Open Faced Tomato & Guyere Sandwich

open faced tomato & guyere sandwich
Though summer is officially over and autumn is being welcomed with wide open arms, we are still getting baskets of tomatoes coming into our kitchen. Over recent years I’ve noticed that summertime tomato sandwiches seem to become almost religion to some people. Everyone has their favorites. Summer is not complete without them. For our dinners, a BLT is pretty much a weekly constant during tomato season. However I wanted to show you my other favorite tomato sandwich.

I discovered this tomato sandwich years ago, probably when I was in my teens. I remember it was a hot summer day and I was bored in my room flipping through some beauty magazine and came upon this recipe. It called for white wine, dijon mustard and guyere cheese all of which seemed so very sophisticated to me at the time. Still, decades later it’s one of my favorite summer lunches.
Open Faced Tomato & Guyere Sandwich
1 slice toasted french bread
white wine
dijon mustard
tarragon (optional)
sliced tomato
sliced guyere cheese

On the toasted french bread lightly sprinkle white wine to moisten. Then spread with dijon mustard and sliced tarragon. Place your tomato on top followed by sliced guyere cheese. Stick under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Enjoy!

My summer days now are nothing like my teenage summers, lounging aimlessly and bored with a beauty magazine in hand. Keeping white wine in the fridge these days doesn’t seem all that sophisticated. Every time I make and eat this sandwich it does take me right back to when cooking with grown-up ingredients seemed so daring. And besides, it’s plain delicious. Hopefully tomato season is still in full swing where you live and you get to try this sandwich before the season ends.

What’s your favorite tomato sandwich?


Filed under Recipes

Fall Facial Care


This past weekend we did a lot of making in the kitchen. Our San Marzano tomatoes are finally kicking them out like crazy, so Scott was able to put up 10 pints + 2 quarts of sauce. I made a giant batch of granola (using the The Model Bakery’s recipe) and a loaf of sourdough, again using the Model Bakery’s starter recipe, but using the bread recipe from The Bread Machine Cookbook. It’s a funny, basic bread machine cookbook, but it really has some of the best bread recipes I’ve tried. Being that I mix the majority of my bread in the bread machine and then bake them in the oven in loaf pans, this cookbook works perfectly. Just wish my bread machine could hold a double capacity…are there any out there that do that? I’ll have to look, boy, we go through a lot of bread!

Saturday I was talking with a friend about how we are getting to the age where starting to take care of our face is really becoming more of a priority. Now that the weather is starting to change, I’ve also noticed a change in my complexition. It’s been a little drier and just not looking as vibrant, so with fresh inspiration I went home and made up a batch of Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub and, wow, what a difference it makes. My face feels so smooth today and everything just looks tighter. Have you tried that recipe yet? I want to hear how it works for you.

Though I like saving money and making things at home as much as I can, every once in a while I get in the mood to splurge on some really nice facial lotions and potions. Another good friend who not only is a cosmotologist but a raw food fanatic, gave me two samples to try over the summer and they both were really fantastic. Dr. Alkaitis Organic Day Crème is a great smelling and feeling lotion for everyday and this Osmosis Catalyst AC-11 was what she told me to use at night. She was so passionate about these two products and her skin absolutely glows that I couldn’t wait to try them. They really did work well, both of them. It tighten everything up and closed up my pores, and it make my skin feel hydrated. Make sure to use an old pillowcase if you try the Osmosis serum, because it has some sort of orange colored oil that rubbed off onto my pillow (maybe sea buckthorn oil?). The only flaw is that they aren’t cheap, so I’m saving my money to buy them.

Hope you are doing well today friends!


Filed under Body Care

Three Sweaters

Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket
What a mess of a post that last one was! I know you certainly don’t read this blog for the sake of correct grammer and good spelling, but I hope to entice you back by good photography at least. I even missed the mark on that for the last post. Whilst I figure out the technological ins and outs of posting iphone photos, let me try to lure you back with something I do know quite a bit about, knitting.

The wee one has been benefiting a lot from my knitting lately. The past few months everything that has been wrapped around my needles has been intended for her. It’s hard not to knit for little ones. You don’t need much yarn, they aren’t yet that particular about the way they dress and all the pint sized knitting patterns are so adorable, it takes great effort not to try them out.
Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket
A few years ago I tried knitting a Baby Surprise Jacket for an expecting cousin. If you aren’t as deeply delved into the knitting world, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket is a bit of a legend. It’s a lesson in trust. Unlike today’s modern knitting patterns with lots of pictures and very detailed information, this pattern, as it’s displayed in her book, is a photocopy of a typewritten newsletter. Very bare bones in instruction, you have to place great trust in the few words she wrote. And the dear thing knits out to become the strangest looking piece of knit wear you’ve ever seen. Then carefully, after you’ve finished, she gives a general hint of how to fold this bit of wool origami, stitch together two seams and wha-la, you have a sweater. It’s a bit of a miracle if you ask me. The sweater as instructed is for newborns to one year olds approximately. But one inventive lady figured out how to make it toddler sized and so I followed her lead. My ravelry notes.
All in Threes
All in Threes
Then the wee one asked for a pink sweater. A cotton candy pink sweater. Uhg. I think the color pink is very nice, but in small doses. I mail ordered this yarn and it turned out much too pink for me to bear, so I held it double with a purple silk/mohair blend and it became much more tolerable. I love this In Threes pattern. I’d never made a short sleeved sweater before, but I’m glad I did it. It will keep her little core warm while leaving her busy arms to move freely in her classroom and outside.
Ice Cream Sundae
Ice Cream Sundae
The last, the Ice Cream Sundae, was inspired by Soulemama’s version and a trip to my favorite yarn store, which had just the right colors for it. In the end, I don’t know that it’s my favorite sweater, but with vintage sparkly buttons, my little girl feels very special wearing it, which is all that counts. And look here, another short sleeved sweater for her to add to the closet.

(the hint of dress you see is an Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress, which appears to be out of print, in vintage found-in-my-grandma’s-sewing-stash-fabric.)

Now on my needles is a rusty fall colored yarn that I’ve been waiting for autumn to knit with. Perfectly timed with Taproot‘s newest issue with a barn sweater knitting pattern. Thank you Taproot! And this one, it’s all for me!


Filed under knitting

A Dozen Years, a Dozen Oysters

Two Bird Cafe San Geronimo Two Bird Cafe San Geronimo Flower Power Point Reyes Station Tobys Feed Barn Point Reyes Station Point Reyes Station Farm Stand Hog Island Oyster Company Hog Island Oyster Company Valley Ford Wool Mill Valley Ford Wool Mill Valley Ford Wool Mill Tomales Bakery Hog Island Oysters (pardon for the wonky iphone pictures…was traveling light that day!)

Last Sunday was our twelve year anniversary. We debated a bit about what we were going to do to celebrate. We aren’t very good about finding babysitters. I know some of our friends always have a few regular babysitters to work from, but our parenting talents apparently lay elsewhere, because we’ve just never been very good at finding and keeping them. Luckily, for the most part, we enjoy being around our children, so we packed them all into the car and headed off to show them what our pre-baby dates used to look like.

Before our marriage we lived in Marin County, the county just north of the Golden Gate Bridge above San Francisco (for those not local) and our date days used to consist of hopping in the car and driving out to the coast to escape roommates and responsibility. We’d slowly drive around stopping where we like and always gathering food for dinner. Just as we did 12+ years ago, we made a morning stop at Two Bird Café for a cozy breakfast. Then out to Point Reyes Station to hunt through all the unique little shops. The bookstore there is one of the few bookstores left that leaves me feeling inspired about books and reading, I don’t know what it is about that store, or how they organize it, but I could spend hours there. Haven’t you felt that too? There’s just some sort of magic in certain bookstores, isn’t there? Not in all of them, just certain ones. In efforts to support them, we always buy a handful of books, this time Home Grown by Ben Hewitt and California Foraging were in our stack. I’ll let you know how they are.

Once we tired of all the quaintness of that town, we headed up the coast to Hog Island Oysters. That whole stretch of the coast, in fact all of West Marin, is one of my favorite spots on earth. It’s just so beautiful. Once at the packed oyster farm we picked up 12 oysters and 2 pounds of manila clams for the cooler and headed further north to Tamales. With a bakery right in front of us, there was no other option but to get some brownies and coffee.

Then again up the highway we went with a jaunt over to Valley Ford to check out their Wool Mill. We saw them at the Heirloom festival the other week and couldn’t get their wool pillows out of our heads. We haven’t been sleeping well lately. None of us. Our oldest, who’s 10, has been complaining that most nights, when he lays down his asthma starts to bother him. Since wool doesn’t harbor dust mites (which he’s allergic to) we thought we’d pick one up for him. Scott’s internal temperature always runs warm, he’s always hot at night so he wanted to try a wool pillow too, since strangely enough it actually feels cooler than our synthetic pillows. Both our son and Scott have commented that they’ve slept much better the past few nights on these pillows. It’s tempting me to drive back and pick up three more pillows. They aren’t cheap though, so we might space out that purchase a bit. After feeling their comfy display bed, made completely of wool products, I’m having woolly dreams.

After our pillow purchase we headed back home, just in time to make dinner. One thing I have never regretted in these past twelve years was that I married a cook. His dinners are almost always better than anything we could find in any restaurant. I was proud to see that all our children tried the oysters and they went absolutely wild over the clams. We never force food upon our children, nor do we make them special meals to cater to their pickiness. We just ask that they always try the food in front of them. At least one tiny bite, taste buds change, you never know if you’ll like it today or not.

All in all, it was a perfect way to celebrate a dozen years of being together.


Filed under Life in Sonoma

Snippets from the Heirloom Exposition

image image image image image image image image imageI just wanted to stop by and share a few quick iphone photos I took of the National Heirloom Exposition that we went to yesterday. We didn’t have nearly as much time as I would have liked to walk around. After unexpectedly meeting up with some family who farm up in the Sierra foothills for a long lunch, we had to race around before it was time to pick the kids up from school. It was a beautiful and uplifting place to walk around. Just look at those tables of produce! We took notes of all the new things we’d like to grow next year.

Those of you who know me, know we educate our children at a Montessori school. The St. Helena Montessori school has greatly influenced our new middle school program…can you believe it, all their 7th & 8th graders not only take care of their farm but also take a 5 week beekeeping class and take care of 10-20 hives! Pretty incredible.

I also fell in love with some shetland sheep. So sweet looking and such soft, soft fleece!


Filed under Uncategorized

Musing from the Mind of a Scatterbrain


(that’s a very different type of spinach in that last photo. we met new gardening friends over the weekend who had some unusual varieties of things growing. Like that heirloom tarragon in the basket in the first photo. inspiring!)
The summer of freedom has come to an end. Last week the three kiddos started school, but just half days and this week all three of them will be in school for a full day! This is the first time this has happened. And it’s sort of blowing my mind. There are so many possibilities of how I could spend my time! Of course I have to stick to the basics of housework and, well, getting back into real design work again (which includes updating that website!). My dreaming brain is taking hold though and planning big things for the garden. I’ve got the schematic down for installing drip irrigation in a large part of the vegetable garden which we find hard to water by hose. I’ve got rows and rows of narcissus bulbs to thin. I want to order tulip bulbs in mass quantity. I need to order yards of compost. In the kitchen I’ve got wild grape sourdough starter bubbling away and I’m try to perfect my recipe for sourdough bread (anyone have any tried and true good ones?). I have fresh tumeric root in the fridge waiting for the day I have time to try the homemade mustard recipe from the last issue of Taproot. We have kimchee fermenting away. And, yes, it looks like we can make yet another batch of tomato sauce. And I’m totally inspired to take my simple, easy summer cooking up to a higher level after reading Stone Edge Farm Cookbook. So beautiful and inspiring.

And then there are computer related things I have stacked my to-do list full with. I’d love to redesign this blog a bit. And go to a self hosted site, finally. You know, when I started this blog seven years ago, things were so different. There wasn’t social media so this was my only outlet to ‘talk’ with people. It seemed so easy. Now ‘they’ are saying you have to have your blog tied into all the social media outlets and utilize yet another application to have all these posts timed out at strategic times so people are always constantly seeing you on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s exhausting. I go through periods where I’m totally on board with figuring these things out and other periods where I say ‘forget it, let’s keep it simple and just keep it on the blog’. There are so many blogs out there and so many people approaching it like a business that it just leaves someone like me in the dust. I know however that a few of you read me and comment and I really do appreciate it! All that said, I’m going to try the month of September to have more facebook posts, just to try it out. If it seems to add interest or add to the conversation, then I’ll keep it going. You can find me on facebook here.

I’m also wanting to update my e-booklet, Simple Handcrafted Body Care. Add in the recipes that are already on the blog and make a few design tweaks. Maybe new label designs?? Get is spruced up in time for the holidays.

As you can see, I’m all over the place, scattered as can be in my new found daytime freedom. I’m sure my mind and to-do list will quiet down, but for now I’m enjoying mulling over all the countless possibilities.


Filed under Uncategorized

Dyeing with Hollyhocks

A year and a half ago I started Niger Hollyhock seedlings in hopes of dyeing with them. I ended up with about six plants, three of which blossomed, one that was incredibly happy, sent up many stalks and bloomed proficently (you can see them in the garden here). For months I collected the blossoms and dried them on my desk. Late last week, fed up with a desk full of dried blossoms, I decided to take the plunge and make up the dye. I had high hopes that this would yield me a beautiful blue, and it did, sort of. As you can see, I got two different colors, a blue on the left and a, well, what color is that? Greige? That’s because I divided the dye up into two batches. Half of my yarn was mordanted in alum and that was what took on the blue-ish color. The color on the right came from being dyed in a copper pot, which also acts as a sort of mordant (mordant being what makes the wool able to properly absorb the hold onto the dye.). What was most interesting is that at the last moment I dropped in a bit of left over yarn from a previous project that was 80% wool & 20% silk into the alum dye bath. That yarn soaked up the dye just beautifully! From now on, I know to use a mixed wool/silk yarn for any dyeing I do.

Already the blue yarn on the left is on the needles being knit into new fingerless gloves to replace my roadkill gloves.

85 dried niger hollyhock blossoms soaked in water overnight. Premordanted half the yarn in alum. Divided the dye into two, one half going into a non-reactive metal pot, the other into a copper bowl put over a simmering pot of water. Placed presoaked yarn into the pots as the dye water was heating up. Left all to simmer for about two hours. Turned heat off, let sit together for another hour, took the yarn out and let it sit for 20 minutes before rinsing it (as instructed by Harvesting Color) and letting it dry.




Filed under Flowers, knitting

Shaking things up

IMG_8105 IMG_8095 IMG_8102

Historically when it comes to earthquakes, I’m not the calmest person in the room. I’m a native Californian, I’ve been through many, but when the big ones hit, I’m not all that cool and collected. Who is, really. When you are just going about your business sleeping away and one hits, your adrenaline has no place to go but rush around all over the place.

And that’s just what happened at 3:20 Sunday morning. Huge jolts, loud creaks from the house and the noise of everything you own shaking all over. It was a long one, it seemed. Long enough for us to both get out of bed and try our best to walk to the doorway, then down the long hallway to the children’s rooms, which is when it finished. Once we got to our bedroom door, it almost seemed over which is when the whole house did a terrible jolt again and then the rolling started. That’s when I screamed. And that’s when the children woke up. As my son reported, ‘the earthquake didn’t wake us up, your screaming did mom!’ I opened our daughters door and she look wide eyed at me and said, ‘what. was. that!?!’

We lost power immediately of course, which means when you live with well water, that you are out of water too. We’re becoming accustumed to shouting out once we lose power, ‘don’t flush the toilets!’. Scott and I are pretty good about brushing aside small earthquakes, going back to normal life as soon as they finish. This one was so big and violent feeling that we all huddled around the kitchen table with candles and tried to figure out what in the heck just happened! Eventually we learned what you probably already know, a 6.1 earthquake in American Canyon, the epicenter 8 miles from our house.

Everything was fine in our house. The power came on the next morning and we were able to function as normal. As I joked with friends, all of our pictures were hanging askew before the quake, now they are straight! Our friends and family in Napa have big messes to clean up.

I wasn’t able to go back to sleep after the quake though, which made for a very slow foggy brained Sunday. We all moved slowly. Funnily enough the earthquake knocked down a whole bunch of ripe tomatoes from their plants so we took that as a sign to get some tomato sauce made and canned. I made my first loaf of sourdough bread using Wild Grape Sourdough Starter from my favorite The Model Bakery Cookbook(very appropriately a Napa Valley bakery). And truth be told, we got some quality tv watching in done too.

I know I have a number of local readers, how did you guys fare with the ground shaking?



Filed under Uncategorized

Visiting Chileno Valley Ranch

IMG_8023 IMG_8026 IMG_8027 IMG_8028 IMG_8030 IMG_8032 IMG_8034 IMG_8037 IMG_8040 IMG_8041 IMG_8042 IMG_8054As you might well remember, for about five years now we’ve been buying a fourth of a grass fed cow every summer. For many years we bought from Beltane Ranch which is just a few miles away from us. Unfortunately due to new regulations they aren’t able to sell directly to customers anymore, so we’ve switched to buying from Chileno Valley Ranch over in Petaluma. You can read a bit about why we eat grass fed beef from this older post and even more from this older post.

On Sunday they hosted a u-pick day for their apples. Our poor apple trees are in a serious state of decline, so we headed over there to meet the rancher couple and to get some apples. This ranch is deep down Chileno Valley Road, past curving roads, filled with hillsides, ponds and large ranches. It was a beautiful drive. As we approached our destined ranch I was pretty awed by the amazing house you can see from a distance. The house had been in the wife, Sally’s, family since the Civil War! Sally and her husband Mike took ownership of the property in the early ’90’s and set about rehabilitating the house (check out the original structure) and the land.

Everything was gorgeous. We came for the apples, but I left inspired by the gardens. While Scott chatted with Mike about the beef order we recently placed, I talked with Sally about her roses. Strangely enough I didn’t get any pictures of her dozens upon dozens (maybe a hundred +) of roses, but they were unbelievably beautiful. All with bright green leaves and in full flower. My roses at home have been in a sad state ever since their initial spring bloom and I’ve given serious consideration to taking a good majority out. Everything Sally grew was bountiful and lush. As we talked she mentioned how when she cleans out the chicken coop she sprinkles a little of their manure around the roses. She also has sheep and cows that she collects manure from and also has a local dairy deliver manure to her. Ah-ha! Yes, of course. Manure!

As soon as we got home I found my Felco’s and got to work tidying up around the roses and then promptly cleaned out the chicken coop and spread what I scooped all round the roses and watered it in well. Within easy walking distance I can access cow, horse, sheep and chicken manure. I need to collect my wheelbarrow and shovel, head down the street and put these neighboring friendships to work.

If you are local, Chileno Valley Ranch holds these u-pick weekends all the way until October, it’s worth the trip, if you can make it!


Filed under chickens, Life in Sonoma, what we've learned

Rainy Summer Day

Strangely enough, amidst the deepest of droughts, it rained this morning. In fact this was the third time precipitation has fallen from the sky this summer, if I’m counting correctly. Of course none of these rains have done much to help the drought nor has it even watered the plants all that well. However, us native Californians will tell you, rain in summer is just weird and miraculous!
IMG_7937IMG_7934The plants, though they didn’t get a good soaking, very much appreciated the little they did get. They all looked much happier this morning upon my usual morning stroll. One of my favorite areas are these new planting beds we had built on either side of the deck staircase. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the nursery and picked out all new plants for an all new bed. Fun! Pineapple sage, dahlias, purple fountain grass, mexican feather grass, artimesia, lavender, black and blue salvia and a few others fill the beds.
In previous summers (2013, 2012, 2011) this bed was overflowing with sunflowers and corn and melons, this year it lays fallow, filled with weeds and dried fava beans. It’s okay… the soil needs to rest, right? Sure.
IMG_7928Radishes, along with the other seedling I planted last week are sprouting up. Thank you weird, welcome summer rain.


Filed under State of the Garden