Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shock to the system

Temp Trio
I've been re engaging with a skillset I thought I had lost. It's the secret art of keeping a house cool during intense heat. Growing up in Southern California, I'm used to warm weather, and going to school in the Northern Central Valley of California, that was major heat. But there were beaches and rivers and parks with rivers and cool places to incorporate into your daily life. Including numerous pools. Aah, to have an inground pool.

Here in Portland? Few and far between of us have Central A/C. There's not much need for it. But this week we've just been slammed with a heatwave that seems to want to hang around and stay awhile. I snapped the photos above in my car: I thought the 105 was shocking. But a little while later there was the 108, and whoa, the 109. Those are numbers I don't think I've ever seen in Portland. This is hot. As in hawt hot. The kind of hot where you lay down in bed at night and the sheets are hot. You go to sleep sweating and you wake up sweating. You shower and you're already sweating. The cats lounge lazily, spread out all over the floor, just like cat butter (hat tip to WM for that term!). The air is heavy and the sun is truly that burning orb in the sky we call out for in the bleak days of February. Here, grey, dark February, is your wish.

I've been throwing open all windows early in the morning and blasting the fans to turn the air around. Just as the sun hits the house or windows, the windows are shut, doors are closed, and shades are drawn. For windows without shades, covered in paper or my black presentation boards pull double duty. The little window AC unit turns on, and that is it. It's been livable, actually. Given, the trees and garden help tremendously. And don't let me catch anyone holding a door open...

Until 9pm, things stay closed, and then, the garden watering begins. The impatiens are angry at me, declaring they didn't sign up for heat like this. I mist their downtrodden heads. And everything else is getting deep saturated watering at their roots, slowly and determinedly. So grateful we got in those soaker hoses. Well, almost all of them. Dangit! The tomatoes are growing by leaps and bounds in this weather, and I can practically hear the corn ripen.

My computer tells me we won't be back down to our normal 80's until Tuesday. Oh sigh. Keep your fingers crossed for those thirsty hydrangeas and very sad impatiens: it's going to be a long, hot week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pretty potato packets and the St Johns Farmer's Market

I’m still pinching myself over the fact that St. Johns has a Farmer's Market. A real one. With produce, fresh from the farms, baked goods, locally roasted coffee, music, food demonstrations, and a wonderful gathering spot for neighbors. If you live in St. Johns (my area of North Portland) and you haven’t checked out the Farmer's Market, mark your calendars now for Saturday morning and plan to go. (And make sure you check out the recipes by yours truly on their blog: tips for using the great things you can get at the market.)

Here’s Super Susan at the Farmer's Market. We adore her: she's the rabble rouser I aspire to be. I'm only in practice, but like I told her when I took this photo, she inspires me.
Super Susan at the St Johns Farmers Market

But I wanted to tell you about an easy way to make potatoes on the grill. If you’re in a heatwave, like Portland is right now, there’s no way you’re going to turn on a stove. We picked up a really beautiful bag of potatoes at the St. Johns Farmer's Market and I bought them from the farmer who had picked them the very day before. This program, through Janus Youth Programs and their urban agriculture projects, works with young people and gardens, and they even have their own farm out on Sauvie Island. The kids work the farm, and bring the produce to market. These are kids from our own neighborhoods in North Portland. That just takes local to a whole new level, doesn’t it? You need to check out their booth, Food Works, at the market. But to these potatoes….look how beautiful they are:
potatoes for cooking on the grill
To make them on the grill, it’s very simple. Scrub them thoroughly, and slice as thin as you can. Make a packet of foil by laying out a sheet of foil, spray lightly with oil or nonstick spray and arrange the potatoes on top of half of the foil area, leaving 2 inches around the perimeter.
Dot with butter, and season with a variety of herbs, salt and pepper. I tend to think the more herbs the better, and love to throw in thyme, rosemary, oregano, and even some sage, all fresh from the garden and shredded roughly.

Fold over the half of foil, and tightly fold in and crimp the edges, all the way around. You should have a nice tight little packet. Place on grill, medium heat, for 20 minutes or so. The thinner the potato slices, the faster it cooks. Voila! Steamy packet of potato goodness. Purchased straight from the farmers hands. Now go love some more summer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Creating the life you live

Manifesting your life
I am so incredibly proud of our friends. So proud that I'm about to burst. Why do you ask? Because of this....

Right now, at this very moment, they are on a plane to New York barreling towards their destiny.

But you know? They've been manifesting this moment, this time, this opportunity, this reality, for years. It is theirs to grab and hold onto. And I am so excited, and so proud of them.

What does this mean for you?

Manifesting the moments of your life: what can you see? What can you focus on? What can you hold so tightly in your mind's eye, and see come to fruition?

I'm a strong believer in manifesting your destiny: what do you see in the forward to your current chapter? What comes after now? What do you see for youself? I dare you to dream it, to say it out loud, and to put it out to the universe.

The universe may quite well bring it all back to you, ten-fold. Because you manifest these moments of your life.

Life is magic like that.

If you'd like to know more what I'm babbling about, you can follow the blog for ONE here.

You can join me in celebrating art and supporting ONE here.

You can read and learn more about the theater in NYC workshopping this transformational play here.

on the boat

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What kind of garden to you have?

Frida guides us through the garden gate
I was recently asked this question. Oh I've been asked it before. But this time my answer was to laugh and answer "oh I crazy garden." The puzzling look on my friend's face signaled I needed to define more. "It's a cottage garden, and this time of year it's big and blousy: edibles and ornamentals all mixed in together." I could go on and on describing our crazy garden using terms like "garden rooms" and "vegetables out front" and "a dappled shade woodland walk." But I tend to just go to "crazy garden." You don't believe me? Oh here's some proof.
The front garden fills in

And here's some proof of the big and blousy. Ka-BAM! This garden grows on the power of zoo doo.
Garden in July: big and blowsy

But right now I'm dealing with the interesting conundrum of eating my borders. I love the look of cabbage: big, huge, round balls of purple and green. They make the perfect border edging. See?
Edible border
Edible front border
But now it's time to eat that border and alas, it will ruin my lovely line. Dang it! I didn't think about that. But that's the deal with mixing ornamental and edible: you eat the beauty.

And by the looks of it, we're going to be eating a lot of cabbage. Feel free to share recipes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jam On It: Oregon tayberries have landed in our kitchen

Oregon's berry season is magic time. Can you see me wiggling my fingers as I type this? ****magic time*** And that means jam time. For jam making? I like using tayberries. They're not the easiest to pick, but their flavor is sweet, subtle and floral, making for a delicious jam. Here they are:
And here are the berries I like to eat fresh: loganberries.
They explode in your mouth with outrageous berry being. They're over-the-top Summer in a berry. But back to the tayberries and jam. Here's a preview of the finished product:
Jam on it: Tayberry

Tayberry jam is a complex combination of ingredients. It's a very long list. Are you ready?
1. Tayberries
2. Sugar
And that's it. I follow the classic directions for making blackberry jam in the Ball Canning book without using pectin, can it, and label it, and end up with this:
Jam on it: Tayberry tayberry tayberry!

Summer in a jar. Jam on it! Jam on it! Ja-ja-ja-ja-jam on it. Do the cabbage patch with me?

Now do you want some Jam On It gear? I know, huh!?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Squash for breakfast: is that a zucchini in your omelete?

I won't make you endure a bad punchline to that title's joke. But I will invite you to take in the beauty of this breakfast:
Squash, chicken chorizo, queso fresco omelette
And the best part? I didn't make it. AdRi is La Reina of breakfast making here, and this was a wonderful omelet this past Sunday morning she whipped up with leftover grilled squash, chicken chorizo, cilantro freshly snipped from the garden, and one of my favorite cheese, queso fresco. I'm a fan of chorizo, but not a fan of the greasy pork chorizo. This is a chorizo flavored ground chicken we get from New Season's, and it provides the spicy flavor without the puddles of orange grease. Queso fresco is a Mexican cheese that crumbles easily, and is generally available in large grocery stores: salty and mellow, it provides a richness and tang.

Summer of Squash Omelete
Cook 1/8 lb of ground chicken chorizo in a nonstick skillet. When done, add in a handful of previously grilled squash to mix the seasonings and heat the squash. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
Whisk 2-3 eggs with a splash of milk and cook in the skillet until done to your liking. Gently fold in the chorizo/squash, and dress the omelete with fresh cilantro and crumbled queso fresco.

And look at that. You just had squash for breakfast.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The harvest is in full swing, and that means squash

Squash, cabbage, squash
Squash, squash, squash, squash, zucchini. Zucchini, squash, patty pan, squash. Oooommmm.

The mantra of high summer means squash here at Casa de LeLo y AdRi. This spring we planted not one, not two, but five summer squash plants in the garden. One green zucchini, two patty pan, and two yellow crook neck squash. For a household of two, that is a lot. SRSLY. So we're staying on top of the harvest, and this week have kicked it into high gear.

My favorite way of eating summer squash? Slice thickly (1/2 inch), lightly brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and throw on the grill. Don't hold back about grilling extra, because you'll put it to use the next day. I like it grilled on high, leaving char marks. Last night, we threw them all on a cutting board right at the patio table, chopped them into big bite size chunks, and transferred half to a bowl with freshly made pesto. Toss to mix and serve.

Excellent. And you'll note this post kicks off the first in the labeling of Summer of Squash. I anticipate there will be quite a few more. Next up? How to use that leftover grilled squash for breakfast.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A gift for jam makers

I couldn't help it. I've been singing it all this week as the Oregon berry season kicks into high gear and delectable berries are ripening. And being picked. Two flats of berries made their way to our house thanks to the nimble fingers of AdRi and her picking prowess.

But I digress. This is for you, my fellow jam makers. Do the cabbage patch with me while you sing Jam on it and you make jam this summer. Here, I'll even give you the song:

And now you can even have a t-shirt with it too. Or perhaps a baby shirt or tote bag. You can have those too.
Or perhaps you love heirloom tomatoes as much as I do?

Here's the shirt for you:
Or you just want to proclaim your ability to can. As in preserve food.
Yes, you can can. And you can proudly wear it for the world to see.
Happy canning my fellow food preservers. Happy canning.

These designs are now available at my Cafe Press shop. Happy shopping. 'Tis the season to can.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Breathe it in

Sage u-pick
Since turning my life upside down 2 and a half years ago when I quit my fancy agency job and ventured out on my own, I've just put one foot in front of the other. Step by step.

I made my own work and went into business for myself. And then I learned how to cook from scratch. And how to can. How to sew. How to enjoy the little things in daily life and to be open to seeing them. I learned what it was like to be able to go and get pedicures in the suburbs in the middle of the day. How to walk my dog in my neighborhood every day at 2pm. I've learned how to garden for real, and to write about gardening (ssshhhh: I have a piece coming out in a national gardening publication this fall). I'm becoming a master gardener.

And through it all, I've kept working. While I don't blog about it here, I'm a professional communications consultant and graphic designer. And I just have to say, I have the best clients ever. And they keep coming back to me. And they refer me to their colleagues. And word gets out. Today my little agency has a client list that includes a major national health institution, a city, a county, a state, a national foundation and a national non-profit. And now? A waiting list. I'm at capacity. Or what feels like capacity in order to deliver excellence.

I can't complain about the workload: I'm incredibly grateful and excited about every single bit of work I'm doing. It's the best work of my career so far, the most meaningful, and the most challenging. But I'm telling you this, my dear blog readers, so that you know why there's not a lot of original content going up on this blog right now other than little daily life stuff, and my continued exploration in photography, the bounty of Oregon, and gardening. We'll see how much time I have to preserve this summer, or to cook. Well, I cook, but how many blogposts would you want to read about making salads or heating up beans?

I had a few quiet hours yesterday to myself. It took everything in me to not work. And then I put together a plan for pickling cherries. Then I looked at the work that would take. My mind wandered for a moment and I thought about the book I never finished while on vacation in Mexico last March. I hadn't even picked it up since the trip. I set up the fan, and kicked back on the couch, and with the summer breezes blowing through, carrying with it the jasmine blooms' scent, I finished the book. I didn't work, I didn't can, I didn't do laundry, I didn't answer e-mails. And you know what? It was wonderful. And just what I needed.

So while in previous summers I've had summer lists, I think I'll forego the summer list this season and just go for what feels right. It's concerts in the park, nights watching movies projected in the garden, BBQing with neighbors, and a few baseball games. Because it's going to be a busy summer with work, and I'm just breathing in deeply, taking it all in, and saying "thank you" to the universe. Sage advice, I'd say. Breathe it in.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Gnomes: got issues?

When I mention garden gnomes, AdRi rolls her eyes. In fact, this morning I shared with her my latest column over at Just Out, In Defense of Gnomes. While she rolled her eyes and said "You are becoming that crazy gnome lady with tacky garden art" I had to explain to her the title of the piece, In Defense of Gnomes, is a play on the Defense of Marriage Act. Gay innuendo + garden writing is my forté. Own it. Love it. Live it.

So I asked friends on Facebook and Twitter, what they thought of gnomes. Love them? Hate them? Here's a sampling of responses:
Love Love Love. Magic Happens

Gnomes are right up there next to clowns: Scary!

Gnever have I thought so deeply. It's gnot that they are evil per se, it's just that when you turn your back, you gknow they're up to gno good.

Better than Santa, because you don't have to work so hard to impress them.
See? It's definitely a mixed bag.

We have 2.5 gnomes. Or I should say we did. Now we have 4.5 gnomes. The gnomes are multiplying, but not just on their own. Oh no. Evidently, we are becoming a gnome sanctuary. A gnome haven. A gnome retreat. Because an anonymous package was left in our mailbox this week:
Anonymous Package

Intriguing, isn't it? No stamp, so it was left in person by someone who wished to remain anonymous. Inside?
Dear Gnome Lover

Ah ha! I took the envelope outside and look who skipped right on out and found a place in the garden?
This little gnome likes hanging out in the trees

And hanging from the garden gate...
Hang in there!

Ah yes. The haven for gnomes. AdRi is worried. I can't help but laugh. It's all good. The others? I checked in with Seymour of the Woods, and we was too busy bowling to comment.
Seymour of the Woods is bowling

Stormin' Norman was too busy guarding his unusual plant in the Gnome Grotto to have much to say about the new gnomes.
Gnome grotto

Oh don't get too lovey dubbey with Norman. He may look nice, but at night? He gets his freak on.
At night he comes alive and chews on ankles

And one bonus photo. This was shared with me by @RichardMiller on Twitter. It's certainly proof that Portlanders may love their gnomes. And thank god, they're environmentalists. Proof? Gnomes tending their green roof:

They also love playing on my garden gate. See? The abandoned gnomes now have a home. So whoever left them in our mailbox, thank you.
Newly arrived gnomes frolic on the garden gate

Thursday, July 02, 2009

No grubby hands in the cherries!

No grubby hands in the cherries
It's getting to be cherry time. I've never done much with cherries. Eh. You have to pit them. And stuff. But fresh cherries are delish. And guess who was given a cherry pitter for Christmas? Oh yeah baby. I'm thinking of some cherry sauce of some sort. I'll get back to you on what I shake down on the topic. In the meantime, no grubby hands in the cherries!