Category Archives: Home & Garden
A STATE OF FLUX…
Everything is in transition and I feel like we are being pulled, slowly but surely, in new directions as autumn makes it’s ever-so-slow appearance. Our friend’s who are teachers are heading back to the classroom, kids are getting their chlorine-damaged, summer hair cut and shopping for back to school clothes, and the days are noticeably shorter. We still get to sleep with our window cracked and I can sometimes smell a wood fire smoke from someone’s fireplace nearby. It’s supposed to be in the 90’s today, so fall is clearly in no rush to take it’s place, but it is coming.
My family is in transition too, or our children are anyway. Gigi suddenly looks so tall, and sooner than later she’ll be four! She’s going through a interesting phase right now: testing the boundaries, negotiating a lot, often telling me, “I can do it myself. I’m really big.” Which she is. She gets herself dressed most days and sometimes it’s close to nap time before I realize she’s had her underwear on sideways or backwards or inside out. When I point it out she’ll say, “That’s okay. It’s comfortable. I like it that way.” We started reading a chapter book aloud together and while I read to her she wiggles her head in on my shoulder and sucks on her blankie and the little “click-click-click” of her sucking reminds me that she’s still very little, in spite of her growth spurt and self-awareness.
Little Miss Lulu is making her way from babyhood into toddlerhood. She took her first steps and is now cruising somewhat-steadily around the house. She is one opinionated little tot – she has even started picking out what clothes she wants to wear. She will walk to her drawer and throw things out onto the floor until she finds the thing she wants and then she will push it into my hands and grunt, “Ehh ehh ehh!” Needless to say we are working on the sign for “please”. Lulu is adventurous and spirited and so, so funny.
Our home is also in transition as I continue on my path of simplifying. You should see the pile that is growing in the garage for donating! I can’t be stopped! We now have twelve and a half empty drawers throughout out home! Twelve! I’m just going through and getting rid of things and moving things about and making room. The next phase will be to fill the drawers with the things that survive my sweep. I am chipping away at the project, as you know I’ve been working at it for months! It’s all starting to make a real difference; a difference we can see and feel, and that is really exciting.
Our sweet little garden is in a state of flux as well. We have planted sections of the garden beds with cool weather crops. We’ve planted beets, carrots, raddichio (per Gigi’s request), butternut squash, bok choy, napa cabbage, and more carrots, romaine and butterhead lettuce, and kale. We still have some of our summer crop offering up it’s bounty: we still have loads of kale, pickling cucumbers, summer squash, and cherry tomatoes. If this summer continues it’s slow transition we may actually see some of our Roma tomatoes turn color!
We have so many cherry tomatoes I can’t say I’m disappointed with our tomato plants this year, even though only one out of four seems to have really come through. We have sweet, plump cherry tomatoes ripening daily. Some days I pluck a dozen; last night Kyle harvested close to forty! My favorite thing is to wander out while the girls are napping and find the deepest red ones and pop them in my mouth right there in the garden. Standing in the grass with bare feet, eating sun-warmed tomatoes straight from the vine is my kind of luxury.
It is amazing to me that one plant, whether it’s our impressively producing cucumber plants, our silky heads of lettuce, our never-ending kale, or our bright, bursting tomatoes each started with one tiny seed. That one pack of those tiny seeds that costs a couple dollars can feed us so many meals through so many months is astonishing and a little humbling. At this particular time we have so many cucumbers and tomatoes, we also have harvested an impressive number of Torpedo Onions. Torpedo Onions are mild, sweet heirloom onions. I thought I was planting shallots but, no, I was planting giant, beautiful, Torpedo Onions. I’ve been throwing together a very simple salad using the cucumbers, tomatoes and onion. The salad follows along in the Greek tomato-cucumber-onion-feta tradition but I love making a simple, tart vinaigrette and then showering the salad with lots of fresh tarragon (of which we also have plenty)! If you can’t find the Torpedo Onions, which you may stumble across at a farmers’ market, you can use a bit of shallot or any mild, sweet red onion.
This simple salad is a wonderful lunch, or as a side for anything grilled. It would be great alongside some seasoned and grilled eggplant! We will definitely be planting eggplant next year! But enough about all of that… I’ve got to go water the garden and get ready to make some salsa, pesto, and pickle some jalapeños and Torpedo Onions.
CUCUMBER AND CHERRY TOMATO SALAD WITH RED ONION AND TARRAGON
3 cups cucumber, chopped (partially or fully peel them if the skin is bitter)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
1/4 sweet red onion or shallot, finely minced
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, toss together the cucumber, tomatoes, feta, onion/shallot and tarragon.
Squeeze the lemon juice into a small bowl, slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drizzle plenty of the dressing onto the salad, toss well, and serve!
Serves 2 as a lunch, 4 as a side.
CUCUMBER AND CHERRY TOMATO SALAD WITH RED ONION AND TARRAGON
Kyle and I are still pretty new to this whole canning thing but we love it! We have already done lots this year: spiced pickled carrots, dilly beans, chile dilly beans, tarragon beans, and dill pickle slices. Tonight we are gearing up for pickle round two of the season. We will be making more dill pickle slices, bread and butter pickle slices, and pickled red onions… I bet our friends and family can guess what they’ll be getting for Christmas this year! What’s really amazing this year as that everything, even the garlic and dill, are from our garden!
Pickling is easy because it uses high acid vinegars which means it can be done with a hot water bath method (as opposed to pressure canning). You need very little in the way of supplies to get started. I’ve been asked about this a number of times so I thought I’d put together a simple checklist of what you need to get started with canning and pickling! These are the books and supplies we bought to get going…
Canning Pot with Rack
Tattler ReUsable Lids (optional)
Magnetic Lid Wand
Ball Jars and Lids (available at most stores)
The Pickled Pantry
The Preservation Kitchen
Canning for a New Generation
Food in Jars
The Art of Fermentation (this is more of theory book that Kyle is using)
You will also need a few big bowls (for holding cut up veggies), a big pot with a lid (for your pickling solution), and lots of absorbent kitchen towels that you don’t mind getting stained!
In total the whole basic pickling/canning set up will cost around $120 for supplies (not including the towels, jars, and bowls/pots), and about $85 for the books but you could get started with one (we love The Pickled Pantry).
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to answer them! Happy canning!
I braced her Lulu close in an effort to soothe her back to sleep for the second half of her much-needed afternoon nap. I held her and swayed from side to side, back and forth in a rythmn that is so familiar to mothers; a movement I often find myself doing when I hear any baby crying or when I am talking to a friend who’s holding a tiny babe. As her heated sobs quickly gave way to sleep, I squeezed her even tighter. Her light hair tickled my checks and I craned back bit to see if she was sleeping. I had stopped feeling the tick-tick-tick of her lashes, but sometimes she snuggles, eyes open, waiting to pop her little head out from under my chin to grab my nose or flash a big, silly smile. But as I pulled back a bit to peer at her, her heavy head stayed perfectly still on my shoulder.
I stopped swaying and held her; breathing in her sweet baby smell, letting our tacky sweat blend together, letting her soft, purposeful exhales swirl around my neck and collarbone. I let my eyes wander around her room and they rested on a photo that my sister had taken of her when she was only three precious days old.
Perhaps it was because it was her birthday but I felt that predictable sting in my eyes and tingle across my sinuses, and whatever that is, deep in the very center of my chest that cramps down at moments like these, tighten up and twinge.
I hate to use the word bittersweet to describe the emotion; although it defines the too-quick growing up of babies and children perfectly. It is a well-fitting adjective but there is really nothing bitter about any of it. Lulu’s turning one is ordinarily extraordinary. It’s such a blessing to have gotten to watch her grow, thrive, and learn these past 365 days. With every day I get to spend with my children, my love for them becomes more deeply- rooted and my desire to give them the world grows stronger.
As Lulu turns one and I look back at the last year, and forward into the future, I think about how lucky I am to have her. I can’t wait to watch her actualize her ideas and dreams, to watch her emerge and grow, and to see who she becomes, to make room for her and her needs, and to be the best mom to her I can be.
Yesterday, we had a little birthday barbecue for her with a couple of friends. We kept is small and simple. Our menu was as easy as can be: hot dogs, Burg’s Potato Salad from Molly Wizenburg’s first book A Homemade Life, salad, and, for dessert, Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats from Smitten Kitchen! Kyle stocked up on Lulu Saison and I made Sangria.
I started making sangria last summer after Lulu was born. For my 30th birthday a few of my girlfriends and I had gone for dinner at Toro Bravo in Portland. They had the most amazing looking sangria, but as I was mid-pregnancy with Lu, I was unable to have a glass. I did have a sip of someone else’s and I vowed to myself that that summer, the summer of 2013, would be the summer of sangria! But, once Lu was born things were busy, our backyard was a major work in progress, and I didn’t manage to perfect my recipe.
This year is different. With Lulu being a big one year old, I have a lot more time on my hands for important things like making Sangria. Our backyard, while still a work in progress, is really coming together and the patio is just begging for folks to come kick up their feet with a chilled Sangria in hand. My neighbors have all been called on to help drink the batches I’ve been making over the past few weeks and I think I have a winning recipe. So, without further ado, I officially declare this, the summer of 2014, the Summer of Sangria. Now you know what to expect when you drop by.
SUMMER SANGRIA WITH STRAWBERRIES, PEACHES, CITRUS FRUIT AND GINGER
1/2 orange, sliced
2 small peaches, pitted and sliced into wedges
1/2 cup raspberries
6 strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
2” piece of ginger, peeled and grated
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 bottle cabernet sauvignon
1/2 cup club soda
fresh mint or basil
Begin by making a ginger simple syrup. In a saucepan bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and stir in the sugar and ginger until the sugar has completely dissolved. Simmer and reduce until you have 1/2 cup of syrup. Turn of the heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Strain and set aside.
Juice half of the lemon and half of the lime, slice the remaining halves of both. Toss both the juice and the slices into a large pitcher along with the orange slices, raspberrries, peach slices, and sliced strawberries. Then pour in the ginger simple syrup, orange juice, pomegranate juice, and the wine. Stir gently to combine. Place the sangria in the refrigerator and allow it to sit for a few hours (any recipes call for letting sangria sit overnight but I prefer it “fresher”).
When you are ready to serve the sangria, add the club soda, stir gently, pour into glasses and garnish with mint or basil!
In the summer of 2012 when we traveled to Sweden to visit my brother, we spent a day in Stockholm and spent the majority of that day at the beautiful park called Rosendals Trädgård. It’s one of the things about Sweden (many) that I continue to dream about. It’s truly an extraordinary place. When we were there we wandered into their shop where you could buy cookbooks, freshly baked bread, kitchen gadgets, utensils, etc. This children’s book, Majas Lilla Gröna by Lena Anderson, caught my eye because of the beautiful cover art. I asked one of the shop owners if they had any copies in English, which they did not. I took a snap of the book cover on my phone, thinking I’d be able to find it online when we got home. But, despite searching everywhere I couldn’t find it! Since gardening, and eating, are such a big part of our days, I try to find things for the kids that portray growing, preparing, and consuming food in really positive, magical ways.
Last week a little care package arrived from our friends in Stockholm. Their was a nice card, and a few Swedish children’s books, including this one! I have no idea what the words say but it’s just beautiful, and it’s easy enough to make up a story to go along with the lovely illustrations. Flipping through this book makes me so, so excited to get our garden planted. The tone of the book is so magical, peaceful, and creative, which is exactly how I want our backyard, and my children’s memories of their childhood to be… and I can’t help but hope I look a bit like this lady when I grow older.
Recently we went with my friend Steph and her two kids to visit another friend’s farm. We’re so lucky to live in a place where friends’ farms are a five minute drive away! I was thinking about it and realizing that most of our friends have amazing gardens, some of them have cows, horses, bees, pigs, sheep, chickens, goats… it’s practically a petting zoo around these parts. I can’t wait to get our own chickens but it’ll have to wait until next summer. Redoing our backyard and having a baby has been enough projects for this summer! I love spending time on these farms. There’s something pretty wonderful about people who are putting all of their time and energy into their gardens, animals, land… you can read more about this particular farm here. That back to basics mentality really appeals to me, I wish I was better about practicing it in my own home.
Little known fact, I have always wanted a pig for a pet. Preferably a micro-piglet. Kyle, for some unreasonable reason, does not seem thrilled about the idea. Plus, as much as I wanted her to love them, Gigi was pretty scared of the pigs on the farm. I may have to settle for chickens and bees.