Balcony Garden: things we learned the first time around

August 22nd, 2013

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Suj and I are fortunate to have a huge balcony at our place in DC. It is really a ton of outdoor space in the city, so as soon as we moved in we knew we wanted to take advantage of it by planting an urban garden.  We considered building a medium sized planter box for a more traditional-type garden, but since we are just renting we decided that probably wasn’t a practical option. We settled on planting in a variety of mismatched pots, and we are pretty happy with the results.

I did a lot of research about when and what to plant, but I didn’t find much helpful information. Most of the posts I read suggested talking to a local garden store. We decided to just wing it and plant a random variety of veggies. We started in early spring (I think about mid-April) when the weather started to warm up.

We planted a few varieties of tomato, classic and purple basil, rosemary, lots of hot peppers, red and green bell peppers, and zucchini. The rosemary died immediately. We seriously had it for a few weeks before it totally shriveled and died. Apparently it is temperamental with heat and watering. On the other hand, the basil has done quite well. Suj’s sister had a garden last year and her basil plants grew into these crazy 4 foot tall monstrosities. Ours is only about a foot tall, probably due to the fact that it is growing in a small planter. In any case, we have had plenty of fresh basil this summer.

We have had mixed results with the tomatoes. One of the plants is an heirloom variety, and while it has given us a lot of tomatoes, they have a tendency to crack. We did some googling, and apparently the cracking is a result of inconsistent watering. This summer we have had a ton of rain storms followed by intense heat, so we haven’t been able to control the water exposure for our plants. Beside the heirlooms, we also planted a few cherry tomato bushes. These little guys were gifted to us and had been specially bred to be high-yield and compatible with DC conditions. These have been fantastic. I absolutely recommend the cherry tomatoes over the regular size. Not only have they grown well, but they are ready to be eaten so much sooner. I was shocked to learn that it takes over two months for a regular tomatoes to ripen!

The zucchini was a horrible idea. The plants were so tiny when we got them, so we planted them in a long container alongside our bell peppers. We soon learned that the zucchinis are basically plant terrorists. The leaves grew so fast and so big that they took over the place. In addition, we had to wait a long time before we ever saw zucchini growing. When we finally harvested one it was all goofy shaped, not like the ones at the grocery store. It is still in our fridge.

The jury is out on the bell peppers. We got one pepper from each bush and they were tiny. That said, it is unclear whether the problem was the bell pepper plant or the insane zucchini that basically grew on top of them.

The hot peppers have done the best by far. We have a couple bushes: jalapenos, serranos, and red peppers. The jalapenos and serranos have given us more than we can possibly use–and we love us some peppers. I would definitely recommend those for an urban garden.

Bottom line: My urban garden recommendations are hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Mid-sized planters work fine. Make sure to water them every day.

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Green juice with beet leaves

July 3rd, 2013

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I’m juicing and I love it! So a few weekends ago I watched that juicing documentary on Netflix. I know I am about two years behind everyone else on stuff like this (like when I discovered Pinkberry in 2012 and could not stop talking about it), but I don’t care. I am jumping on the juicing bandwagon! Since I have been eating “cleaner” and exercising  more, I have been concerned that I am not getting enough calories. I feel like I am eating a lot, though. Juicing is a good solution for me because I can get a ton of nutrients without feeling too heavy. Anyway, I have been using the Breville I got for Suj’s last birthday. It is really intense, and I end up finding little bits of fly-away fruit in my hair sometimes, but it does the trick. It is sort of a huge pain to clean every time, but I can deal with it. I am, however, wondering what in the world I can do with all of the fruit and veggie remains. Composting maybe? I also remember hearing a long time ago that you can use the stuff in breads or cakes. I am going to have to do some research. In the meantime, cheers!

My new favorite app: Songza

June 17th, 2013

I totally love this app.  Just the other day I was saying that I wish I had an app that would just play music mixes without me having to think of a theme or artist.  Welp … wish granted.  This app is so cool.  It takes into consideration the day and the hour and offers a list of activities you might be doing.  Then it will suggest playlists based on those activities.   Say it is a Wednesday morning at 7 am.  Well, the app will assume that you are waking up, or working out, or driving to the office, and will provide awesome mixes for each of those things.  Say it is Friday at 9 pm.  The app will figure that you are getting ready for a party, or grilling outdoors, or curling up with a book, and it will offer totally new playlists for those things.  Perfect!  I have no idea how the algorithm or licensing works, but I hope it is all solid because this is totally my new favorite app.  Oh, did I mention it is FREE?!  Yeah.

South Haven, MI

June 13th, 2013

A few weeks ago the D.C. gang took a trip to South Haven, Michigan to visit Erin’s family and enjoy the lake Michigan beach.  The weekend was full of amazing food, kitsch shopping, and awesome family time.  South Haven is an adorable, sleepy beach town, and Erin’s parents live right next to the water.  The night life was a hilarious change of pace from D.C.!  Alex came close to a career change after being inspired by the drummer in a live cover band, and I could not get over how cheap our bar tab was.  After a lot of dancing and a lot of eating and a lot of snuggling in a king-sized bed with Erin, I was ready to stay forever.  But I guess I am going to have to settle for another visit in the future.  Going home is the best, even if it is not always your own home.

{popcorn is 50 cents here!}

{the old fishin’ boat}

{hunting for ingredient}

{a walk after the farmer’s market}

{so old school}

{wine tasting}

{wet dog}

{Alex+Adria+Erin}

 

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

June 11th, 2013

Last week I made some grilled sweet potato fries, but I grossly overestimated how many I needed.  So, I had a few cooked sweet potatoes in the fridge that were just itching to be turned into something fantastic.  Sweet potato soup is sort of a hearty dish for summer, but it has been rainy and gloomy in D.C. so I was in the mood for something warm.  This is the sort of dish that you can modify  a million different ways, but the recipe below provides a pretty basic starting point.  And I usually have most of the ingredients on hand, which is a bonus.  The recipe calls for unsweetened soy milk, but all I had in the fridge was vanilla flavored soy milk and it turned out just fine.  I suppose you could also use “cow” milk if you are not on a vegan challenge.  So versatile.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
 
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Author:
Cuisine: Soup
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • ½ c. vegetable broth
  • ½ c. soy milk
  • 1 tsp. chipotle seasoning or cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • diced avocado and cracked pepper for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine diced (cooked) sweet potato, broth, and soy milk and blend until smooth. Add chipotle (other other preferred spice) and salt to taste. If needed, transfer the puree and warm in a sauce pan over low heat. Top with avocado and cracked pepper (or basically anything you want).

 

Plant Based Diet Challenge

June 3rd, 2013

I have to admit, I have been feeling a little … well, unhealthy lately.  I’ve never been very diligent about diet or exercise, but I have a pretty active lifestyle and generally eat okay, so I have gotten away with a lot of bad habits (ahem, cheese-related habits).  Last weekend, however, I had a little beach time on Lake Michigan and realized I am not in my best beach body shape.  I decided to get proactive and dive into a plant based diet.  My parents have been eating this way for a few months and they love it.  The guidelines I’ve adopted are basically consistent with a vegetarian or mostly vegan diet, but with a little wiggle room.  I am eating meals with fresh, non-processed foods.  This should explain why my recipe posts will be a little “cleaner” for a while.

I’ve been hitting the gym more often as well, and with a little luck maybe I will actually start to enjoy running.  We’ll see.

{Cannellini Bean Salad}

{A little cheese-cheat}

Easy Quiche Two Ways

May 20th, 2013

Quiche is such a great brunch choice because you can throw it together quickly and it is always a crowd pleaser. This weekend I had some extra veggies that needed to be used, so I whipped up two versions of this simple dish. In one quiche I used asparagus and bell peppers and in the other, sautéed spinach and sweet cherry tomatoes. That’s another thing that makes quiche so great–you can basically thrown in anything!

 

Asparagus, Bell Pepper and Gruyere Quiche
 
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Author:
Recipe type: 001
Cuisine: breakfast
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ c. chopped asparagus
  • ¼ c. diced bell pepper
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 c. grated gruyere
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • pie crust
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Saute asparagus and bell pepper in olive oil for about 6 minutes. The vegetables should still be slightly crunchy.
  3. Combine eggs and milk in a large bowl.
  4. Transfer vegetables to pie crust. Top with cheese. Pour egg mixture into pie crust.
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes.

 

White House Garden Tour

October 25th, 2012

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Suj and I had the opportunity to attend the fall White House garden tour on a beautiful October afternoon.  The White House property is much larger than I realized.  I felt lucky to enjoy such a bright day surrounded by so much history.  The tour included glimpses of the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, and South Lawn, and the White House Kitchen Garden. The grounds are lovely and, though many people were touring the area, it felt peaceful and sort of reverent.  Here are a few of my favorite spots:

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{littleleaf linden planted by George W.H. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II in 1991}

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{twisty tree}

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{bright flowers in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden}

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{magnolia trees}

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{Truman Balcony}

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{view of the mall from the White House}

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{quiet seating near the Rose Garden}

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{a touch of Autumn in the trees}

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{outside the Rose Garden}

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{putting green}

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{Sasha and Malia’s playground}

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{White House Kitchen Garden}

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At the Ballet

October 19th, 2012

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As part of Ashley’s self-improvement goals, we decided to add a little more culture in our everyday life.  We are off to a good start after our visit to the Kennedy Center to watch the Mariinsky Ballet’s production of Cinderella.  Ashley, Suj, and I met for an early dinner at Founding Farmers then we cabbed the short distance to meet Beth at the Kennedy Center. The ballet was contemporary  and fun and the dancers were gorgeous.  It made me nostalgic for all those years I spent in the studio when I was younger.  It was such a great night, in such a lovely theater, I couldn’t help but sneak a few photos (shhh).

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Apartment hunting, football, and the past few weeks

October 16th, 2012

Whew, it has been busy around here. Just a little recap: Suj and I spent the past few weeks looking for a permanent apartment for him in DC, and after hours on craigslist and attending numerous open houses, I am happy to report that we found an incredible place. He moves in around the first of November, which will be awesome because (1) he is anxious to stop living out of a suitcase, and (2) he will be just a few blocks away from me! The move also means there will be lots of projects and organizing and moving furniture about (so hard to explain why I love moving furniture around) and housewarmings. In the meantime, I am reading up on design and décor so I can be totally ready to offer my unsolicited advice.

Other than apartment hunting, my free time has been filled with a lot of football and mandatory continuing legal education courses. I can’t really say which I enjoy more. Erin has been trying to convert me into a football fanatic, but as of now, I am only ever excited about the football food. (I’m trying. Promise.) As for the CLEs, well … I’m finally done. My work doesn’t pay for the classes like some employers do, so I shopped around for some online bargain courses this year. Unfortunately the inexpensive courses generally don’t feature the most exciting topics (ahem, pre-immigration income tax planning). Oh well, broadening my horizons, I suppose.

On a brighter note, here are some photos of the past few weeks of traveling, exploring, and celebrating nuptials:

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{beautiful view at the Philip Carter Winery}

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{mason jar accents}

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{looking glam–thanks Cindy!}

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{huge hot sauce selection at the Apple House}

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{soju bloody mary at Mandu, in Dupont}

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{my ongoing obsession with old globes}