welcome ... enjoy yourself

Friday, May 30, 2014

this week in the garden

I came back from vacation to an explosion of baby lettuce!  My six varieties of lettuce all seem to be doing pretty well.  I should be able to start harvesting (and eating!) fresh, delicious salads in a week or two.  Above is the Freckles lettuce and below are the Buttercrunch and the Merlot variety.

In the picture above you can also see a random baby cilantro that popped up (top center) and one of my radishes (bottom left)  that aren't doing so hot.  I tried harvesting radish seeds last season, but the seeds I planted at the end of April haven't been very productive.  I might try them again at the end of the season. 

Some baby rainbow chard that will need to be thinned out soon. 

And some peas that I am so excited about!!  These are the blue shelled peas I bought through Baker Creek seed company.  I love the slightly blue tinge to the leaves and the small purple circles where the leaves meet the stems.  Watching things grow and finding new details like this is one of my favorite parts of gardening. 

Things are also going well in the herb garden.  The chamomile is going crazy, which means I'll soon have to research when to harvest it and how to turn it into delicious tea.  Sounds like a good potential blog post...

These are the borage seedlings I started from seed a few weeks ago.  It's the first time I've planted it, and I'm curious to see how it grows.  When it's mature it will grow light blue flowers that supposedly taste like cucumbers. 

And the sage is also growing nicely!  I am so glad it survived the winter.  You can see the progress it's made in just a few short weeks.

This week we have another garden work day, and I'm planning to plant my nasturtium and bean seeds and do some work in our food forest.  My family is also visiting from St. Louis, and my mom promised to bring some tomato plants for my community garden plot!  The weather looks like it's going to be perfect, and I am so happy to spend time outside and have a picnic lunch.

Hope you have a great weekend.  Have any fun plans?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

hartford: elizabeth park

This weekend, Paul and I travelled to the east coast for a friend's wedding.  We extended the trip by a couple of days for quick stops in New York City and Hartford, Connecticut to see old friends.  While in Hartford we visited Elizabeth Park, home of the oldest municipal rose garden in the country.  We were a little early for roses, but we had such a nice time walking around and enjoying the beauty of the park.

Love this guy and love irises.  I have a special place in my heart for these flowers.  My great grandma, grandma, and mom have all grown them in their gardens - and my mom still has portions of iris plants that grew in my grandma's and great grandma's garden.  The great thing about iris: they love to multiply!

Are those just some of the most beautiful things you've ever seen?  And they smelt just as nice as they looked. 

I also appreciated this mini edible garden outside the garden cafe.  I've got some more inspiration now for my porch garden!  

I'll be sharing more of our east coast adventure over the next week.  Still to come: Mark Twain's house, NYC, and our 6th JVC reunion!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

around here

Ah...hello again!  I apologize for the long hiatus, but if you follow me on Instagram you probably saw a few pictures of the recent trip Paul and I took to the East Coast this weekend.  We were in New York for a wedding of my old roommate, and we extended the trip a few days to head to New York City and Hartford.  It was such a wonderful adenture -- much needed -- I'll be back with pictures of our trip tomorrow!  Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

three pretty books

I am happy to share three new pretty books today as part of my ongoing series highlighting gorgeous and inspiring books.  The best part: these books are all available to borrow for free from the library.  Beauty on a budget!  Today I'm sharing peaks into Holly Becker's three Decorate books.  Holly is the author of the Decor8 blog where she shares her passion and inspiration for living a creative life. 

Decorate was Holly's first book, released in 2011.  This book is a pretty typical design book, divided into sections based on different styles (i.e Natural Style, Flea Market Style, Colorful Style).  I loved so many ideas I saw in this book and wished I could "pin" them all. 

D E C O R A T E   W O R K S H O P

Decorate Workshop was such a fun book, and if it hadn't been requested by someone else in the library system I would still be studying it.  Decorate Workshop is a more user friendly version of Decorate, with a step by step guide to applying Holly's decorating principles to your own space.  I really loved that she gives ideas for things you'll need to get started (floor plan, details, swatches) and asks good questions to get your inspiration flowing and help you think of what you really want for your space.  She finishes the different sections with pictures of absolutely gorgeous spaces. 

D E C O R A T E    W I T H    F L O W E R S

And now my favorite book of the Decorate trio: Decorate with Flowers.  Holly's most recent book (co-written with Leslie Shewring) is focused on adding floral decorations to your house/apartment in fresh and creative ways.  This is the kind of book that I would cuddle with before going to sleep every night in the hopes that the gorgeous images would inspire my dreams.  The flowers!  The colors! The paper accent! Ah, be still my heart.  I now plan on keeping a flower budget for the rest of the summer so I can add mini arrangements to our house...all the time.  

How about yes please to this whole book?  Even if I would never make anything out of this book, I would buy it for our coffee table just so I could browse through it.  

Hope you enjoyed the glimpses into these pretty books.  Have you read any good books recently? 

For more pretty books: last installation, more pretty cookbooks, and the first round up 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

i made macarons!

Lately I've been experiencing some intense nostalgia for our trip to Paris last summer.  On days when scrolling through Pinterest photos just doesn't cut it, I stop by our local bakery and pick up a few macarons.  The melt in your mouth taste is almost enough to transport me back to the last morning in Paris we spent by Victor Hugo's house.  Almost.  

I had never tried making macarons myself because I was too intimidated, but when I saw the new Macaron 101 e-course on A Beautiful Mess, I threw caution to the wind and purchased the course ($8) and all the needed supplies (about $30).  

I'm only going to go through the highlights of baking macarons here since the process is so complicated and others can explain it much better than I can.  A Beautiful Mess has also done a quick tutorial you can see here, but if you're really serious about making these delicious cookies, I recommend splurging on the e-course.  Seeing the video and all the trouble shooting tips was really helpful. 

Before I could start baking, I needed almond flour, a piping bag, powdered food coloring, and a kitchen scale (I had the sugar, eggs, and kitchen aid mixer).  I purchased everything through Amazon except the almond flour which I found at our local co-op.  

There were a lot of firsts I experienced baking these macarons - first time whipping egg whites, first time piping cookies, first time using powdered food coloring.  I was pleased to discover all of these things were way easier than I had anticipated! 

One of the most important things when baking macarons is paying attention to moisture and humidity.  No liquid is added to macaron batter (hence the powdered food coloring), and before going into the oven, the macarons have to rest and dry out.  The humidity wasn't very high the day I made these, so I just needed to let the macarons rest about 15 minutes before baking. 

Pulling these macarons out of the oven and seeing no cracks and nice "legs" pretty much made my day.  I was fully expecting a disaster with my first batch!  I think the only reason they came out so well is because I followed those e-course directions so closely.  I usually cut corners when I bake, and if I had done that with macarons I don't think they would have turned out.  This is really a cookie that requires precision and attention to detail  - not something I enjoy, but I'll definitely do it for a macaron :) 

I added some buttercream icing as a filling and let most of the macarons sit overnight.  You're supposed to let the filling soak into the "shells" before eating them, but I had to try at least one of them!  It cracked and melted just perfectly, and oh man...my tastebuds and heart were very happy. 

The total process for fifteen cookies took me about 2.5 hours including baking and cooling time.  So I can now fully appreciate these cookies costing $1 each at the store.  This is definitely not something I'll be doing every weekend, but I hope to make them for special gatherings or celebrations.  Or for those times when I just really need a taste of Paris. 

This was my first attempt at macarons, and I was so shocked/happy/amazed that they turned out practically perfectly.  I followed the Macaron 101 e-course directions to the letter, and I highly recommend the tutorial.  You can purchase it for $8 from A Beautiful Mess.

Monday, May 19, 2014

today i'm thankful for...

the perfect low-key, normal, completely uneventful weekend

a taco and margarita happy hour

coming home from derby practice to a clean apartment

an evening walk through our neighborhood

a nice catch up talk with a great friend

learning how to make macarons

finally being able to open the windows

adorable dresses (on sale!) for upcoming weddings

making summer travel plans (Portland and Iceland here we come!)

Sunday brunch and errands with my love