Category Archives: summer manifesto

Cocktail: The Garden Party

garden party cocktail, snow and graham notecard, vintage cocktail glass, cocktail hourThis spring has been such a mix of weather. We’ve had everything from melt-your-make-up-off hot and humid to almost fall-like, crisp and cool. Today for Summer Solstice, it’s chilly with a deluge. Last week, we had a couple perfect nights and I was able to sit outside and write letters while the sun was setting. It was a dream evening alone.

Earlier in the day, we harvested our first lavender of the summer, so I decided to celebrate by making up a cocktail. I used some of my dried lavender from last summer to make a lavender simple syrup and mixed it with lemon, Cocchi Americano, and prosecco to make a refreshing, not-too-boozy drink. Cocchi Americano is a little bit bitter, thanks to the quinine, so the cocktail isn’t super sweet. It’s also low in alcohol, so this is the perfect drink for the afternoon (or if you need to keep your head about you while you write thank you notes!)

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried lavender

In a pan on the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add dried lavender. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Refrigerate until chilled.

The Garden Party 

2 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco (the white version)

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz lavender syrup

prosecco, to taste

Add the Cocchi, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Strain into a coupe and top off with a bit of prosecco (or another sparkling wine.) Top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy on your lanai while writing letters, or at an actual garden party with friends.

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Out on the Lanai

blue hawaii on the lanaiIt’s been really perfect spring weather the past few days. We had a bad hot streak, but since the beginning of June, the weather has been mild, even chilly! blue hawaii on the lanai, kimberly and naotoLast Monday, after the gym and the garden, we enjoyed our annual anniversary Blue Hawaiis before dinner. It was just warm enough to feel like summer. first lanai dinner 2018We also had our first dinner on the lanai last week. (Naoto made this from Smitten Kitchen.) Last year I don’t feel like we enjoyed our balcony enough so I’m determined to get out there as much as possible this summer. We have a new furniture arrangement and have cleared off some other unnecessary things, so hopefully it will be more enticing.

I had the brilliant idea to plant our pots in rainbow order this summer. (You know how I love my ROY G BIV-ing!) It ended up being way more work than I bargained for…mostly finding the right kinds of plants to work with our sun situation…our balcony is pretty shady. But every summer I feel like I don’t have enough yellows and oranges out there, so this was a nice way to force myself to branch out. Of course, I love it, but I’m already deciding on color combinations for each pot for next summer!

Anyway, behold the rainbow…pink impatiens, container garden, lanai garden, balcony gardenmixed pot, pink flamingoes, garden gnomesred petuniasred geraniumorange petunias, orange geraniumyellow petunias, yellow marigoldsmixed greenslobeliapurple flowers, impatiens, story night petunias, fairy flowers starry night petunias, night sky petuniasThe “greens” are a bit of a mess right now because my wooden window box is falling apart and because I’m waiting for my climbers to grow. Hopefully it will fill out as summer rolls along. 

Do you have any favorite flower color combinations? I’m really into yellow and hot pink right now.

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Plot 6 in 2018

plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I can’t believe I haven’t posted about the garden yet this spring! We are all planted in our little plot 6 and happily waiting for things to grow. As usual, I swore I would only plant tomatoes and I would not experiment at alllll this summer…and then we planted a bunch of tomatoes and some other things…but no vining plants this year. No sireee. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I’m very excited to have a full-time partner in crime at the garden this year. Since Naoto isn’t working a million hours a week anymore, he has time to visit the garden with me. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6So far, we planted Juliet, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Black Krim tomatoes, rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, and parsley, and lima beans and edamame. Our garlic is going strong from last fall’s planting, and in spite of the fact that I pulled it all last fall, the walking onions have returned. I need to at least thin them again. They are growing into my tomatoes. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6We still have kaiware (Japanese radish sprouts) that we’d like to plant, but that’s it! We already have a Juliet on one of our plants, so I’m hoping this year we aren’t plagued by white flies and that we have a crazy bumper crop again…Naoto is already planning tomato-centric menus for later this summer!

I can’t wait.

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Plot #6: I Picked A Loofah

growing a loofah from seed, Presley and the LoofahI finally picked a loofah! I’m not sure it’s really ready, but this particular one kept falling out of our plot and I was nervous it would get stepped on. Plus, when I picked it, it had a giant slug on it (which I touched by accident and that is not a feeling my memory will be erasing anytime soon.) It was the lightest-colored*, most hollow sounding, biggest loofah on the vines, so I figured I would sacrifice it to see how “ready” the others might be.

So the next step is to cut into the experimental loofah to see if it’s “sponge-worthy.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a tiny Seinfeld shout-out. Also, totally different “sponge-worthy.”)

I will report back soon, along with some fall garden shots. Our tomatoes are really slowing down, but with the crazy gorgeous weather we’re having this week, I’m thinking maybe a few more Juliets will emerge. Cheers to a perfect early fall!


*I should note that the loofah looks really green in this picture but it’s significantly lighter than that in real life…maybe Presley’s eyes are bringing out the greenness?

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Plot #6: The Loofah Takeover

plot 6, loofah, end of summerThis is the south end of our plot, where the flowers and the Brandywine tomatoes reside. And yes, that’s a loofah vine growing all the way over there. (The loofahs were planted on the northeast corner of our four-by-eight plot.) I’m not so worried, since our tomatoes are almost done, but man, next year we really do need to plan our plot better! plot 6, loofahBack in the north end of the plot, you can see the loofahs are overflowing outside of our raised bed…I’ve been tucking them back into the border, but some of the loofahs are cozily making themselves at home. They sound a tiny bit more hollow than they did last week, and their color is lightening ever so slightly, so hopefully, we can pick them soon. (I know I keep saying this, but really…I have no idea when the perfect time for picking is!) plot 6It has been really cold here the past few days–sweater weather, sock weather, jacket weather cold. I’m personally loving it, but I’m hoping it means long fall and not early winter. Yikes!

How is your garden growing? Are things slowing down?

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Plot #6: Is That A Loofah In My Garden?

plot 6, community gardenIt isn’t that I didn’t believe the articles I read about loofah vines’ ferocious growth, it’s that I underestimated what that really meant. I’m afraid that our loofah vine is creeping into our neighbor’s plot, and could overtake the entire community garden. I think, now that summer is in full swing (finally!), I might have to go to the garden daily to reign those crazy vines in and retrain them back into our plot. plot 6, community gardenBut it’s totally worth it if we can actually bring the five giant loofah home. Yes, five!! I’m hoping they all make it–safely from bugs and nibbling rodents–to the stage when we can harvest them and dry them out as sponges. I’ve been using this resource as guidance. I’ve never been so excited about a gardening experiment. If all goes well, do you think it would be weird if I gave sponges to everyone for Christmas? (I guess I shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself here.) plot 6, community gardenIn addition to the five gallon bucket-full of tomatoes we harvested last week, I picked a few limas. I think there are probably more to be picked, but it’s hard to find them amongst the overgrown tomatoes and the loofah vines. I guess garden planning is not my strong suit. plot 6, community gardenMy tomato harvesting was cut a bit short the other day by this cat-sized grasshopper (small exaggeration). He was protecting a large patch of ripe tomatoes, which I left untouched because I kept picturing him leaping into my face. Thankfully the grasshopper found a new home when we went back to harvest more tomatoes yesterday. (Oh and yesterday I touched a slug…gardening is gross!!) plot 6, community garden

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Flowers, Flooding & Failures

cypress vine flowerI had another post planned for today, but it’s as dark as a cave here and I couldn’t get a proper picture. It rained several inches around here last night. I was rudely shocked out of a good sleep at 2AM by my phone and its stupid loud weather alert. It took 2.5 episodes of Roseanne to fall back asleep, mainly because my heart had to start beating again after the surprise of the alarm.

I went outside this morning to check on the flowers–everything is completely soaked out there–and I found this teeny, tiny flower on my Cypress Vine. Isn’t it the sweetest little thing? There are supposed to be pink, white and red flowers eventually. I cannot wait!

portulaca, kimberly AH balconyThe huge rain made my portulaca explode. I’ve decided that next year (yes, I’m already planning my flowers for next year) I will be planting more portulaca in all the colors of the rainbow.

As far as failure goes…well, have you looked at the calendar lately? Summer is almost over. I’m failing my Summer Manifesto. I still haven’t tried three new cocktails with herbs from our gardens or three new tomato recipes. I haven’t taken more walks or really rediscovered Chicago. And, while we have had a few special guests for Hasegawa Happy Hours, we haven’t had enough of them. I know the US thinks of Labor Day as the end of summer, but as long as we have tomatoes and a garden, it’s still summer to me. Before I start planning fall cocktails and soups and balcony parties, I’m determined to at least mix up a few herbal gin drinks and soak up these long days while I can.

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Plot #6: Brandywines are Back!

brandywines and yellow pear harvest, plot 6And the tomatoes are coming!! Last night in our latest check of our neglected community garden plot #6, we found a bounty of tomatoes! Three nice Brandywines, a couple more Juliets and a couple dozen Yellow Pears all made it safely into the harvesting bucket and ready for Hasegawa Happy Hour tomorrow night. I found a new salad recipe that I’d like to try with the yellow guys and I think panzanella will be the perfect plan for the Brandywines. Most of today will be spent searching for a cocktail recipe that will complement the tomato feast. plot 6, community gardenLook at our loofah! We have several of these little guys running along the mess of vines. Thanks to Mr. Brownthumb for helping us spot them and for hand modeling. Now we just need to hope that they don’t get eaten by mice before they are big enough to eat or dry out for bath time. (I’m still not sure I’m brave enough to eat one!)plot 6, cosmos, buttonsEven though my careless flower plantings took up way more space than I had anticipated, seeing those crazy orange and blue blooms in our plot makes me ridiculously happy. I promise there are plenty of tomatoes behind that mess of flowers!sunflower, forest park community gardenAnd speaking of flowers, I can’t resist sharing this way-taller-than-me sunflower in a neighboring community garden plot. I feel like I should do a community garden tour for you in the coming weeks. So many plots are overgrown and overflowing with amazing produce. It’s fun to be learning and sharing this hobby with so many others.

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Plot #6: The Season’s First Tomatoes

plot 6, juliet tomatoesWe discovered three really ripe Juliet tomatoes in the garden yesterday!! They probably could have been picked a little sooner, but I didn’t get over there much last week.

Now’s the time though…now’s the time for going to the garden every day or so to check for little red gems on the vines.

plot 6, juliet tomatoesOur four Juliet plants are all dripping with green tomatoes. It’s going to be another bumper crop this year. What you see above is just one branch of one part of a plant! It seems so weird that three random tomatoes were red and all the others look so very green…but that’s the way it was last year, too. All of the Brandywines and yellow pear tomatoes are still green, too. We are going to have to wait a little longer for those. plot 6, yellowed leaves plot 6, juliet tomato plantJust like last year, we have some blight happening. We’ve tried to cut off most of the yellowed leaves, but I need to go again this week and do a deeper cleaning of everything. Have you had this problem with  your tomatoes? Peggy suggested adding eggshells to our soil when we plant our tomatoes next year. Thankfully, the fruits are undamaged so far and most of the plants are still looking healthy otherwise. plot 6, flower gardenRemember how I randomly planted a few flowers from the seed bank in our community garden shed? Well, the flowers–cosmos and bachelor buttons–have grown as tall as the tomatoes and have taken over their little corner of the garden. I’ve been cutting a few for our kitchen counter and leaving some of the floppy ones for the butterflies. balcony flowersAnd speaking of flowers, my first Morning Glory appeared yesterday morning! I planted five types of climbers in June and they are all finally starting to vine. The Morning Glories and Moonflowers are the furthest along and the Cardinal Climbers and Cypress Vines are close behind. I’m nursing the single Black-Eyed Susan vine along. It’s struggling. balcony flowersAnd, I’m finally getting more blooms on my Trader Joe’s hibiscus. It’s so cheerful, isn’t it? balcony flowers, hibiscus

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Plot #6: The Garden is a Forest (Again)

plot 6, garden jungleI’ve been sick and Naoto has been working like a dog (every day since he’s returned home from Japan) so the garden has been a bit neglected. I finally went yesterday afternoon. Boy, was it a perfect day for gardening! Our weather has been unseasonably cool, getting down to the 50s at night and into the 70s during the day. It’s the perfect weather to me.

When I saw our little Plot #6, I couldn’t believe how overgrown it had gotten in just over a week! Even the smallest tomatoes were huge, growing into their neighboring tomatoes. And, as you can maybe see from the top picture, the tomatoes are again spilling out into the walkway. I’m going to have to fix that this weekend to make sure none of my tomatoes get stepped on. plot 6, garden jungleBoth Brandywines have some fruit on them. And all of the Juliets and the Yellow Pear are producing too…no red (or yellow) ones yet though…I can hardly wait! plot 6, garden jungleI harvested almost all of the peas, which is a good thing because that will open some space for this guy. The loofah is growing out of control. (This is not a surprise…yet it was still surprising.) I had to unwind it from a tomato and from some of the peas. I think we *may* have waited too long to lasso that crazy grower!

Now that I’m feeling better and Naoto (hopefully) is going back to working normal hours, I’m hoping we can spend time fixing up the garden together this weekend.

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