Tag Archives: garden

Friday Check-In

Koekhappen

As I’ve gotten more serious about my writing and my work, I feel a need to be more accountable for maintaining balance in my life and for working on long-term projects. In order to do that, I’ve decided to transform my Friday Moment into a Friday Check-in. Here’s the plan. Every Friday, I’ll post a picture and answer five questions. They will be about my work, my home, myself, my project or goal, and the picture. I’ll try it for a season and see how things go!

It has been a long and exhausting week. It started slow enough with crafting afternoons and putting together a fall nature table, but Thursday and Friday kicked into high gear and have ended with a kiddy birthday party. I’m ready for a nice quiet weekend!


1. How are you moving forward at work?

It feels like I’m doing a lot more writing and blogging than sewing lately and that leaves me with the feeling that there isn’t much work getting done. But in fact, this week I added a market to the calendar [link], made ten nine-patch squares to be transformed into bags, and have hit an all-time high for blog traffic (thank you so much for stopping by), so let’s call that progress.


2. How did you improve your home?

We shifted our dining room table this week. We had to find room for a table we bought a few weeks ago and in the process ended up shifting our dining room table. The move made the space feel significantly bigger. It was strange and wonderful. In the garden, I’ve been doing some cleaning up and planting some things that will hopefully keep it a bit green through the fall and winter: hardy lettuces, beets, and chard. I’m not sure how hopeful to be, but it would be nice if it works out even a little bit.


3. How did you take care of yourself?

I’ve embarked on a mission to go to bed at a decent hour much more often. After seeing how well I respond to all those little dots in my notebook, I took a page in my journal, marked it with a month of days, and am writing down my “in bed” times there. The goal is 11:00 on weeknights and 12:00 on the weekends. I’m a serious night owl and need to reform. Those bed times seriously shortened my computer time and have created a couple special challenges. This week I also gave myself a break. The thought of making pizza dough and fresh pizzas after the birthday party this afternoon was too much for me, so I didn’t. We ate frozen pizza. It wasn’t grand, but it filled, potentially nourished, and kept me sane.


4. How are things going with the daily writing project?

It’s getting harder to remember to write on busy days. The new has most certainly worn off and I need to come up with more solid strategies for getting my writing done. Turning the computer off at 10 and getting to bed by 11 isn’t making it easier. On Wednesday night, I didn’t get to write during the daytime and then went out for dinner with some lovely ladies. Only when I was in bed did I realize I hadn’t written yet. It was a good time to adjust my writing project to include blog-purposed journal writing when computer access is difficult. 38 dots and hoping to make it to 50.

5. Talk about the picture.

We played games at Peanut’s birthday party this afternoon. This is a Dutch game that the kids love. It’s called koekhappen, best translated as eating cake. A piece of cake is threaded onto a string and suspended at about nose level. The player eats the cake without using their hands. Blindfolds optional but quite entertaining. The kids had a blast playing and we had a great time watching!

In My Kitchen: Pantry day

Stocking the fruit bowl

Big beans!

Cilantro and Parsley - fall bliss!


I’m playing along with Heather over at Beauty that Moves. Here’s a look at what’s going on in my kitchen!

I’ve been getting a lot of help in the kitchen this week. That little girl likes nothing better than to help, help, help!

This is the second week in my series elaborating on our meal plan. Last week I wrote about soup day and shared two recipes. This week, I want to tell you about pantry day. Pantry day was inspired by an entry on my Flow magazine 2014 daily calendar. One day back in July, I read, “Look in your pantry and make a meal tonight from products that should have found their way to your tummy months ago. Good for your wallet and your overflowing pantry.” The tip came from Els Jacobs’s book Vrolijk huishouden. It’s also good for reducing dinner time stress and saves you a trip to the grocery store.

I keep a pantry and a full freezer for basic, emergencies, and bargains. Keeping basics means when the olive oil runs out during the middle of cooking, I can walk to the pantry and get a new bottle. Crisis avoided. Emergencies arise when a trip to the grocery store doesn’t work out or you get to add a person or four to your dinner table. A well-stocked pantry and freezer means you can put together a last minute meal. Hopefully it will also be an easy, non-thinking, mid-week type meal. Finally, having extra storage space for food means I can take advantage of sales and deals at different stores. Sales here are usually buy one get one free, so you can really save money buy buying when your favorite jam is on sale. I shop at about three different grocery stores regularly, one in my neighborhood for incidentals, one larger shop that has everything we need, and one in Germany that has broader selections of organic products and some great deals. I make the Germany trip once every three weeks and a lot of what I buy there goes into the pantry.

Adding a pantry day to our meal plan was a way to make myself use the staples I’ve bought along the way that I either bough too much of (soup pasta and polenta, of all things) or bought after being inspired by a new cookbook and then put aside (spelt and gerst – what is gerst?!). The good news is that I love polenta. That, however, was one of the easier items on the shelf and I’m going to have to tackle some more intimidating purchases and a whole lot of Chinese food in the coming weeks.

The happy ending to all this is that I’ve got more space in the pantry after just a month of eating out of the pantry once a week. I’m also more careful about what I buy to put on the shelves. That means I’m also spending a bit less at the grocery store every week. With less clutter in the pantry, it’s becoming more and more clear what I need to keep in stock and what can go on a shopping list if I plan to use it. Canned tomatoes in the pantry is good. Eight cans might be a bit of overkill. As an extra bonus, I’m less inclined to let special items sit and get forgotten. We received a delicious tapenade from friends and have been enjoying it shamelessly. There’s a seductive honey and nuts concoction sitting on the edge of the shelf now waiting for it’s turn. Neither of us can wait!

By now, you’re dying to know what actually keep in the pantry, right? Here’s a list of some things I like to keep in stock.

Pantry Freezer
olive oil
sunflower oil
flour
sugar
salt
pasta
vanilla sugar
yeast
jam
honey
peanut butter
tinned tomatoes
corn
beans
onions
garlic
condensed milk
baking soda
extra box of dishwasher tabs
walnuts
raisins
frozen peas
fruit for smoothies
blanched, frozen beans
butter, salted and unsalted
grated cheese
homemade broth
homemade pizza sauce
homemade pizza dough
bread
ground beef
sausage
homemade soups
homemade stews
homemade pasta sauce


Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

Twitter: flowmagazine

Friday Check-In

Boy watching caterpillar

This week was the second week of school. It’s the week where we start to settle into the routine, start to see where we might have some problems and try to think of solutions. It’s also a week in which the weather finally turned and the sun has been shining. It feels absolutely glorious after the rainy cold end of August. Now, on to some questions!


1. How are you moving forward at work?

Without a doubt, the single most exciting thing that happened to me this week was seeing my Kokka Messenger Bag on the U-Handbook Facebook page. I was dancing around the house with glee. The lady who designed the pattern liked the bag I made from it! It’s like being back in school and having the teacher like your creative writing assignment (which never happened to me, by the way). Total satisfaction. The bonus was a lot of new website traffic (hi, all, hope you’re sticking around!) and I discovered some neat folks by checking who was commenting!


2. How did you improve your home?

This week I managed to keep the house neat. It was an improvement over last week when we were in “a bomb exploded in here” mode for most of the week. I also put together a slightly wonky tent-like drapery for over the kid’s new kitchen playing area. It’s starting to look really cozy.


3. How did you take care of yourself?

Just this afternoon, I took myself off to Arnhem for a visit to the Dutch quilting guild’s annual show. It was wonderful to take a break and to soak up some inspiration. I’m trying to take more, smaller, meaningful breaks for myself. This outing was a winner. I came home feeling refreshed and energized.


4. How are things going with the daily writing project?

This week was the first time I nearly forgot to write a couple times. The days got away from me and somehow, after writing about it for the first time last week, part of my brain must have been satisfied with how far we’d gotten. But the point is to keep on writing every day. It wasn’t always so easy this week, but then on the train this afternoon I found myself bursting with ideas again. I’ve got seventeen dots now. That’s only fourteen away from my first full month. I can do it!

5. Talk about the picture.

Last night after dinner, I checked on my kale and sprouting broccoli plants. The white moths have been busy laying eggs this week and the larvae are not invited to the garden buffet! During my search, I found a caterpillar. The kids spent a good long time watching him crawl on the table and up and along this stick. We even watched the caterpillar poop. Seriously, who ever gets to see a caterpillar poop?! It was neat to see Peanut especially so engaged in watching this little creature.

As I’ve gotten more serious about my writing and my work, I feel a need to be more accountable for maintaining balance in my life and for working on long-term projects. In order to do that, I’ve decided to transform my Friday Moment into a Friday Check-in. Here’s the plan. Every Friday, I’ll post a picture and answer five questions. They will be about my work, my home, myself, my project or goal, and the picture. We’ll try it for a season and see how things go!

In My Kitchen: Meal Planning

Greens from the Garden

Purple and Green Basil Delight!

Polenta before

Plenta (joy!)

Summer Veg

Sandkuchen


I’m playing along with Heather over at Beauty that Moves. Here’s a look at what’s going on in my kitchen!

So excited that Heather’s back this week! I got all excited about joining in after a long summer ended up writing a rather emotional little post last week. But I also realized that I’ve come to rely on this weekly sharing for some good inspiration for my own kitchen. Cooking every day is a job that requires serious creativity. The ladies who share give me ideas about using ingredients, different combinations, and even meal plans. Most importantly, they remind me what’s in season here and elsewhere and just how beautiful the obligatory time we spend in our kitchens can be – if we let it!

Around here, school is starting here. One of our big shifts from summer into fall is that the after-work schedule picks up and I’m on my own with the kids a couple nights a week. As with all things in my life, this kind of situation requires some kind of strategy and hopefully a list or seven. Over the past few years, I’ve tried different approaches to meal planning and learned a few lessons along the way. My introduction to meal planning was a decision when we lived in Chicago to make pizza on Fridays. It had more to do with a new mixer and an obsession with learning to make a good yeast dough than simplifying our eating. Meal planning has evolved since then. I thought I’d share my current plan and maybe get to hear back what others are doing!

Working with themes or categories has turned out to be my favorite system. It limits my choices when planning a particular day and encourages me to look for meals that fit within the categories and make the family happy. I try to keep an updated list of favorites by category and that can help if I’m not feeling inspired. I plan a week or two weeks in advance, often just before grocery shopping. Sometimes I get to spend some quality time with a favorite cookbook and will fill in days with meals that fit the category. Here’s the game plan for this season with a current favorite for each category!

  • Monday: Soup (beef barley soup)
  • Tuesday: Pantry (polenta)
  • Wednesday: Fish (salmon steaks)
  • Thursday: Pasta (pasta salad)
  • Friday: Pizza (four-cheese pizza)
  • Weekend: one big meal, one easy meal
  • The schedule is flexible. This week, for example, it was just me and the kids on Wednesday but we’ll all be home on Thursday, so we are swapping fish and pasta. The actual plan lives in my agenda/weekly planner. I make a little colored box on each day right over the dinner hours and write the meal plan in there. It works well because any notes about going out to eat are right there. Notes about anyone eating elsewhere are there as well.

    As for this week’s pictures, the garden hasn’t been the massive bonanza I hoped for this year, but look at those beautiful greens! They were delicious, although my attempt at spelttoto (River Cottage Veg strikes again) wasn’t so nice. It may have something to do with using the wrong spelt. Ahem. As for the basil, I feel like I cracked the code this year! We have four happy, healthy basil pots on the window sill and enjoy eating from them once or twice a week. No pesto volumes yet, but this is fantastic!

    We have (or maybe I have) fallen hard for the River Cottage Veg polenta recipe. It is incredibly delicious, rich, and cheesy with so little work! It was divine with the veggies. It’s something about the buttery zucchini and sweet tomato sauce and cheesy polenta… I must stop or find myself in the kitchen making more! I ended up adding quite a bit more milk both times I made it, but that could be due to the type of polenta I’m using. I’d be curious about other peoples’ experiences.

    The cake is Sandkuchen that we decided to make when all other afternoon plans fell through due to first-week-of-first-grade exhaustion. I’ve got a thing for the Dr. Oetker recipes that’s related to a couple childhood years in Germany. The surprise ingredient in Sandkuchen is corn starch, as much corn starch as flour. It gives the cake a nice dense texture. Delicious!

    Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

    In My Kitchen: Rooted

    Chioggia Beets

    blogged at: earthapplestudio.com/blog

    Chioggia Beets


    Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

    Yesterday I picked our four beets from the garden. They’re beautiful things, Chioggia beets that I grew from seed. They’ve got red and white rings on the inside, but I was too busy putting them straight into the oven for roasting to cut them open and look. We’ve been loving the Roasted Beetroot with Walnuts and Yoghurt Dressing from River Cottage Veg – a brilliant cookbook if there ever was one. I’ve never picked a beet before and it was a mini-adventure in my backyard. Selecting, pulling, rubbing off soil, and washing all put me in a meditative mode. Beets. Beetroot. Roots.

    I’ve never felt rooted. I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t like to answer questions about where she’s from. Rattling off a list of locations and dates is somewhere between boring and obnoxious. I am genuinely curious about a life in which people grow up and live in one place, or at least have family that stays in one place, a place they return to year after year after year. I went to elementary school in South Dakota. We lived in Germany before and Saudi Arabia after. I went to a boarding school and never stayed anywhere more than two years in a row for maybe fifteen years. Then we moved to Haarlem. We had shifted by then from my fmaily to me and my partner, now husband. We spent a long time in Haarlem, six years. They were busy years, but not building years. We knew we weren’t staying. A lot of people knew they weren’t staying. No one was rooted or putting down roots.

    All of which is to paint a picture. I don’t really know what it is to feel rooted and may not even know how to do it. It’s an action, right? Rooting? It has to do with people and places and connections, building and digging deep. In my life, those things have been fleeting. So many of the people and places that have been important to me are no longer present in my (daily) life. Lately I’ve started to miss them, sometimes a lot. Things are slowing down a little bit. We aren’t moving or planning on moving. Lately, I’m starting to feel like I’m a part of a community here in Nijmegen. It is like a little magic every day.

    The past 48 hours have been full of little extraordinarily mundane moments, but each of them has been special to me. A friend called just to chat. I can laugh at myself over finding this special, but in all honestly, it almost never happens. Most of my close friends live in different countries and time zones. The last time someone called to chat, I asked the babysitter to stay an extra hour! While we were biking to school, we ran into my husband’s colleague who lives in the neighborhood. We did the Dutch version of a quick catch-up, biking together and chatting until our routes diverged. After dropping of Peanut at school, a mom invited a couple of us over for coffee. In the afternoon, Pumpkin and I ran into more people we know in town. And when we finally all got home, the kids took off to our retired neighbors’ house for a good 45 minutes of spoiling.

    When did this all happen to me? This life in which I see people all over town? This life in which I’m not anonymous? I am not always sure what to do with all this, but oh my am I grateful. Grateful that all these people make space for me and my family in their lives. Grateful that we have such a wonderful group of people around us. Grateful that my littles are surrounded by caring adults and fun kids. Grateful that the stars aligned and brought us to this place in the world where it feels like we can settle in and put down some roots. All of which will certainly involve planting more beets, many more beets!

    In My Kitchen

    Oregon Sugar Snap Peas

    Peas: Kelvedon Wonder & Oregon Sugar Snap

    Lettuce

    Mint

    I’m playing along with the In my Kitchen day over at Beauty that Moves. Go have a look!

    So clearly, I’m a bit obsessed with the things that come out of the garden and pretty much sticking my camera as close to them as I can. What can I say – looking at the world this way is inspiring! It’s so easy to not see the veins on a lettuce leaf or the little knob on a pea when they’re usually in bunches and handfuls. But when I stop and look at those details, I get a little shiver. They are just so beautiful and each piece is unique.

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    In my kitchen

    Toasting sunflower seeds

    Mish-mash salad

    Pita with zatar

    Strawberry delight

    Lunch guest

    I’m participating in the “In my kitchen” theme over at Beauty that Moves today. Pop over there to see some more!

    I’ve been lax about meal planning the past few weeks. It’s had it’s advantages and disadvantages. I like being able to jump in the kitchen and cook whatever I want without worrying about messing up a plan. On the other hand, there are also those kind of terrible moments when I have no idea what we’re going to eat for dinner and something needs to happen soon. This tends to happen to me when the seasons turn. After a winter of heavy meals, the idea of light summer fare is tempting. The weather, however, isn’t always cooperating, so there’s this fluctuating that has to happen. It’s all good, we’re finding our way and learning (again) as we go.

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    In My Kitchen

    Garden bounty

    Zucchini frittata

    Dinner

    I’m participating in the “In my kitchen” theme over at Beauty that Moves today. Pop over there to see some more!

    One meal, from garden goodies to table. We’ve done a meal like this a couple times lately – an egg dish, couscous with mixed herbs, and a bit of salad. It gives me a strange feeling of utter satisfaction to sit down to this particular meal. I have no idea why, but it just feels perfect. It’s a bit light, totally tasty, and full of different textures, too. It’s a special bonus that the kids love it and a triple bonus that it’s easy to throw together and is a great way to use leftovers. In this case, I had sliced too much zucchini for the salad the day before and we had leftovers from our Kings Day barbecue. The sausage got diced and tossed into the frittata. The pork got sliced and added to the salad along. Everyone happy.

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