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top 5 awesome things about 2011

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Happy New Year to you!

I hope that you have had a relaxing holiday season and are ready to kick off a happy and healthy 2012. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the amazing things that I am very thankful for in 2011. Here are my top 5:

5. Home Improvements Galore!

2011 was the year that we finally busted through… making the leap from doing just home maintenance projects (oh that we are verrrrry good at) to doing some real honest-to-goodness home upgrades and improvements. Things got rolling back in May, and because my camera broke, I never got around to posting finished pics. So here’s a sampling.

We refinished our downstairs hard wood floors in the dining room and living room.

dining room floor before

living room floor before

entry way before

entry way after (looking into dining room)

living room after

living room after

The we installed a new ceiling fan in our living room. This required new wiring.

ceiling before

uncapping the old wiring and gas pipe. yikes.

Updating the wiring and new ceiling fan installed!

We also tackled re-painting the living room, painting the dining room, painting all the window sills in the house, and adding an accent wall color going up the stairs.

accent wall: copper mountain color sherwin williams zero voc paint

And we repainted the exterior and interior of our screened-in porch.

porch interior before

porch after with new furniture

4. Traveling and Trips!

We were extremely fortunate in 2011 to return to Europe! I loved traveling in Europe for our honeymoon in 2009, and I have been eager to go back ever since. I was lucky enough to tag along on another one of Craig’s business trips to Munich, Germany in early February. We had a blast exploring the city.

I also went on a solo travel adventure, taking the train from Germany to Italy. It was my first time traveling alone outside the U.S. and it was the most incredible experience. You can read more in depth about my trip here and here and here.

Verona, Italy - new street on top of old street

In July we made our annual trek north to Maine to spend two weeks on Mooselookmeguntic Lake.

Loons on Mooselookmeguntic Lake

We vacationed on the lake with my parents, sisters, and their kiddos, staying in a large cabin that we’ve been renting for many years. We ate well and drank well. Craig and I lounged, read books, swam, biked, kayaked, hiked, and lounged some more.

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail to the summit of Saddleback Mountain.

And in September, Craig and I took a lovely trip to the ocean, just an hour away from where we live. I had been longing to dig my toes into the sand.

3. This Year’s Garden: Cultivating from Seed and Growing Organic, Heirloom Vegetables

This year I grew the vegetables and herbs in my garden from organic seed… with the exception of my tomatoes and celery. However, I choose all organic, heirloom tomatoes this year from a local nursery. It was so much fun to try out new varieties of plants.

First came the radishes.

And then baby spinach and lettuces.

Cilantro!

This was the first year that I planted in somewhat tidy rows in my raised beds.

Cilantro, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes

Crazy heirloom tomato bed

Mortgage lifter (heh heh) heirloom tomato

Green zebra heirloom tomato

Carrots and celery

We pulled the last of the carrots on Thanksgiving morning to make a dish!

2. We Welcomed Lily to Our Family!

We finally got a cat in August! Lily has completely transformed our household, keeping us in stitches every day. She’s cuddly, funny, silly, fairly chatty, occasionally likes to playfully bite, and refuses to take a good picture. Aside from a particularly hard-to-get-rid-of bout of worms (she was found in the wild before she came home with us) and one icky urinary tract infection, life with Lily has been wonder-filled. You can read more about Lily’s story here.

Lily just has a way of always looking pissy in pictures.

She’s actually really quite charming and loves adults and kids.

She likes to cause mischief... messing up our tree skirt.

Or attacking my aloe plants.

Lily loves hanging out on the screened-in porch.

Yeah, Lily is one striking, very cool cat. We dig her immensely.

And… now…

1.) Top Most Awesome Thing About 2011…

We are expecting!!!

I’ve been pretty busy since the end of summer… working on a very special, very important project. Our daughter is due in May, and we are so delighted! And a bit daunted at times, but mostly holy-crap-over-the-moon excited.

Here’s to a new year, new adventures, and adding more goodness and abundance to the plenty!

Posted in On the Subject of Parenthood, The Daily Balance, The Growing Season | 14 Comments »

thankful

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is here! I can’t believe that it is the end of November. I can’t believe how dark it gets so early.

And yet, I am thankful that the fall weather has been mostly wonderful. The last time I wrote, we were without power for multiple days following a freakish end-of-October snow storm that pummeled New England and left hundreds of thousands without power.

Well, the power came back for us after 3 and a half days. My parents were without power for even longer. I feel fortunate that the weather wasn’t colder or it really would have been miserable. In fact, most of November has been unseasonably warm. We’ve had multiple weekends in a row with temps in the 60s. It has been lovely.

The leaves finally had a chance to play catch-up and turn and fall from the trees. We are almost done with our raking—hopefully with the long holiday weekend upon us we’ll get a chance to finish up the yard work. I still want to do one last fertilization of our new lawn.

In the meantime, I am gearing up to make some Thanksgiving dishes for multiple feasts tomorrow. I love cooking and baking for the holidays. I find it all very creative and inspiring, especially since I haven’t done as much cooking this fall as I usually do. I have been poring over recipe books and scouring websites online for ideas. And here is what I think I will be preparing.

Honeyed Carrots and Oranges

Honeyed Carrots and Oranges courtesy of Real Simple

I still have a bunch of carrots in the garden, but with the temps beginning to get colder, especially at night, I’m ready to harvest the lot. So I think I will make Honeyed Carrots and Oranges courtesy of Real Simple. It looks like a delightfully yummy and easy dish! I am thankful that I am still able to cook using ingredients straight from the garden!

I am also going to make some sort of casserole dish—probably a variation on the “traditional” green bean casserole that uses those fun crunchy onions. I think I’ll add some thinly sliced shallots.

I’m also making a few desserts. I have gone back and forth on what to make, but ultimately I think I will make my very favorite—Swedish Apple Pie. You can find my recipe with photos on how to make the best Swedish Apple Pie here. Instead of honeycrisp apples, I will be using a combo of Granny Smith and Cortland.

I am so looking forward to hanging out in the kitchen tonight to do some baking!

I am very thankful to be able to take some time off to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait to see family and friends in town over the next several days. With the holiday season kicking off, it’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of doing and the stresses that seam to infiltrate our day-to-day. This year I’m going to take it slow and easy and relish each day. It is really such a short season after all. It’s meant to be enjoyed.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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Posted in Cooking Adventures, The Daily Balance, The Growing Season | 1 Comment »

80°F in october!

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Happy Fall to you! I hope that you are enjoying the season thus far! After a rather chilly week or so here with lots and lots of rain, it really warmed up this weekend with temps that reached 80°F! It has been truly wonderful, splendid fall weather.

Craig and I spent yesterday doing yard stuff. Well, mostly Craig did lots of yard chores while I did a modest amount of weeding and snapped a bunch of photos of the early October garden. It has rained so much over the last few weeks that we haven’t had a weekend day to be out in the yard to poke around or get anything done until yesterday!

The grass finally gets a mow after 3 weeks!

The grass was getting so long we could have created designs.

After Craig finished mowing, he tackled the front hedges which were starting to get a little bit unruly.

While he clipped back the hedges, I surveyed the progress of our new grass growing out front. Not too bad!

I started weeding the front flower bed and decided that the strange pine bush that has been growing steadily in there for the last several years is no longer cute and had to go.

So, when Craig was done with the hedges, he dug out the bush and replanted it in the back yard. When he was all done, he joined me in the veggie garden where I pointed out that one of the broccoli plants had started to bolt. He decided it must still be edible.

He munched on the bolting stalks, flowers and all. The verdict: still tastes like broccoli!

Well, phew. We try not to let anything go to waste. Especially on a gorgeous, sunny, super warm October day. I love weekends like this!

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Posted in Household Management 101, The Growing Season | 2 Comments »

picking tomatillos

Friday, September 30th, 2011

I cannot believe that today is the last day of September. Wow. I also can’t believe that the garden is still going. I am just now starting to pick tomatillos!

tomatillo plant

Here is what the tomatillo plant looked like in mid-summer.

tomatillo plant

And now there are little hanging tomatillo lanterns with a tart green fruit inside.

I have been combing through cookbooks and websites to try to find fun tomatillo recipes. And I think tomorrow I am going to try for a tomatillo chicken stew.

tomatillo

I just think tomatillos are so elegant looking.

So fall is definitely here, but we are still having some fantastic warm temps in the 70s. I have been outside running or walking almost every night for the past 3 weeks. And we’ve also gotten our fair share of rain over the past weeks as well, which has greatly helped with growing grass. And now the tomatillos are ripe and ready to be picked. My own little fall harvest.

The garden is still doing its thing, and I take great comfort in that. It greatly helps with my denial that fall is here and that it is pitch black out by 7 p.m.
For reals.

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Posted in The Daily Balance, The Growing Season | 3 Comments »

so many tomatoes, so little time

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

What have I been doing lately? Picking and eating tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes from our tomato raised garden bed.
tomato bed

And when I’m not doing that, I am watering the lawn (it’s that time of year again… the fall grass-growing project is in full effect!) And when I am not doing that, I am working. And then running. And then sleeping.

Yup, my schedule is pretty defined these days. We are two weeks into the lawn watering, so next week will ease up and I will be able to reclaim 2 whole hours of my day. I CANNOT WAIT!

But back to tomatoes. Their time is going to wind down very soon when frost comes, but so far we have had only one night when I had to cover the tomato plants with sheets. Otherwise, the temps are still fairly warm and humid here in Southern NH for early fall. So we continue to pick!
green tomatoes

japanese black trifele

Just waiting...

mortgage lifter

Mortgage lifter heirloom

orange grape

Orange grape tomatoes

romas

Ripening romas

Here is a sampling of tomatoes picked over the last few weeks:
heirloom tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes

Cannot get enough tomatoes! In tomato love.

Off to peruse the garden on this lovely, warm, and finally sunny Sunday. Tomato recipes and ideas coming soon…

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Posted in The Growing Season | 17 Comments »

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