Create your day

Archive for the month “May, 2012”


I loved the TV show Chopped. The arrogant banter, the praise followed by the one thing that didn’t go so well, the walk of shame, all the frantic running around and the strange combination of ingredients makes for great entertainment. However, my most favorite thing about chopped is the chef’s ability to create something out of a random assortment of ingredients. I always think “what would I do?” The answer is probably make a fool out of myself, but I find the challenge fascinating. So, with normal ingredients and no time constraints I found myself in a similar situation last night.

In my pantry I had ½ of an onion, garlic, one carrot, parsley, a variety of canned beans, canned tomatoes, and pork shoulder.

Pork Chili. I’ve never made chili with anything other than beef, but why couldn’t I substitute one protein for another?

I began by cubing and searing my pork shoulder. I removed from the pan when they were properly browned on all sides. I added my onion and carrot to the pot along with 2 TBS chili powder, 1 TBS cumin and ½ tsp cayenne. My one year old son, who actually likes spicy food, will be eating it so I didn’t want to make it too spicy. Anyway, I let that cook until the veggies began to soften and then added 3, and one baby, garlic clove to the pot. I cooked that for a few seconds until fragrant. Then I added my meat back to the pot, gave it a good stir to coat it in the spices and added one can of diced tomatoes, one can of chili beans, one can of tomato paste and about ½ cup of water. I brought the entire pot to a boil, put the lid on and let it simmer until the meat was cooked through and tender.

I did have to go to the store to pick up a few extras like avocado and some canned corn which I threw in to the chili when I got home.


It wasn’t as rich as a beef chili, but it packed the same punch and I rather enjoyed the larger chunks of meat. Overall, it was pretty tasty.


The Gift that Keeps on Giving

That’s what my garden is like. The sheer number of flowers that were planted by the previous owner is astounding. Beautiful, undoubtedly, but since I want to reduce the maintenance, I feel like my brain is in overload. At any moment I may get the blue screen of death.

I think it’s particularly difficult for me because I am so in love with each flower. They are beautiful and I want so much to find them all the perfect home in our gardens, but as my husband has pointed out, we need to re-grade and so we may lose some of them. I wish the areas that were in jeopardy were the areas that had plants I didn’t love, like the giant Hostas that are taking over. Honestly though, I can’t think about that now.

So, I’ll just resort to my documenting and something happy like the fact that my peonies are finally blooming!



Icelandic Poppy


Another mystery flower.  Does anyone know what this one is?

Remembering Roots

For some people Memorial Day isn’t the happiest day, but for me it’s a chance of remembering my history. Last year I put flowers on our family graves with my grandmother and this year I’ll be putting flowers on her grave. I miss her, my grandpa and my great-grandmother, but I always have little reminders of them. They all worked so hard to give their children (my mom) and thus myself a better life and yet they still found time to enjoy life and pursue their crafty side.

My great-grandmother was very crafty. She was excellent at gardening, crocheting, knitting and even embroidery. Some of my fondest memories are of her sitting on the sofa and crocheting afghan squares. I have her old knitting needles and crochet hooks and every time I use them I like to think I am channeling her abilities.

My grandpa was an orchardist which is a very difficult job. It requires patience, an ability to creatively come up with solutions to problems and an innate sense of the land. I wanted to be an orchardist for a long time and might have been except that things in my life changed with a baby and a move an hour away from my grandmother (my grandfather had already passed). He didn’t want me to be farm because it the life was too hard. Under it all, I knew that I probably didn’t have that innate ability that he had, but I really wanted to preserve the legacy of my family. I love the orchard and now that my grandmother is gone, will miss going up there regularly like I used to. It is a place that brings an ultimate sense of calm and happiness. It is a place that is surrounded by nature and yet I can still hear the laughter of all the people who would crowd the tiny (now dilapidated) house built by my family. There are so many memories, especially of my grandpa. He taught me how to fish and hunt for mushrooms and how to pick an apple. My son reminds me a lot of my grandpa, both in looks and personality. Every time my son smiles at me in that mischievous “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m going to anyway” smile it reminds me of my grandfather who had that same mischievous streak. It makes me smile and wish that my grandpa could see him.

My grandmother, now she was an interesting character. She was very quick-witted, even at the end. We shared a love of jigsaw puzzles and could sit for hours together trying to figure out how the pieces fit together. She was a wiz at remembering names and I wish I had her talent. Even at the end she knew who everyone was and probably most everything about them too. I always felt closer to my grandpa than my grandma until he passed away and then I became very close to her. I wish that I had been closer to her. She was really good at sewing and I would have loved for her to teach me. She did, however, teach me the basics of crochet which helped my addiction to yarn.

I was always closer to my mom’s side of the family than my dad’s side and have much more fond memories of them. As a child my sister and I would spend a week at my grandparent’s orchard making mud pies, playing hide and seek and enjoying the wide open spaces. I miss being able to talk to my grandparents, but I know that they are always with me. They all carried a creative streak that they passed down to me just by being in my life. For that I am eternally grateful.

Starting Seeds: The first true leaf

The seedlings are growing well. So far only one has fallen, but several more have sprouted (unexpectedly) to take its place. The first true leaves have emerged and I can now tell that I have dill, thyme, and Brassica’s (Bok Choy or Brussel sprouts).


Dill and a Brassica co-existing


Brussel sprout or Bok Choy?

I will begin transplanting them to their final home. Ideally I’d like for them to get a big more robust, but space is lacking so I’ll move them now. I may lose a few more in the process, but I hope not.

Keeping my fingers crossed….

US Senate Bean Soup

Last week we had perfect spring weather. This week it’s raining. Such is life in the Pacific Northwest. Where the change in weather goes, so does what I feel like eating. No one likes to bbq in the rain, and since it was feeling cool again I was in the mood for soup. I opened the Joy of Cooking to the soups, dove in, and submerged with the US senate Bean Soup.

I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful it was, especially given how simple the recipe is. I paired it with homemade honey wheat bread and we had ourselves a nice comforting, easy dinner. According to the cookbook, this particular soup has been on the menu of the US Senate restaurant every day since 1901.

Here’s the recipe:

Soak (preferably overnight, although I skipped this step and it turned out fine): 1 1/4 cups small dried white beans such as navy or Great Northern

Drain and place in a soup pot along with:

1 small ham hock and 7 cups of cold water

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the ham hock (leave soup at a gentle simmer).

Discard the bone, skin and fat; dice the meat.  Return it to the pan an add:

1 large onion, diced

3 medium celery ribs with leaves, chopped

1 large potato, peeled and finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Simmer until the potato pieces are quite soft, 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher until the soup is a bit creamy.

Stir in:

2 TBS chopped parsley

What’s Blooming Now?

It seems like every day something new is blooming.  I feel as though I am at a buffet in Vegas; delighted, overwhelmed and totally unsure of where to begin.  I began taking pictures of the flowers blooming and their location so that during our slow process of re-landscaping I would know what was planted where.  Now however, I am overwhelmed by all that is currently planted and totally unsure of where they would look best in the yard.  It was easy to visualize how I wanted to garden to look during the winter, but now, all I see are beautiful plants.

I think I’m a flower junkie.  Well, there’s nothing else I can do now but take more pictures.




Iris in the morning


I came back in the afternoon and it had started opening.






Columbine. One of my favorites


Clematis. This was my grandfather’s favorite flower. It always makes me happy when they start blooming.


Another mystery flower. It’s a bulb of some sort. Does anyone know what this one is?


Our kitty, Puss n’ Boots, who loyally follows me around while I take the pictures. He is also a fierce hunter of small creatures (although he has caught a few squirrels and a rabbit) but is scared of everything else.

A Vase of Flowers

I was walking around the garden yesterday morning taking stalk of what is blooming.  I love seeing everything opening, bursting with color and fragrance.  My son loves being outside with me and his new favorite thing is to point to a flower to be taken to so he can smell them.  It is the cutest thing ever!  Anyway, after seeing all the flowers in bloom I couldn’t resist and had to cut some to bring inside.  I like playing with colors and this is what I came up with:




Now my son points to the vase of flowers every morning so that I will take him over to smell them.  It brightens my morning just as much as the flowers themselves.

Beret Update

I finished! I thought it would take me longer with all the additional distractions, but it’s amazing what happens when the baby wants to take long naps and goes to bed early and your husband has a business trip.

It is not in the traditional beret shape, which I like. It’s much more boho chic of which I am neither, but that won’t stop me from wearing it.  It actually fits my personality of not having a definitive style.  As an added bonus, it seems so very Portland.  Not the Portland that I grew up with, but what it’s become.  Hopefully I’ll look just as cool wearing it as I think I do, but honestly, I don’t really care.



Remember Records?

I love music. I love everything about music. I also love celebrating creative and stellar musical talent. While I love the modern convenience of iTunes, iPad, iPod, Pandora Radio, etc, nothing, to me, can beat the quality that come from an LP. There is something about it that I just love. I grew up with records and record players. There is a picture of me when I was two or three and when I got my first record player and record (Sesame Street) for Christmas. I loved it to death! I was always playing with my parents record player and listening to tunes, even after I got my first tape player, which I still have.

Anyway, my husband was searching on Craig’s list and came across someone wanting to part with their record player and 120 records. We jumped.
The collection is amazing. Rolling Stone Magazine came out with their 500 greatest albums, and we have a large chunk of them (sweet!). I have been soaking myself in the amazing works such as Led Zeppelin, CCR, MJ, Prince, and so many more.

However, the collection is far from complete.

Here are some that I would like to add:

Sam Cooke

The Beatles

Simon and Garfunkel

Cat Stevens

And now my question to you: What is your “must-have” album?


Happy Listening

Garden Update

It seems like everyday something new starts blooming. It is heaven and frustration all wrapped up into one ball. I have a vision of how I want the garden to look and all these new plants popping up are making my head spin. I’m not sure how to save all the plants I love when we have to re-grade and I want to find some of them new homes. I think it’s going to be tough. For now though, here are a few more pictures of what is popping up.


Yellow rose. We have an over-abundance of roses. I wish they were easier to take care of because I love them when they bloom and are fragrant, but they really are too high maintenance for me.


Red rose. They really are so pretty.


Yellow Azela. This one is a different cultivar than a typical azela. it has bigger leaves and a more open growth habit.


Lavender. I need to move this guy so that it can grow to its full potential and be seen better.


Hydrangea. We have tons of these in the garden too and are one of my favorites.


these are growing all along the strip between the sidewalk and the street. I love the colors, but am not sure what it is. Any ideas?


Another mystery flower. Anyone know what this one is?


A different view of mystery flower.

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