Monthly Archives: December 2010

I Have Eaten a Slug…

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…and it was not good. Cooked back yard slugs, no matter how talented the chef, do not escargot make. It was about a year ago that I chomped down on that cooked slug hidden in a side dish of chard and I believe it took me three or four days to eat again after that. Oh yuck! So make sure you inspect your greens well! Usually I find that gathering everything into the salad spinner, filling it with cold water and waiting about 10 minutes will bring any hiding slugs floating to the top. A good practice to get into the habit of during these rainy, slug filled days.
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Enough about yucky slugs, how have your holidays been? What a fast month this has been. It has been all I can do to keep up with it all. Leading up to Christmas our days were long and full, but luckily once the big day hit, we’ve been able to sit and enjoy all those cookies that were baked, some spicy hot chocolate and tiny little Satsumas my mother-in-law grew just over at her house in Napa. Luckily these slow post Christmas days have allowed us to get back into the garden and sort things out. Adjusting to life with another baby and a crazy work-a-holic schedule has left the poor garden in a steady state of decline, but the past couple of days Scott has spent the entire days outside trying to tame that wild patch of weeds into something more respectable. Because it is time to prune and spray the fruit trees, he harvested whatever was growing in the vicinity of those trees, like these parsnips. Which got transformed into pureed parsnips and potatoes for our dinner tonight. We’ll turn the rest into parsnip chips (thin slices tossed in olive oil and s/p and roasted on cookie sheets at 375 degrees.)
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The celery was pulled and made into cream of celery soup and the tops made into tonight’s salad along with a regular radish and a watermelon radish.
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Strangely enough we had an artichoke growing and lucky us, it was time to pull the purple haze carrots, our favorite!
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It has been so wonderful to see these things come into our kitchen and onto our dinner plate again. All fall we’d pick little bits and sprinkle them into our daily diets, but to have the past two days dinners consist almost entirely from our garden fare has been such a blessing. The seed catalogs have arrived and it is time to start dreaming and planning for 2011′s harvest.

Happy New Year!

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Filed under in the kitchen, just picked, state of the garden

We Went to a Flour Mill

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Three weeks ago on a Sunday we felt the need to get out of Sonoma. With having a newborn in the house it’s easy to get caught up in the little cocoon you build around yourselves, but I was feeling the need to see new sights. Because the colors of the vineyards were so amazing those first few weeks of November, we decided to drive over and up through Napa Valley. With no real plan other than a cooler full of picnic fare, we headed east and north. We spotted possible picnic spots along the way, V. Sattui Winery, the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company?, maybe Taylors would let us picnic if we bought enough milk shakes, the quaint little park in downtown St. Helena?…as we kept driving north I remembered out loud that I had heard of a flour mill north of St. Helena. Now, I worked in St. Helena for five years as a senior designer for a wine company, but I had never ventured to this flour mill before, nor had I heard much about it. But there it was to the left, the Bale Grist Mill.
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What a fantastic place! Have you been there before? From the parking lot you take a little hike (stroller friendly) down a tree lined path and across a bridge. Around a bend you spot the mill and is it ever beautiful! We were greeted warmly by a man and woman dressed in 1800′s period costumes. They quickly made us feel at home in the old grain barn, pulling up a chair for me to nurse our fussy daughter next to her old wood cook stove and then took our boys outside to play an old fashioned stick game with them.
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The tour was fascinating. I don’t know much about engineering at all, but to see those beautiful gears all work together without the need of electricity was incredible! Oh, and when he started that huge water wheel up, everyone was captivated. Once the wheel started up (and he let the boys start it up, were they ever excited!) the wheat grains that were in the hopper were ground into flour that fell into a large canvas bag at our feet. Being surrounded in all of that beautifully crafted wood in a natural surrounding with such warm, welcoming hosts made it hard for us to leave. After we had our picnic, we went back inside to buy some flour, spelt and polenta and ended up loitering as long as we could.
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After using the ‘Necessary House’ we finally left only with the hope that we would get to return soon.
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If you live locally, the Bale Grist Mill is hosting a Pioneers Christmas this coming Saturday, December 11th. You should take the trip up there. If you should happen to see a frazzled mom and a sleep deprived dad trying to wrangle three kids (all the while trying to figure out how we can move in and live in the mill) that will be us. If you a live a little farther away, mark it on your calendar to head to the Napa Valley the first or second weekend of November next year to take advantage of the beautiful colors of the vineyards and to pick up some locally ground flour.
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We are so lucky to live here!

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Filed under Life in Sonoma

Instead of Soap, I Give you Kale

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I was going to write about soap today. Not necessarily give a tutorial, but tell you my experiences with it after making 3 different batches. But you know, this week has been a rough parenting week. Nothing in particular happened, just the adjustment of figuring out how to function with our growing family. I don’t think that’s talked about enough in blog land…how tricky parenting can be. I think most people write about the successes, which is just fine, but dang, it can be hard sometimes!

Most of the lotions and potions I make have very few ingredients and take 5 minutes or less to make for a reason. I don’t have too much time to fuss over things, I like them to be simple. Soap making isn’t simple and isn’t kid friendly so it feels only appropriate that on a week like this, that I skip the soap making talk. We’ll save that maybe for the new year. Instead here is a picture of kale in our garden. This was on Tuesday morning, a very cold morning. This morning it’s covered in rain drops.

Have a good weekend!

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How to Make Homemade Chapstick (!)

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My new e-booklet is just out:
Simple Handcrafted Body Care.
If you like this recipe, you’re going to love the booklet!

I’m so excited to share this new thing I learned how to make. Chapstick! How fun is that? Ever since high school I have always carried chapstick around with me. My closest friends at the time did too. Though it’s been over 15 years since we’ve graduated and moved around the country, when we do get together we are usually giving each other gifts of our new favorite chapstick. I’ve tried lots over the years, some are great, some not so great. Strangely enough, the free ones my dentist gives out, that carry no name brand, are my favorite. Kiehls is another favorite, although I wish it came in a tube. Many chapsticks actually make my lips drier, has that happened with you? I wonder why that happens.

Anyway a few weeks ago I was wondering if I could make my own chapstick with all of these butters and creams I had laying around. You must know, up until two years ago, I never had much interest in making lotions and potions before, but that easy hand lotion recipe was irresistable, I had to try it. I had no idea what an insane addiction the whole thing would turn out to be, I now challenge myself to figure out what else I can make so that I can stay out of the drug store. I’m just warning you, if you dare to start dabbling in the lotion making, you too can turn into a crazed chapstick making fool like myself. Consider yourself warned. Now onto the chapstick.

I don’t think I ever would have attempted to make this had I not found empty chapstick tubes. I find chapsticks that come in tins or sliders a pain to put on in the middle of my busy day. So when I found the tubes and saw how cheap they were along with this easy formula for chapstick making, I couldn’t be stopped. And I love it! It smells so good, just like coconut and chocolate. It glides on smoothly and it makes my lips feel oh, so hydrated. You’ve got to try it! This recipe makes enough for 7 tubes, so you get to give a tube to your 6 favorite people too.

Should I design a label for this? I kind of like how clean and pure it looks without a label, but maybe for gift giving it would be nice to have a little label. I’ll work on it, okay?
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Homemade Chapstick Recipe

1 1/2 tsp. Beeswax
1 7/8 tsp. Coconut Oil (or in other words just shy of two teaspoons)
1 1/8 tsp. Cocoa Butter
3 tsp. olive oil
3 capsules Vitamin E
7 empty chapstick tubes
Like everything else, I put everything minus the Vitamin E into my trusty Pyrex measuring cup and melted it all. I did this over a double boiler, but you can do it in the microwave if you like. I add the Vitamin E afterward so that it doesn’t lose any of its helpful properties by being heated too much. This will make the tiniest amount of liquid and you won’t believe that it will fill all seven tubes, but it will, perfectly. I carefully poured them into the tubes and waited for them to cool. Then they are ready to go!

See, super easy! And inexpensive too, I haven’t calculated the exact cost of each tube because the measurements of ingredients are so tiny, however I think each tube costs less that 50 cents to make, including the empty tube. Can’t beat that price.
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