Mise en Place

Last week was hard. Nothing even happened – it was just hard.

One problem was that even though we meal planned, made a grocery list, and grocery shopped the weekend before, cooking was a fiasco. J actually ended up coming home from a full day at work and then and cooking us dinner twice last week. He said he was happy to do it, and he probably really was. That’s just the kind of person he is. (<3)

But I’d like to re-take the cooking this week.

My parents were in town this past weekend, and I seized the free childcare time to put the week’s recipes Mise en Place. Which in this context means the veggies are chopped and labeled through most of the week, and the beans are soaked. I might try to cook the spaghetti sauce ahead too.

So even if it’s another hard week, I stand a better chance at successfully cooking. And if I fail again, I’ve at least taken steps that will make it less work for J when he bails me out.


Starting the Week

So, Deb’s pho recipe: not a minimalist undertaking! Quite good – F and I liked it, and J really really liked it.

Another not-so-surprising revelation: leftover pho would require a fairly elaborate system of packing to become a brown-bag lunch. Too elaborate. I opted to make tonight’s planned dinner casserole last night after dinner and use it for today’s and tomorrow’s lunches instead. Dinner tonight: pho again! We’re all pretty happy about that. 🙂

We took F to the playground yesterday, even though the cool breeze was cutting through me while I nursed C on the sidelines. J didn’t mind it because he and the other dads were all playing some no-rules version of tag with the kids.

Hoping to get outside again today, at least as far as the shed to finish raking up our leaves. Major mulching plans are afoot with our supply of leaves from 11 oak trees.

It feels good to start the week with dinner already cooked, all three of us dressed and ready for anything right after getting up, blog blogged, and a very modest, flexible plan that inches us toward our goal of a garden.

Learning About This Garden

Early spring seems to be here: the snow is melting and the weather is rainy.

It turns out that our yard, particularly the back yard, is a bit of a swamp, at least at this time of year.

Most of the seeds we got specifically can handle part-shade… but most of them specifically call for well-drained soil.

I guess we’ll see what the rest of Spring and Summer hold. Glad we signed up for a CSA this year!

Sunday Outing

Over the weekend we took a trip over to Beltsville to check out two stores we’ve never been to before: Behnke’s Nursery and Aldi.

I first heard about Behnke’s from Garden Rant. I was really impressed with this nursery! It was huge, but there wasn’t a bunch of Miracle-Gro garbage for sale. The staff I spoke to actually knew things about soil chemistry, etc., they have free and paid classes, and their website is super informative (compost info, for example). They really seem committed to educating their customers about environmentally sound gardening and providing the supplies needed for that. We picked up our aloe plant there, as well as a carload of peat moss, top soil, and compost. F picked out a small blue flowerpot and a plug of lemon thyme. C snoozed in the Beco.

Also, when we first arrived, the girls were asleep, so J graciously sat in the car with them so I could wander the nursery solo. It was glorious.

Aldi was surprisingly clean and pleasant – I’d go there again for sure, and maybe even be a regular if there were one closer to me.

Let’s Talk Dining Room

Sponge paint.

The dining room walls are sponge painted pink and white. Sanding will be required, at minimum, to get rid of the texture of the early ’90s. And the pink isn’t a refined dusky rose. It’s the kind of pink a little girl would pick out for her party dress.

The chandelier broke the second my husband touched it to put in a brighter bulb. We bought the cheapest replacement we could find because we didn’t know what we wanted. Turns out that the open bottom made for blinding glare. We upgraded to a dangling boob light, and it’s fantastic.

It’s a small, kind of dark room. Right now it just has a table and chairs in it. We’d like to find or make some inexpensive corner cabinets for it, but I think that’s all that would comfortably fit.

Color-wise, I’m thinking white/cream. Nothing exciting, just fresh and light.

Blueberry Bushes!

The blueberry bushes arrived in the mail today!

They came in an impossibly small box, their root balls neatly wrapped in plastic with their twiggy little branches sticking out. F was totally baffled how we were going to put blueberries on them. And she was completely wowed to find out that they would make blueberries all by themselves someday!

We still have a fair amount of snow on the ground, so they’re temporarily sheltering away from outdoor snow and indoor cats in the basement bathroom, unwrapped, covered in potting soil, all in a cheap orange bucket. Humble beginnings!

I’m not sure why they seemed so abstract before they arrived and got perched out of site on the downstairs toilet. But now that I know they’re right here in the house, making serious plans for their exact location, pH needs, fertilizer, etc. seems less like long-term planning and more like a task to get done as soon as possible.

The Seeds are Ordered

We ordered seeds and a few transplants this week from Seed Savers Exchange and GrowOrganic.com.

It was sort of ridiculous how long it took me to decide what to try.

Our garden’s challenges are many, but the chief three are:

  • lots and lots of shade
  • the unknowns of a new-to-us yard
  • we don’t know anything about gardening

The purchase that I’ll share now is… blueberry bushes! We ordered three.

I’ll share about the rest when they arrive.

Spring Birds

The other day, I woke up to dim morning light peeking around the curtains. J had already gotten up. I laid there, feeling cozy for a few minutes, and then he came in.

“It feels like Spring this morning.”

“It’s like negative twenty. I came in to get a sweater.”


I think it was that I heard birds for the first time this season. There’s still snow on the ground, but the change is coming.