Monday, October 29, 2007

Springtime in October

I am the laziest of bloggers!

My garden is a bit overgrown and I've started the dehydrating a leetle bit, but mostly I've just been enjoying cooking with the herbs and tomatoes that I'm still getting out of it.

My birthday was last week and Josh & Joanie sent me a bit of spring in October. I LOVE tulips, so decadent out of season.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ahhhh Vacation

A blogging hiatus was taken while we enjoyed the flowers, family and friends of the Pacific Northwest. Here are a few pictures.

Aunt Susan in the beautifully sculpted garden of her friend's house at her 40th wedding anniversary.

The Columbine and Indian Paintbrush were in bloom in Three Sister's Wilderness. Here's a few examples of where we were and what we saw.

After the hike we headed with Josh and Joanie to the Willamette Valley and the Columbia River Gorge for a food and wine weekend. Here's their take on Blackberries. And a picture of scones:

If you ever happen to be in Corvallis/Philomath, OR when they are having a wine dinner, check out Gathering Together Farm, an organic farm that believes in sustainable agriculture. If you click on the wine dinner's area and scroll down to the 8/11 dinner you can see pictures of our dinner and the menu. MMMMMM!

Ok, more tomorrow, I may still be on west coast time, but I'm tired!!!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pizza on the Grill

C&J had us over for dinner the other night and made pizza on the grill. I'd heard of it and we'd been wanting to try but hadn't been bold enough. Last night we gave it our own try and it was delicious.

The basil was taking over the herb garden so we plucked about 6 cups of basil leaves and made pesto for the base. I froze the rest of the pesto, we'll be eating well this winter too. I cheated and made the pizza dough in the bread machine as it makes a phenomenal dough in less than an hour and a half. Had some lamb in the fridge that we fried up (next time we'll grill it first and slice it onto the pizza) and used fresh tomatoes and parmesan and a bit of english farmhouse cheddar that we had in the fridge. We chopped up olives and sprinkled on some smoky turkish biber spice and 3 kinds of fresh oregano from the garden for the veggie pizza and carmelized some shallots in olive oil for both pizzas.
The pizza dough needs to be rolled very thin and cooked most of the way before the toppings go on. Then you put on the toppings and put the pizza on the grill to melt the cheese and warm them through. Because we have a gas grill, we used hickory chips to give the dough a bit of a smokey flavor. As you can see, we did the the lamb pizza first and started in on it before the veggie pizza came off. A glass of white wine, a salad and we were all set.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Paella Pix

Dinner with friends the other night on the patio. YUM! We've been waiting since January to use our new Paella pan. We got it in Seattle at The Spanish Table which is an adorable shop just below the Pike Place Fish Market. The paella pan is supposed to serve 10, of course I don't think they figured on the amount of cheese we ate beforehand, besides we were only 6. Luckily, leftovers are yummy.

We made the paella on the grill. It probably took us all day to make as there was lots of shopping and prep work before we could actually start cooking. We have an electric grill which is great as we can control the heat. A lot of the ingredients were cooked seperately and added at the last minute. We got fresh peas from the bean guy at the Waverly Market, if you haven't had them they are soooo good.

Apparently the traditional way of serving Paella is to put a bowl upside down and place the salad bowl on top. We made cucumber-yogurt-mint salad which was quite refreshing with the paella and made white sangria with mango and a red traditional sangria. mmmmmm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Berries Galore!

It's great having good friends and a tradition each year where you go out and cut yourself to ribbons to obtain fruit. This weekend we had our third annual berry picking with our friend Chris. Now understand that his wife had the wonderful excuse of the child's nap to stay home in the air conditioned house on this blistering day. We garbed ourselves in long pants, hiking shoes and short sleeved shirts (big mistake as we were all cut up on the arms). We put on our berry picking hats and went to our secret spot in northern Baltimore County.

We were probably only picking for an hour but it sure seemed like four. Between the 3 of us we probably picked about 12 quarts of berries. Chris said he was going to make sauce, my sweetie said he was going to make scones. I made jam. There are some crazy people who actually spend their Saturday afternoon standing over a pot full of boiling sugar syrup for 1/2 hour in the middle of July in 95 degree heat. I guess I qualify. Take a look. I want to make schaum tortes this weekend. I think I'm going to have to serve them with frozen berries though as I doubt our berries will make it a week. I'll let you know how they turned out.

Hot summer nights

Zucchini is the pride and joy of summer. I love it, and torture my man by slipping it into everything from rice pilaf to curries, I've even dehydrated it for our backpack trips. Now the last time I tried growing zucchini all I grew was this vine that attracted moths. I spent quite a bit of time digging the zucchini worm out of the vine. Never got a zucchini. I've decided that buying them or having friends provide them is the best way of obtaining zucchini.

We went to the library last weekend and got this great Turkish cookbook in which I found a zucchini cake recipe. This is not your sweet cake type these are like potato latkes made with zucchini. As it was 92 degrees out, we decided to fry them outside on the grill.

You peel and grate 1.5 lbs of zucchini (love the cuisinart) then salt it for 15 minutes and squeeze to drain some of the water, then combine with fresh parsley and fennel (called for dill, next year I'm growing dill), some egg, feta and flour. Mix it up and fry it in small cakes.

We served it with some yogurt and asian spiced chicken and a yogurt-garlic-cucumber-chocolate mint sauce. We also made raspberry gin and tonics, squeezing the raspberries into the glass and filling it with tonic, a touch of lime and a bit of gin. Very pretty drinks.

For dessert we decided to walk to the Giant. One of the reasons we live where we do is we are able to walk 1 mile to the left and get to the Giant and one mile to the right and get to the Eddies. Very practical. It was a tough decision but we chose ice cream on a stick for the practicality of walking home. Now understand that this is no ordinary ice cream on a stick. The Dove triple chocolate ice cream bar has a 1mm thick (this is thick) coating of chocolate surrounding chocolate ice cream with a fudge swirl. The chocolate pieces break off in your hands and you eat them seperately. Ok so maybe we should have gone to the gym instead ;-)

By the way, the tomatoes have started.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cooking with Herbs

So I haven't done much in the way of gardening lately, it's mostly just been watering. The grass is cut and not growing as it's too hot out. I'm eagerly awaiting my tomatoes which I'm hoping the 100 degree heat will ripen in the next few days, in the meantime we've been experimenting with cooking the herb garden.

Friday night we made a creamy pesto with pasta and pork tenderloin. Here's what we did:

2 cups basil (packed)
5 cloves of garlic
1/4 c pine nuts
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan
a bit of parsley (the parsley is growing slowly)

Put all this into the food processer and process until it is a puree, then slowly add about a cup of heavy cream. I let it sit for about 2 hours in the fridge before using it (as that's when we ate).

We browned some rounds of pork tenderloin in butter until they were 1/2 cooked, removed them and deglazed the pan with some Pinot Grigio. Then I added about 1/4 cup of the pesto sauce and the tenderloin rounds and cooked for about 10 minutes until they were done. I boiled some shells and added some more of the pesto to that. We actually browned the pork and made the pesto around 4pm and then finished it up at 7 only taking 10 minutes or so. Presto pasta meal. Now we just have to finish the pesto, I don't think it's going to freeze well with the cream in it.


Sunday night we made a chilled cream soup with sorrel, fennel fronds (left over from grilling the fennel bulb the night before), shallot and avocado. Here's how:

Chop up the shallot and saute until soft in butter
Add fennel and about 2 cups of chicken stock (we use minors at home)
cook until fennel is tender
Add about 2 cups of chopped sorrel (removing woody stems) and let cook another 2 minutes
Turn off heat and add cream, 1 chopped avocado and a bit of lemon juice. Puree with the immersion blender being careful not to slop it all over the kitchen counter like I did. Salt to taste. Pour into bowls and chill for 1/2 hour.

The soup was still warm in the middle but cool around the edges so the dichotomy between cool and warm soup was interesting. I like mine all the way pureed but if you wanted avocado chunks you could mash it in with a potato masher, though it wouldn't be as creamy.

Next time I make something herblike I'll try and post pictures. Tomatoes please ripen!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rain today

Does having rain mean that the grass is going to grow again? We had a lovely thunderstorm this afternoon. It is now muggy out (I work til 9 tonight, who cares, it's cold in here) so I'm guessing that the lawn will not be cut in the next 24 hours but will again be above the height that any normal neighbor would be happy to see in a lawn. Hint hint.....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Girl vs Kudzu

I had the day off of work yesterday. It was a typical Baltimore June day (read, HOT) and I decided I absolutely had to trim the vines on the side of the house. We have a beautiful climbing hydrangea that is very quickly being taken over by kudzu.

Now I don't have anything against Kudzu, except maybe that it is taking over the entire southeast. It has very pretty berries in the fall, a healthy green foliage and spreads like wildfire. If you haven't seen some of the crazy pictures out there, check out the Wikipedia article.

I spent the afternoon high on a ladder pulling it down. As you can see I now have a clear patch on the wall but still have to get up to the top and pull the stuff off the front. The Hydrangea is the vine to the right and if I had taken the picture correctly you could see that there's another hydrangea vine that goes around the front of the house. It's very slow growing so doesn't overwhelm, but with the kudzu killing it off, it needed help.

As you can see here, the kudzu is now overwhelming the trash can. :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2 choices

While I'm greatly enjoying sitting on my butt watching the garden grow, it is time to get back to work again. I have 2 choices for where to start.

The first is to fix up the box garden on the new patio. It looks lousy as it is always in the shade and there are daylillies planted there. What I need is a shade garden but I'm not so very big on hostas. I could plant a couple of ferns, maybe some columbine (seems to be the in thing this year), forget-me-nots, and maybe a bleeding heart and a shooting star (those are neat) but how to fill in a 1 foot by 14 foot space with a grill in front.

The second choice is to actually clean up the front yard between the sidewalk and the road. This is not a fun project. Last year I moved some of the daylillies from the back box garden and they are doing wonderfully but for the most part there is lots and lots of ivy, some withering heather that does splendidly until June hits and lots and lots of snow on the mountain (more each year in fact). Maybe I'll just leave that one for now. Any suggestions for what to do with the heather?

Friday, June 8, 2007


In one day we went from that evil looking bud to this. It was soooo bleeding hot today (96, welcome to Baltimore) that everything just went boom. The sorrel went crazy (time for salmon in sorrel cream sauce) and the herbs that I plucked are double their size.

Another view of a nasturtium. (Ok so I'm a bit nasturtium crazy this week, now we get to eat them, fun!)

So I'm busily watching my plants grow and watering them a bit, but where do I go from here? I could go help Pam's sweetie in his garden (nah) or I could trim the neighbor's wisteria and the climbing hydranga from the house. Darling, Can you help me?

Thursday, June 7, 2007


The Herb/Veggie garden is really taking off.

The nasturtiums are starting to bloom, evil looking things aren't they?

Can you believe I chopped the Lavendar back 2 days ago. It's huge!

These are the Lemon Boys....mmmmmmmm tasty in 1 month. Buds many many buds on my 6 tomato plants. Watch all the tomatoes ripen in August while we are away. Who is volunteering for tomato eating duty?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Empress of India

Nasturtium bejeweled in the rain today. Check out the large format by clicking on the photo.

Bricklaying Days 1 & 2

It's raining today so I have time to do this. Besides, the patio is done and Sunday is a day of repose.

Saturday morning we started by laying the string lines. This complicated process was made interesting by the fact that we only had a tiny string level and too much brainpower.

Next, you can see how we've started laying the first row on Saturday night. Much to our dismay, this all came up as day two man number three came with a lovely water level (which I did not see in motion as I was playing marshmallow shooter at the time).

Here the men show an excellent example of a screed board in motion. Notice the hose on the left attached to my flowers. You must first spritz, then screed, then tamp then smooth, then pull up the boards you are screeding on, then fill the board holes then smooth then tamp again. UGH

Believe me when I say that I know this firsthand as it was I that laid the walkway. Screed, haul, brick, screed, haul, brick, drink diet coke.

Here is a lovely demonstration of brick cutting. As you can see, we didn't have the wet saw on day two. Cut, chisel, break, start over cut chisel. We abandoned after day three and just rented.

At dinnertime, we are 1/2 done, all screeded except for the walkway and ready to eat. Good thing I made dinner the night before.

We were blessed with a lovely thunderstorm right at the end of dinner which meant sundaes inside. Now what this means is the rest of the work will be done by the two of us. OOF!

Days 3 4 and 5.

So this is where we were at day's 3-5. It takes a while to finish a patio. You can see the sides where we hadn't yet rented the saw. We've started to put the sand down at this point.

The Finished Product!!!

Notice the beautiful edges that wecut with the wet saw. It was my job to measure and his job to cut. I think I got the better end of the deal as it was loud, wet and disgusting.

Anyone feel like helping build stairs?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

We're done!


And I thought the herb garden was bad. We are done and I'm very happy we're done. My body is even more happy as it HURTS. It only took until Wednesday night to finish the patio (I took the day off Tuesday but not Wednesday). We have no stairs, we have to finish trim work (wood trim we've decided, Chris we need your table saw) and there's a few little drainage problems that need tamping, but in the meantime, we are very happy to be DONE. We toasted with gingerale when we finished cleaning up last night at 9:30. Too exhausted to actually drink anything. We even hauled all the broken brick to the back so the yard is clean. YAAAY.

Pictures will follow when I am less exhausted at night. (We've been going to bed at 10 and sleeping straight through til 8) Just how long does it take to get sand out of the house.....?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sand Glorious Sand

The stoneshooter was here today. We have sand! Now the fun part begins. Check out the sand shooting across the back yard.
Here's the patio before sand.

That's a big truck!!

Half the sand is in at this point, the bushes are weighted down and we are covered in sand dust. It's a good thing we took a bit of time and covered the window with a blue tarp because the sand was shooting straight onto the sliding door. We covered some of the grass with a tarp as well but should have been better prepared as we now have a large sandy area where we used to have grass. It worked much better than a wheelbarrow though. We figured out that it equaled 10,000 pounds of sand, luckily, we only have to shovel it around the patio, not from the back yard where the truck was parked.
Ok time to go shovel.....

Monday, May 21, 2007

Brick Patio Approaching

We have finished painting around the patio. I did the wood, he did the concrete. It only took us about an hour and a half on Sunday. It looks really nice, I can't wait for the brick to be put down.

Wednesday we will get the wood so we can SCREED (a new word for me) the sand right into place after the stoneshooter puts it on the patio on Friday. They will bring 5 tons of sand and shoot it right into our lovely setup. Cross your fingers that the setup is done.

Before we can place the wood we have to remove everything from the patio, this includes the ugly steps which we haven't decided if we will replace or not. I'm not looking forward to cleaning under those stairs, I think there's sheet metal from years ago.

Pictures will follow on Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

So what's next....

I think there must be something in the air in spring that makes you want to do stuff. Yesterday morning (yes Monday) found me on my hands and knees at 8am scrubbing the hardwood floors. The stairs looked dirty, what can I say. At least it wasn't in high heels this time.

The weather here in Baltimore has just been fantastic. We've had cool nights in the 50's and days around 65-70. It could stay like this all year round as far as I'm concerned.

The herb garden is in and I've even remembered to water it. The fennel and the sorrel are really starting to grow, unless I'm imagining things. I've put some flowers in pots around the patio so it looks nice and best of all the azaelas are in bloom.

When we first moved into the house I was charmed by our little patio, we went out and got the grill and the patio furniture and enjoyed it all summer. The next May I was shocked, amazed and pleased to see how the azaelas bloomed. We have a beautiful compliment of them. I can't take the credit, but at least I get to sit out on my patio and appreciate. :-) That's where the nice glass of white wine and the umbrella comes in handy.

So what next? We're gearing up for Memorial Day weekend when we'll put pavers on the patio. Take a look at what we have and you'll see why we are putting down the brick. The concrete is all corroded and looks really bad. We'll put stone dust down on top of it, tamp it down and then lay the pavers on top and spread sand. It's going to be quite the adventure. At least it's all framed out and we're getting the Stoneshooters to put the stone dust right on the patio.

And here's the brick. I think it's going to look great.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Planting in steps

What do most people do on a Friday night? Well maybe they go out to dinner, maybe they get together with friends, maybe they mulch? I poured myself a glass of wine and proceeded to do just that.

Thursday night Ali and I went to Valley View Farms and bought all the herbs. Verrry exciting. It was hard to stop, good thing I had a list.

Friday I went for more mulch and manure. I shoveled it in and then laid the plastic sheeting on top. Apparently this is supposed to keep the weeds from popping up all over.

After laying the plastic I laid everything out to visualize how it would look. I think it looks GREAT! Here's one from the side.

Planting however was a pain because the plastic was installed. I had to move the bits of plastic out of the way, dig my hole, cut a hole in the plastic, and shove the plant through all without breaking off the stems. (Killed one of my nasturtiums this way, hopefully it will come back. Here's a few more pictures. What do you think?

The finished product. Watch it grow.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Waaay too long.....

Ok so I broke down tonight. It was a beautiful evening and I got home from work early. My sweetie was off somewhere so I decided to surprise him and cut the lawn. I think I can safely say that I have cut it for the last time this year. Yuk! It was a toss up between the gym, which I've been doing a FINE job of avoiding, and cutting the lawn for exercise. I think the lawn was harder.

We have an electric lawnmower which means you have to tug the orange extension cord around behind you. Now if you are smart or not as lazy as I am, you tie the cord from the lawnmower in a knot with the cord from the extension cord, that way, when you step on the cord (every time you back up) you don't unplug the lawnmower.
It's a good thing our lawnmower is electric, read light, because there is a lovely hill next to our house and in order to cut it, I have to take a running start and fly up the hill, then, being careful not to trod on that cord, push with all my might while walking backwards so that my feet don't get taken off by the blades coming back down. When the grass is this long it makes it doubly fun as the lawnmower clogs and starts to wheeze and choke and you have to lift it up so the clods fall out.
When I finished the hill, I had to decide whether to leave the back or cut it as well. Cutting it means taking the lawnmower down the hill around the patio and up the stairs because, of course, the "herb garden" (see below) now blocks off the hill from the back yard. What a pain, I'm glad I don't cut the grass. Having finished, I sat with more peach iced tea admiring my work. Looks good, now if only my nose would stop running.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


So I laid the brick walkway today. Take a look!

Here's one of my lavendar and phlox from the patio. See the blue tarp in the background? Jay's froggie is standing proud after 3 years.