Let garden season begin

ImageImageImageImageI’ve been a bad, bad blogger, friends. I’m sorry. I’m trying to find balance with this weather and work and writing and editing photos and watering plants and summer food. And then, today, I decided I really need to read more. Like really read. Like not just skimming Bloglovin and reading captions on Instagram photos. It doesn’t mean I’ve started reading anything yet, but I have a new Kindle full of books and that e-reader revolution was supposed to make me a better reader. This is not what I came here to write about, but who cares — I think I was mainly going to apologize and then show some Hipstamatic pics of me playing with the donkeys.

So here we go. Here are some Hipstamatic pics of me playing with donkeys **insert smile here**

Actually, these are from earlier this month, when my aunt and I finally built the raised beds we’ve been planning for a year. We did a huge garden together last year, if you remember. I ate as many tomatoes as I could and gave away bags of produce, but she was traveling a lot and I only had so many peeps to pawn my spaghetti squash onto, so I think we’re downsizing this year. Maybe. (Honestly, I think we say that every year). So we will see.

Like I said, we made our own raised beds. I mastered the old school drill (it was more heavy duty than the “new skool” one) and enjoyed my girl power moment. We plopped the boxes onto the garden plot, where a decade of chicken wandering has made the soil oh-so-perfect for growing things. We filled the beds with a mix of dirt she purchased (leftover from another home project) and rich and healthy compost (years of rotten veggies, egg shells and coffee grounds are the key to a good garden). Next up, we’ll plant seeds and small plants. Don’t worry, you’ll be updated **insert wink here**

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ImageImageImageAfter our hard work, we made a Lowe’s run, which involved lunch at the BBQ  joint where the soft-serve is free.ImageWhen the grass is this green, the donkeys are only allowed to graze for a couple of hours a day (too much green is unhealthy), so I made it a point to go hang with them. I think they were annoyed I was slowing down their short span for green consumption. ImageImageImageImageImageImageOh, Zamora, you giant dinosaur:
ImageImageImageZipper has the cutest face:
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Enchanted by the floating homes of Sausalito

ImageThe forecast called for a break in the rain that Sunday. We were heading north, and the promises of a blue sky on the bay meant we were in for a bit of luck. Maggie and I hit the freeways — first 5, then 205 and 580 and maybe 880 and a few others — early in the day, even though we were both exhausted from a long week of 100 percent birthday celebration, including two sweaty sessions at the roller rink the day before.

The wind blew over the fields of green on the Altimont, the patches of tall mustard plant and weeds blowing together like flocks of birds migrating all at once. The massive wind turbines spun furiously under blue, blue skies and Maggie and I shrieked out in excitement that maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t get rained on.

We arrived in Sausalito on San Francisco’s north bay sometime before noon. This, this trip, was the final birthday week surprise. She was taking me on a walking tour of the quirky and eclectic floating homes that make Sausalito so unique. I’d read about one of the “neighborhoods” in a magazine several years ago — of its colorful walls, its artistic, hippy residents — and I that even though it appeared exclusive, I’d have to find a way to walk the docks of Sausalito in my lifetime.

We met up with our tour guide and four other explorers, who would, by the end of the day, call each other family.

This is what we saw along the way.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageThis was my favorite ‘hood. However, it was also the scariest for me as the jerry-rigged docks brought back childhood memories of falling through one while walking to my cousin’s floating house on the Delta. I was more scared of losing my camera than I was of actually falling in. I will definitely be back to explore … and soon, as they are preparing to tear down and rebuild this section within the next couple of years. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageThis is the tour Maggie and I went on. Victoria is the woman behind the tours, but ours was lead by her wonderful friend, as she was ill that day. Maggie and I said we’ll go again just to meet Victoria.

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The Chinese market | Under the freeway

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Early Saturday morning, before we worried about putting on eyeliner or scrambling eggs for breakfast, my mom and I drove down El Dorado to the Chinese Farmer’s Market under the crosstown freeway. She’d ran into friends of a friend at Trader Joe’s the day before, and they told her of the farmers under the freeway who sell Moringa, the miracle plant she’s been buying at health food stores because it’s supposed to be a super food and is on its way to cure world hunger, she will tell you. If nothing else, it’s doing miracles on her fingernails.

In the deep shade of the rumbling freeway overhead, she asked every vendor, “Do you have Moringa?” With their heads still wrapped in scarves and hoods from the cool morning, they responded with a simple, “Not yet. Next time.”

Defeat? Not at all. She would be back. She would process her own Moringa. Next time.

We continued our walk up and down the dark aisles. I was surprised I’d never seen so many of the wild root vegetables that are grown in the valley I thought I knew so much about. One girl told us how to lightly peel and cook a wild potato. Another told us how to make her favorite Chinese soup. I filled a plastic grocery bag with $2 a pound of sweet peas — a steal, I thought, until a group of regulars came up and scoffed and marched away at the thought of $2 for a pound of those amazing little snacks I tend to eat until my stomach aches. I tasted slices of oranges, and took four home. My mom loaded up her bag with a little of this and a little of that. “I’ll give it a try,” she announced to her audience at every station. I admired her willingness. Last stop was the chard, because, well, she’s on her kick again of smoking it on the fire pit before sautéing it with onions and other deliciousness and serving it on rustic, hearty toast.

At the end, I got lost somewhere between the raw milk and the plastic bins of fish. I think my mom was being overcharged for tiny red, green and yellow peppers. That’s where I found her with her bulging plastic bags of leafy greens, still smiling with excitement at the opportunity of trying new vegetables and finding her Moringa “next time.”

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Friends. Weekend. Snow cabin.

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Howdy, friends. Last week, I shared this video of the few days I spent near South Lake Tahoe. In honor of my friend Andrea’s birthday, we  snuck away to Bear Paw Cabin, a snowy fortress with plenty of snow, a tree house, tournament-sized pool table and hot tub. I learned how to snowshoe and that I do really like show. Here is a peak at the weekend:
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I was the first one up. Coffee. Image

Walk. And then warm up with my feet in the hot tub.

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I learned how to make salmon and awesome cilantro butter sauce for it. Oh, and I made Andrea’s favorite, Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Trisha Yearwood style. It was yum-o. 

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The lake was beautiful.

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We went snowshoeing!
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Bear Paw Cabin in Tahoe | 8mm style

Once upon a time, I got it in my mind that I don’t like snow.

Wow, was I wrong.

Here is a fun little video I made with clips of a snow cabin weekend with friends taken on my iPhone. There were a lot of laughs, great food, snoeshowing and hot tubbing. Take a peak, and I’ll be back soon with tons of photos, for sure!

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The original packaged food: Heirloom seed packets

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There are still remnants of the elegant bank that opened its corner doors in the 1920s. The marble floors. The railings, still gold but tarnished after decades of fingers gripping the cool metal. The tall, tall, rounded windows with watermelons and peppers painted on them. A vault keeps precious seeds instead of piles of paper bills.

My aunt and I drove to Petaluma on a rainy Sunday to spend the morning exploring the aisles of the Petaluma Seed Bank. We’re getting ready to build raised beds and get our fingers dirty in the soil in preparation for a summer garden. But as the food world talks about genetically altered foods, how they’re likely harmful in ways we can’t fully understand yet and how giant seed/food bully Monsanto is vying for world control, we’ve been overwhelmed by the information. We’ve been trying to read ourselves and find out more, listening to facts and not just all the conspiracies. It’s quite a giant topic, one that is not going to be learned all at once. But we’ve decided to go the heirloom route this year, to see how the varieties taste and make us feel and see where to go from there.

The seed bank sells 1,600 varieties of fruit, vegetable and herb seeds, and one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century.

I’m excited to see how the garden grows this year. I’ll keep you updated on the herbs, potatoes and, my favorite, the tomatoes.

But for now, here’s a peek into the seed bank.
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After the seed-shopping, we wandered around the wet streets of Petaluma.

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This photo reminds me of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”:

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I love that whoever took these slide photos loved plant photographs as much as I do.

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Rainy day succulents

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The other day I found a few succulents. I did what I always do, and hovered over them with my phone, the Hipstamatic camera ready to go. I didn’t realize the lens changed on its own. But what happened were the black and white photos I rather like. 

I hope you had a lovely long weekend.

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