It's been a week since that incredible morning in the cherry orchard with the kids, and almost as long since I last posted. I've basically been sitting around waiting for the cherry juice stains to release from my cracked finger tips. (winky eye)
Here's what I did with all that fruit.
Last Tuesday night, I sat up and pitted about half the fruit with the doors wide open and the silence of sleeping kids blaring. It was my kind of meditation. I tried to capture the spirit of the kitchen here:
Then I made a pie, a batch of jam and two batches of cherry chocolate ice cream with our 11lbs.
The ice cream was my absolute favorite!
I modified this recipe, upping the cherries and chocolate to make it even better!
1 Put cherries, milk, one cup of the cream, sugar, and salt into a medium saucepan. Heat on medium heat until the mixture is steamy, then lower the heat to warm and just let sit for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly, then pour mixture into a blender, and carefully purée. (Careful because you are dealing with a hot liquid. Make sure you hold the cap down on the top of the blender while puréeing.)
2 Put mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of cream. Chill for several hours in the refrigerator until completely cold. (Can also place bowl over an ice bath, to speed up the cooling process.)
3 Before putting the mixture into your ice cream maker, stir in the lemon juice. Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
4 Once the ice cream has completed churning, the ice cream should be pretty soft. Gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate. Put in an airtight container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours.
Makes about one quart.
My mom and I took the kids cherry picking in Brentwood early yesterday morning. It was a first for all of us and I'm already planning our return.
We brought home eleven pounds of cherries (a far cry from my friend who picked forty!), and I stopped at a road side stand and picked-up a 20 pound box of peaches as well. All the fruit tasted incredible!
The hour and fifteen car ride out into the valley was a bit much with the big kids asking things like, "Why couldn't you pick a farm closer to home?!" and the baby yelling. "OUT!" Over. And over. Again.
But when we got out of the car and stepped into the orchard with our buckets, all was made good again when the six year old screamed, "Thank you so much, Mom, for planning this! This is SO cool!"
Once we'd filled our buckets, we went back to the stand for weighing. I kept trying to get a picture of this man - his weathered face, cigarette in hand - but he wouldn't have it. He kept exiting out the back door every time I picked up my camera. Here he is with a box over his head.
The food truck frenzy has made it's way to Marin! We headed down to the ferry building tonight to see the line-up, eat dinner with friends, and dance with our kids.
As much as I love the idea of spending my Friday nights at a food truck party (and coming home to a clean kitchen!), I have to say, it was rough trying to hold my kids down long enough to get them to eat. Even then, it was nothing containing vegetables. Next time I will pack some carrots and fruit to bring along and supplement their take-away meals.
The kids loved everything - running around, running into friends and running back and forth between bites of their pizza politana (which was excellent). My muffaletta vegetarian sandwich from Suzie Q's was mighty tasty too!
The big boys enjoyed pulled pork sandos.
I'm sad to say that there was one small disappointment at the Food Truck Crush - the cupcake truck. Way. Too. Sugary. I hate to complain about a small business, really I do, but I had two bites of a Samoa (coconut, caramel & chocolate) and saved the rest for the chickens. Maybe I'll give them another shot down the road.
Here is the corner area in our dining space. To reduce the *weight* of the room, I removed the dining table's end seats ages ago, placing one in the corner. We use that corner seat often, but I've always felt the space was a bit plain and that it could use a bit of pattern.
Then I found this chair:
It is a knock-off of a very expensive Kartell chair but I purchased it for only $149 from HauteLook.com, an online sample sale site. I love it. It really brightens up the corner with a punch of color.
In my final year of college, I went abroad to complete my studies in product design. I could go on for days about my love for the motherland, but one small take-away from the experience - a simple five letter word - is coming to mind a lot these days as school winds down, summer approaches, and I reflect back on my eldest child’s first year of school.
That word is magic.
The British use it carefully, and only to explain experiences too lovely for common praises. If it was more than great, if it was beyond wonderful, it was magic. Often delivered with a lack of eye contact, the word always seemed to come from a place of sweet reverie or just pure, in-the-moment bliss.
It’s the perfect word to explain my experience watching the six year old grow through his first year of school. It's the good fortune I feel for being able to be a mommy to this wonderful little man and the proud feelings I have for his accomplishments to date. It sums up the bitter-sweet feelings I have knowing this is likely to be his last year *believing* in things like Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Gingerbread Man.
It's just magic.
And so to wrap up this incredible year, I thought to have a party for my guy's kindergarten class. The idea was a bit forced, and definitely excessive - even I'll admit that. Not because I wanted it that way, but because the whole evening revolved around using up a couple certificates for items we'd purchased over the years at charity auctions - an outdoor movie experience, as well as a custom made cake. But the time had come to finally put the services to use, and celebrating the end of an incredible year seemed like just as good an idea as any.
This exquisite cake was the work of Emma Cakes. The lovely owners donate many of their cakes to local events each year. It was three layers of fresh raspberry mousse, in between layers of lemon cake. Incredible!
Organic hot dogs served up in some adorable baskets which I found at Cost Plus.
I grabbed this popcorn maker on clearance and plan to put it to work this summer.
We set up our pop-up canopy in front and I decorated it with some leftover sample bedding I had in the garage. I loved the way it turned out and, honestly, it's still up in the front yard.
We tried to make the area as dark as possible for the kids but it was still too bright for them to be able to see the movie. We ended up bringing them all inside to watch it in the living room.
After the movie, popcorn and cake, all the kids played in the yard until the parents came to pick them up.
It was absolute magic.
It's (kinda-sorta-maybe) beginning to feel like summer.
It is warming, I think we can all agree on that. However, I'm observing a bank of fog rolling in outside my kitchen window right now and it really has me worried.
Are we set to have another mild summer like the one we had last year?!
Ironically, the only place that's screaming out *summertime* these days is the produce isle of Costco with it's mountains of organic berries and grapes. I found myself there today, staring up at all that fruit and thinking, "Winter is coming, I better get canning!"
And so I bought 8lbs of grapes, 4lbs. of raspberries, 4lbs. of blueberries and 3.5lbs. of blackberries. I intend to spend the better part of Sunday channeling my mid-western grandmothers and making things like Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Raspberry Jam with Mint and Lavender, and Daddy's favorite, Old Fashion Blackberry Jelly.
I started P90X yesterday.
Which means I'm on day two. Of 90. In other words, I have 88 days to go.
It's actually my second time doing the program. Only because I had such success the first time, am I doing it again. Daddy did it with me last year, and while it was exhausting at times, the payoff was huge. I dropped 10% of my body weight, and got to my pre-baby target weight. There is a part of me that wants to share my before and after pictures right now, but I'm smart enough to know that this is the internet and that would just be a really stupid idea.
I haven't worked out consistently in the year since I completed the program, but if you can believe it, the weight has not come back on. Weird, I know. But I can't complain. :)
Needless to say, baking rich savory dishes and sweet treats just isn't high on my list of things to do this summer. It's all about the body-builders diet and ridiculously high amounts of lean protein that I will be lucky to hold down. That said, I made a *recovery shake* after today's work-out that was incredible just because of one simple ingredient:
I blended my usual 12oz. of non-fat milk with a frozen banana, a tablespoon of peanut butter and instead of a scoop of protein powder (don't tell Tony), I added a package of Starbucks VIA (aka: instant coffee granules). The end result was completely addicting.
What a perfect discovery to make at four o'clock in the afternoon.
My sister and I were recently walking and talking about the California lifestyle, epitomized in the pages of Sunset magazine.
"I loooove that magazine," she said, stopping and turning to me. "It's my therapy." Her eyes were moist.
Sunset magazine is like that. It evokes dreamy imagery of a colorful lifestyle so approachable and inviting, that each edition delivered triggers excitement comparable only to that of an old friend coming to dinner, and the anticipation of the food and conversation to come. So often, magazines only provide us with glimpses into worlds too intimidating: the praise of wines I could never fully appreciate, the fashion I have no place to wear, the showcasing of homes I could never afford. And so those magazines typically get passed on or recycled. But never a Sunset. Each heavily, dog-eared copy is carefully cataloged away on a shelf, ready for repeat referencing.
Now my eyes are getting moist. Let's get on to Sunset's Celebration Weekend and the highlights I loved most.
I wish, wish, wish I had taken an image of how this wall was constructed, or better yet, who constructed it. But I failed miserably when I did not. Regardless, this wall of succulents was breathtaking!
Bauer had a great presence, right at the opening of the show, and we couldn't help but be mesmerized by their Garden Orbs in varying sizes and colors. (Note to self: Buy a lot of these for the garden. A lot.)
More succulents! We saw a couple versions of this table, which I loved. One more visual suggestion and I just might have to go out and make my own! This one was out back behind the Sunset Idea House, constructed from a shipping container.
This is my girl, Jill. You probably can't place where you've seen her before, so let me help you out - it was right here! (That's Jill on the steps of her award-winning garden! :)
If you become a fan of Sunset Magazine on Facebook, they have some great images loaded showing the construction of the container. Fascinating!
We saw a lot of raised garden ideas like this simple space solution that was intelligently placed atop bales of hay! (Although I'm not sure that corn is going have much of a chance in such shallow quarters.)
Again, but this time on top of a chicken coop.
I secretly want to keep bees. Well it's not really a secret anymore, now is it. Except to maybe my neighbor. (Hi Bridget!!)
Let me say that for a very long time, I have loved, with great passion, Sunset's identity. Love, love, love. So I was all too excited to come across their tiny booth selling all sorts of useful orange items with the Sunset identity on them. Everything was incredibly well priced - $5 - $10 - and so I bought lots of gift items for like-minded friends.
How many people do you know with a Sunset case for their iPhone. I'll tell you how many - one. And that one is ME!!!
I've started working again. I thought I didn't want it - I guess I was wrong. I'm very excited for the opportunities coming up.
I was recently asked by the owners of a large apartment complex in Colorado, to provide creative direction on a total overhaul of the property. This does not mean I am the interior designer, that job has been given to an incredibly talented woman from Houston. What it does mean is that I will determine the direction of the remodel and work directly with the designer so make sure it all happens in the best interest of the owners.
So. Much. Fun.
It's sort of ideal for me at this point in time. I get to use my creative juices a bit and I will have the invaluable opportunity to see how a very talented designer and business woman pulls it all together. I figure this can only help in my own desire to move towards interior design myself.
This complex needs a lot of work, which only makes things that much more exciting. I love change.
I feel we need to take the redesign in the *contemporary mountain ranch* direction. The owners and the designer are all on board. I pulled a bunch of inspiration online and compiled it onto a board on Pinterest. You can view my ideas here.
We have an aggressive time line to follow so expect to be seeing some exciting updates in the near future!