Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Hope you had a lovely holiday full of laughter and love. We filled the house with food and friends and feasted on The Feast of Seven Fishes. I'm ashamed I didn't take more photos, but I can assure you I was busy for several hours and nothing was left on a single plate. It was delicious. 
These are a few of our handmade spinach ravioli with Dungeness crab filling. This was a huge win for us because we'd never made them.

After the guests had departed I received my presents. The first was the book above. We're planning a trip to Italy in 2014 so I need to get my green hat on again soon. This book will help me. I've never been, and John is taking me to see places from his childhood. He wanted to take me to Sicily too, but I'd rather see friends, so we're thinking about alternatives. I'm excited, but traveling is always hard on my body so I have a lot of planning and special physical therapy exercises in store for me. 
My second gift was this pearl necklace. No one has ever given me anything like this before and it means a lot to me. I can only afford the basics within my budget so this is a true gift. I feel a bit grown up wearing it. Last night I wanted to fall asleep with it on. I felt like a little girl playing dress up and that made me happy for some funny reason.

I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to garden with it on, but the thought did cross my mind. 

I am getting John a kitten. This is crazy since we already have 3 cats, but it is what he wants. (More on that new arrival soon. We are being very careful with our choice.)

So, the future looks bright and my garden is waking up and I'm looking forward to revising it in the coming months. There will be more shared meals and laughter in this house. I hope to meet new people and have more creative energy and ideas. Best of all, I want to continue to help people and share my thoughts about what I've learned through managing my own chronic illness. I've built up more and more strength and I am ready now. It was rough to revisit where I was in my life but I'm truly supported and encouraged now by those around me. 

The only immediate issue I currently have is about continuing my education. Part of me wants to study again, but I will need more strength and endurance. What to study? Horticulture, garden design, writing? I don't know, but I'm open to developing my potential again. I want to dig in, get involved, and become more of the professional I know I am. 

With that, I must bid you all adieu! 
Merry Christmas! 
(More from the garden soon!)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Quince, Sea Beans, and a Black Oregon Truffle

Since it's almost Christmas, it's time for me to post what's been waiting in my hopper. (These past few weeks have been a blur.) 

Between cooking for folks here at home, ghostblogging about food for someone else, and cooking food for clients I've been working for as a caregiver, I'm feeling fairly proficient in the kitchen nowadays.
Our Thanksgiving Quinces as Still-life. 
Last month we purchased some quince from a local co-op. We'd gone there to look for raw goat milk for making cheese and whey. When we got home, John set about making quince paste. It was a fun process and quite different than I'd imagined. Both culinary projects went well and they tasted so good. The quince paste was served with some wild boar charcuterie at Thanksgiving alongside some Spanish cheeses.

Oh! That seems like ages ago to me right now.
There are so many vegetables to give thanks for this time of year.
Sausage, Potato and Savoy Cabbage Soup is a comfort food of mine.
We've pickled a few beets during the last few weeks and just last week I prepared my favorite cabbage soup when we had a large family of friends over for dinner. My best friend from college and his wife have adopted a baby and I get to be an auntie again. With his whole family in town, of course I had to invite them all over for dinner too.
Know your Italian chicories: Radicchio and Treviso. 
Last month there was a tasty salad I made with some radicchio too. It was raw radicchio—not grilled—so I was weary at first. Somehow serving it with crispy red onions and a citrus vinaigrette did something magical to its bitterness. It was another great success I hope to serve again soon.
Wild foraged Sea Beans. 
I'd always wanted to try these so last month I purchased some samphire at the Portland Farmers Market. I was pleasantly surprised by how salty they were when I popped one into my mouth.
Sea Beans with Rice Vinegar and Furikake. 
Days later I put this little salad together at home. I recommend sea beans highly if you're into salt. They are very crunchy too. Somewhere in my office I have seeds for them. I am really curious now to see how they'll taste when grown in my home garden.
Copper Beech in front of the Millar Library at PSU. 
While at PSU attending the Portland Farmer's Market, I enjoyed looking around. The market takes place in the park blocks and there are so many beautiful trees to look at while people watching and shopping. 

For many years it was a painful place for me to visit because my health had been very poor while I was a student there. Now that I'm much better, I can reflect on those years. We all need to process our past and move forward stronger and more aware. Being surrounded by the market makes that process kind of fun for me now. My love of food and my knowledge of plants has given me some much needed strength over the past few years.
After one of the trips to the market I went thrift store shopping. I was looking for a new ikebana vase when I found this old 1980s mauve piece. When I saw the sticker it made me smile. This shop is no longer in business and had belonged to my niece's grandmother on her mother's side of the family. While driving home, the poor thing broke, but my niece was happy I'd at least thought to pick it up for her. 
Wild Foraged Chanterelles.
I made these into an omelette. What do you like to make with yours? Just curious.
Oregon Black Truffle. 
We bought truffles too and John made a delicious risotto for us. (Risotto is common in the region of Italy he hails from and he was raised eating it.) The Oregon truffle was a fun twist on our usual recipe for both of us. Yes, the domestic truffle is not as tasty as European truffles, but they are more affordable. I'll take that tradeoff. Truffles just make me happy too. I smell them and they make me smile. When they are near me, I am content. 

Seriously. I love truffles.
Lastly, for Thanksgiving we also had some flowers. It began with this simple arrangement but then I expanded from there. This year I also made sure to buy American-grown flowers. I'm dedicated to buying them more often now and I can assure you that you'll be hearing more and more about this topic during the coming months.

Goodbye for now.
PS: Hope your holidays are going well!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Living in the Frozen Shadow of Winter Sunshine

What will survive this cold?
The weather is a cold right now, yet I've barely noticed since I've been working 50-60 hour weeks. While eating earlier today I peeked outside and saw that things didn't look quite right. I give up. It can grow again. I will grow again. I'm really grateful for the ongoing changes in my life.

Before the cold hit, I stuffed the garage full of plants. Part of me wasn't sure if I should bother, but I did it anyway. I'm a creature of habit.

At least I did it at the last minute, and of course my employer called to see if I could cover a shift for someone else. I felt rude saying that I had to save plants when someone needed an assistant during the final phase of their life but I'm learning to state my needs too. They understand. That's one of the things I really like about what I'm doing.

A longer post is coming soon. I've been cooking a lot for my other job and I have some recipes of my own to share. Food writing is fun, and of course there were some floral arrangements from Thanksgiving.

More on that though this weekend...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Houseplant Season and a Few Fried Slugs

Oxalis triangularis
It's houseplant season and recently I've been busy. I hope to clean up a few neglected plants on Sunday.

Working over 40 hours a week with two part-time jobs is challenging physically but it's rewarding otherwise. 

I'm happy right now and it feels different. I'm adjusting. I'm changing. 

I wish I could say more about my caretaking job with the elderly—and the amazing people I continue to meet—but I'm sworn to secrecy due to privacy. 

It is safe to say that I've met a few green thumbs during the last few weeks. Many are physically too delicate to garden now so I tell them about gardens instead and they tell me about the gardens they've known. It is a wonderful way to interact with people whom you don't know well. One woman used to be involved in an ikebana group. We were fast friends. 

We tend to talk about the weather a lot and animals. I've heard many great stories. It will be good for me to continue the work—at least for now. 
There are two elderly cats here at home. It is not their favorite season. Luckily I'm earning more money now so I can purchase special items for them. Hopefully they'll be watching me sow some seeds soon.

I keep talking about it. I keep threatening to do it. Working is more important for now. Learning two new jobs is challenging. I at least am very confident about how to germinate seeds. That's reassuring and it feels good to be confident about something. 
Last weekend we went to my parents' house again out by the coast. It felt like a work weekend because we were both writing NaNoWriMo novels. 

This week I stopped writing mine temporarily due to swelling and hand pain. My story is writing itself and I've stepped back to better control the time I put into it. Something snapped and clicked inside of me while I was at the beach last weekend. Suddenly I saw how I write. I've never enjoyed writing fiction much but it's clicked with me. 

My book has a lot of plants and gardening in it. So I'm kind of writing about plants right now. It's just not so obvious to anyone here visiting the blog. 
John and I really like visiting my parents' house near Astoria. He enjoys cooking and the stillness while I tend to wander in the woods. This last trip I was working too hard though. I'm looking forward to having more fun next time. 
For a break we drove over to Astoria and went out to lunch and then walked the streets of our other favorite town in Oregon. 

I should have taken pictures of our meal but we ate it all too quickly. Looks like I have a good reason to go back now, don't you agree? 

John has a relative with a boat moored in the Astoria so we walked over to look at it. There were old Victorians for sale as well and a few of those caught our eye. 

But it is houseplant season and I'm back in Portland now. It's been a long week and in addition to caregiving I've been writing a lot of content for a cooking blog. I'm still in awe of the fact that I'm being paid to write quality content for someone else as a ghost blogger. I really like the woman I'm working for and cooking is so fulfilling for me. 

I'm still struggling with food photography and am setting up a home studio here for it but I will write more on that later. What's great is that I can also let some of that food spill over onto this blog too. 

Tomorrow I'm off to the Portland Farmers Market to get a wide selection of wild mushrooms. Expect some recipes soon...

In the meantime, enjoy this really interesting blog post from a few years back. The next time I hear someone proselytizing on local foods and how they have a lower impact on the environment I'll through this mushy little monkey wrench at them: Feral Food: How to Eat Slugs.

I'm such a little stinker sometimes.

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