30 June 2012

Alice's garden

Last week Wyatt and I went to Auburn and visited my lovely friend Alice and her garden.  It was Alice who introduced me to gardening, gave me my first plants, and took me to my first garden show back in 2004.

Alice has a new garden. It's already five years old but it's new compared to her old one, which was 30+ years old and quite incredible.  While Wyatt napped, I toured her beautiful beds and borders, and even dug up a few plants to take home.  Thanks for the plants and inspiration, Alice!

Halesia in bloom (similar to styrax japonica)

Backyard beds and pergola, Lady's Mantle, heuchera, hosta, Japanese maples, and Welsh poppies in the foreground.
Roses, clematis, hydrangeas, and Welsh poppies in a border outside the enclosed patio.
Delphinium, lilies, clematis and roses in the border outside the enclosed patio.

my napping travel companion
Border of fabulous color contrasts along the driveway -- Japanese maple, yellow sedum, blue fescu, feverfew.
Same bed from the other angle -- blue-green hosta, golden chain plant ground cover, heuchera.


Mushrooms and good bread

I made a really good decision this summer -- for the first time, I bought a mushroom share that arrives as part of our regular csa box.  This means that every week I get a container of cultivated mushrooms along with my box of veggies.  We've gotten baby shitaki and oyster mushrooms so far.

This week our share was all oyster mushrooms.  Thanks to a great suggestion from my massage therapist, Olivier (who is also quite a foodie), this is what I did with them.

The pictures, from my iphone, don't really do it justice.

Olivier's Mushrooms 

Saute one shallot with sliced mushrooms
When the mushrooms have finished rendering and shallots have softened,
slurry some white wine with a little flour or corn starch and add it
When the mushroom mixture has thickened and reduced a bit, add a little heavy cream
Reduce a little more
Seasoned to your liking... a little cayenne, a little salt and maybe a little flat parsley.
Serve on buttered toasted pieces of good crunchy bread

25 June 2012

My sister

Over the weekend I got to celebrate some of the fun and exciting things happening in my sister's life.  Of course, her birthday is coming up in July but she won't be around for it since she and her fiance will be somewhere in Europe for most of the month.  Their adventures begin in Barcelona and end in Munich.  Not knowing whether you'll be in the south of France or in Switzerland for your birthday is difficult, as I'm sure you can imagine.

You may have noticed that I mentioned a fiance . . . yes, she's also getting married this summer.  But that will happen a couple weeks after they return from Europe and just about as far away from Europe as one can get -- the South Pacific.  The island of Kauai, to be precise.  Byron, Wyatt, and I will be there for the big day, having bought the tickets and booked the condo already.  Wyatt has something to wear to the wedding.  Not sure about the rest of us yet.

I'm told there will be some island hopping for the honeymoon afterward (them, not us).  And then the happy couple will have to jet back to reality and the hard work of resuming a life in just one place.  Of course, getting back to life in Seattle will be made harder, I'm sure, by the glaring absence of an autoban, the alps, fields of lavender and sunflowers, a highly efficient public transportation system, and decent plate lunch.

So back to the weekend.  I threw a little party for Becky and some of her girl friends -- an eating, toasting, presents sort of thing.  Celebrating her and all the love and good things happening in her life right now.  I couldn't be happier that she has found love.  And that she's my sister.

Recently, I made a book filled with some of our childhood pictures.  When looking at it, I'm struck by several things: how small we used to be, how old we are now, and how lucky we are to have each other.

Congratulations, sis!

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17 June 2012

One happy dad

We made a weekend out of Father's Day since Byron took Friday off.  It started Friday morning with a nice breakfast at a local spot we have been wanting to try for a while. The brioche toast with jam turned out to be a big hit with Wy.  Can't say I disagree with him, although the yogurt with rhubarb, honey, and pine nuts was the highlight for me.

Other day-off fun included a spin through Home Depot, a haircut for Byron at a local salon (although he came home smelling like an old lady for some reason), then time to work on a house project he's wanted to tackle for about a year -- putting a new exterior door on the back of the house.

Our weekend of paternal celebration pretty much involved three days of letting Byron do whatever he wanted, feeding him well, taking him on a few outings (i.e. farmers market, playground, etc), and giving him lots of Wyatt time.

Father's Day proper involved a few gifts and cards and a hike to explore the wooded trails at Landover Woods -- a nearby Seattle Park.  We walked through woods filled with ferns, salmon berries, mossy logs, and beautiful old trees.  We especially enjoyed the cacophony of bird songs we heard.  After that, we took a jaunt to the play ground, then located a new tasty hole-in-the wall spot for Vietnamese food.  The vermicelli bowls we ordered were great.  Wyatt tried the tofu and noodles but mostly spent his time wielding the chop sticks and drinking his water.   A bit different than last year's Father's Day menu for him.

Despite holding the title of dad for only two years now, it's apparent that Byron likes being Wyatt's dad more than just about anything he's ever done.  Wyatt is crazy about him, too, as evidenced by the nearly constant "dadji, dadji" that one can hear any given day as Wy runs through the house in search of his favorite person.

09 June 2012

Little bits along the way

I make a concerted effort to eat with the seasons.  This commitment is partly economic, partly personal philosophy, and partly because it helps me more fully notice where we are in our 365-day lap around the sun.  Eating is such a personal, daily sort of ritual.  I find that when we eat with the seasons I am forced to pay attention more fully to what is available, how it gets here, and how I'll prepare it.  It's a little more effort, but it also gives me another way of marking the year.  One that isn't driven by consumer-oriented holidays or buying plane tickets.

In the Pacific Northwest, eating only seasonal foods is far easier to do during the growing season than the winter months.  The winter months test my resolve.  Luckily, we have access to lovely, fresh cooking greens nearly all winter, and it's easy to stock up during the fall on the typical winter root veggies and squash that store well, so no complaints there.  Mostly, it's the lack of fruit that tests our eat-in-season commitment.

We eat Washington apples and pears.  And more pears and apples.  Out of desperation, we've expanded our notion of "local" to include California citrus and avocados.  But it's the late winter/early spring that always finds us in search of a crisp apple or pear that isn't from New Zealand.  I'm not proud to admit that we do succumb sometimes to the beautiful fruit that appears from Chile and Mexico in the grocery store midwinter and have been known to consume table grapes in January and the occasional pack of strawberries in March.  But who can resist?  Especially when there's a toddler in the house in need of finger foods. 

I've started preserving more fruit and veggies in recent years in the hope of making it through those months without buying any out of season produce.  Last year I made an effort to freeze more berries and lots of apple sauce.  One year I also froze 20 containers of tomato sauce, which got us through the winter without buying many fresh tomatoes and gave us great sauce for numerous dishes we love.

Last year I tried my hand at pickling various vegetables with mixed results.  (To those dear friends who received my medley of pickled veggies for the holidays . . . sorry about that.  This year will be better, I promise!)  I did manage to generate some outstanding bread and butter pickles, a few dills, and some chutneys to savor with our cheese plates and sandwiches.  Tasty goodies in little jars definitely make a difference come midwinter.

Recently I picked up the book Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff.  Her book has totally inspired me.  The book is divided into sections by season, offering recipes for preserving both fruits and veggies throughout the year. It's turning out to be a great aid to mapping out what I want to preserve and when.  I've got plans for Indian carrot pickles, sour cherry preserves, watermelon rind pickles, and some new jams and fruit preserves to try.

My goal this year, I've decided, is to try to preserve more kinds of foods, in small batches, throughout the growing season.  Starting with rhubarb and asparagus and ending with, well . . . whatever comes last.

I have already put up a batch of pickled asparagus (with the help and camaraderie of my friends Erin, Noah, and Kajsa) and made two quarts of chive blossom vinegar from the flowers in my garden.

Now I need to get some rhubarb stashed in the freezer or possibly made into jam before it's gone.  And then, hopefully, it's on to strawberries . . .

04 June 2012

My favorite season of all

Friday marked the start of my local farmers market.  Of course, Wyatt and I went to show our support and to celebrate opening day.  We admired each of the market stalls, especially those with vegetables that were bright green and orange and red and smelled like dirt.  We treated ourselves to a kid's tamale and sampled some cheeses.  The market musician and his harmonica entranced Wyatt to the point that he was clapping and dancing and throwing gravel at the guy (luckily from the back row . . .  so none of it reached him).  He did have my toes tapping as well -- a good choice for opening day.  We talked with friends whom we ran into at the market and spent a few minutes running around the kids' play area.

There were also dogs -- so many of them that Wy had a hard time barking at them all.  An hour and a half later we came home with asparagus, kale, dried garbanzos, a pound of salted peanuts, and a hunk of a very luscious blue cheese from Willipa Hills.

This is the season of the year I like best -- farmers market season.  It means I can easily buy and eat locally-produced food, and that I have more varied, fresher, and better quality food to choose from every week.  Market season makes me once again feel part of the community in a tangible way -- meeting and talking and buying from familiar faces each week.

Although these pictures weren't taken on Friday, I did take them at the market last season, and when I look at them I smile and feel excited about the season that lies ahead.