Monday, June 28, 2010

Berry Satisfaction

Ahhh, one of my favorite things to talk about... the yard!

We live on a hillside. There are many steep areas of the yard and gardening on them can be difficult. We have terraced an area near the garage that does not get full sun all day and we use that for a winter garden. This year we grew chard, collards, kale, arugula, onions, three types of garlic and asparagus. The asparagus is just on its second year, but next year we will be eating lots of asparagus. Everything else turned out beautifully and we are going to have tons of garlic. I think it will be ready to cure soon.

Last year we put in three new raised garden beds on an especially steep part of the back yard. It looks REALLY steep form the picture below and it is pretty steep. The garden beds make it totally manageable. These boxes get full sun, all day. Well, when there is sun that is. Since we are getting a lot of our veggies from the farm these days I decided to put in berries. We all LOVE berries. I'm not sure if we will get berries from the farm, but we have not received any yet and really, you can never have too many berries.

Last summer we filled the raised beds with soil and planted a cover crop in the fall. This spring I worked in the cover crop and further amended the soil with some compost. Michael and I purchased raspberry and strawberry plants a couple weeks ago with the intent of getting them in the ground right away. Not to happen. We had one beautiful day of gorgeous sunshine and then days and days of torrential rain.

Planting the berries, well and taking care of the yard in general, was supposed to be a family affair. All for one, one for all, yada, yada, yada. I regularly like to quote the story of the little red hen. You know the one, the little red hen goes all around trying to find someone to help her plant the wheat, water the wheat, harvest the wheat, etc... etc... but she cannot get any help so she does all the work herself and then eventually makes the most glorious loaf of bread which she eats all by herself. Yeah, my family is pretty sick of that story.

Well, it seems we now have summer and sunshine. Yesterday, Michael was sick, Sammy was at a friend's house and Joey was working at Oaks Park. I just could not let those poor berries sit out there in their lonely black plastic pots for another minute. I went out and reworked the soil, added a little lime and some organic fertilizer, worked the soil again and planted approximately 20 raspberry plants and 30 strawberry plants. It all sounds very easy, but it took a full five hours!

And they look good.

We will have to wait until next year to enjoy the juicy red raspberries, but I can be patient... really I can!

Well, truth be told, these are ever bearing varieties and we do have a few berries. Just a sample, to get us really excited for next year.

By the time we got to the nursery to purchase our strawberry plants, they were down to just a couple of ever bearing varieties, but they are disease resistance and grown specially for Oregon so that's fine with us. They have mighty big leaves... I am not actually sure if that is a good thing?

The plants look really healthy even though they had to sit out in the backyard for a couple weeks in the cold and rain.

I had always read that you were supposed to pinch off the buds for the first year, however, I have been doing some research and apparently that is for the June bearing varieties. With the ever bearing, I guess it is okay to leave these later blossoms on. We will get a few berries this summer, especially if we get more sunshine.

This little guy was really sweet and juicy.

I had to throw in this photo of a foxglove growing out of the weed pile on the other side of the fence. Love those foxglove, they just come up wherever they please.

So now we are a tri-berry yard. I am just thinking of all the wonderful recipes we will be able to make next summer with our berries.

So, it's true. I am never actually able to withhold the fruits of my labor from my family. Even if I do the work, I totally want to share it with them. I guess that's what life is all about!

Too Good To Be True?

This post is about hair.
Most people are just not going to care about this post at all.
That's okay, I totally understand.

But I am going to do this anyway.
I started going to a new hair salon.
I have crazy hair. It is course and dry and wavy and thick.
It has always been a kind of thorn in my side.
I regularly do absolutely nothing with it but let it air dry and then put part of it back in a pony tail so I can see properly.

The new hair stylist recommended a treatment for my hair.
It is a Brazilian Keratin Treatment and is supposed to work miracles by making thick, course, wavy hair straight, sleek and shiny. It is supposed to be safe, not harsh like perms.
It is expensive, but what the heck. I gave it a try.

Here are a couple of pictures of my hair before the treatment:

And here is my hair after. No one was home to take my photo, so I used the Photo Booth software. The lighting is horrible so the photo isn't great, but seriously, this stuff is like a miracle.
This is now what my hair looks like after letting it air dry and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to it. I don't even need to use conditioner any more. No more hair dryers or flat irons. I have washed it three times since the treatment and it still comes out wonderful. I find myself just running my hands through my hair not believing it is even my hair. It is supposed to last 3-6 months. The only downside is now my hair does get oily after a day without washing. Before I could go 2, 3 or even 4 days without my hair needing washing. I am just not used to oily hair. It's a perfectly fair tradeoff in my opinion.

Now to see how long it lasts. It takes about 3 1/2 hours to have done and it is very expensive, so I hope it lasts the full six months!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Can't Believe It...

Joey is a High School Graduate!

We are so proud of Joey's accomplishments. We are so proud of his drive, his perseverance, his tenacity, his love of life, his passion for learning, his confidence, his leadership abilities, his spirit, his independence and his compassion.

We're really going to miss seeing your face every day, Joey!

When you were 0
you had chubby little feet and hands
deep brown, thoughtful eyes
and hair that refused to be tamed.

When you were 1
you walked proud and smiled big
and started to show your stubborn side.

When you were 2
you talked so much
and asked so many intelligent questions
I thought perhaps I would soon not be able to keep up with you
and I was right.

When you were 3
you demanded preschool class begin with a science lesson
or you weren't really interested in going anymore
you refused to learn to swim
and you painted me the most beautiful flower pot for Mother's Day.

When you were 4
you were surrounded by adoring female fans
and when you wanted to learn to play the piano
we bought you a piano and you practiced every day.

When you were 5
you learned to ride a bike without training wheels
you blew us away at your first piano recital and
you started learning Japanese.

When you were 6
you learned to read
but you still loved it when I read stories to you
and you taught yourself Chess on the computer.

When you were 7
you visited OMSI and learned about Dinosaurs
you came home and recited your whole day to us, verbatim
you crashed your scooter at Willamette Park and chipped your front tooth
and you visited Japan for the very first time.

When you were 8
you started playing soccer "with the boys"
and this was a big day
you taught us that it is important to be patient, kind
and understanding of all people
even when they aren't being so nice.

When you were 9
you showed us you were a leader
by teaching computer class when the teacher didn't show up
you started art lessons
and you asked to play competitive tennis
for which we drove you all over the state.

When you were 10
you started violin lessons
you decided in earnest that you wanted to be an artist
and you painted the most beautiful paintings
that I cherish and that are hanging all over the house.

When you were 11
you traveled to Japan for the 3rd time and gave a speech in Japanese
in front of hundreds of people at the Kobe Sumaura School Music Festival
you played baseball on a team with your Brother, coached by your Dad
you were a pretty awesome second baseman.

When you were 12
you started middle school, continued with art lessons and tennis lessons
you started pottery lessons, you took guitar lessons
you asked a girl to a dance and she said no
and you figured out that you could be a great student, be loved by your teachers
and your peers all at the same time.

When you were 13
you dressed up like a woman for an oral presentation
just to get the class' attention
you gained a real passion for sailing on your birthday trip to Nevis
you got up in front of friends, family and strangers
chanted at your Bar Mitzvah ceremony
and you were amazing
in celebration of your accomplishment you planned a birthday party
with whipped cream pies, sack races and apple martini's
that will not soon be forgotten.

When you were 14
you spent 2 1/2 weeks in Japan for your Research Residency
you wrapped up middle school having been on the honor roll
every single term
you decided you wanted to go to Catlin Gabel for high school
you took tests and had interviews and got in all on your own
you ended your 9 year run of piano lessons
and we went to our last piano recital.

When you were 15
you went into Catlin Gabel as if you had been there your whole life
you charmed your teachers
you were voted co-President of the Freshman Class by your peers
you traveled to Turkey
and only took an old broken down Pentax 35mm film camera with you
you took some of the most beautiful photos
you got a steady girlfriend.

When you were 16
you had your first solo art show at the Bornowski Art Gallery
you nurtured your newfound love of the outdoors
by taking multiple hiking, biking and backpacking trips
you went to your first prom
you attended summer art school
at the Pacific Northwest College of Art
you asked for a vintage banjo from eBay for your birthday
and of course we got it for you
you taught yourself to play the banjo.

When you were 17
you dragged us to every street market in London on a
memorable family trip to England and Scotland
you continued to awe us with your wonderful oil painting
you continued your school government duties as co-President
of the Junior Class, you planned the prom
you became even more independent
you put your love of public transportation aside and started driving
more and spending less and less time at home
you started thinking about college.

When you were 18
you spent another school year as class co-President
you spent a great deal of time applying to colleges
you won an art scholarship
you got a pretty horrific case of senioritis
you made a very difficult college choice decision
you stopped studying altogether
you worked your ass off at Pok Pok for your Senior Project
you outgrew high school
you graduated.

You are an inspiration to us Joseph Benjamin Lubitz.
We love you.

.... and if anyone thinks that buckets of tears weren't shed while typing this, they would be wrong! I need to stop thinking about this kid leaving home in a couple of months and just pretend like it's not going to happen, until it does.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 6

Hachiko Statue at Shibuya Station, Tokyo Japan

Golden Week

Continuing the story of my time in Japan as a 20 something. Michael and I both worked a lot while we lived in Kyoto. Although Michael did not work on the weekends, the weekdays were completely absorbed by work responsibilities. As mentioned before, Michael took two trains to work, so he had to get up early in order to be to work by 7:30am. I worked many nights, and there was no way I was going to get up early to see him off (I'm pretty selfish that way). Michael worked regularly until about 6:00 or 7:00pm and then there were the almost nightly Konpa's: after work drinking parties. These parties got very expensive too as everyone split the bill evenly. Even though Michael did not drink and was probably the lowest paid person there, he had to pay the same as everyone else for the Konpa. Sometimes the founder of the company would rescue him and pay for him and then take him home in his Mercedes limousine, but that was rare. It is not appropriate to decline going to an after work drinking party and totally unacceptable to quibble over the bill. Whether I had to work on Saturday or not, Michael slept a good part of the day. I am not sure if it is true what they say, that you cannot make up for lost sleep, but Michael sure gives it a good try.

As a "Salary Man" the Japanese vacation is a real double-edged sword. On the one hand, you are guaranteed certain vacation time because there are universal days off in Japan, namely New Years (first few days of the calendar year), Golden Week (roughly the first week of May) and Obon (a week in August). On the other hand, everyone has the same time off, so everything is incredibly crowded and expensive. During my time in Japan, Golden Week allowed Michael and I the opportunity to spend a whole seven days together. I was also very excited to ride a "bullet" train to Tokyo, see Michael's friend Bruce, visit the Tokyo Tower, experience Japanese Disneyland, visit Ueno Koen (big park with a great zoo), and hang out under King Kong at the Roppongi Hard Rock Cafe.

The bullet train, as it turns out, is just a really fast train. Yes, very practical, but actually not all that cool. Everything goes by in a blur and you get to where you want to go faster. That's it. I'm not sure what I was expecting? The Tokyo Disneyland was interesting. I have now been there 3 times and I for sure prefer the California Disneyland, but it was an experience. Again, we were there Golden Week and it was excruciatingly crowded. The line for the Michael Jackson exhibit (this was 1987) was over 3 hours long. I don't know if they ever had this show at any of the other parks, but suffice it to say Japanese people LOVE Michael Jackson. We did not wait in that line. It was interesting to see all the Japanese Disney princesses and there were far fewer rides, so the lines were crazy long. Michael, having grown up in LA, is really not a huge fan of Disneyland, so let's just say we didn't close out the park.

I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Tokyo. The one thing I did not thoroughly enjoy however, was waiting in line for approximately one and a half hours at the Ueno Park Zoo to see the famous Panda Bears. I am not an altogether patient person, but I will definitely wait to see Pandas. I did my best to remain calm even with my 23 year old exuberance at the possibility of an imminent sighting of one of the cutest animals in the world. I am not a huge fan of keeping wild animals locked up in cages, but since they were already there and I knew me boycotting the situation would mean nothing with the thousands of visitors they were welcoming each day, I decided to see these pandas for myself. So, as the anticipation builds, so do the number of signs all around the pandas that say "NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY" in nearly every language imaginable. I understand the words no FLASH photography. I know the difference between with and without flash. So, in a literal sea of asian faces, Michael and I stand out and when the Japanese girl next to me snaps herself a nice FLASH photo of the pandas, guess who gets kicked out... YEP, you got it, ME!!!! After standing in line an hour and a half, I manage to get about a 30 second glimpse of the pandas... and this is what I saw:

Fei Fei the Panda at Ueno Park Zoo

Yeah, I don't think she cared about the flash photography and clearly, since there is a glass wall in front of me and a flash would certainly leave a reflection, I did not use my flash. But once a mean old Security Guard has escorted you from the premises, there is really not much else to do other than get really mad at the person standing next you... in this case Michael. I believe a temper tantrum ensued and possibly chocolate was required to calm the whole situation down.

Speaking of getting really mad, as my time in Japan grew longer, my patience for our situation grew shorter. Even though I had learned to love Japan, I needed to finish my education and I became impatient to return home. In June, all hell broke loose.

Until next time... bye, bye.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What's for Dinner?

A deliciously meat free meal: Spring Pea Risotto
plus Golden Beets with farm fresh Chevre Goat Cheese & Walnuts

For a while now I have been striving to include more meatless meals in our weekly plan. Joey and I have had a few heart to heart conversations lately about the concept of eating meat. When we leave the farm on Sundays (after petting a few goats and gawking at a couple of adorable pigs), inevitably I start thinking about where our food comes from. I am starting to feel more strongly that if I could not kill the animal myself that I am making a meal out of, that I shouldn't be eating it. Even though I know this is someone's job... or possibly multiple people's jobs, I still feel somewhat hypocritical. I know some people agree and some people think that is just crazy talk. People are vegetarian and vegan for many different reasons--each one important to the individual. Many people need to know the animals are treated humanely. Some people just plain need to know where their food came from and that it isn't loaded with antibiotics and hormones and that it wasn't produced in a factory with questionable food handling practices. Some people believe animal proteins are bad for the human body. All are valid points in my mind and reason enough to question the quality of your meat.

I have always been able to push out of my mind that when I am eating meat, I am eating an animal... because if I thought about it all the time, I know I couldn't keep doing it.

I have been eating meat all my life. It is a habit, one of my oldest habits. But I have also been eating processed food my whole life and I know that is bad for me. I have been eating too much sugar and I know that is bad for me. Lately I have been striving to change these bad habits and I have made progress. I am ready to make more changes.

I think my original goal last year was three veggie dinners per week. I thought it would be easier with our weekly supply of fresh garden veggies. Sure we have been eating our veggies, but we have also been eating our animal protein too. I have not been very good about reaching this goal. I am ready to try again.

This week Michael and I volunteered at La Finquita del Buho and we spent the better part of three hours harvesting shelling peas. We then packaged them up for Monday's share families.

Tonight Joey and I made this delicious Spring Pea Risotto (recipe modified from the Chicago Sun-Times). We substituted out a couple of vegetables for ones we had received in our weekly share.

(makes 4-6 dinner sized servings)
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
2 shallots, minced (we used fresh spring green onions this week)
1 tablespoon green garlic or 1/2 tablespoon regular garlic, minced (we had green garlic left over from last week's share)
1 cup risotto
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground white pepper, to taste
3/4 champagne (we used white wine because we had an open bottle of chardonnay in the fridge)
4 cups hot vegetable stock
1/2 cup fresh spring peas
1 sprig fresh mint (we had some in our own garden)
1/2 cup pureed or blanched fresh peas (see note below)
3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano (we used a little extra for garnish)
1/2 cup pea tendrils, rough chop (or other tender leafy green, we used spinach from the farm)

In a large heavy bottomed stockpot, melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil over medium heat; do not let it turn brown. Add the shallots (or other onions) and garlic and cook until translucent. Joey used his amazing new Pok Pok knife skills and diced the onions and garlic so fine that it only took about a minute to cook. Add the risotto and stir to coat with the oil and butter; season with salt and fresh ground white pepper.

Add the champagne (or wine) and cook, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed. Add the hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly, letting the liquid absorb before adding the next ladle. (It is important that the stock be kept hot during the entire process.)

When adding the last ladle of stock (the risotto should be cooked, but sill have bite), add the fresh spring peas and mint sprig. Cook until liquid is absorbed, then remove from the heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, pea puree, cheese and pea tendrils (or other tender greens); stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Discard the mint sprig and serve. Risotto should be creamy about the consistency of a good oatmeal, so that it can be eaten with a spoon.

Note: Make the pea puree ahead of time by blanching about 1/2 cup fresh peas in salted water, then pureeing the peas in a blender with a little of the cooking water. This can be done in advance.

We also received delicious golden beets this week and we had left over hand made Chevre goat cheese from the farm--these items make a great combination.

I boiled the beets, then peeled and sliced them
I topped them with crumbled goat cheese and chopped walnuts.
(We were going to add a little balsamic vinegar, but realized we were all out... next time!)
It's not really a salad, better than a straight vegetable, a little like a dessert.
Well, if you really like beets, like I do, it is!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chicken Piri Piri

Well, we have been going through some rough times here at the Lubitz house. I hate to say the obvious, but when the goin' gets tough, I get to eatin'... and in this case, cooking and eating. Not to mention I am always looking for fun ways to use our CSA groceries. For this recipe, I was able to use our fresh farm cilantro and also some of the delicious feta cheese we got from La Finquita last week.

A few weeks ago I was having lunch with my good friend Dana at Marco's Cafe in Multnomah Village. Marco's has some really tasty dishes. I ordered the Spicy Chicken Piri Piri Sandwich. The description read "grilled chicken breast wrapped in a pita with a spicy red chili, citrus, cilantro and honey glaze, cranberry chutney, watercress and cucumber". I asked for a side of their feta dill dressing to help with the spice. Well, the darn thing was not spicy at all. It was delicious, but I was a little disappointed. I decided to try and recreate the dish at home, more the way I had expected it to be.

I did a little research on Piri-Piri Sauce which apparently has Portuguese and African origins. I looked up a few recipes and then added some of the ingredients that had been listed on the Marco's menu. My version of the Piri Piri Marinade Recipe goes something like this:

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 Tablespoons honey

I marinated 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the sauce for about 6 hours although there is probably enough marinade for 8 breasts. I baked the chicken breasts at 375 degrees for 40 minutes in a Pyrex baking dish, spooning some but not all of the marinade over the chicken before baking. While the chicken bakes, the marinade cooks into a nice sticky sauce in the pan. I then sliced the chicken breasts right in the baking dish and tossed the chicken to coat with the sauce in the pan.

Before assembling the sandwiches, I prepared some feta yogurt dip using fresh feta from La Finquita:

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (or dill)
1 Tablespoon honey

We could not find cranberry chutney at the grocery store (although I will keep searching) and since the marinade was already a little sweet, we left it out. I also completely forgot about the cucumbers although that would have been a great addition and makes me want to go make this recipe all over again.

I used Greek Pita for the bread which is one of my favorite things. It's a big flat thick pita. I grilled the pita in a non-stick frying pan for a minute or so on each side to get it warm and pliable.

I assembled the sandwiches by loading half the pita with the Chicken Piri Piri. I then topped it with the feta yogurt dip and topped that with a nice handful of watercress, which is supposed to be very good for you.

Once it was assembled, we folded it over...

took a bite...

and then took another bite...

Even without cranberry chutney and cucumber, these sandwiches were a big hit.