Archive | July 2013

Mini Monday: Tomato Time

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For weeks our tomato vines have been heavily laden with fruit, but it’s only been during the past few days that they have started to turn red. We’ve gotten a good amount of cherry tomatoes already, but unfortunately we’ve lost two very large tomatoes due to something nibbling away at them before I’ve managed to pick them. Even the large tomato above has a bite taken out of it…

To try and combat the bugs (or birds) that are ruining our ripe tomatoes, I pulled some semi-red ones (along with a bit of the vine) during the weekend and another bowl this morning. I’m hoping that they will finish ripening on the counter and my fingers are crossed that they’ll turn out to be just as tasty, despite being picked slightly early. I see a lot of caprese salad, gazpacho, and other tomato-based meals in the near future!

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Mini Monday: Renovations #1

When things like “upgrading your heating system” start to excite you, you have clearly reached a different phase in life. As a little girl, fun gifts and trips to Disneyland got me all riled up. When my hubby and I got married, I was surprised that I could get excited about receiving place settings and water glasses (but I did). And here we are, upgrading our heating system and I am excited about improving our lovely (but old) space. Old Lady Annie, reporting for duty!

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Originally designed to run off of coal, our radiant heat has been running off the same monstrosity of a boiler since the house was built in 1936. This fuel oil beast, which seems to be about the same size as a bank vault, is a wee bit past its prime. Almost immediately after we moved into the house the thermostat stopped working, so since 2009 we have had to manually turn the heat off and on with a little switch that was installed by my husband and a friend. It basically jump started the system and has worked fine all these years, but with every flick, I said a little prayer that the whole boiler didn’t explode and take me with it.

Today the company that is replacing the system came and took away the asbesto shell that was around the core of the boiler (so what you see is actually smaller and taking up less room than it has all these years…). Tomorrow they will be back to remove this core and prepare to install the new system — a tankless, gas powered boiler that will be mounted on the wall like our energy efficient water heater (shown in the upper right hand corner of the image).

I can’t wait for this project to be completed so that we have a more efficient (and more functional system) in place for the winter, although it’s pretty hard to imagine it being cold right now. It’s also the unofficial kick off to our major renovation project which I am excited (and a little bit terrified) about. Many blogs about that will be coming soon, I’m sure!

Working Here, There, Everywhere!

It’s that time of the year where I have a continuous running dialogue of, “Goodness gracious it is HOT” going through my mind (and often coming out of my mouth). Unfortunately today is no different. In fact today it is not only hot, it’s REALLY hot. This morning at 8 am, the temperature was 80 degrees (doesn’t sound so bad, does it?) but the real feel was 100 degrees! At 8 am! This is one of those terrible weeks in DC where the temperature really never cools down below 80, so it’s hot all day and all night. I probably wouldn’t focus on the heatwave quite so much if I didn’t work from my un-airconditioned home.

Wait, before you get worried that in 15 minutes I’ll be laying in a crumpled heap next to my desk after passing out from heat stroke, I do have a window unit in my office and I run it all of the time when I am working from home. In fact, it is SO hot that when I use my AC I can keep it at the highest setting (cooling to 80 degrees) and it actually feels great.

But there are always a few weeks in the summer where I happily work from somewhere else whenever I can. Yesterday morning and this morning I’m working from my favorite coffee shop and I’ll likely migrate to a friend’s house for the afternoon.

Not having air conditioned office space (that someone else pays for) is probably the only thing I have missed during the 4 years that I’ve been working for myself. But with my flexible schedule and the option of working at my desktop or laptop, I can make due for the few weeks that are rough. I was reminiscing about how last summer wasn’t so bad, but then I remembered I spent 2 weeks working from California and 2 weeks wandering around Norway (where I most definitely was NOT working). Being gone for 4 weeks during the summer doesn’t hurt. Sadly this summer apart from our mini July 4 getaway, I am stuck in DC so my fingers are crossed that things start cooling down soon!

Mini Monday: Cucumber Craze

The garden is doing its best to power through the intense summer heat after enjoying the heavy rain we’ve been having. It looks like this week will be hot and dry — well, humid as all get out, but there are no thunderstorms in the forecast. Our sugar snap peas are long gone, but we are starting to get green beans and cayenne peppers. There are loads of tomatoes on the vines, but only one big tomato and a handful of cherries have actually turned red. And, of course, something ate the big tomato before we could enjoy it…

Thankfully our cucumber plant has been prolific this summer, which is fabulous since last year we only got about 3 cucs before the plant called it quits.

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We’ve used at least 8 huge cucumbers so far in salads, for tzatziki, with hummus, and in spicy cucumber gazpacho and have these 4 in the fridge. There are 3 on the vine that are just about ready for picking. If you have a cucumber surplus like we do and are looking for a cool, refreshing dinner option, I recommend making gazpacho. It’s very flavorful, super easy to make and perfect for scorching summer nights. Enjoy!

SPICY CUCUMBER GAZPACHO*

Ingredients:
2 large cucumbers, peeled and diced (set aside 1/4 cup of the diced cucumber for topping)
3/4 cup + 1 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup ice water (I don’t usually add quite so much)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup + 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice

1 small shallot, finely diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbls. basil, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Combine the remaining cucumbers with 3/4 cup olive oil, ice water, garlic, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 jalapeno, and lemon juice in the blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and put in the fridge until chilled. This is a great recipe to make the day before or in the morning so when dinner time comes, you only need to make the topping and it’s time to eat!

Stir the shallot, 2 tsp. vinegar, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup cucumbers, basil, the remaining jalapeno, and 1 Tbls. olive oil. Season with salt if needed.

* from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market Cookbook

Mini Monday: Whirlwind Weekend

We spent a long weekend California where we celebrated my birthday, America’s birthday and — the real reason behind our visit — a family wedding. Arriving late last Tuesday and heading back to DC even later last night, the past few days have been packed with family, food, and adventures.

We were able to spend the first few days in our hometown, catching up with our parents and extended family members. My parent’s dog, Bonnie, was particularly glad that my husband is back from Afghanistan. She just couldn’t get enough snuggles, despite the temperature topping more than 100 degrees when we were there.

The final 2.5 days of our visit we were in the Bay Area where we attended a rehearsal dinner, the wedding and a post-wedding breakfast. We also managed to wander on the beach in Half Moon Bay (where we saw some frolicking labs) and do some sightseeing in San Francisco. Despite how much was packed into 5ish days, everything went pretty smoothly.

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The terrible plane crash at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday morning impacted our travel slightly, delaying our flight back to DC on Sunday evening about 2 hours, so instead of taking off at 11:30 pm we were on our way about 1:30 am. All things considered we had a safe flight and had nothing to complain about. This morning we were certainly rushing to get  ready and start our delayed work days though.

Not surprisingly, this afternoon I am pretty wiped out, but I wanted to share a few pictures from the wedding. The location, Kohl Manor, and all of the details were exquisite. From the bright flowers to the tasty desserts and unique cake toppers to the bride’s dress and the groom’s purple sneakers, it was obvious that the couple wanted to make sure the wedding reflected their personalities.

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As a special treat, the centerpiece at each table was given to the person whose birthday was the closest to the wedding day and since my birthday was on the wedding day, I was able to enjoy the pink and purple blooms interspersed with fragrant rosemary for an extra day (and I lugged the vase back to DC for future use). My hubby and I got a kick out of our trips to the photo booth and enjoyed our time on the dance floor, but most importantly the bride and groom were over the moon in love — who could ask for anything more?