Monday, April 29, 2013

Pork: It's What's For Dinner

Want to hear the words "This may be the best pork I have ever eaten in my life?".

Read on.

First dash into Whole Foods after a full day of work on Saturday with a head full of menu ideas all centered around a leg of lamb.

Pick up the vegetables for the bulgur salad and the tzatziki, a package of pita bread and some plain yogurt.  Head to the meat counter.

And prepare to be crushed. One tiny boneless lamb roast. Fine for 2, not enough for 5 adults, 1 Mr. Baby and Timothy.

(One of my guests, Geoff from the farm, sent me a text and said they might bring Timothy. I text back, "great, who's Timothy, but neglect to hit send).

Quickly decide on a pork shoulder and have all recipes drain from brain, but no time to think, bus coming in 10 minutes.

Hit the house, let the cats out, walk around the garden thinking, do a spot of reading and concoct marinade.

In a food processor I put 6 peeled cloves of garlic, a handful of cilantro, chopped and then added 1/4 cup of olive oil. I moved this to a bowl and stirred in cumin, chili powder, freshly ground black pepper, the juice of 2 Myers lemons and 1 lime. I slashed the pork shoulder and  rubbed 2 T of kosher salt over every inch then slathered the roast with the marinade. I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to scent the entire house all night long.

Next morning boil bulgur, chop copious amounts of parsley, cut up a Vidalia onion, roasted red peppers, sweat a cucumber, run to the store for more lemons for the dressing and a can of garbanzo beans. Also get corn tortillas, the dinner is leaning towards South America and away from Greece. Make dressing and add beans to bowl.  Pop into garlicky smelling fridge and let salad flavors meld.

Spice some nuts, pull some weeds, let pork come to room temperature at least an hour before cooking. Pop into preheated 350 oven for an hour covered with aluminum foil then turn heat down to 275 and leave to cook for 4 hours.

Hook up with some neighbors and go to dog adoption fair. Cry behind sunglasses but smartly come home sans puppy.

Set table for 6, wonder again who Timothy is. Take out olives and homemade hummus to come to room temperature. Eat a nut. Have a few more.  Make a Myers lemon syrup for sparkling water.

For the 5th hour of cooking remove foil and spread hot pepper jelly all over pork. Find 4 ripe avocados in refrigerator and make guacamole.

When your guests all run late, take pork out, now at hour 6, slice thinly, splash with wine or stock to keep moist, return to 200 degree oven and make a latte.

Stroll around garden. The first car to arrive holds Mr. B and parents. Hug, kiss and peer inside bakery bag. Pastries!

Second car arrives, Geoff, Chuck and Timothy.

 Remove 6th plate.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Progress Report

I'm feeling grateful tonight.

Slowly but steadily I'm getting into the rhythm of "living solo", as my blogworld friend Diane suggests I call my new life.

Spring has helped greatly.

The sun comes up early and I awake to birds chirping, Lucy snuggled up to me purring and Gus watching us both from the bottom of the bed. Much nicer than an alarm clock.

I make my espresso and glass in hand take a stroll around the garden.

I admire the new growth and make a mental note of what needs to be done later.

Later means another stroll, this time with both kittens leaping around me and eventually finds me on my knees doing what else but weeding. I give myself a 7:30 work curfew.

Or if it's Wednesday I'm working out with my faithful friend Rina who in a former incarnation was a trainer.  Former my ass, she's  killing me.

Then we sit in a cafe drinking coffee and solving the problems of the world, well our worlds.

On Thursday I go to Zumba with my neighbor Rachel. We're in a groove now but that first night was a stretch. It was 85 degrees out, 95 in, my fingertips were swollen and pulsing as my body tried to cool down. I was positive I was having a heart attack. I looked around the room and yep, I was the oldest shortest person there. And I was pretty sure Rachel didn't even know my last name.

But I survived. And every week has gotten, if not easier, much more fun.

Friday, the garden. Saturday, work and more garden with some time with friends and neighbors.

Sunday I will have another group of friends to dinner.

And with me, if I'm cooking, all is right in the world.

At the end of the day I take a bath, ice my shoulder and do a 100 situps. Then, as directed, I text my friend Rina "done". Truthfully, that text is not sent every night.

And then I go out on my little back deck.

I don't look down at the nails that need to be replaced or the stain that needs to be redone. I try to ignore the lights from the hotel shining across the street.

I look up at the stars. And I feel relief that another day is done and I've taken care of myself and the kittens. We're all fed, the litter is clean and the house is filled with flowers.

It's been a bumpy few months, but with the help of friends, from real life and the internet, I'm coming back.

A little battered, a bit bruised, but kinder I think. Humbled. Though sometimes angry. That's all right too.

Of course there's always the lawn to worry about....

xo Jane

Monday, April 22, 2013

April: Flowers In The House Of Much Affection

Sunday was my favorite kind of day, sunny, breezy, cool and busy.

I was having friends for dinner and decided to make a spring lasagna with  asparagus, spinach, zucchini,green onions and a bechamel sauce finished off with pesto, parmesan and the remainder of a tub of burrata. Gotta use the oven while we still can.

The 5 year old got steamed broccoli and rice.

The 17 month old got all the attention.

The kittens got out of the way.

Everybody helped. GG and the Lab came by Saturday evening and mowed and edged the farking lawn. You know you all missed a chapter in the lawn mowing saga but let's keep that for another day.

I raked (again), pulled more weeds and oh, pulled some more weeds.

And then I picked some flowers.

Forget me nots, violas, heuchera leaves and a dash of red honeysuckle vine.

It's the first spring for the lilac.  I was hesitant about picking one of the few blossoms but then decided to give it up for Boston.
The fennel fronds and bokchoy bits are from the yard. The peony tulips and garden roses traveled from California to do their part.

 As did a foxglove but the honeysuckle and fennel are home grown.


Please don't think that the cats were just lazing about in the sun while I did all the work.
They patrolled the perimiter.
And found a fly.

Watchdog never sleeps.
We're coming by the check out your house. Please have treats at the ready.
And I have a few slices of strawberry rhubarb pie for the early birds.

So link up and eat up.

xo jane

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pay It Forward: FITH Invitation

Good Morning all.

After such a horrific week for Boston and its suburbs I feel a need to do something life affirming.

And since I can't personally give my friends in Massachusetts a big hug and an armful of flowers, I thought we could do Flowers In The House this coming Monday.

I know it's short notice but after yesterday's lockdown and the eventual capture of the remaining suspect I think we need to look forward and celebrate spring, or fall, depending on your continent.

The air here is full of pollen and the heady scents of spring. The garden holds lilacs and tulips.

And though I can't share the sneezing with you all I can bring in a few blooms and pass on the beauty and my love and affection for all my fellow bloggers.

I'll set up Mr. Linky and throw open the windows.

Let's rock this flower power party.

xo Jane

Monday, April 15, 2013

It Takes a Village

Rather it took a village to get my lawn mowed.

For years GG mowed and edged and made a pile of weeds look like a million bucks.

But this past week, and for more to come I'm sure, it fell to me to fire up the electric lawn mower.

And with my newfound respect for not overdoing things I waited just a little too long.

By the time I hauled the mower up the basement steps, figured how to plug into it, wrap the long cord around the porch railing and turned it on I was already overwhelmed.

Imagine my horror when I realized the little engine was no match for the tufts of steel grass.

When the mulch guard, or whatever you call that piece on the side, blew off and I was engulfed in clouds of tick grass, I gave it up and put it back in the basement.

I decided to borrow my neighbor Sheila's mower. She swallowed her bite of dinner and went off to unlock her shed. She brought over the mower, showed me how to get it started, and demonstrated the art of holding it at an angle so I could cut the tall grass down a layer at a time.

Which would have worked fine if I could keep it running, or barring that have the shoulder strength to give the cord a good pull and restart it whenever it sputtered. But my shoulder just wasn't that into it.

Sheila had to bring her father his dinner so drove off promising me she would help when she came back.

She's a single parent, primary caretaker of a very sick man and works full time. I  felt my yard didn't need to be added to her to do list.

Then I strolled across the street to Carlo's house and after banging on the door for a bit managed to rouse a man who was 4 pages from the end of his book and throw himself on his mercy.

He hadn't realized GG was gone and once he heard the story he threw on his Superman cape and flew on over to help.

It must have been difficult to get the job done what with kittens running about and me thanking him with every other breath I took.

He mowed, I raked and nobody edged.

My instructions are simple: mow it every week and it will never be this bad again.

Already I look forward to the heat of the summer when nothing grows. Well the grass stops growing, we'll always have Paris weeds.

And oh my God, it already needs to be cut again. And it hasn't even been a week.

But you already knew that didn't you?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hold On To Your Hats

I'll be back shortly with a real post about the trials and tribulations of mowing.

But I wanted to ask you: Gus jumped over the broom several times this morning while I was sweeping the kitchen, does this mean we are married?

And in other earthshattering news: there was a fly in the house the other night!!!!

Yes, a fly. Gasp. Doing it's thing, flying about and landing here and there.

This is a huge event in the life of two kittens.

By the time I finally joined in the hunt, with a chair to stand on and a rolled up piece of newspaper to swat with, curtains were askew, the gold mirror was almost taken off the wall and Gus, my new husband(?) was hanging over the top of the rather large flat screen TV.

Who knew?

Me thinks it's going to be an exciting summer.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In The Garden Of Good And Evil

Sunday was the day I had been waiting for since March. Sunny, breezy, blue skies and a garden full of weeds to attack.

And attack I did.

For 6 hours, with a brief interlude for lunch fed to me by the new neighbors who were attempting to host a glam brunch in the back yard, I weeded and weeded some more, cut down shrubs and toted bags of refuse up the hill to the front yard.

I filled a trash can so full it took me 2 hands and several rest stops to get it up the 5 ft. grade.
I'm sure I provided plenty of entertainment for the guests sitting all of 20 feet away.

The kittens helped. Lucy and I were both amazed by a butterfly sitting in the new little peach tree.

And Gus loved the back and forth motion of the Dutch hoe and jumped through clouds of weeds to get in on the action.

But me being me, and being born without a stop button, I managed through hours of repetive motion to give myself an all day and all night Monday migraine.

Dear God that was unpleasant.

So today when I came home from work, after trying to cut down a stream of liorpe in the front yard and being rewarded with a rush of nausea, I put down my tools, brought out a chair from inside and with a cool drink and the Sunday NYT, relaxed and enjoyed the late afternoon.

Though I know weeds wait for no man, or woman, I'm going to try approaching this from a different angle.

And although my yard is small, it is packed with plants and beds. Where before there were two people working feverishly, now there is one.

And she's gonna slow it down. No more than 3 hours labor. I mean it.

No it won't be perfect but it never was. It's a garden, not an event.

And sometimes it's nice to just sit in it and watch the strawberries bloom.

And with the help of cropping it's always gonna look good for y'all. No worries, right?

xo Jane

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Night Lights

Before there was the Colonel there was a long line of roommates.

Previous to Mr. Stay for 4 Years, we rented to students in town for an internship.
They came for a few months at a time, with high expectations and minimal luggage.

One taught me to cook Katsudon. Another chopped onions while wearing his lab goggles. He also baked fantastic fruit pies with the most tender crusts. He ate pie for breakfast.

 A third drank iced venti chai lattes for dinner. And the fourth built fires for us whenever we wanted to cook out and Lab sat for us when we went to Germany.

A fifth drove me crazy.

We, now me, have stayed friends with them all, well all but the one who made me nutty, and they visit when they come to town. Sometimes they sleep on the couch. Once a roommate....

This week Donald came to dinner. He lived with us while doing an internship at the Smithsonian.
After that he went to the Netherlands for his Masters and is now in Quebec working on his PhD.

He goes dinosaur hunting in his down time. And bakes pies. He organizes a thanksgiving dinner where ever in the world he may be.

He also send the best postcards known to man.

He brought me tulips. I was so touched, no one brings a florist flowers.

They should, we love them.

He was saddened by the absence of GG. That made two of us.

But we ate and talked and as ever I pretended to understand what he does in his lab.

Bird embroys?

As he left I stood in the doorway arms full of kittens and he stood in the front yard arms raised as if in benediction.

"Stay awesome Jane", he said.

And for that moment I felt invincible and yes, awesome.

The Donald rocks.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Paradise Regained

Design*Sponge posted a sneak peak of best indoor plants today.

I ogled each house, jealous of every speck of sunlight that shone in their windows.

 Though my garden is in full sun, the interior of my house sits quietly in indirect light most of the day. A bonus in the summer, at least till the sun hits the kitchen about 4:00PM and glares there till sundown.

Not so my neighbor Nelda. She seems to live in Eden and her house is full of green goodness.
 Well it was until December when she moved to Afghanistan for a year and I inherited some of her plants:-(

But she cleverly rented her shack to a perfect family. One tall redheaded man, one petite brunette, a Chihuahua with a fluffy pink tail and 2 indoor cats who hang attractively about the windows.

Why perfect? They can't seem to stay out of the garden. And we all love new gardeners, right? They had their front bed cleaned before I did mine.

And when they're not pruning or weeding outdoors, they're indoors tending to their many  house plants.

 I begged for my own sneak peek.

 They probably didn't expect me to bring my camera. 

But in my defense, he mentioned air plants, driftwood, terrariums first. What was a girl to do?

Who among us would leave such a paradise undocumented. And I'm sure I mumbled something, something blogger after I invited myself in.
And before you ask, no I haven't been invited back. 
But I'm sure I'll see them in the garden if spring ever returns.

Um, right?