Thursday, July 24, 2014

Positive Change - Inspiration Thursday

Matt and I went to a local music festival last weekend called the Fairytale Music Festival.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely.  It was a fairly small affair which made it simple and intimate.  Nearly all of the bands were quite good--though I could have done without the punk rock on Saturday night...  We stayed up dancing until nearly dawn on Friday though.
We camped out with our pal Casey, who is always a hoot and is an especially great festival buddy.  Do you need a moist towelette?  Pistachios?  Ice water?  Ibuprofen?  Fresh brewed coffee?  She's got everything!  Its great.  Josh came out Saturday.  He's always good for amusement.  He and Matt both juggle.  I haven't yet mastered it, but I sure enjoy watching.  We also ran into some out-of-town buddies, like Carl, which is just one of the many awesome things about music.  It gives people a superb excuse to get together.
I love going to music festivals because I love music and dancing.  And on top of that at the festivals I've attended I've always found such a positive, creative, community-oriented culture.  People take care of each other.  Even strangers.  We made friends with a fellow named Tom who'd never been to a festival before.  He hung out with us all night on Saturday.  We fed him and he gave us wine.  We let him hang in the shade under our gazebo and he filled our cooler with ice.  At one point we were dancing and he appeared with ice cold watermelon.  Oh, was it refreshing.  Its like festival go-ers are tied together as a family.  Not everyone, of course, but, in general I have found this to be true.  Everyone comes together in a way I don't find so often in the larger world.  The festival vibe always makes me feel hopeful.  This positive, united collaborative spirit is possible.  We just have to figure out how to sustain in on a larger, longer scale.
Our friend's band, Satsang, played on Friday night.  I've mentioned how much I enjoy their upful music before.  They're good stuff.  While they were performing Drew hung up a smaller banner with a Dalai Lama quote on it.  I'd never heard this particular bit of wisdom before.  I must have read it a dozen times or more while they played, letting it sink in.  I like the idea that each of us is a laboratory where experiments in better living, better harmony take place.
"The very purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticize others.  Rather, we must criticize ourselves.  How much am I doing about my anger?  About my attachment, about my hatred, about my pride, my jealousy?  These are the things which we must check in daily life.  

Taking your own body and mind as the laboratory, engage in some thorough going research on your own mental functioning and examine the possibility of making some positive changes within yourself."  - H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama
We wandered in the trees along the river.  We watched two glorious, almost unbelievable moon rises.  The smoke hanging in the air from forest fires made it an eerie, wonderful orange.  We camped in a great field for kite flying.  We got to hear John Adam Smith rockin' on the weissenborn.  I sure like the sound of that instrument.  Its so earthy.  We got to try out our fabulous, new double sleeping bag.  Hooray for being able to snuggle with Matt while camping!  Its so much better than being in our own separate bags.  We hid from the blazing noon sun under our shade canopy blowing grass whistles, snacking, napping, and laughing with our friends and neighbors.  We set up a row of luminaries (using LED tea lights and sand from the wedding centerpieces) each evening leading from the edge of the field we were camped in to the main stage area.  It was fun to watch the other festival go-ers following along the flickering path in the twilight.  We put on about ten miles both days according to my pedometer, including dancing.  Man, did we have fun.  Oh, the joy and good energy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cherries, A Slow Cooker Recipe, and Lambic

We went cherry picking yesterday.  It was a perfect day for it, too.  The sky was overcast and it had rained a bit in the afternoon so it was cool and shady as we picked.  Frankly, I think we're a little behind schedule.  Many of the cherries were already overripe.  But, we still picked a good quarter bushel, maybe a little more.  We pit and freeze the cherries for smoothies.  We also make juice from them, mostly for making cherry jelly.  I like to eat them while I pick, but Matt finds them unpalatably sour.  Two other groups of folks were out picking--an elderly couple and a lone woman about our age.  I'm glad to see other people capitalizing on this free fruit opportunity, too.  As is the case every year we had several people stop and query us as to what we were up to, what fruit we were picking.  It seems funny that people don't recognize them as cherries, but hey, ten years ago I probably would have walked by without even noticing them at all.
While we were off cherry picking our new slow cooker (a wedding present from my aunt and uncle) was at home doing its thing.  As such, we returned to a house adrift in the savory smells of Indian spiced lentil soup.  Gosh, I could get used to just having dinner ready for me when I get home!  Though we've only used it a few times so far I already think this slow cooker is going to be my new best friend in the kitchen.

And then Matt surprised me with a bottle of framboise lambic and a new season of The Simpsons (bought second hand at a pawnshop because he knows I'd never approve of paying the asking price for a new season at the movie shop).   It was a one-month-wedding-anniversary-I-can't-believe-you-got-all-the-thank-yous-written-in-a-month-you-are-awesome present.  It was so sweet.
If you've never had lambic, particularly the raspberry (framboise) flavor, I recommend it highly.  Its a bit pricey, but is a fruity, effervescent, taste explosion like no other and worth every penny.  I could drink a whole bottle without even trying because it is so delicious.   Its also pretty incredible stuff, once you learn more about how it is made, too.  It is only brewed seasonally because unlike beer it is fermented only with wild yeast.  Its sort of like the sourdough bread of the beer world.  A true lambic also only come from Belgium where a particular strain of wild yeast is found.  Its pretty crazy stuff.  And out of this world tasty, if you ask me.
Below is the recipe for the soup we had waiting for us.  It was quite wonderful--hearty, filling, and packed with flavor.  The coconut milk gave it a lovely richness and mouth-feel.  We used our homegrown chard, my Uncle David's Montana-grown lentils, and homemade stock in this version.

Slow Cooker Coconut-Lentil Soup
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp EACH ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, garam marsala
1 1/2 C dry lentils (red, green, or mixture of both)
6 C vegetable stock
14 oz. coconut milk
4-6 C greens, chopped (spinach, chard, etc)
Salt, to taste

Saute the onion in the oil on the stove-top until its starts to brown.
Add garlic and spices and saute a couple more minutes.
Put onion mixture, lentils, and stock to the slow cooker.
Cook on high for about two hours (or probably four hours on low).
Add greens and coconut milk and reduce heat to low.
Cook until greens are wilted and lentils are tender.
Salt and pepper to taste.

My Earth Day Dress (Not Just For Earth Day)

I finished a dress a couple weeks back which I realized I've never gotten around to posting about.
I hadn't gotten to sew for weeks with all the wedding preparations and summer tie-dye vending and the like.  There just hadn't been time.  Then, suddenly, two days before the wedding, I found myself with no tasks on my to-do list.  Matt was golfing with his brothers as part of his bachelor party.  The house was quiet, tidy, and ready for company.  So, I went into my craft room and started a new dress.  Gosh, I'd missed sewing.  I almost got the whole thing done in that one day.  It was so nice to get lost in the project.
I opted to make a second version of the vintage dress I knocked-off a few months back since I'd taken to it so well.  This time I used a modern, colorful, eco-themed print which was gifted to me by someone, my mom maybe?  I alternately call it my tree-hugger dress or my Earth Day dress because of the print.
This cotton fabric doesn't have quite as nice a drape as the vintage blend I used on the first one, but its still comfy and fits very well.  Plus, I enjoy all the bright trees and flowers and such.  And pockets!  Can't forget the pockets!  It was the first time I've ever tried to match up the print on my fabric.  It worked well on the front--the lines of text and trees match up almost perfectly.  I was very pleased.  The back is, well, not perfect at all, but, oh well, it was my first try.  At least its on the back.  As such, I've got to say that since I can't see it I don't think about it much.
It makes me happy to have such a growing collection of homemade dresses in my closet.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

There Are No Turnip Fries at McDonald's

I'm not really sure I've ever eaten a turnip before this past week.  Maybe I have, but it certainly wasn't memorable if I did.  Since we like root vegetables in general however we figured we give them a shot in the garden.  We hear the overwinter well, too.  And you can eat the tops, too.
Funny story about the first time I tried turnips, or at least I think its a funny story.  We roasted the turnips with a bit of potato, too, until the were crisp on the edges and tender and fluffy in the middle.  We served them alongside falafel.  Uncharacteristically there were no vegetables on the side to add more color, flavor, and variety to our dinner.  As we were eating our tan-colored food I told Matt:  "Look at us.  We're practically eating a SAD (standard American diet) meal.  Fried protein and starch with no vegetables."  And then we laughed at how falafel and roasted turnip fries strikes me as pretty much the same as a fast-food dinner.   So, I guess its our take on what has come to be known as a standard American meal.  Its funny how distorted my mind is now from the girl who once thought a McChicken and fries was a perfectly acceptable meal choice.  McDonald's is a lifetime away.  But, still, it was a tasty (and amusing) treat as a one-off.
The turnips were delicious, too.  They have a very similar taste and feel to potatoes--at least when roasted.  We like the idea of "cutting" our potato dishes with other root veg.  The potatoes would last longer and we've have a wider variety of foods in our diet, which is the healthiest way to eat, if you ask me.  With variety.
Matt will be sowing another bed of them for a fall crop.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Linden Blooms

I so enjoy when the American Linden (or American Basswood) trees are in bloom.  This city is loaded with them--just loaded--and as I cycle down the streets the air is filled with this sweet, honey-candy scent that wafts all around them.  There is this park I pass every day that is lined with them and I ride close beneath them and breath deeply.  Its really a short time with these yellow blooms and the clean, sweet air, but I so enjoy it.  Better than lilac even.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Catching Up in the Garden

Possibly we should have scaled back the garden this year since we were planning a wedding smack-dab in the middle of the summer and all.  But, that would have been too reasonable so, of course, we didn't.  As such we've been feeling behind in the garden for a good portion of the summer so far.  When we had a house full of guests we encouraged them to gobble up the red strawberries and the swelling pea pods.  We just weren't getting to them fast enough.  But, you don't really have to tell people more than once to go nuts on a backyard strawberry patch.  In addition to being behind on planting, harvesting, and weeding the garden I have also been behind in documenting its progress this year.
Our pepper plants may be the stars of the garden this year.  Fine by me.  Peppers are my favorite vegetable.  We're growing quite a number of hot peppers--mostly cayenne--as well as some sweet peppers.  I make my own hot sauce with the cayennes.  I generally string them up to dry so they're on hand for making the sauce in the winter.  We freeze what we don't eat fresh of the sweet peppers.
We're trying to save seed from our carrots this year.  We've never done this before with carrots.  They take two years to make seeds so these are actually carrots from last year, some of those carrots we overwintered.  Since it was already starting to form the flowering stalk when we cleared the bed of the last remaining carrots we figured we'd just let it keep going.  It would be cool if it worked.  Every year we try to save more and more of our own seed.  The flowers are pretty, too.
We've got three types of dry beans--Yellow Indian, Red Mexican, and Hutterite Soup beans--and one variety of green beans growing.  I think these are some of the most interesting looking plants in our garden.  Beans are fun to watch grow.  We are growing dry beans we save from last year with the exception of the Hutterite Beans which we found an outdated package of just kicking around the basement.  The germination rate wasn't great, but they were not packed for this season so....
We ate our first ever homegrown cabbage earlier this week in some stir-fry.  It was awesome.  We didn't even know we liked cabbage until last year.  We're growing a variety that is known for small heads since there is just the two of us.  They're cute and tasty.
I also got to eat my first ever homegrown cucumber this week.  See, Matt hates them--as in, when I am cutting one up he thinks it stinks up the whole room--so we've never grown them.  I've always just gotten some from Matt's dad or the Farmer's Market to supply my own taste for them.  But we would like to grow them for pickles and so this year was a sort of trial run for that.  We wanted to see how many cucumber vines it would take to get the amount we needed for pickles.  We also wanted to try out a variety that is supposed to only grow small, thumb-sized cucumbers which is what Matt and I prefer for our pickles.  It seems like its possible, but that we'd have to have a whole bed dedicated to cucumber vines.  We're not sure we have the space to devote--especially since we have never had any trouble getting small cukes at the Farmer's Market come pickling time.  But, I sure enjoyed the cucumbers.  They were so crisp.  They were also very spiny.  So much so that I opted to peel them before eating, even after a good scrub with our vegetable brush.
The potatoes are growing well.  At least, the part we can see is.  I hope they do better than last year.  Last year was just pathetic...and the tops had looked pretty good then, too.  We've got them scattered in a few different places though--two patches at home and one at the community garden--so hopefully that will increase our odds of a successful crop.
We harvested the garlic.  Its not great, but it is garlic.  So, that is something.  They really got hammered by this extreme weather we've had, particularly the hail.  They never formed scapes this year, which we found odd, but, the leaves were dying back so we harvested them, scapes or no scapes.  We only ended up with something like one pound of garlic.  Better than nothing, but not exactly what we'd hoped for.
The corn is growing, but still pretty skinny at this point.
Another new-to-us vegetable growing experience is turnips.  We grew a variety called Snowball and they were, as the name implies, round little white balls.  We've found we really enjoy most of the root vegetables and so we're trying to diversify our repertoire of this type of vegetable.  Roasted they taste, to me, pretty much like a potato.  I like them a lot.  We've been told they overwinter well, too.
The raspberries are fruiting right now.  I ate as many as I could find yesterday.  They never make it into the house, as they are still fairly young canes so they are not loaded with berries or anything.  Oh, do they rock my world in deliciousness though.  I like the red ones best, but the golden raspberries are quite beautiful and yummy as well.  I look forward to the day there is enough to make raspberry jelly, but in the meantime they are wonderful to pop in my mouth.  Its a fruity, wonderful explosion on my tongue.
The tomato plants are certainly doing better than last year's wimpy, dismal little seedlings.  We've got high hopes for them.  We barely managed to get the seedlings in the ground, I have to say.  They'd been waiting for transplant for weeks, but just kept getting postponed.  Ultimatiely they were starting to yellow and look sad and we forced ourselves to make time to get them in the ground.  The seeds took so well this year in the seedling nursery that it would have been a shame to let them go south at that stage of the game.  So, tired, hot, and not really in the mood for gardening we planted them at last in their beds.  They look much, much happier now.  The first of the cherry tomatoes are ripe, but the full-sized ones have a ways to go yet.
 We're taking another stab at fennel this year, too.  Last year was our first attempt, but they pretty much shriveled up and died.  I cannot really remember if we figured out why.  This year, however, is going great.  The fennel are all making nice bulbs and we're thinking they're about right for eating here soon.  Yum.  I am super excited to find out how scrumptious a really, really fresh fennel bulb is.
And of course, while all the veggies are growing the flowers are, too.  I think clematis is just gorgeous.  So many lovely, climbing, pink blossoms.
And that is the garden, at the moment.