Monday, August 31, 2009

wren handmade

... is always so inspiring.

Her wedding was so pretty and so perfectly put together with patterns and simple garden flowers and bikes. and flags. and stuff.

And her blog is full of sorts of good stuff, like this pile of paper in the process of being turned into cards. So cute.

And then her shop, to which she recently added mini-crocheted bracelets.

(which I found while lurking around the purl bee. which makes me want to move to new york and spend the better part of my days browsing their aisles for fabric and projects).

I AM going to sew, I swear. I mean I took that class because I was genuinely interested in sewing. But I haven't gotten to it yet. And by the time I do I'm going to have to take another class to remember how to thread the bobbin. again.

Friday, August 28, 2009

No, jcrew. Just no.

I've been with you for quite some time now and with each catalog I get in the mail (which is approx. one per week), I congratulate you for styling your apparel in a lovely and tempting way.

But this last one, there's really no way to soften the blow here. It was not good. And I'm referring to the cover, in particular.

Chambray button down shirts OVER the white turtle neck wasn't a good idea even at the peak of popularity sometime during the late 80s/early 90s. I'm sorry, but no amount of interesting lipstick, pretty models or strands of pearls are going to make this look work. And the sweater is just making it more absurd.

However to prove that I am generally pleased with your catalog, I give you these fine examples that I really like...

GAAAAH. The tights. I love the textured tights and mis-matched shoes. Especially that photo on the left. If I could buy cute shorts right now and/or could conceive of planning my outfits for fall, I'd definitely be heading this direction.

And such cute, simple wedding styling. I love the skinny belt on the bride. And I think I just like the colors on the right. But that's fair, right?

Alas I am not currently shopping for new clothes. Which is actually great for the saving of monies, but bad for fall fashion morale.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

a perfect breakfast

I don't think it's possible to eat too many poached eggs on toast. Provided the toast is generously spread with butter, the egg has been properly salted and peppered, and in a perfect world you've also added garden tomatoes and a bunch of basil.

And to be fair, it does make a huge difference that you're eating poached eggs that actually come from the chickens in your backyard. So they occasionally wake us up at 5:30 in the morning... and get randomly broody and we have to separate them from the nesting box so they don't sit on unfertilized eggs for eternity. Among many other things that I don't need to go into right now.

The eggs kind of make it worth it.

So nothing fancy. I probably should have shown this with some beautiful rustic bread instead of plain old sliced wheat bread. I do love poached eggs with rustic bread.

Sometimes the simplest foods are the best, you know?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Things I didn't get around to posting about

Even though I've been a big slacker as of late, it's not that I haven't been THINKING of posting. I have. See? look at all these pictures I took to share with you. I'm short on follow through at the moment... but I'm working on it. I promise.

We've been big into pizza making as of late. The Alice Waters dough recipe from The Art of Simple Food is perfection.

Favorite pizza of the season = Fig and gorgonzola with rosemary and thyme.

Oh baby. We made it again on sunday for my unlce's birthday and added pancetta (i suppose not everyone is a vegetarian) and my family just about lost their minds. The problem with pizza is it's never finished when it's still light out so I can never get a good picture.

Also, garden tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, basil and fresh mozzarella. Plus jalapeños. Which are a very handy little plant to have out back. I haven't had to buy a pepper in a very long time.

Figs! Which are coming in from our trees by the bushel full. Hence the fig pizza. The birds get most of them, but I do try to make use of them the best I can. Fig jam is next. I feel sorely cheated if I don't get at least one batch in each season.

Aren't they the most pretty how the ripen in rainbow order? These are one of my favorite varieties. I plant them every year without fail and they produce the most delicious little cherry tomatoes, no matter how much neglect they endure, every single year. They're call currant tomatoes, presumably because of their tininess. And if you live in LA, you can buy seedlings at the Marina Del Rey Garden Center every spring.

Our tomato bounty from the backyard. Also the inspiration the tomato pizza mentioned above.

Then there's the friendly patch of naked ladies that pop up every summer under the Mission fig tree. They're so pretty and elegant. And fleeting. But maybe that's what makes them special.

And my zinnia crop. I'm never going another season without planting flowers. They're so happy back there.

These pretty peas are allegedly NOT black eyed peas. They are a more gourmet cousin... Pink-eyed peas. Eew. Kind of a sorry name. But truthfully they taste the same. And even more truthfully, I don't think I like them all that much. They're so... dry. I mean compared to all the other delicious beans out there. But they make for a pretty picture.

Finally, the gem of our summer crop. We somehow managed to plant Concord grapes. Whoa. This is the first year our grapes have matured into real fruit so we were anxious to see what they would taste like. We have regular Thompson type variety too, but the Concords are little jewels of sweetness.

There. That feels so much better! Now I've shared. Cleared my photo cue and I can move on to more regular blogging.

PS. I think there's a teeny hint of fall in the light this morning. I'm almost excited.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

one reason I'm excited for fall

And there are many reasons, though for the record, I'm not nearly ready yet.

I waited til the very end of the season to mention Cara Cara oranges. And I feel bad about that. But this time, I'm giving you months of weekends to track these down at the farmer's market. If you live somewhere near a desert, where they grow dates.

Words cannot possibly illustrate how amazing these little nutty carmel maple jewels of manna straight from the middle eastern farm gods are. Dates are from the middle east, right?

Doesn't matter. What matters is they are available ONLY during the few months of fall. And I'm telling you, they are worth tracking them down. They are yellow to start, and hard, but sort of tasty all them same. But then once they ripen and get brown and soft, they are like magic. Alone or spread onto buttered toast you will die when you taste.

I almost forgot. They are called Barhi. And make sure you get the fresh ones. Once they've been dried for a while they start to taste more like regular old dates. Which are still delicious. But I'm telling you, these are different.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New favorite reusable bag

I know I've been a baggu champion since their inception a few years ago, but I've always had one grievance: they're not self-bagging. Meaning there's a separate little bag for the big bag to fit into while you're not using it and this is pretty much fine except that you have to be psychotically vigilant about keeping track of the little bag and watch the baggers at the grocery store like a mother hawk to make sure they put the little bag IN the big bag, NOT on the conveyor belt of some other place that I will forget to look before I leave the store. I've only thought about this a little.

And even if you are really anal about the little bag you eventually, inevitably end up with three big bags stuffed into one tiny bag and/or with loose unbagged big bags floating around backpacks and purses and kitchen drawers.

I still love baggu though.

But on a brief stop at the Patagonia sale on our little shopping outing over the weekend, I found this. The perfect bag. Engineered of course by the geniuses at Patagonia, who in the dead of summer can convince me that I NEED a new heavy weight capelline zip neck pull over for running in the coming winter. It was 50% off people and this beautiful deep scarlet red. But I didn't buy it because I have strength.

They can also convince me in a short 10 minute tour of their store that I should forsake all fashion-forward dressing and just get back to my outdoorsy granola core, wearing keen sandals and technical fabric out and about on the streets of Venice.

Again, practicing my exceptional powers of reason and decent sense of style, I resisted.

But I didn't even try to put up a fight about the bag. Look how cute it is with it's tiny bag that turns into a little zipper pocket when expanded.

You can buy them in the store (in lots of pretty colors) or online.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A rustic plum tart for sunday breakfast

What I've discovered about my seasonal aversion to cooking is that it's mysteriously nonexistent during the day. The problem is that I'm usually at work during the non-evening hours and unless I want to get really crafty with a microwave and Ikea knife it's hard to take advantage of what little food related inspiration I'm currently working with.

This weekend we laid low, venturing out for a visit to the farmers market and a brief bit of retail therapy. Brock really needs some new clothes and if the moment strikes him I MUST take advantage immediately or it will be another 6 months before he lets even his pinky toe cross the threshold of a clothing store.

And if we're buying for him, well then mama needs a few new things too. It's nice how that works out.

ANYWAY. The cooking. I really wanted to commemorate Julia Child's birthday on Saturday with a French inspired dinner of ratatouille from backyard ingredients and a lovely green salad with perfectly mixed dressing, but dinner preparation remained elusive. Instead I woke up Sunday morning and decided to assume my role as a proper wife and keeper of house by making a delicious treat for breakfast.

I found these gorgeous little Golden Nectar plums (and their tiny purple cousins) at the farmer's market and while I love plums on their own, I find their sweet and sourness makes for even better desserts. I mean breakfasts.

At which point I went straight for my veritable bible of all things baked, Pure Dessert. I think I've posted recipes from this beauty before and I swear it has never once failed me. Alice Medrich is a demi-goddess when it comes to the combining of flour and sugar and fruits and things.

This recipe is so simple it seems that it can't possibly yield anything worth writing about, but as I've proven to myself many times, I know much less than I think when it comes to the mysteries of baking.

Rustic Plum Tart

(Alice swears by weighing your dry ingredients as opposed to measuring, and it is actually a lot easier and apparently more exact. But I'm sure that both ways work fine).

1 cup (4.5 oz) all purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly whisked
3 tablespoons firm but not hard unsalted butter, cut into a few chunks

4 - 6 juicy flavorful plums (I used more because mine were so small). The sweet and sour kinds. French and Italian prune plums aren't tangy enough for this recipe.

*special equipment - 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. If you don't have this you should totally get one. They make desserts so pretty. But you can also use a plain cake pan in a pinch.

Preheat oven to 375°

For the crust:

(assuming you're using a food processor... if not you can use a pastry blender or large fork. And then add a food processor to your amazon wishlist and hope that someone gets you one soon).

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of the food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the egg and butter and pulse just until the mixture resembles damp yellow sand and starts to clump around the blade.

Press the dough evenly around the bottom of the pan, making sure to fill the pretty little scallops of your tart pan if you're using one.


If they're small, cut them in half and remove the pits. Slice larger plums into quarters or sixths. Leaving a 1/2 inch margin around the edge of the pan arrange the halved plums cut side up evenly around the dough, leaving a little space between each one. Now fill in the spaces with your smaller slices (cut side down this time), pressing all the plums lightly into the dough so they stay put as the tart rises during baking.

Bake until the edges are a deep golden brown, about 50 - 55 minutes. My oven is from the 40's and is not a perfect candidate for baking because it has major temperature control issues. Which means the my edges tend to get brown well before the center is done. I had to stick a knife into the center a few times to make sure the crust was cooked through.

Set the tart on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen the rim of the tart pan to let it cool further.

I served our tart with a spoonful of greek yogurt and honey. Divine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

mail surprise

Look what I found in my mailbox this weekend:

From Marli of Sexy Red Frame and Model Mentality. Oh MARLI, you are so nice!

I've mentioned like 1 mm times how much I love both tea towels and Skinny LaMinx. Apparently she got the message. Not that I was subtle. I love the groovy 70's pottery vibe on both of these.

I've stashed them carefully in my tea towel drawer. Which is where I keep my favorites that I never use. Only admire.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I grew these

and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm totally proud of them.

I know I always say how much I love growing and cooking our own food, blah blah blah. And I do. Usually. But this summer I've been on a little "avoid the kitchen at almost all costs" hiatus. I'd like to say it's just a function of warm weather and not wanting to be around hot foods and things, but I think it's probably something else.

So, occasionally I do still force myself to make something from scratch at the stove... I can't let my cooking muscles atrophy completely. But all that food growing out back, the squashes in particular, were starting having the opposite creative effect. As in, if I see another summer squash I might throw up. So in a moment of inspiration, I ripped out every single squash plant a few weeks ago. (I left the delicious winter squash in. Never sick of them and their pretty orange insides). Genius. I feel so much better.

This summer, I'm most excited about the flowers that I planted from seed. I can't believe they worked! I made flowers! And they are bright and pretty and healthy. And our sunflowers are at least 10 feet tall. Maybe taller. I love them. And the little babies that pop up around the rows.

Sorry for the lack of posting. It's either because there's nothing going on that seems of interest to other people, or that there's so much going on that it's all I can do to keep things together in a semi-normal way. And I hate just posting something random for the sake of posting.

Plus, I needed a break from thinking and computing.

It happens.