Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guess who won a ribbon in the Oregon State Fair?

You can touch my ribbon: I won third place  for my chili sauce.
I proudly wore the ribbon for a day, taking in the glory of being an award-winning food preserver. Third place for my entry of chili sauce. I can say that now! (Thank you Erin for telling me that I can say that now.) And speaking of thanks, thank you to Gretchen for putting the idea into my head of entering.

It was pretty great to get feedback from the judges. One of the things I learned is that I need to work on my headspace for my jams: when it says 1/4 inch headspace, I need to make it 1/4 inch headspace (the space between the top of your product and the top of your jar). I'm a little loosey goosey in that department, and while I got great props for taste and color, my headspace needs, ahem, a little work. I'm on it!

If you'd like to make the award-winning Oregon State Fair third place chili sauce, here's a link to my blog post about it, including the recipe.

In the meantime, I'll be the woman walking around with a third place ribbon pinned to her blouse and a grin she can't wipe off her face.

Me in my early days and fair ribbons (and bad perms!).....
Me and my perm, and my county fair ribbons

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monthly links and things I've seen on the interwebz

I've been collecting a bevy of wonderful links to share with you this month, all pretty eye candy or resources or stories I've found of note.

I'm going to make one of these: a moss chair. Here in Portland, Oregon, this should be a pinch to keep going once the moss is growing. I can't wait to do a future blog post from the moss chair.

What's another use for that ton of zucchini you've grown? Fend off bears. Zucchini: making the world a safer place.

Ever wondered about Groupon and how those killer deals work? Here's how it worked for one local business. Good to know.

Do you ever stand at the produce comparing prices of organic and non organic? I do, and choosing can be confusing. The Dirty Dozen is a great list of produce it's best to buy organic, and the fifteen products least likely to test positive for pesticide. Great information to know and have.

Wondering about acid levels in your canning, especially when it comes to tomatoes? Eugenia has a great post about canning safety, and it's all about dropping acid. Nice, Eugenia.

Do you believe in a color associated with your birthday? Find out yours at this very fun Pantone site. Mine was absolutely spot on right.

Whatever you do, please do not follow this advice. Ever. Never. Ever. Never. Ack.

And finally, I'm using a new free program to collect links and assorted great things I see in the world: it's called Evernote.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rudy smiles and the world smiles with him

Rudy enjoys summer
Doesn't he look great? Rudy's out walking as much as he can while the weather is good. Even when the weather isn't so good, Rudy gets out and walks. He walks with a friend, and the first time I saw them together walking in the park, I thought they were arguing. Yelling at each other while they walked! But it turns out you kinda have to yell for Rudy to hear you. Still, it was a heated discussion, volume turned up for clarity.

If you need a refresher, here are other posts about our wonderful friend and neighbor Rudy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drink the harvest: enjoying a homemade cocktail

It's busy time for food preservers, but don't forget one of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh fruit, herbs and produce: in a cocktail.

Sweet Adelita: bebida de jamaica

The latest Lelo Homemade is all about drinking your harvest, with lots of discussion about limoncello. Erin and I have both made it, and because we care about you, we taste it during the show for you. For you. See how we give?

You can listen to the latest Lelo Homemade here, and you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes over here.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'm doing a bit of housekeeping here at lelonopo, so over the coming month you may see odd posts or items reflecting changes, organizing, and clean up. I've been keeping this blog for five years (!) and there's some freshening up needed...I hope to add a recipe digest, and some other items.

First up is a new look and header: what do you think? Take the poll in the column to the right and tell me if you love it or hate it.

I'll be over here with my broom continuing the clean up.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes

Guess what is ripening?
Becoming an official master gardener has been incredibly beneficial. So much great information, access, and practice. If you've run into me at a farmer's market giving advice and answering questions, you've caught me in my element. I may ask you 20 questions until I give you an answer, but that's just how we master gardeners roll.

But I digress. One of the things I've learned since becoming a master gardener is what the difference is between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. When shopping or reading about them in catalogs, you may notice they're labeled one or the other. Sometimes semi.
-Determinate means they're determined to produce all at once. Meaning, these tomatoes produce a massive amount all at the same time, and once they're done and picked, they're done for the season.
-Indeterminate means the time they produce is undetermined and they'll produce throughout the season.

Most people plant indeterminate tomatoes because the joy of a fresh garden ripe tomato is slicing and eating them fresh throughout the season. Well, that is when you have a good tomato growing season, meaning other than the one we've had here in the Northwest this year. But now I'm starting to show my bitterness, aren't I?

I planted several determinate tomatoes this year because I was determined (get it? determined? determinate?) to grow my own tomatoes for canning sauce. I would need a lot of tomatoes all at the same time for that. I've been patient, I've been waiting, and looking at the photo above, it looks like they're finally ripening. It must be the cute dog sitting nearby that's helped them along, no?

We've enjoyed a few tomatoes from our indeterminate vines...Black Krim, Big Boy....but not much. However, those San Marzano and Romas are looking pretty good for sauce making. And saucemaking is definitely on my radar in the coming weeks. Oh fickle tomatoes. I'm determined to see you ripen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, start your hot water baths. It's time to get canning.

Zucchini pickles in the jar
It's high time for canning and we're chatting about it on the latest Lelo Homemade.

I may not have a love of pickles, but I can respect the pickle, and this week Erin joins us to talk about her micro CSA, The People's Pickle, and all of the pickling she's been up to. Seriously. She's the Mistress of Pickling and will pickle anything...including grapes! I tried one last night and they're tasty, and pickly. Is that a word? Pickly? Pickley? Pickle-like? Picklepackle? I'll stop.

Anyway, listen in on our latest chat over at Lelo Homemade....

chubby pickle

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The game I can't get enough of

I can't help it. This whole "Where's Wink?" thing brings me joy. When my brother was little, and I was but a preteen, I loved reading books to him. Our favorites were Richard Scarry books. This is before "Where's Waldo?" because the precursor to those were finding the Goldbugs in the Richard Scarry books. We'd flip the pages and search diligently for Goldbug, a little figure among many on the wonderfully playful spreads. Anyone remember the pickle car? Anyway, there perhaps is an explanation for why I love "Where's Wink." And with that? Here's the latest. Wherever could she be? (the flag was out in honor of 9/11)

It's time for another game of Where's Wink?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Those trees you're smelling all over Portland right now

clerodendrum harlequin glorybower
This is a cross post to my latest column over at Just Out.

There’s one!

There’s one! Ooh, and there’s one!

I’ve been saying this while driving or walking around Portland neighborhoods recently. I’ve become my mother, eyeing and pointing out trees or plants I know, love and recognize. As a teenager, I’d roll my eyes when my mom would do this. Why does she always have to call out the plants she sees? I’d ask in my head. But alas, we all become our parents, and with all of the Clerodendrum c. trichotomum “harlequin glorybowers” in full bloom right now, I’ve become my mother.

In late summer, harlequin glorybower trees fill our yards and streets with their scent. Their full blooming white flowers make them easy to spot in this time of year that can be barren of blooms. It is because of this, their blooms, that I’ve been pointing them out and shouting, “Another!”

The rest of the year, harlequin glorybowers are quiet things, providing green backgrounds to other stars that flaunt and command the stage. A solid form when pruned correctly, they’re a staple in many gardens, invisible until late August. And did I mention their scent? Just thinking of it makes me swoon a bit. Their rich, heady, hot weather fragrance comes from this summer bloom, weighing heavy in the air on a warm day or evening. As a matter of fact, a police officer attending to a neighborhood event late one night recently asked me what kind of tree that was, noting how incredible it smelled. See? I’m telling you: it’s such a magnificent scent even cops notice it.

There are many things I love about harlequin glorybowers. At the top of the list is that when you crush or crumble the leaves, they smell just like peanut butter. I also love that they leaf out late in spring, allowing for seasonal blooms that require sun to flourish at their feet. They’re generally healthy trees, growing with ease in our climate to a size of 15 to 20 feet or more. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many harlequin glorybowers that are improperly or severely pruned, and one of their best assets can be their shape or form.

If you have a harlequin glorybower, make sure it’s situated in a spot with ample room to grow, and take care of doing only bits of pruning at a time. A downside of the harlequin glorybower is they do have a tendency to send up suckers or shoots from their roots. This can be great if you want to produce more trees, and give them away to fellow gardeners. If I’m not sharing mine, I cut unwanted shoots down, below the ground. They can grow quickly so don’t wait to trim them out or you might end up with a whole new tree.

Here’s a secret to know about the harlequin glorybower: just when you thought its biggest show was with its late summer fragrant bloom, there’s more. Come fall, the maroon/purple calyxes hang on and turquoise-colored fruit replaces the white blooms—crazy colors to see in the garden.

Underneath our harlequin glorybower, I plant a plethora of spring blooms like hyacinth, jonquils and lily of the valley. When summer arrives and the tree has leafed out, the hostas fill in, making the deep shade a cool and tranquil place to visit—and a very special spot for a summer nap, among the heady fragrance of that magic summer flower.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

What is the state of your garden?

me and my beans
What’s the State of the Garden in early September? On the latest episode of LeLo Homemade we do an early September check in (and perhaps bitch session) about the rough time many of us Portland area gardeners are having, especially with our tomatoes. Do you realize I haven’t had one BLT this summer? So wrong, in so many ways.

We chat with fellow gardener Amy, author of Gazelles on Crack, about what’s going on in her garden, and her history of growing corn, and naming them after people. In fact, she names all of the plants in her garden. And talks to them! Aaah, we gardeners are a strange lot, aren’t we? Amy is fun.

I also give some tips on how to deal with those tomato plants right now, and do a little reflection on what’s going so well in the garden. My glass is not half empty, and neither is yours. Beans! Herbs! Arugula! Focus on the positive people. And reflect a little to remember next year.

Listen in here:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Of highlights and green tomatoes


I stepped into the back garden this morning, cool air brushing the hair at my nape. The sun shone, but the air has a nip in it. Not much, just enough to let me know.

It’s transitioning.

Last night with friends under the arbor, I interrupted conversation to blurt out “The geese.” The V in flight shows soon after I hear their honking. The geese flying low, overhead, between the two rivers tells me what I already know.

It’s transitioning.

The syrup for peaches sat cooling on the counter, next to the box of fragrant, delicate fruit, awaiting their processing. This year no canning of peaches but instead, wet packed in bags, destined for the freezer. As I filled the bags, I saw it. The light coming through the glass pitcher of syrup on the counter. It wasn’t warm orange, but it wasn’t the color of light in July, either. That is a crisp clear light. Today, I saw the light turning and beginning to glow.

It’s transitioning.

I’ve been vacillating between anger and fear this week. Anger at a whole row of tomato plants yet to produce a red tomato, but heavily laden with green fruit, even though it is already September. At the first day of September wet with rain and dark with a grey sky. Fear of a long winter beginning too early, and what that means for my self care against seasonal sadness. The short dark days of winter loom on the horizon, and all I want is some time to feel the summer heat, hold onto a great tan, and gaze at my silver polished toes in sandals. For evening walks, driving with my sunroof open and hanging laundry out to dry.

My hairstylist and I debated the pros and cons of continuing my summer highlights or transitioning to my winterly darker colors. I’m grateful she suggested “We should keep the highlights until next time.” And so as we step into this cool September, I accept that we may be transitioning into a new season. But my hair? It’s still holding out for summer’s sun, and my tomatoes? They are too.

We’re transitioning.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Great Butt Bush of Texas

Here's a lesson: Take a step away from your pruning, and look at the big picture. It might not be what you intended.

The rare texas butt bush

And thus, the butt bush.

The great butt bush of Texas

Thanks to my dad for sending their neighborhood butt bush along. May this be a lesson for all of us.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

I may not have tomatoes, but I have cherry tomatoes

I also have a box of peaches, and guess what? I didn't kill all of my basil. In celebration of these things, I'm making Penny's Tomato Peach Basil Salad. See it and drool over it here.

Vacation is a very good thing

Have been away and it's been a bit quiet here. Here are some photos from a trip to Central Oregon to tide you over.