April 30. It’s a memorable day. Today it’s especially memorable as it’s April 30 and my boy Matthew is turning 30. What will happen this decade? We both have no idea.
I am a birthday fanatic. I am that person on Facebook who is posting photos of google image search cakes with your name written in icing, I am sending you birthday cards in the mail that have a envelope covered in glitter and stickers, I am tracking down presents that I desperately hope will make you smile, I am emailing you videos of me singing happy birthday (totally out of tune), I am making you birthday cupcakes full of funfetti sprinkle love. I have a entire drawer full of birthday cards, I’m a Etsy birthday card buyer-aholic. I love birthdays!
One thing I love about birthdays is trying to make everything special and custom as possible, including the wrapping paper. I know birthdays aren’t just about birthday presents, but who doesn’t like receiving presents? Especially when they are prettily wrapped!
While wrapping all of Matthew’s presents I wanted to come up with ideas that were fun, colorful and semi related to what the contents were inside. For example, the pizza wrapping paper holds ceramic custom pizza painted dinner plates that I had a artist make for him.
I find that brown paper works well for wrapping paper. Around Christmas time I usually make snowman or Christmas light stamps that I mark all over the paper. It’s just something special that makes that gift recipient know how much you love them.
The supplies you need are simple: a roll of brown paper, markers, neon crayons, stickers, colorful tape, stickers. I also have a wild collection of scrap booking paper that I find works great to wrap small gifts (so you only use one piece) or you just tape the scrap booking paper together for larger gifts.
For this one I just taped multiple colors of bright paper together with this Monster tape that I bought last year.
I found this tape at Target and nearly fainted when I found it. I love monsters!
We love pizza. Most people know we’re slightly obsessed with pizza. We’ve been known to throw pizza parties, eat pizza for many nights every week, do art projects based on our love for pizza. We even have a pizza costume suit (maybe a picture of that one day).
So because both of these presents have pizza themed gifts inside, the wrapping paper was a must.
I was going to draw bright yellow smiley faces all over but at the last second decided to go with neon dots.
Polka dots are one of my favorite patterns, especially big colorful ones.
For this one, you might think the gift inside is shaped like the wrapping paper, but it’s not. The gift inside is a regular rectangle shape, but I love wrapping up sides to gifts to make it interesting with a handle.
Happy Birthday to my bones, Matthew! I remember your birthday 10 years when I wrapped your present in construction paper and duct tape, looks like things haven’t changed that much! Turtle kisses to you.
I could eat cilantro and lime rice by itself for dinner, and I have. You can also have it as a side dish, especially with tacos. Or you could make some chicken to put on a flour tortilla and add this rice. Oh wow, the 3rd idea is really a favorite. Later this week I will be sharing a marinated chipotle chicken recipe to make in the crockpot, which this rice will go perfect with. I love the taste of the sour lime and the kick of cilantro – this is a favorite.
Peeking is a ongoing series where I peek into other’s gardens and snoop around. If you’re in the NYC area and have a garden you’d like to share, please email me. I’d love to see what you are doing and share your garden story! For more peeking posts click here.
Have you ever been to Ohio? Have you ever met anyone from Ohio? If you have then you can probably agree that Ohio is home to some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I know I might be persuaded as my other half and his family is from Ohio and they are some of my favorite people in the world, but let’s look outside of that. The amount of times I have said “I’ve never met anyone mean from Ohio!” is high. I say it at least once a month. I know, there are probably people from Ohio that aren’t that nice but I haven’t met them! From the grocery employees in the Sparkle grocery store that I was amazed by their ringing out cheerfulness, to every single person who holds the door for me, to the woman who wrote “his and hers” on our Subway sandwich wrappers, to every single Ohio transplant I’ve met in NYC (there’s alot) – I love you all. You are all the bee’s knees.
So what does this have to do with the title of this post? Well nothing, except that my friend Steve is from Ohio and I thought this would be a perfect place to dedicate my love to “The Buckeye” state.
I met Steve from Matthew, they have that Ohio brotherhood thing going on. I quickly found out by word of mouth and seeing pictures online of his large (and growing) collection of plants. Knowing that I would fall in love with his plants and want to share them with everyone, I innocently invited myself over in a series of emails I sent to him. Steve kindly (of course) obliged and let me take some pictures and talk to him about his plants.
One of Steve’s earliest memories of plants starts in Ohio with a strawberry plant at his family’s house. From there he moved to Chicago where the collection truly started, a few at first and eventually growing into handfuls of planted pots that now reside in his Brooklyn apartment that lines all free window space. Sadly none of his plants have human like names (I volunteered a few but Steve seemed disinterested in this idea), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them. When he showed me around the plants introducing me to them, you could tell how excited he was to talk about them and share their stories of where they came from, how some plants have been split into multiple generations, and up keep. He told me a story of how he left on vacation once with post-it notes on every single plant that had directions for his roommates to water his plants. When he came back, everything was fine, except one plant that he left with no post-it note. Noone seemed to notice how it eventually became brown, begging for water and eventually toppling over. His heart was broken. But because he has so much love for his plants, he nursed it back to health and even though it’s not growing vertically straight anymore, it’s healthy and green.
So let’s meet Steve’s plants. At the end I included a little questionnaire that I asked him to fill out and pick his favorites.
When you walk in you are greeted with so many pots of green. Steve says his favorite plant is the Jade plant in the middle on the black table, which has since been separated into multiple Jade plants throughout his apartment.
There is one rack that houses about 20 individual plants.
A star of this rack is this plant that hangs over the edge with its beautiful “hair”.
This is a beautiful hen and chicks plant. The “hen” is the main plant, and the “chicks” are the offspring.
Who doesn’t need a refreshing spritz of water?
This here is the Jade plant that I discussed up above that Steve has nursed back to health. Doesn’t it look great?
These are cuttings of his Moses-in-the-Cradle plant that are rooting. They will be planted into their own pot very soon.
Steve has a big pot of overflowing basil that any kitchen cook would be uber jealous of. I smelled this plant about 8 times in my visit.
This is a baby spider plant that he’s transplanting soon.
This purple heart plant has a funny story. Steve was visiting New Orleans where he came across many of these growing throughout the city but didn’t have the heart to sneak one from someone’s garden so instead he found this one growing near a stop sign, where he pulled it out and the took it back with him to New York. From New Orleans to Brooklyn…
Now let’s go look at the plants on the other side of the apartment. Of course there are some plants seated midway as well when you walk through the space.
The other side of the apartment gets slight dimmer light but is great for these big plants here.
This is his Dieffenbachia plant, also known as “dumb cane”. These are great plants to have if you don’t have alot of sunlight as they do well in shade. I named him “Big Guy”. Kids and pets should be kept away from this guy though as it is toxic if ingested.
This is a Golden Pothos plant that has heart shaped leaves. These plants can reach up to 7 feet which you can see in this picture it is pretty close to. Bonus: Golden Pothos is a powerful plant that can improve indoor air quality.
Don’t give up the plants either! I also love the little ornaments decorated in between the plants such as the set of trains on this mantle or the Model T (under the Ohio flag a few pictures up) – all made by his grandfather!
This is another Jade plant that came from the original one in the first picture (his favorite plant). I love seeing generations – great grandpa, grandpa, papa, son, baby, baby baby.. that’s what I would name them.
Thanks Steve for taking the time to let me meet your plants and share them with everyone who appreciates brightening your home with green. It was truly a joyous afternoon to learn all about them.
And as a bonus, I was left in the kitchen alone so I snapped these too:
This wooden duck that his grandpa made holds a recipe to a broccoli and cheddar dish that I bet is delicious.
Thanks again Steve! Hope you all his enjoyed meeting his plants!
I hope everyone had a great week. For me this week started on the chilly side wearing a hat and a coat to the store, while it ended sitting on the roof in short sleeves basking in the glory of the sun. Speaking of the sun, I always forget to bring my sunglasses to the roof and then I can’t see for the next few hours. I have sensitive eyes, you blue eyed people know what I’m talking about. I bought these super cute sunglasses in Disney World in 2011 that I fell in love with and wore them every minute outside, but last summer they took a fall and cracked in the middle. In the next few weeks a friend is visiting Disney so I have her on the lookout for them, if she finds them I will cry.
One sure sign of Spring is seeing one of our rhododendron plants opening up. I love watching it’s slow progress.
Seeing sidewalks and parks full of blooming flowers is another sign. Today I walked by the most beautiful display of tulips in front of a apartment building but I forgot to take a picture.
Today we planted potatoes that went bad. We try this every year and sometimes it works great, sometimes not. This is our annual experiment. But besides that, how pretty are these potatoes?
We also are planting radishes for the first time this year. I buried the seeds today.
Peek-a-boo! The first green bean is breaking it’s way through the soil.
The greenhouse came off the broccoli and cauliflower!
Every year the garden expands a little bit more. This is the basic layout for this year.
On the food side this week..
I had some delicious salted cabbage and pork soup. This bowl was giant and I regretted eating the entire thing, but at the same I don’t regret it because it was so good.
M-Shangai in Brooklyn has some of the best soup pork dumplings you will have. If you are ever in NYC, please go here for lunch or dinner. You will fall in love!
A friend got some chicken lo mein. Their noodles are always so thick here. I usually get this but with shrimp, it’s also delicious.
For lunch one day I got a slice of pizza from Vinnie’s. Vinnie’s is known for making crazy and creative pizza. They sell everything from BBQ chicken/bacon pizza, Macaroni and cheese pizza, pico de gallo/spicy chicken/tortilla chips pizza, black beans/avocado/feta pizza, eggplant/marinara/ricota pizza. They sell lots of kinds of pizza! On this specific day their special is “Greenpoints Finest” and since Greenpoint is the Polish community of Brooklyn it’s cheese and potato pierogie, caramelized onions, cheddar and sour cream pizza. All 3 friends I was with got this slice but I can’t deal with sour cream so instead I got a garlic/pesto/tomato slice which was super delicious.
Matthew has been begging for fried ice cream the last few weeks. He ate it at Chi-Chi’s as a child growing up and has been craving it, so I found a copycat recipe and made it. He loved it. I loved it. We ate this in about 1 minute. I plan on making a full post on this delicious dessert soon.
I made chocolate chip granola bars. We ate them all. I’m making more tomorrow. I’m also making some for friends and am going to wrap them real pretty.
My beautiful friend Jessie was visiting from Florida so we spent a afternoon eating dumplings, trying on rompers at a vintage store and just gossiping. I’ve missed her dearly. She should move back to NYC!
We watched our cats play a game on our iPad. Eventually Brother scored 100 points and it made a scoring sound and he got so scared he ran away.
I woke up for one minute, came back to sleep and this is what I saw. Xanadu already stole my side of the bed.
We went to the first playoff game in Brooklyn as we’re big Nets fans. We’re season ticket holders for the Nets and the games have been really fun this year but there was amazing playoff energy. Unfortunately the Nets are currently down 2-1, so hoping they come back so we can go to more games. I’m not ready for my nightly chocolate/caramel/cheddar popcorn to end.
We’ve had some full moons this this week too. I took this picture during the night half asleep, I was worried I never hit the shutter button.
Have a great weekend everyone! Pick some flowers from your garden, or buy some from the corner store. You deserve it!
As I’m beginning to write this, FiFi Bofinkles is at my feet. She’s circling me, she’s rubbing up against my ankles, every now and then 2 paws appear on my knee caps and she begins to rub them. Her green eyes meet my blue ones, I fall in love all over again.
FiFi came to us in 2009 and to say she has stole my heart is a big understatement. The story of her arrival though wasn’t expected.
In 2009 we went to a cat show here in New York called “Meet the Breeds”. It’s basically a show where you can walk around and pet and baby talk every single breed of cat. For those obsessed with cats, this is basically the greatest day of the year. There Matthew and I met a white Persian cat named Georgia. Matthew fell in love. He took pictures with her, snuggled in her fur, and then on the subway ride home it was all about Georgia. At that time we “only” had 2 cats, Xanadu and Essy, but were thinking about adding a 3rd. So we set off on a online journey to visit all the shelters and Craigslist to see if we could find and rescue a Persian cat. After a few days we came across a Persian named Chloe. She was beautiful. We sent a email and a few days later we had a interview to meet Chloe in Brooklyn Heights. There we met Chloe and hoped we would all get along. There was another cat there in the apartment that the owners were looking for a home for too, but we didn’t pay much attention to her as our attention was on Chloe. A few days later we received a disappointing email saying they decided to go with another family for Chloe, someone who was more familiar with the grooming process with Persians. Then the email went on to say that their other cat, the ordinary one that noone paid much attention to next to Princess Chloe, still needed a home and she seemed to fall in love with Matthew during the visit – did we want to adopt her? My heart was broken. How could we say no to this innocent kitty? The next day I was picking FiFi up in a cab with a catnip banana. FiFi came with her own stroller too – I’m not kidding – but that explains basically everything about her. The owners told me that FiFi was born in the South, sold in a pet store looking very sickly where her original owner bought her out of worry. Eventually she moved from the South to New York City. She’s 100% Southern Belle.
On the cab ride home she cried, I rubbed her cheeks through the cat carrier. Then we got home and she was pretty terrified of her new surroundings so she hid under the couch for the next few days. I was heart broken again, I wanted her to feel safe. So for the next few days while she hid under the couch, I set up my work station on the floor in front of the couch. I worked on my laptop, read, ate lunch on that floor. FiFi came closer to me everytime I put my hand under the couch to try to talk her out. Eventually she came out, head first, belly next, finally her entire body. There she rubbed her head all over my lips again and again and again. FiFi we learned quickly had alot of love to give. There the name FiFi Bofinkles was created as it randomly came out of my mouth.
Years later – FiFi Bofinkles adopted me to the role of her best friend and protector. She is everywhere where I am. If I’m sleeping, she’s on my pillow. If I’m on my computer, she’s on my desk. If I’m working out, she’s stretched out in Yoga like positions on my mat, if I’m in the shower, she’s outside of it pawing to get in, if I’m washing dishes she’s on the counter between me and the sink, if I’m trying to entertain a friend she’s on my lap wondering why I’m not paying her full attention. My FiFi Bofinkles, she’s everywhere. And no matter where she is, she’s demanding kisses. I’ve often said we could get her a kissing booth and she would become a billionaire. She loves kissing. Everyday she requests somewhere between 600 to 8,000 kisses. And if you make the first move and kiss her, instinct kicks in and the next hour her head will be planted your lips. She’s my kissing machine.
She came to us unexpected, and I ended up getting a best friend out of the deal. I couldn’t imagine my life without this cat. She cheers me up when I’m sad, she tells me I’m special in her own way, she loves me. I’m spoiled by such a special girl.
So let’s meet FiFi Bofinkles, she’s quite a character….
FiFi Bofinkles, can you wake up? I want to introduce you to some friends.
Yes, you. Can you wake up?
I’m sorry that I woke you.
No, don’t fall back sleep again.
Ok, Ok, I get it. You are tired.
Ok, go back to sleep….
Let’s try it again. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?
Let me put my hand on your head. No FiFi Bofinkles, don’t fall down and go to sleep again..
Look, if you let me introduce you then we can kiss later. I thought that would get your attention.
I wanted to show everyone how cuddly you were and how you push yourself under my blanket.
I wanted to show everyone how you jump in my lap, put your paws over my arm, demand my hands as a pillow and fall asleep.
Oh man, I lost your attention again..
I know you aren’t sleeping, you were just awake.
Again, with the yawns..
I wanted to show everyone how cute your little wet pink nose is. Can I do that?
I’m not one to pick favorites in the garden but I will say my heart skips a bit faster when I see a full head of broccoli growing. Last year we had pretty great success with our broccoli with sizes that I couldn’t even dream of, so this year I’m hoping for the same. I know, I’m putting pressure on the broccoli, but I’m very supportive too so it works out.
Last year we had many heads of broccoli, much of when I froze to use in recipes all summer long. There was a week straight where we were cutting off multiple big heads of broccoli every single day.
Broccoli – last year.
Cauliflower though, that’s another story. We’ve never had great success with cauliflower. In the first few years we grew cauliflower about the size of half dollars. Then last year, we were growing decent size ones (although still on the smaller size) and both Hurricane Sandy and then a aphid apocalypse hit – both not being kind to the cauliflower. So this year, if I can be ever so bold I’m hoping for not only big broccoli again, but I’m hoping for some big cauliflower heads too! I’d love to snack on them, steam them, eat them raw, melt cheese on top, hug them and whisper sweet nothings. Please cauliflower, please!
Cauliflower – last year.
So a few weeks ago, on April 6 we transplanted the broccoli and cauliflower seedlings to the roof where they have been living under a green house since. Doing the containers for these plants really feels like the start of the gardening season because it really is about the garden basics of building the containers, turning soil, planting. Once the containers are built then they are recycled throughout the rest of the year with other plants depending on the season. It’s a process that leaves us a bit tired and needing a nap afterwards, but we cant nap because we’re too excited.
The rest of this post is very picture heavy with how we prepare the containers, and some progress shots up to yesterday!
The plants don’t get transplanted until the greenhouse is built as they will live under this for a few weeks. It’s been up and down in the weather here with some nights going below freezing, so it’s very important they have a warm home. In early March we endured the chilly weather and put the green house up and replaced the plastic.
Then all the containers get removed from under the tarps where they sat all winter. In the last few years we have collected many containers! Hint: If you’re in a city, look for them outside on the curb on trash nights, it can save you lots of money! Just make sure they aren’t cracked.
Get your muscles ready because this is the hard part. All the containers need to be emptied so you can flip the potting mix, give it nutrients and set up the pipes. All of our containers are sub-irrigated so they get watered through a feed tube which them waters the plants from the bottom. We use 2 types of pipes depending on what we have available, they both work equally well. In the box above we use corrugated piping.
Or you can use PVC piping cut up. Just make sure you always leave a hole for the watering feed tube.
When starting the containers, add a little bit of potting mix at the bottom and add water. Pat this soil down so it becomes firm with the piping. This is starting the wicking process which will continue to water your plants throughout the season.
Keeping add potting mix to all the containers. Reminder, if you are using containers, use potting mix! Potting mix is officially one of my best friends.
Add Perlite to all your containers and mix it around with the potting mix. Perlite allows drainage and access for the water to move around in.
Keeping doing this until all your boxes are filled.
Then give them all one last sprinkle of water on top. You want that potting mix wet (not soaked though).
Now you want to give your containers some food for those vegetables to eat later on. We like this plant food, it’s worked well for us.
Just dig into the edges of the box with your gloved hand, sprinkle plant food and then cover it up. Your plants will love you for this!
Now it’s plastic time. What? Ok, so you built these amazing containers! But you want to keep the moisture IN the containers. And let me tell you if you are growing on a roof and it’s getting beamed by the sun, you are going to need all the moisture you can get because everything will dry out very quickly. So we cover every single container up with plastic.
Rip a hole in the plastic for the feed tube, then tape the plastic on. Make sure you use tape that can endure all weather conditions.
Do this for all the containers. If you have 2 people, that’s best case scenario as one person can hold the plastic while the other one tapes it. At least once Matthew accidentally tapes my hand to a container.
One more thing before you add your plants – first water your containers. You want to drill a hole into every single box – this hole should reside at the top of the inside of the pipes. When the containers are watered, these pipes will fill up with water to the top, touch your soil and continue the wicking process.When water comes out, the plant has enough water. This way you always know the plant isn’t under or over watered. Now fill up every single box until water comes out of the water drainage hole.
This box was watered, it’s coming out, so it has enough water. Note: Move shoe out of the way so foot does not get soaked – ooops.
Now finally – we can transplant the broccoli and cauliflower!
These are the broccoli and cauliflower seedlings. The seeds were planted January 12 and this picture was taken April 6 so they were growing inside for almost 3 months. There are 24 plants in all – 12 broccoli, 12 cauliflower.
Can we talk about how big their roots became in those 3 months?
Each container gets 4 plants so we evenly distribute the broccoli to all grow together and the cauliflower to grow together.
6 containers x 4 plants = 24 in all.
I’m always in awe of the beauty of the seedlings.
I love them so much.
Then one by one, we make holes in the plastic and the seedling gets transplanted inside. Pat it down, make it a nice home in that potting mix.
I gave this one a nice little pat and told it that I loved it very much.
Every single one was planted. But it was still March so they needed protection. The greenhouse goes on…
Tip: It gets cold at night so if you fill up old bottles with water – the water heats up the in the green house, causing the temperature to rise in the greenhouse. If you ever open your greenhouse during the afternoon and feel one of these bottles you’ll be surprised by how warm it is.
And then you cover them up, tuck them in and wish them well. Now the exciting part that causes me high anxiety.. the waiting!
But what I love even more, tracking their progress!
A few days later we see they have transitioned nicely to their new containers.
These were taken April 8 – 2 days after transplanting.
Then a week after transplanting on April 13, we are noticing them grow in size..
Then it really starts to get wild/exciting/makes me want to dance.
This was taken yesterday – April 22, 16 days after transplanting.
Check out that growth! I love you guys. Every single one of you 24 beautiful plants. You make my day!
I love you beautiful.
I love every single one of you!
Keep growing big and strong. You make one girl very happy.
My favorite taco casserole recipe! This is one of my family’s favorite dinners!
This recipe is up there in the favorites. When I first made it, we had it 2 more times that following week. Since then we’ve had it almost once a week. Even though there’s only 2 of us, we usually finish a entire casserole ourselves. We really really really really love it. Who doesn’t like tacos? Who doesn’t like casseroles? Who doesn’t like cheese on top? It’s like a dream world scenario!
More reasons why this makes me have happy dreams at night:
Taco Casserole Recipe
It’s easy to make.
You can make it early in the day, store it in the fridge and then cook it at night.
It’s pretty – the red and green colors are lovely!
It has cheese on top! Did I mention that already? Sorry.
Feel free to customize it too. You can add a onion if you’d like. Maybe throw some crushed chips on top, or some avocado slices. Just please try this!
Here’s all your ingredients. You might even have everything you need already in your cabinets.
Measure your elbows (the noodles)..
And boil until al dente.
Drain, and set aside.
Chop up your green pepper. If you’d like to add a onion, this would be the time to chop that up too.
Put it in your pan..
Add your ground beef.
Then mix it all around so everything gets that delicious green pepper taste (and smell!) to it.
After the meat is brown, add your tomato soup.
Then your diced tomatoes. In the summertime I will make these fresh but for now the canned version will do.
Then add your beloved packet of taco seasoning.
Mix it all around. Oh man, the smell, you can’t beat it.
Then add your elbow noodles.
And mix it good so everything is covered in that sauce mixture.
At this time it’s totally ok to test it. You should. I did. Even two spoons. Noone is looking. We’re all friends here.
Transfer the casserole to a baking dish.
Measure out your cheese.
And spread it on top. At this time I usually take a big handful of cheese from the bag and eat it too. Cheese, I love you.
Because I planned on making it that evening, some plastic wrap went on top and into the refrigerator it went.
When you’re ready to make it..
Pop it into the oven and then enjoy! It’s really that easy!
One cheesy taco casserole will be yours. All yours! Ok, you probably have to share.
Serve, make sure you get some of that cheese on top. If any cheese falls off into the casserole dish, fight for it. You deserve it.
There’s been some progress in the garden this week with some of our favorite greens. There’s broccoli (my loves), cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, onions, spinach and sugar snap peas. That’s alot of great green! So here’s a quick update on some of the plants…
One of the spinach plants needed to be transplanted as it was growing too big inside. So we took it out to plant it in the sugar snap pea box…
You dig a little hole..
Shake it out of it’s container it grew in, then put it on the hole you dug. Then pat it down.
Now it’s all planted!
A few days later and it’s transitioned quite nicely. Eventually there will be 2 more spinach plants that will join this guy.
Right now though the spinach is surrounded by sugar snap peas. They all place nice together though.
Speaking of the sugar snap peas. This was them just a week ago, slowly coming up here or there..
And this is them now.. every single one came up. We will have to weed them out later this week.
Some other before/afters:
This is the Brussels Sprouts last week.
This is them now!
This is the kale last week..
This is the kale now!
This was the lettuce last week..
This is the lettuce now!
So as you can see, more green is showing up! Check out those onions in the middle, we spotted some mini bulbs growing under the soil today!
We also got the older Rhododendron plant a little brother…
This one is white and pink in color, I spotted some pink already trying to peek out today. I love Rhododendrons, I want a entire section in the garden full of them.
So now we just wait and continue to give all the plants sunny Spring days… (hi helicopter)
And water to keep them growing!
I love watching the progress of all our plants, it’s really special to see them so small in this stage and then compare them in a month. I can’t wait!
A few days ago it was 70 degrees so I made my way up to the roof with my phone full of music, a banana, a water bottle and a goal to clean up the strawberries. A banana was eaten, water was drank, I danced to music (sorry to all spectators) and the strawberries were cleaned up.
Strawberries tend to get in the Spring spirit rather quickly. In the winter time their leaves turn brown and crisp and they stay like this for the first few weeks of Spring. You start to worry about them. It happens every year. Then suddenly you spot a few green leaves. Thea a few days later, some more. A week later, each bucket has green shining from it. A few days more and you let out a sigh of relief, they are ok. The strawberries are tough guys, they can take care of themselves for the most part. They just like to arrive to the party fashionably late, all dressed in beautiful red (Game of Thrones fans, I just thought of Melisandre while writing that, I pictured the strawberries in red flowing robes).
To get a idea of how quickly they change..
This was taken April 8.
And this one April 13.
And this one April 17.
So as you can see there was alot of new green, but there was also old brown leaves. And green/brown is too camouflage for the strawberries so I needed to give them a makeover.
These were my beauty tools.
You need to be careful when cutting the old brown leaves and stems as sometimes there is a fresh new stem in there sometimes hiding. If I cut any green, I would have cried. I thought about it about 24 times while I was cutting.
Look at how pretty that first bucket looks! Looking good strawberries. Now a bunch more buckets to go..
These buckets here were full of lots of new green growth so I had to be extra careful and not cut as much off.
A crate became full of winter leaves…
All to make way for spring beauty!
Looking good strawberries!
Finally, after I had to stretch my back multiple times and thought I might need a back brace, the strawberries were done and all cleaned up.
Now we just wait for the first signs of strawberry flowers… and then the excitement really begins!
You’re about to become everyone’s favorite at any gathering!
I love green bean casserole. It reminds me of holidays, friends, smiles. I also love it because it’s green and beautiful. A few days ago around midnight, Matthew came into the bedroom where I was reading and asked if we could have green bean casserole “tomorrow”. I told him we would gather the ingredients the next day. Then I came to thinking how I made broccoli casserole last year and I loved it so much, so why don’t we mix these beans and brocs and make a delicious green bean and broccoli casserole? I can’t be happier about how it came out! In the recipe below I am using frozen vegetables which adds simplicity in the time saving department.
Stir in frozen beans, frozen broccoli and 1 cup fried onions. Stir good.
Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes. (Make sure it's hot inside)
Stir it, then top your remaining 1/2 cup onions on top.
Bake 5 more minutes until your onions are golden brown.
We are getting down to the nitty gritty with saved frozen vegetables from the garden last year. I found these guys hiding in the back of the freezer, they are the last bag.
Here are all your ingredients.
Cream of mushroom soup – I love you.
Does anyone eat cream of mushroom soup by itself? I don’t but I can imagine how good it would be as I always lick the spoon clean after scooping it out.
Then add your milk.
Mix it! Arm workout!
Add pepper and stir again!
Add your frozen beans..
Then your frozen broccoli…
Here are your fried onions. Truth: I don’t like onions. I’m really picky about them. But for some reason I’m 100% fine with these fried onions – how that makes sense, I have no idea.
Sprinkle your onions in..
Then more arm power and keep mixing..
Until you have a creamy beautiful mixture that looks like that. Into the oven it goes..
Then 40 minutes later, this lovely smelling dish comes out.
We want to add some more onions to crisp the top. This will really make the casserole extra special!
5 more minutes until they’re slightly browned on top.
Oh man, about this time Matthew just happily showed up in the kitchen. I slapped his hands away.
Many people serve bean/broccoli casserole as a side, but we had it for a man dish with some toasted garlic bread/bread rolls. There is creaminess residing in the casserole so you want to have some bread to dip in..
Serve away! Just wait for the “ooohs” and “aahhs” and “iloveyous”.
Last year I begun collaborating with Home Depot and Miracle Gro to be their Northeast Gardeniere. The Gardenieres are described on their website as “A group of hand-picked green thumbs led by gardening master, William Moss. They’re passionate, real-life gardening personalities with real-world experience when it comes to growing anything, most anywhere.” A film crew came out to visit our roof and we made some fun videos that hopefully gave helpful tips on how urban gardening can be easy (and cheap!). This year I will be working with them again and in the next few weeks we’ll be filming more videos both on the roof, as well as I will be visiting some other locations to help share the garden vegetable love.
Here are the videos we filmed. You can also see me on the Home Depot website here. It’s a dream to be on the Home Depot website as the store is like my 2nd home, and conveniently only 2 blocks away!
Some people have mentioned that they have seen me on Hulu and on TV in Gardeniere commercials. I’m sorry for interrupting your show, think of it as a great time to grab a snack together! Also sorry for some (many) of my cheesy moments, it’s just how I am
Here are some behind the scenes pictures from the filming:
Here’s some of the crew on the roof. Our vegetables behaved their very best that day. It does look like it’s going to pour though..
The strawberries were a little shy, but eventually they loved the spotlight.
I work bright green socks..
So they could match my bright green broccoli and kale.
I believe Matthew took this picture, he snuck up to the other roof.
I can’t wait to show you some more videos as the season continues.
Is there anything you think I should film – tips, how-tos? Let me know in the comments please.
Hello, I’m Pamela and I love this breakfast sandwich.
I have 2 things I really want to say about this beautiful egg and cheese sandwich.
1). I debated posting this on the blog for a long time because of how easy it is. Finally I decided simple or not, it’s special to me and deserves it’s own glory in a post.
2). I really really love this sandwich. Let me tell you how it all started…
A couple years ago we started teaching a early AM digital photography class. Prior to this I did not eat breakfast as I would usually wake up later in the morning and go straight to lunch, but needing something to eat in the morning and wanting to sleep in, I started a dangerous route in eating breakfast sandwiches from 7-11. This would be my breakfast right before class began:
Now don’t get me wrong – I love 7-11 breakfast sandwiches, after all it started my love affair with making my own, but one day I took a look at the nutrition facts on these and looked at my scale rising and realized these were not going to be good in the long run. So I set out to make my own. My rules were they had to be quick to make and delicious. I wanted them to be better than 7-11, it was a competition (7-11 just didn’t know about it).
So I gathered the simplest supplies at the grocery store: Thomas English Muffins, American Cheese Slices, Eggs. There the love of my life was born, my favorite breakfast sandwich in the world. To say I am crazy in love with these would be a understatement. I have approximated I have eaten 325 of these in the past year. I find I actually eat healthier when I start my day off with sandwich because I consider it a favorite treat so by 1PM, I feel like I have spoiled myself. Then for the rest of the afternoon I can snack on fruit and nuts and totally be happy with it. Just thinking of this egg sandwich makes me so happy. I can’t wait for tomorrow morning!
How much do I love them?
When I wen to London, I made them every single morning for breakfast:
I ate one for Christmas breakfast last year:
I ate one for Easter breakfast this year:
Do you see the path I’m leading you down? I’m trying to make you love his egg sandwich as much as I do so you can have 30 pictures of the same egg sandwich on your phone like I do.
So here it is, your 260 calorie breakfast sandwich.
Crack your egg into a bowl, whisk it and microwave for 1 minute.
Take your English Muffin and cut it in half.
Take your egg out of the microwave, remove it with a fork and put on bottom part of muffin.
Take your cheese, rip in half, and put on top of the egg.
Put top half of muffin on top of sandwich.
Put in toaster oven until the top is slightly browned, this usually takes about 8-10 minutes.
These are your ingredients, simple. I love Thomas’s, I love them more when they are on sale. A word about cheese, I’m a Kraft singles girl, I can’t help. I bought some organic American cheese slices from Trader Joe’s last week and was underwhelmed so I use it on Matthew’s egg sandwich when I make him one. For me, it’s Kraft all the way.
Take an egg.
Crack it in microwave safe bowl.
Whisk it with a fork. Now put the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute.
What comes out is one cooked egg that is easy to get out with a fork. Cut your muffin in two. Get your cheese slice ready.
Throw your egg on the bottom part..
I like to rip my cheese in half as it assures no cheese will be wasted melting off the sides. I want all the cheese!
Put the top of the muffin on..
Then into the toaster oven it goes..
There is a smell the muffin makes when it is ready. You will learn to love and appreciate this delicious smell.
Oh beautiful, how are you doing? Be careful and let it cool for a minute or the cheese will burn you.
This is my go to breakfast usually served with dried fruit and decaffeinated tea.
This year we are flipping our boxes around a little bit. In the past we have grown 2 boxes of sugar snap peas and 1 box of some type of variety of pole bean, but this year we are growing 2 boxes of pole green beans and 1 box of sugar snap peas which will grow up the trellis. Did that confuse you?
So with the sugar snap peas all planted (and all have sprouted!) we moved on to planting the green beans. We’ve had pretty good success with pole beans as we support them with built in box trelis or wire fencing. I know some of you probably grow bush beans but we’ve always found that pole beans grow better for us.
This year we are trying 2 types of green beans: Kentucky Wonder (description found online: Kentucky Wonder is a wonderful heirloom variety with good old-fashioned taste. Pioneers depended on the harvest from this 6-8 foot tall variety, and generations of children have snapped the flat, straight, 6-8 inch long, silvery green pods. Many remember Grandma serving the freshly steamed tender pods, so full of that rich beany flavor.) Blue Lake (description found online: This vigorous 7 foot tall variety made Oregon’s Willamette Valley famous in the 60s and 70s for canning beans. The smooth, 6-7 inch, dark green pods have a canning jar straight, round shape. Harvested at their peak, you’ll find them tender, meaty, and full of hearty, fresh bean flavor.)
We get very excited for bean and pea season here. Afternoon summer lunches are filled with fresh beans and a little pasta. For dinner they get eaten fresh, stir fries, casseroles. And snacks – green beans with a little sea salt on – does it get any better?
So let’s plant some green beans..
The box above and below are the boxes we are planting the green beans in. They are 4×4 wood boxes.
We dug out trenches near where the beans will grow because we wanted to give the soil a energy boost!
Worm castings – mmmm! Your soil will love you if you can give it some of this!
Then we just fill in each trench with the castings.
And the other trench.
Then we cover the castings up, pat it all down. Good now your soil is feeling revitalized!
Poke holes in the ground where you’re going to plant your beans. We do 2 rows of 7 holes – which means every box will have 14 green bean plants.
A fence will eventually go up between the row of plants for them to climb up. We won’t put the fence in until all the plants have risen to the surface so we can see them.
These are the 2 types we’re trying. I got them at the Home Depot. The variety of pole beans isn’t as wide as bush beans. I wish we could have found some wax pole beans – maybe in the Fall I will special order them.
Kentucky Wonder beans are brown.
We always plant 2 to be safe.
Here’s the Blue Lake beans. They’re nice white in color.
Again, 2 per hole. Usually they both come up, and then we have to pick favorites and yank one out. I usually cry.
This year we used this pea booster on the sugar snaps so we’re doing it again on the beans.
You sprinkle a little bit in each hole..
Enough is sprinkled so you cover up the beans.
Then you’re going to cover up the beans, and pat down the soil. Pat it down so they’re all tucked in.
Then comes your plants favorite drink – water. Get them nice and wet.
Brother Bear is our very special cat. He gets lots of special attention for many reasons:
-He’s the only boy.
-He’s the baby.
-He’s very fluffy.
-He has the softest meow in the world.
-He is scared of thunder.
-He loves kisses.
-He just wants to hang out, he’s our bodyguard cat.
-When we first got him, he was going through tough times with different illnesses. After many trips to the vet, operation, quarantine, we gained his trust for always being there and telling him it was going to be ok. It wasn’t easy in the beginning.
Brother is a Maine Coon, also known as the breed of gentle giants, and that is what he is. He’s 15 pounds of strong body, but has the gentlest baby like personality.
We’re in love with him. I just wanted to tell you. You can totally be in love with him too. He is a good guy.
Below is one morning with him..
When I wake up I can usually find him in this blue bed during the Spring time mornings. He has the best yawns.
He has the fluffiest “wings”.
Then he jumped down onto a box and put his head down. This is his preferred way of laying.
He can stay like this for hours, and does.
So I like to crawl under him and rub his chin.
Every now and then he will let me touch his toes.
But not much. “Don’t touch the toes Mom”.
Then Xanadu showed up and plopped herself on my belly. But back to the Brother show..
He will follow airplanes in the sky…
His paws are always stretched out in the most elegant manner.
When he looks up at you with those eyes – Oh man, I melt. After I took this picture I just picked him up and kissed him all over.
And when you call for him, he runs. He’s happy, he’s excited. It’s the best feeling in the world to get home and see Brother Bear run for you, just to rub his cheeks all over your ankles.
Tortilla chips are a favorite of ours to snack on, especially Matthew’s. I’ve found a number of sharp tortilla chip crumbs in bed that stab me to know he likes a good bowl of chips to snack on while reading before bed. With the chips running low, I set off to create our own. There are a few great things about making homemade tortilla chips. You get to mix and match! You can try a bunch of different flavors instead of just picking one flavor in the store. The other great thing is the price! Tortilla chips usually cost us $4-$5 for a bag, more if they are gourmet/fancy flavored. A bag of 30 (!) corn tortillas in my local grocery store cost me $1.25. I haven’t done the price comparison by weighing them yet but I can bet you I’m saving more than a few dollars here.
I wanted to try a few different flavors with these so I did made 3 kinds:
I thought I was going to have a winner on picking but when trying to pick a favorite I can’t. The salted were expected to be great and they were. The cinnamon sugar was like a dessert chip, it hit my sweet tooth that needs daily love. The Parmesan was savory.
Next time I’m going to try to make some seasoned with cumin – can you imagine cumin tortilla chips with salsa? Oh my. I think I just created my new favorite snack.
Corn Tortillasone equals 4 chips so use as many as you need
Seasonings (This is up to you!)
Cinnamon + Sugar
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Stack tortillas and cut them into 4 triangles.
Spread them out on a on a cookie sheet. They need to be 1/4-1/2 inch apart from each other.
Put desired seasonings on top.
Bake 8-10 minutes (check every minute after 8) until edges are brown.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Grab your handy bag of corn tortillas. Can I tell you how much I love pepper steak tacos on these? That’s another post though…
Take them out the bag, it’s up to you how many you want to make. Each tortilla will make 4 hearty chips.
It’s totally ok if your tortillas are weird in shape, it adds character.
Grab a knife..
Cut in half..
Gather your pile of soon to be delicious chips.
Now, something important. To get them to bake crisp you need to make sure there is at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch in between each one. If they are closer, they are going to be soft. We want crunchy for these.
Now on to the seasonings..
You can do sea salt, just a sprinkle goes a long way.
Or a little bit of Parmesan cheese. You can add some Cheddar too – yum!
Or possibly my favorite (I haven’t decided yet), cinnamon sugar!
First the sugar..
Then the cinnamon! Oh my!
Throw them in the oven and keep a eye on them. They should take 8-10 minutes until the edges turn brown. Mine took about 9 minutes. Watch them for every minute after 8. Seriously, keep a eye on them, keep checking, don’t be too careful – they will burn quick.
These are the sea salt chips. Just a simple taste of salt…
These are the Parmesan cheese…
And these are the magical cinnamon sugar! I’m still not picking a favorite..
Hello old and new friends. Welcome to Brooklyn Farm Girl!
This site has been in the works for many years in my mind but it was never made due to guilt for my previous blog. It was hard to say goodbye to such a great blog that housed so many of my thoughts and contents for years. Finally I found a way to merge together all the worlds I love on Brooklyn Farm Girl.
World Garden – From Seeds to Harvest
World Food – Cooking anything and everything
World Cats – I just love cats a whole lot
This place now feels like home. I invite you to sit down and let me attempt to entertain you. Even if the jokes aren’t funny, try to smile a little bit, it makes me feel better. 🙂
I will be working hard to make new posts often with gardening tips, yummy recipes and life adventures.
I hope you stick around. If you ever want to say hi, just leave a comment or say hi to me on facebook or twitter. I love when people say hello.
This week it ranged in the 40’s and 50’s, and next week it’s set to have multiple days in the 70’s. I guess Spring is officially saying hello to us as it’s been acting like a tease. Last year at this time we already had some hot days where we could plant in shorts, but so far this year I haven’t had a day in the garden yet where I haven’t complained about being cold.
Many of the plants are on their own in the garden and don’t need much help in the early stages. They’re in green houses, doing what I imagine (and hope) is having lazy days and throwing dance parties at night. I still have hope one night I will catch the broccoli under the green house lit up with some strobes, hearing some music while the cauliflower yells to “turn it up”. I have a garden imagination.
This is said green house where parties could happen at night. Right now is that awkward period of watching the seedlings grow, wondering when you should move on with the next plants, but mostly just idling walking around the garden hoping that something sprouts.
Which is what happened when we checked out the sugar snap peas yesterday. Every single day for the past week we have raced across the roof to see who can spot the first pea. Usually it’s noone and we leave the roof disappointed, but yesterday – there were cheers! The first (and a few others who did not get this photo op) have emerged from the soil. I checked again today and not many more have appeared, so hoping by the week’s end we’ll have a full house in the sugar snap pea box.
Inside the loft we have been helping the tomato seedlings grow strong. I have to say the seedlings are looking the best they ever have this year. Every single seed came up and they’re growing at a pace where the tomato leaves are tangled up in the base of the cage of the growing light. A few days ago we had to pick favorites and weed them out. We always grow 2 seeds per cell incase one doesn’t grow but this year every single one grew.
This is the part that I can’t do and make Matthew. I feel like I’m picking a favorite child. You go through the plants and find which one looks most healthy, and cut the other one. This way the tomato plant now has the entire cell to grow and isn’t sharing space. They can let their roots spread out now, get a little more comfortable.
What you’re left with is a little sad bouquet of tomatoes that hoped to grow strong, but weren’t chosen. I can’t make this sound happier, I’m sorry, it hurts me.
Here’s the 10 tomato plants that have made it. Congratulations!
We are growing 2 beef tomato plants, 2 cherry tomato plants and 6 plants of roma varieties.
We also have a lonely spinach plant which will eventually be transplanted to the roof. I planted another seed to give it a soul mate.
The ones in the back are green pepper plants. We usually grow 2 of them and I swear (I say it every year) green pepper plants are the least hassle plants. You just grow them and leave them be. They are magical. Up front we have some basil which will be transplanted to grow downstairs in our hydroponic system.
This year we are growing our herbs downstairs. I meant to take a picture of Cilantro, Oregano and Basil but I got a little Oregano crazy I guess. We decided to plant it in the loft instead of the garden as it’s easier access to pick herbs for dinner that way, plus I love the way it grows in our Window system. I’ll be sure to make a post on that later on…
So now the tomatoes will continue to grow downstairs for a few more weeks until they move to the roof. We’ll just keep giving them water and I will sing them to sleep every night.
Hope your preparations for your garden are going well.
Treat those tomatoes nice. They deserve it.
Although some people cover their strawberries up in the winter, we don’t. We don’t feel like it affects the berries either way so we just let them be their natural selves and collect the snow on top of them. Here’s all the strawberry buckets now with their crisp leaves. Each bucket has 3-4 strawberry plants, aged from 1 year to 3 years. There’s about 40 strawberry plants here total.
We started to see signs of green spring in the younger plants… And then finally some green in the older plants this past week. Hopefully I will have some plump berries in my hands in a few months. They truly are the sweetest strawberries I have tasted! If are you thinking about growing strawberries, I would definitely recommend trying the bucket method. We’ve had great results. I talk more about growing strawberries in this video (starts around 0:35).
These Vanilla Frosting Cupcakes made with fresh spinach is a sneaky way to include vegetables in your kids diet. You won’t believe how good these are!
Now before you go reading the title and thinking I’m crazy, I just want to make it clear that I’m a genuine cupcake lover. I’ve been known to go to Crumbs, get the biggest cupcake in the display with vanilla frosting, rainbow sprinkles and eat it up in a couple bites. I’ve been known to go back for seconds. I love sweets, I love cupcakes. So when I found a recipe a few months ago saying I could make cupcakes with fresh spinach and it would taste amazing, I didn’t quite believe it. Even while making these and mixing the spinach in, I still was worried. Really, I could make cupcakes full of spinach and it was going to be good? Really? Well folks.. I have the verdict..
YES YOU CAN.
THESE CUPCAKES ARE AMAZING.
WE ARE TALKING “OMG THESE ARE MADE WITH SPINACH?! WHAT? ARE YOU LYING TO ME? NO IM NOT. “
They will probably change your life.
I have had a post-it note on my desk since June to post the recipe and finally today, I am!
Rejoice! Bake these cupcakes. They will change your life. I’m totally serious
Today we did alot of work in the garden which I will break up into separate posts. This one will be dedicated to the enemy I love, onions. What does this mean? I don’t eat onions – I cry if they are in my food. I am that person who takes very long in line because I request everything be made without onions, and if they ignore my request, then I will send it back. I will pick the onions out of salsa even if it means it will take 20 minutes and everyone will be done eating already. I don’t like the smell of onions, I pout and moan when I have to make something with onions for Matthew. But with that said, I am the garden mother of these onions so I cherish and worship them. No, I won’t eat them, but I want them to grow big and strong. Even though it’s the one thing in the garden that I will not eat, somehow I am always stuck sorting and planting them every year. Matthew calls me the “onion whisperer” because he says I am good at the meticulous job of picking all the onion seedlings apart. Man, I hate that job. It’s the worst. And let me tell you something, even if they are onion babies right now, they smell of onions. I totally overreact too. I will sit on the ground with those onion seedlings, crying, pretending I can’t breathe, holding my nose (which really makes it worse because I have onions on my fingers). It’s tough work, but it’s all for the love of one of my children, the onions.
First, let’s look at the box where all the new onions will be planted in. These onions off to the left have been there for a few months over winter, and they look like they are bouncing back so we are going to leave them and see.
Speaking of onions that made it over winter – will you check out this box of onions that are looking amazing? Matthew had fears they wouldn’t survive, but I told him to keep some hope in these onions, and look at them! Look at them!
No bulbs were spotted (yet) but they are looking strong. They’re all about 1 foot high. When they get bulbs I am going to do the happy onion dance. They deserve it.
Back to the onions we planted today. Here are all our onion seedlings. Each little soil cup has a bunch of onion seedlings in it – anywhere from 5 to 8.
Then comes the fun (not fun at all) part of sorting these onion seedlings out, one at a time. While holding each one delicately you try to untangle all the roots.
This take some time, but I have worked out a system of shaking them so they come loose pretty quickly. Onion whisperer I am.
The seedlings already have pretty intense roots going on. Each seedling grew into a big onion last year and produced a bulb larger than a baseball. Matthew said they were delicious. We are hoping for similar results this year!
So now they’re all planted. There’s 38 onions here, not counting the ones in another box. We’ll check back on them in a few months…