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Simple Joys

21 Aug

Hello, world!

I feel badly that I’ve abandoned my fledgling blog for the last few weeks, but I’m also not positive that there will be an immediate righting of that ship. šŸ˜¦ My husband and I are preparing to move out of the country (but not permanently), and every one of my OCD personality characteristics and anxious tendencies have gone straight through the stratosphere in going through this process.

Seriously. I’m getting on my own nerves. But… when I woke up at 3am last night and started thinking about my bank account and how I need to deal with that (I’m currently on a plan that requires me to use my associated credit card at least monthly in order to avoid account fees, and using that credit card in Europe will then incur international fees, thus nullifying my attempt to avoid fees), I am glad that I have lists made and tasks scheduled so that I don’t have to try to remember everything that I need to do.

In light of my brain that is working overtime (but not getting smarter, just more tired), I’ve also been aware of the difference that the smallest little thing can make. For instance, the joy and curiosity of the “junge” (indulge me as I practice my German: it means boy) playing, making faces, and waving at the security camera outside our grocery this morning may have made my day! He was so free, truly, and for a minute, I actually wanted to play in front of the camera, too. Instead, I came home and dealt with my telecommunications company regarding putting my cell phone (“handy” for those looking to brush up on your German) in suspension mode for the time that we are gone. Trust me, that boy was having more fun, but he did give me such joy!

The second miracle of the day happened as I walked up the path to our house. Several wee baby eggplants! We started the eggplants a bit late, and I had convinced myself that our fair house sitters would solely reap the benefits of the eggplant row in the garden. Ratatouille and eggplant parmesan, here we come!

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Do you have other creative ways of using eggplant? We just purchased several eggplant from the farmer’s market this weekend, so we will soon feel like its all eggplant, all the time, I fear. Not that in 2.5 weeks we really have that much time to gorge ourselves on eggplant, but I’m always in the market for new recipes!

Be well world, and thanks for your patience!

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Pesto makes everything better

2 Aug

When we started planning our garden, the smells of the plants was a high priority for me. And boy do I love basil! So, we may have planted more basil than we really need, just because it is pretty and it smells so nice!

Fast forward a few months, and boy do we have basil!! So, we looked at how we can best use it. Pesto! Voila!

I thought to myself, “man, we have a lot of basil! We should make a double batch!” My dear husband, who is much more spatial than myself, apparently thought to himself, “Man! We have a lot of basil! We need to make 8 times the recipe!”

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So, we made a lot of pesto. We froze some of it, and we’ve given some of it away. Turns out, pesto makes a great gift when your sweet next door neighbor has fallen and is really hurting! (Basil is an anti-inflammatory.) It also turns out that when you give pesto away, people come up with really creative ways of using it! Pesto burgers, anyone? I hear they are quite tasty!

We had our inaugural pesto meal with some kale stuffed ravioli. Yummy!!

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The scary thing is, even with all that pesto giving and pesto eating, we still have tons of pesto! And the basil? You can’t really even tell that it’s been touched! Eek! Guess what’s for dinner? You got it! Pesto! With basil on the side!

The recipe we used is below. It is really tasty! And, we are always looking for excuses to break out the “robot culiniaire” (what most people call a food processor, Mike takes as a perfectly good excuse to break out his French vocabulary). šŸ™‚

It is mostly based on Mark Bittman’s Genovese Pesto recipe from “How to Cook Everything.” if you haven’t looked into that book or the app, I’d also highly recommend it!

Genovese Pesto

2 cups loosely packed basil, rinsed and dried
Salt (to taste)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2+ cup EVOO
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Combine the basil, salt, nuts, and 1/2 the oil in the food processor or blender. Scrape it down if you need to. Add the rest of the oil gradually as you process away.
2. Store in the fridge for a week or so, or in the freezer for several months. Add the cheese just before you serve it.
3. Enjoy!

Food Truck Fiesta

15 Jul

You know what it takes to bring people together? Barring tragedy, food and fresh air are two of the best excuses around for the people of my fair city to come together. This weekend’s food truck festival was obviously the most auspicious melding of exactly that: the most popular food trucks in Atlanta and the city’s most popular park. I got sucked into a book and sort of forgot about it for a while, so we didn’t make it down there until the last couple of hours of the party. But let me tell you… it was a party! The bad news was that by the time we looked around, several of the trucks were out of food, or at least out of their specialty. šŸ˜¦ That’s no fun for anybody, but it made for some people’s perfect excuse to throw a pity party. In spite of these few (who know who they are, I’m sure), it was a lovely time.

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Yoli’s Street Food – home of what my husband called “a darn good Cuban sandwich”

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Banged Up and Mashed: so colorful, so popular!

After we’d filled up our tummies, we strolled around the park for a bit, discovering this little gem! Its a garden, used by and for teachers to help educate wee lads and lasses about the growing process! How cool is that?!? The Education Garden, which is sponsored by Chipotle, is an all-organic garden that teaches kids not only about the growing process, and sustainability, but also Ā organic techniques for managing some of the problems that pop up in gardens and what composting is and how it works. I read that the garden is an outdoor classroom for more than 800 kids in a year, and I’m ready to turn back the clocks and be a kid again!

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From seed to fruit, this garden is busting out all over!

The last portion of our walk before the belt line (aka the walk back to the car) was another garden area featuring fruit trees. I love to watch trees get trained!

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Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s most well-known park, and it comes with quite a storied history. The land that is now Piedmont Park was originally purchased for the meager price of $450, although that was back in 1822, and that was probably a lot of money back then. Since then, it has gone from being a forest to hosting the Cotton States and International Expo in 1895. Following the fair, there was apparently some rig-a-ma-rolling as the owners tried to sell the park land to the city. The city’s reluctance, for those of you in Atlanta, was due in part to the fact that Piedmont was considered too far away from the city! Can you believe that? The city sure has grown around it in the present time. They eventually decided to buy it in the early 1900s, and since then it has grown into what it is today.

Project Landscape

10 Jul

The big week is finally here!! And it’s underway, though not in a particularly attractive way:

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A nice young man from the nursery came to begin killing our current grass yesterday. Sorry, grass! It wasn’t personal, I promise! The above pile of dirt was delivered this morning for Mike’s little side project. He’s installing a french drain along the right side of the property (yay.). The man who delivered the dirt was one of those people who could restore faith in humanity, even among the most cynical among us. Seriously, he was one of the most considerate, efficient, easy-to-get-along with, and polite people I’ve ever run across. All that and he was an incredible dump truck driver! He prompts me to want to remind you that if you can make your purchases from a local, small business, you totally should!

I am hopeful, however, that this is the smelliest part of the installation. In case you didn’t know, a big pile of dirt is really stinky. I won’t go into what it smells like, assuming I’m in polite company, but trust me, its not pleasant. I am looking forward to the less smelly parts: the peonies, the abelia, the ferns, the lilies, and all of their friends! šŸ™‚ More to come…

Garden’s Progress

6 Jul

It is almost unspeakable how much joy this small little bit of dirt and seed have given me in the last 3 months. From the time I saw the first evidence of germination, through all the dirty fingernails (sometimes I just start messing with them before I think to get the garden gloves on), the delicious basil, to my first squash casserole (and I have never been a big veggie casserole kind of girl, but this was out of sight; it’s another post, actually; it was THAT good). I’m trying not to dwell too much on the actual fruit of the garden but on the sheer life of it, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say how much I love it that we have actually based WHOLE MEALS on what has come from our yard!

These 1st 2 pictures were snappedĀ on 28 April, 2012:

Ready for planting

tomatoes and basil, grown from seed together, and some became inseparable!

The following pictures were taken today, 6 July 2012: Amazing!!

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Squash (up front) and lettuce in the rear
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Mint (up front) and imperial black eggplant in the rear

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Basil (can you believe we eat this almost every night we cook at home?!?) with an errant tomato plant that seeded itself among the basil (it felt a little caprese coming on, too!)

Roma tomatoes (up front), Peacevine Cherry tomatoes in the rear)

Cherry tomatoes, almost reporting for action!

You are the *Iris* of my Eye

22 Jun

Months and months and months ago, when I started sketching out our landscape plan, I sought input from Le Hubs. Much to my surprise, he did actually have input! He wanted iris in our garden! So… Iris he shall have.

“Iris” refers to nearly 300 different species of showy flowering herbs, grown from either rhizomes or bulbs depending on the climate. They thrive in a wide variety of climates, and are easy to grow. They prefer at least 1/2 a day of sunshine, although they may also like some shade if it’s really hot. They aren’t especially particular about soil (although its ideally at a Ph level of 6.8 if you are into that sort of thing), either, as long as its well-drained.

They don’t especially like to be planted deeply, about 12-24″ apart. They may need some help in getting their root systems up and going, so watering up front is a good idea. After they are established, however, they are usually pretty hardy. Feed them with a 6-10-10 fertilizer about 2x each year (in early spring and about 1 month after their blooming ceases), and you will have some happy flowers!

I am most definitely enjoying the theme that the flowers and plants we have selected are by and large hardy, easy, and quite pretty! Installation in T-3 Weeks!

1st signs of fruit

6 Jun

Aristotle said “in all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” Indeed, right? I felt the thrill of that marvelousness yesterday when, following the storm, a small flower of a future tomato emerged. This thrill is one of a first time gardener, seeing the first sign of fruit on a plant that has emerged from a seed as small as a speck! I feel so proud! It’s almost like seeing a child take his first steps! (I know, not really, but I ask for your indulgence here)!

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Every Sunday, we have a little routine, almost a hand-me-down tradition in my family. Sundays=burgers! I love the routine of it (did you know that having the same breakfast every day reducesĀ stress levels?), not that I need more excuses to have french fries… We enjoyed these lettuces with our veggie burgers on Sunday. Perfect! Seriously, I really can’t think of anything more delightful or fulfilling than being able to enjoy the garden bounty. Until, that is, these future tomatoes come into my mouth!