the ranunculus are here!

6.18.2017


I really don't want to jinx it, but the flower garden is .... doing well. Last year was pretty much an epic failure with the exception of the sunflowers crushing it hard. So any success this year is just really thrilling.

But this week, I was out socializing on Monday and Tuesday ... and then on Wednesday... bam. Ranunculus! I grew these little babes from bulbs I bought off Amazon. I'll never forget the first time I saw ranunculus in Tuscany. All of the layers of blooms were so captivating. Last years attempts barely peeked out of the ground so to have plants and a handful of blooms is a flipping victory. I already feel like I won. I did end up returning the Lowe's ranunculus... they couldn't handle the wind and really crapped out.

For this part of the garden, I've spread some of the remaining salt marsh hay to try and keep the weeds down. I would love to understand how weeds can grow faster than grass and faster than flowers. In spite of my glorious plan laid out, I have not torn out the rogue sunflowers that are thriving outside of the designated sunflower row. Given how terrible this effort was last year, I'm holding on to any bloom I can get. Also, when I tried to transplant one of them it died... so we agree to disagree about where they live. But to round out the rest of the update, here is how everything else is doing.

Dusty Miller // Coming in pretty strong. Although it's a little confusing why two of the plants are wildly large... and the rest are just plugging along. Either way, all of the plants from last year are coming back and I didn't need any of the new seedlings that I started. There is something so enchanting about the slightly furry leaves. Maybe furry isn't the right word, but either way.

Dahlias // Coming up big and strong! The Arabian Night one that I planted first has some solid buds on it that could bloom in maybe a week or less. I can't wait to pair it with the dusty miller. Unlike the dahlia's planted last year, these are really growing straight up. I do expect that I'll need a stake or something to support them in a few weeks.

Sunflowers // Feel free to call me insane... but I legitimately planted 8 varieties of sunflower seeds. I think last year I did maybe 3? But, Jake gave me all these seeds... and I really couldn't pick which ones made the most sense... so I planted all of them. Additionally, I planted a few scattered rows of rogue sunflowers on the other side of the wind screen. I'm really hoping they take root ... and grow big and tall ... and make for amazing sunset backdrops.

Cosmos // Of the two cosmos varieties I planted, the second variety was doing much better. It seems like the seeds have a 50% germination rate or so. I ordered some more seeds from Burpee and just planted some more this afternoon. Really looking forward to some blooms here.

Love-in-a-mist // Doing well... but no blooms yet... and no real timeline for it? The seed packet had suggested planting more seeds every couple weeks or so to maintain flowers all summer. I'll probably do that next weekend.

Tuberrose // Of the 4 bulbs I planted, only one came up... which did result in a credit from Burpee. It is supposed to smell amazing so I can't wait for whatever the blooms are to show up. I might have to fill in the rest of this box with something else.

Ranunculus // See all above comments about how my eternal happiness for these babies. I do need to figure out how to make them grow even more. A lot of articles say that cutting the flowers actually helps them grow even more so I'll be Googling that all week.

Previous Flower Posts: what I'm growing [4/22]

 

[top] all the sunflower varieties
[1, 2] Dusty Miller in all its glory
[3] Ranunculus blooming
[4] piles of sunflower seeds with my new magic soil
[5] all the sunflowers beginning to pop up after a week
[6] Ranunculus blooming (again)
[7] The beginnings of the Arabian Night dahlia bloom
[8] The full garden picture

what I planted

6.16.2017


I've been in the market for a time machine on several occasions recently. My little brother's 18th birthday. My little brother's high school graduation... and my tomato plants. See, I got real ahead of myself and planted the seeds in the winter. Then it was a pretty miserably cold winter... and spring seems to have never existed... so my tomato plants didn't exactly shoot up.

They all looked really healthy but they weren't exactly getting miles taller. Meanwhile, my dad's tomato plants look like tall leggy green models. He offered repeatedly to take my short, cold tomato plants in like they were from a bad home... and I kept delaying it. And then I never did it.

And if I wasn't failing my tomato plant children enough, I definitely failed to transplant them early enough. The itty bitty seed pots are just too tiny. So, while the garden is planted and looking good... it is not looking incredibly strong. So, we'll see how this goes. Since everything is in the ground, it is time for a quick roundup of all the gems we are trying to grow this year.

So here are some notes:
  • Tomatoes // Yes, there are 10 varieties. There are 4 varieties that my dad grew that are planted in buckets outside the normal garden. For what it's worth.... they are thriving despite the fact that soil was not tilled, composted, or anything. One of his plants already has a TOMATO on it. 
  • Onions // yes, I almost didn't plant onions but I only need so many radishes (actually, I need none), carrots, and peppers. Also, onions came up in many plant charts are being great for its neighbors (e.g. peppers, carrots, tomatoes, etc). 
  • Cucumbers // These are not thriving at all. I'm giving them a week and then I'll be buying a plant from Lowe's. Year two attempting Mexican Gherkin is not going well.
  • Kale & Lettuce // I only did 3 plants this year versus the 5 or 6 I did last year. The lettuce has really picked up speed in the last few days. 
  • Herbs // Growing herbs is not for me especially when I can buy them for less than $3 at Trader Joes - which is what I did. The parsley seems to have passed on to a better life but the basil is thriving. We are going with parsley (maybe), green onions, rosemary, basil, and thyme. 
  • Carrots // I went all in on the carrots this year. I'm really hoping to build some solution to help store them in the garage this winter. Really pulling for the purplesnax carrots to crush it. They are purple!
  • Snap peas // not doing amazing. I'm a little worried that the salt marsh hay was too close to it and has affected some growth. Going to give it a week and then replant as needed. I'm real invested in this pea trellis.
All funny notes aside, this garden is the best part of my day most often. I check on it each morning and often in the evenings. On the weekends, you can frequently find me just staring at it looking at everything. I'm still not sure why the weeds grow faster than everything else but I'll keep pulling them out. Unlike last year, I bought the saltmarsh hay from a local greenery. Buying it was the smart move, putting it in the front seat of my car was the dumb move. Hay everywhere.

So, let's see how 2017 fares. I'm going to keep staring at the plants and slowly bringing tiny rocks back from the beach for the border.

precious pretty peonies

6.11.2017

Everything has felt so late and slow this year. The weather has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Tanktops have been a rarity. Vest season has lasted a lot longer than prior years. So, it also felt like peony season was really behind schedule... just like my tomato plants. 

Well apparently that was a lie because I did last year's peony post on pretty much this exact same day. The day the peonies bloom is always such a great day. I had been casually checking in on them to see how close they were and then overnight the blooms were out. 

I might like the 2016 pictures the most - but this pass was good enough. Other years felt all about the big blooms and I really wanted to get them before they totally bloomed this time. More about the unfolding of the layers, and less about all the layers being on display. You can see the difference even one day makes.
There are so many different peony varieties. My parents will never plant more but perhaps but here are some that I'd consider for my own garden in the future. These colors aren't exactly a happy family but they feel so different from the trademark pink ones you see everywhere. Don't get me wrong - I love all the pink peonies. My heart jumps out of my chest when I see them at Trader Joes... but I'm always a fan of growing things that you can't buy. [buckeye belle, la lorrainekopper kettle]
But here is what 2017 brought to the peony show... If you are so inclined, you can take a trip down memory lane to see 2016201520142013, and 2012.
 

Making Garden Decisions

5.27.2017

Spring just feels so late coming this year. I'm not totally sure if that's the truth but that's how it feels to me. I needed the weather to be just a little bit warmer and it finally feels like it is turning. Thankfully I had the last few months to plan for the garden.

Burpee did a huge buy 1, get 1 seed sale in January so that really accelerated my planning decisions. I would have spent at least another month making decisions - easy. I still have some decisions to make this year - but feeling good so far. We've got about another month before plants really get in the ground.

While there were some great winners from last year, I'm make a lot of changes and also not too many all at once. The layout will largely be the same and so will the overall selection - but I'm picking some different varieties. Variety is the spice of life. One of the great things about Garden Year 2 is that you've really already made a lot of these investments. Year 1? $$$. Year 2? $. I did "splurge" on a new pea trellis because (1) that's my kind of splurge and (2) wild suburban life decisions.

Changes from last year?

  • Less hot peppers // I barely ate any of them... and I couldn't give them away to people. Regular peppers? Loved them and I was able to eat them into the winter from my freezer.
  • Less kale // I can't handle 5 plants worth of kale and couldn't get people to come and eat it. People won't turn down tomatoes or bell peppers, they will turn down kale.
  • Beets // Nope. Didn't do well at all.
  • Onions // TBD. I loved growing them but didn't really use the produce that I stored for the winter. I do think they were great for garden bug harmony and they are really low effort.
  • Radishes // I never ate them. So while I love how fast and easy they are to grow, it doesn't necessarily feel like a good use of growing space. Maybe I'll put in one batch and see how well I do with those. Either way, low priority.
  • Cucumbers // the only thing that was nice about the Boothby Blonde was the name otherwise it was a flavorless dud. If I said nice things about it last year, I rescind them now. It's not terrible but there are better things to grow. I'm planning to do a variety that is a little more versatile and can be used for pickles too.


New editions?

  • Tomatoes // nearly all new tomato varieties but with a similar strategy as last year. Went with all indeterminate varieties across the size spectrum. 
  • Cucumbers // Going to try for two varieties: something standard and something special. The "pick a bushel" hybrid is seemingly good for everything from snacking to pickling. I tried to grow the "Mexican gherkin" last year with no success but since I'm not a quitter... I'm trying it again.
  • Carrots // These could not have been easier to do ... and I could have been much better about harvesting them. I pulled a few out of the ground this week as I was prepping the cutting garden side. This is ambitious but I'm going to try for 2-3 varieties: Purplesnax (cause it's purple) and Touchon (cause it's rather traditional).

I didn't do nearly as good of a job prepping the garden. It started out real strong... and then since it never really got warm... my seedlings have been a little bit sad. My dad's tomato plants are quite literally 5x the size... So I'm hoping all the tender love that I've been giving them in the last two weeks will make them big and strong. We'll see.

basil thyme quinoa cakes over arugula with fig honey goat cheese

5.23.2017

I think I tend to make quinoa cakes like once or twice a year - and normally when I feel like I need to pull myself together and get back to square one. Square one being actual meals... and not sourdough toast. Don't get me wrong toast is amazing - but there are no real vegetables, greens, or otherwise healthy nutrients to be gained. I'll never forget when I revealed to a guy I was dating how frequently I had english muffins... for dinner. He was especially confused given this is essentially a recipe site.

But this weekend, I pulled out the rice cooker and made my last cup of quinoa. I am simply not capable of making grains without the rice cooker. Forever thankful to my friend Carrie for giving it to me. And then on a Monday night after a full day of work, I easily managed to pull this meal together. It's really simple - and everyone needs to know that. I've made quinoa cakes for the last like 5 years but these are the best ones yet. I'd like to think it's because I plucked the herbs fresh from my garden... and since I'm the writer and the chef, it's probably true.

Here are some tips:

  • Quinoa // you can make this ahead of time. It'll cut down your cook time to less than 10 minutes. Ten minutes!
  • Breadcrumbs v panko // For the past few years, I've been pretty firmly in the panko club ... but an inadvertent breadcrumb purchase a few months ago forced my hand here. Breadcrumbs really enable you to get a nice crust on the cake... and alters the mixture consistency in a good way.
  • Consistency // You want the consistency to be slightly on the wet, loose side but enough that it stays together if you were to ball it up in your hands. I know this isn't a really helpful description - but fundamentally, don't let it be dry. Don't load up on breadcrumbs.

But in the end really, it's about great ingredients. I used fresh herbs from my garden and this goat cheese was real special. It was a fig and honey goat cheese that I bought from the grocery store next to my office. Can't get this? Just use regular goat cheese. It'll be fine.

Here's how it goes. Oh, and here are the other times I've made quinoa cakes (2012, 2013, 2014)

  1. combine cooked quinoa, egg, and breadcrumbs in a bowl. You want the consistency to be slightly on the wet, loose side but enough that it stays together if you were to ball it up in your hands. I know this isn't a really helpful description - but fundamentally, don't let it be dry. Don't load up on breadcrumbs.
  2. add in the chopped basil and thyme.
  3. spoon the mixture into gentle balls and place into a medium-hot skillet.
  4. let cook until browned and then flip to the other side.
  5. while the cakes are cooking, you can mix up the salad dressing. Absolutely toss your greens in the dressing before plating. Use your judgement on what proportions of dressing ingredients - but mostly olive oil, some honey, light squeeze of lemon.
  6. plate the cakes over the arugula and scatter some goat cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the plate.... and then eat.

Shopping List
1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt to taste (I used pink Himalayan)
6 basil leaves chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme

salad
arugula
olive oil, honey, lemon juice
goat cheese

blueberry croissant french toast

5.22.2017


Sometimes, I write up recipes because they are an amazing success. I practically sprint to the computer and do it that same night. I'm so excited to write it all up. Other times, I'm writing up a moderate win pretty much to make sure I do better the next time.

This is one of the later examples. This was good - but I can be better. And unfortunately, the thing that I think could make it better was actually my first inclination. The answer is always more bread. Or Cheese. But in this case bread.

I had seen an Instagram post for some beautiful blueberry croissant baked french toast. I was rather immediately sold on the whole thing. So I made a trip to Trader Joe's to pick up the essentials... and my parents backyard to pick up the eggs. All the chickens are back to laying eggs... which means we don't need to buy eggs again until the winter. When I was standing in the bread section of Trader Joe's, I also grabbed a loaf of Sourdough bread. I wasn't confident that 6 big croissants was enough.

Here are a few notes about this dish:
  • Add bread // the croissants are so light... that they don't seem to absorb all the eggy mixture. This is fine if you like the dish on the eggy side instead of the french toast side - but it also just makes it super light. Adding a few slices of torn bread to the dish would have given a bit of heft that would have been greatly appreciated
  • Sugary topping // Everything deserves a little sugar topping. It's never a mistake. I combined some chopped walnuts, butter, and brown sugar - and drizzled it rather heavily over everything. Don't skip this. You'll regret it.  
  • Blueberries // Fun story. These blueberries are leftover from blueberry picking last summer. 
But here's how it goes. BTW - this was for Mother's Day ... and yes, you should always have Dunkin Donut holes at a brunch. Always.
  1. Grease your pan and heat the oven to 375 F
  2. Add your roughly chopped croissant to the dish.
  3. Mix up the eggs, milk, and all other ingredients. Pour over the croissants.
  4. Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the dish
  5. Bake for 35 minutes or so - until your eggs are set.
  6. Eat!

Shopping List
10 croissants, cubed (or 7 large ones)
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 cup milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup blueberries (or more?)

topping
1 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh grated
1⁄2 cup walnuts, toasted rough chopped
1⁄4 cup butter, diced
1⁄2 cup brown sugar

Funfetti Pancakes

5.14.2017

I was listening to a podcast yesterday and the person being interviewed was talking about the importance of understanding what goes into all your food. Now, I'll admit that my diet in the last couple months hasn't deserved any blue ribbon awards. But - when I was standing in my kitchen last night opening and closing cabinets, staring at the refrigerator, and pacing back and forth ... I had no idea what to make.

Then, it came to me. I wanted pancakes. Homemade pancakes are shockingly easy to make. While I agree that Bisquick is delicious, you don't absolutely need it. Plus, when you make things from scratch you know everything that is inside that meal. Now I know that funfetti pancakes have 7 ingredients and only take you like 15 minutes to make. If you happen to be texting at the same time, it'll take you 20. To be completely honest, I only made these whole wheat because I was completely out of regular flour. I'm pretty confident that I'm not any healthier for it because of the sprinkles, syrup, and butter.... but it still feels like a win. Also, it made a dent in the giant container of sprinkles I had to buy for the funfetti cinnamon rolls.

So here's how it goes. Essentially mix it all together and then put it on a griddle.

  1. Combine your dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, sugar.
  2. Combine your wet ingredients - eggs and milk.
  3. Mix your two bowls together and then add in the melted butter. If you have lemon juice, you can add it now.
  4. While your pan / skillet / griddle gets hot, you can add in your sprinkles. I didn't exactly measure, but just start with 1/4 cup and add until you get the right balance you are hoping for.
  5. Cook your pancakes as you normally would.

Shopping List (makes about 9ish pancakes)
2 cups flour (half whole wheat)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of sprinkles
1 1/2 cup of milk

Biscuits + Airplanes // Day 5

5.08.2017


Ah the last day of our trip. When we started fleshing out this trip, I oscillated on whether we should stay closer to the airport ... or in the city. We absolutely made the right decision on staying in Seattle. It enabled us to really do so much the day before - including an awesome dusk walk - and actually enjoy breakfast before our flight. Who likes an airport hotel breakfast? No one.

Seattle

Although the day was largely spent in some form of transport, It was still a really great day. Per Jake's request we managed to get to Biscuit Bitch for breakfast. While we kind of expected a wait on Sunday, I was surprised to find a line on a Monday morning. The menu is pretty robust. Just think of like a make your own sundae bar... but with biscuits. We kept it kind of easy and just ordered biscuits - and they were really great.  A biscuit with honey - and a side of bacon - might not have been the healthiest way to end our trip but it was perfect. We sat in the Waterfront Park, ate some biscuits, and then checked out of our hotel.



Travel

You know what makes a cross-country flight easier? Doing it with your siblings. Seriously. When you know everyone in your seat row, it's like stress free traveling. You know you can use the armrest, go to the bathroom, and adjust the window shade as much as your heart desires.

We got to the airport pretty quick and easily via an Uber... and then just relaxed and charged our phones until boarding. Jake and I took one last trip to a Seattle based Starbucks. I'll be honest, I haven't been to Starbucks outside of Seattle in probably like over a year. Since the move to the burbs in 2015, I've been rather firmly in the Dunkin Donuts and local coffee shop camp. It's always nice to shake things up a bit.

I manage to negotiate the window seat for the first half of the flight... and my sweet siblings never asked me to switch. So for the next 6 hours, I watched the USA pass by. It was pretty great to start with some big mountains in Seattle... and end with a chorus of lighthouses in Boston Harbor. We flew over Boston Light and Graves Light, and in the distance I could see Minot Light. My favorite.

What's next? 

... And that was the whole trip. It was a really special couple of days that I'll never forget. At some point, I'll try and write up a post about it. But in the meantime, I'm going to water my lawn and keep looking at these amazing pictures. 

Flowers + Baseball + Glass Art // Day 4

5.07.2017


I'm really glad that we came into Seattle the day before - instead of this morning. While we weren't exactly trying to cram a lot of activities into Seattle... that extra breathing room made it easy for everyone to see what they wanted to see. I had last been to Seattle in 2010 on a grad school trip - and this time I managed to see just a few more things.

It really was a rather perfect day. We fueled up with a solid breakfast, walked 21k steps according to my Fitbit, and saw a beautiful dusky evening along the water. The only thing I would change is to get a hotel that has a roofdeck.

Breakfast at Ludi's

If I've learned one thing on this vacation, it's that my brother really loves breakfast. While the rest of the team was sleeping I did some research on good spots for our morning meal. We originally tried to hit up Bitch Biscuit but the combination of the line and lack of seating caused us to go with Plan B - Ludi's. Ludi's was billed as a no-frills, traditional diner option - and that was on-point. While the potatoes didn't exactly wow us, we can chock this up as a reasonable meal that set us up for the day.

Pike's Place

The last time I was here was in 2010... and I think it was before like 8 am ... so it was nice and quiet. But at 10 am on a Sunday this place is bumping. We probably spent a couple hours just walking around and peeking at things. I was absolutely in love with all the fresh flowers. Every stall was so amazing and had varieties that I had never seen before. The peony tulips are so unique... might try to grow some next year? Maybe?

Jake had two requests. See them toss the fish around and go to the first Starbucks. We managed to easily do both. Turns out there is always a line at Starbucks - even at 9 pm. Jake got another latte because that's his jam now. Kerrianne bought me a flower that I proceeded to carry around for the rest of the day. I only wish I could have taken it home with me to Boston.




REI

Since Pike's Place didn't take as much time as we thought... we had a little extra to play with. REI is based in Seattle so we had heard that it was worth a trip to the store. It was a bit of a walk and definitely not in downtown Seattle - but also totally worth it. I was a little worried that it was just going to be "normal" but it was far from it. There was a rock climbing wall, a river / fountain situation, a mountain bike trail, and two huge floors of product. An absolute experience.

Mariners Game

When we were beginning to plan this trip, the only thing Jake asked to do was to go to a Mariner's game. I ended up buying the tickets via Seatgeek at Logan Airport before we left on Thursday. It was a beautiful day for a game with blue skies and some warm sun. It was also apparently some special children's day at the game and Jake got a free hat. Technically the hats are only for the kids under 14 ... but the kid gave it to him anyway.

Boston seems to get a bad rap for being an expensive sports city but this wasn't exactly any cheaper. The food was absolutely the same - if not higher. But the stadium was really nice. It is located pretty much in the city so we were able to walk back to the hotel after the game.


Chihuly Exhibit

Although Kerrianne's main request was to visit cider houses, she also really wanted to see this Chihuly exhibit. It was only open for some limited hours, so we did leave the game a bit early to make it work - but it was also pretty impressive. I had seen one of his pieces at the Boston MFA a few years back so this was a much larger experience. Some of the reviews said it was particularly impressive to see at dusk or nighttime and I would agree with that. We were there around 5pm and I think it would only be more amazing if the sun was a tiny bit less bright.



Other Activities

Although I was inclined to take an Uber back from the museum, Kerrianne suggested we walk and it was a great idea for many reasons. One we ended up finding a cute Mexican place for dinner and two, I got to exchange my sad, worn-out vest at Patagonia. Both were great highlights for sure. We decided on the Cantina de San Patricio place largely because it had a great outdoor patio ... also because the guac looked great. It was a perfectly relaxing dinner in a cute alley way of Pike's Place. While we were eating we played "dealbreakers v gamechangers" with Jake. The game is essentially where we ask him questions and he tells us how much he cares about them. E.g. Buttered Toast is apparently a game changer.

After some relaxing hotel time, Jake and I took a dusk stroll back to Pike's Place. While he loves breakfast the most, he also loves a little sweet for dessert. I've disappointed him on more than one occasion by having nothing to offer him at my house. So we grabbed a little chocolate at Rocky Mountain Fudge and strolled through the empty Pike's market. The water was so pretty at this hour. You could see Mt Rainer clearly on the horizon and the ferries were going back and forth. I love a good walk and was happy that my baby brother obliged me on this one. We enjoyed our chocolate treats over some Uno and facemasks on hotel beds. Jake opted out of the facemasks activity sadly.



Tomorrow? 

We are flying home! Our flight isn't until mid-morning so we'll have some time to do breakfast in Seattle first. Jake has politely requested Biscuit Bitch... twice.
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