Archive for July, 2010

Harvest has begun in earnest!  I love that there are so many wonderful things to eat right in my own backyard!  And my grocery list has really shrunk.    Let’s take a walk, shall we?

The zucchini have made their first appearance – soon to be found on a doorstep near you as a ring the doorbell and run!  (Just kidding, but boy do these plants produce fruit – I’m always looking for good zucchini recipes.)

The yellow beets are just about all done, and the red have arrived!  I might try pickling some this year so I can save some for the winter.  Oh, my kingdom for a root cellar!

The cilantro is out of control!  Last year I grew it in pots and it came up to me knees.  This year it is almost as tall as me!!  Salsa, anyone?

This proves that good things come to those who wait.  It’s my precious basil and there is a TONNE of it!  I’m already looking forward to pesto all winter long…..

The sea of tomato plants.  We really did thin them out….and then hubby pruned them too and still they have grown so close together that they block out the sun on the lower leaves.  Should we leave them?  Should we prune them more?  Should we take out some of these big, beautiful plants?  At the moment we are checking for blight daily and crossing our fingers….

The corn is coming!  I love seeing the appearance of those yellow silks.

If you read yesterday’s post you will know that the peas are ready to harvest.  I got hungry this afternoon and came out here to munch on fresh peas – yum!

The tiny beginnings of winter squash.  This is another aggressive plant in the garden.  I keep finding this one wrapping its tendrils around the peas and stretching itself in the opposite direction to strangle the leeks… poor things.  I am in a battle with green caterpillars over my broccoli plants.  Every morning I come out to the garden to pick off all the little green guys and hope the next day they will be gone for good.  No such luck.  I think they have won the battle with the Kale, but I am determined to save the broccoli! 

Swiss chard is almost ready to pick.  Grocery store chard has nothing on this stuff – sweet and tasty!

And finally, the potatoes.  I had no idea potato plants were so big!  I can’t wait until these are ready to harvest, too. 

July is a beautiful time to be in the garden.  What’s growing in your garden in July?

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I like to keep busy.  I am usually involved in several projects at once, am constantly trying to learn new skills, and am always in a state of dreaming up new projects or researching new ideas.  I also work full-time, have a large garden, am in the process of renovating my house (ok, that is mostly hubby but I do show up for painting now and again) and feel compelled to make everything that goes into my mouth from scratch.  And in typical type A fashion also have the compulsion to excel at everything I do. 

I rarely sit down.  Except to write blog posts, or to read other people’s blog posts (and gather more new ideas!)

I like life this way.  I don’t really know any other way to live.  But sometimes, I long for the world to slow down.  I keep thinking…”tomorrow there will be less to do and I ‘ll just take some time to relax.”  And then tomorrow arrives with its growing to-do list and sometimes I jump into bed with my mind still whirring. 

I complained about this state of busyness once until someone reminded me that I choose to live this way.   And when I thought about it I realized that they were right.  I thrive on this kind of lifestyle and wouldn’t know what to do with myself if there literally was, “nothing” to do.

But I still need time to breathe.

And so it is that I have begun to carve out times in my daily routine to rest.

Like when I need to shuck the peas. 

It is a job that has to be done, yes.  But it is also a chance to slow down and enjoy the little pleasures of life.

Like the feel of the hot sun on my back as I sit at the picnic table.

The smoothness of the pea pods in my hands.

The gentle ping as each pea falls into the bowl.

And as the pile of peas in the bowl grows, I breathe a little slower.

And count my blessings.

And just listen.

And when the peas are done, I head onto the next task a little more refreshed and rejuvenated.

And my chores don’t seem like chores any more, but opportunities to rest and unwind my mind.  Hanging laundry on the line is a chance to pray…doing dishes is an opportunity for meditation…weeding the garden is time to bask in the sun….

And shucking peas is a chance to breathe deeply and enjoy…..

Who knew there could be such wisdom in peas?

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My mother’s house is full of boxes of things that were removed from my grandmother’s house after she passed away.  It has been a slow and sad process to go through them all and decide what to keep and what to pass on to someone else. 

Among many of the very ordinary things of daily living there have been a few priceless treasures.

Like my great-grandmother’s recipes. 

As we went through more boxes this summer, a few more of these treasures have found their way into my home. 

Vintage linens.  I think these pillow cases are destined for a quilt. 

A doll pattern.  Ordered from the newspaper in 1948!

A pretty little apron.

I was really excited to find this one – a clothes pin apron! 

But the biggest treasure is definitely this:

A quilt from my great-grandmother’s house.  It is worn, stained, and has a few holes, but I love it anyway. 

Thinking of Gran today, with love.

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I love “Mexican” food.  I call it “Mexican” because I am sure that what I think of as Mexican food is about as close to what they eat in Mexico as the Chinese take-out is to what is actually eaten in China.  That being said, I love fajitas, burritos, nachos, salsa, jalapenos, guacamole, you get the picture. 

I am, however, always disappointed in tortillas.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy them or like the taste, it’s just that the ingredients list usually contains a number of chemicals I can’t pronounce, along with an unhealthy dose of trans-fats or vegetable oils, AND my grocery store stores them in the freezer before selling which makes them kind of gummy and they stick together as they thaw. 

I have tried many times to make my own tortillas with ho-hum results.  Until now.   This recipe is amazing!  I made the healthiest version, down at the bottom of the post, and they were so easy!  It was a great dough, easy to roll out and it didn’t take too long to cook them, even one-by-one in my cast iron frying pan.  I was so proud of the finished results and hubby liked them too.  Success!  To celebrate I threw together a cold fajita meal, perfect for keeping the kitchen as cool as possible on a hot summer’s day. 

Keeping the tortillas in this dish covered with a cloth as I cooked them kept them nice and soft until dinner was served.

The only other hot part of this meal, chicken coated in a mix of chili powder, cayenne, cumin, garlic and onion powder. 

Lots of fresh veggies and cheese!

A cold bean mix.  Black beans with tomato, green onion, green pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, and chili powder.

My favourite guacamole.  Chunky avocado, fresh tomato, cilantro, garlic, and lots of fresh lime juice. 

Rolled and ready to go – yum!

It’s great to have leftovers of this meal too!  If you have leftover chicken, veggies and cheese, toss them altogether for a yummy cold chicken salad for lunch the next day.  Leftover beans and guacamole can be rolled into tortillas, or eaten with nacho chips as a snack.  Don’t you love it when you can get more than one meal out of all your hard work?

What’s your favourite hot summer day meal?

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I have been pattern testing again.  This time I got to make some super-cute toddler clothes.  Check these out:

Both patterns are from Puking Pastilles.  The first pattern is called “Ankle Biter Pants” (I love that name).  They were quick and easy to make and I love the contrasting fabric at the bottoms.  And it was a good excuse to use this cute dinosaur fabric! 

The second pattern is the Memory Lane Sun Dress.  This one was a little trickier than the pants, but still fun to do and I love the finished dress.  It closes with a pretty button at the back. 

Since I don’t have any kiddos of my own (but oh kids are so fun to sew for!)both of these items have been set aside for the baby shower for mothers-in-need that my friends and I host every year.  I’ll just be happy knowing that they are being put to good use!

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First Harvest

We have been eating leaves (spinach, arugula, lettuce), herbs, and scallions out of the garden for a while but this week we had what I felt like was our first real harvest.  Take a look at this beautiful yellow beet!

I am enjoying the slightly milder flavour of the yellow beets and greens.  This particular beet was chopped up finely and braised with the stems and greens.  I learned how to braise from this amazing cooking class which I am absolutely loving!   The second night I made a beet green gratin (once again using a recipe from the cooking class) which even hubby liked and he doesn’t usually eat greens! 

I think eating fresh-from-the-backyard produce is one of the joys of life.  (People talk about the 100 mile diet – this is the 5 meter diet!)   I never mind weeding the vegetable garden – I know the work almost always pays off!  🙂

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I’m back!  (Did you miss me?)  One of the things I love most about leaving during the summer time and then coming back is the shock of how much the garden grows when you aren’t watching it!  Hubby and I had a great time inspecting all the vegetables and seeing what had grown while we were away.

And mercifully, the deer haven’t touched my shade-loving front garden this year, which means for the first time since I planted them my hostas have more than two leaves! 

Those of you who have huge, beautiful hostas in your gardens please don’t laugh, but trust me, hostas of this size are a huge feat for this deer paradise.

My absolute favourite plant in that garden though is the astilbe.  There is just something so beautiful about their delicate white flowers that I have fallen in love with.  Here it is in all of its glory:

Seeing the flowers like this almost makes me feel like all of the weeding is worth it!  🙂

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On Vacation

Summer is here!  School is done for another year down to the very last meeting which was last week.  Time for spending time with family, travelling, sewing, gardening, working on house renos, visiting friends, and, of course, preparing for school to begin again in September! 

Before I get completely involved in all of these summer activities I am taking two weeks off to relax and rejuvenate and spend time with my family.  Two weeks of no blog posts…I am sure my camera will be overflowing and my mind whirring with ideas when I return.  Have  a great start to your summer!  See you in two weeks!

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A Few Cards….

I have sadly been remiss in taking pictures of the cards I have made.  I know I am going to regret this when I am looking for card inspiration and trying to remember what I have already done.  Here are a few that I did remember to snap photos of before popping them into the mail.

Although the stamp didn’t quite cooperate with me on this one I am very proud of the flower!  It’s made out of 6 circles punched out of paper and then folded and glued together.  I would definitely make more of these, they were fun!

Dad’s birthday. 

I forgot to take a picture of this card for my father-in-law but it seems that Hubby got an action shot of Dad reading his card.  I am quite proud of this one too.  The train photo stands out nicely on the brown cardstock and the dad paper across the bottom really finished it nicely.  I used the same paper across the bottom of the inside and Hubby wrote some really touching sentiments about his Dad inside.  We were very excited to see him open this one!

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I love when the first spears of local asparagus appear in the markets.  It is one of my favourite vegetables and I like to make the most of it when it is available.  When there is asparagus, summer has truly begun! 

The traditional way for my family to eat asparagus is to serve it boiled, on toast, topped with a cheddar cheese sauce.  My husband’s family does something similar but covers theirs with cream of asparagus soup and they serve it with hard-boiled eggs on top.  Once my dad cooked some asparagus for me and tossed it with lemon juice,  olive oil, garlic and toasted almonds – it was years ago and I still remember how good it tasted. 

Last week when hubby brought some nice thin spears home for me I decided I wanted to try something different and grill it on the barbecue.  Combined with some fresh greens, spring onions and strawberries from the garden, a little feta cheese and topped with an easy balsamic vinaigrette it made a yummy grilled asparagus salad.

To make one of these salads for yourself, you will need:

  • a bunch or two of asparagus (depending on how many people you are feeding)
  • oil for grilling
  • fresh salad greens (I mixed spinach, lettuce and arugula)
  • strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
  • green onions, chopped
  • balsamic vinegar
  • feta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Toss the asparagus in a little oil and lay on a hot grill for about 5 minutes or until tender.  While the asparagus is cooking lay the salad greens on your plates.  Arrange the cooked asparagus on top of the greens.  Sprinkle with strawberries, onions and crumbled feta.  Combine equal parts of vinegar and olive oil and drizzle over the salad.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Summer on a plate! 🙂

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