Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Meatless Week

A few weeks ago I felt we ate a lot of meat within seven days, so I decided to have an (almost) meatless week after that.

We started out with a broccoli macaroni cheese - this one contains pancetta, so it's not completely meatfree. 

You will notice that this was a very pasta heavy week - we simply love to eat pasta. Next was leftover spaghetti with spinach, bok choy and kale that I seasoned with cumin and ancho chili peppers.

On Rain's blog I found the recipe for cauliflower casserole. I love cauliflower and wanted to try this - it was very cheesy and simply delicious! However, next time I will probably change out the cheddar for gruyere; I have never been a particular fan of cheddar.

The creamy mushroom and leek pasta was a new dish for me, I had found the recipe in NYT Cooking. It was okay, but I will certainly change some things when I make it again.

It was time for one of our favorite dishes - crip gnocchi with brussels sprouts and brown butter. This is to die for and so much better than those boiled-to-death brussels sprouts of my childhood.

Farfalle with creamy mushroom sauce - I make this without any recipe, you don't really need one for this. In the morning I bought creminis from the mushroom guy at the farmers market; he has the best mushrooms in the area. I still had heavy cream, added some spices - done. Easy peasy.

Sunday is the day in the week when I don't cook. That's when the freezer offers the menu. This time it was Japanese style fried rice from Trader Joe's - I only sauteed the shrimp for that and added them at the end.

I'm linking up again to Kathy's Food Wednesdays.


Sunday, May 1, 2022

April Love 2022

Like every year, I participated in Susannah Conway's April Love on Instagram again. I didn't post every day, but only on those days the prompts spoke to me. Let me show you some of them.

The first prompt was "blue" - perfect for our Pacific Hound's Tongue (Adelinia grande), followed by "yellow" - a dahlia.

Day 3 kept with the "flowers" theme. I always love fresh flowers on our dining table, and tulips combined with baby's breath is a favorite.

"My smile" (day 4) was a bit of a challenge since there aren't that many photos of myself. I usually don't take many selfies - but thankfully my husband has the long arm and can take those kinds of photos easily. This was taken on the balcony of our little hotel appartment up in Bandon, OR, where we spent a few days last summer. I love this place right on the endless sandy beach so much and remember fondly those long long walks along the ocean in windy, cool weather.

My "morning ritual" (day 6) is to meditate which I unfortunately still don't do every day. I started a meditation practice during the pandemic, but boy! it's not easy. Creating an art journal spread was a lot of fun, though!

Day 12 asked what "brings me joy" and of course, it's this little guy and his orange-white companion. He's sitting in my garden which is another very important source of joy for me.

 My "hobby" (day 15)? A look through the window into my 'studio' says it all.

When the Geek and I were walking around the lake one day and took a short break sitting on a bench I noticed the reflection in his cool sunglasses - perfect for day 18, "reflection".

I was "currently reading" (day 19) Matt Gaw's "Under the Stars", a beautiful love letter to the night sky and designated dark sky areas. It often reminded me of the incredible starry sky over the desert where no artificial light pollutes the night. Since then I have learned that there is a designated dark sky area near where I live and I know that I need to go there in a clear night (which might be a challenge since we so often have the coastal fog rolling in later in the day). While reading I'm having a cup of coffee ("drink", day 22) which is also my ticket to Elizabeth's T Tuesday when we show a drink that we enjoy.

"Softly" was the prompt for day 23, followed by "holding hands". Both pictures are old - the first photo shows my dad holding my newborn daughter. This is one of my favorite pictures of my dad. The second photo is of my brother and myself. He was holding my hand in order to put some seeds into my palm that we wanted to plant in this piece of dirt (it really only was dirt and not soil). While those seeds didn't take (no surprise), the seed of gardening was firmly planted within me. Please note that both my brother and I are wearing Lederhosen - simply the best for kids with wild souls who love to be and play outdoors.

When I read "horizon" (day 25) I immediately thought of the wide open skies in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the Northeast of Germany. I only had to decide whether I wanted to choose a photo of the endless poppy fields or a field with haystacks.

Day 28's prompt was "love" - always these two, forever.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Leaves and Branches


This is the first time that I'm joining Rain's Thursday Art Date because the prompt - leaves and branches - spoke to me. Any kind of  creativity is welcome on Rain's blog, and mine, of course, is photography (and you don't have to follow the prompt if you don't want to).

Let's start with branches. Those of you who have read my blog for some time know that I love crooked trees, and they of course have - crooked branches.

Most of these branches pictures were taken over the years in Yosemite National Park, some still on film. We call Yosemite the national park in our backyard and it certainly is the park that we have visited the most often.

During our first or second visit 20 years ago we climbed Sentinel Dome, a ganite dome on the south wall of Yosemite Valley. From the top you have a gorgeous view over the valley, but it is not half as crowded as Glacier Point. There used to be a lone Jeffrey Pine that became iconic through the photograph by Ansel Adams (among others). It died during the drought of 1976, but remained standing until August 2003 when it finally collapsed. This photo just shows one branch of it; I was drawn to it because it framed famous Half Dome - can you see it?

I also love dead branches on the ground that still offer "housing" to all kinds of insects and tiny critters.

I hope you don't think I only like dead or crooked branches - no, I also love them when they're full of life, like this California Buckeye (but then the buckeye can be a rather crooked tree as well...).

Low hanging branches with leaves on them like this gingko last fall - and that brings us to leaves.

I will concentrate here on leaves in regards to wildlife - what would a caterpillar do without leaves?

The grasshopper is soaking up the sun on the sedum "Autumn Joy".

A snail is taking a liking to the leaves of Salvia nemorosa.

The ladybugs love to hide in and crawl along the delicate leaves of yarrow.

And look here - a cicada sitting on a peony leaf.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sunday Wine Tasting

Last Sunday we went to our favorite winery in Healdsburg, Sapphire Hill Winery. We have been members of their wine club for several years and their wine seldom disappoints us. The winery doesn't have its own vineyards but buys the grapes from different vineyards and then makes their wine. It is owned by Chris and Lisa, and in addition to offering really nice wine, Lisa is also a great and experimental cook. Their wine tastings are always accompanied by food (at least for the club members). They used to do sit-down wine and food pairings (entire dinners) in their barrel room, but since the pandemic this unfortunately is a thing of the past (we hope that eventually they will come back). On Sunday we wanted to pick up our winter and spring shipment and since the weather was wonderful - sunny but not hot - we decided for a tasting on their patio.

We started out with a delicious warm brussels sprout dip - oh my lord! - paired with three sparkling wines (white, rosé and red).

We then had a potato leek soup with a dry Gewürztraminer followed by a red beet salad that had been pickled in the rosé that we were drinking with it. This was so refreshing!

On to the main "course", meatloaf sliders paired with a Zinfandel - I could have had more than one, to be honest. Zinfandel is my favorite red wine; the grape was brought to California in the mid 19th century and is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag as well as the Primitivo variety that is grown in Apulia, Italy. However, even though it is grown across the United States, Zinfandel is essentially a California grape, and Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley is one of the very best locations to grow it (aren't we lucky). 

The only thing left was the dessert - a warm brownie with salted caramel sauce. Lisa bakes these with ther raspberry-jalapeño jam in the centre that then oozes out when warmed. No, there is no heat and no taste of raspberry, just rich chocolate. This was paired with a full-bodied Old Vines Zinfandel.

You can probably guess where I am linking to - Elizabeth's T Tuesday and Kathy's Food Wednesdays. Thank you, ladies, for hosting!

Friday, April 22, 2022

California Poppies


As its name already suggests, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is California's state flower. You can find it anywhere in the state, it loves dry and sunny conditions, perfect for a part of the country that so often is short on water. The orange flowers make happy, vibrant spots in the landscape and can hardly be overlooked.

They also love to settle in gardens and since they freely self-sow it's almost impossible to get rid off them. I welcome them in my yard because it seems the entire garden is smiling.

But they also thrive in a less welcoming environment like sidewalks.

It's starting to unwrap its beauty...

Its orange color is the most known color of the California poppy, but did you know that it can also appear in other colors? When you compare the following picture with the one on top you will notice that the color here is a bit lighter.

Let's take a different look - it's orange at the center and turns lighter toward the edge,

This pale yellow one turned up in my garden a few years ago and has made an appearance every year since.

I love the pink ones, called "dusky rose". Aren't they pretty?

My favorite California poppy beside the "normal" ones are the "copper pot" variety. I simply love their rich color.

I leave you with a collage of the 2019 California superbloom how we saw it - I wrote about it here.