Weekend in Pictures

blowing out the candles

jenga concentration

its going to fal

Ollie plays a pretty intense game of Jenga


(This is what was left AFTER we canned the salsa!)

sunflower boy

missing front teethI guess we know what she’s going to ask for for Christmas…



Roasted Veggies and Pasta with Homemade Pesto

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

Homemade pesto is one of the greatest things our society has ever invented. It’s one of the best things about gardening: lots of excess basil means lots of pesto sitting in the freezer, waiting to be eaten.

As for the rest of it, well, it’s fast and easy, which is something you can never have too much of, especially with two small kids and a busy schedule.

Which is good, because this pasta is something I can never have too much of.

The Journey:

You can essentially roast any kind of veggies, but we pretty much always fall back on the same ones. So go with what you have, but this is a combination I can vouch for.

colorful vegetables
Assuming you’ve made the pesto ahead of time, then all  you’ve got to do is coarsely chop the veggies, roast them, make pasta, and then mix it all together. What could be easier than that?

If you’re feeling particularly plucky, or carnivorous, you can toss in some sausage as well, which makes this even BETTER.

roasted veggies

The Verdict:

Not only is this absolutely delicious, but it’s just so colorful! Makes me feel good just looking at it. Plus you’re getting a lot of veggies, and it looks a lot fancier than it feels, since it’s so simple to make. The veggies are actually pretty sweet, and they go so well with the pesto. The sausage brings in a little saltiness and makes it last a bit longer in your stomach.

This is in heavy rotation at our house.

pasta and sausage

The Recipe:


Recipe modified slightly from the yummy life.

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus enough to pour on top of the jars to prevent discoloration
  1. In a food processor, finely chop the garlic.
  2. Add basil leaves and chop until fine.
  3. Add cheese, walnuts, salt, and pepper; pulse until the consistency of a coarse paste.
  4. With the food processor running, slowly pour olive oil through the feed tube and continue mixing until the oil is completely combined with paste.
  5. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week. Pesto freezes well. Freeze in ice cube trays, and then store frozen pesto cubes in plastic freezer bags in freezer for up to 6 months. Pesto may also be frozen in small jars or plastic containers for up to 9-12 months.


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 package pasta
  • A handful of sun dried tomatoes (get the dry ones if you can, rather than the ones packed in oil)
  • ~ 1/2 lb of sausage (optional)

Any roasted veggies will do, but this is what we use:

  • 1-2 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  1. Preheat the oven to 400
  2. Chop the veggies and spread them on a cookie sheet. Toss them with oil and a little salt
  3. Bake the veggies for 30-40 minutes, until they are a little blackened
  4. Make pasta as per directions on the package
  5. Toss the pasta with the pesto, veggies, sausage, and sun dried tomatoes

Garden Defended

We hadn’t yet got the garden arranged or planted, but we had done some work on it. I had buried the compost we had been dumping on all winter and removed the last of the old kale stalks, so it was more or less ready to go. So, since the weather has finally taken a turn for the better, Sara decided to go get some seeds in the ground.

She called me at work. “Did you rearrange all the bricks from the garden path?” she asked. “Uh, no? Why would I do that?”  I said. “Well I don’t know, but someone took apart our path and rebuilt it in a new pattern.”

It seemed a little too polite for vandalism, so right away we assumed perhaps someone new to the garden had gotten confused and thought they had been assigned our plot. We emailed the garden director, but there was really no way to know who had made the mistake or which plot they had really been assigned.

Anyway, we hoped they hadn’t planted anything in our garden, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. Sara put the path back, flipped the dirt, and planted some seeds.

A few hours later, we got a text from one of our neighbors, and fellow gardener. “Someone is digging up your garden!” Sara immediately ran over there and confronted the lady, averting disaster.

Now, of course it was an honest mistake, but by the time Sara got there she had covered over some of the swiss chard seeds and she had unearthed bucket fulls of our hard-earned compost and was taking them out of the garden. All winter long we have been laboriously schlepping our good kitchen compost over to the garden, braving -30 degree weather to save our slimy decomposing fertilizer.

Apparently, one of our garden neighbors had disdainfully told her, “Oh yeah, they just used this as a dumping ground”. Hello? It’s called compost! What gardener can’t tell the difference between trash and biodegradable worm food? The thing is, our plot is by no means untended. We have a nice path and nice smooth dirt, and a box full of strawberries. Sara had put sticks in to mark the rows of planted seeds. “Oh, I thought maybe my friend had left me some sticks,” she said. “Good thing you got me before I threw out your strawberries!”

Good thing indeed!

Again, it was an honest mistake. I feel bad for the lady; I would be mortified if I had made the same mistake. I can only imagine she will spend the rest of the year hiding under the lettuce whenever she sees us. Maps are difficult to read. I’m just glad our neighbor has our back (and a quick texting finger)!

Garden 2013

This year we decided to simplify our garden and mostly just focus on tomatoes. No beans, no peppers, no eggplant. Just lots and lots of tomatoes.


However, we did put in two basil plants, and we had planted carrots and kale from seeds before we made this decision. Those seem to be going surprisingly well. I don’t think we’ve ever had so many carrots come up! Last year we had maybe 3 or 4 kale plants and they provided an amazingly endless amount of kale. This year we had about 10 plants come up! So we might be swimming in the stuff.

And of course, lets not forget the strawberries!


Okay, so maybe it’s a little more diversified than I realized.

I’m actually kind of excited about all the tomatoes. They seem to be the most versatile and consistently useful thing we grow. I really don’t think we could ever have too many tomatoes. Some things seem to be about the same from the garden or the store, but that is not the case for tomatoes; they are night and day better from the garden. Worst case scenario we just can lots of extra tomato sauce and salsa.


It looks like one of the tomatoes didn’t survive the planting, and one of the ones from the food swap is a teeny tiny baby, so I’m not sure it’s going to make it either. But it’s still early enough that we could probably sneak in a few replacements if we had to.

Here’s to another year of delicious fresh produce!

Alas, poor Lloyd, we hardly knew ye

Unfortunately, our garden gnome Lloyd is no more.

Lloyd, in happier times

Lloyd had been with me for just under 10 years or so, given as a gift to be a companion to my gargoyle Prince (short for Prince of Darkness of course). Usually we take Lloyd in for the winter, but this year we didn’t. Perhaps he got upset at being left out in the cold, but more likely, someone decided to appropriate our humble garden gnome. And something tells me I’m not going to get a bunch of cute pictures of his travels.

Evie has noticed that he’s not in the garden, but hasn’t caught on yet that he’s gone for good. So far, I haven’t had the heart to tell her. He was certainly a positive part of the garden, and our only protection against the shark (who unfortunately did not get stolen, and still menaces our plot from his lofty plastic perch).

Lloyd, we miss you buddy, and we wish you’d come back. The garden won’t be the same without you. But if you don’t, I can only hope you’ve moved on to greener pastures.

Missing: One Garden Worth of Produce

Remember how I bragged back in July about how our garden was growing like crazy, and we were harvesting a ton of lettuce and strawberries? Well, not a lot has happened since then.

Our tomato plants and beans grew and grew and grew like crazy, consuming our entire garden to the point where we have to hack our way in every time we go to water it. The bean plants in particular are constantly grabbing onto our tomatoes and the tomatoes in the garden next door, like some kind of hungry tentacled monster.

This seemed like a good sign, but where’s all the produce?

I believe 2 of our 12 tomato plants (8 planted tomato plants and another 4 or so naturally occurring) have actually made tomatoes. And even those are hardly producing. The beans have just offered up a handful of beans, but I’m hoping that’s because we started them late.

Why aren’t our tomatoes producing? We currently have 2 theories. The first is that it was just too hot at the wrong time. My sister said that the plants won’t produce flowers when the temperature is over 100. This could explain it, since we had a heat wave right at the time that the plants should have been blowing up. The other theory is that we seem to have some aphids this year. We also have ladybugs, so the situation seems to be controlling itself, but one gardener posited that perhaps the tomatoes were worried about growing defenses rather than fruit.

Luckily we got 13 pounds of tomatoes from my dad, so we spent 3 1/2 hours on Sara’s birthday canning 7 quarts of tomatoes.

The only things that seem to be going well in the garden right now are the peppers (and the eggplant). Specifically, our jalapeno plant is going like gangbusters. I picked 15 large jalapenos the other day, and there were still more coming. This was after we had already frozen about all that we would probably use (I have to admit, we don’t use a ton of jalapenos in a year, especially since we haven’t canned any salsa so far this year).

I’m still holding out a little hope that the tomatoes are just delayed, and we still may get some kind of tomato explosion. Then we can all look back on this post and have a good laugh together, as we try to give them away to anyone who will take them.


The Dangerous World of Illicit and Illegal Gardens

Okay everybody, check this one out. A woman in Michigan faces 93 days of jail time. Why? For planting a garden of course.

Long story short, the lady’s yard was destroyed for some sewer work, so she decided to build some raised-beds rather than re-do her grass. Seems very reasonable, and looks pretty nice to boot:

Unfortunately though, such gardens are apparently outlawed by city ordinance.

I know you’re probably thinking what I was thinking: there has to be more to this story. But there really doesn’t seem to be anything else (well, there is in the sense that she wouldn’t stand down, not that she should have, but you have to wonder what exactly her attitude was like). However, the weird thing is that gardens are not specifically outlawed (and why would they be?). The rule says only:

“suitable” plant material is allowed on the lawn area of residences. When local media asked city planner Kevin Rulkowski what that meant, he said suitable means “common:” lawn, nice shrubs, and flowers. However, the city ordinance does not specifically state that those are the only allowed plant materials.

So, even if she was being petty, the city was obviously being *more* petty.

This is so horrible, I don’t even know where to begin. However, I am not surprised in the least. I used to think that draconian property restrictions were the domain of fancy-pants subdivisions (where I wouldn’t want to live anyway), but I’ve recently discovered this is not the case. Who would have thought that it is nearly impossible to find vacant land in the middle of nowhere which allows you to build a tiny house? Through an endless supply of township regulations, such as minimum square footage, roof pitch angle, and land usage restrictions, such as no trailers, you have practically no say over what you do on your land.

The supposed justification for this is multi-faceted:

  1. We have to keep out the hordes of drifters.
  2. What you do on your property can bring the value of my property down. So you can’t do whatever you want on your land, because now its affecting me.
  3. You pay property tax based on what your property is worth, so if you have a crappy property but you still use the same amount of services, you’re somehow gaming the system.
These reasons are a load of crap because:
  1. Drifters? What is this, the 1950’s? This only makes sense if drifters is a euphemism for poor people or certain targeted races, which is about as illegal as it gets.
  2. So what? You always run that risk. I can build a mansion and shoot holes in it or paint it puce, or put up signs saying, “This neighborhood is full of dog-rapists” and you don’t have laws against that (although that would be less oppressive than some of the “grass length” rules I’ve seen) (and now a bunch of townships are probably enacting these laws as we speak).
  3. This one has a little merit on the surface, but if that’s really the problem, then pass laws on property tax reform. Besides, if I have crappy property that isn’t worth anything, then my punishment comes when I try to sell it and I can’t.
I think this garden story really highlights the fact that 1) your stupid rules prevent reasonable people from doing reasonable things, and 2) your rules are stupid to begin with (and possibly racist or classist) because you can’t make a rule that says, “I want to stop people from doing things that I personally don’t like.”
Link via Sara.