The guilt, it’s green



We had our lawn serviced for the first time yesterday.



It’s not just our lawn. There is so much gorgeous green around here — as I type, I am staring out at fields, acres of gorgeous green, grass and trees and plants and flowers. It’s 78 degrees today but it’s been sprinkling and we expect heavier rain this weekend.

But it was not long ago that we were living in the middle of a severe drought. The before and after pics of what’s been happening in my beloved California for the last few years are simply shocking. You have the mayor of my former hometown of San Jose drinking recycled sewage to show it’s a viable option to tap water. I posted one of the above pics on my personal Facebook and a friend in San Jose wrote “Your lawn is a different color than mine.”

We have lots of plans for gardening next year. Beginning with all the cold-weather crops we couldn’t get to grow in San Jose. The lettuce and spinach would start making little leaves and nope, they were out of there, bolting like nobody’s business. We miss our avocado tree and our grapevines — here there is the possibility not only of salad greens, but apple trees, cranberries and cherries? We’re so there. Hydrangeas remind me of my dear friend Kat, who had them at her house, but I could never grow them in our super sunny backyard, maybe here I can get them to bloom without scorching.

This year, however, we are enjoying all this lovely green, but tempering out enjoyment with just a little bit of guilt.

We be jammin’

You have no idea how our house smelled that evening. The rich, sugary scent spread like fog tendrils throughout the rooms, even my jam-hating oldest one came in from his karate lesson and said “it smells GOOD in here!”

This madness here:

Has become this yumminess:

My husband patiently peeled each grape, cooked down the whole thing, strained it, added the peels back in, added a bit of sugar, and somehow managed not to devour the whole thing while making it. I would have just upended that pan and chowed down, seared insides be damned.

My youngest, he of the three-PB&Js-in-a-row habit, is loving his sandwiches these days. Even more than usual.

The best part is, there’s another huge bowl of grapes waiting, AND, the vine is only half empty.

Garden Update: July 2013

We’ve been enjoying our fruit and veggie bounty – I mad 2 loaves of zucchini bread and a batch of chocolate chip zucchini cookies from just ONE monster squash, and we’ve been eating our delicious tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, and a sauce that had my friend’s kids asking for lunch at 10am πŸ˜€

Some more future cookies πŸ˜€

We’ve recently planted some more corn for an autumn harvest:

And, hello! Check out the awesome planter my husband made!!! He’s planting bamboo in it, and he got his inspiration from a couple of gorgeous river photographs by Keith Liang.

Steve made the mold with a high-relief design and then built a structure to pour the cement in. This turned out amazing, and yes, I’ve put in an order for a smaller planter with a fleur-de-lis πŸ˜€ Of course.

Our strawberries continue to produce as well:

The other day we harvested some lavender for our neighbor. I think I’m going to make some eye pillows with the rest.

This crazy madness going on here is our Concord grape vine. Well, one of them. The other is just started to go all wild but this one is going to become another yummy batch of grape jam.

This is what the vine looked like in April:

Current goodness and future grape jam, nom nom nom.

Our pretty flower frames are doing great as well!

We are also harvesting potatoes and onions, and mint for our mojitos.

Gardening is to me an incredibly rewarding experience. Which is not to say there aren’t days (usually those in 100+ degree weather) where the last thing I want to do is go out there and water and tend to the plants. But homegrown veggies taste so good, and knowing that my family gets to eat fresh, delicious, healthy food is pretty awesome.

I say this every year, but next year I’d really like to get more flower plants for cuttings. I just love having fresh flowers in the house. I’ve killed some gerbera and hydrangea, though, so we’ll see how I do in that goal.

Have a wonderful week!

Boos!!!

When my boys were little, they loved eating their “boos”. Now that we grow them in our backyard, their taste is even sweeter when warmed by the sun.

Also peeking out last weekend were these beauties:

Homegrown tomatoes! Yum. Can’t wait to make caprese salads with these!

Garden Update – April 2013

Our lovely plants are budding and blooming and we are already enjoying some of the produce, like our chard and lettuces.

Yellow roses are my favorite and the rose bush is going gangbusters – every two or three days I bring a couple of blooms inside to enjoy.

Yummy lettuces and onions. I had a scallion omelette for lunch today, so good!!

Of course, tomatoes are the stars of our summer garden, there are quite a few baby ones growing:

The boys’ favorite fruit from our backyard are the blueberries – they run past it and grab a few to pop in their mouths as they play.

One of my husband’s favorite harvests is this vine – our Concord grapes. He made a delicious batch of grape jam last year and we are looking forward to another one in a few months!

Swiss chard – I treat it like spinach, sauteed with garlic and butter it’s just delicious. We planted it like 4 years ago and it just comes back each year.

Our lavender is just starting to bud – I’ve made wreaths, sachets, stuck a bunch here and there. I just love lavender.

We also have tons of little pears and plums that will ripen in due time, and of course our avocado tree, much beloved by us, and our family and friends πŸ˜€

Are you growing anything this year?

Redwood flower frames


We love our backyard, no question about it. It is a pretty decent size, it allows our boys to play hard and it allows us to entertain and grow fruits and veggies for our family.

THAT said . . .

Sometimes things out back get kind of, well, boring.

True, we will have lots of lavender and tomatoes bringing in the reds and purples of summer, and there will be fresh corn and plums, too, but we wanted some instant gratification and my husband decided to put together some frames for nature’s works of art.

The frames are made from redwood planks – we painted them using leftover spray paint and some mistints that cost $5/gallon.

I love looking outside the playroom/office window and seeing these bright pops of color!




We are very happy with how this project turned out, and it has been featured at:
Visit thecsiproject.comFeatured At Serenity Now

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Springing and stretching!

These last few days have blessed us with glorious weather here in Sili Valley. The sun has been out, but it hasn’t been super hot, I’ve been loving it! This past weekend we decided to hit our local gardening stores – two of them!


Our front yard got some much-needed brightening up with these trailing white flowers on the hanging baskets:

My youngest was determined to get some yellow goodness ;D

In the backyard, we started our herb garden:

My husband added a brick border to define our salad greens area:

Caged and ready!

We also planted more potatoes, including some purple varieties. Our potatoes come back every year but we wanted some russets as well, and then we saw the purple sets. Can’t wait to eat some of those! Our onions and chard are doing great, they come back, too, and hopefully our garlic will do well this year. My husband planted two blackberry bushes in the side yard. We have a blueberry bush that is my boys’ favorite treat. Hopefully the vine will do well again this year so we can make some grape jelly again, and I look forward to the lovely scent of my lavender plants.

My husband and I have the sorest hamstrings ever from all the planting and weeding, I’ve been stretching because otherwise the pain doesn’t let me sleep very well. I hope you’ll follow our gardening adventures this year, I’m very excited to see how our veggies do!

I’m a convert!

Okay, so the subject of grape jelly is one that has been hotly debated in our household for the past decade. Steve, my husband, LOVES it. I think it’s bleh. So when he came up with the idea of using our Concord grapes to make jelly instead of just eating them fresh off the vine, I was all “what the . . . ?” Seriously, you can get grape jelly at WalMart for under two bucks, why go through the whole production of making grape jelly?

I watched him harvest about half of the grapes on the vine. The rest were still greenish and have been maturing these last few days. He came back into the kitchen with this:

which I looked at kind of like this:

Undeterred, Steve found a recipe (or three, he scanned a few, got the idea and then did his own thing) and began cooking it down – and oh my goodness it smelled SO GOOD!!!
I kept looking over and over, and finally he gave me a taste of super hot jammy goodness.

I told him that even though it looked like the remains of a vamp on True Blood, it was Oh. So. Fricking. Delicious!

So, yes, I now love grape jelly. But not the store-bought kind. So I guess we’re going to plant some more Concords next year ;D

The rare, but welcome, second wave

A few weeks ago we had to get all the plums off the tree. The branches were so heavy that they were falling down, full of fruit, and making a lovely (messy) red carpet. It was too hot to make any baked goods so I made a plum granita that was a hit with us, friends, and family. A couple of days later we were out making sure there were no more plums and my husband said, “hey, look over there”. I looked up to the right of the plum tree, and what do I see?


Dozens and dozens of avocados, gracing us with a second wave of goodness this year. Unexpected, but oh so welcome!

It does not happen every year, in fact some years we do not get avocados at all, but this year we had a really good harvest, and it looks like we’ll have another one.


More than 100 of these beauties to enjoy and share — avocados hold a special place in my heart (and belly), not only because of all the goodness we’ve enjoyed but also because they bring back such good memories. Back in Peru, a typical lunch for me would have been toast with mashed avocado and a bit of salt sprinkled on top, yum yum. And both my boys love avocados, they both ate one every day when they were first eating solid foods, so I am happy to see these green lovelies, and hope to make lots of yumminess with them this fall!

A tale of tomatoes

How can it be August already? As much as I am looking forward to cooler weather, it seems that this year is going by super quickly.

Yesterday I got my first big harvest of the season. We’ve enjoyed blueberries, strawberries, carrots, eggplant, potatoes, plums, etc. but this was the first big batch of summer veggies for the year:

So many lovely tomatoes, and so good — no wonder people who eat homegrown tomatoes don’t go back to supermarket tomatoes. My husband enjoyed a thick slice in his turkey sandwich at lunch, and raved about the taste. For dinner I grilled slices of eggplant and yellow squash, topped them with sliced mozzarella and basil from the garden, tomatoes of course, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Soooooo good! I had seen this recipe from Giada de Laurentiis and vowed to make this sandwich with homegrown goodies. I think it’s going to be a summer staple at our house.