Thursday, August 28, 2014

Read. Shop. Plant.

Here - courtesy of Sloat Nursery in Danville - is what to do in the garden this month.  Remember: if you don't shop at the local stores pretty soon you won't have any!  And if you sign up for their newsletter they will send you the info directly.

Read. Shop. Plant.  



  • Watch for the arrival of all our spring bulbs. Shop early for the best selection.
  • Plan landscaping projects now. Think about walkways and flower/vegetable beds, as well as focal point shrubs and trees. Need guidance? Call Sloat’s Garden Design Department for expert advice.
  • Choose fall blooming pansies and other autumn color.
  • Plant fall vegetables such as kale, collard, spinach, arugula and lettuces.


  • Apply lawn fertilizer monthly with Nature’s Green Lawn Food.
  • Aerate compacted soil.
  • Containers, summer annuals and cool season annuals will enjoy monthly feeding at this time of year with Maxsea all-purpose fertilizer.


  • Keep the garden clean. Pick up fallen fruit to avoid pests and disease next year. Clean out plant debris. Prepare soil with Loam Builder for fall vegetable beds.
  • Mulch with Greenall Micro Bark to inhibit weeds and conserve moisture.

Monday, August 25, 2014


It's been a long time since I drew a plan.  Longer still since I had such a tight deadline, but my friend is in the middle of a remodel (no, not that friend.  another one...must be catching...) and she will be installing the landscape while I'm away, so my usual "get these plants and call me when they arrive - I'll come and wave my arms around" isn't gonna work.   So we got out the tracing paper and went to work.
We had so much fun - choosing, editing, imagining - all while the phones were ringing, the dog barking and the washer going off like a carnival ride.  Ding ding ding!  I'd shoot it.

A friend who can see something before it's built is a rarity, and a friend with awesome taste rarer still.  And a friend who will hand you a sharp pencil (about a hundred times - I'm hard on pencils) is, well, awesome.  Lucky me!  

Can't wait to see it after it's all planted (and yes it is a water wise garden, thank you for asking).

Doing something difficult, and doing it well is so satisfying.  Doing it with a good friend is better still.  Great day.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014


A couple of years ago we took a bunch of friends to Tuolumne for Wally's birthday.  One friend took one look at his tent...
...and asked for one with an en suite bathroom.  Alas, not possible.  There aren't any.  But it is beautiful there.
Just spent almost two weeks hiking and fishing and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  Saw lots of wildlife:
Two legs and four.

Walking down the river we startled some deer...
Apparently they were not too startled, they weren't in any big hurry to leave. 
Scratch where it itches.  Good advice for man and beast.
Wonder if this is his way of letting us know what he thinks of us?
It's a magical place, and a part of my husband's history.  This was his 72nd summer there.  Thanks, sweetie.  Despite my aching hips (hard bed) and the odd shivering cold night, I wouldn't have missed it.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

You Have To Break A Few Eggs...

...if you're going to remodel.  My dear friend Susan and her uber-talented husband Joe have been thinking about this for a long time.  This is why.
So many memories in this living room - Christmas trees and Easter baskets, dogs and kids in feet-y pajamas sliding along the hardwood floor.  Christmas Eve parties with a cast of thousands (well, I bet it feels that way to Susan when she's cooking) and fascinating people perched everywhere, talking up a storm.  Yummy smells coming from the kitchen... 

But with all the kids successfully launched, it's time.  It's a well-built house in a great neighborhood, and it holds a lifetime of memories.  The plans are exciting; keeping the charm and making changes that make sense for the way they live now.

Stay tuned for the part when the demo stops and the new house begins to take shape.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Plethora of Peaches

Growing fruit seems like such a good idea - until I'm laying down reading and hear the squirrels fighting with the blue jays over the peaches.  

We got out the ladder - not tall enough.  Got out the tallest ladder we have - barely tall enough - and picked every last peach.  Take that, squirrels! 
Ian planted it from a pit from an especially delicious Farmer's Market peach.  It is the best peach I have ever tasted, despite the dire warnings about growing seeds from hybrids (things don't come true from seed).  I think this may be a rare case of the seedling being better than the parent (sorry Mom).

I blogged about it years ago - go look it up.  I'm tired from fighting the wildlife and climbing up and down the ladder.

And I'm here to tell you peaches do not come in fits and starts, but all at once.   Like a tsunami.  We must have a hundred pounds and they're all ripe right now.

I'm sharing.  Bring a bag.  Or two.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


It takes a really long time to make limoncello.  First you carefully zest the lemons, making sure to get only the yellow part of the peel and none of the bitter white.  And none of your knuckles.   Remember, this is Limoncello, not Bloody Mary Mix.

Then you put the zest in a jar with vodka or Everclear...and wait.  And wait.
After 40 days or so (is there an ark in this story?  and a really big rainstorm?  alas, no.)  Anyway!  where was I?  Oh yeah, after 40 days you boil sugar and water together, and add it to the boozy mixture...and wait.  And wait.  Another 40 days.

It's supposed to be strained thru a coffee filter, but I want to tell you that is soooooooo slow - one drip at a time.  I thought it was gonna take another 40 days just to filter it, so I got out the finest mesh strainer I could find, and in no time flat it was strained.  A bit cloudy, but hey, it's a home made product, so who expects perfection?  
I mean just look at the mis-matched jars - it so says home made, hand crafted.  And really, what's better?
(Um, okay mom, you might want to weigh in here on all the ceramic ash trays I made for you - by hand - when I was in school.  Obviously not the life-long treasures my teachers told me they would be, hand-made drips and lumps and all.  And I must confess it hurt my feelings a weensy bit when you gave them all back to me a few years ago, but with time and therapy I'm sure I'll get over it.  Some day.)

Now where was I?  Oh yes, on my way to therapy...and to the store to get coffee filters, because the next morning all that quick-filtered Limoncello had a thick wad of scum at the top.  Yuck.  Very unappetizing.  So out came the coffee filters, and it took all day.  But just look at the difference!  
Note:  wet the coffee filter before you pour in the Limoncello.  And use one filter per quart - that's about all they can filter before they clog up.  

So now I have a few precious bottles and jars of delicious clear pale yellow Limoncello in my pantry.  (Actually, they're in the wine cellar, but don't tell Wally.)  And I've ordered labels from My Own  (They are calling themselves Evermine now, but that so sounds like a sappy wedding site that I cannot bring myself to call them by their new name.)  

So if you come for dinner and it's a nice evening, check the freezer.  There just might be a bottle of pale yellow limoncello in there for us to share.  Yum.

And here is the recipe I used from Linda Stradley.  Please give her credit if it turns out well - she is an amazingly detailed writer and so clear!  (unlike my Limoncello...) 

And check out her website.

Italian Limoncello - How To Make Limoncello
This is my (Linda Stradley) personal recipe for Italian Limoncello that my husband and I make every year.
15 lemons*
2 (750 ml) bottles 100-proof vodka or 1 (750 ml) bottle of Everclear (190-proof) alcohol
4 cups granulated sugar
5 cups water (filtered tap water or distilled water)
* Choose thick-skinned lemons because they are easier to zest. The lemons must be yellow and not tinted with green.

Step One:
Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any reside of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry. 
Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. NOTE: Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and would spoil your limoncello. Check out my web page on How to Zest Lemons.

Step Two:
In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar with lid), add vodka or Everclean alcohol.
Add the lemon zest as it is zested. 
Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least (10) ten days and up to (40) days in a cool dark place.

The longer the mixture rests, the better the end taste will be. (There is no need to stir - all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest. 

Step Three:

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; bring to a gentle boil and let boil, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture. 
Add cooled sugar mixture to the Limoncello mixture (from Step One). 
Cover jar and allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days. 

Step Four:
After the rest period, strain the limoncello; discarding the lemon zest. Pour strained Limoncello in bottle/bottles (of your choice) and seal tightly.

NOTE: Coffee filters or cheesecloth work great for straining the mixture. Moisten the filters before beginning the straining process. 
Keep your bottle/bottles of Limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. Serve ice cold.

New York, New York

It looked like Cirque du Soliel, but it was the gold cleaners - or the gilders .  Who could tell at this distance?   But we could see the results...and the acrobatics.
And there were window washers suspended high above the sidewalk.   Surprising what you can see if you just look up.
Started me thinking about how many people - invisible people - it takes to support this vertical living - and office-ing.  Think about it.

And how precious the sweet parks are among the towers:
No matter how tiny or hemmed in by buildings.
When Eric lived here he complained that he never saw the horizon.  I think he did, it just wasn't what he expected.  No trees.  Or dirt.  
The horizon is man made - the tops and edges of buildings, some older and ornate, some spare and modern.  Dramatic but unfamiliar.  At least to children of the suburbs.

There was a time in NY you could build an extra-big building if you provided some public space on the ground.  

San Francisco is trying it now - you can go taller and wider if the ground floors are open and public.  We'll see...I don't think NY does this any more.  I love that we in SF are just now trying something NY abandoned years ago - It's part of our charm.

Le Corbusier tried it under a huge apartment building in Europe (and if I could remember the country I'd have put it here).  His vision was apartments raised off the ground, public space underneath.   It was not the stunning success he envisioned, the space under the building remained empty and sterile, and it didn't catch on.  Thank goodness.  

I prefer the elegant lobbies, apartments and offices.  I love the doormen, the beautifully dressed ladies rushing in and out just knowing they never have to worry about the door.  I love the office workers in the tall spare office lobbies skittering across the marble floors, all of them on their iphones.  I love that you can tell the worker bees from the masters of the universe by the way they walk.  I love watching people - can you tell?
And I love Central Park, that magic oasis in the middle of chaos that stretches from businesses to co-ops to Harlem. 
 To mangle a quote: "New York without Central Park would be Cleveland."  With apologies to Cleveland.  And to Paris, the subject of the original quote.  And to New York, even without the park it would be exhilarating.  No place like it on earth.