spicy quick-pickled spring radishes

I think that this very moment is the best setting ever to write a blog post. For that matter, to do anything! It is pouring rain outside. Not the pitter-patter peaceful kind, but the full-on, fiddler on the roof, batten down the hatches, tap-dancing until dawn kind of rain! I say, bring it!

As many of you know, I spend a few of my evenings working as a sommelier at a restaurant. The place happens to have a most splendid patio. If you have ever worked within the service or hospitality industry, you know that “patio season” is more or less a nightmare. You are constantly scrolling through your weather app feeds and performing audacious rain dances to skirt the afternoon showers, in order to keep your guests satisfied. It is quite the ordeal. I am an anomaly within this field, however: I am secretly jumping for joy inside, when it rains. It means my garden is getting drenched, and it means that I don’t have to tote the hose around our yard and water by hand the next day. Hooray for summer storms that deliver!

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strawberry shortcake {dairy-free and gluten-free}

I am really having a difficult time focusing and staying on task lately. In fact, I have an imposing deadline looming over me right this very moment, as I type. I am definitely placing some of the blame on this crazy heat wave for at least some of my lack of enthusiasm. We all know that we feel better, once we’ve tackled our projects, so why do we procrastinate and endure that itchy, uncomfortable feeling of putting things off?

I’ve brought up this topic before; it is definitely a recurring theme in my life. I find that I frequently become the most creative and productive, when I am pushing off something big, but doing that is a double-edged sword. I end up taking on more projects or coming up with great ideas, while postponing that all-important one. That’s where these shortcakes came in yesterday: a tasty and distracting diversion that supplanted my original goal of completing three writing assignments. The shortcakes turned out amazingly well, and I temporarily felt accomplished. About those writing assignments? They are still inchoate, but I am at least enjoying something tasty, as I scramble to finish my goal tonight.

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toasty whole grain granola with dried cherries + dark chocolate

I am just settling in this afternoon, back from a week-long vacation on Lake Burton, in north Georgia. And by vacation, I mean family reunion. Contrary to what most might assume, the break away from work was refreshing, no family feuds ensued, and the scenery was breathtaking. Any worries we had on the trip were quelled, once we turned the key to our front door: the houseplants didn’t die, the cats made it alright, and the garden surprisingly flourished.

I am taking a short break to write this post, before we deal with the “unknowns” in the refrigerator. I am thinking that a lot of what is still hanging out in the fridge will go straight into the compost. I don’t feel bad about that. The unused food will soon be recycled into soil for our garden’s vegetables and herbs. Even though the trip was relaxing, I am still in vacation mode and want to set up our workweek right. In addition to preparing a versatile quinoa salad for the week, we are also assembling one of our favorite kitchen staples: granola. This particular version, however, definitely carries a theme of indulgence and decadence. Vacations have got to be stretched out as long as possible, right!?

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brandied summer cherries

I have been patiently waiting for cherry season. As soon as I spied some sweet, ripe, organic cherries, I grabbed about two pounds’ worth and headed home, bursting with ideas on how to capture their ripeness. Of course, I couldn’t resist selecting a handful of the ripest, juiciest ones I could find, right there in the car. It got messy pretty quickly, but I really could have cared less.

I have been thinking about preserving cherries, ever since I saw Kristy Gardner’s bourbon-soaked cherries a while back. She pretty much writes the book on all-things-bourbon, so that’s definitely another upcoming project. For now, since I had some leftover brandy from a recent sangria experiment, I went with a juiced-up, brandied version. They’re super easy and delicious, and they will go perfectly with one of my barrel-aged Manhattans {debuting in my kitchen in about a month!}.

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coconut + raspberry + spring peach freezer pops

Is it possible to still be jet lagged after a week of being back home? If not, I must be the exception to the rule. Last week, at this very moment, I was flying over Kansas, making my way back to Denver from the most memorable and exciting trip I think I have ever had. I spent a week in the Burgundy region of France and made the towns of Dijon and Mâcon my home for much too short of a visit. I ate, drank, photographed, walked, explored, documented, and relished all that France had to offer, during the limited time I was there.

The trip was thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting, life-changing…what else can I add to this train of hyphenated descriptors? Joking aside, I did come back changed. And not just circumstantially changed, as if change were a byproduct of my experiences. I was intentionally and purposefully changed. If you let it, travel can open your eyes to compelling sights, contrasting cultures, and different means of thought. It can also focus and open your eyes upon yourself: how you think in a completely different context, why you act the way you do, how you react when out of your element, who you truly want to be, and why you care so much about what people think. And why you deem others’ opinions so important.

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3 recipes for lilac blossoms

 

I love how circumstances pop up and give you the opportunity to react. You can take in the good aspect of a scenario, let go of the bad, and create something beautiful. Or you can mope, waste your energy worrying, and miss out on the chance for innovation. It requires a choice and some action. I talk about the weather a lot here on this blog, but it is a very important component to our garden, our kitchen happenings, and the joy we share in our house. The recent snowstorm had me hustling: draping outdoor seedlings with pots, blankets, and plastic sheeting; dragging in the potted plants; setting up an indoor tomato seedling station; and harvesting ready-to-pick herbs, as fast as I could.

I was so excited that our tulips lasted so long this spring, unlike last year. And when our lilacs started to bloom a couple of days ago, I was beyond elated. Until the weather forecast. Temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and snow accumulations of up to ten inches were promised over Mother’s Day weekend. I pouted, put in an exercise DVD, pounded some coffee, and rolled up my sleeves. I was determined to capture the freshness spring, despite Mother Nature’s wintry rebellion.

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pickled spring strawberries + a refreshing gin cocktail

I am just emerging from an unintentional five-day-in-a-row staycation, and I can say I officially feel relaxed. Scratch that. I feel more invigorated. It was a slow week at work, so my current schedule reflected it {sadly, my next paycheck will reflect this quieter week, as well}. I find it challenging to stop and slow down and do nothing. These past few days, however, have been influential in getting me to do more of the “slowing down” stuff.

Slowing down and appreciating everything else that is happening, when I habitually bustle around, forget to breathe, and struggle with sleep. I feel like I successfully hit the “reset” button and am ready to get back to my schedule with a different and healthier perspective. On my first couple of days off, I found myself running into another room with an idea, getting distracted, forgetting why I came into the room in the first place, and looping back, only to greet the floor and sigh. Even cry. A lot. I felt like one of those wind-up dolls that smile and nod and circle and then collapse.

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