Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thinning

On Memorial Day morning, we spent an hour or so thinning the new plants that recently sprouted. This is a pretty typical part of the process when you start from seeds...you plant more seeds than you will think will actually grow, and then a bunch pop up, and then you have to thin them out. Otherwise, the roots don't develop properly, and when you're growing things like radishes or carrots, the thing you're growing doesn't have space to grow to a decent size. SCIENCE! (ahem)

Here's an example of what I mean - the before photos are in the top row; the afters in the bottom. It's a little hard to see. I'm not a great photographer.

Will, thinning the radishes (left).
I thinned the fennel (right).
Will in the garden, thinning our beets.
The carrots (under his right hand) are not quite
ready to be thinned...they're a little too little.

And lest you think that those thinned out bits go to waste...they're totally edible, and totally delicious! We're going to have a radish, fennel and beet sprout (aka "microgreens" - they're not technically sprouts) salad with dinner tonight.

yum


Monday, May 25, 2015

Backyard Garden 2015

We always plant in May. Usually, May is when it starts getting warm. The days are longer, and Springtime in Berkeley is a glorious time of blooms and hope. My birthday is in May, and always falls on the same weekend as the Edible Schoolyard Plant Sale - two things that combine for a relaxing birthday weekend of planning and planting. This will be our 4th season.

I like writing about gardening. It's helpful for me to track progress; I like looking back at early photos and seeing how our little plant babies have grown. I like being able to share how our plants are doing with other gardeners (can I call myself a gardener?), and I like trying to find words to describe the magic and wonder of planting things in the ground that later become food. It's pretty special.

And so, a few weeks late, here's a little bit about what we've planted this year. Once again, we hit up a combination of the Edible Schoolyard and Berkeley Horticulture. And this year, we decided to experiment with mulch! It's been such a dry season, and California's in a pretty major drought, so I figured anything we could do to help our soil retain water would help. Plus, I hear that mulch is good for repelling pests like the snails who end up terrorizing our plants. We went with cocoa shell husk, because omg you guys it smells like chocolate. Also, it's pretty, and it wasn't expensive, and I'd never heard of it before. I like to just try things, ya know?

In this year's garden:

  • Tomatoes (5 varieties; 6 plants)
  • Beans (2 varieties; 12 plants)
  • Sugar snap peas (6 plants)
  • Lettuce (2 varieties; 3 plants)
  • Dill (6 plants)
  • Basil (6 plants)
  • Peppers (5 varieties; 10 plants)
  • Rainbow chard (6 plants)
  • Squash (2 varieties; 2 plants)
  • Beets, Carrots, Fennel and Radishes (from seed; # plants unknown)

Without further ado, the photos! 


First things first, we had to turn the soil. Which we did a lot.
And by "we" I mean mostly Will and our friend CC.
We have a planter box this year (thanks, landlord) due to the
dubious nature of planting things underground in that spot,
next to a tree that may or may not be poisonous.
Date: May 2, 2015
Soil turned. Compost added. Planter box filled.
Look how beautiful that soil looks!
Date: May 9, 2015
The plants are in the ground!
I repeat: the plants are in the ground!
Date: May 10, 2015
And then, the cocoa shell mulch! The planter box and that
patch in the front don't have mulch because that's where we
planted our seeds. Waiting until they become seedlings to
mulch 'em, because we want them to be able to break through!
Date: May 10, 2015 (my birthday!)
A week later - progress! Some of our seeds have started
sprouting, and things are looking pretty stable.
Date: May 16, 2015
About two weeks post-planting, we're getting some serious
sprout action from both the ground and the planter box.
Everything else has started shooting up, with the exception of
our poor delicata squash (top right; next to the yellow spiral).
It seems to have completely rotted out -- I'm not sure if it was
a bad plant to begin with, or if the soil and the mulch and the
watering were all just too much for it. Nothing else is rotten,
though there are a few patches of mulch that looked to be
a little moldy. We've turned off the sprinklers for now; it's
not very warm out anyway, and we might as well save water
and let things dry out a bit.
Date: May 22, 2015

And there you have it. The backyard garden, circa 2015! We did some thinning today, because as you can see, the sprouts were coming in a little thick. More on that to come. Happy gardening! What are you planting this year?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tablemakers at Kendall Jackson Winery

On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of enjoying an evening full of incredible food and wine, in the company of some truly lovely people, at Kendall Jackson Winery. The dinner was a part of something new they're calling Tablemakers, which is based on the concept that dining should be thoughtful. It doesn't have to be perfect; it should instead be about good food and good drink and good people all coming together to share in the joy of a meal. Now that's a sentiment I can get behind. I'm all about the simple, unfussy meal. Delicious ingredients presented thoughtfully, not pretentiously. Food that feels good to eat, and meals that spark conversation. And boy, did Saturday's event deliver!

Farmer Tucker with some gorgeous produce
(and our gorgeous dining area behind him)

We began with wine and a stroll through the gardens - including the lovely sensory gardens, where we plucked herbs to smell and taste as we tasted our wines. Farmer Tucker told us about the foods grown on the property, really kickstarting my summer garden drive (we'd spent the morning tilling our soil, but haven't decided what to plant yet this year). I'm especially inspired to plant peas, after snacking on fresh pea shoots that we harvested ourselves! Dining in the very garden in which our meal was grown, harvested and prepared? As our hosts said, "It doesn't get more farm-to-table than this."



I was so in awe of our beautiful surroundings and so delighted to be sipping my wine that I neglected to photograph the first half hour or so. So...unfortunately...you won't see the trout caviar on oyster lettuce (holy crap I could eat this all day - OYSTER LETTUCE AND TROUT CAVIAR YOU GUYS) or pea shoot arancini or fennel "creamy cold soup whose name I've forgotten". Trust me, they were tasty.

Others in attendance were photographing like mad (which reminded me to bust out my camera), so check out the #kjexperience and #tablemakers hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and see for yourself! Luckily, our dinner menu included the wine pairings, so I can let you know what we drank as we ate :)

The gorgeous place settings. Major kudos to the design team!


First course: Seared scallop, estate carrot, fava beans, pea tendrils, celtuce, savory granola
First wine: Vintner's Reserve Pino Gris
First reaction: The scallop was perfect. Just, like, imagine the most perfect scallop on Earth. That's what it was. And the sauce was so delicious I mopped it up with the grape skin flour bread that was studded with olives. The wine was crisp and fresh and cool, a perfect counterpoint to the seared scallop.


Second course: Estate lamb loin, morel mushrooms, turnips, kale spring onion soubise
Second wine: Grand Reserve Merlot
Second reaction: Jesus. This lamb. Thank you for your sacrifice, tiny one, who was humanely raised about 200 feet from where we ate you. The lamb was perfectly cooked - and the morels were a special treat. The sauce, again, perfectly balanced. And I'm not usually a Merlot girl, but this Merlot was really great. Just sweet enough, just dry enough, and it went with the lamb like they were made for each other.

Third course: Baserri (Barinaga Ranch), Midnight Moon (Cypress Grove), Dry Jack (Vella Cheese Co)
Third wine: Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Third reaction: The cheese was a nice complement to the richness of the lamb. I'm not sure what the compotes were (I'm guessing fig) but they were lovely, as were the nuts. Of course the cab was nicely balanced, and went with the cheeses. I mean, obviously. And yes, I started to eat my cheese before I took the picture. Oops.

Dessert course: Peas n' carrots, yogurt sorbet
Dessert wine: Vintner's Reserve Late Harvest Chardonnay
Dessert reaction: The sorbet was refreshing, but the peas n' carrots was the star of dessert. That moussey situation was just right, and I probably could've gobbled up a whole lot more of it if they'd put it in front of me. Really hit the spot. I wasn't a huge fan of the Chardonnay - a little sweet for me, but that's a dessert wine for you!

Bonus course: Assorted chocolates
Bonus wine: Something magical and I don't even know what it was but it was delicious and thank you Chef for pouring it for us it was absolutely stupendous.
Bonus reaction: Always stick around to chat with your hosts, friends. Delightful conversation about gin and Chicago and wine and gardening and why Northern California is the best. I mean, it is.



We left with a goody bag that included two bottles of wine, a corkscrew and a copy of A Man and His Mountain...and thanks to the generosity of Farmer Tucker, Will and I also left with a giant box of gorgeous produce. Now we just have to think of some amazing ways to use it! Any ideas? Hit me up in the comments!

I know it's been a hot minute since I made an appearance over here at KKS, but I was so inspired by this meal that I had to show it off. Work has been nuts for the last few months, immediately following the craziness of that wedding I planned, so the blog has taken a backseat to the priority of self-care and making some space in my life for just breathing and living. But Spring is here, which means you'll start seeing some garden photos soon, and hopefully some more blogging in general as well. Here's to Spring, and a renewed joie de vivre.



While I was granted complimentary media access to this event, my opinions and thoughts are all my own, and I was not otherwise compensated or required to write this post. Thanks to the Kendall-Jackson Team for a great evening!



Saturday, January 10, 2015

YoCP > YoTP

Well, friends the YoCP is over (well, technically it was over when Jolie ended it early mid-way through the year, but I had kept going on it...mostly). Looking back over the year, I'm impressed with how many things I got done.

There was the shoe purge, and the wrapping paper impressiveness, and of course, the big closet. My car was cleaned (and ahem, could probably use a touch up) and the BBQ was scoured. I even threw in a bonus porch project just for kicks.

But I didn't finish everything. There are still two cards left unturned, plus a few of those silly celebration cards. I mean, yes, I had a drink and admired my work in December, but there's something that doesn't quite feel right about turning over those last few "you did it" cards until I've actually done it, ya know?

I've started assessing and paring down the kitchen and dining things (erm, last week, when I also purged the pantry). We did some of the guest room boxes. But there's still work to do. And thus, I begin thinking about what this year will hold, homemaker-wise.

There's no YoCP: Redux happening, but I still like the idea of putting my projects up on the board. It really helped me to visualize all the things I want to do and only worry about them when it was the assigned time. I like structure, and I like schedules. It's my blessing/curse.


I've been feeling overwhelmed lately - something that tends to happen towards the end of the year, with the holidays and wrapping up the year at work, somehow there never seems to be enough time. This is normal, I know. But I'm also prone to overcommitment and a need to fill every moment...and we just have a lot of stuff. No more. Time for change, New Year!

2015 is the Year of The Purge. It's time to make more room in my life. Less stuff, less commitments, less crazy. More space, more time, more sane.

I'll be making a fresh board for the year, perhaps even this weekend, but all of my projects are going to focus on getting rid of things, making more space. Not to fill with new things, but just to breathe a little easier, to see clearer. To practice letting things go. The practice of letting go of physical objects will (hopefully) seep into my psyche, making it easier to say no to plans in favor of a quiet night at home, or to feel less guilty saying no to pet projects. A girl can hope.

Did you tackle any big projects last year? What's on your list for this year? Have any resolutions/goals/intentions/plans?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Into the Words.

On January 2, 2015, I finally saw Into the Woods. If a movie comes out over Christmas, there's a good chance I won't see it for several weeks. Even when I'm practically peeing my pants to see the movie. Even if it's a movie based on my favorite musical. Even if I've read a crapton of things about it in anticipation, and am anxiously alternating between reading spoilers and covering my ears. Even then, a movie that comes out over Christmas will likely have to wait. Holiday travel, you don't do great things to my movie watching.

So. Anyway. I was excited and scared. And I finally saw the movie. And I have lots and lots and lots of feelings. Here they are, in order of how I freaked out, once I got over the nostalgic squeeing over a new interpretation of my favorite words and music. It should be obvious here, but this post contains massive spoilers. All spoilers, all the time. Do Not Read If You Do Not Know This Show And Do Not Want To Know. YE HAVE BEEN WARNED.

  • [summary of text-argument with my friend Elon over the fact that they didn't show the ball and the inside of the Giant's house.] While it would have made for some spectacular cinematography, what happens at the ball is insignificant to the story of Into the Woods. The actual ball doesn't matter as much as Cinderella's reaction to it. (director) Rob Marshall doesn't need to establish her relationship with the prince or the fanciness of the ball - that's the point. We don't need to see them fall in love at first sight - the story takes into account the fact that we all know the story of Cinderella. Sondheim doesn't spoon feed it to us, because he knows we don't need that. Same with the Giant's house. We can imagine. We don't need to see it. I don't disagree that it would have been fun to see, it would have been "more cinematic", as Elon said. But is it integral to the story? Nope. Into the Woods is about what happens after
  • I really missed "No More." It's one of my favorite numbers. Small, simple, but a truly lovely expression of disappointment and loss and growing up, sung between vanished father and abandoned son. I mean, it doesn't make a *ton* of sense without the Mysterious Man (and I appreciated the "No More" instrumental underscoring during the scene where the song should have occurred), but I think they still could have done it with the ghost dad situation. Don't know the song? Listen to it here.
  • Speaking of...I don't know how they would have done the Narrator, but it's one of the reasons I encourage fans of the movie to watch the original (this just watch it just it's amazing). One of the great moments of the stage version is when the Narrator unwittingly ends up in the story, and how the characters deal with what happens after he's gone. I thought the movie did a decent job of portraying the "oh shit, now we're *really* alone" feeling, but it's just so. much. better. the other way.
  • The princes were fantastic. Absolute perfection. "Agony" was a miracle of the cinema, one of the truest examples of why some stage numbers work better on screen. So, so, good. Just brilliantly executed. Chris Pine's prince was on point; I could watch him be the Prince forever. Why did they do away with the "Agony" reprise? It's so damn funny, and it just reinforces the "happy endings aren't just so" narrative in a way that having Rapunzel run away with her prince just doesn't. Both princes are cheating douchebags - not just Cinderella's! Which brings me to...
  • Rapunzel not dying. Sigh. I don't know if this was a Tangled thing, and Disney didn't want to kill off one of their current princesses or something...but come on. The Witch's spiral into rage and madness is so much more powerful when it's triggered by the literal loss of her child. And Rapunzel's descent into insanity is such a great bit of character development, only further enhancing the irrevocable harm her mother has inflicted. Yes, it's hurtful and traumatic for her child to cast her off and run away - but for that to happen and for her to go crazy and then to die? Horrifying. Tragic. Final. That would drive the Witch to dramatic suicide, now that she truly has nothing left but her beauty - the beauty that couldn't salvage her relationship with her daughter, with whom there is now absolutely no chance of reconciliation. 
  • Ok. So, I had read that Sondheim changed some of the lyrics in "On the Steps of the Palace" to make things more clear, to make it more present-moment or something. And many of the you's were changed to I's. But truly, this is one of the things I hated most. For example: "But then what if he knew who I am when I know that I'm not what he thinks that he wants? But then what if I am?" vs "But then when if he knew who you were when you know that you're not what he thinks that he wants? But then what if you are?" Not only is "am" a painful word to hear sung on a sustained note; the fact that she speaks in the third person throughout the song lends the number a sort of doublespeak. It creates tongue twisters and a sense of confusion. Haven't seen the original? Click here. Movie version here for comparison. I did enjoy the freeze-frame visuals in this number though...seeing it take place in present time, with the beauty of the sparkles frozen all around was ethereal and beautiful and a change I wholly support.
  • Johnny Depp was an unnecessary hot mess. The candy in his jacket was overkill. His zoot suit and his growly whisper were more sexual and pedophiliac than necessary. He was one of the first actors announced for the production, and I get that they wanted a big-name draw, but I don't think they needed him. In the original, the wolf is creepy and just a tad gross-sexual, but mostly you just get the impression that he wants to eat Red Riding Hood. Because he's a wolf. Not because he's a pedophile. It's creepy because she's a child and he's an adult, but I always took the number to be about his sexualization of eating. He's getting turned on by the thought of his meal (both granny and girl), and the thing that creeps us out is that he's doing this seductive little dance number with a child. With Depp's interpretation, I thought he was trying to sleep with her. Which was just over the top. And the key change was gross. 
  • And speaking of RRH and the Wolf, I could have done without that odd "being swallowed by the wolf" sequence. The first shadow puppet made me think of the beautifully-animated Harry Potter Tale of Three Brothers sequence, but then it turned into this weird Alice in Wonderland, vaginal, Magic Schoolbus atrocity. Very strange.
  • I thought the tempo of "Your Fault" was too slow - maybe they wanted the audience to make the words out better? Might have been a combination of the tempo and the staging (which I thought was weird), but the number felt more like "we. are. singing. this. rhythmically." than "we are freaked out and this is frantic and passionate."
  • The flashbacks at the beginning, during the "Witch's Rap" took away from the rhythm of the song in a way I didn't appreciate. I didn't think we needed the flashbacks to tell the story, and the pauses required to show the, interrupted some of the most comedic moments (especially the flow from "your father cried, and your mother died" to "and well that's another story, nevermind, anyway". It's such a great moment when it's timed right, and this just wasn't. 
  • What the hell was with the "blue moon" thing? That threw me off.
  • Meryl had big shoes to fill, but I thought her portrayal of the Witch was dynamic and powerful. I mean, it's Meryl. Duh. Really, Johnny Depp was the only one I didn't like out of the bunch. And I'm usually so fond of him! Alas.
  • I loved the woods - the scenery was gorgeous. I love that they built a forest so massive that actors got lost on the soundstage. I love that they used real trees. I love how the forest changed as the movie changed. I loved how they filmed in a real castle, and a real dilapidated barn, and how beautifully they incorporated the scenery into the story. The woods was a character.
So there you go. My word vomit. I still have a lot of feelings and I could talk about Into the Woods for days (already have). It's an important piece of theatre, for many reasons, very well-articulated in this New Yorker piece. I love that Sondheim's Cinderella chooses to leave the ball for her abusive household, that she chooses to leave her slipper for the Prince to find, that she's torn between choices, and that she's able to acknowledge that her choice doesn't have to be her final one. But it's her choice. I love that the characters get their Happy Ever After - until they don't. This show is about parents and children and a community coming together, and loss and growing up, and reconciling our pasts with our futures, and the choices we make and how we deal with the lives we've chosen and the pain we haven't. It's an important story. And Emily Blunt was very eloquent about why we shouldn't try to protect our children from everything. Kids know things. Life isn't perfect. Happy endings aren't always. 

If you haven't seen this version, I highly recommend it. And here's a fun little interview with Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, and Rob Marshall from the LA Times that you might enjoy.

What did you think of the movie? Let's talk about it. Now. Obsessively.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year. Here's a Christmas Tree

I took some photos of of our house all decorated, and I wanted to share them, but I don't have much to say except that this holiday season came and went faster than I could hold onto it. It went by very quickly, as evidenced by my inability to write anything for the blog while it was happening, and my sheer exhaustion and disbelief when I look at the calendar. I have a feeling that 2015 will be nearly as insane as 2014, though hopefully with my new "learn to say no to things" attitude, I'll find some space for self care and reflection. And maybe a little casual reading, just for fun.

Anyway, here are some pretty pictures. I know it's January first, but we can hold on to our holidays a little longer, can't we?

The front of the house, all decked out for the season.
Can you spot the cats and the menorah?
Food, light, festive things.
I made this ornament last year at a Crafternoon.
It's so simple, but one of my favorites. 
Picked this one up in Rothenburg on our
honeymoon - classic old timey wooden cute.
Celebrating the last night of Chanukkah during
Christmas with my in-laws. Yes, they bought
a menorah so that we could do this whenever
the calendars align. Very sweet.

I hope your holidays, wherever and however you celebrate them, were merry and bright. Here's to a new year, more writing, more sharing, and also more resting. Share your holiday photos if you have them, and if you, too, aren't quite ready to move into the new.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Twisted Holiday

Well, my last post was before Thanksgiving, and I'm barely getting this one in under the wire for 2014, but here it is. The Holidays are nearly over, and it's been a busy season. So busy, in fact, that I neglected to share these glorious photos from our holiday party earlier this month. A party that was, in part, sponsored by the good folks at TwistedShotz.

I met the TwistedShotz team at BlogHer this year, and when they reached out asking if I wanted some Shotz to sample at home, I figured they'd make a great addition to our annual Multidenominational Holiday Jamboree. And boy, did they.

On (a very festive) display...
Our intrepid first shooters - Cheshire and Erik
Will chooses a festive holiday location
for his first shot
Hockey team looks a little unsure...
...but those boys can handle their shotz

The verdict: TwistedShotz are delicious. At 20% alcohol, they're not boozy enough to really get you drunk, but enough of 'em will definitely give you a little buzz. We sampled Strawberry Sundae, Rattlesnake, Buttery Nipple, Sex On The Beach, Porn Star, Polar Bear, Whipped Chocolate, Ginger Snap, Root Beer Flirt, and Miami Vice...I stuck to the Whipped Chocolate (chocolate and cream) and the Polar Bear (a minty chocolatey concoction) - many of the others are Tequila-based and I'm just not a Tequila girl. I can say that those two are delicious though. And that it didn't take long for all 48 shots to be devoured. 

Interested in getting your own Shotz? Check out their website for retailers near you! 


Full Disclosure: TwistedShotz sent me a ton of these little guys to review, but did not otherwise compensate me for this point and did not persuade me to write a particular review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.