Category Archives: homemaking

The Circle Garden

We are continuing the tomato jungle tradition at the house… Everything was fine at first. I was even removing lower branches and leaves and suckers and keeping the plants tidy. But then we got a ton of rain all at once and, well, the tomatoes have minds of their own.

The previous owners built these raised beds along the side yard, which faces south. The picture above is from when we first moved in. I call the side yard the working part of the yard–it’s where the garden is, and we placed our composting bin there, and it’s where the air conditioning unit is. It might look like the area gets much sun, but all three beds get a full day’s worth, even with the fence. The old owners left us a huge garlic crop in the bed on the far right and potatoes in the bed to the far left, so we decided to work around them this season, and hopefully we can come up with a better plan for ourselves next spring.

We sort of focused on the middle plot for all of our usual crops. Our tomato plants are doing well with no signs of whiteflies or blight, which is so exciting since the past few years have been pretty sad for our tomato crops. Our basil and thyme and lima beans are thriving too. And we planted a strawberry plant that seems to doing well, and it’s producing many teeny, tiny fruits.

In the potato bed, we planted edible flowers, cucumbers, edamame, and a brussel sprout. Then tragedy struck. I lost two cucumbers and Naoto lost his entire edamame crop to the rabbits. It was heartbreaking! So, in that bed, we still have our potatoes sprawling around the edible flowers and the brussel. We added a tomato (which isn’t doing well because potatoes and tomatoes don’t grow well together) later in the season just to see what would happen.

The borage is booming with blooms and the nasturtium is looking good, but there are no flowers yet. I’m excited to use them both for cocktail garnishes.

Naoto ended up finding some edamame seedlings at our favorite local garden center and we planted them in a hanging basket and so far, they have remained safe from the bunnies!

In the garlic bed, there is tons of garlic, and plenty of nightmare mint spreading all over. In that bed, we planted some zinnias for cutting and some lettuces that are long done. I dug up a few garlic heads last weekend and I’ll probably dig up the rest soon so we can plant some late-season crops and take advantage of the extra room.

We have two of these arches in our basement (one on each side of an arched doorway) with built-in hooks, so that’s where the garlic is curing for now. I’m so excited to have some space in the basement to start seeds and prep for the gardening season. (Some day I will show you the basement, but not until we finish getting the rest of our boxes unpacked and put away!)

It’s book club weekend so I will be finishing Double Indemnity and enjoying the garden walk so I will see you next week!

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It’s Been Awhile

Hello again! It’s been awhile! I can’t believe we are halfway through 2021! And a lot has happened since my last post on November 24th! The biggest news is–we bought a house! We closed out 2020 (literally, on December 31st) by putting an offer on a house we loved. We closed in February, sold our condo in March, and we moved in March. It was a whirlwind! Pictured above is what our back yard looked like when we closed in February with feet of snow on the ground. Thankfully, by the time we moved in, all of the snow had melted and there were signs on spring in the yard!

The month between closing and moving gave us time to have hardwood floors installed on our second floor (replacing the carpet) and to paint most of the first and second floor. It was nice to have a little cushion. We still want to remodel the kitchen and paint the bathrooms and basement, but all in good time!

And Presley has adjusted like a little champion. We were very nervous since she’s older and deaf, but she is loving sneaking upstairs when she’s had enough of us and having afternoon sun naps (something that wasn’t possible in our condo since we faced east.)

We are still settling in–hanging art is so stressful and figuring out how to use all of our extra storage space is more challenging than I anticipated!–but we’re finding our house groove. Naoto has really embraced mowing the lawn (with our reel lawn mower!) and we have three little garden plots along the side of the house to tend. It was sad giving up our Plot 6 at the community garden but we love just popping out the door to tend to our tomatoes.

That’s the news for today–I hope to come back Thursday and share a little more about the house or the garden. And, now we have a larger lanai (really, a back deck) for happy hours and gatherings which is a total dream come true.

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The Garden is Still Growing

I haven’t been to the garden as much as I’d like lately. Naoto has been running down to harvest tomatoes and basil and herbs on an as-needed basis, but yesterday, we were both home and free to go together. As usual, our plot is a jungle of tomato vines, but this year, it’s also a jungle of overgrown herbs and nasturtium! Look at that nasturtium!! I just can’t believe how the plant took off. It seemed like it wasn’t going to do much but now it’s huge and it has lots of flowers inside the big poof a leaves. I just found a recipe for nasturtium pesto, so I think we might experiment with that soon…which is good timing because our basil is done. Some of our tomatoes were slow to produce this summer thanks to the white fly infestation that plagued the garden. But we’ve gotten a decent harvest from our Juliet and a few other heirlooms. We haven’t been overloaded with tomatoes like we have in the past, but it’s definitely enough for us to feel good about plot 6 this summer. I picked a bunch of zinnias, nasturtiums, and marigolds to make a little bouquet for my desk. The zinnias are as tall as me and still going strong. And in other happy garden news, my tiny carrots are coming in! I planted them kind of late in the spring and they were quickly overshadowed by the tomato plants, so I didn’t have very much hope for a harvest, but I think it’s going to be decent! I’m not quite ready to pick them all, but I wanted to do a little test. This variety is supposed to be only 2-3 inches big. We’ve never had luck with root vegetables, so I decided to try a tiny kind and I think it worked!

How is your garden growing? Any other ideas for my nasturtium bounty?

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The Lanai, 2019

Hello from freezing Forest Park! It has been so cold! This weekend it got down to the low 50s and, while it’s great sleeping weather, it’s not great weather for sitting outside. It’s also been rainy, so at least my plants are happy and everything is still alive as of this week. Our lanai furniture set-up is the same as last year, but we have lots of different flowers and I decided not to make any rainbows this year. It didn’t translate well from the sidewalk below, anyway. Oh, and last summer, Naoto painted the floor so it’s a steel grey now instead of that weird pale green. We really like it. We’ve barely been able to have dinner outside because of the cold weather, but we’ve enjoyed plenty of mornings out there reading in the sunshine and cool breeze.

I got this fantastic almost-neon begonia at Empowering Gardens and it’s so bright and full, it even pops from the street below.

Last year, I mentioned that I can never find good yellow and orange flowers. This year, I have plenty of orange and orangey-red flowers, but still no yellow. I’d love to add some yellow in with those bright pink petunias. Hopefully I can find something good while I’m out later today.

We also have some climbers and radish sprouts growing from seed and I transplanted some mint from the community garden, so hopefully we’ll have enough mint for cocktails soon since it tends to spread like wildfire…

That’s all from the 2019 lanai…it’s supposed to warm up eventually so I’m looking forward to spending some days and evenings outside. Naoto and I are already planning our Tanabata celebration in a few weeks and I’m sure it will be blazing hot by then!

 

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My Tidied Letter Writing Spot

It’s Monday and I’m finally feeling human again! It feels so good to be able to breathe out of both nostrils again and to be free from the amped up feeling I get from being on cold medicine. I spent some time recovering on Saturday by clearing off the sunny side of my desk so it would be ready for writing this month.

(Please note that I have only shown you the tidy third of my desk…the rest is still a work in progress. Always…) I made a little shelf of mail knick knacks. They won’t live here forever because they are taking up too much desk real estate, but I like them here for Letter Writing Month. For now, I have plenty of space for writing letters, but when I’m making cards, I need a clear deck for production. Eventually I’ll probably hang a shelf for my mail toy collection. And I switched out my supplies in my Classiky box…I went with a mail theme for now, but I also have all my spring and Easter things waiting in the wings…so many choices for April! I wrote three whole thank you notes on Saturday before I had to take a rest. It feels good to be participating in life again!

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Hasegawa Happy Hour Cocktail Napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour custom napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour got an upgrade this Christmas! My incredibly talented coworker, Alicia, designed these mid-century style cocktail napkins for us. Aren’t they fantastic? We kind of fell off the Hasegawa Happy Hour wagon last year and didn’t invite as many people over to drink with us, but we’d like to start things up again this year. I think we need to menu plan and jump right in for January. (Because I love a good theme party!) Who’s in?

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In My Mailbox: Vintage Recipes

vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxMy pen pal Danielle has been sending me a string of vintage recipes lately and I love it! Each on is a little time capsule from days when sweets and treats were most often homemade and sometimes a little strange. (At least strange compared to what we’re used to eating nowadays.) This is my little collection from the past few letters. vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxI’m most interested in trying this one. (I keep forgetting to add butter scotch chips to Naoto’s shopping list.) I love how it’s handwritten, creased, and well-used. It sounds very sweet, right? Maybe I need to do an Instagram Story from my kitchen so we can all be surprised at the outcome! vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxAnd who doesn’t love a chiffon cake? I don’t think anyone makes these anymore. (Or maybe we just don’t call them chiffons anymore?) It sounds so light and fluffy. I wish I had a reason to bake a cake this week. vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxThe fact that someone clipped this out of the newspaper and wrote, “MAKE AGAIN” on it makes me verrrrry curious. It’s called Desperations for goodness sake! I can’t picture what the finished product looks like…any ideas?vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxHere is where I draw the line… Canned pears and pimento cheese? Topped with green pepper? Nope. (I don’t think the salad dressing looks bad though…)

I wouldn’t eat that…would you?

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In My Neighborhood: Empowering Gardens

empowering gardens inc, forest parkEmpowering Gardens is one of those unique places that makes me thankful I live in Forest Park. It is a local garden center with a mission to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities. Everyone who works there is so knowledgable and friendly. And EG offers such great plants, definitely heartier than some of the stuff at the big box garden centers. Plus, their prices are competitive, which means you can buy more and help a good cause.empowering gardens, fall pansies, fall flowers, garden center, mumsRight now, they have a gorgeous array of pansies which love this fall weather that we’re just dipping into, and tons of mums–tiny ones and giant ones in all different autumnal colors. empowering gardens, ornamental pepper, fall flowers, garden centerThey also have a few varieties of ornamental peppers, which are so cool! (I’m kicking myself for not buying this one.) They also have some ornamental cabbages, fall grasses, cold weather vegetables, and plenty more. Pretty much everything you need to give your porch or garden a boost for the new season. empowering gardens inc, forest parkHow cute would one of these be on a Halloween porch? empowering gardens inc, forest park, Naoto at Empowering GardensWe bought a couple of small mums and this really neat black plant…I need to clear off the balcony of all the dead summer stuff and I’ll share the living fall version next week. (It’s really a mess out there on my lanai!) I really wish I could trust myself to water the pansies because they have so many stunning colors! And, this Saturday, I’ll be at Empowering Gardens selling my cards at the Music, Art & Wine event! I’m so excited to participate in this event that combines my love of gardening with my love wine and music and handmade art!

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Jerry Orbach’s Steak

Jerry Orbach's Panfried Steak, Dead Celebrity Cookbook, Jerry Orbach, Law and OrderNaoto and I both love Law & Order. Back in our early dating days, we’d spend hours on the couch watching episode after episode during the marathons on TNT and USA (for the Special Victims Unit version.) We both loved Jerry Orbach’s character, Lenny Briscoe, the best. He was salty and sarcastic and had the best opening one-liners. And, because he was on the show for so long, it really felt like he was a weathered New York detective by the time he retired. Once he left, the show wasn’t the same, though we did continue to watch until the bitter end. When he died, it felt like we lost a member of our neighborhood. I’m so glad he lives on in Law & Order and Murder She Wrotethe Dead Celebrity CookbookI read about The Dead Celebrity Cookbook on Twitter and promptly ordered it from the library. Have you ever read it? It’s so fun! I ordered it for Katherine Hepburn’s famous brownie recipe (which I still haven’t made!) but when I thumbed through the book and found Jerry Orbach’s steak recipe, I knew we had to start there. Jerry Orbach's panfried steak recipe, the dead celebrity cookbookI am usually not a cumin and coriander fan, but everything in this recipe works together perfect to create a perfectly seasoned steak with a tangy, slightly sweet, and very flavorful sauce. We ate it with some sautéed zucchini but I’d like to make it again with some old school steakhouse sides next time.

And…it’s because of The Dead Celebrity Cookbook that I finally learned after all this time that Jerry Orbach played Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! (How did I not know this?!)

I’ll report back if the Katherine Hepburn brownies are amazing…there are also recipes from 3/4 of the Golden Girls, so I think another Golden Girls Gala may be in our future!

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Tomato Time 2018

red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyThe tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming! So far, we’ve picked Big Boys, Black Krims, a Mortgage Lifer, and tons of Juliets. We’ve been eating plenty of tomato sandwiches, BLTs, and caprese salads and we added this caprese pasta salad into our menu. Our goal for the summer is to try five new tomato recipes, so one down, four to go. Once we get a good harvest of big tomatoes, it will be easier to experiment. Juliets aren’t slicing tomatoes, so right now we’re limited to salads. They are particularly delicious this year, so no complaints! red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyWe haven’t had any red Brandywines yet, so…I’m waiting patiently. But I have to say, the Mortgage Lifter and Black Krims are really fantastic…we’ll be planting more of those for sure next year!

Anything ripe in your neck of the woods?

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