Monday, June 30, 2014

Friendly vegetables

I love my neighborhood. When I arrived home tonight, I was relaxing on the front porch. The landlord stopped by after doing some work on a nearby apartment and we chatted a bit. Later, when I was eating dinner, my neighbor and friend C texted me to see if I had walked the dog yet. Since I hadn't, we walked together, something we do once or twice a week. On our way home, we decided to water our newest plantings. Before that, though, we ran into neighbors A and B relaxing on their back porch with drinks. We all ended up going to the garden and discussing plants for part of the evening. Later, when I was tying up watermelon vines, two other neighbors stopped to say hello. It's great to live in a place where people know your name and stop to say hello. And I make sure they remember my name by providing them with fresh produce.

This is the garden at the end of June. I'm there in the back, marking the end of my plot. It's great having so much space, although when it comes to watering I occasionally wish for a smaller garden. I've calculated that each week without rain means I need to carry 300 gallons from the rain barrels to my garden. Who needs a gym with these kinds of chores? 
Unfortunately, I didn't plan well, and I didn't plant enough spring crops. I've been eating only lettuce and radishes for the past month. Now there's absolutely nothing to eat, but I can see that in just a few days the first zucchinis (aka courgettes) will arrive. I won't be eating them, because I'm off to visit my brother and his family in San Francisco, but at least there will be more when I get back. And in the meantime, the neighbors will be feasting on them.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A good meal

     I had a terrific weekend that was gardening, entertaining, and helping people move. (Two of those activities are some of my favorite things to do.) I had one of my dogsitters and his girlfriend, D, over for dinner. This friend, B, won't accept money for dogsitting, so I wanted to treat them to a meal that would properly show my appreciation. While planning the meal, I had solicited their favorite ingredients: arugula, cilantro, and stinky cheese. I disregarded the cilantro suggestion, because I had trouble incorporating that into my French/Italian meal. (If any of my readers are cleverer, please tell me what you'd do next time with cilantro.)
     We had a five course meal: cauliflower and arugula soup, homemade orecchiette with arugula and pesto, garden salad with peas, a cheese course with no-knead bread, and dessert. Pro tip: if, like me, you have trouble finding decent cheeses at your local grocery store, you can fake it a bit by rolling goat cheese in a freshly chopped herbs. I was most proud of the dessert - my obsession with ice cream is serving me well. I made a walnut pound cake, then topped it with lemon curd custard ice cream and blackberries. The dessert was specially chosen to use up eggs (it took a dozen!) because my recent trip had netted me two dozen farm-fresh eggs, and I wanted to do something delicious with them before they went off. It took us three hours to eat the meal, but that was good practice. My guests are soon headed to France, to visit D's family, and apparently eight-hour-long meals are the norm.
    Today I enjoyed the day-after-a-dinner-party feeling. The house is still clean, all the dishes have been washed, I usually have flowers that people have brought me, and the refrigerator is filled with delicious leftovers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Last year we managed to go the entire month of June without turning on the air conditioning. I don't pay for heat, because the radiators are centrally controlled, but I do pay to run my window units, so I have incentive to put off using them. I can mostly manage because I live on the ground floor and most of the windows face north. But my resolve is starting to be tested- it's been 80F (27C) in the house for a number of days, and the weather is supposed to be in the 90sF (low 30s) for the rest of the week. But I'll hang on as long as I can, or as long as the wilting animals don't look too pathetic.
     On the other hand, the sunshine is making the garden plants grow like gangbusters. Tonight I had a salad that vividly reminded me why I garden - fresh lettuce, radish, and the first peas.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Shopping, the frugal way

     My father and I both love garage saleing. Whenever we pass a sign announcing a sale, we urge whoever is driving to turn around and head back, because, "You never know what deals you'll find." It's a bit funny that we share this love, because my father is a bit of a pack rat, and I'm the kind of person that purges the closets every few months. 
     I decided to make a quick trip to Ohio this weekend, and it just so happened that there was a community-wide garage sale happening nearby. the two of woke up early and spend seven hours searching for treasures, tooling around in the 1966 Rambler American. Here are the results:

I spent $10.75 for a dozen wine glasses, two dozen canning jars, a cushioned bike seat, four cover for the dog's bed, a new dog leash, a camping chair, candles, and protective glasses for woodworking.
(My dad bought everything else in the picture.)
     While I was there, my parents attended a party, which gave me a chance to snap a picture of them. They'll be married for 45 years this December. A good looking couple, don't you think?

Friday, June 13, 2014


     I feel like I haven't dried off in the last week. It's been a rainy, humid start to the summer. On Tuesday we had flash floods (4" in an hour) which prevented some coworkers from getting to work. Since I'm a pedestrian commuter, I managed to get to work on time. However, in my not-so-clever attempt to deal with the rain, I wore flip-flops during my commute and then changed into my good shoes when I arrived. As I waded through ankle-deep puddles, I found that people, like cars, can hydroplane.
     I try not to complain about the weather too much, because I still enjoy living in a place that has weather. Miami was hot and humid for six months and warm and comfortable for six months. I never consulted the weather report, and I never thought too much about what the day would be like. Even though I've been here a year, I'm still enjoying the seasons and the fact that days can be different.
     In other news, a neighbor (and friend) J turned 50 this week, so friend C and I cooked wonton soup, followed by cake and ice cream for dessert. I found a recipe for walnut ice cream that I will definitely be using again.

I only had two candles. So I had to let each candle equal 25 candles.
 Ada hopes that someone will drop something.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Morning quiet

     I recently read the advice of a blogger (who talks about simplifying one's life and building good habits), who suggested that you should do something you enjoy each morning. The idea was that the morning should not just be a rushed list of chores you must hurry to complete, but that you should also have a bit to look forward to.
     For me, this activity is sitting outside on the porch. I don't manage it every morning, especially if I have an 8am appointment. But most days I get up early enough that I can make my coffee and go sit on my front porch. The cat and dog join me, each on their own harness and string. I watch the kids walking to school, and the neighbors heading off to work. I read the comics and watch the birds in my garden. This spring, a pair of house sparrows built a nest tucked into the eaves of the porch. I couldn't ever catch a glimpse of the baby birds, but I could hear their cheeps, and could hear them getting older as the cheeps got lower in tone, and slightly less urgent with time. They must have left the nest this past week, because the parents are no longer flying back and forth, nonstop, with worms and other goodies. Eventually, it's time for the real day to start, and I pack my lunch and head off to work.