Tag Archives: homemaking

Plot 6 in 2017 

forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkWe’re back in the garden again!

I’m a little late in my gardening season posts…a little behind on posting in general. But here’s what is going on in Plot 6 so far this season:forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkLast year when we closed the garden, a woman who lives in the neighborhood gave a bunch of us garlic from her garden. I’ve never planted garlic before so I was excited to plant a few bulbs and even more delighted to be welcomed this spring with several garlic plants! It’s always fun to come back to something growing instead of just plain dirt, right? And unlike my chive and walking onions, they aren’t taking up too much space…that chive plant gets bigger and bigger every year. forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkUgh, and I really like the walking onions because they are tasty and grow into crazy alien-like beasts, but man…they are shading a whole corner of my plot! forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park, lavender plantSo far we’ve planted a few herbs (lavender and rosemary from seedlings and thyme and basil from seed,) edamame, beets, daikon, kabocha, kale, and four types of tomatoes: Brandywine, Rutgers, Better Boy, and Green Zebra. I have at least two more tomatoes on my wishlist…which just goes to show I haven’t learned from my tomato jungle disasters of the past. #YOLO forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkHere’s the plot so far. It’s in its neat and tidy stage before things start growing out of control and the rabbits eat the tops of my edamame again. The joys of gardening!

 

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Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing 

tuna and watercress with wasabi ponzu dressingAs promised, I’m going to share some of the food we made for the hanami party. The first is this spicy salad that we found on Cookpad. (Thanks to Jess for all of the hanami tips!) It is so fresh and delicious and I even think it would be tasty without the fresh fish. The wasabi-ponzu dressing is the highlight.

Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing

Salad:

1 bunch of watercress

3-4 radishes, sliced paper-thin, cut into half-moons (A mandolin is handy here.)

1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin (The mandolin is already out. Use it again.)

6oz fresh sushi grade tuna or salmon, sliced into bite sized pieces (You can also use smoked salmon, but fresh is best!)

Dressing:

1 tablespoon ponzu sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons wasabi paste

Whisk the ponzu, oil, and wasabi together until smooth. Toss the vegetables, fish, and dressing together. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, if needed. Serve immediately. Feel the burn.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

vintage valentine, typewriterHappy Valentine’s Day! I just mailed out round 1 of my Valentines today. I spent a few days last week at my parents’ house and forgot to work on them! I took the easy way out with a Paper Source kit, so hopefully I can finish the rest this week.

Do you have any Valentine plans? Naoto and I usually don’t celebrate, but I am cooking dinner tonight and trying my hand at chocolate mousse (from this Smitten Kitchen recipe) so I guess that’s kind of celebrating?

 

P.S. Up above is another vintage Valentine from my collection. I wish I looked that cute while I’m typing out my cards, but I’m usually standing at my desk and fighting off the cat while she tries to climb up my leg.

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Recipes and Cookbooks in a Pinterest World

Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK , 1989 editionFor the past few years, I’ve been going to Pinterest more and more for recipes. On Pinterest there’s an endless variety of choices, instant access to reviews, and of course that bottomless rabbit hole of internet clicks. A search for a quick supper recipe quickly unravels into a hunt for table setting ideas, crafts, and other nonsense. Basically, what should be a five minute search for something to eat becomes a thirty minute internet time-suck.

So lately, I’ve been craving the comfort of my own cookbooks. First of all, curling up with the iPad and falling into a net of random blogs and untested recipes is not the same as paging through an old cookbook of tested, tried and true recipes. I love sticking page flags on the top contenders and building a meal from several cookbooks. 
And–more importantly here for me–constant searching and making Pinterest recipes doesn’t leave a paper trail.

My mom has a metal box packed with delicious recipes that we’ve eaten through the years. It’s like a little family time capsule of yellowed 3-by-5 cards in her own handwriting, my great-grandmother’s handwriting, my grandma’s handwriting, my aunts’ handwritings… It’s so fun to poke through the box and see who brought each recipe into our mix of regular meals and family gatherings. She also has her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from the 70s that is so well-used, the pages are falling out of it. 

My own recipe box consists of a handful of recipes in my college handwriting and has pretty much been untouched since then. My own cooking history lies in my Pinterest pins and my internet search history. If I don’t change things now, when I’m old, I won’t have that paper trail of my own recipes. I won’t have creased and yellowed cards in my mom’s handwriting. I won’t have little handwritten notes about what worked and what didn’t when I tried a new cookbook recipe. I won’t have stained and wrinkled cookbook pages, tangible evidence of a well-loved meal.

I’m trying to break the Pinterest habit and rely more on my cookbooks and recipe box for meals and desserts. (I mean, why have them if I’m not using them?) And I’m trying to write down some of the favorites I have found online, like Kathy’s grandmother’s cranberries

Naoto and I have a small collection of cookbooks, mostly vintage ones with a few Food Network titles mixed in. (We used to watch tons of Food Network shows together on Saturday and Sunday mornings.) The backbone to our collection is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. We both brought versions of this cookbook into the marriage. Naoto’s is the 10th Edition (1989, pictured above) and he got it in college when Auntie Judy (his host mother in Hawaii) took him to Waldenbooks and bought it for him. Mine is the 11th Edition (1996) and I, too, got mine in college, as a Christmas gift from my parents. We are emotionally attached to our respective cookbooks so we’ve kept both of them. Plus, even though the editions are only a few years apart, mine has some newer recipes and even the old standards have slight changes to them. We have favorites in each edition. My mom is bringing her edition to Thanksgiving so I can see if we are missing out on some good 1970s standards. I will report back. 

In the meantime, I’m cracking open the cookbooks to get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow. And cleaning…

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Phantom Flight Night™

wine tasting guests, Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingThis week Naoto and I hosted Phantom Flight Night™, a little wine tasting party featuring a Trader Joe’s fall-favorite wine, Bogle Phantom. We have been accidentally collecting (hoarding?) Phantom since 2012 and we had bottles from 2008, 2011, and 2012 (available this year at your friendly local Trader Joe’s) so we thought it would be fun to compare the different years. Because Phantom is a blend, each year the grapes vary, so they end up being slightly different wines*. I love an intimate party, so we invited a handful of fellow wine-drinkers to help us polish off three bottles of Phantom. Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, Paper Source wrapping paperEven though it was a small gathering, I was determined to decorate a tiny bit. I love making paper table runners for parties. I usually use my kraft paper but I wanted something dark for PFN™ so I used black wrapping paper and wrote on it with a chalk marker. Someday, maybe I’ll learn calligraphy and I will be able to make the runner really fancy! Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom WineI added a big candle nested in old wine corks at the end and labeled the wine bottles in the center. Then I went through all of our wine glasses and found a group of three alike for each person. (I didn’t realize how many wine glasses we have around here. I think we need to have more wine parties and use them more often!) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingI labeled each glass with a year marker made from black cardstock cut with a 2-inch circle punch and tied on with twine. (This may have been overkill since we stayed at the table for most of the party.)  Phantom Flight Night Table runner, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine About a half hour before our guests came, I poured three ounces of wine from each year into our glasses to give the wine a little bit of time to breathe. I figured three ounces was a decent pour for comparison, and then we could fill our glasses with more as needed, and open a new bottle of 2012 if we really wanted to get crazy. (It was a weeknight so no one got crazy, sadly.) Phantom Flight Night Table, Bogle Wine, Phatom Wine, wine tasting table settingWe tasted each wine in order of year and wrote little notes on the paper at our place setting. It was fun talking about the wines even though we were all far from wine experts! Next time, I’ll have copies of tasting notes for everyone–something like this one–to help us express ourselves more, but as it was, we had a fun time laughing about our comments while we tasted. We all loved 2011 the best and we decided that the 2008 was beginning to “turn”. (I guess I won’t be saving our last bottle of ’08 for Phantom Flight Night™ 2016.)simple wine tasting snacks, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WineIn the kitchen, we served cheeses, dried figs, salami, grapes, fruit, nuts, chocolates, and a Trader Joe’s shrimp appetizer–simple bites to complement the wines. wine tasting toast, Phantom Flight Night, Bogle WinesI’m already dreaming of Phantom Flight Night™ 2016…in October, with a Poe reading by Naoto. Look for that blog post next year!

P.S. Unfortunately, this post was not sponsored by Bogle or Trader Joe’s, even though it kind of sounds that way. Extra special thanks to James for coining the name Phantom Flight Night™!

*Phantom 2008 is made from 51% Zinfandel, 47% Petite Sirah, and 2% Mourvedre and 2011 is made from 46% Petite Sirah, 40% Zinfandel, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Mourvedre. I couldn’t find the grapes used in 2012, but I’ll update the post if I find that information!

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The Lanai 2015

balcony looking south, lanaiSummer is almost over and I haven’t shared photos from the lanai! It actually looks really different now because I spent some time out there yesterday giving up on some plants (RIP, little guys) and repotting my newly purchased mums*. balcony looking south, lanai, sitting areaI changed up the seating area from last year, moving the wicker love seat along the windows to give it some extra protection from the elements. I liked it a lot better this way, even though at only 4 feet deep, it’s a tight squeeze out there. balcony looking north, lanaiThe “dining area” is pretty much the same. I have six hanging planters of various flowers. I bought a portulaca and a mixed planter and I built my own of begonias, petunias, vinca vines, Creeping Jenny, Mexican Heather, allyssum, various coleus, and some other greens and blooms. (It feels like I did all of this a lifetime ago…it was before Japan!) I really enjoyed building my own planters but this winter I want to do some reading about pot designs. Some of the pots filled out nicely, but others never really filled out, even now at the end of the summer. large pot on the lanaiMy parents gave me this giant pot after Japan and I was so excited to fill it. I bought some cheap impatiens, petunias, and coleus and added in perennial sedum that I’ve had for years. Next year I would like to fill the giant pot with all perennials to keep costs and maintenance down. But I have to say, this pot still looks amazing and full and lush, while most of the others have suffered a bit in our heat lately. old geraniumMy old geranium is still going strong. I really weeded through my geraniums this winter and kept the strongest ones. I didn’t know which colors I would end up with since nothing was blooming in March, but I have one bright pink, one coral, and one white one left. I’ll bring them in when it gets cold. The geraniums hang out on a little cart with some perennials I planted this winter. None of them really thrived in the light on my balcony, so I need to replant them at my parents or give them to someone else who gets more sun. Most are still alive, just not blooming…kind of a bummer. Split Second Morning GloryNext to the big pot, I planted seven types of climbing vines. So far, only three have bloomed. (Womp, womp.) But, I love going out there every morning and tending to the blooms I have, so…I’m making the most of them! The one above is a Split Second Morning Glory, obtained through a “seed swap” on Instagram. (Thanks, Lauren!) They’re double flowers and are very peony-like. Now that I know how successful they are, I’m going to plant lots more of these beauties next year! President Tyler Morning Glory President Tyler Morning GloryThen there are the gorgeous blue President Tylers, obtained at the actual seed swap. The deep purplish blue is so striking on the railings. Heavenly Blue Morning GloryAnd last but not least, the Heavenly Blues…which really, how gorgeous is that color? I took this photo yesterday right before a huge downpour that completely battered the bloom. I’m so glad I captured its perfection!

Next week, I’ll do a community garden update which shall be called All About the Tomatoes. Have a good weekend!

*The Mum Disclaimer: Yes, I feel like it’s too soon to usher in fall, quite frankly, but it is after Labor Day and they were so cheap at Menards! I had to snag a few while I was there! It’s going to cool off today, so maybe fall is really right around the corner? As much as I love fall, I’m all for soaking up the season we are in. I’m not ready to pull out my boots and scarves (and pumpkin spice lattes!). I’m still enjoying the last bits of summer while I can!

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Mrs. Roper Party

kaftans on the lania, Mrs. Roper Party guestsA few months ago on Twitter, I admitted that I was shopping for kaftans. I’ve been on a huge Three’s Company kick all summer, finding myself more interested in Mrs. Roper’s wardrobe than the storylines. If you’ve ever watched Three’s Company you know that every episode revolves around some sort of misunderstanding. But Mrs. Roper’s kaftans just keep getting better and better! The kaftans are so over-the-top fabulous and comfortable looking that I decided I needed one of my own. While I was deciding, we started chatting (on Twitter) about kaftans and Mrs. Roper and we all decided that we should get together and wear kaftans and lounge on the lanai. The Mrs. Roper Party was born.Zero bird Three's Company postcards, screen print I didn’t need to send invitations, but I had these fantastic Three’s Company theme song postcards from Zerobird Studio, so I sent them as little reminders about the party. crab dipcheese ballI had so much fun looking through old cookbooks and Pinterest for late 70s/early 80s recipes. For appetizers, Katie made crab dip, served on a groovy platter and I made a cheese ball, (I cut this recipe in half and used pimentos instead of green chiles and chopped cashews instead of pecans.) served with classic Ritz crackers. Peaches and Cream Jello MoldAnd I made a Jello mold! It wasn’t beautiful (My peach slices didn’t stay put and ended up floating around instead of making a pretty ring…rookie mistake) but it was delicious. And it was my first time using my vintage Tupperware mold and worked like a charm! For dinner we ate pineapple chicken (I used this recipe, but substituted canned pineapple for fresh, because 1970s…) and store bought fried chicken.Sidecar cocktail, Mrs. Roper PartyAs much as I wanted to stay on theme and make a Southern Comfort punch for the party, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I made a classic cocktail, the Sidecar. (Thanks, Kathy, for the photo above!) I was going to serve Brandy Alexanders with dessert, but we finished the brandy thanks to bartender Naoto keeping our glasses constantly filled. chocolate fondue, 1970s fondue potWe had chocolate fondue for dessert. My parents gave me a vintage 1970s fondue pot and this was the first time I used it. (Fondue was so easy that I’m not sure why we don’t do it more often.)lanai, balcony lightsThe weather couldn’t have been more perfect for lanai lounging. My only regret is that we didn’t get a full-length picture of us all in our kaftans. Other than that, 1970s entertaining is easy living. Not only did I get to throw on a breezy kaftan, but I could have made most of the recipes out of my pantry. Normally I’m rushing around buying fresh produce and chopping fruits and vegetables for party recipes. This time, I opened cans and boxes–Jello, canned peached, canned pineapple, crackers…everything just got tossed together. 1970s hostessing is amazing!
eating 1970s party food, Mrs. Roper Party, kaftans in the kitchenThanks to Katie, Donovan, and Kathy for being up for a kaftan party and to Naoto for taking care of all of us Saturday night.

Next up…sometime in the future…a Golden Girls party complete with cheesecakes!

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Japan Does It Better 23: Line Drying Laundry

clothes drying outdoors in JapanIn Japan, it is common to see loads of laundry danging from balconies, billowing in the breeze. (Or in the winter, hanging stiff as a board.) It seems like everyone in Japan hangs out their laundry. It’s the complete opposite here in America. Hardly anyone hangs their clothes. Growing up, my mom had a giant clothesline that was always full in the summer. As a teenager, I would die of embarrassment at the thought of my underwear and bras on display in the back yard. But there really isn’t anything like putting on a shirt that’s been drying in the sun all day.

I know my mom is in the minority though, even in her small town that doesn’t scoff at “unsightly” clothing hanging in the backyard. Where I live, our condo association has rules against drying clothes on our balconies. (I’ve started breaking this rule a bit, putting small bits of laundry outside draped across a chair or on my drying rack. Unfortunately, I don’t have room to hang all of my laundry discreetly.) Most cities or associations have similar rules, making us slaves to our dryers. It’s sad for the environment, really. And I’m not really sure what’s so offensive about hanging laundry. clothes drying outdoors in JapanNaoto said his mom always preferred to hang out her laundry, especially the futon and other bedding, because the sun and cold air would kill the germs.

Because air drying the laundry is so common in Japan, they have the best little tools for doing it. From circular hangers for socks and lingerie, to heavy duty clamps for blankets and towels, and even cut cat-shaped pins, they have really perfected the art of laundry!

To see all of the Japan Does It Better (JDIB) series, go here.

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Vintage Ice Tongs 

vintage walnut ice tongs, Hasegawa Happy Hour, vintage barware My parents came up to visit over the weekend and brought our anniversary gift. Part of the gift was these fantastic vintage ice tongs that they found in a vintage shop. Don’t my parents know how to score a vintage treasure? (And they know me so well…and Naoto, too, though he didn’t squeal like a school girl when he saw the box.)vintage walnut ice tongs, Hasegawa Happy Hour, vintage barware The tongs came in their original box, an added bonus. (And yes, I will totally keep the tongs in their box!)vintage walnut ice tongs, Hasegawa Happy Hour, vintage barware I love the Mid-Century style illustrations of cocktails on the handle. I think they are going to make a great partner with my vintage penguin ice bucket at our next Hasegawa Happy Hour!

Thanks, Mom & Dad! xo

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Hasegawa Happy Hour: Tomi Fujiyama Edition

Hasegawa Happy Hour, Tomi Fujiyama edition, old fashioneds, pimento cheeseAt the end of April, Tomi Fujiyama was invited back to play at the Grand Ole Opry. Naoto and I have been following along with Tomi’s story since we saw the Made In Japan movie last month, so we were really excited to listen to her perform live on the radio. Her performance luckily fell on Hasegawa Happy Hour night, so we invited two special guests and served a sort of southern-style meal. (Thanks for joining us, James and Karen!) 

I made Old Fashioneds and pimento cheese for the happy hour portion of the evening. We listened online to the entire show. Karen said it felt like an old-timey evening with a family sitting around the radio. I think we may need to look into having more musically themed HHHs in the future. Hasegawa Happy Hour, Tomi Fujiyama edition, old fashioneds, meatloaf, baked beans, green beansFor dinner, I made turkey meatloaf, baked beans, and green beans. Tomi came on at the very end of the show and she sang her favorite song, Tennessee Waltz. It was lovely and sad (Seriously, don’t listen to the song if you’re feeling melancholy!) and totally worth listening to the entire night for Tomi’s dream moment.

(This video is from 2012, but it will give you an idea of how Tomi sounds.)

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