Monthly Archives: June 2010

Wash Wednesday

Wash Wednesday
I’ve been following GardenMama’s Wash Wednesday for a while now and even though I almost exclusively line-dry our laundry in summer, I for some reason haven’t played along yet. Until now that is. This is the third summer that I’ve made a strong effort to line dry almost every single load of laundry we do. During the winter, it’s just too darn cold & damp to line dry clothes here in Sonoma, however there is no excuse in the late spring, summer and early fall. For the past seven years that we’ve lived here, I’ve had a string tied up between the banister posts of this overhang we have in our side yard, but when I got serious about line drying I went ahead and bought an official drying line from the hardware store and wrapped it around the entire perimeter of that overhang. That works so much better, because normal string stretches too much when you have heavy, wet clothes on the line.

If you are going to start hanging your clothes outside I recommend you buy plenty of clothespins. I started out with maybe a dozen or so clothespins and that just isn’t enough, you need oodles to get a full load of laundry dried. Otherwise, if you don’t have enough you’ll just start mentally thinking it’s easier to throw everything into the dryer, right?

Last summer I learned a great tip about how to hang your clothes and I’ve been converted ever since. What you want to do is notice which way the breeze is blowing and hang the clothes open so that the wind blows through them (mommycoddle has a great photo here of her pillowcases for example) it makes a sort of windsock. Ever since I started hanging my clothes that way, my drying time has been cut down considerably. I hang bottoms from their waistband and all shirts I hang upside down.
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Besides saving energy and money line drying, I, like many other women, love going outside to hang it up and going back out to take it down. It’s such a great excuse to get out every morning. It is so quiet and still at that time of day and hanging laundry almost becomes a meditation. Now that it is warm enough to hang dry my laundry and that I’ve mastered my homemade laundry recipe, rarely do I ever dread laundry anymore. That overhang creates a nice shady spot in between our peach tree and the boys play area so I can keep an eye on them while they play. I also keep a rocking chair nearby so that when my achy, pregnant body is tired from hanging all that laundry, I can sit and rock and enjoy.

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Sunday Flowers – Feverfew

Sunday Flowers

Yesterday we went over to the Sonoma Garden Park for their market and noticed these little daisy like flowers growing everywhere, so pretty. Rebecca, the garden manager explained they were feverfew. I think I might have to grow some myself next year!

If you’d like to join my new habit, pick some backyard flowers to grace your house this week and add your link below!

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State of the Squash

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As I mentioned yesterday our pathways are becoming more tricky to walk down, but walk down them we must because the Portofino Zucchini plant is smack dab in the middle of this row and the zucchini’s are already in full production.
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We’ve grown a few zucchini’s over the years, but these are our favorites. Have you grown them before?
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The bees have been hard at work in our yard. We’d love to get our own hive one day, but for the time being we are letting the wild honeybees do their busy work all around our yard. There are hundreds of them, at one spot, underneath the blooming tree in the boys play area, you can hear their loud collective hum. This blossom belongs to a potimarron squash, which is one of our favorite winter squash. Scott loves them for cooking, I love them for decorating. We haven’t grown these in the past couple of years, but before that, I always knew when harvest season was starting when he started bringing those and acorn squash and lining our mantel with them. They would stay up there until past Thanksgiving or we ate them all, whichever came first.
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The banana squash is also bulbing up, let’s see if it truly does get to 4 ft long, shall we? I’ll keep you updated. If it does, we might need to host a squash eating festival!

How are the squash growing in your garden?

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Shaking the Funk

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Some days it’s easy to wake up in a funk. I woke up this morning exhausted already with two overly energetic boys, it was a recipe for disaster. So I pulled out all the stops, put on some good music, baked banana bread with the boys, and walked out to the garden to look at all of our bounty. A great reminder of how fortunate we are. The pathways between raised beds are becoming tricky to walk down with all of the sprawling vines and we are starting to mentally prepare for canning and preserving to come into full swing.
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Everything is growing with leaps and bounds now and the boys are kept busy making concoctions and making forts. Now if only I could summon up some more energy to keep up with them!
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Sunday Flowers – Happy Father’s Day

Sunday Flowers
I quickly cut a few vases of flowers to spread around the house this morning for a Father’s Day get-together we are having today with Scott’s extended family.
Sunday Flowers
These butterfly bush purple flowers smell just like honey and I add a little lemon verbena sprigs to help make our family room smell inviting.
Sunday Flowers
Each spring I cut a bouquet of lavender to put in the corner of the bathroom. I usually leave it there all year round because even dried lavender is so pretty and smells so good.

If you’ve put flowers in your house this weekend, take a photo and post a link below. We’d love to see them!

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Tips for Making a Beautiful Salad

Sunday Flowers inspire Beautiful Salads

We’ve made a little pledge this year to eat salads as our meal at the very least once a week, but now that spring is here, we eat them about twice a week. We have three lettuce patches in our yard that are really coming alive now and I’m sure if pressed, we could eat salad for every meal. I love tossed salad as much as anyone, but when you have it week after week as your main course inspiration for changing it up is necessary! I’ve realized over the years, being married to Scott, that there is a real art to salad making. I notice especially when it is my turn to make salads, they just never come out as beautiful or as tasty as he can make them. I’m sure it was his years as a restaurant cook that gave him the knowledge needed to make a beautiful salad. It’s more than just cutting everything up and tossing it all together with a store bought dressing, so I thought I’d share with you a little of what we do to make our salads more interesting.
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Think Color: What’s the old saying? You eat with your eyes first? It’s true. Just looking at Scott’s salads make me full because they are so beautiful. This year we grew edible flowers just for putting in salads. Nasturtiums are pretty common edible flowers (they are the bright orange ones), but this year we also grew edible chrysanthemums (the yellow-white petals). If you have left over nasturtium blossoms, try Erin’s nasturtium preserves.

We had to pull all of our beets the other week to make room for the peppers. So with all of those beets on our counter we made up our favorite beet thing to do: pickled beets. We toss those into our salads frequently, but we also remembered something my mom had given us a few years back, pickled eggs. For this salad Scott hard boiled a few of our chicken eggs, peeled them, and placed them in the pickled beet jar for an hour or so to give them a bright fuchsia outside with a hint of pickling. We left a few in there for a salad a few days later that were fuchsia almost all the way through! A very fun way to have hard boiled eggs. The boys got really excited about their purple eggs.

Think Texture: While you want a good mix of soft and crunchy, biting into a great big carrot chunk really isn’t all that pleasant of a salad eating experience. When we do add carrots to salads we typically use our ceramic Mandoline Slicer (we have this one and love it!), however before we had that, we’d make long strips of them with our vegetable peeler. Most other crunchy vegetables get a thin julienne slice or if it’s a Chop Salad everything goes into a small dice. Cheese is a good addition to softness, but bacon bits (shown above) add great crunchy texture. So do a few sunflower seeds or toasted or carmalized nuts.

Think Properly Dressed: We tend to use a simple homemade vinaigrette for daily salads, but sometimes Scott gets a little fancy and makes up a batch of Green Goddess dressing, which is oh so good. When he and I were talking about what to write for this blog post, he mentioned how important it is for the salad to be properly dressed, yet how hard that is to describe. Typically you read that you want every leaf of salad coated with dressing, which rings true for vinaigrettes, but maybe you don’t want that much dressing if you use a creamy dressing. I guess you want enough dressing, evenly distributed so that you taste it in every bite, but your salad isn’t drowning in it.

Lastly he typically tosses the salad with the dressing in a seperate bowl than what he serves it in. Seems fussy for a family meal, I know, but it makes that presentation so much more fantastic, even if it is just the humble four of us.

I hope this gives a little inspiration to your salad making. Tell me, what tips do you have for making beautiful salads?

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Sunday Flowers – Join Me

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On the table this morning: sweet peas + abalone shell.

If you have flowers to share, please do!

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A Pop of Red in the Garden

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Happy Friday folks! It looks like this weekend is going to be a warm one! Good thing we joined the pool last weekend so we can stay cool. I just thought I’d share with you a new addition in our yard, this shed. Due to my new nesting instincts I’ve dictated some changes around the house that meant that all of Scott’s tools and other funky garage type stuff got the boot out of our laundry room (we don’t have a garage). So a shed was necessary. We tucked it into the back of our yard behind our cottage. That white picket fence is the chicken’s ‘free range’ yard.

We debated between having a large storage shed company come build one or have some local shed building guys do it. After talking to the local guys it was a pretty quick decision to have them do it. And being that this is such a small town, of course his wife was our son’s first preschool teacher and of course he’s best friends with the brother of our son’s current kindergarten teacher’s husband. It is always so nice to make those connections with people. Scott worked for almost two weeks to paint it and I love the pop of red it adds to our yard. A great contrast to the green.

And best of all? His stuff is out of my laundry room! We plan on putting a freezer in there this weekend. While I haven’t been craving many foods this pregnancy I have had this driving urge to store up. Store up dinners, loaves of bread and anything else that I can freeze. Do you have any great recipes that freeze well? I’m on a mission!

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What Happens When You Are Lazy

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This right here folks is proof that we can be really, really lazy gardeners. Would you look at these weeds? I guess the first garden sin is that we let these weeds get so big, the second is that, if you look closer, they aren’t weeds at all. They are all volunteer amaranth, swiss chard and chinese mustard plants, oh and even a tomato in there. Because you know why? We are super lazy about pulling all of those things once they go to seed.
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I guess it does have its advantages. All of our weeding sessions usually end up with a great dinner of braised greens and they do a good job of shading out the non-edible weeds. And I suppose you could save I’ve always had a thing for eating weeds, so why not propagate our own edible weeds?
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Chinese mustard, if you haven’t grown it yet, is really beautiful. I highly recommend it. It’s easy to grow and is great mixed in while young in stir fries and braised greens. This is my favorite photo of it from two years ago.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if you don’t pull it before it seeds….

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What a Little Sunshine Will Do

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I won’t be the first one to say that this spring has been really unusual around these parts. We’ve had rain and cold weather unlike any other year, which has really slowed down garden growth. However this past weekend we had the most amazing sunny skies and 80 degree weather. Not only did we love the weather, but apparently the plants did too. You wouldn’t believe how things took off! The above photo was taken of our banana squash on Wednesday June 2nd and the below photo was taken this morning, just 6 days later.
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This is the first banana squash we’ve grown. Scott couldn’t resist ordering a package of seeds when he read that the squash itself can grow up to 4 feet long and 12 inches in diameter. Gulp! I’m a little worried about how fast this plant is growing….if you don’t hear from us at some point this summer, it may be because the banana squash has overtaken our house!
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