Friday, August 8, 2014

June & July: Ghost Months

The summer is always a busy time, but this year especially, the summer has been ramped up a little.  Three weeks from tonight I will be sitting in a restaurant overlooking the Long Island Sound with my best friends, my family, and Rob...eating, laughing, wondering what the next day will bring.  Three weeks from tomorrow I will marry this guy I've grown to love so much I want to stick with him forever.  That is CRAZY!  People keep asking me if I'm nervous or stressed.  I'm really not.  I mean, I worry about a vendor just not showing up, or my dress falling off, or a category 12 hurricane hitting Long Island that weekend...there are so many things that can go wrong...but no, I'm not nervous yet.  Standing in front of all those people might freak us both out a little bit, but we love each and every one of them and are very excited to share this time with everyone at home.

So much has been going on.  I could write pages and pages.  Instead I will let the pictures do the talking because as I look back on the past 60 days or so, I feel so overwhelmingly blessed.  I give you the past two months of my life:

Rob and I went to Indiana for his cousin's graduation party and I met my new family.  Some of the coolest, sweetest, nerdiest, most awesome people.  Seriously, how did I get so lucky?!

All this goodness came out of the garden!  It has been an awesome year for harvest and we have eaten like absolute pigs.

Rob had some skin cancer removed from one of his fingers.  He would kill me if he saw that I posted this.  Thankfully they got it all and he's healthy and still has his whole finger.  What a day...

There are three other women in my office who I work with everyday.  They make my job awesome.  We laugh and have so much fun.  The girls surprised the heck out of me when they brought in flowers, donuts, and got KATY PERRY tickets as a pre-wedding night out.  Oh my gosh, was it fun!!  Here's a blurry selfie of the girls who rocked my world that night.  They're all coming to the wedding.  I could not be more blessed to have such amazing women to hang with everyday...and yeah, we get work done too.

By default, I acquired a dog.  I am not a dog person, but as dogs go, she's really sweet and hasn't tried to eat the cats, just their food.  Her name is Lacy.  She is the apple of Rob's eye.

We ate a lot of squash this summer.  One of our favorite varieties is lemon squash.  As you can see, the garden went totally wild (in a good way) and we could barely keep up with it all!

I finished painting the pantry.  It was ugly brown paneling and now it's white.  I know it's not a Martha Stewart rad pantry like some people have...I mean, I live in a 60s house, folks...but it's much brighter and cheerier now!

I took this....

And turned it into this...

I hung with my little mom before my bridal shower at home.  It was a humid day...the fog makes us glow and smooths out fine lines, no?  Some of the most loved ladies in my life came to spend the afternoon, along with my best friend/maid of honor.  It was perfect.  No stupid games, just lovely conversation out in the screen porch, ungodly amounts of tiny quiches which I ate the next day, and CAKE. 

 Took a selfie with dad in Bridgehampton at the beach on Ocean Road.  Wind, sun, and perfectly crisp water.  There is no use trying to have decent hair during the summer up there.

Here is the Kardashian's pop up store in Southampton.  Notice the security guard.  There were no Kardash chicks in there when I went in, but it actually wasn't that bad and the clothes were kind of cute.  They can go back to LA now...

My BFF, her hubby, and I walked to the marina down the street and heard live music on July 4th.  I met her adorable new baby too!  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding two years ago and she'll be standing up there with me at the end of the month.  Every moment we can steal at home is always precious!

I went here...

And ate this.  Chocolate cream pie and apple pie from Briermere's will be served at the wedding.

This amazing sunset happened the night before I left for Nashville.  Always makes it that much harder to head back...

Cheekwood had an exhibit of big bugs.  The praying mantis is my fave.

I'm not a fan of eggplant, so I made zucchini rollatini for the first time.  It was delish and we'll definitely make it again when the second round of zukes come in!

My BFF sent flowers when I was having a bad day and wanted to kill everyone.  She remembered my favorite flower is lisianthus.  I love her so much.

Rob sold his house and we moved all his stuff over here.  It was a huge decision and a lot to let go of.  I don't know how he did it in the time that he had, but it was a blessing how everything turned out. He didn't even have to list the place.

I got my old tattoo fixed up!  I now have a bigger, prettier butterfly.  I love it. pic of that one, so instead...

The butterfly bushes started blooming and I see eastern black swallowtails almost everyday now.  They are magical.

I met one of my favorite girlfriends in Asheville with her little daughter.  This is the third trip we've taken here and we always eat lunch at the Grove Park Inn on the Sunset Terrace overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

I'm pretty amazed by all my friends who are moms.  All of them are superwomen.  Dawn lost a few cosmetics on this trip thanks to a curious little munchkin who likes to squeeze tubes.  This kiddo is a trooper though and hung out wherever we dragged her.

At the North Carolina Arboretum we saw this lotus flower in bloom.  I think I had a spiritual moment just staring at this incredible plant.  I get why people freak out over lotuses.  It was breathtakingly perfect.  

We sat in these chairs one evening and looked at the mountains.  It was a very peaceful moment.

Then we went back and drank because I can't be around children for more than a few hours without copious amounts of alcohol.  Obvs we are totes pals.

Rob and I had a much needed date night at the Grand Ole Golf putt putt place.  He beat me on the two small courses, but I killed him on the challenge course.  It was embarrassing.

We finally harvested the garlic I planted last fall.  I want to plant twice as much this year.  There is nothing more fabulous than pulling tiny, unimpressive bulbs out of the dirt and getting this.

We made pizza with tomatoes and basil from the garden, pizza dough from Sal's, and well...cheese.  This was our first attempt and it was freaking awesome. 

I stood in this room with a bunch of college students and Sara Barielles.  She answered questions before her show at the Fontanel.  I'm pretty sure we need to be friends.  She is just very...authentic.  Maybe that's the word I'm looking for?  I don't know, but I really loved her.  Her new album is on repeat.

We have harvested insane amounts of tomatoes this year.  I can't even compare it to last year.  I had the blight last year and thought I had a lot then, but this has just taken the proverbial cake.  Last week I threw a ton into a dutch oven, baked them till the skins charred, then cooked them down on the stove for hours until the water evaporated.  It made the most amazing puree ever.  I'm in love.  We'll have enough sauce to last into next year for sure.

The other day I was able to tour the new Acme building in downtown Nashville.  I stood on the roof and looked back over Broadway, remembering how I felt about it when I saw it for the first time...not impressed.  After growing up near New York City, it's rather hard to compare.  Nashville is evolving though by leaps and bounds with new restaurants and influxes of people.  Broadway still looks much the same as it ever did, but things are a-changing.  

All of my daylilies are finished blooming.  The dried brown stalks have been pulled off and new fall growth is beginning to appear, but today I walked out and there was this little beauty, just waiting to shine and hoping someone would notice.  Every flower is a work of art and I am in awe of the garden, how it shifts and changes, painting a new scene everyday.

There were more moments, more snatches of time to be thankful for, more walks downtown in the balmy summer evenings.  My heart is full.  I want to remember every moment over these next weeks and hold each one close.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Too Much Of A Good Thing: Rain, Rot, And Harvest

The past two and a half weeks have brought nothing but rain.  Every day there has been some form of dreary precipitation that has nearly driven me mad with longing for sunshine.  I mean, come on already!  Although I've been saving money on water in terms of garden irrigation, too much of a good thing can really be a bummer.  The squash are rotting right on the vine, the peppers look horrendous and have taken to falling over just to get attention, and the tomatoes are just not looking like themselves without some hot sunshine.

In spite of this dismal downfall, the harvest is starting.  One night in the lull between rainfalls, I got the tomatoes staked.  Finally!!!  Rob pounded these stakes into the ground for me and I used zip ties to secure the bamboo to the stakes.  The result is a much better system than what I had last year.  There is airflow between the plants and room to walk in and harvest.

The squash plants have already grown to gargantuan proportions.  Here is the romanesco.  The taste is lovely, the flowers are gigantic and buttery, but I'm having rotting issues with these due to the rain.

Here is what the garden looks like right now.  The cucumber vines are already taller than I am!  Thank goodness for velcro ties.  They are one of the most useful things I've purchased for the garden.  I was able to reuse the ones from last year too!  They don't damage the plants and are really easy to secure.  They cost more, but are definitely worth the investment!

Tonight I harvested a bunch of goodies, so it was a bit of work when I got home.  The great thing about the rain is that I can't go outside in this nasty weather for days sometimes, so when I finally do, it's like Christmas out there!

These are dragon tongue beans.  Aren't they so pretty and purply?!  I opted for these this year instead of green beans and I don't think I can ever go back.  The taste of these is fabulous! It's much less grassy than a green bean straight off the plant.  More like a wax bean, but sweeter...I am in love!

The snow peas look like a mess in the garden right now.  Even though I strung some twine they had a mind of their own and look like a shipwreck.  They have a lovely crunch though!

There is a lot of food right now, so I threw a salad together with cucumbers, snow peas, fresh basil, and chick peas.  I'll drown it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar tomorrow for a crunchy lunch because you only live once, right?!  I'm sorry this picture is blurry.  I think I had just dropped the phone in some water on the kitchen counter, or I couldn't hold the phone steady from the wine I was drinking, not sure which.  Oops!

Beets!!!  Ok, I know a lot of you probably hate beets.  They have grown on me.  I really like roasting them.  I throw them in an oven safe glass pan, spray with olive oil, cover with foil, and roast on 350 for at least an hour until soft. Once they're peeled and sliced, I love putting them on salad or eating them with goat cheese.  Definitely prefer eating them warm as opposed to cold or pickled.  Delish!

I am not a fan of beet greens, but I've found a way to cook them that makes them tolerable.  I can't stand to just throw them away!  Dice half an onion and throw some crushed garlic cloves in a pan with olive oil, basil, pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes.

Throw the greens in the pan after the onions are clear and your house smells garlicky.

You'll end up with a sort of mushy healthy bowl of greens.  Throw some pecorino romano on there...throw on some can never have too much Italian cheese, you just can't.

While I was slaving away in the kitchen like some 50s domestic goddess, this was happening.

I mean...!!!  It never gets old, cats and boxes.  It doesn't matter what was in the box or where the box is placed, I guarantee you a cat will be in the box within 10 seconds of it hitting the floor.  She is so adorable, I can't take it!  I hope Rob's dog doesn't eat her when she moves in.  The tragedy...

Ok, I'm back...other parts of the yard have benefited greatly from the rain.  Look at this hideous thing the previous owners left for me when I moved in.  I was going to throw it away, but it's a planter and plants can be stuck in those, so I stuck some hens & chicks in there and voila, it's slightly less hideous, but honestly, you can't really improve a concrete squirrel, can you?

Dad's daylilies are the crowning jewel of the garden right now.  Last year he sent 60 plants down here of his own hybridized varieties.  I tagged the plants when I was home and he dug them all out, boxed them up, and shipped them down here.  Looking at these gorgeous flowers takes me home.  Every year when I go home for July 4th, Dad's garden is blooming wildly and it's hard not to get lost in the loveliness of it.  Now I have a piece of that here and I can't describe how happy it makes me!

This is what the flower bed looked like just a couple weeks ago.

Now it looks like this...

The front walk...

It's so interesting to see how things grow here.  One year, something does really well and then this year, it's failing.  Or last year I couldn't get flowers to grow in a bed and this year, plants are thriving.  I can't imagine not having the garden to come home to because something is always new, a season is always changing the landscape.  The garden requires one to observe or beauty will be missed.  I walk along the side flower bed each day before I hop in the car and head to work.  The fig is taller.  The roses are blooming.  The foxglove is falling over in the rain.  New alliums are turning purple.  The lavender is finally coming back.  The purple coneflower is starting to bloom.  Butterflies will be here soon.

Nothing stays the same and I'm reminded that this is a big year of change for me too.  I'm getting married.  I know that Rob and I will face our challenges as we try to figure out living life together after being independent for so long, but I hope that each of us provides a space where the other can grow and blossom.  For now we will eat lots of fresh things and fill our stomachs and be reminded of how blessed we are.