Monday, September 25, 2017

AN EARLY AUTUMN, GARDEN HAPPENINGS & AND CREATIVENESS IN THE KITCHEN


Hey guys - its fall!!!!  It had been really feeling like it big time, and then we had a heat wave come through.  From visiting blogs, it seems to have happened in a lot of regions.  We hit 96 degrees today, and the leaves were falling at the same time.  Incredible.  Fall always seems to come a little earlier in Southwest Michigan, and you can see we have an abundance of leaves to be raked up, by whom, I don't know.  ;-D



I had thought that I lost my climbing rose over the past two summers of neglect.  It had a weedy sort of vine strangling it, so one day The Husband went crazy after the weed and gave it a good snip.  Myself, I have an aversion to thorns.  Funny, the rose started to shoot up and bloomed.  As you can see, some of it is growing outward, so once again I have to start the training and attach it to the trellis.  Aren't these the most beautiful blooms?  I can't remember the name of the rose, but if I can find all of my gardening journals, we may find out.  The surrounding daises are doing well with a little deadheading.  Little pleasures.  



I usually plant lettuce and spinach in a huge pot in the backyard of the city house.  Sadly, the first bunch went to seed.  In mid July it was about two feet high and resembled nothing I can put my finger on.  I planted more in mid-August, and this is just ready to pluck to have the most fresh salads as you can get.  

My gardens and yard in the city look terrible.  It used to be that I'd be at the lake for 2-3 days per week.  That left ample time to take care of both homes (outside).  As I walked around outside the house the other day, I felt my heart breaking over the pots filled with browned, scorched skeletons of flowers I planted back in May.  My herb garden is a mess, weeds everywhere...well, you get it.  

There is a lesson learned here.  I can't have two gorgeous homes unless I simplify things.  I need to look for more maintenance free plants, and I can't overdo the amount of plants I pot or put in the garden.  Less is more.  I don't think we had one barbecue or guest over in the city house all summer.  All those potted flowers, just a shame.  For myself, when I was home, I spent time lounging on the patio while the dogs enjoyed their little haven.  So it was good enough for me.  I just have to downsize.  



We had some good friends up at the lake last weekend.  We just love Craig and Snow.  The Husband and Craig went to high school together.  Unbelievably, they went on to college and then law school together.  Now that make makes for a great friendship.  Snow and I go back a long time as well.   She is vibrant, so fun, smart, and the real deal.  We had many serious talks; sitting on the patio, or in the Summer House, and so much to catch up on.  Here in the city they live just up the street by 4 blocks.  I wish we saw each other more, but we are more likely to meet up for dinner as couples.  At the lake,   we always catch up where we've left  off - its like a fabulous pajama party.  It was one of my most favorite weekends this summer.  

  

I'm always so happy to cook when I'm home.  I don't know if I'd really experiment at the lake for just myself (although I did go on that salsa marathon recently), but I enjoy doing so for The Husband and I, he's like my lab rat.  He is always forthright in saying what he likes, and I can't seem to go wrong.  It's wonderful to sit and break bread with someone you love.  Having dinner alone is one thing I dislike about being at the lake, although it's not so bad, and I do make a point of good, clean, and tasty dishes.  

Last week when I got home I made a veal stew  It was truly delicious.  I've seen how Bouquet Garni is used in many European dishes, and I was wanting to try this technique for a long time.  For this recipe I used thyme and rosemary.  I took sprigs from my plants and tied them together with baker's twine.  It flavors the broth and you then remove it at the end.  I was so proud of myself in spite of how easily it is done.  You can find the recipe here.  The only changes I made were increasing the flour, the dish was a bit too watery.  

I don't have any recipes for you in this post, but I do have some things to share.  I had a ton of fresh vegetables that I brought home from the lake.  I wanted to use them up. I always love a good stir fry, and this is one great way to utilize those veggies that are still lingering before your next shopping day.  Don't get me wrong-never use vegetables past their prime, you simply won't do the recipe justice.  I simply tote food back and forth from the lake so nothing goes bad.  And then I use it in omelets, soups, stews, salads...anything I can come up with. 

Long story short:  I had a market tote filled with gorgeous carrots, broccoli, zucchini and onions.  I knew a stir fry was a must.  Most times I have a package of seasonings from the grocery store, or a bottled sauce from the Asian aisle.  Panda Express makes a Kung Pao sauce that is outstanding.  You do have to factor in the preservatives in these store bought items as well as heavy duty sodium, so it was a good thing I had to do a little extra work.  I had nothing, so I went to Pinterest.  I'm so sorry I didn't get a photo of the finished dish, but I swear, it was the BEST stir fry I've ever made.  Of course, I switched everything all around.  The recipe didn't have quite enough of that saltiness that you usually get from the soy sauce.  I also thought it needed fresh ginger, rather than dried and ground - I always have a big knob in the freezer and it keeps forever.  So here is my revised recipe for a stir fry sauce, and a bit about how I made mine.   

Sauce for Stir Fry Veggies and Meat

3 T brown sugar 
3 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T Balsamic vinegar (or white)
1 T vegetable oil
1 T and 1 t sesame oil, divided
1 T fresh ground ginger or 1/4 dried
Pinch of red pepper flakes.

Combine all ingredients, but for the teaspoon of sesame oil and the vegetable oil.  Use these oils to stir fry your meat and veggies in.  

When I stir fry and use meat, I cut it uniformly, and sauté it over high heat.  Use veggie or canola oil, olive oil does not heat to the degree you need to get your meat and vegetables seared and still juicy.  I then remove the meat and start the veggies.  Some vegetables are more dense than others.  When I cut carrots matchstick style, they are still pretty tough, so I start those first, then move on to the softer peppers and onions, and then if you have squash or anything leafy (I love Bok Choy), add that the last minute or so.  Add your meat back into the hot pan and pour your sauce over.  Toss constantly until incorporated and heated through.  Serve with your favorite rice.  

My second dilemma came when I bought fresh pork chops on sale and just wanted to do something nice with them  They were so thick and I really wanted to enhance the flavor but not overwhelm.  One of the things I really love to play around with is making meat rubs from dried herbs and spices.  Sometimes I think I might as well just triple the ingredients and store it for other uses, but actually, you can do this so quickly and you can switch or omit anything you want, anytime you want.  What I put together for these chops brought out the best in them, and made a nice crisp coating which kept the meat juicy.  Here is my little concoction:

1 1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1 t oregano
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t paprika

Mix together well.  Do NOT be afraid of the cinnamon, trust me, it is superb.  This was sufficient for 2 large chops.  Use it on meats or veggies.  I dry the meat thoroughly with a paper towel - never try to put anything in oil even slightly damp.  Press the spices in with your fingertips or the side of your tongs.  I sear the chops on both sides and then finish them off in a 350 degree oven until they register 145 degrees inside.  

For veggies,  I use this mixed spiced rub to toss with olive oil, a tablespoon (or whatever fits the bill).  You can add the spices to oil and vinegar for a tasty vinaigrette, and then use the vinaigrette on any type of meat or seafood.  Mixed with olive oil it makes for a great dipping mix for good crusty bread.  Use it on your submarine sandwiches.  If you've made rubs before and want to contribute ideas, let me know!


*******

Oh, goodness.  This post was started two days ago!  I don't know if I'm coming or going.  I was patting myself on the back for getting down to business earlier than I normally do on my blog.  I seem to have so much going on during the day that I leave my work for evening.  And then I'm tired and can't bear to look at this screen one more second.  

Now that our new porch, sidewalk and driveway are in, I began to get quotes on landscaping.  I was getting really frustrated for a number of reasons; the high cost, and the lack of experience ("You pick out your plants and we'll pop them in.") for example.  Grrrrrrrr...

I finally found a company operated by a woman, and she really knows her stuff.  She has a great eye for design, and knows just how large bushes and such grow, and just how many of each one we'd need to fill my space along the exterior of my home.  We decided to try to save the existing lawn.  I had thought sod would be the best choice, but I learned from several sources that an established lawn, albeit sad looking, is a winner over brand new sod that undoubtedly goes into transplant shock.  

So...tomorrow I have a painter coming to do my shutters and a peak over the front door.  I chose a deep olive-like green.  I'll sneak out early and get a 'before' shot, but hang on to your hats, things are looking bad out there!  And then the planting starts Thursday.  I was ready to go to the lake, and I totally trust The Husband to take care of the watering, but this has been my baby, so I'm going to stay here as long as I can before I go cray cray.  

I hope I've got you all caught up to date.  At least in my life.  Take care and have a good week, I hope you stay cool.

Jane x





46 comments:

Linda said...

You do stay busy! We are just back from the country tonight and I am not brave enough to go out and see what the outside is looking like! I forgot to line anyone up to water for us but the yard people continued to come evrey week so the front yard looked good.
Now that we will be dividing our time between the house here and the camper at the ranch, I'm got to figure out how to handle things. So far we can't plant anything at the ranch until they get the corrals built for the horses. They will just wander up and eat my pot plants if I let them!

I am rejoicing that my daughter is safely back in the US after a private plane was sent to pick them up and take them off the island of Puerto Rico. I am so exhausted, though, after all the anxiety of the last two weeks and both hurricanes hotting PR - I have just watched football instead of unpacking anything but the food stuff. I was even TOO tired to go to bed - but I'm heading there now!

Your food sounds delicious and I am going to copy down that stir fry sauce!!

CJ said...

I completely understand how hard it must be to look after two gardens, especially when you're not around regularly to stay on top of them. As you know, I gave up my allotment this year, I just didn't have the hours to put in there. Even in my little garden at home there is always so much to do to keep things in check and looking tidy. Simplification is a good idea. I shall look forward to seeing the work on your Chicago house when it's done, it sounds as if it's going to be amazing. Glad you managed to find someone helpful and experienced. Have a good week Jane. CJ xx

Susie said...

Blondie, I do understand the potted plant thing...you have to water in the heat we have all been having...it's a job at times.
Well you are cooking up some delicious sounding foods. My daughter Kathy cooks like you...lots of herbs. She is not afraid to try many new flavors in foods.
I am looking forward to seeing the new front of your city home. The lake house looks really pretty in the picture today.
Wishing you a beautiful autumn. Stay cool. We have one more day of heat then it's to cool off starting this evening. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

Anne Brew said...

We have a city garden here in the U.K. and a coastal one, 90 or so miles apart. We spend about 100 days a year at the coast. I've cut down on anything in a pot as they always dry out. Both have lawns that actually take neglect better than plants! The worst thing they do is grow. I'm encouraging wild flower beds now as wild flowers do better neglected than nourished apparently- a flowering wild plant is a plant calling out for help or so I'm told!
PS I've enjoyed your blog very much for a number of years now. X

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

Fall is just beginning here in NC. You are really staying busy! I know you are excited about the changes at your house.

Vee said...

It is a good thing to have discovered what does not work for you and it'll mean less $ and less work and more time. The city house will still look great with its perennials and no planted pots and baskets. You are definitely a summer at the lake kind of gal...go with it! Thank you for sharing about the established lawn vs new sod...helpful to know!

Stacey said...

I do not know how you take care of two homes! We can barely manage one with all that needs to be done. Just remember when your smart lady picks out your plants, to go simply and low, low maintenance.

It's still swealteringly hot here. We are still in the two or three shower stage every day and it's getting old fast.

Your pork chops sound amazing! We love to experiment with rubs too. I always think the homemade variety is better.

Shirley said...

Hi Blondie, I have enjoyed catching up with you. It has been so long since I have been on here. I think of you quite often and wonder about your family. Your grandchildren are growing and it makes you wonder where the time has gone. Take care. Hugs and Prayers from Your Missouri Friend Shirley

Laurel Stephens said...

Your landscaping plans sound exciting! I'm going through the exact same thoughts as you about simplifying my gardens and pots at home. My husband tried to keep up with the hand watering while I was at the cabin this summer, but.... I haven't been home for a couple of weeks and I'm pretty sure I'll be returning to a potting disaster. Next year, easier!

It's me said...

I love olive green....beautiful ....enjoy fall...love from Holland love Ria x ❤️

Brenda Pruitt said...

Sounds like you've had a relaxing summer. Potted plants just don't last if you don't stay at them in the heat.
Brenda

Junkchiccottage said...

Hi Jane,
Sounds like you had a very busy and full summer at the lake. Glad you could have that time away for yourself. Having two properties with garden flowers had to be hard. I know how hard one garden is to care for. So bravo to you to try and keep them both going.
Have a great new week.
xoxo
Kris

Doreen@foxdenrd said...

I know all too well how hard it is to look after two gardens, and potted plants are most definitely something to avoid. One hot day and they're done!

Back in Massachusetts the temps have been nearly the same as here in NC...the 80's, so I was sorta surprised that you have all those leaves as I thought many parts of the country are still hot, hot, hot. We're ready for cooler temps so we can go bike riding, play tennis and turn off the ac :)

xxx

Scribbler said...

Well, once again -- if you want something done right, hire a woman!

I confess I leave the gardening mostly to the husband. I just cook and feed him, in between my Netflix binges, book binges and artsy projects. This way we are both happy!

Those morning glories outdid themselves again this year. Today the husband cut them down, as they had dried up for the season. We did not save seeds, but they reseeded themselves! He said when he cut them down, he shook them and many seeds fell out into the beds. I may need a bigger trellis next year! So thanks again for sharing the seeds with us. You are a sweet person.

Donna said...

It's been super hot and muggy here too for the past week! Around 90 each day, but it feels much hotter. I love making stir frys too. I've been on a Thai food kick and make it as often as I can. I make my own peanut sauce and mix in to linguine, veggies, and grilled chicken breast cut into thin strips. It's so yummy!

Lynne said...

I love it when you post . . .
Puts me in the mood for . . . not sure for what, creating in the kitchen maybe.
I do have a couple "rub" recipes I will send your way . . . if I remember.

Beautiful Rose making a statement in this heat!

I certainly agree with how daunting it must be to keep up two homes, landscape and all.
Less is More for me too . . .
For years I have been planting and grooming around here until this year
when my activity came to a standstill because of my back.
The past few weeks I have rallied a bit, until the heat wave arrived.
We are changing most of our back yard which borders the woods
to see if it will reduce our maintenance.
All the creepy wood things infilltrate into the yard and lovely plantings.
So constant weeding is needed.
Whew . . . sorry I went on so . . .

For sure . . . I am trying the stir fry . . . sounds so Yum!

Stay cool Jane . . . enjoy these final weeks of our summery fall!

Bluebird49 said...

You ALMOST put me in the mood to cook in these 95 degree days here in Virginia! Instead, it seems we pick up salads and sandwiches most of the time.

IT'S SO NICE TO SEE A CHATTY POST FROM YOU TONIGHT--AND ALL THE TIME, jANE!

XO'S. Trudy

A Quiet Corner said...

Managing two homes simultaneously sounds too crazy for me Jane! Yes, you are right about reducing the types of plants and "stand alone" potted ones. I gave those up a few years ago...only had a cluster of 3 this year and strategically placed them near my birdbath so watering was done with filling the birdbath. I envy you that you enjoy cooking so much...I hate it...baking yes, cooking NO! I think I'm loving the olive tone paint already...one of my favorite colors...after all..."green goes with everything"...:)JP

Rita C. said...

No surprise about the woman knowing her stuff with the landscaping. And I've seen several sod installations go bad - shock and/or just plain, ugly growth (looks like weeds).

Downsizing, less is more.....ugh. I'm trying to get ready for a yard sale this weekend. This is just after a weekend of gathering with my sisters....gather/purge....as long as my net effect is just even one more thing out than what's brought in, I'm a happy girl. Lucky for me it's been a good month at the antique mall booths.

I'm afraid our fall is going to be just that....falling leaves without much color here in the city and surrounding, given the recent high heat. We're hoping to do a little getaway to enjoy more remote color soon. Your weekend with friends at the lake sounds like a perfect getaway.

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Hi Jane. You are one busy woman and seem to accomplish a lot. I am going to try the rub for pork chops. It sounds so good. I can't imagine having two houses to take care of. Thirty years ago, I did, before we moved into our Cottage and the kids moved into our house and it was alot of fun and work too, so considering the difference in our ages I imagine you are at that point now so I can see how you can handle it all..Have a wonderful week..xxoJudy

Jill said...

Cinnamon on pork chops you say? I may need to try that. Especially if one made an apple salsa to top the chop...

Karen Ann said...

Really humid here in CT too.. bleh!!... You've been busy! And now that we have Stella to care for too.. I have found I am not keeping up with the farm garden as well as I did before the cottage came along.

Kathy Moreland said...

It's still hot down South too! But I've got the fall spirit, so things are decorated. Your recipes sound so good. I've been on Prednisone since my stay in the hospital, and I am famished all the time. I've been cooking some good meals though, but now I'm eating too much. I'll be so glad when she stops the med because it also causes my diabetes readings to be high. No matter how much good a med does, it has it's bad side too.

I know how hard it is to keep 2 homes going. I "tote" groceries back and forth too! Can't stand to lose good food.

Hope you have a good weekend. Can't wait to see your landscaping!

Beatrice Euphemie said...

Managing two homes with gardens does sound daunting and I like your idea of scaling things back. I've been doing that here the last few years, not only because of the work, but also the watering involved. I only plant very hardy plants now, and keep most of the 'gardening' to pots on the deck where I can't ignore them, even though I try :) The olive green sounds wonderful and I do hope you share the results with the landscaping. The stir-fry sauce and rub recipes are going in my file. I love a good stir-fry and like to change out the sauce once in a while. I bought some thick pork chops this week, so perfect timing on the rub. Long time friends are the best. Love the name 'Snow'. We are having a heat wave here, too, but cooler temps next week. It's a crazy year, weather-wise. Hope you have a good week, hon. xx Karen

Theresa said...

You are one BUSY lady! I can't keep one house up, certainly couldn't do two:) Hope you get the work done you need, and exactly to your liking! Our weather sounds about the same, we got one cool snap and then the heat was back... yesterday it was 90+! Supposedly the weekend is going to be a tad cooler! Enjoy your day dear friend, HUGS!

Jen Kershner said...

It seems to me your summer was very well spent at the lake house! I love the idea of a second home myself but I already feel overwhelmed taking care of one place. I admire you and your energy! Good luck on your continued improvements. Those things can be so frustrating. We just got a new roof put on yesterday and get new gutters probably next week and just those two small things have been quite a pain! Hoping this heat wave is gone and we will all be enjoying fall very soon!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Wish I had planted some late season crops after seeing your spinach! My garden areas are so huge and I'm not getting any younger. Time to downsize my gardens too. It's going to be lots of work but I hope to eliminate some work in the long run. That stir fry sounds delicious!

Kathleen George said...

Low maintenance is always good, that's why it's either rock or astro turf here in the southwest. Sounds good with the Lady Landscaper and the olive green shutters sounds perfect! Keep on making delicious stir frys with your own sauce and rubs:). Take care, Kathleen in Az

baili said...

Sorry about heat wave dear friend!

hope weather gets better soon.

i never saw climber rose before ,very beautiful and unique for me.

Yest it is little hard to manage two homes at a time and i wonder what would i do as in future we too are planning to buy home in capital city Islamabad which is near to my native village .

Your garden will be fine after some given attention and care as your hubby did good with weeding job.

Cooking is not my fave job but i too love to prepare meals for my family

Helen Philipps said...

I enjoyed your post today Jane and catching up here! Your two gardens do sound hard to manage especially the plants in pots which always need so much watering in summer. The rose is very pretty......and the stir fry sauce sounds so delicious. Wishing you a happy weekend. Xox

Melanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie said...

Oops, sorry I had to delete my previous comment - I had hit "send" too soon. Starting over...

Sad about your flowers at your Chicago house, but I'm not surprised...it's too hard to keep up with two houses. It's enough work just keeping up with one! Your meat rub sounds good - I haven't made one in awhile, simply because I forget. I can't wait to see photos of your new driveway, sidewalk, porch, bushes, etc. All this same work needs to be done to our house, too. Hopefully we'll be able to get it done next summer.

Deb from Frugal Little Bungalow said...

We had the same weather here in PA / it got super-hot :)

That meat rub sounds delicious!

Glad to catch up with you / your posts are always fun and newsworthy.

It's hard enough to keep up with one place ( gardens etc. ) Next year, you'll sort it out :) Every year is different when it comes to gardening :)

Kit said...

I don't know how you do it! 2 houses to maintain, yikes! But you do it beautifully. Great recipes too. You have the best Fall my friend. :) Kit

Maggie said...

Hi Jane, it was good to catch up with all the latest news, albeit a few days late, must try to stop by more often. Will certainly look forward to seeing the end results of the planting and painting activities, take care.
Maggie.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

It's always fun to read what's going on in your part of the world! You lead such an interesting life. Hope you get lots of things done while the days are still a little longer. Happy Fall! Hugs!

pembrokeshire lass said...

Wow. So much to ake in here. Long friendships and recipes. Apart from plants and how to.......!!

Mary@mydogsmygardenandmary said...

Great post Jane. I love hearing about all your activities, you are one busy lady.

I think the time at the Lake was good for you, but it must be hard keeping up two homes and gardens.

I think I would go with the lady landscaper, she sounds like she knows what she is doing.
Thanks so much for the wonderful tips and recipes, will try them out.

Take care and have a wonderful Fall. I bet the Lake is really pretty this time of the year.

Hugs,
Mary

La Table De Nana said...

I loved catching up..your posts still don't come to me..but if I Google Blondie's Journal..I see you!
I can well imagine that keeping 2 homes..in pristine garden tour mode..must be impossible Jane!
One and or the other must pout at times..or both...

You sound great and energetic and busy and I am happy for you!!
Full circle.

Decor To Adore said...

Can you believe I have never had a veal stew? Now I must make one. That rose is indeed gorgeous. A bit of inspiration to us all to keep blooming even in adversity. :)

Suzanne said...

Your meals sound heavenly! And those roses are stunning. We’re enjoying fall here, too.

Pam - @diy Design Fanatic said...

Your recipe sounds delicious. Regarding having two homes. I get it! I've only planted things that don't need much watering. When we are starting plants, we rig up a simple hose watering system with a timer to get them established. Once they've grown roots, they usually don't need the watering system. I have perennial herbs at home that don't need watering...I have my herbs in the front garden and haven't watered them and we haven't had rain in 3 weeks. They are all doing well. Rosemary loves dry weather. I also have mint (plant in the ground in a pot), thyme, oregano and parsley. As for your potted plants, hook up a drip watering system to water while you're away. Then you don't have to worry and it will make your life easier.

handmade by amalia said...

I'm behind with my blog reading but finally made it to catch up on all your news. It is very hot here as well but just chilly enough in the mornings and evenings to make me feel like doing stuff, including cooking, so I appreciate the stir-fry sauce. Going to give it a try.
Amalia
xo

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I can't wait to see your home when it is all finished and the landscaping is in. From our years in New England, I do remember how hard it was to take care of two homes. Now that we are in Florida, life is easy as our community has landscapers in once a week. It is a real blessing since we are on the go so much now. Hope you are feeling well on your new medications.

xinex said...

Hi Janie! So nice to hear from you! I have been extremely busy putting our house together into shape. Oh yes, we were hit by Hurricane Irma but still grateful but none of the kids got hurt. John and I are ok too but we have damage in the pool area.

You are such a good cook! You make me hungry with your descriptions. Looks like you are keeping busy too. Good luck on your landscaping. I am redoing mine too since the hurricane messed up the backyard but I am doing everything myself.... Christine

Jeanie said...

All those yummy veggies! Oh, the stew looks good -- love that photo. And the rub and sauce sound yum, too. I know what you mean about not always experimenting at the lake. I love to cook at home but at the cottage it tends to be a little more basic -- probably because I don't have all my gear and even all the staples in any great quantity. Usually turns out all right, though!

Good luck with the landscaping -- which reminds me I need to call the tree trimmers. And soon, before one day it is 70s and the next 34 outside!