely well in the earth box, and basil did too, and while some herbs grew we never got enough yield on any of them to eat.

Basil and Strawberries going strong

Basil looking great right here.

After we moved to Colorado Springs I decided to learn more about why my plants weren’t producing like I wanted. My main concern was the lime tree since prior to the move it dropped most of it’s leaves and was looking really pitiful. I was determined to keep it alive so I got a book on citrus from our new library and have since nursed it back to health.

Then in my travels I came across the idea of cloth pots. These pots allow roots to grow through the pot wall into the air, but the trick is when the root hits the open air it stops forward development and branches behind the wall. The result of this is a much denser root mass that avoids the problem of root spiraling that happens in plastic pots.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Grow Bags.

So I learn about this and think, “Hell yeah, this is the next level. I’ll be able to grow even better plants now.” I’m excited by this revelation in urban gardening and decide to tell my good friend Will about this on skype. Will is actually working on his own earth garden at the moment using raised beds and has a blog about it now. I like to think that Sarah and I had a pretty solid hand in helping Will and his Fiancee Britt get into gardening. We all shared a garden at their house last summer. It also came with mixed results sadly(We’re all learning more and more as we go along).

Lettuce for days

We know how to grow lettuce at least

Back to that Skype conversation I was telling you about. As I’m telling Will about these cloth bags I came across a blog talking about using reusable grocery bags as planter bags, www.globalbuckets.org.

As I started reading more I began to realize that these two teens in boulder had crafted a low cost way to make earth boxes which are “self watering containers.” I had heard of these before and even have my lettuce growing in one right now but didn’t fully understand how AMAZING THEY ARE.

These containers are watered via a tube that passes through the soil to a water reservoir in the bottom of the container. This allows two incredible things to happen, 1: The potted plants water themselves PERFECTLY. As long as there is water in the reservoir the plant will pull as much water as it needs and not a drop more. 2: The nutrients in the soil are absorbed into the plant and left in the soil as the roots draw up the water vs. being flushed out of the soil by traditional top down watering methods.

On our trip to the library yesterday I found two books at the library that have really started changing the way I plan to garden come spring time. The first is “Incredible Vegetables from Self Watering Containers” by Edward C. Smith. He breaks everything down and explains why gardening in this method yields great results, I’m learning a lot with this book.

The second book is “Crops in Pots” by Bob Purnell, which covers many of the same topics as the first book but has one standout difference, the planting “recipes.” I call them recipes because they read like a cooking recipe but instead of cooking the food together you’re growing it in a pot that waters itself. One example was the Blueberry bush with lettuce, a beautiful arrangement that also works well due to the varied heights of the plants grown together.

I can not wait to start our spring garden using these methods. I’ll make sure I document the progress as we go along. Mostly because I’m a bit of a narcissist, but I figure some people (my Mom?) may be interested in reading this.
To finish this post here are a few photos from our current garden.

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-Devin

Grant came to visit, part 1

Grant came to visit us for Labor Day weekend and we were so thrilled to have him here. We picked Grant up from the Denver airport on Thursday in the mid afternoon and since we were all starving I convinced everybody that we should pit stop in Denver to Sam’s No. 3 for lunch. We were not disappointing in the least. We each ordered a different skillet meal and then swapped them midway through the meal so we could try each others. I went with the gyro skillet which has big pieces of tomato, lamb meat, and two eggs( I went with poached ((I’ve been on a kick)). I’m pretty sure we were all too ravenous to take any pics of the food but I’m sure photos of the food exists out there somewhere.

Grant fishing on Prospect Lake

Grant was dead set on fishing so we got some polls and licenses and planned our adventure for Saturday. Friday night Grant tried casting a few lines in the lake in front of our house, and he managed to catch a small musky!

After fishing and Sarah got done teaching her evening class we went to Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. to meet Nel and Dwayne. Sarah used to play roller derby with Nel and Dwayne was the teams interim coach. It just happened to be a crazy coincidence that Dwayne got stationed here a few weeks after we moved to the Springs. It’s a small world like that.

 

Devin with his Pug Scarf

Grant snapped this lovely photo on Sunday? Maybe, I’m not sure honestly. But the pug scarf as I like to call this is an often occurrence.

Saturday we went fishing up at Beaver Creek. We took Barrett and he had a great time, splashing around in the stream, smelling flowers, whining like a “tinny-baby”; the usual. I didn’t take my phone into the wilderness so no photos of that adventure.

Sunday was great because we took a trip to the GROCERY STORE! We love to cook and eat and we’ve been on a huge Asian food kick since we now have easy access to a great Asian Market, Lee Hing Inc.

Giant carrot with a ballpoint pen for comparison

The produce at Lee Hing is great and the prices are fantastic as well. They have a really solid selection of greens and veggies, but they often run out of hot items and you’ll have to wait for a new shipment later in the week.

 

A lot of groceries from the asain market for $60

Chinese chives(on the left) are a key ingredient to good Pad Thai and lend a lot of flavor to the dish.

Banana Flower

They also had banana flowers this week which is also found in traditional pad thai. I’d never seen a banana flower let alone cook one so this was a fun learning experience.

Sarah attacking the banana flower

Sarah is fearless as she bites into the incredibly bitter uncooked banana flower.
Sadly she learned that lesson the hard way.

Char god, is an awesom god.

This is how we found Char-dog when we returned from the market. He really is an awesome god.

That sums up the first part of the weekend pretty well. I’ll put the rest in my next post.
-Devin

Drawing on the iPad

Sarah and I finally paid off our computer a few weeks ago like responsible adults and promptly decided it was time to purchase an iPad. We’d been needing another portable computer for awhile now since my laptop finally died and Sarah’s has been long gone. After looking at the cost and financing options available(18 months no interest) we took a trip to best buy and made our purchase.

The New iPad unboxed

If the iPhone is a super device this is a Super-Duper-Mega device. It’s a big ass toy, but I’m finding more and more ways to increase my productivity with it. My favorite thing to do so far has been to watch Lynda tutorials on the iPad while I’m doing some other task around the house.

Prior to acquiring our iPad I’d seen an article talking about the app “Paper” made by 53 and I could not wait to try it out. Naturally it was the first app I installed on the iPad and it has been incredibly fun and easy to use so far. The ability to quickly switched from pencil to pen to watercolor has allowed me to make a series of really sharp looking sketches in just minutes.
You can see my botanical watercolor kick coming through since most of the drawings have been of plants so far. I find plants to be great subject matter, they don’t move very quickly, have lots of detail, and look fascinating up close. There are a few bonsai trees in the mix as well, I sketched those this weekend when Grant, Sarah, and I went to the Pike’s Peak Bonsai Society’s show downtown. More on that later.

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– Devin