Monthly Archives: May 2013

Reading, Rain and Rally



Yesterday I had grand plans to get the house all cleaned up for the weekend, and it only sort of happened. I tidied a bit and fretted about but didn’t get all of my projects accomplished. It threatened to rain all day, making it the perfect day to stay indoors and get stuff done. It turns out it didn’t rain until the late, late afternoon. And when it started, it was a light mist, so I went out side and sat on the wicker couch and read my book for a bit. I’m reading The Good Earth for book group. We picked it because it’s spring–time for gardening and working with the earth–and it’s a really intriguing look at Chinese farm life in the turn of the century. We read a lot of books about rich white people in our book group , so this is a nice departure from the usual reads. (I should explain this more in a post dedicated to book group…)

Today, I am sweeping and mopping and sorting mail (or maybe just sorting mail). Our next Honor Flight is Tuesday, so there is a lot to do today and tonight to get everything ready. Naoto has been in Connecticut since yesterday and he comes home tonight, too. As much as Presley and I enjoyed having the bed to ourselves last night (SNORE-FREE SLEEP!) we are both looking forward to having him home and getting to hang out tomorrow. We’re going to a Food Truck Rally, then to our community garden orientation and after that, we are planting our garden! I can’t wait!

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Getting Started…


I headed over to the garden plot this afternoon to tackle the weed situation in our plot. As you can tell from above, things were pretty weedy…but our plot wasn’t the worst one, so that made me feel a little bit better as I kneeled down and started pulling. Most of the weeds came out relatively easily, but several of them were really rooted. I have callouses on my hands from all the tugging. I kept thinking, as I was bending over, the drivers sitting at the light on Harlem must see me like one of those “old lady butts” that used to be popular garden decorations. (Do you remember those? No? Maybe it was a regional thing? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an example of one.)

IMG_2003I found this tiny, soft carrot during the weed pulling.


IMG_2007After weeding, I started hauling mulch to our plot. The community garden had a huge mulch delivery that we are all welcome to use. I hauled five buckets to our plot, which was dirty work, thanks to a mulch avalanche onto my feet and the fact that I was doing everything with my tiny garden spade instead of a proper shovel.

IMG_2009After two hours of weeding and hauling, I had this to enjoy:

IMG_2010There is a plant in the corner (garlic maybe?) that I didn’t weed out. I’m not sure what it is and I know I don’t want to keep it, but it’s so big that I think I’ll need a shovel to get it out (instead of my tiny gardening spade). Naoto and I will be back at the garden this weekend to take care of the mystery plant. We’ll plant our seeds and tomato and pepper plants then, too. I am really excited! I’m looking forward to more afternoons of dirty feet and dirty hands this summer!


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Sweet Tooth


This past weekend, I met up with my parents for some garden shopping. We met in our usual spot, Peru, Illinois, which is kind of a halfway point for us. (It’s a bit of a longer drive for me, but it’s worth it because that area has great thrift stores!) We usually go to the same ol’ places but since I was on the hunt for tomato and pepper plants for my garden, they took me to Rural King–“America’s Farm & Home Store”. I did get some plants and some seeds here (more on that later) but I fell in love with the store for other reasons.

Reason #1: the free popcorn and coffee. When you walk in the Rural King door, you are welcomed by the scent of freshly popped popcorn and a pot of coffee. Isn’t that so sweet and old-fashioned? My mom and I helped ourselves to some popcorn while we poked around the candy aisles.

Reason #2: the vintage candy selection! Where else can you get seeds for your garden, parts for your tractor, food for your chickens AND old-timey gum and sweets?! I could have bought one of everything, but I decided to narrow it down to a few things (mainly because I didn’t want my candy bill to out-do my garden bill…so embarrassing…)

Here’s a rundown of my choices:

Chuckles, a sugar coated jelly candy introduced in 1921. (There is an interesting review of the Chuckles flavors here.) I am familiar with Chuckles, but I can’t remember ever tasting them, so I’m looking forward to breaking the package open this week.

Teaberry gum, my faaaavorite gum of all time. It was introduced in 1900 was popular in the 60s. (Has it been on Mad Men?) If you’ve never tried it, I think you should–it’s sweet and has a slight wintergreen flavor…it’s hard to pinpoint…it’s not super minty, it’s just wonderful. And I love the packaging and all of its vintage pink goodness. I found the commercial below and I may have spent a good amount of time this morning perfecting my Teaberry shuffle…

Clove gum is another old gum…there’s not much to say about it except that it’s reeeally clove-y. It’s not bad, but I think one pack would have been enough to walk down memory lane.

Beemans gum is from the 19th century. I’d forgotten what it tasted like. For some reason, I was thinking honey (BEEman…turns out he’s the inventor of the gum and not a bee) but it’s a nice light mint flavor…different than Teaberry, but almost as good!

And finally, Sky Bar. I’d never seen this one before and I am most excited to try it. It’s made up of four sections with four different fillings: caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge. According to the Necco website, the Sky Bar is still the only candy bar to offer four different flavors. I had a very healthy lunch today (involving roasted cauliflower) so I doubt this candy bar makes it through the afternoon.

I think my favorite part of the old-timey candies is that their packaging is usually the original design…no one felt the need to update it to keep up with the “cool kids”. It’s charming and tasty and while I’m eating it, I just can’t help but think (in an old granny voice): They don’t make things like they used to.

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Scenes from the Balcony



Last week spring hit…hard. One could argue that summer hit because we had temperatures in the 80s and I got a little sunburn from enjoying breakfast on the balcony. (I need to be more careful!) For two whole days, I did nothing but sit outside and write letters, read gardening books, eat breakfast, lunch & dinner and enjoy the fresh blooms on the trees. It felt good to soak up some Vitamin D and breathe in the spring air.  This week, it’s supposed to be warm and sunny again. But this week, instead of sitting around dreaming about gardening, I will be weeding out the garden plot, finalizing the planting plan. And that sounds just right to me.






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Cocktail Perfected: The Aviation



April showers bring May flowers…hopefully saying goodbye to a cold, rainy April means saying hello to a warm, bloom-filled May.

This cocktail might be my spring favorite…nothing whispers “hey warm weather” like gin, lemon, maraschino and violet. The creme de violette is one of many gifts from Naoto to my liquor cabinet while he was unable to consume alcohol. I swear, he made a hobby of buying everything on my cocktail-making wish list while he was sober for two months!

I really love the aviation for it’s sweet, tart and floral flavors. The creme de violette might be an acquired taste for some people, but it was instant love for me. It reminds me of those Chowards Violet Mints which remind me of something a grandma would eat. The delicate violet sweetness is kind of lovely and tastes like a sweet flower.


2 oz gin (I used North Shore No. 6)

1/2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

1/2 oz maraschino liqueur

1/4 oz creme de violette

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. (I used an Unbound Maraschino Cherry…they were a birthday gift from Naoto and are so delicious they deserve their own blog post!) Enjoy during a garden party on a fresh spring day!