A New Monastery Garden

garden book biasOne of the worst things that happened in 2013 was my mom’s sister deciding she had to sell this house which would have meant we’d have to move.  One of the best things that happened this year was that our good friend bought her out and now owns half of it with my mom.  I can finally plan a garden here.  So on New Year’s Eve I pulled out all of my garden books for inspiration and took pictures of the front yard.  Then I measured the dimensions and graphed it out.

My garden bias is totally obvious.  It’s all about the herbs, the vegetables, and the – oh – I didn’t pull my rose books out but it’s also all about the roses.

useless shrubThis is what our front yard looked like on the last day of the year.  Remember when I took out the other spider condo?  There has been some major spider trafficking going on in the remaining one.  Check it out:

P1000435This is just a small sample of the vast collection of spider egg sacks in the undergrowth of this most useless bush.  But back to the before pictures.  There was still one more agapanthus clump on this side of the front garden.  It fell to Philip to destroy it.

view from drivewayLook at it just sitting there mocking us.  It knows, and we know, that that appearance of winter weakness is a sham.  Just a little rain and this thing will get BIGGER.  So yesterday, on the first day of the year, we set to work.

cleaned upAnd cleared that damn space!  I even swept the sidewalk.  Now we have to figure out what to do with all the stuff we pulled out.  Yard waste filled up very fast and there’s still such a big pile that Philip can’t get the car out of the driveway.  I feel so relieved to see those awful institutional plants eradicated.  Once they were gone I made a wonderful realization.  Remember the monastery garden I built at my last house?  Here, have a look:

monastery garden blue chairAnd from my office:

view from officeIt turns out that I can recreate this garden in my new one on a slightly smaller scale.  I can only allow 2′ for pathways which means no wheelbarrows.  But once these beds are filled up there won’t be any need for that.  Some of the beds will have to be smaller but I can totally do it.

graphed planThat weeping cherry tree will be getting removed once we can find someone to give it to who will dig it up.  I am so excited I’ve been spazzing out all day about it.  So, it’s time I get off the computer and do some other yard work.  Philip is going to go tackle the agapanthus on the other side of the walkway.

 

The One Where Max Helps Cook Thanksgiving Dinner

butter magicThis Thanksgiving was the best one I’ve ever had.  And I’ve had a lot of great ones.  The only thing missing was my sister, Tara, who rarely misses spending the day with us.  I truly wish she could have been here with us.  My brother came which was fantastic.  Better yet – he wasn’t antsy to leave the minute he arrived which he’s been known to do in the past.  He actually seemed mellow and stayed with us for all the fun.  My close friend Chelsea came to eat with us too – a special treat since we haven’t spent Thanksgiving with her in several years.

So here’s what we had on the menu:

Salt-roasted chicken

Stuffed baby butternut squash

Grapefruit and avocado salad

Fondant potatoes

Pecan Pie

stuffed squashMy pictures are crap because it was late afternoon when I took them.  This is my squash with mushroom stuffing using wheat bread and homemade stock.  They were so good!

extra stuffingI had enough to cook a dish of stuffing on its own.  (By the way, this is before it was cooked, it’s much prettier when it comes out of the oven)

Philip and Max  cookingBut this is the thing that made my Thanksgiving the best one ever.  Max has discovered (through a youtube video gamer) the youtube food channel  called “Food Wishes” which is where he found a recipe for salt-roasted chicken that he thought sounded good.  He requested we make it for Thanksgiving.

That’s the first food request Max has made for Thanksgiving in his entire life!

I obviously said yes and then informed him that he would have to make it with his dad, since I still haven’t recovered fully from the horror of cutting the tip of a chicken wing off and almost hurling because it disturbed me so much.  He agreed, so I bought them an organic chicken from Whole Foods and these two made the recipe from the video together.

This post is pretty much about Max from here on out.  I think you can excuse the single focus this time.  It’s pretty epic.

Max making chickenThis is Max, my extreme picky eating and non-cooking son, salting a chicken.

Max cookingI’m sure you’re as excited as I am and need to see another picture of him SALTING A CHICKEN.

salt roasted chickenHere it is, fresh out of the oven.  Chelsea, an incredible cook, advised that the chicken be covered with foil and a cloth and be allowed to rest.

another view of chickenIn case you didn’t see enough of this chicken already – I offer you this slightly different view of it.  You are totally amazed and proud of Max for helping to make this roasty bird, right?

The verdict on this recipe is that it is amazing!  The meat was juicy and tender and everyone loved it.  Except for me, obviously, because I was the only vegetarian in the house.  Every last scrap of the meat was eaten up – most of it that night.  Max declared it wonderful.  Even the thyme and butter sauce made from the chicken crusty stuff.  He loved the sauce.  Even with the green bits of thyme in it.

MAX MADE A CHICKEN AND ATE IT AND LOVED IT.

winter saladChelsea made this wonderful grapefruit and avocado salad with a grapefruit vinaigrette and feta.  It was refreshing and delicious.  Max didn’t eat any of it, of course.

The fondant potatoes were finished last and everyone was too full to eat them except for Max and I.  I tested the recipe earlier in the week and it was already Max approved (that’s two winning recipes tried from Max’s fave food channel)

I also gave myself a very painful oil burn making the potatoes.  But, whatever.

DUDES.  MY EXTREME PICKY EATER HAS A FAVORITE COOKING CHANNEL.

There was also a pecan pie adventure but I don’t care about that right now.

kid pouring rumMax has also developed an interest in mixing drinks, which I think I’ve mentioned before.  Usually he plays around with mixing different sodas or juices together but we let him make Chelsea and his Grandma a rum and pineapple cocktail.

rum and pineappleThat cocktail shaker is his own.  Philip found it at a thrift store for him.

Max the mixerThis is the first Thanksgiving for which Max had any interest at all in what was being served, sat with his family to eat, helped cook part of the meal, and hung out with us all.  We did do some things his way too – we watched a couple episodes of South Park with him.

As if all that wasn’t enough – two days later he tried my rosemary potatoes and likes them.  Fondant potatoes were the first non-fried potato dish he’s liked since he was 2 years old, and the rosemary potatoes are the second.  Rosemary potatoes are arguably the healthiest way to eat potatoes.

Max’s relationship with food is changing slowly and these moments are, for me, like big miracles.  Max was the kid who, when he was five, went a week eating only goldfish crackers (and was angry that no other food tasted good to him).  He is the child who once told me that he wished he could take pills for food instead of eating it, because then he wouldn’t have to taste bad tastes or experience horrible textures, or look at gross food.

The other thing is that he’s eating tangerines again now that they’re in season again and several days last week he ate tangerines and carrots IN THE SAME DAY.  Do you know how often he eats two kinds of produce in one day?  Never.

I don’t imagine that everything is going to change over night.  He still only eats produce at all because I make him.  He still eats very little variety.  But ever since late spring he has been exploring new foods and very slowly adding things to the roster of foods he likes.  What I’ve always believed about him is beginning to prove true: that this kid will someday be a gourmand.

Excuse me while I tell a lot of people “I fucking told you fucking so!”

Something I know in my bones and have known for many years now through all the frustration of raising a kid who would rather starve than eat something repugnant to him is that forcing food on him, fighting about food, making him feel bad because he’s so hard to feed would not have resulted in him arriving at this point at the age of 13.  If I had done as so many other well-meaning-but-totally-WRONG people have advised, his relationship with food would have deteriorated even more and become dangerously problematic.

Yeah, not done yet…

Accepting and working with his extreme limitations and understanding that his violent food aversions are real and very unpleasant for him has given him the room he needs to explore food on his own terms.  The most important thing is that I’ve never had expectations that he would one day be a regular (and maybe even healthy) eater, I only hoped for it.  And even now, after such an incredible breakthrough, I need to accept that this may be as far as he goes. But it will always be my job to encourage him to go farther.

I am expectation-free but I am full of hopes about where this kid is going.

I’m almost done.  Just have to gesticulate rudely at the stupids for a second:
I’m thumbing my nose at all those judgmental parents and relatives and doctors who have lectured me and made both Max and me feel like losers through all these years because he won’t eat like a normal kid and I am, apparently, to blame.  If any of those people had raised Max they would have broken him.

But for the rest of you – you blessed bunch of people who have not judged us and have been encouraging and accepting and awesome – you all ROCK. 

See?  This Thanksgiving was EPIC.  So, how was yours?

Let me remind you that you can give Kindle  books to people as gifts so if someone on your holiday gift list loves post-apocalyptic fiction and strong female main characters – Winter (Cricket and Grey) would make a great gift fo them!  Go buy a copy by clicking on the image which will take you to Amazon:

Homemade Ginger Beer

beautiful gingerale

The first recipe I tried from my friend Emma’s book True Brews was her ginger ale.

You don’t have to buy her book to try this recipe because she’s posted it on The Kitchn for you: Soda Recipe: Homemade Ginger Ale

But I totally recommend you buy her book because it’s worth the shelf space it takes.  I promise!

ginger beerI followed her recipe roughly but was really lazy and sort of ad-libbed a number of things.  It still turned out fantastic!  First of all, I doubled (maybe even tripled) the amount of ginger.  I used less sugar and a lot less lemon.  Normally I take notes when I’m making things like this and I wish I had since the result was so amazing.  However, my friend Sharon made ginger ale using Emma’s recipe too and hers, though different, was also really good.  I love a recipe that works well with all kinds of variations.

I used a dry champagne yeast for my batch.  A number of things almost went wrong.  I peeled my ginger and then let it sit in the fridge for a week.  I didn’t do on purpose.  I just kept not making the soda.  Just before I lost my window of opportunity I pulverized it in my food processor and cooked it.  You know, to kill any mold that might be setting up secret house in my ginger.  But then I left it on the stove for two days.

yeast in actionSo I had to boil it again.  It hadn’t gone bad and had the sugar already added to it which is a preservative, but I’m sure some of my friends would be scared of it at this point.  Not me.  Ultimately, if I’d left it out long enough it would have started fermenting rather than molding.  I mean, fermenting IS a form of controlled rot.  I finally realized that I was being a very bad urban homesteader and finally filled my bottles with my ginger/sugar/lemon/water mix.  And added the yeast.  Fermentation should be complete between 24 and 48 hours depending on amount of sugar and warmth of the space it’s fermenting in.  Guess how long I left it out to do it’s thing?

gingerale frothingYeah, at least 3 days.  Maybe 4.  I opened the bottles and heard a satisfying HISS of pressure being released and smelled the slightest bit of alcoholic fermentation going on.  For soda the ideal is ferment only just until the carbonation is complete, not so that the soda starts turning into alcohol.  Which it will do.  I figured I’d failed.  I put it in the fridge anyway.  I didn’t have the guts to try it for several days because I didn’t want to confirm that I’d messed it up.  So what a lovely surprise when I finally poured myself a taste.  Damn!  So refreshing!  It was super spicy, as I’d intended, and not too sweet, with just the smallest hint of lemon.  Everyone who’s had a taste of my first batch absolutely loved it.  LOVED IT.  It’s total magic.  So easy.  Accommodating to lazy-asses like myself.  If you really do it right you can have tons of ginger ale in two days.  I call mine ginger beer because of the big spicy bite in every sip and the lower sugar amount.  I want to try this with lime next.

Oh yeah, and please buy my book if you haven’t already!

Making Tamales with Chelsea

preparing husksChelsea made the first tamale I’ve ever eaten.  Trader Joe’s made the second one I ever ate which, while good, wasn’t even in the same ball park as the ones Chelsea made.  The third time I ate a tamale I made them myself and couldn’t figure out why I thought they were so complicated that I waited years to do it.  In October I got the hankering for tamales and knew that Chelsea would love to do that with me.

We used the cookbook “Tamales 101” by Alice Guadalupe Tapp for reference but didn’t follow any of her recipes.  It’s an awesome little book and if you want to learn to make tamales and are scared to try it – this book will take all the fear out of it.  Plus, cool pictures, great husk folding instructions, and lots of inspiration for coming up with your own recipes.

I love that the book includes meat, vegetarian, AND vegan recipes.

corn husk tiesYou can use either kitchen string or make ties out of the husks by stripping them to tie the tamales closed.

four tamale fillingsChelsea made a cilantro pesto using pepitas, no cheese, garlic, cilantro, oil, and salt and pepper.  The winter squash ended up having no discernible flavor in the tamales but nutritionally I think it was a good ingredient to include.  We used pink banana squash but there are other varieties with a more robust flavor.  Black beans were the protein we used and we added three pickled jalapenos in each one.  These are the jalapenos I made this year.  Chelsea doesn’t eat dairy and I don’t eat meat, so we made these completely vegan.

filling the tamalesWe included a generous teaspoon of each ingredient in each tamale.

string tied tamaleChelsea chose to tie hers with kitchen string.  The advantage of using string is that it doesn’t break while tying it.

tamale productionI chose to use corn husk ties, the advantage being that you don’t need to buy string, something I don’t happen to keep in my kitchen.  This advantage is especially valuable during an apocalypse.

tamale arrangementChelsea arranged the tamales in a steamer lined with husks (not necessary but kind of cool) and steamed them for over an hour.

finished tamaleThey were very good.  When I steamed mine at home I steamed them too long and dried out the tamale dough.  For the dough we used vegetable stock, chilled (hardened) olive oil, and some squash.  I have to admit that I liked my dough made with butter a little better.  The cilantro pest was amazing in these – gave them a really nice herby flavor and the jalapenos added both heat and a tangy finish.

I don’t intend to wait another two years to make these again.  I want to make more in the next couple of weeks.  I just have to figure out what filling I want to try next.  If I come up with something really good that’s my own creation I’ll be sure to share it with you here.  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe.

I’m going to end every post with a link to my novel because I need people to buy it so I can become a full time paid novelist.  If you haven’t bought a copy yet – go buy it!  It’s a great book about a small town apothecary who gets herself in a lot of trouble when her father dies.  It includes an old inarticulate distiller who makes amazing pickles and cured meats.  The book is available in e-book format only but will soon be available in trade paper and hard back versions.

Farm to Fermentation Festival

Emma demo

Emma Christensen giving a soda making demonstration.

I am so behind on posting what I’ve been up to I hope you will forgive me for backtracking.  In August Philip and I went to the Farm to Fermentation Festival here in Santa Rosa where my good friend Emma was giving a talk on how to brew your own soda.

Emma and friendEmma with a friend.

Emma serving samplesEmma giving samples of her ginger ale, watermelon mint and strawberry soda.

Emma soda samplesYou should have been there to taste them!

serving samplesEmma’s book is a great resource for people like me who are new to brewing.  Her recipes are solid and her directions are clear.  If you want to buy her book you can click on this button:

Emma and Kefir guyEmma with the kefir dude.  There were samples of non-dairy kefir drinks and I really liked one of them but the beet one was a little weird and the chocolate-ish one was awful.  The ginger and honey one was really delicious.

philip tasting kefirPhilip tasting kefir drinks.

fermented goods

Naturally fermented pickles.  The pickled green tomatoes weren’t very good but the cucumber pickle was good.

pickling displayI can never resist taking pictures of produce.

colorful potteryI covet the pickling crocks in all the pretty colors.  They’re out of my price range (most pickle crocks are) but when I have some money this is what I will probably splurge on.

cider applesCider apples.

great ciderThe cider guy.  We lurked in this booth a long time.  The cider is really good and Philip has always been interested in making some cider.

tilted shed ciderThis is the one I really liked.

sour beerSour beer.  I don’t really like sour beer.  I think it’s the kind of thing that could grow on me if I let it.  Not literally grow on me, because that would be really gross, but if I drank it enough I might develop a taste for it.  But as with eating cheese rinds, I don’t see any reason to suffer through unpleasantness in the hopes that eventually I will like it.

Philip and the meaderyI hate mead.  HATE IT.  Philip, however, likes it and enjoys brewing it.  So it was cool that there was mead being represented at the festival.  I’m attracted to mead from a historical standpoint.  It would be  cool to stand around drinking mead from goblets while chewing on the leg of a pig or something.

The fermentation festival definitely got me excited to try some new fermentation projects.  Spending the geeking out over crocks and pickles and beer with friends was so much fun.

You Can Buy My Book on Amazon Now!

cricket-and-grey-cover-imag

You can buy my book on Amazon now in the Kindle Store!!

Winter (Cricket and Grey)

If you need a different e-book format you can get most (Nook, Kobo, pdf) from Smashwords:

Winter (Cricket and Grey)

So yeah, that’s what we’ve been up to lately around here.  Philip has been editing the book and I’ve done the final edit and then we’ve had to figure out how to make it into an e-book and we’ve done it!  Next up is getting print on demand set up for those who want to be able to buy hard copies of the book.  Once that’s done I can get back to the fun of cooking and designing our garden and sewing.

One last thing – if you read my book and enjoy it – please tell others about it!

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 3

pyjama sew along 2To keep elastic from getting stuck in the seam allowance as it’s inserted, use fusible web or machine-basting to anchor them to garment within the casing area.  Be sure to remove basting after casing is finished.

Do the machine basting but do not bother with the fusible web option.  For experienced sewers I can’t imagine this step is necessary (I’ve never done it before) but I think it’s worth doing if you’re a beginner.  A basting stitch is much longer than a regular stitch as its purpose is simply to hold something in place temporarily, so if you’re using a stitch length of “3″ increase the length to “5″ or something equivalent.  It makes it much easier to remove the stitching later.

turning hem underPress 1 1/8″ on upper edge to INSIDE, forming casing.  Press under 1/4″ on raw edge.  Stitch close to lower edge of casing.

turning edge underI hope these pictures help make it clear.  The casing is the channel through which your drawstring is pulled.

ironing casingOnce pressed, pin the casing down to help keep it in place as you stitch along the edge, removing the pins as you get to them.

ready for twill tapeFor new sewers – go slowly.  Don’t rush.  When you get good at stitching close to a pressed edge you will naturally start going faster.  Until you build your skill – just take your time.

There are directions for making a drawstring out of your pants fabric but on the pattern envelope it calls for twill and elastic which is what I did and frankly – if you’re new at this you will want to do the twill version.  Which they don’t exactly mention in the instructions.  Just skip their step 7 and for step 8 – I’m replacing “drawstring” with “twill”.

Cut a piece of elastic the length of back elastic guide.  Pin each length of twill to one end of the elastic, overlapping ends by 5/8″.  Stitch overlapped ends together securely in a box, as shown.

The “back elastic guide” will be indicated on the pants pattern piece.  For the twill: I cut the length the pattern calls for in half.  If the ends are way too long when you wear your pants you can easily cut them shorter.

pushing the pin throughInsert twill and elastic through one buttonhole opening in pants front casing and out remaining opening so that lapped ends are at the side seams and having ends extend evening in front.  Distribute fullness evenly in back waist.  To keep casing flat in the front area, stitch in the ditch or groove of side seam.  Knot ends of twill tape.

Patience help us with commercial patterns!  They do not tell you how to get that twill into the casing and I promise it does not magically slide on through.  Fold the edge of your twill back and put a safety pin through it – as big a safety pin as will fit through the button holes.

Push the safety pin through the casing.  You will have to inch it through, it’s a little tedious.  When you get it out the other button hole you can follow the rest of their directions.

pulling twill tape through

They don’t mention it, but now you can remove the basting stitches if you used them.

You can knot the ends of the twill tape but I would trim it in an inverted “v” instead.

almost doneAlmost done now!  All that’s left is the hem.  Making the hem is the essentially the same as making the casing.

pinning the hemPress the hem up 1 3/8″.  Then press the raw edge under 1/4″.  Pin it in place.  Stitch it down close to the edge.

finishedYou’re almost done.  It looks like you’re done but you really aren’t.

Because now you need to press the crap out of those pajama pants!  After this you probably won’t ever press them again but a really good pressing at this point will set all your seams and hems to behave well.

NOW you’re done!!

What’s next?  Once you’re completely done you need to take a picture of your pants to share and email me the jpeg at angelinawilliamson1@gmail.com.  Once I have gotten all the pics I will share them in a post and then I will randomly pick one of you to get the pair I made.

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Introduction and Supplies List

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: First Steps

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 1

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 2

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 2

pyjama sew along 2

Once again I’d like to apologize for having put this sew-along on hold for such a long time.  After my mother came home from her month long stay at the hospital I was helping her recover and had to start looking for a job.  It’s been very hard to come back to sewing after such a long hiatus.  Thank you for your patience!

Now that you’ve cut out your pattern pieces we come to the first of the pattern’s instructions.  But they aren’t very detailed.  You need to make two button holes for your drawstring to be threaded through.

buttonhole markingsUsing a sharp pencil, poke through the pattern piece to mark the beginning and end of the button hole making sure you can see your pencil marks on the fabric.  Once you’ve done this to one front leg piece you need to turn the pattern over and do the same to the other front leg piece. tracing button holeUse a ruler to make a line connecting your two markings and make it dark enough that you can see the pencil line on the wrong side of the fabric.

Next you need to cut out two 1″ squares of fusible interfacing and iron them onto the wrong side of the fabric centered over the buttonhole you’ve marked.  This will reinforce the button holes.

one inch square interfacingNow make your buttonholes.  My Pfaff machine has a really bad attitude about making buttonholes which makes it a frustrating experience.  Hopefully your machine likes making them.  New sewers – If you haven’t made them using your machine yet you may want to go to a sewing machine shop to get a demo or study your manual and practice a number of times on scrap fabric.  I can’t actually tell you how to do them because all machines do buttonholes differently.

sucky buttonholeI share with you the best (crappy) buttonhole of the two I made.  Honestly, sometimes my machine makes them beautifully and other times not a prayer in heaven will help my machine cooperate.

The next thing you want to do is serge all the raw edges of your fabric except for the waistline and the hem which will be turned under later.  If you don’t have a serger you can skip this step.  I told you in Part 1 that you can zig-zag the edges to keep them from fraying but after doing this on some edges to test it – I can’t recommend it.  It’s totally fine to have raw edges unless the fabric you’re using is a very loose weave.  At the end you can use pinking shears on exposed edges if you want to – but it isn’t necessary.

About sewing the pant legs together – I do it differently than they do in the instructions but I’ve given this some thought and for beginners (and even experienced people) their instructions may actually be better than the way I’ve been sewing pants together my whole life.  So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m sharing photos with you of the way I put pants together because it’s worth knowing how to do it this way too.  But I suggest following their instructions, especially if you’re new at this.  I am going to put their instructions in italics from here on out.

If this is your first ever sewing project you may not already know that you need to always back-stitch a seam at the beginning and end to keep it from coming undone.  To do this you sew forward for just a few stitches, put your machine in reverse and carefully stitch over those stitches.  Then go forward again to the end of your seam and put your machine in reverse again.  Sew just a few stitches backwards and then go forward to the end of the seam and clip your thread.

Stitch front to back at inner leg seams.

press seams openThey do not instruct you to press your seams open.  Which is stupid.  Please press your seams open.

Doing it my way you also stitch the front to the back at the inner seam and then you also stitch the outer seam.  And press them open.

With RIGHT sides together, pin center seam, matching inner leg seams and notches.  Stitch.

You can reinforce your seam by stitching over it once again as their instructions suggest.  I would only do this if you have a tendency to split your seams while wearing pants.  They have you trim the seam allowance down and I suggest you do NOT do this.

right side going insideMy way: you want to turn one pant leg right side out and then slide it into the other pant leg matching up the crotch seam at the notches and the inner leg seam.

sewing the crotchStitch your crotch seam.  Then pull the inner pant leg out.

pant legs togetherThere you are!

Stitch front to back at side seams.

Now press.  This is not an easy seam to press because it’s curved.

crotch seam ironedLater, when the pants are completely finished you’ll press any creases out that your iron created while pressing this seam.

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Introduction and Supplies List

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: First Steps

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 1

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 3

 

My Morning Bicycle Ride: Food in Yards

huge gardenThis morning I took a bicycle ride through the posh neighborhood just a few blocks away.  I decided to spot and photograph all the food I could see in the gardens – mostly looking for front yard vegetables and fruits.  This particular enormous garden has long been a favorite of mine.

driveway corn and melonsI love to see people making use of driveway dividers to grow food.  Here is squash or melons and dried up corn.

persimmons and rock wallPersimmons in the front yard of a charming house that I have always admired.  But since I was focusing on food growing I didn’t snap the house itself.

pearsAcross the street from the persimmons the neighbors have two pear trees.

squash in the front yardThis is my favorite – when vegetables are used in front yards as part of the landscaping for all to see.

strange fruitWhat the hell are these?  I don’t know if they’re edible but I had to include them because they’re weird and cool.  Also – the same yard had an orange tree.

orange treeHere it is.  Look at all those wasting oranges.  That’s a real shame.

grapes and limesGrapes and limes!  I may have spotted rhubarb too but it was hard to tell and I didn’t want to trespass to find out.

applesSmall apple tree.

semisad peach treeThis was planted in the sidewalk strip and I wish I could do that in my strip but I think the city doesn’t allow it and here in my very busy very city block I think it would get the city’s attention.

driveway tomatoesThe owner of these tomatoes came home just as I spotted them.  I asked if I could take a picture of his tomatoes and he said yes, but I think he was really weirded out by me.  This is another driveway divider as garden.  I love it!

front yard veg boxDamn poor picture but this cute little house put a pretty vegetable box right near their front steps.  Super charming!

squash toms and marigoldsAnd lastly – another veg box in a front yard.  They have another on on the other side of the walkway.  I wish my tomatoes looked that robust!

That’s the end of my posh neighborhood food growing tour.

That was a really nice way to start my day.  Unfortunately, my back is hurting so I’m headed back to bed for a while longer to ice and heat it.  Hope you have a great Monday!

Giant Rudbeckias and Plum Moonshine

loving my rudbeckiasI didn’t get much planted this year but I managed to establish three Rudbeckia plants and they just started blooming last week and now they’re busting out the biggest flowers I’ve ever seen a Rudbeckia produce.  Huge!  I can see them out my office window which is a real pleasure.  I’m looking at them right now while you look at the picture of them.

black krimThe tomatoes aren’t doing fantastic but they are finally fruiting and gaining size. They need to be staked better but this Black Krim is just starting to color up.  Black Krims are my favorite tomatoes.

box of good stuffMy friend Chelsea shared the bounty from her (ex)father in law’s garden with me.  I sauteed the yellow crookneck squash for dinner last night with some mushrooms, pureed garlic, salt, and pepper.  Simple – and so good!  The yellow plums weren’t super aromatic but they were sweet with a tart skin so I made plum dipping sauce out of them.  Or, that’s what I had planned.  Then I burnt them so bad I also destroyed the pot I cooked them in.  Luckily it was a pot that was already cracked at the top because it was a piece of crap to begin with.  So I’m mad I wasted all those free plums.

plum moonshineThe red plums are Elephant Heart plums – the best in the whole world in my opinion!  I was worried about not having time to make and can jam with them (they make exquisite jam) so I decided to make plum liqueur.  Then I had trouble finding affordable 100 proof vodka.  It is my opinion that 80 proof makes terrible liqueur unless you really lower the sugar in the recipes, but even then, the 100 proof has the balls to cut through everything and warm your throat and stomach without being the tiniest bit insipid.

I settled on getting everclear because it was cheaper than the 100 proof.  This stuff is 153 proof.  YOWZA!  So I may be needing to dilute it some down the road.  So instead of liqueur I am really making plum moonshine.

I need to find a new source for cheap 100 proof.  Let me know if you know of one.

Well, I’m off to run errands.  For any of you wondering – I will be resuming the pyjama pant project soon.  I know it’s been forever and I’m sure everyone has given up – but I will see it through.  I’m cleaning my office this week to get ready.

Hope you all have a great Friday.  And please tell me what preserving, garden, or craft projects you’re up to right now!