Monday, August 31, 2009

Trying to focus

Lucky and 405
I've been trying to stay focused: deadlines, new projects, BIG projects, and all of the things I want to do during the summer. Oh for the sunshine. I can blame my distraction on the sunshine.

But I've been having a lot of distractions. At the height of the summer glory in the gardens, the sewer line in our hundred year old house decided to give up the ghost. Plumbers, crews, heavy equipment, digging huge holes and trenches, and a trench through our finished basement. With jack hammers. All of this disturbed the ants outside, so they decided to find a way in and swarmed our kitchen one early morning.

AdRi has been using the word "condo" lately. Keeping up with an old house is work.

But on the bright side, the new sewer line means we had the basement plumbed for a new bathroom, so we're adding a new half bath. Picking out linoleum, sink and finishes.

And then there's the friend with cancer. Cancer is a bitch my friends, it's a bitch. It takes too many people from us too early, and it's attacking a dear friend of ours. And it makes my bitching about sewer and ants so trivial.

So this is the conversation I've been having with myself. Poor me, wait, slap slap slap. Be more grateful. But seriously? My patience is worn thin and I'm just evaluating where I put my energy.

I've been taking breaks from the computer and all of the social networking that's so embedded into my life, and it feels good. I'm forcing myself to breathe, to focus on my breathing, to just be and experience, and to work with my hands more. To create but also to be.

And then there's the lists. My chronic list making is driving me to complete tasks and to feel done at the end of the day and not so overwhelmed.

Also? I'm making myself carry my camera around with me again. You my lucky blog readers may just get to see the fruits of that.

But see how this blog post is scattered? Yes, it's full of good bits and pieces, but it's scattered. Because that's how I'm feeling.

I have a facial, concert, get away trip planned in the coming days, and am so looking forward to it. Just a mini vacation to give me a break. Then hoping in September to get away to the coast some and walk my dog on the beach. I'm holding onto these visions while I task master myself. But I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And I'm trying to stay focused on that prize. "Eye on the prize" I've been saying. Eye on the prize.

P.S. I took this photo at a Beaver game this weekend: playing with my lensbaby again. That thing is crazy to control but sometimes, the photos that come from it surprise me. Here's a bonus one for you too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Let's play I-Spy

Hometown Hero flies with Thunderbirds

I spy, with my eye, AdRi in this clip. Can you find her? And yes, this clip features our friend ViCa, also known as our security system.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh the things that entertain us

Nice wig.
No she's not wearing a wig, why?

Your earrings are so hot!
Fancy earrings

I have no smart comment for this one other than to say, ka bam! Check out this amazing display. And flowers too.
KaBam! Me and flowers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My favorite way to get rid of weeds: death by boiling water

I like to picture in my mind's eye the guards at the top of the castle, poised with the boiling vats of oil, readying to drop them on their enemies if they attack. My boiling vat of oil happens to be a pot of boiling water.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I refuse to let summer go

Tomato on our front steps
It may be approaching late August, but I’m not going to let summer waltz on out of here. Not yet. I have yet to get to the coast this summer, and there are more baseball games left in the season. The tomatoes are just coming into their own, and I caught myself thinking, “Another caprese salad—again?” But then I quickly kicked myself.
The edible border
We’re still working our way through the edible border, and the summer sown carrots and parsnips are quickly growing. I’ve come to identify the damage in the side garden is due to the black vine weevil, and I’m on the hunt for beneficial nematodes to let loose in the garden just about now. My Master Gardener training is really paying off: access to all of these smart people and resources is a godsend.
Wink gets some R&R
We sat outside yesterday morning with the paper and our coffee. The sun was warm but the morning was still cool. I know the season will soon transition: we’re in the waning days of summer. But it’s this time in between: between high summer and true fall, that I love the best. The time of harvest, sunshine, brown grass underfoot, tomatoes, pears and long days. The golden sunshine isn’t quite here: the way the light changes will give it away that fall is at our doorstep.

I refuse to let summer go. Yet.

Impatien decadence

P.S. Our new backyard patio is getting a lot of use. But we’ve built it with many purposes. The copper tubing along the top edge supports laundry hung out to dry, and it’s a wonderful place for dinners, coffee, and I also refer to is as my summer office.
Backyard patio
But at night it holds yet another purpose: it’s the perfect frame for projecting movies in the garden.
Movie in the garden
Movie projected in the garden

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Story of a Pie

Girl loves pie.
Pie is summer, pie is Portland, pie is simple.
She joins with other Lovers of Pie and holds a pie event.
Pie is fun!
Pie is blue ribbons!

The pie bar has been raised.

Girl makes a pie.
A Margarita Pie:
Margarita Pie

Girl takes pie downtown.
Pie is on tv:
My pie is on tv

Girl is proud of her pie.
And her next pie event is Sunday.
You should come.
Because after pies are judged and ribbons are given out, this is what happens:
Pie feeding frenzy

Pie frenzy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For the love of Summer: Wink on Wednesday

Go Wink Go!
For the love of summer

Of open-toed shoes
of orchards so heavy with fruit they drop when ripe
((thud thud thunk))
For puppies
and pie
and even sewers gone awry (don't ask)

For fragrant flowers
and friends
Portland's free concerts in the park.

For sunshine.
and jam.
Catching up with neighbors over the fence
while we water the tomatoes.
For summer rain
wet on dry pavement.
The scent almost makes me miss the rain.

For running with wild abandon
in fields
filled with heat
and bees
Oh for the bees!
Bumbles overdosing in flowers
heavy with pollen

For the love of summer.
I love my Oregon summer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I see canning in your future...

It's canning time
...especially in the future of the randomly picked number 7. The winner (out of over 100 entries!) of the Fresh Preserving Kit from Jarden Home Brands is Katherine Gray. Ha! And Katherine, I'll throw in a lesson on how to use your kit if you like, especially Can-A-Rama weekend, August 29-30th.

Thank you to everyone who shared such great memories and thoughts about canning!

Make sure to check out the Cans Across America site for more giveaways, and to find a canning event in your neck of the woods for Can-A-Rama Weekend August 29-30th.

Monday, August 10, 2009

As we continue along the squash highway: Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Pickles: Tangy!
I read all kinds of crazy canning stuff on the interwebz. Pumpkin pickles, watermelon rind pickles, canning a whole chicken. ((shiver)) But you need to hear me out when it comes to my latest food preservation expedition: pickled zucchinis.

I've had these as relish on a few plates this past year, alongside the fantastic burger at Higgins bar, and I'm pretty sure they serve them on the side at Pause as well. But here's how you know they're really good: I'm not a pickle fan.

I know.

I'm just not. But when it comes to these zucchini pickles? I can't get enough of them. Super delicious. So I set out googling around for a good recipe, and alas, I did not find one I wanted to use that was for canning and keeping longer term, but I found one with just the right spices and I keep the jar in the fridge.

Plus, hello. There's only so much zucchini you can grill. It was time to pickle it! So simple, and so tangy. Just be careful where you slosh that turmeric juice around: it's bright yellow. The recipe I used is from the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I doubled the recipe and ended up with 2 quart jars. One for us, one for a friend. I'm sure I'll make more as the zucchini season marches on. You should too.
Zucchini pickles in the jar

Zucchini Pickles
1 pound zucchini
1 small yellow onion
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
Scant 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1. Wash and trim the zucchini, then slice them one-sixteenth-inch thick; a mandoline works best. Slice the onion very thin as well. Combine the zucchini and onions in a large but shallow nonreactive bowl, add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.

2. After about 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini -- it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.

3. Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a small saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. (If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.)

4. Return the zucchini to a dry bowl and pour over the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices. Transfer the pickle to jars. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Never take gardening too seriously

Especially when it comes to typos on a wedding cake. It's perfect for us gardeners, isn't it? Actually, after chasing and pulling weeds throughout the spring, I think a congratulatory cake is perfect.

And then there's my garden writing moniker, Sassy Gardener, the name of my column and website, showing up as this.

You think I'm kidding? Oh no I'm not.


Friday, August 07, 2009

The Pie is coming! The Pie is coming!

Someone had a birthday and didn't want cake: she wanted pie. So pie it was. And perfect timing: 9 days until the Portland Pie-Off. You're coming right?

Birthday Pie is better than Birthday Cake from LeloNopo on Vimeo.

Oh that AdRi. She's making movies now. Love that girl of mine. Pie!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Canning your food: Giveaway for my readers

They were always the hottest days of the year: my mom would be working in the kitchen, my dad would be harvesting from the garden. The kitchen steamed with the huge canning kettle and mom worked from early in the morning until evening. Jars were set out to cool, and lids popped as the warm summer evening in Southern California began to cool and the air filled with the scent of night blooming jasmine. The kitchen would smell like my mom’s homemade chile sauce for days.

I’m sure I helped, though I don’t remember the specifics. I remember sitting cross legged on the floor in the playroom, watching ChiPs or The Muppet Show with my brother while I snapped green beans. It was a three bowl system: fresh beans, ends, and the final snapped beans. I used that system just a week or so back. My little garden doesn’t produce the quantity our quarter acre of my childhood produced: my parents are amazing gardeners. There were wheelbarrows full of carrots, bushels of tomatoes, and stacks of corn. Oh for the love of homegrown corn.
The cupboard in the garage stored jars of salsa, tomatoes, beans and chile. The shelves were lined with shelf paper, and everything was in its place. It was just how life was. You grew things, you canned them, you froze them, simple enough.

But it’s not that simple, is it? For many of us, we’re not taking up the art of canning until it’s introduced to us through the lens of eating and supporting local economy. Of eating healthy. Of growing our own. And for many of us, we don’t have a clue what we’re doing.

I was so fortunate to have my “homestead hook-up” two years ago show up on my doorstep with her daughter, books, and her canning equipment, prepared to show me how to can foods. We spent an afternoon canning pickled carrots, apple ginger jam, and cinnamon apples. She taught me about carefully wiping the edges of the jars, sterilization, and how to pull hot jars out of the kettle. And she left all of her equipment with me to safely hold onto until she needs it back. I am blessed to have good people in my life.
JiFa and her lovely daughter, we'll just call her Emo :)

So it’s time to pay it forward! And that’s where you come into play, my dear readers. I’m giving away a Fresh Preserving Kit from Jarden Home Brands, the makers of Ball Brand Fresh Preserving Products, to a lucky reader of this blog. The kit has everything you need to get started preserving food, including a large water bath canner, a canning rack, jar lifter, lid lifter, funnel and bubble removal tool. Score! It looks like this:
To enter to win the kit, leave a comment on this post of your fondest memory or memory you hope to make, about canning. I’ll randomly select a winner: you need to leave your comment by midnight, Monday August 10th, and I’ll announce the winner on August 11th. Make sure you leave an e mail address!

Thank you to the committed food preservers and bloggers who are a part of Canning Across America: Canvolution! Check out the blog for how to get involved this month in helping grow awareness, demonstrate and can the bounty of this year’s harvest in your community.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sometimes you need a weekend to recover from the weekend

R&R in the garden
Do you ever feel that way? A weekend to recover from the weekend? Parties, baseball games, movies, a nice dinner out...I'm not complaining. But Wink here has the right idea.

And that, by the way, is the latest addition to the woodland walk area of the garden. Once again, I'm amazed at the transformation of this section of the garden. What was once just a pass-through, has grown and taken on new life this year, from the walkway to the new fabulous garden bed. Which, by the way, found its way to me, free. It's heavy and huge and teak, so it should last forever. Thanks BryBo, for thinking of me when needing to find a new home for it.
Bed in the garden
The Balinese pillows I brought back from a trip there a while back, but it's not until now they have the perfect (summer only) home. It's all underneath one of my favorite Portland trees, a Clerodendron trichotomum: Harlequin Glorybower. It's grown to be one of the larger versions of this tree, and I smile because AdRi and I moved it as a baby to its current home. I've been adding drippings of jewels, bells, lanterns and windchimes, so not only is it magic to lay under, there's a wee bit of sound and pretty things to look at. I've been burning incense out there, as an ode to Bali, but now the tree is beginning to bloom...
Clerodendron trichotomum: Harlequin Glorybower
...and the air is heady with its summer scent. Sweet and enough to stop you in your tracks if you're out and about walking and come upon one. The secret to know about the Clerodendron is that its leaves smell like peanut butter.

Crazy, wonderful tree.
Crazy, wonderful summer.

Inhale? Exhale.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

I am a star!

I received the sweetest e-mail from AdRi. She's taken to sending me photos with captions, sometimes from our own garden. This one was a keeper and one I thought I'd share. Its title? "I am a star!" Isn't that the truth?

Happy birthday to AdRi this weekend: the love of my life, the apple of my eye, and the sweetest most wonderful girl I know. I count my blessings every single day to having found her, and she for having found me. Happy birthday AdRi!