Friday, August 28, 2009


We took a one-day vacation yesterday and delivered a last load of college supplies to M. We left early (to miss the LA traffic; ha) and had a great breakfast at the Cajun Kitchen in Carpinteria. A nice surprise, and we'll be going back. The Cajun scramble was just spicy enough, and the home fries were crisp/soft just as they should be. Instead of toast, I ordered a "homemade" blueberry muffin to go -- actually it was two small muffins, just out of the oven. Obviously from a mix, but then they don't advertise as a bakery and I should have ordered cornbread like the guys next to us recommended. We walked on the beach for a bit and then headed on to Santa Barbara.

We combined the delivery with an early-season soccer game. Hot, that's all you can say. It was hot. I was uncomfortable sitting in the shade, and the girls were sprinting in the sun for 90 minutes.

To recover, we headed for the harbor and had an early dinner at Brophy Bros, which overlooks the marina. Great location, inexpensive prices for the view....a good place to watch the crowd. Good service, basket of chewy bread, bottled beer only, but a decent selection. Steamed mussels were good, but the broth was strongly flavored with bay leaf, even with pieces of leaves still there. They win awards for the clam chowder -- I'm picky about chowder. (My father started that; he told me to stay away from the places where "they tie a clam to a string and drag it through some white sauce." Anyway, Brophy's was good, plenty of chopped clams -- but would someone please take the bay leaves away from the chef? I tasted bay for hours afterward.

The view from our outside table:

After eating, we walked out on the seawall, which is a great view -- especially on a hot clear day.

It was nice to come home, and not have a suitcase to unpack. We are so fortunate to live close to so many beautiful places.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

another season

The nest is empty again... H drove off to her sophomore year of college today. Doesn't she look sad? She sent three texts to us (not while driving, thank you) and then called when she arrived. We'll see her in a few weeks. Her twin has been at school for three weeks now, and we'll see her briefly next week. See how sad M was when she said goodbye?

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's just an experiment

When you want to do something and you are not certain it will be a success – call it an experiment. That's what we decided to do this year – let's take the stress off of having to SUCCEED, and try something for fun.

Growing food -- something you actually bring in the house, prepare and then eat -- is amazing. Our new sunny back yard was pretty empty back in May when we had a new wall built, so I decided to quickly put in a few vegetables to take advantage of the sunshine while figuring out what to do with the back yard. I really didn't know how much fun it would be. We spent a morning at the nursery and at Lowe's, came home and I started digging.
I started with tomatoes and a six-pack of assorted bell peppers...oh and a crookneck squash plant. Yep, all that in that small bed. I dug and amended and fertilized and laid out landscape cloth and planted and watered -- and collapsed. I hadn't decided yet how to support the tomatoes, so I stuck in some rebar pieces left over from my rose trellis project of a few years ago.

Meanwhile, Stuart tackled his first project....a pot of cactus. That didn't take too long, so he worked on his next experiment — the butterfly pot. He decided to get as many different butterfly-attracting plants that would fit in a 25-gallon pot (that's what took most of the time at the nursery and Lowe's). I was sceptical, but then I think he was sceptical of my veggie garden.

It turned out nicely, and we put it against the empty back wall, where we could watch the neighborhood butterflies stop by for a snack from the kitchen window.

Two weeks later, I added some newspaper mulch under the landscape
fabric to smother out a few tenacious weeds, and stuck some wal-mart tomato cages around the tomatoes. Everything was growing like crazy, and I was getting into this. By the three-week mark, it looked like a garden. I was so encouraged by my success, I bought some cucumber plants, a straightneck yellow squash plant and some bean and lettuce seeds. Why not make use of the empty space along the new wall? You can see where this is going...I kept going. And going. Some bush beans next to the squash. A "lettuce bed" next to the bush beans. A few bush beans in the side garden bed. An experiment.

And you know? from the first tiny green tomatoes to the enormous and delicious cucumbers? This has been so much fun! Even now, with the crazy, cool and foggy weather creating a perfect environment for mildew, I love coming home, walking around my little garden and picking a few things for dinner.

I've learned a few things too....indeterminate tomatoes need more space between them to be healthy, and those cheap tomato cages are barely adequate. Tomatoes take a really long time to ripen. The crookneck squash doesn't get enough sun, and sulks. Four bush bean plants produce approximately 8 green beans at a time, just enough to throw in a stir-fry. The most fun has been the Burpless Cucumbers -- very prolific, sweet and crunchy. Thankfully, I rigged up a trellis on a couple of rebar posts, which is holding up the vines for now. Straightneck squash is on the menu several times a week, and we really aren't tired of it yet. The pack of colored bell peppers has been a hoot -- purple, lilac, ivory, and some that haven't colored up yet. Lilac bell peppers are really beautiful!

So it is just an experiment. The mildew is pretty bad, so I'm cutting back affected tomato and squash leaves. We've only eaten one tomato, which was good but not fabulous. Am I tired of it yet? Well, I'm starting seedlings of swiss chard, and rooting a couple cuttings of Early Girl tomato. I've read that we can get another whole season in before the cold weather hits in January.

Good morning!

It's an amazing day, especially for August. I don't enjoy heat, and with the additional southern exposure we have allowed to the house (removing very old and ugly trees to make room for something new and lovely) -- well, I am thrilled that the weather is so mild and pleasant. I have a day of errands ahead, and a quick coffee date with friends first. Better get ready.