October 21, 2014

Fall Planting



Over the weekend we spent a few hours sheet mulching my dad's garden in preparation for next season. I planted a small bed of garlic which will overwinter and start growing in the spring. In contrast to those hardy garlic cloves which sleep soundly through the freeze, I brought some more delicate green things into our house.

I am very happy to finally have some plants in our living space. Our new apartment gets lots of wonderful light so I hope I can give these plants a good environment in which to thrive. The greenhouse where I chose the plants had a sign saying that you need something 15-18 plants to purify the air in 1000 square feet. I was tempted to bring home more plants, but I decided to make sure that I can keep these few alive until the garlic begins to sprout. I usually find house plants more difficult than garden annuals but I have done some research and I hope to give them the best care I can. Having some living green things inside helps our house to feel even more like a home.

Do you have any favorite house plants?

October 14, 2014

The Stuff of Life Every Day



We're living in crisp falls days with so much blue sky perfectly accented by red, yellow, orange, and still some green. The leaves are gathering in crunchy clusters, pushed around by the wind and kicking and swishing feet through the piles. October is the month for soaking in the sun whenever it can be found. I sit in patches on my living room rug to warm my bare feet and avoid the shade when I am outside. It is especially nice to walk with the sun on my back temporarily storing heat in my dark gray sweatshirt.

We are getting outside as much as we can while the weather is still very pleasant. It seems like the ideal part of autumn where, depending on the temperature and time of day, cozy and free can both be enjoyed. We're not trapped inside or sick of root vegetables yet. I keep cooking butternut squash and pureeing it with a generous amount of butter, salt and pepper. Amos has long outgrown purees, but he loves spooning this baby food into his mouth (also squeezing it in his fist). We have months ahead for cooking squash every which way.

I've been knitting as much as possible. So far just hats, one for each of us. Most years I don't start knitting until well after we need the warm woolens but for some reason this October I am already knitting around and around and around. I think a lot about these little projects, the foods I prepare regularly for us to eat, the stuff of every day life that is also a satisfying creative outlet. They are the things that I could, if I had the money and the desire, outsource to companies and manufacturers but I do them myself because I want the connection and rhythms of every day life. I always want to give more credit and value to these every day things. Filling the pantry, making dinner, writing a letter, things that don't cause big excitement but we do them day after day, season after season. They should be valued and enjoyed because it is these small things that life is made of.

October 1, 2014

Settling In


We arrived at our new place in Maine on Labor Day. For most people that day signified the end of summer but I was thrilled that we could still enjoy the beach, open the windows wide, and assume that this would never end. It wasn't long before the weather changed but we have been enjoying summer's leftovers for the past few weeks. I am always very reluctant to put my sandals in the closet and stop eating sweet corn and tomatoes but luckily autumn welcomes me with changing colors, crisp days, and open arms that encourage me to embrace the season.



On our walks around our new neighborhood and town Amos and I see lots of birds. Pigeons flock over head, seagulls' squawks are everywhere and we glimpse long-legged wide-winged herons flying and wading near the shore. I often envy the birds that spend their whole lives outside subject to the elements. I know I am lucky to have wool socks, a down comforter and heat (and many other things that birds don't) but I sometimes wish I could be so closely attuned to the seasons. The way their early morning singing signals the lengthening of the days in the spring and how they never rely on a calendar to start their fall migrations. I know that being able to control and manipulate our environments has many advantages but with it we have lost a connection to much of the world around us and to knowing the subtle changes so well.



When summer lets go and fall takes over, I feel myself being led by the season, at the mercy of the weather in some small ways. At first I am reluctant but then the oranges, reds, and yellows that begin to color everything are enticing and I welcome the change. These darker chillier days have me ready to give up summer produce and to bring home piles of potatoes, squash, beets, and brassicas. When the times comes it is easy to settle in.

September 29, 2014

Cutting and Sewing


For me, quilts are usually free-hand affairs. I could probably save time and the occasional blister from not-sharp-enough scissors by using a rotary cutter but that's not my style. I made this quilt over the past couple of weeks as a gift for a soon to be new baby in the family. I love playing with color and patterns and as I worked on it I realized how much making this quilt captured the spirit of most of my creative endeavors.

It starts with inspiration and excitement about a new idea. The early stages take planning and cutting fabric and, in this case, figuring out how many squares and triangles to cut. After planning, the work begins. Sewing the same seams over and over isn't as exciting as scheming about the design, but it is a necessary part of the process. After some of this practical work, I have to figure out whether my idea will actually come together and determine if I need to do more sewing and cutting.


In nearly every project there is a moment, or moments, of doubt. I see my original vision disappear and worry that my free-hand approach will lead to disaster. There are times when it does but more often I keep working and the project turns a corner. The results of my work become something better, though different, than what I imagined. When I can see my work turning into something I love, I again feel the excitement about the project. Then there are the finishing touches like quilting, binding, snipping threads which can take just as long as the rest of the work.



I often wish that I was more inclined to follow a pattern that would always yield precise, predictable results. But I can't keep myself from jumping in and forgoing step by step instructions for my own ideas, challenges and whims.

How do you find joy in creating?


August 27, 2014

Farewell Saint Paul

toes
sidewalk

It is a huge gift to live in a place that you love. You might arrive there by a stroke of luck, by accident, after listing pros and cons or as a result of hard decisions or hard work. Sometimes you don't know what to expect from the place you are moving to and it turns out to be more wonderful than you could imagine. I feel so lucky that I have lived in some amazing places and that I can choose where I want to live. It can be hard, though, to choose one great place over another.

alley
flowers

When we moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota, I really didn't know what to expect. From the start we loved our neighborhood and the many gorgeous bike routes, lakes, parks and trees that fill the Twin Cities. It took a while to really feel at home here, but now that we are moving it does feel like we will be leaving one dear home for another. Fortunately I know we will love living in Southern Maine, too, but in the last few days before we leave, I wanted to share some of the places that have made our home great.

summit ave
sunlight

Our neighborhood is perfect for walking around. There are many beautiful old houses to admire, plenty of big old trees to provide shade and even poems in the sidewalks to read as you pass by. If you need more than a poem to read, there are lots of Little Free Libraries in the area. We love walking to Bars Bakery, where I was lucky enough to work for a couple of years, for chai, coffee and caramel rolls as well as other delicious treats and good company. I shop at Mississippi Market frequently, since it is only a block from our house, they have everything I need, and its nice to be part of a co-op. The third place in our neighborhood that I go all the time is Blooma. I went to lots of prenatal yoga classes took Amos to baby and toddler classes, and also took Barre and Vinyasa classes there. I hope I can find another yoga studio that I will enjoy as much.

selby
walk

Summer in the Twin Cities is ideal for sitting on patios and eating ice cream. The Cheeky Monkey (another former workplace of mine) has good food and good brunch whether you eat inside or out. We've only been to the W.A. Frost patio a couple of times but it is a fun spot for a drink on a summer evening. Brasa is another nearby favorite for a meal. Probably my favorite ice cream spot is Cow Bella where you can eat amazing flavors of gelato that tastes like it was made it Italy.

spider
vines

Our neighborhood is also home to one of Amos' favorite places to play. The Holly Tot Lot is a playground for kids under 5 and we have spent many hours there this summer. We have also enjoyed bicycling to Como Park to visit the zoo, the lake, or the incredibly fun swimming pool. In the winter, the Como Park Conservatory is the perfect place to escape from the cold and imagine you are in the tropics. When we are over that way we often stop at Peapods for baby and kid's stuff and the sweet and friendly Colossal Cafe for breakfast or lunch.

reflection
curling

We don't go to downtown Saint Paul a lot, but the Lowertown Farmers' Market is a good place to stock up on vegetables (and locally made foods) in the spring, summer and fall. Downtown is also home to Black Sheep Pizza, Tin Whiskers Brewing, a beautiful library, some nice parks, and Union Depot, among other things. Across the river we have visited Harriet Island which is a fun way to get another perspective on the city and ride a riverboat on the Mississippi, if you like that sort of thing.

cathedral
capitol

One of the best ways to travel in the Twin Cities is by bicycle. If you are visiting you can rent a Nice Ride and get in a bike lane, on a bike trail, or take the greenways which cut through Minneapolis so you can avoid the roads as you pedal through town. We love visiting the lakes and parks in Minneapolis, especially Lake Harriet and the area by the Stone Arch Bridge (which is home to the Guthrie and the Mill City Farmers' Market). Some other favorite things and places: browsing at Common Good Books, admiring and buying fabric at Treadle Yard Goods, breakfast or treats at Patisserie 46, a meal at Blackbird Cafe, a special dinner at Saffron.

ninas
roof

With two cities full of good food, interesting neighborhoods, museums, music, and parks there are many things we didn't get a chance to do and, I'm sure, many things I forgot to mention. There is also lots to see and do in other parts of Minnesota and nearby states. Since we are leaving very soon I'm letting go of regrets for things we haven't done and just enjoying our last days in this place. Taking these photos on an early morning walk around my neighborhood gave me a chance to see things with new eyes and appreciate this place even more. We've been lucky to call it home.

August 11, 2014

More and Less


Four years ago this month we arrived in Minnesota and unpacked our moving truck while melting in the heat. Now I am packing the contents of our apartment back into boxes which we will move at the end of the month. Over the time we have lived here we have let go of a lot of the things we brought with us and we have also gotten lots of new things (including a baby). As always when packing and moving, I have been thinking a lot about what to bring with us and what we don't need to keep anymore.

As I decide what will go in our boxes I am trying to focus on the things that we need, that we use all the time, and that we thoroughly enjoy. I know there will be a few things that don't fit this criteria that I decide to pack anyway. I am already pretty conscious about what I chose to fill my home with but it is surprising how easy it is to get attached to things and how easy it is to confuse the things you own with part of who you are. I am amazed at how freeing it is to let many of these things go.

We are probably not headed toward extreme minimalism but I am glad that moving is giving us an opportunity to reassess the things we have and to lighten our load. I have also realized that I can do this on my own terms. I can let go of things when I am ready. I don't have to count my to count my things or get rid of anything that I don't want to though I am inspired by other people who chose to live with less. I am excited to have a fresh start with our new apartment. 

P.S. I am hoping to pack less of my inventory. If you see something you need or thoroughly enjoy (or whatever) from Seedling Design, I am offering 25% off through August 25. More info here.

August 1, 2014

Chocolate Meringues

Before I get to the chocolate meringues, I have to tell you about the reason I had six extra egg whites. I served this vanilla ice cream when we had friends over for a cookout. We ate scoops of it on top of brownies for dessert. After a busy day and a delicious meal, we all ended up melting into soft puddles just like the ice cream we devoured. (hint: churn the ice cream about an hour before you want to eat it, it will be the perfect soft yet frozen).

When the ice cream is long gone and you suddenly remember the six egg whites that have been sitting in a jar in the fridge, this is the recipe for you. If you are lucky you will remember them on a day that is perfect meringue weather. To be honest, I'm not sure if meringues have to be weather dependent but my mom always insisted that they should be made on clear days with few clouds and almost no humidity. I set out to make these meringues on a day that perfectly fit that description. It was cool and the sky was vibrantly blue. By the end of the day it was raining and my meringues survived just fine.

My first impulse for these egg whites was to make a pavlova but I didn't have a pile of fresh berries, nor did I need a show stopping summer dessert. So I made chocolate meringues. These could be good under a pile of berries, too, but they are excellent eaten as is.


Chocolate Meringues
It seems like the basic ratio for meringues is 1/3 cup of sugar for each egg white. These are definitely sweet so next time I will try reducing the amount of sugar a little bit. If you don't have six egg whites, it is easy to adjust the recipe to make a smaller amount.

6 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder 
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350'. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are stiff, but not dry. Continue beating and add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time. When all the sugar is added, beat in the cocoa until it is completely incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Scoop the meringue onto parchment lined baking sheets. Place the meringues in the oven and turn off the oven. Leave the meringues for at least two hours or over night (I stored mine in the oven and that kept them fresh for a couple of days).

Makes 12 large meringues.