Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vacation re-cap

Our trip up north was just simply awesome. Camping was great, the beach was beautiful, weather was just right. We spent our days on the beach, went to the Leelanau county farmers market in empire to buy our 'groceries' for meals, and then spent Sunday on Old Mission Penninsula, wine-tasting at Black Star Farms and taking in the gorgeous views of vineyards and orchards!

I got a little tipsy and might have spent the hour-long drive shouting out sayings very (however unintentionally) similar to Double Rainbow exclaimations. Some of these could have been, "oh my gosh there's just so much!" And " oh my GOSH look at THAT it's so BEAUTIFUL!" as we passed by plot after plot of grape vines. Whoops!

Our last day was spent at Country Hermitage B&B which was scenic and home-like enough to inspire a lot of sadness when we had to leave. Located on a 400 acre working tart cherry orchard, its a historic home that was rehabbed in the late 90's and restored to its former glory. If you're up north, go there. Stay there.

More pics to come :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Late Summer Project #1

I have lately been falling in love with the idea of a trash can root cellar. It's a funny thing to fall in love with, huh? Since I've started to grow my own carrots, potatoes, and onions, I've been thinking about how to store them through the winter. My basement isn't cool enough in the winter to keep the veggies at the temp they need to be, and I don't have one of those awesome, old-fashioned root cellars. I've looked and done some research about building your own outdoor root cellar, which seems awesome but like a lot of work that I don't have time or money to do right now. I did find a easy, do-able, cheap, and cute (of course a major factor haha) method from Mother Earth News, here.

Basically, it details the process of making a miniature root cellar:
  1. Purchase a 5- gallon bucket
  2. Cut the bottom from the bucket
  3. Dig a hole in the ground just big enough to hold the bucket with the top of it flush with the ground
  4. Fill the bucket with carrots (or onions, potatoes, turnips, etc)
  5. Place the lid on the bucket and place a bale of straw on top for insulation
5-gallon buckets seem like a great size too, because a whole standard-sized trash can seems like a lot! Also, what if I want a carrot and two potatoes and I've put all my storage crop into one trash can? Would I just reach my hand down through the levels o' veggies? Seems like having separate 5-gallons for each type is more practical for usage throughout the winter. Stay tuned for 'implementation phase' :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trip to the Dunes

Empire Bluff scenic overlook
We are heading to Sleeping Bear Dunes in a few days, and I can't wait!! Ever since I was little, my family has considered the Dunes and Leelanau County to be a definite vacation destination and one of our favorite spot for relaxation. I've probably been there about 18-20 times, and a summer just seems less complete if we don't make it up there. We always laugh because since I'm from Ohio, my family would always call our trip, "Going to Michigan", as if the entire state was Glen Arbor, city of 4,000. Now that I live in Michigan, I know that there a few other places to live and to visit besides the north-western edge of the lower peninsula, but I still find myself referring to our trip this year as, "the michigan trip".

My goofy dad leaping down the Dunes Climb while my aunts flee 
This will be our first year going by ourselves as a couple, minus my parents, my brother, and lots of aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends over the years. It's a fun tradition we have- we camp at the same campground every time- I don't even want to mention it here because then you will go there and it'll be more busy! But since most of you are nice, nature-respecting people who would treat it with the same appreciation, love and affection that I would :), I'll reveal- its DH Day campground. It's state-run as far as I can tell, and they don't take reservations. It's right on Lake Michigan, it's clean and well-kept, and it's a 2 minute walk to the beach! Great semi-rustic sites, no showers, pit toilets- it'll be several days of nature and I'm so anxious to get there!

It's so beautiful!
Since DH Day doesn't allow us to book ahead of time, we always leave at midnight the night before our trip is to start, and drive up overnight, hopped up on caffine. We get to the campground, and we get in the already-forming line of cars as dawn begins, just to assure we'll get a spot! It's worth it. Mike usually sleeps in the car while we wait for the ranger station to open and buy our pass for the weekend. I can't fully relax and sleep after our midnight drive yet! While he snoozes, I walk the path past the sleeping campers in their sites to the beach. Looking out at the lake is my first official vacation action; I run down the boardwalk, take my shoes off, and dig my toes in to the cool sand, maybe walk out to the water. I need to reassure myself that I'm really there before I sleep.

Looking forward to a few slow, relaxing days; biking, playing on the beach, cooking over the campfire. Maybe some kayaking if we get ambitious. I'd really like to go to some of the local farmers' markets (surprise!), tour a winery, and pick some sweet cherries. Traverse City is supposed to be a great "foodie" place to eat, and the region produces a lot of great wine!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Harvesting garlic + quick & easy Zucchini recipe

Ah!!! How did it get to be July? I know, I know; the months passed in sequential order like they always do. But June just flew by and July snuck up on me! While I was caught off-guard, I did manage to tend my garden much more consistently than last year. Last year at this time, you looked out into the backyard and saw Wild Weed Land, and not in a fun, cannabis-inspired type of way. This year- vague order! Semi-management of weeds!

See?! Plz ignore crazy weeds in back :)
Go me. I have been successfully enjoying foods as they come into season (um how are strawberries gone already?), which is fun! This past week, it was garlic-harvesting time! "How do I tell when my garlic is ready to harvest?", you might be asking? There's an easy indicator- when the leaves of the plant are 1/2-2/3 brown, it's time to pull those babies out! Or when you get so excited and you start rationalizing; the leaves are really almost quite close to 1/3 brown and that's pretty much like 1/2 isn't it? That's when I knew. Pull those guys outta there, brush off some of the dirtiest dirt parts, but do not wash! You need to identify a warm, dry spot for your garlic to cure for the next 3-4 weeks!

My spot is here, in the un-air conditioned mudroom: 


Made a delicious meal tonight, very easy and light: Broiled Zucchini. Broiled is such an ugly word. Maybe we could call it something else like, "Zippy Zucchini". New official name. The recipe is too simple for me to even tell you in an organized fashion. Just turn your oven onto broil, mix some olive oil,   onions, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and lemon juice (I used limes!). Slice a zucchini up, and cut up a moderately-sized tomato (or several smaller ones), and mix it all together! Put on foil, and broil for 8-10 minutes. DONE! Deliciousness! Coolest thing about this dish? I know who grew each ingredient (ok minus the salt, pepper, olive oil, and lime).