Category: garden

Fresh garden salsa (that you can enjoy in February).

Weighing tomatoes before making fresh garden salsa (canned!)

I got a new kitchen scale, dudes.

This is exciting for me. It took a long time to find one that was what I wanted. I didn’t want digital. I wanted an old-school analog one- vintage styled. Jay and I really wanted an actual vintage one, but we were worried about the calibration of a true vintage scale. We didn’t want to buy one then find out it needed to be overhauled. So then we got some gift cards for Williams-Sonoma (for either our wedding or a late-housewarming gift) and we found this one by Salter for Williams-Sonoma. SCORE!

So we ordered it and it came and it’s lovely. Just what I had in mind. Vintage look, but brand new.

Weighing tomatoes for some fresh garden salsa.

And I’ve got lots of tomatoes, all fresh from my backyard. Yep, the garden is still kickin’! Indigo Apples, Cosmonaut Volkov’s, Globe’s, Amish Paste’s and Super Sweet 100’s. They’ve all gotta be used, and one can only eat so many fresh. Or in a salad. So… naturally, everything I make preserve with tomatoes; i.e. tomato jam or sauce or salsa, I need to weigh them first. Conveniently.

And that leads me to our recipe today:

Canned fresh garden salsa- enjoy your garden in the middle of the winter!

I looooooove salsa. Oh man. I could eat salsa all day, every day. Green, red, I don’t care. Hot salsa, medium salsa, salsa with black beans and corn. I love it all. The only ones I will not eat are peach salsas or mango salsas. I’m a purist, see. Tomatoes & peppers only for me. With loads of cilantro. LOADS. I love it tossed into a fresh salad topped with tortilla strips, shredded cheese and sometimes grilled chicken. I also love it on chips, with guacamole. And who doesn’t love it on burritos?

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Oven roasted tomato deliciousness.

Oven roasted tomatoes with basil, oregano & garlic

Happy September, everyone. Wow, can you believe it’s September already? Where did the time go? Summer really flew by. I’ve had a pretty stressful summer- and I didn’t get to the beach once. Also, my cat of 13 years, Arwyn, had to be put to sleep a few days ago, so this summer has been officially marked as shit. She might have lived with my mom and become my “mother’s” cat, but she was my baby. I see Halloween stuff and back-to-school things in stores and I wanna cry, and I LOVE Halloween. How did the summer go by so fast… and why? It’s still a zillion degrees out, I’m not fully ready to plunge into 100% fall treats yet. Besides- IT’S NOT EVEN LABOR DAY. LEMME KEEP MY TOMATOES AND MY SHORTS AND MY SANDALS AND MY ICED TEA, PLZ. KTHX.

Oh, tomatoes. Tomatoes, you beautiful summer-long-into-September-and-maybe-October delectable morsels of life.

Fresh tomatoes!

I know we just spoke about tomatoes a few days ago, but come on. LOOK AT THESE THINGS. How do you not want to take pictures of them and eat them and cuddle them?

Okay, maybe not that.

In case you’re not a regular reader, we’ve been growing tomatoes in our raised garden beds. I had container gardens for years, and last summer we upgraded to raised beds that Jay built. This year we expanded them, and grew 5 varieties of tomatoes: Indigo Apple, Globe, Amish Paste, Cosmonaut Volkov and Supersweet 100. We also grew three kinds of basil (Cinnamon, Purple Ruffles and regular ol’ Genovese) and two types of oregano (regular and “hot & spicy”).

Tomatoes ready to be oven roasted!

I love tomato season. Unf.

So, I had a few tomatoes that fell off the vine before they were ripe, and I decided to pick a vine of Supersweet 100’s and toss ’em all together in the oven. Of course, what are tomatoes without garlic, basil and oregano?

So I washed and dried the shermaters, cut up the Indigo Apple’s to a smaller size, and grabbed some hot & spicy oregano, a bunch of basil leaves and some regular oregano. I added those to the ‘maters. It already smelled like heaven. Or a pizzeria. Same thing.

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Hop Pickles, take two!

Black Swallowtail caterpillar hanging out on the dill in my garden.

Ohhhh, summer. The sun is beating down on you relentlessly. Where the caterpillars are crawling all over the dill waiting to grow into butterflies, the heat is stifling… and the humidity makes you want to kill babies.

Maybe its not that bad. But it is pretty bad.

However on the upside the gardens are overflowing with vegetables, the flowers have never looked prettier, and it’s PICKLE TIME.

Cucumber garden harvest- prepped for making hop pickles.

I had a bunch of pickling cucumbers to harvest, of course I had to grab my dill heads and use them before those Black Swallowtail caterpillars ate ’em all! So yeah. It’s pickle time. Better yet… it’s HOP PICKLE TIME.

Yes. Hop pickles. Remember those? I made them about 3 years ago for the first time after learning about Brooklyn Brine’s Hop Pickles. The Brooklyn Brine variety is made with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA & some Cascade hop oil. Mine are made with straight up beer- this time, a Pilsner.

Hop pickles made with Coney Island Brewing Co. Mermaid Pilsner.

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Surprise in the garden: Black swallowtail caterpillars!

…just when you think you’ve seen it all…

In today’s edition of “Things I’ve Found in the Garden,” we have quite the intriguing specimen. Imagine this: it’s a hot summer weekend day. Your parents are over having drinks on the porch waiting for a barbecue, you’re watering the garden, leisurely taking some pictures of Indy…

Indy in the backyard.

And of course taking artsy pictures of your tomatoes that you will edit & filter to look like they’re right out of 1970 (because Photoshop)…

When all of a sudden, your husband calls you over, his voice sounding slightly surprised and a little skeptical, to see some “bugs” on the dill. So you walk over, completely expecting to see those crazy looking candy-striped leafhoppers that are irritating the hell out of you (and your eggplants) when you look at where he’s pointing and see this:

Black swallowtail caterpillar on Fernleaf dill.

Freakin’ caterpillars! Not that many, maybe about 5 or 6, spread out all over the Fernleaf dill. Now, one thing you should know about me is that I am a geek. A total nerd. A science and history-specific geeky nerd person. So this stuff, this nature & science stuff, it totally gets me going.

So immediately I do a Google, and come to find out some very interesting facts-

The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail,[1] is a butterfly found throughout much of North America. It is the state butterfly of Oklahoma. An extremely similar-appearing species, Papilio joanae, occurs in the Ozark Mountains region, but it appears to be closely related to Papilio machaon, rather than P. polyxenes. The species is named after the figure in Greek mythology, Polyxena (pron.: /pəˈlɪksɨnə/; Greek: Πολυξένη), who was the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

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The garden life.

Living the garden life, 2015!

Well, last post was about the start of my married life, this post is about the updates to my garden life.

I’ve had gardens for years. You all probably know how I feel about this, but I’ll say it again: if you have a piece of land, you should be growing SOMETHING on it. If you have a terrace or patio or small deck, you can grow some small peppers or patio tomatoes. If you have a window box, you should be growing herbs. There are no excuses! I started growing herbs myself, outdoors on a bigger scale, in “container gardens” in 2008. In 2010, I expanded to create an entire veggie container garden with a few tomato plants, a few pepper plants, and some zucchini, eggplant and cucumber. I really didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest, and while I got one or two paltry cukes, the zucchini didn’t give me anything that year. I later learned that the zucchini wasn’t being pollinated, and I would have to do it myself, which was unsuccessful. I did get some zucchini blossoms out of it, however.

In 2011, I had quite a large setup and everything was doing awesome! I had even gotten some cukes that year! But my nana had passed away in July, and then thats when Hurricane Irene hit us in August. And while she wasn’t as bad as we expected, she was bad enough. She decimated my plants, ripped the growing eggplants off, and ruined a few things. But that year I realized that the best results come from attracting lots of bees!

By 2012, I had learned a thing or two more about how things go, and what should go with what. I planted basil with my tomatoes, and the tomatoes were sweet and juicy, and the peppers were amazing. I wasn’t an expert yet by any means, but I was headed in the right direction. The next year, 2013, I just grew herbs. It was a transitional year for me in a lot of ways and I just didn’t have the heart to have a lot of things to “take care of.”

Baby leaf spinach.

And last year brought my  new raised garden bed! Jay agreed to build it for me and it turned out to be his new hobby/favorite thing ever. And so we really expanded. We ended up with TONS of veggies & herbs… and a few lessons learned the hard way; i.e. cucumbers should be by themselves because they will over take EVERYTHING, and tomatoes and dill should not be planted in the same area! Whoops.

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Friday Fifteen: we’re back, and it’s SPRINGTIME!

Pink African violet in the sunshine.

Time to dust off all the old pots and fill ’em with new soil! Get those seeds ready! And break out the f*&!#in’ lemonade… It’s SPRING! And I am so excited.

This year I’m starting the year off with my garden bed all ready, and my yard all resodded. Is that a word? Anyway, yes, the garden. My little babes are growing like weeds. So far we have: Globe tomatoes, Pickler’s Hybrid and Pickling cucumbers, Baby Leaf Catalina Spinach, sugar snap peas, jalapeño, and Wild Arugula as well as chives, chocolate mint, sweet mint, and lemon balm. We’re currently  planning our garden bed extension, which will be to the left of the current one and will hold just as much, but be a different shape. You’ll just have to wait & see it! Also we will be creating a separate area for our cucumbers, since last year they got just a lil bit cray cray. Just a lil.

I haven’t done one of these since November, so I thought it was time.

Friday Fifteen: Spring | Sunny screened-in back porch.


1. As you (most likely) know, I got married April 3rd of this year! So I am currently celebrating one month and five days of being married… plus 12 years, 9 months and 27 days of being together. Ha. So on that note, I LOVE these invites/thank you’s from Royal Steamline. I loved my invites, and I still think they’re the coolest ever, but these are pretty freakin’ cool. Speaking of which, pictures to come, I swear!
2. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend bought us a ton of awesome stuff of our Crate & Barrel registry, including a bunch of barbecue items, like this corn griller basket. I can’t wait to make this grilled corn with chili butter recipe using it!
3. I want these spring rolls. Now, plz.
4. Being that the image above is of the potting bench Jay made me last year, I think it’s fitting that I link to a how-to on making a shed to house your garden tools.
5. And, in that same vein, here’s a how-to on starting a garden from seed, and a link explaining how to save the seeds from vegetables. Awesome instructionals!
6. If you, too, are growing cucumbers, then you’re going to need to browse the ‘pickles’ category. And if it’s your first time growing them- trust me.
7. I’m seriously into browsing vintage and antique rings lately; mainly the settings and details because of a project I’m planning for my mother’s engagement ring (that she gave me when I turned 21). The best inspiration can be found at Trumpet & Horn and Leigh Jay Nacht.
8. I love DIY projects, and I love a good cocktail… so why not make some fancy tumblers?
9. I found this awesome tutorial for a glowing table, and now I want one! But my question is: does the glowing powder come in a color other than blue?
10. Cilantro-Chile vinaigrette. All day.
12. I’m in loooooove with this Anthropologie dress. Oh, man. So spring-y and girly yet the black gives it a little edge and oomph.
13. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (which is also why I’m putting it towards the end on our list), but Ask A Mortician on YouTube is incredibly interesting, funny and thought-provoking. So I’m throwing it out there… because really, its something we should all just face & come to terms with… and yes, maybe sometimes laugh at. Caitlin Doughty is very good at what she does and definitely manages to make it accessible and less scary-morbid.
14. I love these cedar planters. LOVE THEM. Now I need some (maybe brightly painted ?) wooden planters… *cough*Jay*cough*
15. And don’t forget- Sunday, May 10th is Mother’s Day here in the U.S.! Here’s a few pictures of the cupcakes I made for my mom. “Paris” cupcake liners & toppers by Meri Meri (they no longer make this one). In case you didn’t know, she’s a huuuuge Francophile! 

Mother's Day "Paris" cupcakes.Mother's Day "Paris" cupcakes.Mother's Day "Paris" cupcakes!Paris-themed Mother's Day cupcakes.(photo edit/HB1 filter by VSCOCAM, gold-rimmed plate- vintage Pyrex “flamingo” dinnerware)


Je T’aime, Momma Dukes, and to my new mother-in-law, and to all you lovely ladies who have procreated. And thank you on behalf of your (perhaps sometimes ungrateful) children.

Pickled green tomatoes, Italian style.

The garden was crazy this year, thanks to our big ol’ raised garden bed. So when things started to get super cray cray, I decided that the best thing to do once I had a harvest of more than just two tomatoes at once, was make salsa & bruschetta.

Beautiful green tomatoes.

But of course, sometimes you just see those green tomatoes hanging out there… and you wanna pluck ’em off & use them, too. They’re so cute & small & round. And then there’s all that fresh basil & oregano that’s just waiting for you to keep picking it…

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

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