The garden

I’ve been wanting to tell you about our garden for awhile.  We moved into our house about this time last year and never really felt like we had the time or space in our minds to think about the yard since we were mainly focusing on getting our things settled inside the house.  So, this year, we have been super excited about the prospect of being more thoughtful about our edibles.

We started by getting all of our fruit trees structurally pruned by a professional tree service company last winter.  Had we timed these photos right, we could have shown you what they looked like in the prime time of their flowering.  But, here’s what they all look like as of May 22:

Plum Tree

Pear Tree

Apple Tree (with our new bird feeder!)

Our 2nd apple tree

Two Cherry Trees

Two Cherries


We’re really hoping to take advantage of our fruit this year.  We pretty much missed all of our plums last year. ( think I ate one.)  All of our pears were WAY to high to try to pick.  At one point we had considered trying to pick them through the upstairs bedroom window, but they were still out of reach. The ones we found on the ground always looked like they would have been pretty good.  All our cherries went to the birds.  Every single one of our grapes went to the raccoons.  I at least managed to make a good sampling of baked apple treats.  So, like I said, we’re hoping for better luck this year!

Oh. I almost forgot to show  you our nicely pruned grapes.  We did both of these vines on our own. 🙂

We ended up buying all of our starts for the garden at two different times.  In April, we planted:

  • peas
  • carrots
  • spinach
  • romaine
  • red leaf lettuce

and pot of italian flat leaf parsley, sage, and thyme.

(In case you’re wondering why our parsley looks so measely, it’s becuase I’ve already used a huge amount of it for a chimmichurri sauce.  And – don’t you worry about that mint.  It made it into our inaugural summer mojitos and they were good enough to repeat throughout the season.)

Last weekend, we finished our planting with:

  • tomatoes (grape, roma, and tomatillos)

  • jalapenos
  • serranos
  • cucumber
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • delicata squash

And, we added another pot of herbs with basil and cilantro.

We also finally got rid of a bunch of the strawberries that had been planted in one of the garden beds when we moved in.  So, we’re down to 1/3 of what had been there.

It wouldn’t be right to leave out a picture or two of some of the flowers we put in the planters coming up our front steps.

Nor could we leave out a photo of our new pride and joy:

Our rain barrel!!

Here’s hoping for a warm summer! 🙂

If only those new shoes made everything better…

I may have gotten a little overly ambitious on March 20th when I signed up for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half-Marathon.  (In my defense, Kyle was right there with me encouraging me to do it, so it wasn’t a rash decision…)

If you didn’t read my last post, you should start there.  It gives you a little history about my recent knee problem.

Long story short: I’m doing Physical Therapy 2 days a week right now.  There isn’t a real diagnosis except that I have pretty poor tracking in my kneecaps (with too much lateral movement to the outside of my knee).  So, any type of repetitive activities (i.e. walking, biking, running, being on a machine at the gym, doing workout videos – in other words, ALL of the things I do to stay active and healthy) have a tendency to cause inflammation and pain in my knee(s). (It’s my  left knee that was really giving me problems, but the right knee isn’t exactly a perfect specimen, either.)

The exercises they have me doing will help improve stability and strengthen the muscles in the inside of my knee to help pull the patella in/up instead of out to the side.

When I first arrive for my appointments, they do some ultrasound to heat up the tissue around my knee.  Then the therapist does some stretching of my kneecap – inwards, to sort of train it to go the right direction – and then I get taped up and look like this:

I do my PT exercises with the tape, which is, when first applied, pulling my kneecaps tightly in towards the center of my knees.  The tape stays on for a couple of days, so it feels pretty weird.  Not to mention, as the days goes on and the tape shimmies around a bit, it reveals the sticky residue on my skin, which then collects all of the fuzzies from the inside of my pants.

I’m really glad that I took the initiative to call my doctor and see if he thought I should go to PT for this, because it’s obvious that I need a trained individual to help me make gains.  But I’ll tell ya….it is SOOOOO hard to not be able to do all of the things I normally do.

Right now, I’m restricted to only using the bike at the gym and at a really low resistance.  (Like…3.)  The rule of thumb is that I’m only allowed to work myself hard enough to the point where I feel a very faint dull ache with no real pain.  The point – as I understand it –  is to build up the body memory in my tissues and ligaments and stuff so my body knows what repetitive motion for a long period of time feels like.  Then, slowly, I can add resistance (and I imagine more types of machines and outdoor exercise) as I can tolerate it with zero pain.

I’m not even allowed to take a long “exercise” walk outside right now.  It was recommended that I try only 30 minutes.  And, maybe do that with a brace, with superfeet inside my new “good” shoes, ONLY on flat services.  (No trails.)  (Personally, I think I can handle walking farther, longer, and without all those supports right now, but, I’m a rule follower and would have a hard time NOT taking the advice of my Physical Therapist.)  So, instead, I’ll just complain about it. 🙂

This is REALLY hard for me to take.  Plus, there’s the REALLY BIG chance that I wouldn’t actually be able to run the half-marathon this summer, which in case you didn’t peruse the website in great depth to find this out, is a non-refundable, non-transferable registration.  So, it feels like I jumped the gun in paying the big bucks to participate.  I know that if nothing else, I think  would be able to walk it.  (Or maybe run/walk???)

Anyone out there have an encouraging story of healing quickly from an injury??  I’d love to have a positive anchor to hold onto during my slow-going therapy.

I just keep thinking, “If only those new shoes made everything better….”

New shoes

I know I told you awhile back about how I’m so thankful that my two greatest hobbies – cooking/eating & working out – go together so nicely.  I really hate the feeling when I realize those two hobbies have become unbalanced.  Recently my left knee has been giving me enough pain that I very consciously have had to say no to working out (or at least to the level of activity that I would hope to be doing.)  It’s meant no running and on days like last Thursday, no gym.  😦

The most frustrating part is that I have no idea what went wrong or how I became injured in the first place.  I can pinpoint a run I went on in Michigan over Christmas break as being a time when I noticed a lot of pain, but unfortunately kept pushing myself and probably made things much worse than they needed to be.  When I really stop to think, though, it goes back to a time at the gym a year or so ago when I was on a stationary bicycle and had to stop mid-workout because I was in such pain.

Kyle did some online research for me and decided that I need to be stretching my IT band muscles to begin to make amends in my body.  So, we researched a little further to find some stretches that would do just that and I’ve done them on 2 or 3 occasions.  I honestly can’t tell if it’s the right type of stretching or not.  I’m thinking if it doesn’t help (or it makes things feel even worse) I’ll probably be calling up a physical therapist in the near future.

In the meantime, one of the other things we realized I have quite a bit of control over is making sure I’m wearing the right shoes when I work out.  Kyle and I usually shop at your average sports store to get our athletic shoes and mainly choose our shoes without the help of a salesperson based on our personal brand preferences, how cool the shoe looks, the price, and then of course, that “little” factor of how they feel when you put them on.  Needless to say, I think I go through shoes about once every six months, but could really be replacing them much sooner than that because they’re not the best  quality.

So, as one of my birthday presents, Kyle got me a gift certification to Super Jock n’ Jill, one of our local athletic stores devoted mostly to running and walking.  They are well known for helping you select appropriate athletic shoes for your needs.  Think personal shopper and gives you a glimpse into what it feels like to be a customer there.  Your “salesperson” is acting like a personal shopper to get you the best shoe for your needs.

We went in this afternoon and I walked out smiling from ear to ear and being super chatty about what a positive and worthwhile experience it was (and thanking Kyle profusely for my gift certificate because it’s not something I ever would have done on my own accord.)

When I walked in, one of the sales people greeted me and immediately got me into a pair of “diagnostic shoes”.  Then he had me walk and jog down the short length of  the store so he could watch my pronation.  Based on his observation, he thought I would be a person who would benefit from a medium level of support from my shoes so he brought out a handful of options for me to try.

One of my favorite things about the whole experience is that the salesperson did all the choosing.  He was using his knowledge of how the shoes are made and the kind of support they provide in order to try to fit me with the best option for my needs.  He would have me put different shoes on each foot and then go outside and try walking/running in them so I could figure out which one I liked better.  Based on my preference, I would keep my preferred shoe on and tried another one on the other foot.  Eventually, we got down to the point of having the matched pair of my preferred shoes on to make sure it was a good fit.

I had this thought afterwards about how opposite this experience is to your typical shoe shopping experience.  Typically, we walk into a shoe store and go for the shoes that look the coolest to us.  Then, based on appearance, we decide to try them on and if they feel good, we buy them.  Shopping for shoes today was exactly the opposite.  We shopped solely by the way they felt.  There was absolutely no thought about what the shoes looked like.  They’re blue and your favorite color is red – who cares?  They’re mesh and you prefer something more solid – oh well!  The ONLY thing that mattered was what they felt like when they were on your feet and you were walking or running in them.  (And to be honest – it wouldn’t have really mattered which shoe I ended up with because they all looked cool in that sporty way.)  🙂

It was really obvious that the salesperson isn’t there to sell you the most expensive or most trendy shoes.  Like I described earlier, his job is to be more like a personal shopper find the best match for each of his customers.  They also have an awesome guarantee that if you get your shoes home and start wearing them and you discover that they’re just not working out, you can bring them back – no matter how dirty they are – and they’ll work to get you fitted with something better.

I guess all I’m saying is that I walked away feeling really satisfied with my purchase.  It felt like a really well thought-out purchase that had my best interests in mind.

While I know that my shoes can’t be the sole cause of my knee pain when exercising, I feel pretty good knowing that what I have now is far more superior than my last pair of shoes.  I think I instantaneously become a strong supporter of shopping in stores like Jock n’ Jill where your shoes are custom fitted to your needs.

Thanks again, Kyle, for gifting me in such a unique way.  I loved picking out my new shoes today!

Top 5 Most Memorable Meals

My sister, Katy, loves to ask this question about what your top 5 most memorable meals have been.  There are no requirements for the type of meal – it can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack – and it doesn’t matter whether you were dining in or eating out.  I still haven’t made it to my top 5 yet, but I just got to add #3 to my list last weekend.

My family occasionally had fondue for special occasion dinners when I was growing up.  It was always something I looked forward to and thought was fun, but looking back, it was a pretty basic meal.  I remember that we always had steak and chicken and we cooked them in oil.  We used simple dipping sauces like Heinz 57 and A-1 Steak Sauce.  I’m sure we had sides, too, but to honest, I don’t remember them.  Maybe potatoes of some sort…???  For me, the fun was in the main course.  I loved skewering the meat onto those long forks with the colored knobs on the end so you know whose is whose.  When I’d check on the progress of the cooking meat, sometimes the oil would sputter and a droplet would land on my hand and make me flinch in a momentary state of pain.  But then I’d be right back at it to get my next piece of meat cooked.

It wasn’t until my brother, Ben, started dating his now-wife, Heather, that I realized fondue could be more than meat cooked in oil.  Heather’s family is famous for fondue and particularly the cheese variety.  Heather made us a cheese fondue in Ben’s apartment when I was in high school and at the time – no offense Heather – I really didn’t like it.  The cheeses seemed heavy and overt and it was made with wine.  I couldn’t stand the smell of wine at the time, so I was sure that was part of the reason I didn’t like the taste of the fondue.  My palate has definitely matured since then and now I really enjoy both the smell and taste of wine.  (Maybe not as much as my mom, though.  As a side note – last summer, we were dreaming up a t-shirt for my mom that would say, “I love wine” on the front, maybe in the same style as one of those I ❤ NY t-shirts.  The back of her wine shirt was going to say, “But, I HATE texting.”  Random, yes, but very funny for her children.)

My palate has matured in more ways than simply enjoying wine.  Over Christmas vacation in MI this year, we had a family feast of fondue including oil, cheese, AND chocolate.  It was quite the event and really yummy so it got me thinking about an interest I had last year in trying out the Melting Pot for my birthday.  Ultimately, I ended up having pasta out at these AWESOME restaurant called Bizarro last year.  Since I was still thinking about Melting Pot this year, Kyle and I decided to lock it down and make reservations for my birthday.

I studied the menu for several weeks prior to my big day.  At first I was trying to decide if it would be worth it to do their 4-course dinner combination (in honor of Valentine’s Day) or if we would just end up ordering things a la carte.  We ultimately decided upon the latter and took the good money saving advice from our [really amazing] server on how to get a little bit more meat (by purchasing a side order) so we only needed to buy one entrée to go along with our cheese fondue, bottle of wine, and chocolate fondue.

So – this is what we ended up with:

  • The Wisconsin Blend for our cheese.  It had fontina, another cheese I hadn’t heard of, and then bleu added in at the end.  It was served with veggies (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower), granny smith apples, and bread (rosemary, white (I think) and honey wheat).
  • One Cesar Salad (that came with our entrée.) It had Parmesan crusted pine nuts on it, which I’d never had before!  And – our server had it split for us onto two plates.  We didn’t even have to ask him to do that.
  • The Filet Mignon Entrée with the Coq au Vin cooking style.  The entrée came with Portobello mushrooms and asparagus, and a vegetable bowl containing red potatoes, button mushrooms, and broccoli.  We also got a side of chicken.  The dipping sauces included one that was sort of a like a sour cream/herb dip for the veggies, a gorgonzola sauce for the filet, and then a trio of  extra sauces including  teriyaki, sweet and sour, and a curry sauce.  They were all super tasty.
  • The Original Chocolate Fondue, which had a touch of peanut butter swirled into it.  The dessert comes with strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, brownies, pound cake, rice krispie treats, regular marshmallows and chocolate marshmallows.

 

It was INCREDIBLE.  I should have had a clicker counter to find out how many times I said things like, “MMMmmmm.”  “Oh man!”  And “This is sooooo good!”  I felt like Bob on the movie, “What About Bob?”  At one point, Kyle got up to use the restroom, and I realized while he was gone, that I was continuing to make all of those audible noises while eating.  Kyle kept trying to ask what exactly was so good about it and I think it was a number of things.  First of all, it did taste delicious.  It was a yummy combination of flavors that I don’t typically make at home, so it seemed like a genuine treat, even though the meal as a whole was composed of very simple and straight forward ingredients.  (That is, by the way, my favorite type of cooking – turning simple, straight forward ingredients into combinations that make your meal feel like an intricate and beautiful feast of alluring flavors.)

In addition to the tastiness of the Melting Pot, you have to admit that the ambiance is overwhelming important.  When you’re there with one person – who happens to be the love of your life – in a cozy booth built for two, your dining experience quickly turns into a personable and private meal.  We were actually tucked away around a corner back by the door to the kitchen, but we had a view down the short hallway to the area where larger parties were dining.  I could tell that looked just as fun, but in a totally different way.  I would definitely consider going back with a group sometime when I’m looking for a fun and festive dining out experience.

The number one reason that I loved this meal enough to add it onto my list of most memorable meals is the pace of it all.  I loved that everything we ate was already bite sized so there wasn’t any temptation to stuff large quantities into your mouth and spend what feels like eternity chewing so it breaks down to a small enough size that you can gulp everything down in a swallow (or three).  Eating in small bites encourages you to truly taste and enjoy your food.  I like lingering over meals, too.  While “TV dinner night” have their place in life, my favorite part of meals these days is the community aspect of it.  It’s the time spent talking around the table, even after the food is all gone, that is so important and life giving.  Since slowness is expected at the Melting Pot, and you don’t feel any rush to leave so you can open up your table for the next set of diners, it’s an ideal place to really hunker down and savor the experience.  So, savor we did.

Oh – and the cherry on top??  They brought out a special little dessert plate for me along with the rest of the chocolate fondue.  It had three chocolate dipped strawberries ( one white, one milk, and one dark) and another couple brownie chunks with a candle in one of them.  Apparently the surprised look on my face was priceless.  J  What a treat!!

So – there you have it.  The Melting Pot Dinner for my 28th birthday has officially gone down in the record books as one of my top 5 meals.

(One of these days, I’ll try to remember to describe the other two meals that I have officially deemed most memorable.  They include Mama’s Fish House in Maui from our honeymoon trip and the Waffle House in Tennessee on the road trip that Katy and I took to meet our parents in Florida for Spring Break one year.  The Waffle House story might prompt me to also write about a recent experience that Kyle and I had at IHOP for breakfast and the bookend experiences on either side of that meal – church beforehand and the asian market after the meal.)

Oh – and another fun thing: I get to go out for Italian again this year for my birthday celebration with Kyle’s parents.  We’re checking out a little neighborhood joint, right down the street from our house called Café Piccolo.

Tough as Nails

I’ve always known that fingernails don’t grow very quickly, but I’ve never known this truth more intimately than now.  One month and a day ago (December 10th),  I had exploratory surgery done on my finger.

The problem began about 5 years ago when I started to notice that my left index fingernail had a split in it.  For a long time, I faithfully covered the split with superglue, hoping to hold it together while it grew out.  But, after years of this NEVER working, I gave up on the superglue.

There was never any pain associated with this (minus the times that the shard of nail that wasn’t connected very well would catch on something and pull it back), but I finally mentioned this annoyance to my doctor.  He couldn’t see anything on the surface level that would be causing my nail to grow like this, so he suggested that I see a dermatologist.  This doctor had no clue, so she ordered an x-ray to make sure there was nothing abnormal about my bone that would then affect the growth of my nail.  She then sent me off to a dermatologist whospecializes in nails.

Who knew such a specialty exists?  As it turns out, my doctor – Dr. Fleckman – is basically one of two specialists in the country.  There’s Dr. Fleckman in Washington and his best friend in New York.  🙂

Anyway…I’ve been seeing Dr. Fleckman since August 2010.  He faithfully worked through the process of ruling out a fungus or another skin problem and finally, after I’d stumped him long enough, he decided the last resort was to perform a surgery to lift my nail and see if there was anything going on with the tissue of my nailbed.

*WARNING: if you are at all queasy, you might want to skip the next paragraph.*

So, now I’m up to speed.  That procedure was done one month ago.  Thankfully, when Dr. Fleckman lifted my nail, he found the cause of my irregular nail growth.  I had a fibrous tumor (about the size of a grain of rice) growing on my nailbed.  Weird.  With a little work, he removed the nail, lifted my skin a bit since the tumor started growing up under my cuticle, and scraped off the tumor.  My finger has been on the road to recovery every since.

It took about 3 weeks for the nailbed to heal, but at this point, my finger looks pretty normal.  It’s just missing a nail.  After an entire month, there’s still not a hint of my nail starting to grow back.  I keep thinking that any day now I’ll see a bit of nail peeking out.  I’ve reached the point of having  zero pain associated with the loss of my fingernail.  If anything, it just feels weird that there’s only skin there.  It certainly does make me feel tough, though, when I get to tell the story of having my nail removed and watching most of the procedure!

 

Tradition

We went to the cabin a couple of weeks ago with our friends, Aaron & Elizabeth.  (Also occasionally referred to as “The Bookners”, which is a combination of their last names.)  Our planning for  weekends at Guemes with them is pretty much down to a science:

1) We’re always picked up by them on a Friday at our place and once on the road, place bets in the car on when we’ll arrive in Anacortes for the ferry.  (The winner gets to choose where we eat lunch on our way back to Seattle).

2) Once at the cabin, we unpack our coolers, drop our bags, prepare a fire in the woodstove, and turn on a few of the baseboard heaters just to warm things up a bit.

3) Eat dinner (and drink draft beer) at the store.

4) Either we or the bookners are in charge of Saturday morning breakfast.  This time, it was us, and I made swedish pancakes.  Unfortunately, I totally forgot to take a picture of those, but the ones I made looked sort of like this.  We put jam on ours, though.

5) Sometime after breakfast, we always take a walk.  This time, because of the high tide for most of the day, we ended up walking on the road.  Usually, we do a long beach walk, though, and hunt for agates.

6) It’s usually about time for lunch when we return.  Elizabeth and I usually plan it so both couples contribute to the lunch.  This time, I worked on a fruit salad with persimmons, which I’d never cooked with before –  let alone eaten – while she made yummy sandwiches.  We all enjoyed the salad so much, that I had to take a picture:

7) We also read.  At a certain point, while I’m reading my book and Kyle and Aaron are reading old issues of The New Yorker, Elizabeth takes an afternoon nap.  Once she’s awake, we assemble some sort of appetizer with drinks.

8) I can’t believe I forgot to mention that we spend the whole day stoking the fire so the woodstove looks like this:

9) For dinner, once again, we usually both end up contributing something.  We had a greek theme this trip with lamb meatballs,

a sauteed veggie dish with zucchini, onions, tomato, and feta,

and what Elizabeth refers to as my “Secret Couscous”.  Oh, and of course – we have wine.  Here’s what my plate looked like:

10) In the evening, over a few more drinks, usually end up playing a game.  We played Clue this weekend, which none of us had played in ages.  We had a really good time.

11) There’s usually a dessert on our menu, too.  I made a Rum Cream Pie this time.  Yum.

12) On Sunday morning, the other couple makes breakfast.  Aaron and Elizabeth made excellent New York Breakfast sandwiches, complete with “Salt, pepper, ketchup.”

Sometimes we end up with a little extra time before it’s time to catch the ferry and we’ll take another walk.  This time, we just cleaned up the cabin, and headed out to catch the 11:15am ferry.

Our weekends away are always really predictable, but manage to leave us with unique memories and make us ready to start planning the next Guemes weekend.

Oh – p.s. I won the bet on the arrival time.  We ended up at McDonald’s for lunch on the way home.  🙂

Starstruck

If it hasn’t been blatantly obvious to you before, I’ll make it clear now: I’m a foodie.  It’s taken me a long time to actually accept myself by this term, “foodie”.  I always had a negative connotation in my mind when I hear others talking about being a foodie.  To be blunt, I pictured an uppity, opinionated jerk.

In doing some further research, I discovered that my (incorrect) assumption about foodies was pretty common.  I like the definition and distinction provided by wikipedia: “…foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.  Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary…”.

That’s me.  In my free time, I sit around looking at recipes and planning meals.  I feel refreshed and renewed when I get to prepare food, and I absolutely love eating food!

When it comes to learning about food, I’ve read a couple of books and follow a couple of blogs, one of which is Orangette.  The writer of the blog, Molly, also wrote a book , which I think I’ve mentioned before.  I love her recipes and the stories behind them, so as I started planning my contributions to our upcoming weekend on Guemes with our friends Aaron & Elizabeth, I started by looking in the book for some dessert ideas.  I happened upon her recipe for Rum Cream Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and when I mentioned this as an option to Elizabeth, she made it obvious that it was her top choice.

As I started thinking about more of the details of preparing this pie, I realized I had a question, so I went out on a limb and decided to e-mail Molly.  I really wasn’t sure whether to expect a response at all, let alone before we actually leave for the cabin.  And yet, not even an hour after I e-mailed her, I got a reply.

Kyle was sitting next to me when I saw that Molly had already replied.  He says I was giddy, and starstruck.  And, he’s totally right.  Molly is the type of person that even though I’ve never met her in person (although, I have been in the same room as her when I went to hear her do a reading from her book), I feel like we could be best friends.  Katy and I both agree that Molly could quite possibly be a kindred spirit  of ours, so, imagine my delight when Molly returned my e-mail within the hour!  And she even signed off by saying, “Have a great weekend at the cabin!”

We’re totally on a first name basis now.  And – she has my e-mail address.

I’m totally starstruck…. Molly e-mailed me.

Community Supported Agriculture

Over the summer, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life based on a recommendation from my sister, Katy, and Jenna, who is one of my college friends.  When it comes to reading, I usually stick to novels, but this is totally worth the read if you’re interested in thinking differently (and more intentionally) about what you eat.  The gist of the book is that Barbara and her family invest a full year of their life eating only what they have grown themselves, or what they can eat locally that others have grown or produced.  It’s quite insightful and thought-provoking in various ways.

First, just to be clear, I didn’t walk away from the book wanting to embark on the same sort of quest.  I did, however, start to think differently about where the foods are coming from that I eat.  I realized that I can’t assume much of anything when it comes to food, and that I’d really like to know as much as I can about where my food is from and how it was produced.

As a result, I’m doing a couple of things differently.  For instance, I’m buying cage-free eggs now.  I used to just buy the cheapest store brand eggs.  Also, when I’m buying a canned or boxed product, instead of buying what’s cheapest, I’m looking at the label and usually buying the product that traveled the shorter distance to get to Seattle.

Probably the biggest change Kyle and I have made is to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Group.  CSAs can look different from place to place so I did some research before joining ours.  The things that ultimately sold me on joining Full Circle, were that they would deliver to our house, we could get a box of produce every other week, we can substitute items if we want, we get fruit as well as vegetables,  there’s a green grocer option, and when they are filling the box, if the product wasn’t grown at the Full Circle farm, they’re connecting with other local farms.  That is, in the off-season, they’d provide produce from neighboring states as opposed to supplying their customers with products from Mexico.  (I actually read about another CSA that occasionally supplies citrus from Mexico.  I can buy citrus from Mexico in the grocery store.  Why would I need it delivered on my doorstep amongst local, organic produce?)

So, since August, Kyle and I have been learning to cook with a variety of new produce.  I realize I may have eaten some of these items before at a restaurant, of if someone else cooked it for me, but I’m pretty proud of the fact that I can now say I have officially cooked and eaten dishes that contain kale, chard, beets, beet greens, various cabbages, turnips, turnip greens, and collard greens. On top of that, I used to just buy romaine lettuce.  Now I use whatever comes in my box.  I used to buy the fruits that I thought were in season.  Well, now I’ve eaten truly seasonal apples, plums, pluots, apricots, pears, and grapes.  I admit, I spend a considerable amount of time now just researching new recipes so I know what to do with our box, but the nice thing is that it’s not all unfamiliar.  We also  just get the normal stuff – the peppers, carrots, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash.

This week we got a head of romanesco and I have no idea what to do with it, but we’ll figure it out.  🙂

So, to give you an idea of the timeline:

1) I get an e-mail on Wednesday telling me the contents of my upcoming order.  At that time, I can  make any substitutions that I’d like, and add anything from the Green Grocery that I’d like.  (There’s all sorts of meats, dairy products, additional produce, and even baked goods and coffee that I could buy.)

2) The next Monday, our order appears on our doorstep by 5am.  I get pretty excited about this; it kind of feels like a bi-weekly Christmas morning.  On Sunday night I make sure the porch light is on and I put out the previous week’s box to be picked up for re-use.  (Although, I just got notice that now we can/should just recycle the boxes….)  Anyway, I usually check  the front door before I get in the shower, which is a few minutes after 5.  Once of these days, I’m sure I’ll open the door on the delivery person.  🙂  Here’s what I opened the door to today:

3) After I’m showered and dressed, I start unpacking the box.  Usually this happens while I’m brewing my morning coffee.  When I open the box, it usually looks something like this:

Everything is unwashed and loose.  I don’t have time to wash it in the mornings, but I do find bags to put everything in, and then proceed to cram it all into whatever space I can find in the fridge.  I’m definitely ready for a better fridge, with  more space in the produce drawers. 😉  Here, you’re looking at the romaine lettuce, lucinato kale, spinach, and escarole we got this morning.  As I continued to unpack, I uncovered the rest:

Romanesco, acorn squash, yams, green onions, gala apples, D’anjou pears, grapes, and pluots.

It does end up taking the full two weeks to use everything.  I’ve occasionally had to supplement with a bit more fruit from the grocery store, but I’ve only bought produce if I needed something to go along with a recipe I was making using my other CSA produce.  I also had to buy more from the grocery store when my parents and aunt & uncle were visiting recently.  (The standard size box we get is really meant for 2 adults.)

I really like that I’m doing my shopping based on the items that are coming in my box, and I love knowing that what’s coming in my box is in season, local, and certified organic.  I also love that Kyle and I are stretching ourselves to be more adventurous in our eating.  I think the only thing we haven’t liked so far was the Southern Style Collard Greens that I made, but both of us are totally willing to try them again.

It takes a little bit more planning time to cook with all of these new foods, but overall, it’s totally worth it knowing that we’re eating wholesome, seasonal, local, organic produce.

I Love Fall

I feel like I’m finally able to breathe a little bit as of today.  Granted – the busyness at school will continue on through the rest of the month.   But this morning when we woke up, we realized it was one of the first mornings without a schedule that we’ve had for weeks on end.

So…we decided to take advantage of the beautiful fall morning and walk to breakfast at a new place in our neighborhood called La Bera Cafe.  Kyle had an egg, sausage, and cheese breakfast sandwich, and I had a belgian waffle with nutella, banana, and pecans on it.  What luxury!  (We’ll definitely be back and plan to try as many of their menu items as possible.)

Later tonight we’re going to the Husky Game with friends, but for now, our afternoon is looking wide open. I know there’s things I should (or at least could) do, but I just spent a little bit of time staring at this:

Don’t you love it when the sun shines into your house on a crisp fall day?  It just seems to make everything feel right….

GAHH!!!

So – there’s at least one thing that drives me (Amy) absolutely batty about my job.  My frustration comes from the fact that I go from complete freedom during the summer months to do what I want, when I want, how I want, to complete and utter dependence on school responsibilities  in the fall.  This year, for a number of reasons has felt like one of the most chaotic, busy, overwhelming, crazy beginnings to the school year.

And yet, the good news to report is that I’m surviving. 🙂  To be perfectly honest and upfront, going back to school over the past couple of years has also meant going to counseling as well, but this year I’m finally feeling confident enough in my abilities and responsibilities that I know I’ll get through.  I’m just having a hard time finding time to get the basics done.

For example, it took me two days to finally grind more coffee so I can have coffee in the mornings.  This morning I had tea.  Granted, I like tea.  A lot.  It’s just not coffee.

I believe that to be a sign of business!  🙂

Kyle seems to be having an equally busy time at work these days.  In fact, there was one day recently that we didn’t even really see each other at all except for “seeing” each other in bed, which, in my mind, is more like being aware of a presence there with you.

We know things can only get better from here, and so, forgive us if in the meantime we seem to be off the radar.  We’ll back around sometime soon.

I want to tell you all about the Kale and White Bean Soup I made a couple weeks ago, an unexpected surprise in a Roasted Beet Salad, one of my favorite go-to ‘make-at-home-Thai-meals’, and our involvement in a CSA.

See?!  Don’t you worry!  Despite my crazy business, I still want to update you on all the things I’ve eaten recently.  Which brings to mind – if you ever want to hear about other things than food, just ask!

Hopefully one of us is back with an update before you know it!