Saturday, April 30, 2016

My home this season: April 2016

Here is a little planting bed -- formerly the bottom pool of a water feature that was non-functional by the time we moved in to our house -- just outside our living room sliding door. 

Almost everything in this bed is a Pacific Northwest native plant -- western meadow rue, fringecup, yellow violet, beach strawberry, columbine, TWO kinds of camas (I am inordinately proud of growing this plant!).

I don't think my husband is a huge fan of what I've done with this spot, and I admit it looks rather messy -- but that's precisely what I like about it. The way the wild plants have been allowed to grow, well, wild, and they've filled in the space with drifts and mounds of subtle flowers and delicate leaf shapes. (In fact, "what I've done with this spot" is not really accurate -- mostly, it's been the plants' doing.)

Why am I posting photos of my garden under the aegis of my monthly "what my home looks like these days" update? Well, to remind myself that our outdoor space is our home too. That's something I've been ignoring lately, to be honest. I've been frustrated by the fact that we've lived here for 11 years, and we've worked steadily on the yard every year, but it's STILL overrun with weeds and invasives, and we STILL don't have an overall landscape plan to guide us.

The truth is, our lot is substantially larger than I really want to take care of (a function of the outlying neighborhood where we could afford to buy a house). And at least one-third of it consists of rockery, slope, and parking strip that is inaccessible, difficult to maintain, and/or not really useful as a space for us to actually spend time in.

So I've just felt done with it all -- I don't want this, so I'm pretending I don't have to deal with it. It's too much work, and I don't have time.

And then I thought about something I read in one of Marie Kondo's books. (I know, I know -- go ahead and roll your eyes.)  She says you have to take care of your home, even if you're not thrilled with the home itself, because your current home leads you to your next home. To be clear, we're not planning on moving anytime soon, so we're not actually looking for our next home. But something about that admittedly woo-woo formulation seemed useful to me in dealing with the ambivalence I've always felt about the house itself. (Basically, the way I put it is -- we bought in an extremely hot market, so I knew I would have to compromise on space, style, or location, but I was kind of bummed about having to compromise on all three.)

And a week or two ago it occurred to me -- ohhhhh, that all goes for the yard, too. I realized that lately I haven't been fair to our little patch of habitat. So I'm trying to re-engage. And while this little pool doesn't quite constitute an overall landscape plan, come to think of it, it's a glimpse of what I'd like to achieve.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Eating lately: As good as they say

Here's a recent meal made up of two recipes that came highly (highly!) recommended from various quarters of the internet. Both of them, happily, lived up to the hype so I thought I would share.

First, Parmesan-roasted cauliflower. I discovered this recipe on the the delightful simple-living blog known as Assortment; it comes from Allie Lewis Clapp of Bon Appetit via Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. Everyone who writes about this dish seems to apologize for its simplicity and then shout its deliciousness from the rooftops. Consider this my addition to the genre.

(One small tweak I may make next time, though, is to steam the cauliflower by covering it with an inverted baking sheet for the first 5 minutes of cooking -- a trick I learned from the America's Test Kitchen recipe for oven fries. I think that should help the thicker parts of the cauliflower soften and cook through before the smaller morsels and onions get too far beyond the desired "just this side of burnt" stage.)

With my cauliflower -- the Romanesco version works just as well here as the common white stuff -- I served a hearty spoonful of chick peas. This dish was inspired by a recipe I pinned ages and ages ago from the blog Hungry Bruno. I liked the idea of "just chick peas," but to make things really work according to the original recipe, I think it would be necessary to cook the chick peas from scratch. Here I made do with the canned version, mashed them up partially, and simmered them for  about 20 minutes with some olive oil, a little bit of vegetable broth, and some finely chopped, spicy Mama Lil's peppers. And despite my rather loose interpretation of the recipe, this one, too, was as good as they say.