All posts in summer

the big 1-1-5 … happy birthday farmhouse!

The farmhouse turned 115 this year, and I hosted a big backyard bash in July. It was amazing to have so many friends and family members show up to help celebrate. I’ve had the idea in my head for a few years, and have been dreaming up party food ideas all year. Some awesome girlfriends helped me bring the idea to life, preparing party fare from every decade that the house has been around. It was so much fun. We rounded out the menu with home-smoked pork from my awesome cousins, Maggie’s famous German potato salad, and the most amazing ribs from Smoke in the Pit (a neighborhood BBQ place).

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  • 1900s: Jell-O salad (yeah Rachel!)
  • 1910s: root beer floats
  • 1920s: Rice Krispies treats
  • 1930s: Fritos
  • 1940s: deviled eggs (thanks aunt Mary!)
  • 1950s: Chex Mix (great job Brianna!)
  • 1960s: Sangria
  • 1970s: cheese ball (way to go Mary!)
  • 1980s: 7-layer dip
  • 1990s: Bagel Bites
  • 2000s: Millenium cupcakes (amazing job, Sarah!)
  • 2010s: the best kale chips ever (thanks mom!)

And, by popular request, the white sangria recipe:

4 bottles vinho verde
2 L. club soda
1.5 c. Triple Sec
2 cans frozen lemonade
3 oranges, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 peaches, sliced
Bags of frozen fruit (1 of each): raspberries, strawberries, pineapple
//combine and pack dispenser in ice or refrigerate for a few hours prior to serving//

So much <3 to everyone who showed up and made it a party. xoxo

 

            

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2014 garden

Some of you have noticed I took a bit of a break from blogging this spring. Between work travel and some family things to attend to, I really haven’t been home — much less, cooking, crafting, gardening and fixing! But I managed to get a few things in the ground recently, and despite the torrential rains we’ve been getting, they’re doing great so far.

It’s going to be a low-key summer for the garden this year. I took out some trees in the backyard last November, and I am looking forward to seeing how that changes the light in the garden. A year of observing and waiting, and maybe next year I’ll make some big changes. Oh wait, you thought that was a metaphor for life instead of my garden plan? Funny…

Parsley, Basil, Lemon Verbena, Chives, Peppers and Raspberries on the north side of the garden

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Mint (three varieties), Thyme (two varieties), Oregano, Cilantro, Sage and Tomatoes on the southeast side

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Annuals in the whiskey barrel out front — a purple and coral theme this year, which I’m loving so so much

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Some beautiful Bleeding Hearts that have spread out in the front garden beds

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xoxo

harvest at the farmhouse

It’s been both a great season in the garden and a meh season. From a late start planting to another drought, my grass and trees are struggling while my squirrels get the best tomatoes! But this summer’s growing experience did convince me it’s time to cut down a few trees in the back to allow more sunlight in the garden. And my lawn has looked great most of the summer thanks to the fancy new mower/mulcher! You win some you lose some.

Here are a few pics from this weekend’s casual harvest. I got a number of tomatoes and peppers a few weeks back, and a lot of the plants haven’t yielded anything (lemon cucumbers, broccoli, chard, brussels sprouts, beets).

nasturtium, oregano, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, thyme and basil
a great showing for tomatoes and herbs by the back door
poor pathetic lemon cucumber plant (nothing like past years’ monsters)
healthy tomato plants but lackluster basil, beets and brussels sprouts
wimpy basil + weeds
patchy spots in the perennial bed — to be tackled next year
the part of the garden I habitually ignore (and notice that the window box greens didn’t make it, either)
struggling hydrangea tree and patchy grass!

Prairie Home Summer

The last two summers have been full of weddings and travel — California, Georgia, Texas, even Hawaii. All the trips made for some great vacations and reunions with friends.

But this, this is the summer of staying close to home. No far-off weddings, no big fancy vacations. Just a lot of camping, gardening and exploring the awesomeness that is summer in Minnesota. So I’ve declared it to be the Prairie Home Summer. Hey Garrison Keillor, if you’re reading this … thanks. I like your show a lot.

To start it off, we had an epic five-year reunion with my college graduating class at St. Olaf. The two-day extravaganza included karaoke at Froggy’s, just like the old days, as well as dinner in the Caf, a reunion with my fellow a cappella group founders from Agnes, a brilliant lecture from a beloved prof, and a slideshow of embarrassing photos that someone pulled from Facebook (a reminder of exactly what we haven’t taken down since we posted them 8 or 9 years ago…)

June looked like a road trip to Rice Lake, Wisconsin for a colleague’s wedding, with a fun cheese shop stop on the way back …

… another road trip to the same part of Wisconsin for a cabin weekend on Spooner Lake with college buddies …

… and a four-day camping and canoeing expedition in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), one of the most remote and beautiful wilderness parks left in the country.

No biggie. Just one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the entire world.

Up next!

1. The obvious … as many farmers market trips and lake walks as possible.
2. At least one pizza farm visit (Stockholm or Northfield … choices this year, yo!)
3. Canning, jamming and pie-ing from the garden.
4. A visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Walnut Grove, MN, where you can see the place where they made their sod house on the banks of Plum Creek (ever since I read about it a few weeks ago, I’ve been certifiably obsessed).
5. Significant landscaping and garden improvements (underway).
6. Reading in the hammock and the rocking chair, and not just a few times. A lot.
7. My first trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota, for a friend’s wedding.
8. Mini-golf at the Walker Sculpture Garden.
9. At least two golf outings and two waterskiing days.
10. Biking around the Chain of Lakes — Harriet, Calhoun and Isles (I’ve only biked two at a time, not all three at once).
11. Check out a few more local Mpls breweries and new restaurants.
12. Lots and lots of DQ Blizzards (have I mentioned there’s a DQ three blocks from my house?)
13. The Minnesota State Fair! There are 46 new foods this year … yes, really.
14. Camping in Detroit Lakes, MN (for a friend’s wedding … yes, really.)
15. My first trip to the Wisconsin Dells (for another friend’s birthday).
16. A family reunion out at Lake Minnetonka, including waterskiing, speedboating, dock-sitting, fishing and a dinner cruise from Al & Alma’s.
17. My first-ever concert at the famed First Avenue concert club in Mpls.

My parents are coming for a nice long visit this month, so they’ll be helping me check a few items off this list 🙂 And I’m taking about half of July off from work, which will be love-ly.

What’s on your summer to-do list? And who’s coming to MN to help me with mine?

storm damage

Words cannot really describe what my street, neighborhood, entire city look like after a devastating storm last Friday night. So here are some numbers and photos instead.
130-year-old (someone counted the rings!) Elm tree, which hit 2 cars on its way down
Just one of three trees on our block to fall all the way across the road
Three garbage bags full of food I had to throw away because the power was out from Friday night to Sunday night (and I was at a cabin in Wisconsin with friends, having a delightful time in my ignorance of what was happening back home). By the time I got back Sunday afternoon, most everything was beyond salvage.

Over 600,000 Minnesotans without power (some still don’t have service back).

One major intersection between my house and the freeway still blocked by a tree and live power wire, a full five days after the storm.

Early estimates say that we lost more trees in Minneapolis during this storm than we did when the tornado hit the city in 2011.
Luckily, I also had:
0 ounces of water in the basement
0 trees on top of the house
0 instances of external damage whatsoever
We’re especially lucky that dad had borrowed the car for the weekend to drive to Wisconsin, because normally I park it right where that tree fell…
Continue your prayers for Mpls please! If that’s your thing. Warm fuzzy thoughts welcome too.
xoxo

a recipe for a cherry moment

“Cherries don’t have a season, they have a moment.”
– someone (I dunno, Google isn’t helping?)

I heard it somewhere, probably The Splendid Table. And it reminded me that I’ve had this Cherry Clafouti recipe stashed in my binders for years, untried. Well I’ve tried cherry clafouti … it’s one of my all-time favorites. Just not this recipe.

Friends, it did not disappoint. Run to the store and buy the last bag of perfect cherries, and don’t go to a lame grocery store because you need creme fraiche. Then come home and make this and tap your feet while you wait impatiently for it to cool, and scarf down half the pan as soon as you can eat it without scalding your tongue.

That is my advice to you. Listen to me and not your personal trainer.

Oh, and hi dad! Happy father’s day (again). I know how much you love cherries … I promise to make you one sometime, you’ll love it.

xo

Cherry Clafouti
adapted from Martha Stewart Living magazine
Prep time: 15 min
Total time: 45 min.
Serves 4-6
Clafouti is best served warm, so bake it just before you serve dinner. Scoop it into bowls topped with a spoonful of creme fraiche.
 
Unsalted butter, for dish
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. creme fraiche, plus more for serving
3/4 c. whole milk
1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus more for dish
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
12 ounces cherries, halved and pitted (if you don’t have a scale: enough to fill the bottom of the baking dish)
1. Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9-inch diameter 1 1/4 inch deep baking dish. Coat with sugar; tap out excess.
2. Whisk eggs, yolk and flour in a medium bowl (hand whisk is fine — don’t need eggbeaters). Next whisk in creme fraiche, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt.
3. Arrange cherries in prepared baking dish. Pour batter over cherries — they will rise to the top, this is ok. Bake until browned around edges and set in the center, 30-35 min. Let cool slightly. If desired, dust with powdered sugar. Regardless, serve warm with creme fraiche. Is also delicious cold, perhaps for breakfast the next morning…

veggies & herbs of 2013

Fourth vegetable garden! Wow, time flies.

This wasn’t the year to add raised beds to the backyard since I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with the back patio and some trees. So I just planned veggies and herbs for the spots I’ve used previously: the strip between the patio and fence, and a few pots and in-ground areas by the back door.
In the ground this year:
  • tomatoes (two varieties – Early Girl and Yellow Pear)
  • salsa peppers
  • broccoli
  • swiss chard
  • lemon cucumbers
  • lettuce
  • kale
  • beets
  • brussels sprouts
  • basil
  • sage
  • lemon verbena
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • spearmint
  • lavender

The big makeover, if there was one this year, is that I’m using the window boxes on the back of the garage for lettuce this year. We’ll see how it goes … it’s pretty shaded over there, but at least they’ll be protected from the bunnies.

before:
 
after:
 

 

So, the brussels sprouts and beets are new for me this year. Anyone have good tips? 🙂

garden jewels and freezer pickles

I could look at these beauties all day long.
And I sort of did, yesterday. Was playing catch-up from three weeks of out-of-town travel (surprise!) including two weddings, two work trips and a family road trip. Between the garden and the farmer’s market, I had a lot of veggies to tend to. It’s going to be a delicious week of roasted, sauteed, juiced and pickled veggies.
Center stage: the easiest way to preserve cucumbers (in this case, lemon cucumbers) without dipping a single canning jar into a single vat of boiling water.
Freezer Pickles
Per batch:
4 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
1 thinly sliced onion
2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1. Combine the cucumbers, onion and salt in a colander. Let stand and drain for at least 2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the turmeric, celery seeds, pepper and mustard. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Pack the cucumbers into freezer containers (many small, or one large), leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Pour in the brine (equal proportions in each container). The brine might not cover the cucumbers – this is alright. Mix well, then freeze.
4. Defrost in the refrigerator at least 8 hours before serving.

summer travels, lonely house

These days when someone asks me “how is the house,” the answer is usually “I haven’t seen it in a while.” Not to mention working on house or garden projects. Since mid-May, I’ve:

  • been to 10 weddings
  • changed jobs (yeah, I probably forgot to mention that)
  • traveled (for work or for weddings) to Omaha, Northern California, Atlanta, New York City (twice), North Carolina and Washington D.C.

Truth: Fun for me but not so fun for keeping up with this place.

October is turning out to be just as hectic as the summer was, but I’m finding more efficient ways to keep up with the cleaning and lawn care on the days in between trips. It’s a challenge, but I do like having this place to come home to … so I think I’ll keep it 🙂

In honor of a truly amazing summer, and to give you a glimpse of my life outside the house, here are some of my favorite moments from the last four months:

The stunning sunset at the wedding of this amazing lady and her fantastic husband
A rare photo-op with 12 of the 17 cousins at Rachel and Mark’s wedding in Omaha (the first of three cousin weddings this summer!)
Grade-school girlfriends at Carolyn’s wedding in Half Moon Bay, California
One of many Lake Minnetonka days with my family
Reminiscing with Kelli about our childhood days in Texas on one of my two trips to New York City, where she now lives (and blogs!)
College roommates! Nancy was the first of the Plum House girls to tie the knot
Catching up with more college friends in Washington D.C. in September
Dancing with Stephen, my like-a-brother friend that I’ve known since 5th grade, at his wedding in Napa Valley in May
Nate, Care, Sugi, me and Newman at, you guessed it, another wedding
Johnny and Maria’s wedding in Minneapolis (more cousins!)
Twins win! One of the best comebacks in baseball history.
Celebrating mom’s 20th anniversary with PartyLite at their National Conference in Minneapolis in July, alongside two of her best friends (amazing women, all of them)
Getting my Michael Cuddyer home run ball signed (I caught it during a game two summers ago) — definitely a top highlight 🙂
A weekend at Newman’s lake cabin in Wisconsin
An Agnes a Cappella reunion at Kelin’s bridal shower
 
And, the most surreal moment: standing next to Alison, my best friend since we were born, during her beautiful wedding in Atlanta.
My southern roots are showing a little bit more than usual, eh? Did I mention there were hats?
Yes. An amazing, blessed summer.
It’s okay if I hibernate in the house all winter, though, right?
xoxo
PS — I’m back home for a few weeks before a jaunt to Boston … and tomorrow I’ll have photos from a major house upgrade. One where I didn’t have to lift a finger. Hooray 🙂

agriturismo



News flash: My family is visiting. (Mostly my mom, with dad and brother and sister floating in and out.) Which should explain a lot if you’ve been waiting to hear from me. But more on that later. For now, check out the amazing work that my mom did in the yard this weekend. I helped, but she’s a machine when it comes to gardening. And it is nice to have her help … not going to lie.

Before (tree outside my back door, which I intend to cut down soon):



After:



Before (the whole yard):









After (the whole yard):









The side and front (after – I forgot to take before shots):



Why pay thousands of dollars to go work on a farm and eat good food in Italy or France when you could just come here and do the same thing for free? 🙂

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