Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Year Of The Squash

As is the case every year, some crops just do better than others.  This year has been no exception.  I'd say my top three success stories for 2016 were tomatoes, potatoes, and winter squash.  And while I could moan on and on about all the things that didn't do well or didn't do anything at all, let me just brag about one of my favorite things to grow and eat that did great this year...winter squash!

Winter squash a total space hogs.  The vine for my Blue Hubbard, that has exactly one squash on it, is over 25' long.  It's huge!  It was a last minute planting as a filler and I just sort of let it go where it wanted so it's in the middle of a walkway and three growing beds.  I'm okay with it thought because it's not hurting anything and I've never grown a Blue Hubbard Squash before.  I'm so amused by it's size and shape and color!




The other big success story this year is another first time variety in my garden: Zucchino Rampicante.  It can be eaten young and green like a summer squash {though this is actually the case with all squash as they are edible at every stage of growth} or left to age like a winter Butternut squash.  I definitely had a learning curve as I soon discovered that if this one is left to touch the soft ground, it will rot.  So I took those home, cut off the soft spots, and ate them as summer squash.  The rest I have been careful to add rocks and bricks under them so that they aren't resting directly on the straw and soil.  It's worked out well but next year I will be sure to plant them to grow along the 6' chain link fence.  Now I know!








As was the case last year, Butternuts and Acorns have also done well.  My two favorites!  And much to my delight, for the first time in the three years I've grown them, I've had a lot of luck with Spaghetti Squash!  In total I will have grown five lovely Spaghettis.  I'm so pleased that I finally had success!










And finally, pumpkins.  I planted four varieties but only have three still growing.  Just one pumpkin of each larger variety: pie pumpkin and Long Island Cheese.  And I think I will get about five of the tiny Jack-Be-Little pumpkins {which are edible but I only use them as decoration}.  




The great thing about winter squash versus summer squash is that they can be kept for up to a year in the right conditions {cool/dry}.  Friends are continually asking me what I plan to do with all of my squash and I think they just don't understand that I don't at all need to suddenly figure it out.  It's a year's worth of squash.  When I'm hungry, I'll figure it out then.  And fear not, I will defiantly donate to my community garden's Squash Hunger program too.  

That said...do you have a favorite and unusual squash dish that I should try?  Please share as I clearly have a lot of squash meals coming my way over the next 10-12 months...


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sadie Sunday: The Days When I Wore Pink Lilly Pulitzer Head To Toe

Dear Sadie,




I still look for you in your blue chair.  I still walk out of the kitchen to see you and smush you and cuddle you and it takes my breath away when I catch myself.  

This photo was taken November 28, 2008.  I am gasping that I had short hair (it was probably what I called "long" in this photo) for over a decade.  Also ...those Lilly Pulitzer jeans with pink embroidered elephants.  Gah...who was that girl?  

Listen bunny, I just need you to know that I love you from tip to tail.  This grieving business is harder than anything I've ever known and some nights I feel like I am just falling apart, but it's all worth it because it means I had you in my life.  You made everything in my world so much better and lovelier.

My heart always, 
XO Momma

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Put Up Or Shut Up

I don't do a ton of canning but I do like to can up a few bits to use during the coming year.  My favorite products to can are always tomato products as I am just such a big fan of all things tomato!  Last year, the season was so bad for tomatoes that I only managed to can 3.5 jars of tomato sauce.  Pitiful.




So far this year, I've canned up nine jars of sauce, 14 jars of pineapple tomato salsa, and 13 jars of delicious tomato jam (think grown up ketchup).  I'm so tickled with how great this tomato season has been.  And this is on top of endless BLT sandwiches and tomato/mozzarella salads.  It's been a delicious summer!

I won't be canning up any jams or jellies this year because I just don't use them fast enough.  I still have a lot of what I did last year on the shelf.  They're fun to make as they come together so quickly and taste so delicious, but I just don't use much jam in my daily life.  So I try to limit what I make.  And as the tomatoes have been so much better this year, I am dubbing this the year of the tomato and running with it!

Crossing my fingers I get enough tomatoes ripe at the same time to make one more batch of tomato sauce to get me through the winter without having to use store bought sauce {not that there is anything wrong with that- I just think it's fun to taste my own organic tomatoes when it's snowing outside}.  But either way, I'm already so pleased to know I will be able to taste my summer garden until next season.  So much personal satisfaction in these photos, y'all!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Week In Review


YOGA.  Monday and Tuesday saw a double dose of my ass on the mat because my anxiety is at an all time high and I desperately needed to shove that cuckoo in the clock.  Back to just once a day on Wednesday and Thursday.  That's six times in four days.  Y'all...be proud of me!  I turned to my mat instead of ice cream.  I'm a work in progress.




GARDEN.  Part of me is sad to see summer favorites like patty pan and tomatoes and rhubarb come to an end for the year.  But part of me also loves that things like Swiss Chard are once again thriving in all their rainbow glory now that the nights are cooler.  And winter squash...oh how I just love all things pumpkin and squash!






SALADS.  I have a few more tomatoes still ripening which means I have a few more bowls of summer sunshine in my future.  Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown basil, and homemade mozzarella are my absolute favorite lunch or dinner this time of year!




COOKIES.  I've talked about this before but let me again share my best dirty little secret.  I make a batch of cookie dough, ball up the entire batch and place it on a single Silpat lined cookie sheet, place the whole thing in the freezer and wait a few hours.  Once the balls of dough are frozen, transfer to a large zip top baggie.  Now you have options.  You can bake up the whole batch, bake up a dozen, eat the frozen dough balls {we cannot be friends if you are above that}, or my personal favorite and the reason I am telling you this, bake up two after a tough day.  There is just nothing better than two perfect, warm chocolate chip cookies on a cold night {or...let's get real...any night}.  




So what big or perfectly mundane things happened in your world this week?  Give me the skinny!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

New Season, New Attitude




I like fall.  I like the crispness in the air and the leaves changing colors and pumpkins.  Fall has a lot to offer.

But I struggle.  Because fall means the end of summer and dum dum dum...the approach of winter.  And winter feels horrible to me.  I feel claustrophobic but also unmotivated to go anywhere.  It feels dark and sad and depressing.  Going days, weeks, or even a month without seeing the sunshine drains a Florida girl!  And this year, my anxiety is working overtime because I don't have Sadie.

It isn't just about her not being here, which is still huge and tangible for me.  But it's the lack of the routine.  I don't have a forced reason to get my coat and boots on and leave this house three times a day when I walk her.  I don't have those cuddles and kisses when I am feeling blue.  I don't have someone to talk to {she was THE BEST listener} when I need to ramble out the jumbled thoughts in my noggin.  

I can feel the winter dread.  It feels like a weight is on my chest.  But I can't seem to move it.  

I'm trying hard to focus on the now.  Because right now, wow is it pretty outside!  It's still warm and the humidity has dropped and the sun is shining.  Right now, it's lovely.  I mean, look at that gorgeous display I found walking in my city last night!  

I can also still get into the garden and play.  Tomatoes are about over- waiting on a few more to ripen before I pull them all out.  But squash and pumpkins and a myriad of other treats are just around still growing strong. If I can get luck back on my side and avoid more theft {one pumpkin has already been stolen}, I should be set for the next nine months with winter squash.  Get ready for a fun game called "just how many ways can KK find to use a butternut squash?"

I like fall.

I'm just working overtime to not fall into a winter depression hole.

I'm a work in progress, my friends.  

What are your thoughts on fall?  Any big opinions either way?  Any suggestions on unusual ways to use on winter squash?



Use It Up: Rhubarb Syrup

I am very lucky to have an extremely healthy and productive rhubarb plant in my garden.  But every year, I struggle to use up the vegetable and not let it go to waste.

Side note...rhubarb is kind of fascinating in that it is technically a vegetable.  However, a long time ago {look at me...just full of specific details for you...winning story already folks!} vegetables were taxed higher than fruits {and perhaps they still are...again...all the details...}.  Because rhubarb is most typically used in sweet dishes vs savory dishes, much the way fruits {think strawberries or peaches} are used, the rhubarb farmer folks lobbied {because #America} to have rhubarb's status changed from a vegetable to a fruit.  And because #America...it was in fact changed.  So the rhubarb farmer folks paid less taxes and to this day, the American people still think this food is a fruit.  It is not.  It's a vegetable.  {Go ahead and infer my opinions on broken and backwards systems here....}

I came across several recipes for rhubarb syrup and thought that might be a fun addition to plain water, seltzer water, champagne, and perhaps even on ice cream {but I'm going to be honest...I don't ever use these things on ice cream...I know a lot of other people do though...I typically eat the ice cream out of the Ben And Jerry's pint like a chubby heathen}.  It was easy and tasty to make and something I will definitely do again before fall sets in.




RHUBARB SYRUP

Ingredients:

* 4 stalks of rhubarb, washed and chopped.
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup water

Directions:

Simmer rhubarb, sugar, and water together in a pot on stove for at least 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for a bit and then strain well- pressing gently to extract all liquid possible.  Store in jar in refrigerator for a few weeks.  Add to beverages and top deserts.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Visit To Hudson Valley Seed Library's Farm

When I saw that my favorite local seed company, Hudson Valley Seed Library, was offering a tour of their farm down near Kingston, NY, I quickly bought a ticket!  Zero hesitation.  I love this company, I love farms, and I love a good daycation.



You can read about their story on their website but the short of it is that a group of friends bought an old Catskill camp property {for non locals, think Dirty Dancing}.  One thing lead to another and one couple turned their love of preserving culture through seeds into a small business via a seed farm.  The plants they grow are grown for their seeds, not to be sold as food.  




The property is so beautiful, surrounded by woods and nature.  They have been careful to farm only a small portion of the land as to allow wild flowers and nature to live copesthetically.  




All of their seeds are grown organically and they only grow heirloom {old} varieties.  The company began as a true seed library.  Which is exactly what it sounds like.  You borrow seeds for the season, grown your own, and then save seeds to return for others to use the following year.  It keeps old varieties that grow well in local regions thriving during a time when these heirloom varieties are going extinct.  






While I love growing edibles the most, there is something so special about seeing rows of flowers.  Even now, I sit here grinning like an old Cheshire Cat!  Such a lovely, cheerful sight!




We were able to see some great seed saving demonstrations.  The first two I saw were how to save tomato and summer squash seeds, both techniques with which I am already familiar.  {Though it was fun that the tomato seeds they were saving that day were from Stone Ridge tomatoes, which I am growing and loving for the first time this year.}. Then we moved on to see seeds saved from beans using a pour-over-the-fan method which was pretty interesting.  As well as a really cool device that uses a funnel and a vacuum and looks like a homemade version of the old game Mouse Trap.  




We had a few visuals of the final products.  I bought seed for the corn below to try for the first time next year.  It's a pale blue and short variety.  But it's sweet and when cooked it actually turns a darker blue.  Cannot wait to try it out in 2017!






Beans and onions and leeks oh my...




The seeds I picked up for next year {though I've actually already placed another order and know I will order again in February when I really figure out what I need for the season}.  

If you haven't seen the art packs that surround the Hudson Valley Seed Library seeds, you are missing out.  Every variety they grow gets a unique package designed by artists.  The artists are given a story about the seed they are commissioned to work on and the art reflects that story.  We were able to hear so many really moving stories and it just brought the already beautiful artwork to life.  We also got a sneak peek at a few that are being made next year {and fun side note...I found out that all of their printing work is done right here in Troy!}.  




This tour was easily a summer highlight for me.  I went into it thinking it might be an interesting way to spend my day but I came out incredibly inspired.  The company, the mission, the employees, the projects, the ideas, the passion, and the products are all so heartwarming and uplifting.  They aren't just saving seeds, they are saving stories and cultures.  


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Feeling Off




I've not been myself the past few weeks.  Nothing major, just little things that have come up and made me take note.  I'm still trying to figure it out.

I've told you how I don't sleep well.  Before Sadie died, going back to my toddler years, I couldn't get to sleep.  I went to doctors and therapists for this as it was a pretty big issue.  And I don't mean I was a kid who complained about bedtime or snuck out of bed to play.  No, no, no.  I just couldn't physically fall asleep.

It's all I have known though until four months ago.  When my issue became staying asleep.  An entirely new sleep issue for me.  

I'm big fun, y'all!

So now I am insanely tired all day, every day.  I do get a heck of a lot done before the sun rises many days, so I try to make the most out of these early mornings.  But I just crash in the evenings.  I can typically fall asleep easily {though not always...and this week...not at all}, but I can't stay asleep.  I am awake at all the hours.  All of them.  And a few nights a week, add in there weird dreams and often nightmares.  

Even when I do get sleep, I wake up flipping exhausted.  I would pay good money for a pill that would let me sleep without dreaming for just one night.  

So back to me feeling off.  

I'm off, but I am also exhausted.  

All of this is to say I am figuring a few things out.  Prioritizing.  Re-grouping.  But also, drinking copious amounts of coffee.  

This post is all over the place so let me just say that this has been an incredibly hard year for me, personally.  And I am still working though those emotions.  The thing that I credit with sort of saving my sanity this year, is gardening.  If you follow me in Instagram, you know it's all I talk about.  Because that focus has been my lifeline in a life that no longer includes my Sadie.  But fall got here today.  It's not that I dislike fall.  I love a lot about it, actually.  But it feels like the long walk to my doom as it precedes winter.  And while there are pretty winter days, the winter blues are real.  I am scared out of my mind how I will handle being alone without my Sadie and without a garden distraction this winter.  My anxiety is at a new level of high right now just thinking about all the grey days being inside.  

So in conclusion, I'm tired and anxious and feeling very off.  But I'm trying to focus on the things I can change and start there.  Adulting isn't for the faint of heart, that's for sure!

Tell me about your week.  Anything good, bad, or in between going on?  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

You Can't Lick My Cooter

Story time.

Bestie District has a little lovie, baby H.  He's three and a half and such a funny, tiny toddler human.  But like so many tiny toddler humans, he has a few words that get pronounced wonky.  Most correct themselves over time and are soon forgotten.  This one though...I'm still giggling!




When he first started saying computer, it came out as cooter.  It was hilarious and stuck and it's just a funny family giggle.  {Totally including myself in there as family, obviously.  I am Auntie KK, after all.}  Out of the mouths of babes, right?  It's sweet and innocent and sure to mortify him when he's a teenager and this story is being retold around the dinner table.  

So last week I was hanging with my baby bestie H for a bit while his parents were out and he was playing on his tablet thingy.  Or what baby H calls his "cooter".  He was playing a Peppa Pig game {I could wax poetic about my love of Peppa and the darling accents and sweet stories.} that had him making pizza and ice cream and food things.  I was being a good auntie and saying oooh that looks yummy and mmmm I'd love to taste that and the like.  After a few rounds, baby H looks up at me and says with total seriousness, You can't lick my cooter, KK!

Um...don't worry baby...Auntie KK most certainly will not lick your cooter.  I will however text your parents, laugh for weeks, tell every friend I see, and blog about it for posterity.

Kids really do say the darnedest things!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hanging On To My Summer In Lilly

I love summer.  I love the sunshine and the warmth and the brightness and the sundresses and outdoor activities and the ice beverages and the flip flops and sun tans and the outdoor markets and the windows open and of course...the garden.

I love summer.

As a result, Labor Day Weekend is a bit of a doom and gloom on my calendar.  I mean, the weather hasn't changed overnight.  But it does get noticibly darker far earlier around here.  We are having cooler nights.  It's less humid.  A lot of things are coming to the end of their life cycle in the garden.  It's just clear that change is around the corner.

I'm in mourning.

It's not that I dislike fall.  Quite the opposite, actually.  What I dislike are the seemingly endless months of darkness that come with winter, never wearing cute shoes because you're always stepping in and out of cold, gloppy much, and wearing 7000 layers.  I find winter exhausting.  Outside of the few charming, freshly fallen snow days, winter just beats me down into an exhaustive depression.




This weekend I wore all of my very favorite Lilly sundresses as a sort of ode to Summer's end.  Because even though I've long abandoned the archaic seasonal clothing rules, it's just impractical to wear a sleeveless cotton sundress when the weather turns cold.




I really had such a lovely summer.  I played with my favorite people and had a pretty good season in the garden.

But I admit it...I'm sad today.  Because change is around the corner.  I'm just not ready to let this summer season go.  


Monday, September 5, 2016

What's Growing In The Garden?

Squash!  Lots and lots of winter squash.

Last year was the year of the butternut squash.  Which was awesome as I love me some butternut.  This year, much to my absolute delight and anticipation, seems to be the year of the spaghetti squash!




I've never successfully grown spaghetti squash.  For one reason or another, luck hasn't been on my side.  Until now.  And so far, I have five that I feel comfortable saying should get to full size.  They're still mostly white but just this week a few have started to take on a yellow tone.  Woot woot for growing new things!

Do you have anything growing this year for the first time?  How many seasons did you give it a go before you saw success?  Try and try again, my friends!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sadie Sunday: Peek-A-Boo Baby




Sadie,

I've had several friends recently have their fur babies join you in Heaven.  I'm trying to be encouraging and loving to them the way so many have been to me.  But it's hard because it rips open the wound of losing you every single time.  I re-play our last 24 hours together over and over, no matter how hard I try to not focus on that.  It makes it feel like it was just a minute ago that I kissed you.  

I try to refocus on knowing you will have more sweet friends to play with up there.  Oh how you loved other dogs, every single one even if they didn't seem to love you, with all your little heart.  I know you are having the best time playing and being pain free.  

But losing you has been the absolute most difficult thing I've ever experienced.  My grief seems palpable.  And it's embarrassing that I can't just stop the sadness.  

This photo though is anything but sad.  It was taken so many years ago and it is one of your best candids.  This was in our tiny DC apartment on the Hill.  When I had company over, I would push the two IKEA coffee tables together and cover them with a nice tablecloth.  You loved using the it as your little homey cave.  You were such a nester.  I smile at the pure cuteness of the moment that I get to keep forever.

I love you baby bunny.  You are forever the little love of my life. 

XO Momma

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Made Me Look: Praying Mantis

Gardens are full of bugs.  Some are considered pests because they do great damage to plants {potato bugs, squash bugs, tomato horn worms, slugs, aphids, grasshoppers, flea Beatles, cabbage white moths...to name a few}.  Others are considered garden friends because they either don't bother plants or help them in some way {lady bugs, bees, wasps, praying mantis}.

Praying Mantis eat pests.  Last year I caught one in action nibbling up a pesky grasshopper.  I quietly cheered him on and told him to come back with friends as my garden is FULL of the pesky hoppers.  The other day, I walked in to find this pious friend on my patty pan plant.  I hope I get to see lots more of Mr. Mantis.  Not only are they a garden friend, but they are hands down the coolest looking bug around.




Welcome to the Preppy Crocodile Garden.  All praying mantis are welcomed and encouraged.  Tell a friend!    

Friday, September 2, 2016

How To Use Berries: BlueBarb Pie

One of the first things I made after a recent trip to pick raspberries was a Bluebarb Pie.

Oh are you unfamiliar with Bluebarb Pie?  Well I made it up.  It's simple a combo of blueberry and rhubarb in a pie.  And let me tell you a little secret...it was the best damn pie I've ever made {outside of Apple...because apple pie is in it's own category...you understand, right?}!




I'd love to give you a recipe but I didn't use one.  I made this crust because why mess with perfection. And then I did my famous but frustrating to friends who ask me for recipes technique...I just winged it.  I threw in a bunch of fresh blueberries that I picked the day before and chopped up a bunch of fresh rhubarb from my garden and added some sugar and a bit of cornstarch and some cinnamon and a dash of ginger.  And called it a pie.








It wasn't super sweet, which I LOVED.  It was just the most perfect balance of flavors and I hope I can wing it again in the future because holy smokes it was just perfection.  




What's your favorite pie?  Have you ever winged a recipe and had amazing results?  What flavor combo did you toss together?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Garden Fails

I often show off on here and social media what is growing well in my garden.  Because who wants to hear all my sad stories of garden failures.  But the downside of bragging is that it gives folks a false impression that I have it all together and am just winning at this garden thing.




Let me set the record straight.  While I have plenty of success stories in the garden, I have at least twice as main failure stories.  

That's the truth.  I fail a LOT more than I succeed.  

This year alone I have planted peas and beans 3-4 times, depending on the area.  So far I think I've consumed a dozen green beans and a half dozen purple beans and zero yard long beans and maybe two sugar snap peas.  Which is crazy because beans are normally a no-brainer.  




I bought all new carrot seeds and went through a bit of effort to plant them out.  You see, the way I prep my garden in the fall has one down side, planting small seeds is tough.  So I cut into the straw/newspaper/mulch and added soil to plant the seeds.  Then I planted and watered and waited and watered and did all the things you are supposed to do.  Weeks went by and not one green sprout.  So I replanted.  Rinse, wash, and repeat again for a total of three plantings.  Guess how many carrots I have coming up?  Guess.  If you guess anything higher than zero, you're sadly incorrect.  Four varieties in two different areas and not one carrot of any color to show.  




Normally my ground cherries are the talk of the garden.  I am stil the only gardener to grow them (because I am the only gardener who grows from seed and I've never seen starts sold up here) and that works in my favor.  When something is unique to the garden, it generally means there are fewer pests to fight off.  Every other year, my ground cherries are eight feet tall by now.  This year they have yet to reach one foot tall.  That's right...they are still under 12"!  Oddly, they are producing fruit so I have had a few bits to enjoy.  But nothing like a normal year from a tall plant.  I have no idea what's stunted their growth but it's a big disappointment.




Two months ago I planted a second round of seeds under my grow light of brassicas: two varieties of cauliflower and two varieties of broccoli.  I was finally on top of my game enough to plan for a fall garden!  I timed it to put the fall brassicas in after I pulled out the first two beds of potatoes.  Things looks great and went to plan and I was rather pleased with myself.  The next day I cam to the garden to water my seedlings to find that of the two dozen planted, only four survived the first night.  All eaten by grasshoppers.  A week later and I am down to two and they are not looking great.  So much for a fall garden.  I had extra bean seeds so I planted those instead but you know...based on how things are going this year I am not holding my breath.




I am trying a new-to-be variety of squash this year.  It's an Italian variety that can be eaten young and tender like summer squash or allowed to grow huge and saved like a butternut winter squash.  However the lesson I've had to learn the hard way is that this variety needs to be able to trellis up as it grows.  Many varieties of winter squash are happy to grow on the ground or trellis up.  However, every single one of the big curvy Italian squash that have been able to touch the ground have rotted away.  It took me losing several to realize the lesson and I am no keeping them off the ground as much as possible.  But it's so sad to see fruit get to this point only to die the next day on the ground.  Now I know...next year I will plan the placement of them accordingly.  

I could go on but my point is, please don't look at my Instagram feed and think I have all the secrets to successful gardening.  I have fails every year.  More fails than successes.  But I do my best to learn from my failures and never take a garden no for an answer.  There's always next year...

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