Friday, April 27, 2012

Tea Party


Tea Parties. The word itself conjures so many images. Images of ruffled summer dresses and lace gloves, miniature treats and dainty tea sandwiches, holding a cup with one’s pinky up, or perhaps even the fantastical party of the Mad Hatter in Alice’s Wonderland?


This weekend I hosted a tea party. I borrowed some family heirlooms and had the occasion to use some of my own, and we enjoyed our fancy tea to celebrate a bride-to-be. The fare consisted of tart cherries scones, with lemon curd & clotted cream, and three types of tea sandwiches, with tea biscuits and petite fours. The tea sandwiches were of three varieties: egg salad, cucumber & strawberry.


So we nibbled and drank tea with our pinkies up. I only felt like the mad hatter once when I burnt myself by accidentally touching the hot silver teapot top! It was nonetheless lovely to enjoy tea with the ladies.

To create the fanciful tea sandwiches, simple mix together this general spread and spread as little as possible to coat both sides of sandwich bread, add some paper thin slices of whatever you like (strawberry, cucumber, radishes, etc.), and then cut the crusts off!

Tea Sandwich Spread

  • 1 8oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup peeled & seeded cucumber, diced fine
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 TB fresh herbs – tarragon, basil, parsley or mint

Thursday, April 19, 2012

CSA Box #1

Today I received the first box from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription, offered by The Produce Box, that we joined.

This CSA seems so different from the one previous bad experience I've had. In that prior experience, it was through one farm directly that charged you up front in the off-season. This came with a hefty tag of ~$600. At that time, it didn't seem prudent. Additionally, that farm's CSA did not offer any choices and would deliver whatever the farm could at that point - which was a nightmarish concept after many friends relayed stories of getting boxes full of the same undesired vegetable week after week.

So happy was I to realize that The Produce Box is actually a network of farms that offer you weekly Box Choices an the potential of skipping weeks. Adding to that you have the luxury of paying as you go, without any obligation to pay for the skipped weeks. I'm happy so far! And they even included a nice newsletter with recipes and farm news. So I'm glad that we’re getting to experience this fun farm-to-table shopping. This weeks rundown is:

  • 1 large bunch spinach
  • 1 large head Romaine
  • 2 quarts strawberries
  • 2 (greenhouse) cucumbers
  • 2 (thin) carrots
  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • Cost: $23

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wine Authorities

2501 University Drive, #6A, in the same shopping center as LoYo, Durham, NC


Last night was Date Night. Fred and I went down to the Duke Forest corner of Durham by US 15/501 and had a surprising outing to Wine Authorities. While there, we also picked up a batard from Guglhupf that they were selling at the wine store. Additionally, they also had Escazu chocolates, Meat from Farmhand foods, and various other meat, dairy and gourmet food products from regional farms & producers. I was very impressed by the “small market” they had set up near the cashier.

Most people in Durham have heard of Wine Authorities. It was our first venture into the store together, and we were pleasantly surprised to find everything to help craft a romantic or gourmet experience. Also of note, is if you elect to enroll in their customer database, it will track your wine purchases for you, so you’ll never have to wonder what that great vintage was a week after the recycling’s gone out!

Joy to your World,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simple Spring Eats

iphone march 2012 015

Springtime is one of better seasons innately because it ushers in a new season of fresh produce. By late March, aren’t the first ripe strawberries of the season (from Elodie Farms at the Saturday Durham market) a happy sight? Sprinkled with a little homemade sucre vanille they are a luscious dessert!

Asparagus seems to be on sale at all the supermarkets, such a pocket friendly treat in the height of its season. We like to grill it crispy with salt and pepper. Roasted in the oven it is a lovely way to heat the house in winter – but now I’m looking forward to keeping that heat outdoors and welcoming the Grilling Season!

Best yet, simple tartines made from the deliciously charred “market bread” from Loaf, slathered with nutella, butter and fleur de sel, or cream cheese are the best way to break fast in the morn. Simple gourmandise at its best.

Joy to your World,


Monday, April 9, 2012

Coucou, Printemps!

Why, hello Spring! You almost caught us unaware. But we’ve been window-watching all this time, and have noticed our beautiful change of season!


I know it’s been quiet here on the blog, but the homestead here in NoDu has been bustling. We’re busy this Spring! Each weekend has a different project occupying us - us the human folk, at least. The kittens have been spending all their time this Spring laying on the couch peering out from the windows! Such sweet friends they are. Milosh always welcomes me home before re-claiming his spot right in the front window.

milosh pic

We’ve added two new planting areas: the side yard “orchard,” and a new flower garden in the back yard for cutting. In the orchard area, I’ve added blueberry bushes and there’s the fig tree. I hope to plant a pomegranate tree today that I bought at the market yesterday.

orchard 4 12

In the existing bed that lines the sidewalk & driveway, there’s a mélange of Spring vegetables: micro-greens, lettuces, beets, chard. Though, I think I accidentally weeded all the chard, believing the chard shoots to be oak tree shoots. I’ve promised my husband myself that I will not be buying any vegetable plants as last year the deer ate everything. I’m convinced they had our yard marked as an all-you-can-eat hotspot. We’d find tomatoes with one huge bite taken out of them a few yards from the once-laden plants. With that in mind, I subscribed to The Produce Box, a local CSA which delivers boxes of local farm fresh produce to your door weekly. We should be receiving our first delivery this week!

I’ve also expanded the herb garden area directly in front of the front door. It’s so nice to just slip right out the door to grab some fresh herbs just off from the front porch.


Regarding the back yard, in the wet days of early Spring, I had thought a tulip bed would be just the thing. Perhaps inspired by our trip to Holland, I thought they would do nicely in a segment of our backyard. So without giving it much thought, my dear husband went to work tilling it one weekend. In his zeal, he broke the tiller in two as the area was quite rooted. We spent the better part of the afternoon using the hatchet and the axe to chop out the roots. So far I have some tulips, a couple “Scotch Brooms,” a knockout rose, and a ton of miscellaneous flower seeds I had lying around. We’ll see what comes up! Pictures to come soon.

Joy to your World,


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!! Hope you and yours enjoy some Easter ham and celebrate the Risen Christ!

Joy to your World,


Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Tale of Loss & Growth

tubshvat feb 2012 040

This past Wednesday was the Jewish holiday of Tu B’shevat. This day is a celebrate for the “Birthday of the Trees,” and is the specific day of the year that Jews celebrate and ideally plant trees. This year it occurred in February, but the date varies depending upon the Jewish Calendar. It so happened that in the same week of the celebration, Fred and I planted 4 new trees of our own in our yard.

I had a conversation with my friend Paige, a garden professional, about my pitiful fruit trees from last year. The fig, blueberry, raspberry plants that I had mail-ordered last year are the saddest examples I’ve ever seen. I asked her where I should get nice blueberries bushes and a good hardy fig tree to transplant into my yard, and she assured me that she could get me good plants and that now was the time to put them in the ground. P:aige brought me the trees on Friday, and this Saturday, Fred and I toiled in the yard, planting 4 beautiful new plants: 2 blueberry bushes, 1 fig tree, and 1 “Snowball” Viburnum bush.

I think my new Brown Turkey Fig Tree is the most lovely specimen ever. Compared with the twig of a fig I had before (thusly named “FigTwig,”) my new tree is magnificent. While planting my new tree, I actually accidentally stepped on the original “FigTwig” that I planted one year ago. It snapped to the ground, and when I pulled up little FigTwig’s broken single branch and compared it with the new plant, he was a pathetic thing not 1/10 the size of the new fig. I love the moss that covered him and how his arms seem to try to wrap up the sun in a loving embrace. He spindly nature offers an air of mystery and seem exotic to me.

fig melange

The Snowball Viburnum was the largest plant we put it. It’s a lovely big bushy plant with large white “snowball” flowers, which look like the puffy flowers of a hydrangea. This bush is an excellent bush for chickens, as they adore to roost inside the bush on its their long horizontal branches.

The blueberries far exceed the plants I received through the mail-order catalogue. Currently, my blueberries from last year are probably about a8” high at this point. The plants Paige brought me were about 3 ft. and 4 ft. plants. One variety is “Premium,” the other wasn’t labeled. They need to be different types so they will cross pollinate and produce the fruit. We put them on the edge of an existing “natural area” in the yard. It’s my hope we can add bulbs and other shrubs to beautify these leaf ridden messes natural areas.

tubshvat feb 2012 107

And all of these plantings were done amide the sad reality that it appears I have forever lost my engagement ring. I realized I couldn’t find it on Wednesday morning, and we’ve searched everywhere. It’s the most painful loss I think I’ve experienced – and that both humbles and shames me. I can’t really describe how it feels to lose such a sentimental treasure. Fred gave me the diamond ring when he asked me to be his wife, and he tried to wrap up his love for me in it’s token form, and to lose that token and physical reminder hurts the most. Also, realizing we’ve lost it’s tangible worth is difficult. It is humbling and wonderful though to realize that such materialistic things are fleeting; and these are not the things that life is about;  we are safe, and well and surrounded by amazing and loving family and friends; a ring is nothing compared to these things. God Willing, we will it, and if not, it’s perfectly okay. 

Joy to your World,


professional 035

Saturday, February 4, 2012

La Chandeleur: un histoire

La Chandeleur Feb 2 12 007

La Chandeleur was yesterday. It’s a French holiday which translates to Candlemas. La Chandeleur has a few names, actually. This day is also known as “Groundhog’s Day” in American & Canada and also marked as both la Fête de la Lumière/Feast of Lights, and La jour des crêpes/Day of Crêpes. It is widely celebrated throughout la francophonie as THE day to eat crêpes. Once, it even marked the official start of the “crêpe season.”

This year, we fêted La Chandeleur at our house and my cousin taught me the tricks. And really, they truly aren’t difficult to make. I had tried when I lived in France, and even at home after, but I never had much success until my cousin showed me how. Turns out, it is very simple. Using stuff you probably already have, you can make fantastic crêpes at home. And one recipe will make about 20, so, like the French, you can keep a stash of crêpe in your house for a day, or two after this fun holiday.

Even without making crêpes, the history behind La Chandeleur is fascinating. It is always fêted on Feb. 2, a feast day in the Catholic calendar which commemorates the jewish ritual cleansing and purification of the Virgin Mary after having given birth and more importantly also marks the presentation of baby Jesus at the temple/to the world officially. So, this day also is celebrated as the “Fête de la Lumière” or The Feast of Lights, as Chris is the Light of the World. And that is where the crêpe comes in. The humble crêpe. The crêpe is yellow, hot and golden, like the sun, which therein reminds us of how Christ is the Light of the World. So, as this message is very important, it’s important to remember it. And thus the fun thing about the day is it is believed to ensure a lucky year, il faut manger des crêpes / one must eat crêpes!

Really? Truth be told, a lot of French folks don’t recall why they eat crêpe on Feb. 2 each year. Because not only do you eat crêpes (and therefore drink low-alcohol, very drinkable cidre) but it’s also a day of predictions (and sometimes games). La Chandeleur is also in fact the basis for the secular American “Groundhog’s day” which is also a day to make predictions about the coming year.

Historically though, the crêpe season season (as all food was seasonal during these times) would go on until Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, when just before lent everyone would gobble up their remaining crêpe before fasting. Therein, the source of the tradition of eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday, as crêpes are often referred to as “French pancakes.”)

So, to make the crêpes you just have to call out the big guns: patience and those fingertips. The crêpe batter is the easiest thing in the world (thanks, Alton). The trick is to quickly rotate the pan to cover it evenly (a hole or two will not ruin it), ideally a full shot glass used on a ~10” nonstick surface. Then, wait. Once it begins to curl (you can aid it by nudging the edges with a spatula), slide your spatula under to loosen it and then get in there and just flip it over by holding on with your fingertips.

In France, they also have cute sayings for La Chandeleur that rhyme. These rhymes draw a clear reference to the secular American holiday of Groundhog’s day.

They are also fun to say. Try them out:

Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure / Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour

À la Chandeleur, l'hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur / On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens

À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures / On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours

Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte / Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost

Joy to your World,


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Welcome to NoDu

     Welcome to NoDu. NoDu = No(rth)Du(rham), North Carolina. It’s nice here. It’s definitely not California, but we still have mild winters, with the occasional “cold winter” with a bit of snow. Typically, we’re a moderate climate with all four seasons. We’re in Zone 7 for gardening. My husband and I moved to the Northern part of Durham in June 2009. Durham has become increasingly well-known nationally for it’s fabulous offerings. This blog is a public diary of our life, as seen from our perspective living in NoDu.  Though Durham is an inspired city, my reach will oft extend beyond NoDu into Durham proper, Raleigh, and the Triangle and general region. 
So, welcome, Gentle Reader. I hope you enjoy our slice of American pie. We are a couple in our late 20s. We both have real jobs: Fred is an engineer and I, Elizabeth, am a school administrator. We have two kittens: Milosh and Mila, and a turtle: Yertle. We also have 15 chickens: 14 hens and a rooster named George. We live on just over a half an acre in a modest home with a covered front porch with rockers and a swing. We aim to live simply, serve God, and be our best selves.
     I have blogged before about gardening and food on other sites. I’ve tried to consolidate my favorite recipes and stories here, but this blog is a new frontier. I hope to welcome you to my world and share with you vignettes from our life. Please feel free to look around and relax. It’s nice out here in the country.

Joy to your World,