September 28, 2016

And the day started like that...

I guess, sometimes, we don't realize how badly we need to escape from the boring mundane parts of everyday life, and how enjoyable it is to travel. Visit new places and learn about its history, experience its culture, meet new people, eat different foods, and most of all, spend quality time with the people we love.

A few weeks ago, we drove to Virginia. Brady and I are kind of history buffs on American civil war and colonial history, and for this reason only Virginia seemed the right place to visit, plus it has beaches and gorgeous mountains.

But this story is not a narrative of all the places we visited in Virginia, this is  a photography essay about one morning, the last morning I woke up in Virginia Beach. It was still dark when I got up, grab my camera and head to the beach, alone.

I was photographing every step of the sun rising, but then I stopped, something was happening at that beach. I looked to my right, and saw birds gathering at the pier, in silence.

When the sun rose they all started singing and dancing in the sky, graciously greeting the new day. I was mesmerized. I stopped taking pictures, and became intensely aware of that moment.

It's impossible to put my experience into words, but suffice it to say it was profound. At that moment, my whole reality shifted. I felt whole, complete, blissful, loving, free... part of something larger... at peace.

I had experienced it before, and believe many of you have too, it's when you forget yourself and become what you are aware of; it's when a strong sense of connection among all things on this precious planet takes over us. It's pure bliss.

I know it's up to me to keep that blissful feeling present on my life daily, but while I have not mastered it yet, I am becoming more conscious, calmer, seeking to let go of my fears and negativities

And whenever I fall back and desperately start looking for fulfillment in meaningless things, I can always look back at these pictures to remind me that inner peace is possible despite the outward chaos.

"When you arise in the morning,
think of what a precious privilege
it is to be alive - to breathe, 
to think, to enjoy, to love."
                                           Marcus Aurelius

September 16, 2016

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plantselfie

At the end of July, I invited some girl friends over for a garden-to-table backyard gathering featuring our home grown vegetables. We had such a lovely and fun day, plenty of seasonal and fresh foods, great wine and beer, and lots of laughs. 

One of my friends fell in love with my succulents and asked me if I could plant some in a vase for her. That request was quite unexpected, after all she is a master gardener and knows much more about plants than I do. Then she explained she has never had luck with succulents and looking at mine so healthy and happy she believed I might have a thing with succulents. I thought that was such a cute and nice compliment. 

So, gladly, I planted a few succulents in a vase she gave me, an old vase that belonged to her late mother.

Below is the succulents ready to go to my friend's home. I made a design with six different types of succulents, planting them apart so they have room to grow and live happily and healthy for a long time.
In stores, usually, I see vases with multiple succulents planted so close to each other that I don't know how they can breath, obviously they won't grow much, or be healthy for long.

By no means I am a plant expert, I'm just a plant lover. I do have many plants and they are healthy, so I told my friend the three factors I consider when I care for my succulents:

sunlight +  temperature + water

But this is not a DIY post, this is a post inspired by this month's Urban Jungle Bloggers topic - we are sharing our plantselfie!

I thought it would be fun to take photos of myself with some of my plants, but it turned out to be nonsense. I styled the scene, set my camera on a tripod, set the timer, then ran back to the scene... and everytime I tried, something was out of place. My hand, my foot, or my face, most of the time was cut off, and as I didn't want to be known as the woman with no face, I waited for Brady to help me.

That's why my #plantselfie post is a bit late since this topic was launched by Urban Jungle Bloggers on September 12th.

I don't understand why so many people like to take so many selfies and show them off to the world, but here I am, shy, and shameless, in a picture taken by Brady, showing off my face surrounded by some of my plants - everything for the love of them 🌿🌱🙈🌵.

September 7, 2016

Those little things... chasing the light

And so enters September... starting to feel like autumn around here...

The light has already changed... a low, softer, slanting light feels the rooms now...

The morning silence is broken only by the chirping and singing of birds, a shy sunlight cast a warm mellow glow through the window and kitchen door, and I can't resist to chase it with my camera...

Enjoying every moment as it passes, enjoying the beauty of everyday things that surrounding me, their shapes, lines, colors as the sunlight shines on them...

Every morning, before breakfast, I wander into my garden... the scent of freshness, the birds singing... 

Every day there is something new unfolding in the garden... new flowers, new weeds (!!!), surprise encounters with the so many creatures that share my garden space... Perks of living away from the city...

This morning, the sun did not shine, it's raining, a slow pace rain... I love the sunshine and I love the grey moodiness of a rainy day, I appreciate what I have...

Time to sit down for breakfast listening to the rhythm of the falling rain... perfect beginning to a new day, I would say.

August 30, 2016

Gratitude and an Eggplant Appetizer Recipe

Late Summer
Early mornings. Blue skies.
Cheerful birds. Colorful flowers.
Scortching sun. Stifling humidity.
Binge on ice cream.
Cold, freshly squeezed orange juice.
Over-heated look.
Incessant air-conditioner noise.
Scaring thunderstormes. Blessed thunderstorms.
Garden work. Freshly picked vegetables.
More garden work.
Light breeze. Pink sunset clouds.Blissful nights.
There is nothing quite like late summer in New England!

It's a love-hate feeling, I love it, but I've been feeling so tired. Gardening helps me to relax, it works like an antidote to the stress of everyday life, but the humidity has been draining my energy.

It's been hot, muggy, steamy even, not easy to be outside watering the landscape and garden twice a day, weeding out and deadheading flowers, yet I feel grateful when I come inside from our garden with a basket filled with gorgeous organic vegetables grown by us.

Brady built three vegetable beds and a raised bed for the herbs. This year, in the vegetable garden we've grown a variety of zucchinis, eggplants, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, and peppers. The potatoes in the picture are from our friend's garden.

The raised bed we keep in the deck, along with some pots where I planted more herbs. To just pop outside the kitchen door and snip off a few sprigs of rosemary, or a handful of scallions is wonderful!

We've had an abundance of vegetables this year, sometimes they seem to get ripe all at once, but before they go bad we share some with our friends and use them to make simple salads and try new recipes, like cooking zucchini blossoms.

Together, we cooked rolled eggplant with ground beef & mozzarella, zucchini chips, Brady's mother classic tomato sauce recipe, my mother's tomato & pepper vinaigrette (yummy!), and last Sunday, when friends came over for a visit, I made this delicious eggplant appetizer.

Eggplant Appetizer

This family's favorite eggplant recipe is the perfect appetizer for a party, or get together. It tastes divine if it is set in the refrigerator for a day, or two, before serving it.

This dish is simpleunforgettable, and bound to please everyone.

 1 large, or 2 medium eggplants
 1 large onion sliced thinly
♥ 10 ounces of pitted and sliced green olives (a little over a handful)
♥ 1 large garlic clove sliced thinly
♥ 1/3 cup olive oil
♥ 3 tbsp white vinegar
♥ parsley & scallion, to taste
♥ salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

ps.: reduce or increase quantity of ingredients to your taste; this is not a cake so you don't need to be precise.

Rinse, slice and dice the eggplant. Don't peel it.

Place the eggplant, salt, and water in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked but still firm. Drain it in a strainer and let it cool completely.

Place the boiled eggplant in a bowl and little by little add onion, garlic, olives, parsley and scallion, toss them gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Last, add olive oil and vinegar, and toss gently to coat.

Transfer the appetizer to an airtight container, and place it in the refrigerator.

Serve cold, or at room temperature, with pita chips, pita bread, or as a side dish.

August 9, 2016

Ray of Light

One morning... catching the first light of the day in my garden...

Wishing you guys a sun-spangled day...

July 31, 2016

Radish, Zucchini and Potato Salad topped with Honey and Olive Oil

Ah, there is nothing quite like the long hot days of Summer! It brings a feeling of a slower and relaxed time yet it is such a busy time, so many things to do, so much energy around. 
Most of my free time, I've been spending on our garden, and I love it!

This year, we've been specially lucky growing zucchinis and radishes. We are sharing them with friends, freezing, experimenting and creating new dishes, like today's recipe - Radish, Zucchini and Potato Salad - a totally delish veggie-packed dish topped with honey and olive oil, chia seeds and freshly picked herbs.  Plant power!

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to create super quick dishes by using what I have available at home. The abundace of zucchinis and radishes, potatoes that were begging to be cooked, freshly harvest honey from my friend's backyard, and beautiful herbs waiting to be picked led to this fresh and light, yet so satisfying salad

This is a new all-time favorite salad, and without further ado, here is the recipe for anyone who is interested.

Radish, Zucchini and Potato Salad
Serves 2

♥ 1 large zucchini, raw
♥ 4-5 small-medium radishes, raw
♥ 3 potatoes, boiled
♥ freshly cut herbs - I used scallion, lemon-thyme, dill
♥ honey and olive oil, to taste
juice of a 1/2 lemon
♥ salt, to taste

Boil the potatoes with some salt. After they cool off, peel and slice them into rounds. Set them aside.
Slice the zuchini and radishes. I like to use a mandolin to slice them into even rounds.
Pop the zucchini into a colander; sprinkle salt and pour lemon juice on top of it, leave it there for a couple of minutes.
Place the vegetables on the salad dish in layers - potatoes, zuchinis and radishes, season to taste, top with fresh herbs, lots of them, drizzle honey and olive oil to taste, sprinkle chia seeds.

July 15, 2016

Zucchini Blossoms

They are one of the season's fleeting delight offerings and I can't believe I had never heard of them before. I'm talking about zucchini blossoms.
This year, Brady added two more beds to his vegetable garden, and at this point, zucchinis have been the kings of it, blooming with flowers.

One day after work Brady was outside watering the garden while I was cooking our dinner, and thinking about the beautiful zucchini flowers I wonder if we could eat them. I checked online and to my surprise learned that these delicate flowers are a delicacy. How could I have not known about it before?

I was intrigued by these yellow flowers, and now that I had them in my backyard I wanted to cook them.

I learned that typically they are deep-fried, but I did not want to make a mess in the kitchen, so I decided I would bake them, and in my head I already knew I was going to use some fresh herbs from my garden and make a simple and aromatic filling

I was thrilled. I had never cooked them before, and after looking for some recipes I decided to use rosemary and thyme with goat cheese to stuff the blossoms.

Zucchini blossoms are delicate flowers and they must be picked right before cooking them otherwise they wilt quickly.

According to this site, "many cooks remove the pistils from female flowers, and stamens from male flowers, although both of them are edible and have flavor. The male stamen contains the pollen". Yes, zucchini flowers have a sex life. 
For this recipe I used only male flowers and I removed the stamens.

Baked Zucchini Blossoms with Goat Cheese Filling

 6 zucchini blossoms
♥ 100 grs goat cheese
♥ 1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
♥ 1 tbsp thyme, chopped
♥ freshly ground black pepper, to taste
♥ salt, to taste (I used pink salt)

Preparation: Preheat oven to 320F. Line a baking tray with baking paper, or foil.

Mix together the goat cheese and the fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Carefully open the blossoms, stuff them with the mixture, and twist the top of the blossoms to seal in the filling.

Place the blossoms on the tray and drizzle them with olive oil - turn and roll them to cover them all over.

Bake for about 15 minutes (+/-) until they are crisp and tender.

♥ ♥ 

I served them with tricolor quinoa. A healthy and light lunch meal.

The blossoms did not make the nicest good-looking dish at all, but honestly, they were totally delicious!

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