Container Garden Fail

October 27, 2013

The last couple summers, I’ve grown basil and other herbs in my kitchen window box (Just do a quick search in my search box, there are several posts about it). Basil, especially, has always done really well in there. This summer however, we decided to try doing bigger container gardens outside the front of our apartment. We started last January with growing all our plants from seeds–cucumbers, green peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, rosemary, cilantro, basil and parsley.

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We had a couple seeds that either didn’t sprout or didn’t make it, but most of our plants did really well for the several months that they were inside. Once they outgrew their tiny little seed pots, we re-planted them in 5-gallon plastic buckets. Drew drilled several holes in the bottom of each bucket for drainage.

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Once it warmed up outside, we slowly transitioned each plant outside, letting them stay for a few days underneath the small porch roof in front of our house, so that they could slowly get used to the outside environment.

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Several weeks later, we ended up with our only crop of the season, this one tiny cucumber:

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We made sure they got enough sun and watered them every evening or two, but after being outside for a month or so, they all just sort-of stopped growing or started to shrivel up. I know the New Orleans summer sun is pretty brutal, but other people’s plants survive here? I’m not sure exactly what the problem was. The sun was too direct? Too hot on them after being inside so long? They didn’t have adequate drainage? We didn’t fertilize them?

I was traveling a lot this summer, so I can’t say I was the absolute most attentive plant mom, but they definitely weren’t neglected and Drew looked out for them while I was out of town. I just don’t know why they weren’t at least slightly more successful. I grew up in the country and my family always planted a huge vegetable garden that I would help out with, but this was my first time trying containers. I’m used to the Illinois planting season, but still new to when to plant outside in New Orleans. Maybe I should have just gotten them outside a lot sooner, so they got used to being outside before it got so hot?

This is what they looked like as of today, right before I dumped them out:

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They obviously look bad here, I hadn’t even touched them the last several months since they stopped growing/producing anything for me. But see those green peppers in the front? They weren’t even dead, but hadn’t grown even an inch the last five months they’ve spent outside!

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Anyone else had success with container gardens? Any fellow New Orleanian gardeners? Any advice for me?

Portland, Oregon

June 19, 2013

The week after my graduation, Drew and I headed out to Portland, Oregon as a graduation getaway and first anniversary trip. (We went to Portland, Maine on our honeymoon, why not try out Portland, Oregon next?) It was cool and rainy the entire time, but we still had a great time. One of our top favorite cities actually.

Shall we recap? (warning, this is a long, photo-heavy post!)

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Neither there nor on the way back did we have non-stop flights, so we had several flight legs and a few delays (we logged quite a bit of time traveling and in airports on this trip). Imagine this (x4):

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But once we got there, we did some pretty cool things. One of the first things we did (and one of our favorites) was to check out Multnomah Falls. It was seriously amazing.

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Drew and I both agreed that this was one of the most amazing things that we had ever seen. It is so “WOAH” to be standing next to something so powerful.

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There were lots of little streams around and a hiking path that led all the way to the top of the waterfall. It was cold and rainy and the path was steep and slick, so we didn’t go all the way to the top, but we did go up to the little bridge in the pictures above.

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From up there, if you turned around and looked the other way, you could see the Columbia River and those mountain/hills are in the state of Washington:

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The drive there and back along the Columbia River Scenic Highway was pretty too:

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Almost everything we saw in Oregon was pretty. After we went there, we headed out to a little island called Sauvie’s Island. Someone recommended it to us and it had cute little farms and areas for fresh farmer’s markets, but we must have gone on a bad day (it was a weekday and raining) so not much was going on. It was a nice little drive through the countryside though. This was the only day we had a car while in Portland, so we saw the stuff that was a little out of the way. Once we were back in the city, we were driving to the restaurant we had picked out and while driving through this cute little neighborhood, we stumbled upon a random little neighborhood rose garden! How sweet! (We were headed to Screen Door restaurant, soooo good!!!)

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The rest of our time there we took the public transportation everywhere. Portland has a really awesome public transportation system that is super efficient. It was really awesome to use while we were there to avoid having to rent a car everyday. It did take some getting used to though. It definitely isn’t like popping in the car and being where you want to be in a few minutes. Taking the MAX lightrail and the bus system involved a whole lot of walking around from bus stop to bus stop and waiting on the MAX or buses to show up. We spent a lot of our day figuring out how to get where we wanted to go!

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The next day we headed to the Pittock Mansion. It was really awesome, except for the fact that it is situated at the top of a huge mountainous hill. The public transportation only went to the bottom of the hill, so Drew and I were left to hike 30 minutes straight up a huge hill on this tiny winding road in the middle of the woods. It was exhausting!

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The view from there was pretty cool though!

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The inside was gorgeous (plus it had a lot of original pretty modern amenities)! I took a ton of pictures of the inside but I’ll spare you from showing them all, you can learn more about it here. You can also take a video tour of it, here.

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We headed to Deschutes Brewery for lunch and for Drew to try their craft beer. Then later on that same day we also checked out the Portland Art Museum, which was neat (and awesome that they had free admission on Friday evenings!), but we were so exhausted from that hike to the Pittock Mansion that we really couldn’t stand to walk around the museum very long.

The next day, we headed out to the Portland Saturday Crafts Market:

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It was neat that it was right next to the Willamette River that runs through Portland, but overall I was a little disappointed with the arts and crafts at the market. It wasn’t much different than the French Market in New Orleans. I felt like a lot of the stuff was a little “cheap” (as in cheaply made, not cheap prices). I guess I expected something more like a real-life Etsy.

After that, we headed to the International Rose Test Garden. It was so neat! There were all kinds of roses everywhere! There were roses everywhere all over Portland, actually. It’s like the city of roses.

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This was actually the closest we got (the whole time we were there) to a view of Mt. Hood.  I guess when it is really clear you can see it from the city? I’m not sure if Portland ever has a day clear enough for that! This day was the only pretty day the whole trip (it was a little warmer with sunshine and no rain!), but the rest of the time it was cool and rainy. I’ve heard Portland is always that way.

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These roses were huge! The blooms were about 10 inches wide.

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Not all the roses were in bloom, but a lot of them were. The grounds of the park were just gorgeous. Plus it was totally free! Such an awesome place to wonder around and it smelled so good! It would be an awesome place for picnics!

After that, we headed up to the Portland Japanese Garden, right next to the rose garden.

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The grounds of the Japanese garden were really pretty, but overall we weren’t that impressed with it. It was kind-of expensive, it was around $20 for Drew and I to get in, which seems pricey just to walk around for a few minutes. I got the feeling that it was created to be a tranquil place to sit and meditate, which would have been nice, but the day we went it was packed! There are only tiny little paths throughout the entire thing, so there was no room to stop and meditate, since there was a whole line of people behind you waiting on you to move along. The streams and waterfalls were pretty, but after visiting Multnomah Falls and all of its natural beauty, the man-made features here lost their sparkle. The water was also really cloudy/yucky looking and in a lot of places it was still, so it was a breeding grounds for mosquitoes. We didn’t stay too long. I would recommend going perhaps on a weekday to lose some of the crowd and perhaps get to enjoy it a little more.

We ate a lot of really great food while in Portland, and it was one of the features that impressed me the most. At every single restaurant we went to, the menu was clearly labeled with foods that were vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. Most places also prided themselves on serving organic and local options as well. It was so amazing to be able to go out to eat and have awesome healthy gluten-free options! It is nearly impossible to eat out gluten-free in New Orleans! For lunch/dinner with savory options it is usually easier, but in Portland, even the breakfast places served gluten-free bread, pancakes, french toast, etc.

One of my absolute favorite places we went was to Tula, a completely gluten-free bakery:

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tula bakery1

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My absolute favorite was the Lemon Ricotta muffin. Oh my goodness. Amazing. (I had to try making my own as soon as I got back to New Orleans!) They also had a really awesome lemon loaf, banana flaxseed bread, chocolate chip cookies, fruit tarts, scones, chocolate muffins, coffee cakes, cupcakes, savory meat/cheese croissants, paninis, etc. Everything I tasted was delicious. I insisted we visit this place multiple times while we were there! I so wish I lived close to this all the time!

Other than that we checked out Stumptown Coffee:

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We also checked out Voodoo Doughnuts, which is supposedly pretty famous, but I thought it tasted just like any other doughnut (plus I couldn’t eat much since they weren’t gluten-free).

We also visited several other craft breweries, brewpubs and tap rooms per Drew’s request. There is apparently quite the craft beer selection there that isn’t available in New Orleans. One place we stopped was even a beer truck: (the food truck scene was pretty hopping in Portland)

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Per my request, we ventured out to Schoolhouse Electric, which provided some nice home decor inspiration:

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I also found a fabric store to score some cool fabric finds. I love getting a little bit of fabric on trips as a souvenir so that when I use it I can reminisce about where it came from. I picked up a couple fabrics in Portsmouth, New Hampshire when we were there on our honeymoon that I ended up using in my BA Art Exhibition.

We also stopped in at IKEA while we were there (there isn’t one in NOLA). We also enjoyed walking around and looking in shops downtown– Crafty Wonderland was a favorite of mine! I bought this print from there. We tried the famous Salt and Straw ice cream and had lots of other great foods, desserts, and beers (Drew). We really had an awesome and packed-full trip!

On our last day, we decided to rent a car and drive the couple hours up to Seattle, Washington and back for a day trip. It was overcast and rainy, so we couldn’t see much on our drive which was a bummer because we drove right past Mount St. Helens and couldn’t even see it. We didn’t have a lot of time in Seattle, mostly just ate and drove around a little before we needed to head back. We did check out the downtown market area:

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We also stopped in to try out some of the famous Beecher’s cheddar mac-and-cheese:

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It was good, but not the best I’ve ever had, plus it wasn’t gluten-free, so I could only eat a few bites.

I wish we could have seen a little more of Seattle, since we drove several hours to get there, but it wasn’t a nice day. Goodness, I wish it hadn’t been so grey and rainy the whole time! I really wanted to see mountains! Oh well, I’m glad we went, even if just to say that we had been there.

Overall, both Drew and I really loved Portland. I wish it wasn’t so far away from family (and didn’t rain every single day) or else we would totally move there in a heartbeat. I loved the mix of big city, but also country and natural attractions. I loved the awesome, healthy, gluten-free options and the fact that people there seemed to be really concerned and aware about what they were eating  and actively involved in the discussion around it. Portland’s tap water doesn’t contain fluoride and there was a march against Monsanto while we were there.  It seems to be a pretty healthy, creative, crafty city and just overall has a lot of great qualities, cool shops, pretty places and awesome parks and natural attractions.

I’m sure we’ll definitely be back sometime!

When I was 14, I moved to St. Louis, MO for the summer to live with my older sister and be a nanny to my baby niece, Evie. Often on Saturday mornings, we would get up and go walk around and get fresh produce from the Soulard farmers market. I have many fond memories of that summer, farmers market included.

Just a couple weekends ago, Drew and I tried out the Saturday farmers market in New Orleans. I had wanted to go for a while, we just hadn’t because it is downtown, not close to our house, and only open for a couple hours on Saturday morning. Saturday morning is Drew’s day to sleep in and then get fresh croissants from the Patisserie upon waking at 2 in the afternoon. ;) It was much smaller than I expected (not anything like I remember from St. Louis), but it was definitely worth waking up earlier for.

We ended up with a bouquet of fresh cut zinnias, creole tomatoes, fresh peaches, blueberries and several pots of fresh herbs to plant in our windowbox. Everything we bought was delicious. It so makes me miss living in the country and having a garden! For the city, it’s the next best thing.

With all the fresh blueberries we have, I’ve made blueberry walnut muffins with fresh lemon zest several times the last two weeks! So delicious! This muffin recipe is really great. My mom always uses this recipe too and it can easily be adapted for whatever kind of muffins you want to make.

blueberry walnut muffins with fresh lemon zest (or whatever kind you want to make)

ingredients:

-1 3/4 cup flour
-1/3 cup sugar
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp salt
-3/4 cup milk
-1/4 cup oil
-1 beaten egg

for blueberry/walnut/lemon:
-3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I like nuts, so I usually use closer to 1 cup)
-fresh zest from 1 lemon (or less, according to taste)

for banana/nut:
-reduce milk above to 1/2 cup
-3/4 cup mashed bananas
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts (again I use more like 1 cup)

for cinnamon/peach:
-3/4 cup diced peaches
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)

directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin cups.
2. Mix dry ingredients together.
3. Mix wet ingredients together in separate bowl.
4. Add wet ingredients into dry and add in fruit/nut mix-ins. Stir just until moistened. Batter should be lumpy.
**Important–do not overmix your muffin dough or your muffins won’t be as fluffy and will have a tougher texture.
5. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Enjoy!

P.S. Don’t those peaches look fabulous in that yellow bowl? I love that bright sunny pop of yellow in the kitchen! That bowl, along with the rest of its set in different colors, was a wedding gift from my friend, Jessica. Love them! :)

Spring Planting

March 24, 2012

One of the first things that I did after we moved into our apartment last summer was plant the window box outside the kitchen window. I grew flowers and herbs in it all summer and then took the herbs out and moved them inside during the winter. Although, it never actually got all that cold here this winter, they possibly could have survived out there all year long. Anyway, I still have my basil growing in a small planter on the breakfast table in the kitchen, so I decided for now just to plant some colorful flowers in my window box this spring. We are thinking about adding another window box to the other kitchen window to put herbs in.

It has been warm here in New Orleans for a while now and today seemed like the perfect day to do a little planting. I just wish we had more of a yard to actually be able to plant more things! We’ve thought about building a raised garden bed in the front yard of our apartment to grow vegetables in, but aren’t sure if we want to spend the money building it for our temporary housing here. We might though. I’ll keep you posted if we do. For now, flowers will have to suffice.

Marigolds, Vinca, Petunias, and Dahlias. So colorful and pretty! Oh and how cute is my little watering can?! I picked that little guy up from the value aisle at Target the other day for $2.50. It is the perfect size for watering the window box and the other indoor plants I have. I love spring! :)

Any of you doing any planting lately? Enjoying the warmer weather?

Oh and in case you noticed, that is just paint all over my hands. I was mural painting this morning!

Kitchen Artwork

October 1, 2011

I haven’t mentioned much about decorating the kitchen since we moved in to our apartment. I did mention this post about inspiration for the kitchen, but that is about it. We haven’t done much in the kitchen, because it is pretty functional and looks fine for now pretty much the way it is. We did need a little bit of artwork though. The nook above the sink was a little bare.

Especially with that spotlight right above there, it definitely emphasized the fact that it was empty and bare. Perfect place for artwork! After settling into our apartment and seeing our existing kitchen decor, I noticed that it consisted of neutral beige and whites with pops of greens, blues, and pink-y/coral/oranges. I had been contemplating what kind of artwork to put up there when I realized the kitchen print from this post last May would be perfect!

So of course, I ordered it immediately. It came from Canada, so it took a week or two to get here, but arrived in perfect condition. The only downside is that it is an odd size for framing–10.5 x 14 inches. I took it to Michael’s to see how much it would be to have it custom framed, and they said it would be upwards of $130 for just a simple white frame and matte! How ridiculous! Instead I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a pretty white 16×20 frame with a 40% off coupon and had Michael’s cut me a custom white matte to match the dimensions of the print to the frame. This was much cheaper, but still not free– $22 for the frame and about $22 to get the matte cut as well. Why it costs as much to get a matte cut as it does to buy an entire frame with wood, glass, and backing, is beyond me.

So anyway, this process took a couple weeks. I bought the frame at Hobby Lobby while I was at home visiting a few weeks ago and then ordered the matte as soon as I got back to New Orleans and it took a week and a half for them to cut the matte. (again, kind-of ridiculous) As soon as I got all the pieces, I put it together. I love the way the matte and frame look with the print!

Drew installed the hanging hardware on the back of the frame and we hung her up!

I love the way the frame looks in there! The simple edges of the frame match really well with both the kitchen cabinets and the trim around the windows and the door.

I just love how it fits perfectly with the feel and look of our kitchen. I love the colors, the old-fashioned, home-y feel, and the pretty flowers, cups, tea towels, and rolling pins.

The name of the print is “Hot Chocolate.” How sweet!

The kitchen (and the rest of the house too) is really coming together. I love the feel of our house so far. It is becoming so cozy and home-y and I love being here!

In case you noticed in the pictures above, that is more basil growing in water by the sink. I broke off a few bits of my bigger basil plant in the windowbox and put them in water to grow roots so I could plant them and grow more basil plants. I planted one of them the other day and it is about time for me to plant this one as well.

Oh and if you like my kitchen print and would like to check out more work from the artist or order one for yourself, visit Janet Hill’s Etsy shop, here. She has such pretty paintings! I want them all!