Dreaming of Vegetables.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year my fridge is completely bare. At the moment, I’ve got a sad, lonely egg sitting in there with a container of leftover slaw salad, a bottle of white wine and a whole bunch of half-filled dipping sauces.

Maybe it was the state of the fridge that brought me to one of my favorite moments in the sloppy, early spring thaw out: purchasing the CSA share. Hooking up Midnight Sun Farm with a big fat check means we’ll have a fridge full of green (and red, and yellow, and purple…) all summer long, and a pantry of potatoes in the fall. I can barely contain my excitement – seriously. Continue reading

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Dear Lincoln Park Conservatory: I’m sorry I ignored you for 15 years…

Most days I feel comfortable saying that I’ve seen pretty much everything my home city has to offer. I’ve been to the tourist traps and the holes-in-the-walls. I’ve ventured to all corners of the city, and after 15 years in Chicago I thought I’d pretty much nailed down what to do and what not to do here.

But then I went to Lincoln Park Conservatory.

I have no idea why I’ve never been there.

It was a stupid cold and sleeting winter day in spring (read: late March in Chicago) and the weather threw a monkey-wrench in a scheduled pre-wedding “Meeting of the Moms.” In searching for indoor, get to know you activities, the conservatory seemed like a great alternative to window shopping in Andersonville, because moms like flowers, right?

Right. Continue reading

I did a Pinterest thing that didn’t totally suck.

I’ve had my fair share of epic domestic fails, particularly when trying to recreate things that I find from Pinterest. I think I can be pretty capable in the DIY department, but, you know, Pinterest forces us (or at least me) to set unrealistic expectations about what is actually DIY-possible.

We moved into a slightly bigger apartment a few months ago, and it’s been fun to get to settle in and figure out where things go. Our kitchen is bigger, with a huge butler’s pantry. It’s the Ritz Carlton of kitchens, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll tell you more about that later. We’ve also now got a nice big deck, and I managed to plant some flowers out there this summer. The only problem is, the deck is shaded 90% of the time, so, not ideal for growing herbs and veggies. I’ll tell you more about that later, too.

I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of community gardening, not because I don’t believe in it, but because I’ve spent the last two summers paying $75 to watch a bunch of vegetables die. Even though our garden was only a mile a way, getting there was hard, because, life. When I was able to go, there was this walk of shame past all the beautiful, bountiful beds to our pathetic little patch filled with green beans, three strawberries, dead tomato plants and a bunch of weeds.

Anyway… where was I? Right. DIY. Continue reading

Paperless

There was a time when I balanced my checkbook, when I demanded paper statements, when I held 3 or 4 magazine subscriptions.

I love the feel of paper and the idea of paper. I love handwriting and stationary and print. I love reading a newspaper and getting ink on my hands.

But I think I’m over it.

I’m tiring of the stacks of mail and unread magazines on the dining room table. I’m seeking a less complicated space and a simple home that is free of the mess that paper compels me to make. About a year ago I went paperless on almost all of my bills, and many of them are enrolled in automatic deductions (something I vowed I would never do). Then, tonight, I thought I’d try and sort through the stack of magazines.

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It’s not so bad – I mean it’s only about a year’s worth. Every once in awhile I go through a purging. Carefully sifting through Food & Wine, I rip out pages of recipes I’d like to try, and they go into a slightly smaller pile tucked between cookbooks I seldom use. I put up a good front of domesticity and culinary prowess, but I’m also a workaholic who admittedly fed herself a dinner of Ritz crackers with peanut butter and beer tonight.

How’s that for full disclosure?

p.s. Want the old copies of Food & Wine? First in Chicago to say “dibs” wins.

Learning to Live With, and Eventually Love, my Tiny Kitchen

tumblr_mtwv2xKZ7W1qmywbko1_500It’s been nearly 18 months since I downsized from house to apartment. Downsizing can be difficult, and at first I felt like the biggest sacrifice was in the kitchen.  I love to cook (duh), and in the 12 years since dorm life I’ve accumulated, and accumulated, and accumulated some more. Each kitchen I’ve cooked in was bursting at the seams (literally… I’ve spilled over into dining rooms, coat closets, you name it).  So you can bet I was concerned when faced with the approximately 7 x 15 foot space that was to be my kitchen.  Where do I put the canning supplies? The stand mixer?!? The worms?!?!?

Apparently, I was being dramatic. 18 months later, what once felt crowded is now cozy, organized, and remarkably easy to keep clean.

As it turns out, I don’t need 2 blenders, 3 crockpots, a juicer, 2 coffee grinders, or 18 feet of counter space. As I moved in, settled in, and hunkered down in the apartment I realized that there were a lot of things I could part with – things that I hadn’t used in months to a year – things I sometimes didn’t want or need to begin with – things I would have rather done without anyway.

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As it turns out, all that stuff didn’t matter, and it didn’t make me a better cook. In evaluating what I wanted to keep, I discovered the things that were most precious to me, and most useful.

As it turns out, the food that comes out of my little kitchen tastes better, because this is a kitchen that only contains things that I love.

This is a kitchen that’s processed a hundred pounds of tomatoes (not all at the same time), pumpkin purees, and salsas galore. It’s frozen enough fresh vegetables to last for the winter, canned cranberry juice, and made pot after pot after pot of morning coffee. It’s churned out pies, frittatas, and an 18-pound turkey.  Everything has a place – even the worms

I can do anything in my kitchen you can do in yours – mine just takes less time to clean.

Canapolooza 2013

My friend Ann can can.

She might be able to can can too, but trust me, Ann can definitely can.

When I picked up my 40 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun last Sunday for her Labor Day canning party (thinking, “wow, this is a s*#$ ton of tomatoes“), Ann said, “I think we may have different expectations about canning day.”

When two crafty ladies get together with cocktails and 100 pounds of tomatoes, it’s kind of amazing. Aside from the 19 jars of marinara sauce now sit in my pantry ready for the pizza I might make next February, here are some photographic highlights of the day:

Salsa!
Salsa! and, Ann’s extremely enormous pot.
Tomatoes without their skins, waiting to be squished for sauce
Tomatoes without their skins, waiting to be squished for sauce
Ann makes a brontosaurus out of tomato paste
Ann makes a brontosaurus out of tomato paste

A Lovely Evening

tumblr_mscltxcwxV1rqh5gio1_500It’s taken me a long time to learn how to spend time by myself.

I guess I’m still learning, really.

After a year of working 60-80 hours a week, followed by a surprisingly hectic summer, followed by the hit to the face that comes with the first week of school, I was surprised to find myself with three days on my calendar that were actually…. blank.

Huh? What is this strange feeling of time off? The GF is traveling, which means football is off my radar, and I can’t figure out what people do with themselves when this phenomenon called days off occur for every 5 days.  Um, well, I guess I’ll, well, polish up seven weeks of upcoming lectures and watch an equivalent 7 hours of Law and Order: SVU on Hulu.

And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

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wine, jazz, and freezing string beans

I wanted today to be different.  I wanted Sunday to be this productive day where I do this that I claim to be doing on my blog and Pinterest while I’m really sitting on the couch with Detective Tutuola.  After a somewhat thorough cleaning of the kitchen and laundry-doing earlier today, I put on some jazz music, opened the windows and a bottle of wine, and got a bit crafty. It’s about time I lived up to my name.

So, I repurposed my mother’s old kitchen curtains into a sassy new apron, baked a pan of chicken for my lunches this week, and froze most of the vegetables that arrived in my CSA this morning – while wearing the new apron (naturally).

I’m sure you find this all very interesting, but now as I sit at my desk, listening to the sounds of the city out the window and rumbles of thunder as a storm approaches, Ella Fitzgerald humming softly on the stereo, sipping my glass of wine, feeling accomplished, I couldn’t ask for a more perfect evening.  With all due respect, Detectives, you’ve been replaced (for now).

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A new apron, fashioned from Mother’s drapes.