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France and Spain

July 7, 2016

Wonderful time in Paris and San Sebastian at the end of June.  Paris had Euro fever, with fans of all nations wandering around in their gear (including Eliot, after buying a French national team jersey).  Since E still isn’t too keen on museums and since Shelly and I have been to the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and others already, we decided to skip those in favor of Paris’ underground catacombs, where millions of Parisians are buried in a former limestone quarry that became a kind of art installation (in addition to a massive mausoleum).  Amazing experience.Listening to audio in Les Catacombes

Otherwise, we didn’t do much except walk and eat our way around the town.  Anyone who knows us knows that food occupies most of our daily thoughts, so of course we put much more thought into where we would eat than anything else. Toasting our first meal with l'eau gazeuse

And I think, for a half day and one full day in Paris, it was perfect.  Spending more time seeing (thanks to lovely weather) and eating in the city more than being shut inside somewhere.

On a bridge, avec le tour eiffel

Then, on to beautiful San Sebastian.  We had heard (thanks Eric) and read that this was a town for eating and laying on the beach, and it was.  Quickly fell into a routine: wake up around 9:30-10 am, breakfast in the apartment, walk around/see the sights/go to the beach, lunch at 2 or 3, siesta until 6, walk around some more until dinner at 9 – 9:30pm, bedtime around midnight.  We took a bike tour of the city and its renowned pintxos bars, and a separate walking tour of different bars in the old town.  Rented a car for a day and toured two wineries in the Rioja region.  Fantastic time all around.La Concha beach from Monte Urgull

E watching futvolley, la playa de ZurriolaGomez Cruzado winery, Haro, La Rioja

Old Town, San SebastianHotel Marques De Riscal, Elciego, La Rioja

Last stop was Bilbao for day, where we visited the Guggenheim.  A whole floor was dedicated to the works of Louise Bourgeois, whom I’d sadly never heard of.  But wow, tremendous body of work from a period of something like 70 years in different mediums – painting, traditional sculpture, mixed material sculptures, large installations – that left me wondering why she isn’t more revered.  Such a talented individual.

E and Shelly at Guggenheim, Bilbao

Flower PuppyFinally, home to Jersey.



Late Spring

June 10, 2015

Hello out there.  I have an abbreviated garden this year, similar to last year.  In fact, I didn’t start a single seed indoors.  Other things took over my free time, so purchased seedlings (tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, peppers, basil, thyme, sage) account for about half of what’s out there.  Direct-seed items: beets, carrots, kale and peas in the beds and planted seed potatoes in my grow bags.  I am always amazed, even after my 5th or 6th year of direct-seeding, that things actually grow when you throw seeds in the dirt and allow mother nature to take over.  Hope everyone’s got some food growing as well.





September 15, 2014

Beautiful weather in North Jersey lately – sunny, clear blue skies and highs in the low 70s.  But that also means the end of the season is nigh.  Had a bumper crop of tomatoes, with Cherokee Purple being the clear winner in the fresh taste category and Celebrity and Better Boy the clear winners in production/volume.  Italian plums did OK, but about 1/3 got the old bottom rot.  The ones that did make it have been turned into oven-dried tomatoes.  Jalapeños are still coming along well and in addition to using them fresh, we’ve canned 8 half pint jars so far.  Carrots are doing well, kale is still going strong and we ended up with 5 volunteer cantaloupes.  Potatoes are  ready to be dug up, but thankfully like carrots and beets, they can stay in the ground until I’m able to get to them.

Cantaloupes & Carrots

Tomatoes Aug-Sept 14



August 6, 2014

Oh hello.  The garden is currently on autopilot.  Between baseball, soccer and granola, home grown produce came in a distant 4th this year with a smaller lineup.  Nevertheless, the beds are producing, though more than a bit overgrown.  But I kind of like it wild.

We had a good bit of lettuce and spinach in June and part of July, and a bushel of peaches (thanks to WP Surround) from the tree.  Getting a steady stream of kale, jalapeños, raspberries, blackberries and herbs.  Lots of tomatoes, carrots and potatoes on the way, as well as a volunteer melon or two.  I picked our lone apple from the tree today rather than let the thieving bastard squirrels get it.  Yes, it will be sour – not unlike my disposition towards these loathsome rodents – but with a winning aftertaste.  Squirrels: I am a warlock with tiger blood and don’t you forget it!IMG_1885IMG_1887

Tomato Bed 2

Tomato Bed 2

Tomato Bed 1

Tomato Bed 1

Mint, Kale, Potatoes

Mint, Kale, Potatoes

Peppers, Herbs, Kale, Out of Control Melon Vine

Peppers, Herbs, Kale, Out of Control Melon Vine

Seed Starting

March 12, 2014

Started seeds for lettuce, spinach and kale on March 9.  Beets, carrots and peas to be started this weekend.  Time to grow some food y’all!

basking in the sun

basking in the sun


February 19, 2014

All done – pics below.  Very happy with the way it ended up.  We have a better all-around design than before, more functionality, more cabinet space, more light!  Great work from our designer and contractor executing the plan we had for the space. Painting / staining ourselves was time consuming, but since it’s the one thing we can do, we felt we should save money and do it.

Most of the items pictured are from IKEA: cabinets (Akurum cabinets, Adel doors), countertops (Numerar wood counter on island, pure white quartz stone everywhere else), exhaust hood (Luftig) and double oven (Framtid).  We kept our existing fridge, microwave, dishwasher, range, barstools and leaning shelves.  We purchased some excellent floating shelves made of MDF that we painted to match the cabinets and a neat chair from West Elm that fits the desk space well.



Kitchen Renovation Phases 1 and 2

January 27, 2014

We’re now about 3/4 of the way through.  1st pic is from the second or third day of demo (10th or 11th), 2nd pic is  after they put in the floor and cabinets with a temporary sink (13th).  3rd pic is from yesterday – island is in and we did some painting to the trim and windows.  Countertop should be in at the end of the week.  After they install, the gas range will be connected and they’ll do the backsplash tile.

Cleared Space

Cabinets InKitchen 01262014


January 19, 2014

A couple pics of the kitchen prior to demolition that started on the 9th.  The sink and stove are being relocated to the wall on the left.  The wall with current location of the sink and sliding door will be rebuilt to include 2 windows and a smaller, non-sliding door.  Fridge is also moving directly across from where it is now.  Adding more lighting and widening the opening to the kitchen. Kitchen pre-demo 2

Kitchen Pre-demo

I Know It’s Over

December 25, 2013

Two weekends ago marked the end of eating from the yard.  Our final tomato was consumed.  Before it got cold in November, I picked and placed all the green tomatoes in bags to ripen.  The majority of them made it.

Green Tomatoes

I do have one bed eking out a small kale and lettuce existence under row cover.  But I don’t think I’ll ever get to be one of those 4 season gardeners.  The sense of relief in putting away the tools and closing down the beds for the year is too good to ignore.

Notes for next year:  Feed plants with compost more frequently, produce responded better than in years past because I was diligent in throwing down some food once a month.  Try Surround WP on apple and peach tree next year to protect from squirrels and other pests.  Fava and butter beans did poorly because of lack of care, use rear beds for them instead of tomatoes.  Space tomatoes farther apart.  Keep sowing carrots throughout season.

Going through a kitchen renovation starting January 9.  Will post pictures starting next week.  Hope everyone had a happy holiday and best wishes for a wonderful 2014.

Winding Down

September 16, 2013

School has started, days are shorter, the end of the season is near.  Mr. E helped me dig out the remaining potatoes in the bags, about 3 lbs. worth.  We used the majority of them in a cod and potato soup that we like.  I cleared out my 2nd bed of carrots and beets this past weekend to make room for a fall planting of carrots, lettuce, kale and spinach.Beets and Carrots

Harvesting a steady stream of tomatoes from the front and back beds: brandywine, thessaloniki, plum, great white, a load of sun golds, cherries, and a monster wapsipinicon peach.  Like last year, the tomatoes took a while to get up to speed, but are now yielding better than last year.  This is due to me applying extra compost, soil and calcium-heavy tomato food to the beds once every 3-4 weeks.  Only experienced a bit of blossom-end rot on 4-5 fruits, which is the least since I’ve been in NJ.

Still getting string and pole beans, jalapeños, bell peppers, cucumbers and kale.  BTW, if you’re ever wondering what to do with kale, you could do a lot worse than this awesome salad and this dish with fried eggs and mushrooms.  Either will convert anyone who is kale-resistant.