Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Project 333, Phase 1: The List (Redux)

I am about a week shy of completing my second month of Project 333. And in a few short days, I will be embarking on a week long beach vacation. As originally planned when I first committed to Project 333, I will be taking along a small ancillary "vacation wardrobe", consisting of about six items. That's right. . . a week's vacation on six items! I do believe this project HAS changed me!

When my summer vacation starts, I am going to take the opportunity to swap out a handful of my core thirty-three items. The swap is mainly due to the seasonal changes here in Connecticut, but if I were to analyze deeper, I would probably say it is a result of poor planning on my part. (See my blog, Project 333: Phase 1 (Redux), to read more about my decision to swap.)

So, without further adieu, I would like to present the changes to my thirty-three. . .
First, a "Hello" to my lovely new additions, carefully selected for their fit, comfort and versatility:

Summertime Tank
Super light and summery, this tank
is made of organic cotton/hemp. Love the versatility!
It can be paired on it's own with a pair of jeans,
or with a tee underneath, it suits up with a nice pair
of pants for a day at the office!

Frescoe Sleveless Tee
(Outdoor Research)
OK, besides this fantastic colour, and eco-responsible
materials (recycled polyester/organic cotton),
the big draw for me, was this shirt's moisture wicking ability.
This can definitely be worn on the trail....
or with a cardi thrown over, why not to the office??

Bandha Tank
Made of a super soft fabric that is wicking and quick drying.
Another multi-functioning piece that will work as well
during the week, as it will on the weekend.

Kaley Tank
Cool and comfy. This might end up being
more of a weekend piece, I imagine, but I couldn't resist!
I think I brought this one along for those *HOT* summer days
working in the garden or strolling Otto around town!

Noble Shorts
(The North Face)
What made me think I could get through summer
without a single pair of shorts??! I've decided I need ONE pair.
Just one.
I will get along just fine with one pair of shorts, the denim skirt and
the summer dresses. These chosen ones are lightweight, with
a bit of stretch. . .and they are SPF 50!

And finally, a "Goodbye" to a few choices that served me well in the beginning, but are just not working for me, now that the season is wearing on:

I am feeling much more confident moving forward for the remainder of my Project 333, Phase 1. I don't know if this massive swap can solely be chalked up to poor planning on my part, but I do know that I can now survive the long summer days ahead, in style and more cool comfort.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A First Father's Day

Today was my husband's very first Father's Day! He and I don't typically get caught up in all the hoopla over holidays and such. Neither of us are card-givers, and we tend to veer away from being gift-givers as well.  That's just the way we are. Awful as that might sound to many people, this mentality alleviates us of many stresses, headaches and waste, allowing us to focus on what is truly important -- our family and each other.

Baby Otto with his Papa. 
So, without getting too sentimental about today's occasion, I did want to take a moment to remember his very first Father's Day, as a day that was indicative of the sweet and genuine person he is . . . spending time with all of us, whittling away at the never-ending list of baby duties, savoring a really good meal (or two), doing for others, being super silly (*maybe* this involved a garden hose turned on a passing car. . . ), going with the flow, enjoying the moment for what it is, repairing what's not right and getting his hands really dirty in the yard.

I love you, dear.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Kitchen Garden: Planted

Our kitchen vegetable garden and perennial herb garden are finally planted and well on their way to growing strong and healthy. Darren finished up installing the retaining wall cap on May 27th. The entire wall came out wonderful! An amazing feat, considering neither of us have ever built a retaining wall before.

Wall complete, garden planted...
herb garden (left) ready to be tackled
Once the retaining wall was complete, we began the arduous task of conditioning the soil for the vegetable garden. The vegetable garden was planted in the upper bed, which was formerly part of our lawn. The soil is a little on the clay side, so we conditioned with lime, peat moss, our own compost, humus & manure, plus a sprinkling of sand. A rototiller, we have not. . . so it was all mixed and turned by hand with pitchforks. Hard work, to say the least. Once mixed through, the soil was glorious, rich and dark. Perfection!

We had planned our plot beforehand, so planting was a cinch. Once all the plants were in, we decided to cover the base with a nice layer of straw, to help keep the moisture in and keep the weeds at bay. And while Darren worked on the garden bed, I worked on potting our container plants. We did quite a bit of experimenting in our containers this year. In addition to our traditional basil, cilantro and parsley, we also tried planting vegetables, nasturtium and even a hot pepper plant in pots this year! I got creative mixing plant types in each container, trying to achieve pretty looking pots, that will also function in producing food, herbs and edible flowers! Can't wait to see how they turn out. So, by June 2nd, the vegetable garden and containers were all planted and well on their way.

Darren transplanting our huge mint plant.
We thinned it by over half!
The next day, we started conditioning the soil for the perennial herb garden. First we had to remove the plants that would later be transplanted once the soil was properly conditioned. Darren did most of the work here, mixing and churning the soil to it's rich consistency and lovely dark colour. The herb garden was also planned out ahead of time, so planting the new plants (and transplanting the original plants) went fairly quickly. No straw for the herb garden, as Darren's research revealed this is not advisable in any perennial garden. We also had ample space in this large bed, so we mixed in a few other surprises, including a handful of shallots that our neighbor (a master gardener) brought over to us.

The day after they were planted, the pole beans
started to climb the trellis

We planted kale all along the cobblestone edging
Incidentally, Darren and I decided to keep a journal for our gardens. We want to closely document what we planted and where, so that we can chart progress, and make modifications next year if need be. We are also tracking the varieties we plant, especially the heirlooms.

Now for the inventory of what made it into our vegetable garden, perennial herb garden and containers...

My sketch of the gardens, in our planting journal
(* denotes heirloom variety)

Pickling Cucumbers
Tomatoes: Japanese Black Trifele*
Tomatoes: Tomato Pineapple Beefsteak*
Tomatoes: Better Boy
Cherry Tomatoes: Black Cherry*
White Eggplant
Green Bell Peppers: Yankee Bell
Pole String Beans: Garden of Eden*
Bush String Beans: Jade*

P E R E N N I A L    H E R B
Lemon Balm
Purple Sage
Lemon Verbena
Lemon Thyme
Golden Oregano

Radish Minowase (a white variety)

Flat Leaf Parsley
Curly Parsley
Lime Basil
Hot Banana Peppers
White Eggplant
Wheatgrass (for the kitties)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Project 333: Phase I (Redux)

It's June 10th and I am 32 days into my Project 333. So far, it has been going pretty well. I am truly fine with the amount of items I have. I really don't get bored, and find that I have plenty of mix n' match options to keep me happy.

I am leaving for summer vacation in a couple weeks, and from the beginning, I had planned to pack a small ancillary set of clothes, devised just for a week at the beach. And in true P333 fashion, this mini-wardrobe will be simple and pared down. At that time, I am also thinking that I will work in my trade items.

And this is where it gets a little tricky. When I planned my list a little over a month ago, I decided I would trade out my mackintosh jacket for a tank top, when the weather turned warm. However, I am finding the need for more "summery" items as it has gotten awfully hot, awfully fast in my neck of the woods. So, on vacation week, I will be trading out additional items as well.

At the beginning, I was such a P333 purist, and now I feel this might somehow be cheating. But upon mulling it over in my head, I come up with a dozen excuses why I should do the trades, and I talk myself right into it. And so it shall be.

The items I have my eye on for a rotation out are: the mackintosh jacket, the jean jacket, the black jacket, possibly one pair of jeans. What's coming in??? You'll have to wait until July 1st to find out! That's when I will start my Project 333: Phase 1 (Redux), with refreshed list in hand, and lighter clothes in closet.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


We have grown a sorrel plant in our herb garden for a few years now. It is a hearty perennial, and seems to get bigger and stronger with each passing year. The thing is amazing. . almost bionic! When I snip some leaves off (or even ALL the leaves off), within a week or two, they've all regenerated.

Sorrel is an early spring favourite. The flavor is very similar to rhubarb, I've always thought. And upon a  visit to a local greenhouse earlier this week, I've confirmed that sorrel is in fact a cousin to rhubarb! I am quite drawn to its' unique flavour. It totally makes you pucker, but I don't mind. In fact, I always sneak a leaf to snack on, whenever I pass by the plant. But what else can you do with such a sour tasting plant?

Let's see....I have added the leaves to other salad greens with great success. I have read of many cultures that actually puree the sorrel for soup. And recently, I devised this tasty salad concoction, in which the sole greens are the uniquely sour leaves of the sorrel:

chopped sorrel leaves
minced mango
olive oil
agave nectar
pine nuts
cayenne pepper
cracked pepper

We have just extended our perennial herb garden. We dug up our special sorrel plant temporarily, in order to prepare the bed. When all was said and done, the sorrel took a prime spot, front and center, in the new garden.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grilled Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

This is a super easy recipe that I semi-invented. I might have seen something on the internet along these lines, and then overheard someone talking about something similar. Well, it all just kind of fused together in my head. . .and this is what I came up with. Oh, and I don't measure anything, so if you are trying to replicate, good luck .

Marinating Caps.
Portabella Mushroom Caps
Balsamic Vinegar
Tamari (any soy sauce will do)
Olive Oil
Chopped Fresh Flatleaf Parsley
Finely Chopped Reserved Mushroom Stem
Minced Garlic
Chopped Onion
Panko Bread Crumbs
Goat Cheese
Fresh Herbs, to your liking
Cayenne Pepper
Olive Oil
Sunflower Seeds

Gently clean your mushrooms with a mushroom brush or damp cloth. No water on your fungi, please! Remove the stems and reserve for stuffing. Having your mushrooms gill-side up on a platter, simply pour the mixed marinade over the top of each 'shroom. (You really can't flavor the cap side, so why even try?)

Stuffed, Grilled & ready to be devoured!
Let them sit and marinade, I suppose. I can usually only wait about 15 minutes...and then onto the grill they go! Be sure to start the grilling with the gill side down for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, you can whip up your stuffing. After the mushrooms are turned, heap on the stuffing. It's more of a mound, than a stuffing, really. They will probably take another 15 minutes or so at this point. You want your stuffing cooked through. The onions will get softer, but still have a crunch, and the cheese should be a little melty.

That's it! Really these are quite good. And my family likes them, to varying degrees:

Mom - loves (as long as I use the Cayenne sparingly)
Darren - really likes (as long as I use the goat cheese sparingly)
Emma - uh.......NO WAY!!!