Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring chicken

... or eggs.

I just found out that one of my coworkers lives on 5 acres and has chickens. She sells her eggs to coworkers, and I got to buy one of her first batches last week. They were absolutely beautiful, brown, white and green, and super-fresh.

We made them into a local dinner. Loris cooked up a frittata with parsley from our garden, I made some cole slaw with home-grown cabbage, and we ate them with home-made pretzels. So yummy!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Grateful Post #3

Today is a beautiful day, and it's Thursday, which means the week is more than halfway over. Even though I am enjoying the beautiful blue sky outside my window and feeling happy to be alive, I feel the need for some grace. Something just doesn't feel quite right. So I am offering up these heartfelt feelings of gratefulness today.

1. I'm grateful for sore muscles that mean I am getting stronger. I love being mildly sore the day after working out - I feel like it's an almost instantaneous reminder that I've done something to make myself healthier.

2. My garden provides me with exercise, food, beauty, and a little slice of nature that is all my own, right in the middle of a community of people who more or less feel the same way I do. My husband knows even better than I do - when I'm in a bad mood, he always suggests I go out to the garden. What a smart guy.

3. There is a little tea shop in town, a relatively reasonable walking distance from my office, and I sometimes stop by when I have to go to our other building for a meeting. The last time I went, I found a packet of chocolate hazelnut tea. How brilliant! I don't know who thought of that particular flavor for tea, but it's delicious.

4. Spring comes relatively early where I live - while this isn't so great for planting things like peas, it is great for flowers. When I got back from Italy a few weeks ago, the trees were already in bloom, like they were welcoming me home. The flower bulbs I planted in the yard two years ago are blooming, tiny little white-blue flowers like little stars in the grass. I will miss my flowers if and when I move.

5. I love growing my own food, but just as much I love preserving it, for a variety of reasons. I love opening my cupboards and seeing rows of beautiful colors in clear glass jars - ruby red strawberry jam, golden yellow peaches, green pickles and zucchini, bright red tomato sauce and tomato juice. I like knowing that I was self-sufficient, that I planned ahead, and that I followed in the footsteps of so many women who came before me. And I especially love how it all tastes.

OK, I feel better now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring plantings

My garden is in pretty good shape for the spring/summer. I have finally finished the bulk of my weeding, and I planted French breakfast radishes, several rows of carrots, and three varieties of beets – Chioggia beets, early wonder beets, and an heirloom mix (which includes Chioggia).

I also planted peas, even though I think it’s way too late for them unless the weather stays unseasonably cool for a while (I highly doubt it). Well, it’s worth a shot.

Here is a new diagram of the garden, with what I’m planning to put in around the edges.

Starting to dream of summer tomatoes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cabbage soup

One problem with cabbage is that it generally all matures around the same time, and sometimes the heads can be quite big. So for several weeks (or months, depending on how much I plant), I often find myself trying to be creative in using up my cabbage.

I'm hoping to try making some sort of vegetarian stuffed cabbage sometime soon, but until then, I needed something simpler for the gigantic cabbage I've had in my fridge for about a week now. Loris usually slices cabbage very thin and cooks it on the stove with garlic or onions and plenty of vinegar, which is delicious, but I don't think I can eat that every week (or more than once a week!).

So yesterday I made some cabbage soup. It's actually Rustic Cabbage soup, with potatoes and beans, and you can find the recipe here. I was a little nervous about the flavor but I needn't have worried. It was delicious. Definitely add some parmesan cheese when you serve it, although it's very good without it as well. For just the two of us, we had a hearty meal last night (along with a salad and bread), enough for lunch today, and there's still a bit leftover.

The problem? There's still half of a cabbage in my fridge!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Grateful Post #2

Things I am grateful for this Monday, which is a day on which I am generally not a grateful person.

1. Fish from the farmer's market in Davis (and a husband who can clean it and cook it into a delicious meal).

2. New furniture that makes me feel like I have a new house. Having comfy chairs in our living room will hopefully turn out to be a good thing. All the new furniture also kept me busy all weekend, and got me to organize something like 75% of my apartment. Awesome.

3. Repurposing my old TV stand into a printer stand, which I've been wanting to get our home office organized. I'm brilliant. I had some black paint leftover from my sister's Christmas gift that I used to touch up the chips and it looks great. And the new TV cabinet is big enough for our living room computer to fit inside, and has glass doors which should cut down on dust.

4. A cat who can't decide which piece of new furniture she likes best, so she has to keep doing the circuit and trying them all, over and over again. It's so cute.

5. It's almost spring! I can't wait to start wearing sandals!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Grateful Post #1

I picked up this idea from another blog, which referenced the amazing story of world-class violinist Joshua Bell playing in the Washington DC subway, and very few people stopping to listen (I can't link right now b/c the site is down). The point was that most people, in their harried, day-to-day lives, don’t stop to notice and appreciate what is around them. This project is a way to try to force oneself to stop and smell the roses – and be grateful for them! I especially have a problem with this, so trying to do this as much as I can will be a way to connect to the beautiful world around me and stamp out pessimism and negativity in my life. It's called Grace in Small Things (or in my case, sometimes, big things).

My first list of five things is here:

1. Potato-leek soup! It’s SO delicious, simple, and healthy. I just had a big bowl of leftovers for lunch. Even better, I didn’t have to make it myself! (thanks Candace!)

2. My swimming pool. Now that the weather is warming up, I will appreciate this greatly. Since I don’t think I’ll be moving out of this apartment any time soon, I have to say that the primary thing I am grateful about staying for is the swimming pool.

3. Green hills. Northern California is gorgeous in the spring. I went biking in Healdsburg for my friend’s bachelorette party last weekend, and the dormant, gnarled grapevines were set off against a brilliant background of green grass and colorful wildflowers, including plenty of bright yellow mustard.

4. My bicycle. I’m actually not riding it today, but I am so thankful for my bicycle (as I believe I’ve written about before). It was a surprise Christmas gift from my wonderful husband (who probably deserves a gratefulness post all of his own) after my old bike was stolen. It is one of the best gifts I have ever received, because it is fun, beautiful, and I use it almost every day. I commute to work and sometimes around town with it. I take it for joy rides on the weekends, ride around to wineries with friends on it, train and exercise on it, and compete on it in triathlons.

5. Friends. I have not spent a single night this week without friends, and tonight will not be an exception. For this, I am extremely grateful.

6. Can I add a number 6? The music from the more recent version of Little Women with Winona Ryder. It is SO beautiful, and I don't mind at all when it gets stuck in my head. I chose the hymn from the wedding in the movie for my own wedding, too, so thinking of that music always reminds me of my wedding day.

Life in general

I've finally started exercising again! Yay! It's been pretty tough to get into a schedule, especially since my life has been so crazy and busy lately, and I have a lot of backlog to catch up on regarding bills, taxes, cleaning, organizing, gardening, and so on. Trying to simplify seems almost impossible, but I’m sure I’ll get there soon.

I’m really happy that spring is around the corner and it will be time to get outside in short sleeves and sandals, enjoy the weather, spend time in my garden, and visit the green hillsides of California before they turn brown for the summer.

I have a lot to write about the garden, including some experiments and projects I want to try. I’m thinking about taking up a friend’s offer to plant some potatoes at his garden, since I don’t really have enough space. I’m hoping to start a slightly more serious triathlon training program and pick a couple races to train for. Since we can’t seem to find a nice house to live in, I’m hoping to make my apartment feel more like a home. I’m hoping to get more involved in my community, although I don’t know how I will find the time.

Spring is the time for rebirth, so I’m hoping to get started on all the projects soon! And most of all – I’m hoping to have the time to keep writing about them here.