Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Say what? A Floating Farmer's Market?

Seattle is a funny place and continues to amaze me with its elite status of all things unique including: recycling programs, the number of bike commuters, community-supported agriculture programs, backyard gardens, urban chickens, farmer's markets and, now, a floating farmer's market.

Yes, you heard me right, Puget Sound is host to a new concept surrounding a floating farmer's market aboard the Historic Virginia V - which delivers fresh produce each Thursday to a Lake Union dock. The concept is simple: allowing local island farms, along with familiar Seattle farm vendors, to reach waterfront communities and provide consumers with sustainable produce. It also revitalizes and gives new life to old boats who normally wouldn't be in use. Re-purposed at its finest! FarmBoat launched the first boat with visions of eventually operating three vessels on a regular route as far north as the San Juan Islands, all the way down to Olympia, WA.
This floating farmer's market interested me enough to grab my little family and head off toward the new South Lake Union Park to find out for myself just what this place was all about.

It was a cold, but pleasant enough day when we arrived to board the Virginia V farmer's market. A "mate" happily escorted us on the boat into the arms of Full Circle Farms where they happily displayed their winter crop selection. We wandered around the first floor while my almost 3-year-old took off looking out every window. The old boat smelled as it should - saltwater wrestling with a hint of fuel - a smell I've come to appreciate. I took a deep breath and continued on; climbing up the shiny, wooden stairs to the second story where more vendors waited. We were happy to see our favorite bread company - Tall Grass Bakery -  and quickly snagged a classic baguette and molasses cookie. They had their popular pumpernickel and multi-grain breads for sale along with a seasonal "Stollen" bread - a traditional German Christmas bread made of fruit and covered with sugar, but an expensive option at $20 a loaf.

Tall Grass Bakery vendor.

We made our way to Pete's Perfect Toffee -a handmade toffee recipe carried down from the vendor's grandmother and picked up a small pack to nibble on while we wrapped up our shopping. We checked out a few other items until we concluded our market visit by buying apples, pears and carrots for next to nothing: apples two for $1, carrots eight for $1 and a large pear for two bucks.

The experience was cool - although small with limited produce - but very unique. I think it will only gain momentum as it grows. It's a fabulous place to take out-of-town guests or for just a little outing with the family.

The regular run will continue at the South Lake Union Park every Thursday 11am-3pm in March. (December 23 was the last winter run). Support the new concept by checking it out for yourself. For more information and to sign up for the "Fresh News" mailing list visit

A cool FarmBoat produce box.

Tall Grass Bakery's "Stollen" holiday bread.

Full Circle Farms winter crop.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Second use, please.

Now here me out, I have a thing about buying used goods. I may be slightly obsessed about it, but, I'm very fulfilled when I get a deal and know it wasn't purchased brand-new. I wish I was perfect - far from it - but I genuinely give a crap about the environment and the waste we put into it.

I realize other folks don't have this desire and I try to hide my disappointment. But, I admit I have a few new items littering the house I wish I didn't have, but, I'd dare guess the spectrum sways toward the used side in my home than new - and you can quote me on that.

I just want to offer a few suggestions to save money buying used while limiting your impact on the environment in return. A Win-Win!

If you have (or are having) kids, take this simple advice when looking for your basic needs, such as strollers, joggers, changing tables, toys, blankets and clothes:
  • Search your local Want-Ads (Craigslist, etc...) for practically anything you could want for a new baby, growing toddler or school-aged kid. Why pay full price when you can get someone's seconds that are almost new!
  • Search Garage Sales in your area. You will be amazed at what people give away. I just happened to stop by a garage sale on Capitol Hill and got two, like-new Stearns life vests for $5. Yes, two!
  • Take advantage of Consignment Shops. Turn your old children's clothing and toys into cash (or credit) by taking them to your local shop to consign. I carry about $60-$80 credit for used goods at my local consignment shop in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. Think about how much I can buy with $60 in  children's used clothes and accessories.
  • Saturate your friends and family by asking what items they no longer need and would like to donate (or loan) to you. You save money - and the Earth - by borrowing used items relevant to your situation. I am happy to say there is not one thing (besides some toys and clothes) in my son's room that isn't used - and his room looks sharp! Don't get me started, but even his blanket he uses every day was used 12-years ago! Love it!
  • Get involved in local Yahoo! Mom Groups designed to connect with your neighborhood. It's an amazing resource for buying used. I can't tell you how much I utilize my own group for just about anything.
Men's blazer turned into a hip purse.
Take advantage of smart savings when updating your wardrobe or home accessories:
  • Scour your second-hand stores. Man, when I worked on Mercer Island - an affluent suburban of Seattle - I shopped their local second-hand store every day on my lunch hour. Say no more, I was looking SMOOTH and had so many brand-named clothes for a few dollars each. Take advantage of the ultra-hip, second-hand stores - especially in college towns and cities - where you'll find all the latest styles but at half (or more) of the price.
  • This may be crossing the "Eco" line because it's new merchandise, but a great way to save money is utilizing companies "overstock" sections. Shop stores like Marshalls, Ross, TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, and - on most company websites - overstock/clearance links guiding you to pillows, sheets and clothes galore at a fraction of the original. I received three bathing suits from Land's End this summer for around $10-$13 each - shipping included!
  • Online shopping has never been easier. This is a dream come true for me because I'm not a big shopper and love the convenience of shopping from home, but I don't like paying for shipping. So, I always search online for Free Shipping promotional codes. These are money savers and I don't know if you've noticed, but I kinda like that.
  • Clothes you no longer wear can be recycled into hip pillow cases or purses. You can take advantage of all that unique fabric from all your crazy Hawaiian or Mexican getaway purchases to update into pillows for a couch or bedroom, or use your men's blazers to turn into a hip purse. You can either do-it-yourself or ask your local dry cleaner who provides this service for a fee.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recipe Keepsakes.

I was having breakfast one morning a few years ago at St. Cloud's restaurant in the Madrona neighborhood of Seattle when I noticed a framed recipe card and photo of a grandmother hanging on the wall. I read the story about the influence she had on the owner and I fell in love with the creative showcase. I decided to, once again, re-create this simple project for my mother on her birthday.

I thought about the importance of getting my hands on recipes actually handwritten by loved ones. This detail is especially important once that person is no longer living. So, luckily, I was able to get a copy of my great-grandmother's handwritten Baking Powder Biscuit recipe. I had never met my great-grandmother, Laura; my grandfather's mom, so this was especially unique to have. I found a rare photo of her and framed both the photo and recipe to finish this special birthday gift. I, also, put together another frame with three recipes and a photo of my mom's mom.

My great-grandmother's recipe and photograph showcased in the kitchen.

My grandma, Marie, as a young girl and three favorite, family recipes.
When I got married over four years ago, I wanted unique and thoughtful gifts to give all my favorite gals who stood up with me. I couldn't think of a better gift than the recipe-photograph combo for each of them. This was a challenge because several of their special family members were no longer with us. I reached out to their family to see what they could find and was pleasantly surprised when I was able to put together a recipe with a photo for each of the five gals. (Some got two.)

These gifts are perfect to display in the kitchen and a wonderful way to collect and preserve those special mementos of some of your favorite people you grew up with. I'm currently getting my Dad to write a couple favorite Russian recipes to accompany a great photo of him in the kitchen. I know my kids will appreciate it someday as much as I have.

To celebrate old recipes and the people who made them, I'd like to highlight my great-grandmother's Baking Powder Biscuit recipe written exactly as she wrote it:

3 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 c shortening
1 cup milk

Sift salt and baking powder with flour. Cut in shortening. Add milk and mix in dough. Put dough on floured board and roll out and cut the biscuits out. Put on greased pan and bake in hot oven 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Re-creating a night.

Brothy - yet creamy. A fantastic combo with the potatoes, sausage and vegetables.
This soup is a re-creation after trying it at a new wine bar in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood. My mom and I kicked back here, in front of an electric fireplace, after visiting the Picasso exhibit currently in town. We ordered a couple glasses of Prosecco and split the soup-of-the-day, a Caesar salad and an organic greens salad with raspberries. We also enjoyed baked brie with huckleberries served with Naan bread. Everything was wonderful, but the soup hit the spot. It was very simple - yet carried an adventuresome flavor from the sausage, red potato and vegetables. We both, immediately, dissected the ingredients and decided to make it at home. So, here's my version of the great night out. I encourage a glass of Prosecco to accompany it, too. Happy Birthday, again, Mom!

Seattle rain in the background, but Prosecco and soup keep things warmed up.

2 T olive oil
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, sliced
4 medium carrots, sliced
2 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock; plus 3-4 cups water
5 medium  red potatoes, sliced
3 sausages in casings, sliced (I used smoked andouille chicken sausage, but my mom used Chorizo they get from the Boise, Idaho Basque community.)
1/2 pint heavy cream

In heavy saucepan saute garlic, onion, celery, carrots in olive oil for 8-10 minutes. Add potatoes, broth and water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add sausage and heat through. Finish with heavy cream. Serve with chives, if on hand. Pour a glass of Prosecco and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boo Hoo, No Poo from Zoo Doo.

I think it's official.  We weren't randomly selected for this lottery of poop created from all the exotic farm animals' waste at the Woodland Park Zoo. I will save my disappointment for another time and hope I'll be a winner during this spring's Fecal Fest!

Until next time!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soup Season

Alas! It's here - a logical reason to make soup as many times as I want in any given week! My favorite time of year is right now: the colors, the falling leaves, pumpkins and spiced drinks. It's the precursor to the festive, holiday season, but, more importantly, it's soup season. Let me make myself clear, I really like soup. I think it goes without saying - but I'll say it anyway - the list is endless when it comes to soup and what you can do with it. We eat it all year around, but it's this time of year when it's extra cozy and hip to have it. The only soup I don't like is cold soup. Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough, but I can't get into it. Soup should be hot and an immediate aversion occurs when this cold option hits my tongue. But the hot stuff, now that's where it's at.

A couple things I'd like to mention about soup:

a) Its inexpensive
b) Its versatile
c) Its easy and low maintenance
d) Low in calories and fat
e) You can use up a lot of things in your refrigerator to create a one-of-a-kind soup.

Soup has a long, long history and many historians say soup is as old as the art of cooking itself. It is incorporated in most personal menus - regardless of economic status. Its minimalist qualities lend itself well to folks with small budgets, but its refined versatility allows for upper class acceptance. Soup has evolved over the years and variations of it have spread through so many cultures: Italian, Russian, French, Greek, Thai and Chinese. That's why it's so fun to make because, like I said, the ideas are endless.

So, I'd like to share a couple of recipes that make our meal rotation frequently. We, literally, eat soup all year around. We slow it down when weather starts heating up, but in the Pacific Northwest, those months are few and far between.

Check out some of our favorites. Please note, I make changes to suit my tastes and you should too:

Similar to the green pea version, I like the yellow variety because it tastes slightly lighter and maybe a bit sweeter. I make this a vegetarian version and omit the ham. This is, by far, the cheapest soup I make, yet, it is so tasty and low fat it's shocking.

1 lb yellow split peas (soak overnight)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves
Salt & pepper

I kid you not, this is it. Place everything in soup pan or slow cooker and cover with water to about one inch from the top of the peas. Season to taste. Cook low all day until peas thicken and, wha-la, you have a tasty, hearty, healthy, low fat and very inexpensive soup.

Stop me now, because this is one of my favorite soups of all-time. I fall in love when I find a place - or person - who can nail this soup. I should travel the country tasting French Onion soup and document my findings on who creates the best. But, for now, I'll give you my version and let you decide. I, personally, don't enjoy the bread and cheese traditionally placed on top and broiled before serving, but, you can add it if you enjoy it. I'll include it for traditions sake. Also, the red wine just delivers this soup to another level. I replaced white wine for the red and couldn't be happier.

Olive oil (I replaced the butter for heart-healthy olive oil, but do what you like.)
6 onions (about 3 lbs), sliced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup (or more) dry, red wine
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups beef broth
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1-2 pinches of brown sugar
3 dashes of Worcestershire
salt and pepper

4 sourdough bread slices, toasted
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Melt olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until very tender and brown, about 45 minutes to an hour. The key is to let the onions cook until they caramelize. Add wine and simmer until reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, beef broth, mustard, brown sugar and Worcestershire. Simmer 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If adding the bread topping, preheat broiler. Ladle soup in to oven-safe bowls. Top each with slice of toast and grated cheeses. Broil until cheeses melt and bubble.

This is probably the most sophisticated soup I make. Not in terms of ingredients, but in terms of flavor. Adding sherry and heavy cream to the recipe increases the hierarchy of this simple soup.

Olive oil
3 large shallots, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup) or 1 onion chopped
1 lb mushrooms, chopped. (Can use dry and soak in warm water, save mushroom water to add to stock)
3 Tbl cream sherry
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped chives or scallions
1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in sauce pan over medium heat and saute shallots and mushrooms, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown. Add sherry and boil until evaporated. Stir in broth and mushroom water (if using) and simmer 15 minutes, or until mixture is reduced. Puree 1/2 mixture in food processor and return to pan. Add heavy cream and season with salt and pepper.

This is simple and tasty. I add chopped yellow potatoes to give it a heartier feel. Adding wine in most things, especially soups, just makes my day. It gives me an excuse to open a bottle for cooking and what else is there to do but enjoy a glass or two.

2 medium leeks
3/4 lb mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot
1 celery stick
5-6 yellow potatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14 1/2 veggie broth
1 Tbl chopped chives

Cut leeks in 1/4 inch thick rounds. Wash leeks well. Thinly slice mushrooms. In saucepan heat olive oil and saute leeks about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, carrot, celery until mushroom liquid evaporates and begin to brown. Add wine and boil 1 minute. Add broth and chopped potatoes and simmer until potatoes are tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives or scallions.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Garden Diary in Photos.

Now, I just know this will bring tears to your eyes...a recap of a garden in a one-of-a-kind photo diary to share the joy - and frustrations - we've experienced this season. It was a hell-of-a season and I tend to get a little teary eyed, myself, when I look at all we produced this year. It's like a dream come true; you plant the seed and, hope, for all that life has to offer, well, with maybe a little help from my organic fertilizer. Yes, I'm that serious about it...forgive me. But, as miserable as it was getting anything started this year, we actually got something out of it. We didn't eat our faces off from the produce, but things started to turn around. And, thank God, because my husband starts to get annoyed with me about my participation in our garden when things don't go just quite right. Hey, I can't help it... I'm a fair weather kinda gal! But, I cleaned up my act and pulled it together...and I think I came out right on the other side.
Oregon Giant

Liberty Blueberries.

Purple, Yellow and Green Beans.

Peaches and Cream Corn.


Elias picking raspberries.
Once he gets started, he doesn't stop.
Cherry Tomatoes.
Banana Peppers
Bush Cucumber
Rainbow Carrots
Happy to enjoy things from the garden.

Basil, beautiful, basil.

Scallions aren't looking so bad.

Growing corn...see the ears in there!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Zoo Doo

I'm on the quest to be the next recipient of Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo's Zoo Doo event. That's right, I could be one of the many winners who will receive the zoo's compost created from their many exotic animals. This year's 'Fecal Festival' has officially begun and this could be my shot at receiving a bulk load of this special poop. This may be the lottery I actually do win!

Woodland Park Zoo Doo happens only twice a year in early March and September. With their commitment to conservation, the zoo provides this unique, 100% recycled product to lucky winners who send in a postcard with their contact information on it. They draw the winners who, then, choose how much zoo doo they want: 8x4, 6x4 or 6x3 truckloads, a garbage can or a couple bags full of Zoo Poo.
This special Zoo Doo is fully composted and includes animal manures mixed with straw bedding, grass, leaves and wood chips from the grounds of Woodland Park Zoo. Animals include, elephants, hippos, zebras, giraffes, gazelles and more. The best part about this program is Woodland Park Zoo creates nearly 1 million pounds of compost each year. That's a savings of $60,000 per year in disposal costs.
We are annual Woodland Park Zoo members and I'm hoping this helps our chances. (Ha, Ha) We scour the zoo on a weekly basis in search of the monkeys, penguins, flamingos, or, to just kick back on an old tractor in the family farm section. We are huge zoo fans...and compost fans, so wish us luck!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Natural Home Magazine.

If you haven't checked out my guest blogs on Natural Home Magazine's website, please do. It's a great magazine with great ideas for the all natural person inside you. Love this magazine. (Thanks to Anne who loaned me my first copy!) Just click on the link below and you can scroll through the blogs or search Green City Garden Girl on their website. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Blondie" Part II

Ok, so last night "Blondie" walked right up the stairs to our kitchen to see what we were doing. We took this opportunity to photograph the event. Yes, we are becoming a bizarre little family but what can you do when you have a bizarre little chick. Check it out:

Elias enjoying the growing bird.
Family self-portrait, if only Elias and Duke were in the photo!
A different point of view from the back of the couch.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Strange Bird.

Blondie as a baby staring at the camera.
I've got to admit, I was kinda annoyed with my new chicks when I first started raising them back in March. As I mentioned before, it was only a week or so before my adult hens were killed by a dog when I brought them home and it was hard accepting them. They were a different breed, seemed sketchier and, I admit, uglier than my previous birds. Well, things progress as they should and we introduced two more chicks a month later. We added them to the coop and they all got to know each other without too much fighting when determining the pecking order.

Blondie (on left) kickin' it with her sister.
Well, lately, one of the chicks has developed quite the personality and is strangely docile and obedient. "Blondie" as we call her is becoming quite the cool chick. I think I love her. When I go out to the yard to get all four back in the pen and the other three scatter wildly, she sits and waits for me to get her to scoop her up. She loves sitting in my arms to look at me. I think she might love me, too. She is mellower than the others and will walk right up to Elias and Duke without a care in the world. She started laying early, too, even though they were miniature eggs. I'm surprised by the bird's behavior and pleasantly happy to see it emerge. Something about her is just different and I like what I see.

Just last night she walked from the backyard, up the stairs straight into the kitchen to see what we all were doing. We picked her up and she happily sat and watched. My son wanted to show her his bedroom, so that we did. He, also, thinks she has gum on her head because the 'cockscomb' or 'comb' isn't quite developed yet and really does resemble chewed, red gum. Maybe we should change her name to "Big Red" - if only she was a Rhode Island Red breed.

So, she's different all right. I've never met a bird quite like her. I'm not sure how the other three will turn out, but at least I have one I can count on, for now.

Growing up.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recycled Yard Art.

I try not to buy anything brand new. There are times when I just can't help myself, but for the most part, I keep things very limited on the new-tip. I think it stems from my childhood when we lived on an island in Alaska and, literally, lived like Little House on the Prairie. I kid you not, we had no hot water, slept on cots, peed in a dual outhouse and had a large ladder to climb to the second floor. When we needed to bathe, my folks would heat up water and poor into a clean garbage can. It was perfect for my young size because I fit neatly in the can and the water went up to my neck. It probably wasn't as much fun for my folks, but they never let on. My folks recycled before their time and were not wasteful people by any means. They still aren't - although they are able to splurge a little more now - which is always nice to see.

When I had my son, I filled his room with all second-hand gear; all hand-me-downs from my brother, sister  and friends who got started on the kid scene a lot sooner than I did. I found an old dresser in the basement of a new house we bought, was given a changing table by some friends who had outgrown it and even now use the bunk bed set my Dad and his brothers used when he was a kid. It's amazing what you can do with a gallon of black paint! I'm not a hoarder by any sense of the word, but I like to reuse useful things.

So, when it was time to add a little 'flava' to the yard, the only thing I could come up with was put as much stuff on the fence as I could find; old mirrors, frames, window panes and even copies of oil paintings. My favorite includes an 1800's lady hiking up her dress while sitting on the toilet. Her behind shows and everything. The cool thing is, I didn't buy any of this stuff; I found it. This isn't a new idea and a lot of people are a lot better at this than I am, but I really get a sense of satisfaction with creating a new place for old things. I'll scour an old garage and find a little spark under some cobwebs. For some reason, I'm always drawn to old chairs, lamps and baskets. These items always fit nicely into the landscape of a yard and makes it easy to decorate with a little twist that is the polar opposite of Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel,  and, well, you get the picture.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Back By Popular Demand...CORN UPDATE.

So, here we are deep into our summer months and I'm happy to report our corn is thriving despite enduring the crappy start to the Seattle weather. Jason's "knee-high by the 4th of July" motto actually hit its mark and we now have something close to corn blossoms on our stocks. Hooray! Our maze isn't ready for fall tours - yet, but perhaps we'll have a Harvest party celebrating the upcoming solstice.

We recently added compost around the base of the stocks to fully enhance the growth (sounds so technical...) Although a recent trip to Lake Chelan proved our corn wasn't as impressive as our 'east of the mountain' counterparts - we really aren't doing too bad. Hey, what can we expect from our weather? We are doing the best we can this year. If we are able to eat a few ears of corn by next month, our work here is done.

Stay tuned for more Corn Updates!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cookie, I mean Kitchen Monster.

My 2 1/2 year old loves to be in the kitchen. He loves to stir things, blend things, crack eggs and, yes, use knives. It's a dirty job but, I figure, somebody has to do it. He demands (can you believe it!) sitting up on the counter or standing on his stool anytime I am in the kitchen. We just finished baking cookies and he's currently in the bathtub scrubbing the chocolate off his little body. He likes to get naked at some point in the day so there was chocolate, well, EVERYWHERE. You might think twice before eating our fresh-baked goods when you come for a visit, but I like to see his style at work and he's becoming quite the little helper - albeit bossy - when we cook in our kitchen.

He was so excited today because he got to "make cookies all by himself." Yes, he even used the blender without my help. If he noticed my hands coming near it he said he had it. He actually did a really good job until he went to lick the batter, then things got a bit messy. He cracked the eggs into the sugar mix - unfortunately they were miniature eggs because our latest chickens haven't quite developed the powerhouses. So, we used four little eggs, instead of two, and it seemed to do the trick.

He was getting pretty good at plopping the dough on the cookie sheets; they weren't in a line or all the same size, but they were HIS cookies and he was very pleased with himself. As was I.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Party in the Garden.

My husband's parents live in a turn-of-the-century home north of Seattle.  His mom grew up in the house during the '50s and '60s with her two brothers and a sister. At one point, her folks rented rooms to local college students for additional income. My mother-in-law returned to her childhood home with her husband and three kids and moved in to help her parents. The house has many rooms and all the charm you would find in a home that old. Needless to say, there is a lot of history in the house and a lot of good memories.

One thing about living in a house for so long is you end up keeping things you normally would get rid of when you move. This house is immaculate, yet many of the rooms hold memorabilia from when my husband and his siblings grew up there. My husband is always trying to bring home many of his findings when reminiscing through drawers and closets. He can't seem to help himself and has picked up old T-shirts, soccer jackets and all his old matchbox cars, including an original 1970's Evil Knievel motorcycle with the base that shoots it off into the air. (It still works perfectly and our son loves it.)

So, after a recent visit with my in-laws and to my shock and horror, I saw him cart out two full-size beer kegs he's saved since his college days at Washington  State University and put them into our car. I quickly jetted over to him and told him we were definitely not taking those home. He informed me he was going to have my Dad cut them in half with his metal cutter and recycle them into garden planters. I hated the idea - garden kegs in the garden - how aesthetically pleasing could this be?

But, as I've mentioned before, I need to back off and let some of his creative juices flow. So, I hauled these old, stinky kegs to my parent's house and asked my Dad to cut them. Well, when I saw the finished product, I kinda warmed up to the idea. My Dad left the cool Pabst Blue Ribbon wooden coin sign on the side and I started seeing the potential of these little hot beds in my garden.

I brought them home to my husband's delight and we filled them up with compost and added some banana peppers and cucumbers. It's been a slow start to the garden this year due to all the Pacific Northwest rain, but I'm happy to say, those plants in the 'garden kegs' are thriving and they look pretty cool in the garden.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The original Deadiest Catch.

I'm what you call a clam snob. Actually, I'm a seafood snob and my entire family is, too. When you grow up surrounded by fresh seafood it's hard to be anything but. However, we are a down-to-Earth crew, but snobs none-the-less.

Growing up we ate at tables spread with newspapers and empty beer bottles were placed in our tiny hands to crack an endless stream of dungeness and king crab legs spread across the table. My dad was the original Deadliest Catch...just kidding, but we did live on Kodiak Island in Alaska and my dad commercial fished for dungeness, king and Bairdi Tanner crab until his boat sank in the Gulf of Alaska. (Everyone made it off the boat safe!) To say the least, we had an abundance of seafood and ate it daily - and I mean daily. My mom would have to come up with new ways to fix all the seafood and some of it, well, was less than desirable. (Crab casserole, anyone?) Oh, how I miss those days. I'd give anything to sit at a table with an empty beer bottle and crack away.

When we moved to Washington state, we lived on the coast and razor clam digging was a past time. During clam season we'd head out to the beach and dig our 15 clam limit, well, I'd sit in the warm car and watch, but everyone else got their limit. We'd take them home and fry them up for a fresh-from-the-beach, local meal. It's a delicacy our family, and entire town, rather, enjoy each season. This spring, I brought my 2-year-old out to the beach with my parent's for his first razor clam experience. We dug our limits (even me!) and brought 45 clams home to clean and eat up. (Next clam season, I'll provide a step-by-step guide on how to dig and clean clams!) My son enjoyed "digging" the clams and eating them, too.

When my folks moved to a lake house by Hood Canal, an abundance of steamer clam beaches opened its doors to us. Luckily, my dad's friend lives on a private steamer clam beach and, surprisingly enough, nobody in their family eats them so they encourage our family to pile in and head over. Maybe they regret it when they see us coming, but we make sure those clams don't go to waste. Once we bring them home, we flush them for 24-hours in fresh saltwater we harvested with the clams and it allows them to pump the sand out so there's no grit when you devour them!

If you have the chance, get out there and dig. Nothing is like it and you get to eat the fruits of all your labor. Check out these websites for public beaches in the Pacific Northwest:

I've also got to take this opportunity to share a couple favorite shellfish recipes:

(Helps keep your kitchen free of odor and grease.)

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 sleeves of Ritz crackers
1 limit (15) razor clams
Salt and Pepper

Beat eggs until frothy and add milk place in separate bowl for dipping. Place crackers in ziploc bag and crush with rolling pin and place on separate plate. Clean and  dry clams. Dip clams in eggwash and roll in cracker crumbs. Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray and lay out clams on baking sheet. Bake 450 degrees 15 minutes or until crunchy. Salt and pepper and serve.


4 cups fresh saltwater
2 cups dry white wine
2 limits (72) steamer clams
1 cup butter
2-3 minced garlic cloves
Salt and pepper

Clean clams in saltwater for 24-hours to pump the sand out of the clams. Fill steamer with saltwater and wine and fill steamer basket with clams. Cover and bring to boil. Steam until clams pop open about 20 minutes. Melt butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper and various herbs in saucepan. Serve clams with butter for dipping.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Calling all Seattle neighbors!

I like free stuff, recycled stuff and stuff for almost free. I like to borrow vs. buy and I like to share when somone is in need. That's why I'm excited about this new site Neighbor Goods - an online source for sharing goods in the hood. You just enter your zip code and it pulls up a list of neighbors within a 50-mile radius ready to loan you some cool stuff - including fresh herbs you don't have to give back. Cool!

You can also post things you'd be willing to share and it itemizes it by category. What a cool idea.

So, check out this new site which was just launched nationally TODAY!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Phosphate-free Washington

News on the street is Washington and Oregon recently passed  a law banning phosphate-ridden dishwasher soap. According to the Seattle PI, "phosphates promote plant growth and may degrade water quality in lakes and streams." By July 1, it's illegal to sell phosphate dishwasher soap for automatic dishwashers.

The bottom line is phosphates act as a fertilizer and allow algae to grow - limiting the oxygen supply to fish. Although treatment plants and private septic systems help eliminate phosphates, it's not 100 percent.

It seems Spokane and Whatcom counties have had this in effect since 2008, but the Eco-formulas lacked luster and folks were crossing the boarder into Idaho to get phosphate-laden soap. Who knew you would be considered an outlaw for smuggling dish washing soap?

But, the good news is there are better formulas in 2010 than there were even two years ago. Now, that's progress. And we all really do have to do our part. Here's some helpful ideas on which brands to consider when you change-over.

Here's a review for Method Smarty Dish Tabs which seems to be the best product out there and easily available. I heard it's cheaper at Bartell's or Lowe's.

Also, you can order in bulk from Eco-friendly Cal Ben - an online soap store. To order go to

Lastly, Consumer Report tested three types of phosphate free detergents and wrote their finding on their website at

Other states also implementing the ban are Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Check out the full article:


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Beet goes on.

I don't know when your tastes change, but you don't grow up liking beets. Their rustic, dirt-like flavors just don't go over so well when you're, like, ten. I can't put my finger on it but there is just a day when you start enjoying beets, and once you do, you never look back.  I've got to have them canned, pickled, roasted and raw; in salads and soups, or just simply roasted and sprinkled with blue cheese and hazelnuts. The super-nutritious baby greens from the beets are perfect in salads or sauteed in your favorite stir fry - who knew! Another great thing about beets is they last forever; up to three weeks in your fridge. (I'm sure I've kept them even longer than that.)

When we started growing beets five years ago, I couldn't believe how easy it was. Just space the seeds so they have room to grow and watch the magic happen. Since then, we've experimented with golden beets and the striped Chioggia beets. So far, the standard "bull's red" beets have prevailed in our garden. Anytime you grow your own, you need to stock up on different ways to prepare them. The list goes on for beet recipes, but if you want to preserve your beets and have year-round, here's a delicious recipe from friends in Eastern Oregon. Lucky for us, they were willing to share:


30 pounds of Beets results about 35 pints of canned pickled-beets. Beets of about 3-5 inches in diameter.

Recipe for Vinegar Mix (1 Batch)
2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Water
2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon Allspice
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

The above will do about 8 pints

Clean all jars and boil jar lids. Cut the tops, leaving two inches above the beet. Do not cut the roots because it limits bleeding; scrub them with a brush in cold water. Cover beets with water and boil and cook 2-3 inch beets for 20 minutes. Cook 4-5 inch beets 30 minutes. Try to sort sizes in each batch. Cooked beets will allow you to rub skin off with some easy effort. Take them out with a slotted spoon and cool in cold water for easy handling. Once cooled, remove the peels and cut off the top and the bottom roots and wash beets in water before dicing. Prepare vinegar mix by adding the spices and liquids in a pot and bring it to a boil while stirring. After it begins to boil, let it cool as you work on other steps. The beets will be packed cold  so the vinegar mix should not be boiling hot. Warm is fine. Dice the beets into about 1/2-inch cubes and fill the pint jars within a half inch of the top.  Fill each jar with vinegar mix to cover beets leaving a 1/2-inch heads pace. Wipe rims, place lids and screw on rings, tight but not over tight. Put jars into the water bath canner covering the top of the jars by a half inch and bring to a boil for 30 minutes for pints. Remove and let cool. Once cool, you may want to remove rings to rinse in hot, soapy water so it's easier to remove at a later date. Store in a cool storage area.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bike to dinner and raise money!

The best thing about the current season is getting on a bike and riding in the wind with your legs kicked out to the sides. (Well, that may be just me, but, anyway.) Regardless of age, riding a bike just immediately brings you back to your childhood. I get giddy just thinking about it. Thankfully, a bike we found in a friend's backyard, basket and all, has brought us into our third year of casual cycling. Once we added a second bike from Recycled Cycles down by Lake Union and an iBert for our son, we were set for family outings all about town. 

That's why we're excited to participate in the bike to dinner event on, Tuesday, June 29th, during the Spoke and Food event to raise money for the Lettuce Link program at Solid Ground. A portion of the dinner's proceeds will go to the non-profit program which provides lower income families in Seattle with access to fresh food and gardening information. Read more about this awesome program at

Enjoy the ride to dinner and support your community along the way! The map and list of participating restaurants can be found at