Monthly Archives: March 2011

Collecting Mussels along the Coast

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We just got back from another long weekend up at Sea Ranch. The weather was all over the place, at one point raining so hard I thought we might wash away, soon followed by the most beautiful sunny weather. During the rain we spent hours inside watching movies, eating and drinking and playing board games and when the sun shone we spent hours outside walking, playing on the beach, floating in the hot tub, fishing and collecting mussels. I was sceptical at first, driving up there, that we’d be properly recharged with this vacation as we’ve been there many times before. Maybe we’d need new vacation sights to come back refreshed, but I was wrong. How can you not be full of inspiration when you have a weekend like this?
Collecting
Of course, vacationing with three small children isn’t as relaxing as it was when we were first married. There are still tantrums, meltdowns, bedtime routines, and the like to deal with. So we did what we could, taking turns letting each other sleep in, get out in nature alone, and referee the argument of the moment. During one of my walks I picked up all the different types of grasses I could find. There are so many and they are all so beautiful and full of subtle colors. Especially when laid next to wood and abalone shells. We are not currently abalone divers, although Scott was an avid diver during college in Santa Cruz.
Drinks
Another thing Scott did during college was manage a wine shop where he started collecting a flight of Caymus. We opened up one of them and enjoyed it with perfectly cooked Beltane Ranch fillet mignons. What a fantastic thing, opening up a wine that he has been carrying around and saving for the last 20 years from home to home. Heaven. Well, between exclaiming, ‘would you please hold your head over your plate!’, ‘please don’t lick the table!’ and having a baby who insisted on sitting in my lap during all meal times, it was pure heaven. Champagne also, always helps.
Steaming Mussels
A year and a half ago Scott caught a fish on the beach. A striped bass. It was ‘this’ big. No, it was ‘This’ big. No really, it was ‘THIS’ big! The thing was massive, really. He caught it the very first day, on his very first time fishing on that beach. It was enough to keep him trying for fish every time we’ve returned, but the darn things are hard to catch. With his beginners luck done spent, he’s add mussel harvesting to our Sea Ranch experiences. Mussels, thankfully, are much easier to catch.
Mussel Dinner
Nature
We left and drove back down the coast in beautiful weather and came back to the most beautiful spring weather. Just like three years ago, when I first started this blog, we are taking the rest of our week to ready the garden for the upcoming growing season. Can’t wait to share with you the triumphs and disappointments of our spring garden.

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Filed under in the kitchen, Life in Sonoma

Return of the Hawks

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Spring is really starting to make an appearance around here from the blooming of the forget-me-nots to the sprouting of spring peas (and weeds, why do they grow so much faster than anything else?).
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We have also witnessed the return of the Coopers Hawks who have taken residence in our neighboring oak tree the past four years. Can you see their nest down there, right in the middle of the photo? They started coming the spring that we first got our chickens, we also put out bird feeders for the first time that spring. I was wondering why they arrived, but after reading a bit about them, it makes sense. They love to prey on finches and we have plenty of those.

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I hadn’t known where there nest was before this year and look, had I really taken a look I could see it right from our own backyard. Not for long though, once those leaves start to sprout it will be safely hidden from sight.

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After one of our recent windy rainstorms there was some damage done to a fence near their nest and some men came with chainsaws to clean up the mess. One of the hawks was not happy at all with that and sat at the top of our front sequoia and let the neighborhood know all about it. Do you see him/her in that photo? Right in the middle with the reddish chest? I look forward to watching them this spring and summer as they bring their babies up.

I wanted to thank you all again for all of your kind comments and emails! I am going to take a little break until mid next week, so I apologize if your comments don’t get approved until then or I can’t respond right away. Enjoy these early spring days, and good grief, don’t wash away in all this rain!

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Filed under Life in Sonoma

Happy Second Day of Spring & Thank You

The Knitting Spot
Thank you so much for all of your comments on the almond milk post. I loved reading each and every one of them (as did my mom!). I saw that some of you already tried making almond milk, how fantastic!
6 Year Old Scarf
This first spring weekend was a rainy one. I do love the rain, but I think I’ve had my fill for a while. We live in a small house and there are now five of us which makes these rainy inside days a test of our patience for sure. Last week I decided to gain 8 more square feet of living space by moving our large coffee table out into storage. It is so nice to be able to spread out on the family room floor now! This weekend was full of knitting. My 6-year old son took up finger crocheting last spring and knitting on needles this fall with no problem at all. I was amazed, actually, how fast he took to it. I seem to remember it taking me a good long time to figure it out when I was little and my grandma first showed me. He keeps asking me when he can knit a sweater….well, let’s start with a scarf. Everyone starts with a scarf before they move onto a sweater, I told him. So he’s making a scarf out of my yarn leftovers. Really, he has knitted this whole thing all by himself! Yes, it is getting increasingly wider as he goes, but never mind that, he’s making himself a scarf! He makes me laugh because he knits just like a boy, keeps that yarn really, super, vice grip tight on the needles (reminds me of Alicia’s husband –  funny post!). Our 4 year old is starting to master finger knitting as well.
She Matches!
I finally finished the baby girl’s vest to match her hat and booties. She’s matchy-matchy now! As always, you can join me on ravelry if you are a knitter too. I adore this Madeline Tosh sock yarn. I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to anything less expensive. We might have to take a second out on the house, because I’d really love a sweater myself out of one of her yarns. I also highly recommend the Elizabeth Zimmerman baby bonnet if you have a baby in your life. So sweet!
Hoping for Spring
Meanwhile, as we finish up and begin new knitting projects during this never ending rain storm, I bought myself a little piece of spring to admire.

Happy Spring to you!

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Filed under Life in Sonoma

How I Make Almond Milk (I don’t know why I make this stuff, Mom.)

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I made milk. Do you remember the other week when I ended up making crackers because I couldn’t bare going to the store with three children? Well we were also out of milk. I searched all over the kitchen thinking of how I could make milk appear. Certainly there had to be a way. Turns out without a cow, it is very hard to make milk. Well, that is until I learned how to make almond milk. A few days later a friend came over and as usual we got into talking about food and nutrition and she mentioned how she made almond milk for her kids. After her quick tutorial, I made almond milk the next day. It was easy, just like she said. Sure, it did add a little mess to my kitchen and a little more hassle, but not much more.
Almond Milk

What I like about it is the taste. Have you tasted almond milk before? I hadn’t, but it’s very, very good. It tastes to me like grown up milk or a gourmet version of milk. I don’t drink much cows milk, maybe in a bowl of cereal or in the occasional latte, but this version I could drink glasses of. And it makes ordinary breakfast cereal taste so much fancier. In this version photographed, I mixed in the seeds from a vanilla bean and that made it over the top delicious. For ease in my life I’ve switched to using vanilla extract, but if you have extra vanilla beans laying around, by all means, try a batch with one of those.
Almond Milk
Last time I visited my parents my mom said, ‘Did you know they make almond milk? I bought some at the store the other day!’ I said, ‘Oh yeah! I just made some for the first time last week!’ She gave me that look that she gives me when I told her I made something as bizarre as milk and said, ‘You know, Kendra, you can buy it at the store!’ I know Mom, I know. I don’t know why I make this stuff. I know you can buy chapstick and bread and crackers and yogurt and laundry detergent and chips and everything else I’ve tried to make before at the store. What compels us to try making these things? I ask you because I know if you read this blog that you’ve tried at least making some of these types of things too. Can you help me tell my mom why we do this? Is it because we are all a little crazy? Have we gone off the deep end? In my case, I’m sure I have, but I’d like to think I try making these things partly out of curiosity. It just seems fun and fascinating to figure out how to make these things. It makes me feel strangely independent and free from needing to buy all the time. And sometimes making these things at home are cheaper (although sometimes not), sometimes they are healthier for us and the earth, sometimes it tastes better (although sometimes not), and most importantly….Mom, have you tried taking all three of my young children to the grocery store before?
Almond Milk
Almond Milk

It should be said that my mom has also given up shampooing and she used to sew a good majority of my clothes growing up and always made our dinner from scratch every single night, so maybe she is who I get this drive from. You made me this crazy Mom!

Almond Milk

Anyway, onward to how to make almond milk.

Almond Milk

1 cup almonds soaked in water overnight
4 Medjool dates
1 t. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean

Combine 4 cups of water, almonds, dates, and vanilla extract in blender (if using a vanilla bean, wait to use it). Blend until almonds are well blended and mixture looks milky. Pour through a cheese cloth lined strainer into a 1 quart canning jar or other milk holding device. You will want a big enough piece of cheese cloth that you can gather together and squeeze out the last drops of milk. If using a vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and mix in now. Put it in the fridge to cool and shake well before drinking. That’s it!

Scott suggested I add a few cardamom seeds into the blend which I did with my last batch. It tasted good and spicy like chai.

The left over vanilla beans, if you use them, you can put into your sugar bowl to make vanilla sugar. Yum! With the left over almond meal you can get inventive in the kitchen. Try adding it to bread or cookies. I haven’t figured out the perfect recipe for the leftovers yet. Do you have any suggestions?

Vanilla Sugar

Tell me why you attempt to make these things too!

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Filed under recipes

Woodland Walk Lotion

Woodland Walk
I went to college up in Oregon, University of Oregon in Eugene, to be specific. And this late winter rain that we’ve been getting off and on has reminded me a lot about those days, where rain just sort of always drifted down softly. When we did get a chance to get off campus and head out to nature, often it was to a forest for a little hike. Ever since those college years a light misting rain and the smell of forest brings me right back to those days.

Last week I ordered a great big box worth of things from Mountain Rose Herbs (who happens to be based out of Eugene). Basic things like more shea butter for our daughters skin cream, garlic powder and ginger powder, dried mushrooms for soups, catnip for our feline friends, more chapstick tubes (how does chapstick always disappear so quickly?). The whole order was just feeling so practical that I had to throw in something fun for myself, so I splurged and bought a bunch of essential oils to make up this Woodland Perfume blend they suggested. It took me a while to actually add this to my order. I always feel a little guilty buying things out of pure indulgence and also, what if this blend smelled like Christmas tree? Not that there is anything wrong with smelling like Christmas tree, but spring is a week away, it isn’t really the time of year for that. But it doesn’t smell like Christmas tree at all and I’m so very happy I indulged!
Woodland Walk
During a light rain shower last weekend I made up my usual quick lotion recipe and added the five essentials oils (amounts given below) to it and waited impatiently for it to set up. The next morning after my shower I smeared it on and the smell was intoxicating! It smells just like you were taking a walk in a forest right after a spring rain. The small amount of bergamot in the mix gives it this slightly floral, spring smell. And all of the spruce, fir and cedar make you think of that smell when you drive up to the mountains and open your car door for the first time. You know that fresh forest smell? Such a lovely way to start each day, to put that lotion on.
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The scent doesn’t linger too long, maybe for an hour at most, which I think is just perfect. I don’t know that I’d want to smell like forest all day long, but to start each morning with that fragrance? Oh yes! It is almost as good as a morning woodlands hike. Almost. I see now that doing things like ordering five little essential oils isn’t over indulgence. To spend a relatively tiny amount of money on something that brings you such joy each morning is important when you spend the rest of the day caring for others. Like they say, if momma ain’t happy, no one’s happy!
Woodland Walk Lotion

Woodland Walk Lotion

1 Easy Handmade Hand Lotion or Hand Salve recipe
12 drops Spruce essential oil
6 drops Fir Needle essential oil
6 drops Cedarwood essential oil
3 drops Vetiver essential oil
3 drops Bergamot
Add essential oils to the already melted oils, finish following the directions for either recipe and enjoy that fresh forest smell!

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Filed under Body Care

Plants & Marmalade

Marmalade

This weekend was marmalade weekend (a view of last year’s marmalade weekend)! My favorite kind of weekend, as marmalade is one of my favorite things. We had a fantastic bounty of oranges from our little tree this year. It was about one paper grocery bag full of oranges. We ate quite a few, but most were saved for marmalade.
Marmalade

It amazes me that we are able to grow oranges. They just seem like such tropical little gems. Have you read The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow? It is one of our favorites. As the story goes, a little boy named Danny drops an orange out of his lunch box in a Swedish forest. The creatures of the forest think that the sun laid an egg until a bird corrects them that it is an orange. When winter comes and the birds migrate south, they take the little wood fairy with them to see the oranges grow and she gets a little straw and sucks the juice out of the oranges. So if ever you get a dry orange it is because the fairy had a drink of it’s juice, and really, you don’t mind sharing, do you? It seems the fairy skipped our yard this year, because all were juicy and delicious.

Carrots

We did more work clearing out and harvesting what was in the ground in order to make room for new things.

New Plants

We had a few hours without boys on Saturday and were able to take the baby girl with us to the nursery to casually walk and browse. It was so luxurious and reminded us of our pre-child days when those slow visits to the nursery were commonplace. We indulged and bought a whole slew of new plants, kale, half-priced onions, romanesco broccoli, blueberries(!) and a handful of flowers for my flowerbeds which are getting a major redo this year. Two hydrangeas for in front of the cottage, a new rudbeckia, a tea tree for a sunny hot spot and a few penstemon to make my bed more water wise.

Oh, I’ve been experimenting around a bit, both in the kitchen & with body care things that I can’t wait to share! To come soon.

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Filed under our weekends, preserving

A Walk Outside

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Hmmm, well that arctic storm never really panned out like they advertised around here. No worries, we got some rain and today some more. Yet yesterday was beautiful and a great day to head out in the garden, tame that wild weed patch a bit more and harvest some bok choy for dinner.
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I always enjoy looking at the colorful spring buds and think about how those pretty little things will be great big white peaches (foreground) and nectarines (background) soon enough.
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Although if experience holds true, we’ll be seeing these white blooms turn into plums before the peaches and nectarines.
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(the wild weed patch)
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Our straw bale bed held up pretty good over winter. One side completely collapsed, no idea why, so we’ll need to get two more bales to make this last through it’s second summer.
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I have been trying to sneak outside to weed whenever I can. There is so much to pull out and get ready for new plant life. This bed of seeds was planted before we came down with colds and flus so it has been rather ignored, so we’ll see if we get any plants out of it. It sure is nice to be out working on days like yesterday, under warm sun, hands in wet dirt.

What’s going on in your garden?

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Filed under state of the garden