summer dills

From this to this in no time at all.

I use this fabulous recipe throughout the summer for 
crispy, tasty dill pickled cucumbers and green beans.

We've had a hectic few weeks around here but things have slowed down.  I'm catching up with my knitting and gardening, those two always get priority, so I'll have some posts to share soon.  Social media is the first thing to go when I'm busy and I do miss it, so it's nice to be back and catch up with the blogs I like to follow plus Facebook and Pinterest.  It's funny, things I didn't even know or care about until a few years ago have taken over a chunk of my time!    

My house is a total mess.  It's too hot to clean.  Oh my, last two days have been HOT!  This morning it's already hot, so just a little bit of garden time this morning and then an hour in the kitchen for the pickles.  The rest of the day will be me with my knitting, ballgame, iced tea and the fan blowing on high!  

I hope you are having a great summer!  xoxo

summer solstice dinner

We had such a nice party last night, twelve good friends getting together to welcome visitors from New Zealand.  I firmly believe that people make the party and know I have the loveliest friends who arrive with smiles on their faces ready to have a good time.  It doesn't matter how much or how little work I do, it's really the people that make the party.

We planned to sit outside and the weather behaved for the most part, but I had a stack of shawls for the inevitable chill.  Even while I was determined to sit outside, honestly, I am the first one in the house when the weather turns.  When it did get chilly I wrapped everyone in shawls and we all looked quite beautiful and felt very warm!

The dinner menu was easy peasy.  We served wine from our recent trip to the Mendocino wine country, the 3 pictured are from Meyers, a happy accidental stop we made by mistake and turned out to be one of our favorite tasting rooms.  My husband loved their cab and wanted to buy a big magnum (is that what it's called? anyway it's that big bottle) and save it for a party, so this was the time.  We also bought some Chardonnay and Rose, I do love Rose for summer.  All the veggies were from our garden, just picked that morning, one friend brought the appetizer and another friend brought the cookies. A neighbor brought over a bag of plums so added them to the cookie tray.  I made two trays, one for each table.

You know I have a lot of parties, big and small, and I plan for each one the same way, a bit of detail planning and a bit of winging it, and the parties I like best are the parties I keep simple.  This was simple, but pretty and fun.  When we're outside the garden is always the star.  Before dinner we took a little turn around the garden with a glass of wine.

I took lovely leisurely pictures of the set up before the guests arrived, but once I set out the food it feels all frenetic and I stop and say "I need a picture" and my husband looks at me like I am out of my mind.  The foodie shots were taken in two seconds, I was allowed one shot per platter, oh the pressure!  I don't do any of this alone and have to give a wee shout out to my hubs who was the bartender, bar-be-quer, outdoor furniture cleaner and second in command of the clean up duty.  After our guests leave we spend half hour cleaning up, I can't bear to wake up next morning to see a mess.  I always fill the dishwasher, spot the linens and put them in the washing machine, then hand wash the big platters, he drys.  All that's left in the morning is put it all away and enjoy the memories and the flower arrangements! 

 I hope you all have a great weekend!

Menu and links at the end of the post.

Gathering up the napkins and tablecloths, here, a colorful mixed up jumble of patterns from Le Jacquard Francais.

Nasturtiums and dill in aqua jelly jars.

Pray that the weather holds out.

Hand knit shawls just in case!

Arrangement for the buffet table.


Mascarpone Cheese with Fig Citrus Jam and Rainforest Crisps

Roasted Beet and Orange Salad 
Rice and Green Beans

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heaven condensed

Of all the places I want to be right now, and no other place, is our back garden.  Everything is looking extra pretty, the first flush of spring is long gone but the promise of summer is just a few days away.  Summer!  I love the way summer looks in our garden with bright spots of color, mostly pink, in every corner, and veggies growing like crazy.  The sky is blue and there is a little breeze, birds and bees everywhere.  Such a busy, quiet little place. 

Our garden veggies are grown in raised beds with a watering system my husband engineered years ago.  Every spring he spends a few weeks tweaking and repairing the beds and water system and they've held up really well.  We renewed the dirt in the beds last year and keep the soil healthy with compost.  We are completely organic and have been the entire time we've lived here, 27 years.  A well tended garden will, for the most part, stay pretty healthy without having to rely on chemicals.  My husband, now retired, has taken over a lot of the garden chores.  I am still the main weeder and pruner and planter, but he has taken over the watering and the tomatoes.  He gets carried away with tomatoes and so I asked him how many plants we had, "Oh, about 18 or 20".  So last night we went out to count them, 36 tomato plants just for us two people!  Oh dear.

Our green bean patch is not large but this is just from one day's picking!  Green beans are prolific and require picking every other day if not daily.  In our garden, they last for half the growing season.  When they poop out we uproot and replant to get another late summer crop.  Our cherry tomatoes are ripening a small handful a day, we just eat right from the bush while we're standing there.  I love them warm from the sun.  My husband promises we'll start picking slicers in a week.

Today, besides green beans we are harvesting golden beets, red beets, red Italian spring onions, cucumbers, dill and oranges, all for tonight's dinner for 12.  I have a bucket of water in the garden to swirl the just picked veggies to get the initial dirt off, then I put them in the sink for a good wash.  These will get roasted today for a veggie salad for tonight's party.  Come back tomorrow for party pictures (that I hope I get)!

These pictures were taken between 6:30 and 8:30 this morning as the sun was acing out the fog. 

Shasta daisies, a lovely perennial. 

Bigger than a dinner plate!

We have more than 20 hydrangeas, my husbands favorite flower.

Taken around 7am with the fog.

Italian Red Scallions

Golden Beets and Red Jewel

In the sink, today's harvest!

French green filet beans.
An American heirloom tomato, Radiator Charlies Mortgage Lifter.  A popular beefsteak in the states.

The perennial border with annuals at the front, this year pink and purple zinnias and cosmos.

Red Simplicity hedge rose from Jackson Perkin.

So now you know what I'm doing when I'm not knitting!

caramel cardigan

Caramel, an open cardigan designed by Isabel Kraemer offered as a free download on Ravelry.  The pattern is super easy and top down.  I love the faux side seam detail that mimics the raglan increases.  I usually add a few short rows to the back of a top down sweater like this, but for some reason I didn't do that and now wish I had, it would have hung better.  Still, a great throw on sweater for milder weather.  My Ravelry link for the project here.  A little about Isabel, if you haven't friended her on Ravelry, you should, her pattern page is filled with some beauts and she is very prolific.  She test knits for favorite designers and when she creates her own patterns, she often offers it for free.  I love keeping up with her work.

The yarn is the great Rowan Calmer, that lovely 75% cotton and 25% microfiber blend that everyone loved.  It's not like any other cotton, extremely soft and easy on the hands, very elastic and bouncy and with excellent yardage.  It does not pill!  When Calmer first came out in 2004 I knit a complicated cable pullover for tennis.  It was washed almost weekly and hardly a whimper did it make.  I've since used it for several cabled designs because Calmer really shows off when it's been maneuvered into a cable.  The stitches lay flat and hug each other filling up all the airholes with softness even while it has excellent stitch definition.  It was a perfect yarn to use for that wool look without the wool warmth.  Oh Calmer, why were you discontinued?  (I have enough yardage in my stash for a few more sweaters, I got carried away when I heard it was being discontinued.) 

Open cardigans are always easy to wear but never easy to photograph, still I think you get the idea.  Caramel is very casual, very fun.  Two more FOs to post here, hopefully this week I can get my hubs to photograph Opaline in Rowan Softknit Cotton and Praline in Summerspun in the garden.  They are just too pretty to get the computer picture treatment.

guys like pie

My guys like pie and so do I!  If my husband sees fresh berry pie on a dessert menu, he cannot turn it down.  Ollalieberry Pie is hands down the favorite choice for Father's Day.  I make the same pie every year, and if I deviate from my original pie recipe, it creates such a kerfuffle, it's not worth it.  Truth is I don't even follow a recipe, I make the filling by taste.  To 6-8 cups berries I squeeze in the juice of 1 small lemon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and maybe 1 cup sugar, but I taste it and then adjust because my husband prefers tart over sweet.  I sprinkle 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch and mix it all together with my hands, then pour into an unbaked pie crust.  This recipe comes close to what I do.  Also, I make Martha's all butter crust because it's what my husband likes and he really is the pie eater.  Also my son.  When he has a birthday I ask him what kind of cake he wants and he says pie, his request even when he was a little guy!  Oh men! 

Last week was busy with garden chores, we've been harvesting lovely veggies and making the yummy best salads and soups.  The first golden beets of the season turned into an orange-beet-fig salad sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and the cucumbers are showing up everywhere.  This morning for breakfast we had a green bean, cucumber and spring onion stir fry with fresh orange juice.  I know it's not summer yet, but it feels like it in my California garden.  Most days are sunny and slightly breezy, bright blue skies with floaty white clouds, very pretty, translating to  perfect gardening and growing weather.  The flower border in the back will be all shades of pink, purple and white.  It's just starting to bloom up getting ready for a good show.  Oh sigh, love this time of year.

We're having a small party next week to welcome friends visiting from New Zealand.  I think it's very fun to visit a foreign country and be invited into a home.  Everything looks different, the kitchen appliances, the way the food is served, the garden layout, just about everything!  Because I like that part of travel so much I'm going to do my best to make a dinner using fresh local produce, mostly from my garden and give it a real California feel.  I love that kind of a challenge!

I hope I get good pictures of the party, if I do I'll share! 

This lovely eyelet lace cardigan below, Martha, knit back in 2005 out of Rowan 4-Ply Cotton was saved from the rag-bag this week.  It had horrible stains in all the worst places, so I soaked it overnight in OxiClean (1 scoop per gallon)  I was shocked that it got out every stain!  It looks like new again, so happy!  I swear by this stuff!

What's off the needles?  Caramel, Praline and Opaline, now just need my pictures.  Also, two sweaters almost finished for my granddaughter.  Just waiting for her visit to check on final fit, arm length mostly, she is growing so fast!  This afternoon we'll be at the movies, Superman in 3D!  Love 3D!  If you use Facebook, I hope you'll follow my Knitionary page.  I add fun things there that don't make it to my blog.  Have a great week!