Review: PBN Kitten Tea Cup

I haven’t done a paint by numbers for years, and I thought it sounded fun, so I bought the Kitten Tea Cup PBN by Dimensions Paint Works. It is rated Beginner for ages 8 and up so it seemed a good place to start. One thing I appreciate is that the picture on the kit is representative of the finished product if you follow the instructions. Some paint by numbers kits either show the picture the kit is inspired by, or the kit as done by an artist using advanced techniques not mentioned in the instructions. For a kit that cost me less than ten dollars, I felt I got my money’s worth of enjoyment from it.

It comes with six colors, and instructions for two more by mixing two colors to make an additional shade of grey (black and white) and an additional shade of pink (red and white).

The kit comes with a hardboard canvas (as opposed to a regular flexible canvas). In retrospect, I would have started with the background instead of black, but it worked out fine.

While it was pretty simple as paint by numbers go, it was satisfying to see the image develop. I tried not to hurry and to take the time to appreciate the activity.

While I thought I’d mixed the colors in the proper proportion, the mixed grey came out lighter than the box. I’d chalk it up to user error, and in the future will pay closer attention to how the mixed color appears on the sample picture. I would up retouching in a couple of places to make it darker. I went over the white portions again a couple of times as the paint wasn’t opaque enough to hide the numbers with a single coat.

I could have spent a similar amount of time watching tv, or playing a video game, or any of a variety of more modern pursuits. I found painting this to be a relaxing and soothing experience. I would recommend the kit to anyone that hasn’t done a paint by numbers before, to a child, or to someone that just wanted to while away some time in a peaceful pastime.

Review: Fox Run / Norpro / Colibrox Taco tongs

These taco tongs are sold under by a variety of places under several different names, with varying prices, and the reviews I’ve read show varying results. However, they appear to all be the same set from the same manufacturer (I haven’t verified this, I’m just going by the images they use). I bought a pair and here are my experiences, your milage may vary.

When I first received the taco tongs – taco press – taco form whatever you want to call them, the spread on them was wider than what I prefer, so I did modify them slightly by bending them gently inward about 10 degrees from stock. I wouldn’t advice bending them in too sharply, but this simple modification seems to have improved my pair.

Notice that one side sits flat in the pan, and one side sticks up. This has apparently caused much confusion in how to use them (based on several of the reviews I’ve read). I’m not claiming how I use them is correct or safe, but I have success making taco shells using the following method:

Materials needed:

  • Taco tongs
  • Skillet
  • Oil
  • Taco size corn tortillas
  • Meat filling
  • Toppings

Use a skillet big enough that the bottom of the tongs can lay flat along the bottom of the pan. My personal preference is for a heavy cast iron skillet.

Put about a 1/2″ (give or take) of oil in the skillet, doesn’t have to be exact.

Heat the oil to approximately 350 degrees F.

Open the jaws of the tongs and insert a tortilla. Gently close the jaws just enough to hold the tortilla in place in a taco shape. Do not mash the jaws closed or the tortilla will tend to break along the bend. The intent should be to hold the tortilla in place with the correct shape, and force beyond that is counterproductive. If the tortillas aren’t flexible enough, try warming them first to make them more pliable.

Place the flat side of the tongs (holding the tortilla) down to rest in the oil on the bottom of the skillet.

The boiling point of the moisture inside the tortilla is about 212 F, since the oil is 350 F, the moisture inside the tortilla will rapidly start to turn into steam, and bubble up out of the oil to be released into the air. When the tortilla is first put into the oil it has the most moisture, so will bubble the most.

The bubbles will gradually start to subside, and after about a minute there will be noticeably less bubbles forming. How long it will take each to be done will depend on how much moisture is in the starting tortillas, and how crunchy you want the final taco shells to be. If you wait unless it isn’t making any bubbles anymore, chances are they are burnt so stop before then. For best results judge doneness by the amount of bubbles being released and by color rather than by timing (unless you make them often enough to have that dialed in).

Remove from the oil, and allow the excess oil on the tortilla to drain back into the pan. Be vary careful as at this point, the pan is hot, the oil is hot, the tongs are hot and the bottom half of the taco shell is hot.

At this point the bottom half of the taco shell is cooked, but the top half (the half that sticks up) isn’t. This next step takes a little finesse, and should be done carefully to avoid burning yourself. Open the jaws of the tongs over a rack or plate, removing the shell from the tongs. Carefully grasp just the edge tip of the uncooked half of the shell (or use some implement to do so), turn the shell around and place back in the tongs, this time with the uncooked side of the tortilla facing down. Then return to the oil as before and cook the other side, completing the taco shell.

As each is finished, invert the taco shells on a rack so they look like little tents, and continue for each of the taco shells desired.

American style taco filling can be prepared in advance using a variety of recipes. I personally like a combination of ground meat, taco spices, diced onions and chopped jalapeño peppers, but chicken or shredded beef is also popular. Put a couple tablespoons of the prepared filling into the bottom of each taco shell.

Then top each with your choice of toppings. Popular additions include cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced olives, salsa, and/or a dollop of sour cream.

I hope you found the above helpful. Below is a link to amazon, it doesn’t cost you any more, but I get a few cents if you use the link to make your purchase.

Garden update for March

The radishes planted February 15th are starting to become ready for harvest. They took a couple weeks longer than the estimate on the packages, but the weather has been cool and rainy.

French Breakfast and Purple Plum radishes

It has been a joy to harvest a few each day, although so far none have made it to the refrigerator. I’ve just been pulling them out as they are ready, washing and cleaning them, and then eating them right away. I am planning on planting more of the Purple Plum radishes again. They are crisp and pretty with just a little bite. The French Breakfast radishes are nice too, and I may grow them again, but they would be my second choice to the Purple Plums if I had to pick one or the other.

So far I’ve been enjoying the root pouches that I’ve been using as raised beds. I don’t bend over as well as I used to, so they really save my back. In the above I have radishes, a couple tomato plants, a pepper, and some carrots in the middle. The plan is to put in a luffa at the top once it warms up a little.

Radishes, tomatoes, and carrots.
Squash Seedlings and Pepper in center

Having fresh summer squash was so nice last year I decided to grow more for this year. In this root pouch there are yellow, zucchini, and zephyr summer squashes, a butternut winter squash, and a lone pepper in the center.

Dixondale onions in a 65 gal. root pouch

The onions seem to be doing well. These I bought from Dixondale farms are bigger now than they were when I received them. They may be a little too close together, but I anticipate picking some of them early for immediate eating. These are Super Star, Red Candy Apple, and Candy onions.

Stockton Red Onion

This Stockton Red Onion is the largest in the garden. It will be interesting to see how it does over the next month or two.


These Mammoth Sunflowers are along my North side fence-line. I haven’t grown them in years and they are a little closer together than they should be, but hoping they give me a little more privacy on that side once they get taller.

Root Pouch Container Garden Setup

I took advantage of the three day weekend to set up some 65 gallon root pouch fabric pots to use as raised gardening containers. The trellis is good and sturdy for this year, I’m not sure exactly what it was before, but it is a trellis now.

For a growing medium, I am using a mixture of coco coir (rehydrated from bricks), peat moss, vermiculite (not a huge fan, but had a bag so used it), perlite, chicken compost, and steer compost.

Proper spring planting isn’t for another month or so. Because I know I’ll get impatient waiting, I planted 30 day radish seeds. Not only did I use a mixture of radish seeds from this year, but I threw in some older seeds that are definitely past their prime just to see if they’ll sprout (and to get them out of my seed box). If they all sprout then I’ll have much thinning to do. We will see if that keeps me occupied enough to stop me from planting other things too early. On the other hand, I do have more tomato starts going than I need, so I may wind up risking a couple since the winter has been so mild.

The first two have decorative rings with carrots planted in the middle. For some variety (and fun) this round I’m trying Burpee’s Kaleidoscope Mix which has a mixture of Atomic Red, Bambino, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White and Solar Yellow carrots.

There are a few cabbages hanging in, but they got pretty beat up by insects earlier in the year. Fingers crossed, it looks like I’ll get enough from the Romanesco (fractal broccoli) to at least try it.

The Stockton red onions and the Dixondale Farms starts seem to be doing fine. The starts are showing new growth, and I have an entire 65 gallon root pouch devoted to them.

Dixondale Order Arrived

For the sake of transparency: I purchased the onion plants in the following article, and planted them in a 65 gallon Root Pouch furnished by Tradewinds Wholesale Garden Supply.

Callooh! Callay! My first ever Dixondale Farms order of onion plants has arrived. Last October I put in my order for one of their Intermediate Day Sampler bunches for $12.35 (shipping included), to be sent when ready, and now they are ready. As far as onions are concerned I live in an intermediate day area, so I made sure to order intermediate day varieties. To the north is long day onion territory, and to the south the short day onions are grown. According to the Internet, one can fudge that a little depending on location, but since this is my first attempt at growing onions I thought I’d play it safe and stick to recommended varieties for my latitude.

TIP: Make sure to order the correct type (long day, intermediate day, or short day) of onions for your area.

Upon opening the box, I was greeted with a rubber banded bunch of onion plants, my invoice, and a thoughtfully bagged growing onion guide, the suitably enough named “Onion & Leek Planting Guide”. Right on the front cover are useful directions in red capital letters to:

  1. Remove plants from box immediately.
  2. Cut the rubber band and spread plants out for ventilation.
  3. Do not put in soil or water before planting.

As a novice onion grower, I appreciate the advice. Clear direction helps with confidence.

So I immediately removed the plants from the box, and the rubber band from around the plants (which is why the rubber band isn’t shown in the picture).

According to the Dixondale Farms website the ideal size for a starter plant is at about four leaves and about the same diameter as a pencil. I didn’t count the leaves, but most of the plants I received were smaller than a pencil, some by a fair amount. My feelings aren’t hurt at all about some of them being on the small side, because they more than make up for it by the quantity of plants I recieved. I’m only describing what I received in my box, not commenting on what anyone should expect. I don’t know anyone over there, so there is no reason to expect anything more than their usual customer care. I’m not sure if it is to make up for the smaller sized plants, or someone was just having a good day while packing up my order, but I appreciate the extra love in the box. There was even an “Intermediate” plant marker included.

Dixondale Farms claims that there will be at least 50 total plants in the variety bundle I ordered, so out of curiosity I counted the plants that I received. A reasonable expectation would be something like 16 or 17 of each of the three varieties, with the understanding that the proportions might be off, but some combination totaling 50 plants or so.

What I received was:

  • 42 Candy (Yellow)
  • 48 Red Candy Apple (Red)
  • 53 Super Star (White)

Granted, some are on the pretty small side, but with 93 extra plants on an order of 50, I’m not complaining. Overall they are about the same size as the existing Stockton Red Onions I started from small plants last fall. These new onions look healthy and happy, and if they don’t do well I expect it to be from user error and not any fault of the starting plants.


The light in my backyard isn’t ideal, I have some odd shadows and such which limits which areas get full sun. One of these areas happens to be on a concrete slab, which makes it a candidate for container gardening.

The container I’ll be using is a 65 gallon root pouch with handles. For a potting mixture, I used (an approximately equal proportions) peat moss, perlite, and a combination of chicken bedding & steer manure compost.

I planted the onion starts barely deep enough to stand up, and about 3-4″ apart. My intention is to thin them by harvesting and eating some as they start to crowd each other.


Hopefully the onions do well, it will be interesting to see how they develop (fingers crossed).