Everything is blooming in the garden. It's so rewarding to go out there and pick some stuff and then eat it for dinner on a daily basis! Here's the beginning of the latest status on the Zemel Farm. Aside from almost daily salads (sometimes we're just too lazy to walk 20 steps to pick lettuce!), we've eaten roasted beets and their greens, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, cubanelle peppers, some onions, and 1 giant zucchini! We've got a crookneck squash that will be ready soon. Apparently it's got bigger seeds than zucchinis do so I shouldn't let it grow too big. As it was, I left the zucchini on the vine for a little too long and then I had to pick out those seeds for Bayla. There are a few other little baby zucchini and squash on the plant as well after this round is done. There are also a million green tomatoes that we're just waiting to ripen and gobble up. The peaches are still little but they're turning pink as well. I hope they grow some more but they may not since the tree itself is so little, I'm not sure. So exciting to watch. We Zemel Farmers go on a tour every day to check on the progress and it's pretty cool.

I can't wait to take Bayla swimming again in her little blow up pool. I just wish I could get in there with her. Part of what I like about the pool is that it inflates on the bottom so she's not actually sitting on the ground. A little soft cushion for her round tush. On the other hand, that inflatable bottom is the very thing that prevents me from climbing in (don't want to pop it!). She was so cute in there the first time ... playing with the water and all the inflatable toys.

Dino Pool

Last week, we were invited over to swim and have Shabbat dinner at the Hart's house. We really love going there. They're such a nice, warm, and welcoming family. It was Bayla's very first time in a pool. Zvi took her in and I just loved watching her try to figure out her new surroundings. She kicked and splashed around and didn't even get upset when she'd splash her own face with water. It was really funny watching her lick her fingers and taste salt for the first time. I know that our climate doesn't really support the need to have a backyard pool, but oh boy is it ever amazing to have one. Definitely something I dream about! Zvi told me about a conversation he had once about how people are either cottage people or pool people. I must admit, I do like cottages. It's nice to get away and being on a boat is really fun. But usually when I think about cottages I think about mosquitos and the various bug bites I tend to get and how itchy they are for weeks afterwards. I think this absolutely makes me a pool person.
Kick Kick Kick Splash Splash Splash

After swimming, while we were having dinner, Bayla piped up with her very first real talking. She said "ma ma ma ma ma". I know she wasn't talking about me, but it was adorable. And then yesterday, out of no where ... she just started talking and saying all kinds of new sounds with consonants. Zvi was sitting outside on the porch with her, singing some songs and then when they came back in she just had so much to say. It was so nice to hear her voice and we can't wait to teach her words and hear her use them. Our little girl turned 7 months yesterday and she certainly showed us what a big girl she is!

I've pretty much introduced Bayla to every kind of individual fruit and vegetable that I'm going to for now. I'm going to start preparing bigger batches and freezing cubes of mixed foods. The reason I've been making things in small batches for now is because I've been serving the same food a few times a day for a few days to make sure there were no allergic reactions. Now Bayla can start to enjoy some variety both at every meal as well as throughout the day. I introduced her to banana for the first time today which I mixed with avocado to cut some of that intense sweetness. I've named this dish Avonana ... that that may imply avocado with mint so I might call it Banacado instead. We'll see. After this I'm going to give her Papaya and then we'll be onto the mixtures. I may give her mango before the mixtures as well or I may just save the mango to mix in with bananas another time.

Over this past month, since she turned 6 months, Bayla has eaten: apples, pears, nectarines, cantaloupe, banana, avocado, carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, zucchini, peas, parsnips, cauliflower, rice, barley and oatmeal. She has enjoyed everything except the parsnips (they weren't good and sweet like they were supposed to be ... we'll try again), nectarines (not quite in season so may have been too sour for her), and apples (either the texture was weird for her or she just didn't have a good appetite due to her 6 month shots). I don't really know how she feels about the cauliflower since I mixed a tiny bit into the squash and zucchini ... but I don't want to give her too much since it'll just cause gas anyway. It seemed to be a good mixture to sneak some into to see how it goes. Now I'll be able to include it in soups etc or other combined veggie dishes. Anyway, good on her ... she's a great eater and very willing to try new things.

After swearing to myself that I would back away from Arbonne ... I've gone ahead and done the opposite. *sigh*

I first heard of this company at a massage program for busy moms. The program was intended to allow busy moms who just couldn't get the time away from their babies to pamper themselves. 15 minutes for $15 while other moms take care of your baby. It was too good to pass up. Of course a 15 minute massage does nothing to rid me of the million knots in my neck and shoulders but at least it's a start. In any case, at this program were 2 Arbonne consultants showing off their product line. They did a complimentary skin care and make up demo on each of us. To be honest, I didn't even really want to get a makeup application in the middle of some random day but as usual, I was too shy/polite to decline. However, I'm actually pretty glad that I went with it because I was quite impressed with the products. I don't know if it was a combination of all the products or one of them in particular but my skin felt smooth, soft and despite the crazy heat was still not greasy the next morning. That's pretty impressive!

While talking with the Arbonne girls, they told me about the Arbonne opportunity. "Oh, it's like Avon," I said. And then they scoffed. The Arbonne business isn't structured in the same way so it's far more lucrative, they said. Basically Avon has expanded to sell a bunch of everything and it's all purchased from catalogue for a very cheap price. Due to the cheap price, your commissions as a consultant would be much lower. In addition, you've got to continuously hunt for the business so it's a lot more like door to door sales. Arbonne is different. First off the price point is higher so that alone gives you a higher commission. But also, once you sign someone up once all of their repeat orders get credited to you as well even though the client will actually be placing their repeat orders on their own through the phone or internet. Rather than continuously hunting for new sales, you're really just building up a network. I was intrigued ... and even more so when I realised that these Arbonne girls were young mothers like me and that through Arbonne they found a way to work part-time while still earning a very decent living and being able to spend time with their children. Now I was definitely intrigued.

I thought and thought - could I make this work for me? I thought so much that I became thoroughly obsessed with the prospect and couldn't even get a wink of sleep that night. I'm not big on sales because I lack the confidence to believe that people will buy something from me ... but the thing about Arbonne is that you're not really asking anyone to spend new money but rather to spend the money that they already spend on their skin care products on this healthier organic all-around better product. Makes sense. But then I got obsessed and annoyed and discouraged so I changed my mind about selling.

I was still impressed with the actual products though. In comes Joanna who is also kind of interested in starting up a skin care regimen. Like me, she doesn't use much of anything at this point but feels that it's probably about time to start. So I asked those Arbonne girls to come back and give us a demo. They left us with 3 days of sample so we'll see how it goes. I must say that after 2 uses I'm definitely feeling great. My skin is very soft, very smooth and very non-greasy. I'm sold.

If Joanna decides to go for it, I'm going to sign up as a Preferred Client for $35 which will allow me to purchase $840 worth of products for half price. Joanna and I would then split both the cost and the loot. It would come out to $225 for each of us and we'd get the full 6 daily skin care products plus have some spare to get a couple of more things here and there. It's pricey, I know ... but it's no more expensive than any other skin care line. I checked at Shoppers and everything was priced either the same or more expensive. The difference is that these products are natural and organic and don't have harmful chemicals. Plus I've been using NeoStrata from Shoppers which isn't really cheaper and I'm not really even seeing any results.

So Joanna and I were talking about how we probably could run this business and be consultants. We were even talking about doing it together and splitting the commissions. We probably could but she, like me, just lacks the confidence in her ability to "sell." Personally, I just don't know who I would even really ask to buy it. Becoming a preferred client costs $35 and would give me 20% all future purchases. Becoming a consultant costs $130 and would give me 35-50% off all future purchases plus I'd receive some sort of commission on all sales made. If I just had a little bit of confidence it would probably be quite a worthy venture.

I think that my aunt would maybe be interested. I think she would at least try the products. She does currently use some kind of products so it wouldn't be new money spent for her. Maybe Zvi's mom too. But aside from that, I don't think any of my friends really use much of anything yet and I think they will see it as a lot of money to spend. Never know until you try though.

Before I went on mat leave, I asked Zvi if he thought I should sign up with Avon to try to make some money while I was off. But he didn't really think so. He said he'd support me if I wanted to try but that he didn't really think that our friends would want to buy those kinds of things for me so he didn't really think I should bother. I agreed. But I was trying to find a way to supplement my income and also (in my dream world) find a way to not have to return to work when the time comes. Then Arbonne comes along.

No matter what I'm going to purchase the products for myself ... so the question really becomes is it worth it to spend $100 more and try to earn some money by spreading the word? And if Joanna and I try to do it together, then it would only be $50 more. If Zvi is reading this (I'm sure he got bored with this paragraphs ago) then his eyes are probably rolling back into his head ... but I think it's something at least worth considering.

A Return From Hiatus

I've been putting off blogging for so long that I've unfortunately forgotten about most things on my list of things to write about. I know there was a list because I emailed it to Brian at some point .... but the only thing I really remember being on there was the frog that we found hopping around our garden. We only saw it just the once and I haven't a clue of where it came from but while I'm happy I haven't run into it on my own, I am a little sad about it leaving if it didn't like our garden after all. We did take a few photos of him ... but I can't find them now. Maybe he took them with him when he left??? Ooh ... Zvi found it, here it is:
Can You See The Frog?!

I'm always a little bummed about continuing things when I haven't done them for a while. I just feel like there's so much that I haven't written about already that there's just no point to go on. I feel bad leaving the gap there but I also don't feel right about quickly summarizing everything that happened in just a few words. I feel like that kind of brevity just wouldn't do justice to the true experiences. On the other hand, I also feel way too lazy to actually write everything out properly so I'm kind of at an impasse. If Zvi were here, I'd tell him that this was a prisoner's dilemma. Yes, I know it's not really a prisoners dilemma ... but if Zvi were here, believe me, I'd definitely find a way to explain just how it really is.

I guess my only choices are to either quit (this is the option I almost always choose and then lament over it for the rest of forever) or to just accept that these things will not be perfect and that I will not be able to devote 100% of my time or energy to it and just do what I can. I have real trouble with tasks that I know I absolutely can't do perfectly. It's not that everything I do turns out perfectly - not at all ... but I at least like to know that there's a chance it will turn out that way if I try. With stuff like blogging, I just know it won't happen so it's really hard for me to stay motivated and not get depressed about it and give up. But I'm going to make a commitment right now to at least try.

Ok, Maybe Just A Little More
Well, at least it looks like Bayla is listening! 

That photo was taken after a big poopy explosion all over her bed. We haven't had many of those kind of accidents lately so I was really glad (as I'm sure was Zvi since he's the one that discovered it!) that we were both home to deal with it. It was her first time in the big bath all by herself. Luckily she's gotten to be really good at sitting up so it wasn't so difficult. Even though the bottom of the bathtub is textured, we still found it to be quite slippery so we'll have to pick up a mat before we stop getting into the tub with her for regularly scheduled bath time. The whole thing was kind of gross but it was also just really funny ... and it was the first time we've ever really bathed her in the middle of the day without having bedtime immediately after so it was a great opportunity to dress her in this very cute duckie robe and take some photos. As much as I'm not hoping for anymore poopy accidents, I do hope there are more opportunities for daytime bath tub fun because really, I want to see her in this robe some more. So cute! 

Here is a status update on our garden ... though it's already quite outdated. I'll put up another one soon. 

We did a lot of cooking over the weekend. It's something we both enjoy doing - especially together. Lately we've taken to eating dinner after Bayla goes to bed which has made our evenings considerably nicer and calmer. It's good because Zvi and Bayla get to spend some time together and I get a chance to rest before having to put her to bed. But it also means that Zvi and I have some nice time to spend together and don't have to rush and have a hectic dinner. All around great decision. Here's a lasagna that we made on the weekend. Zvi said it was the best ever. How nice! I just hope I can recreate in the future. 
Best Lasagna Ever

There's no real recipe here .... I just layered oven-ready lasagna noodles with a "meat" sauce (we used Italian flavoured ground round mixed into a tomato sauce), a ricotta/spinach/egg mixture, and sauteed eggplant/zucchini/mushroom mixture. Shredded mozzarella went on top. Then bake in a 350F oven for about an hour covered and 15 minutes uncovered.

The recipe for today is for a take on Thai Mango Salad. It's got all the same flavours but is prepared more like a slaw with the addition of cabbage. I got the idea from SmittenKitchen.
Mango Lime Cashew Slaw
It's not only delicious but also quite beautiful and colourful. The only thing missing from the picture above is shredded mint and coarsely chopped cashews. I didn't add them in right away because I prepared the salad in advance and those are both last minute additions right before serving. Had I used a food processor or mandoline, this would've been a really quick salad to make. Unfortunately, I value each of my fingers and am thus terrified of the mandoline I insisted to Zvi that we needed to have. Because I'm also lazy about these kinds of things, you'll see that my slices are much bigger than Smitten's. Oh well.

Mango Slaw With Cashews and Lime
2 Mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
1 lb Chinese Lettuce, halved and thinly sliced
1 Red Pepper, julienned
1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced
2 Limes, juiced
1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Canola Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Red Chilli Flakes
1/4 Cup Thinly Sliced Fresh Mint Leaves
1/4 Cup Coarsely Crushed Cashews

Whisk together lime juice, rice vinegar, oil, salt, and chilli flakes at the bottom of a large salad bowl. Mix in mangoes, chinese lettuce, red pepper and onions. Add mint and cashews prior to serving.


Zvi and I made our next recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible today. It was a lovely focaccia that featured our very own homegrown rosemary and thyme. Zvi says "too bad it wasn't made with our own flour - maybe next year." Haha, that's what he thinks! I'm really not planning on growing wheat in my backyard.

There are a couple of things I would do differently when making this again. I already added in thyme and more salt than was called for, but I think even more herbs would be really nice. The biggest change is that I used a large baking sheet for the focaccia, leaving a smaller baking sheet to go into the oven ... this may have contributed to a bit of uneven browning and heat distribution on the bottom. Next time I will put the dough into the smaller one and put that on top of the bigger one. Either that or buy another baking sheet in the large size. Anyway, these are just minor details. Overall, it turned out really great.

The dough needs about 6 hours of total rising time so it's best to start this process in the morning if possible, or at least before 4pm which is when I started our process. Oh well - a little taste of focaccia at 10:15pm never hurt anyone!

Zvi and I both also thought that the dough would make for an excellent pizza dough. We could both totally imagine it spread with some tomato sauce, some oregano and basil and maybe some buffalo mozzarella. Except for the cheese we could make it all from homegrown ingredients. Another time.

390 grams unbleached all-purpose flour (2 3/4 cups)
1.2 grams instant yeast (3/8 tsp)
442 grams room temperature water (2 cups minus 2 tbsp)
3 grams sugar (3/4 tsp)
5.2 grams salt (3/4 tsp)
36 grams extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp plus 2 tsp divided)
2 tsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp coarse sea salt

1. Mix Dough. Using the paddle attachment in a KitchenAid mixer, combine flour and yeast on speed 2. Gradually add water until the dough comes together - about 3 minutes. Increase speed to 4 and beat until dough changes from a wet mixture to a smooth ball - about 18 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat until they are well incorporated - about 3 minutes.

Mixing Focaccia Dough

2. Let Dough Rise. Using an oiled spatula, scrape dough into a medium sized, lightly greased bowl. Dough will have consistency of melted mozzarella. Lightly spray oil on top of dough. Cover bowl. Allow to rise in a warm spot for about 4 hours until dough has at least doubled.

3. Shape Dough And Let Rise Again. Coat a baking sheet with a heaping tbsp of olive oil. Pour dough onto it. Coat hands with some of the remaining olive oil and spread dough as thinly as possible without tearing it. Let it relax for 10 minutes then spread it to almost fill the baking sheet. Make sure to maintain the bubbles in the dough. Cover baking sheet with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until volume has doubled.

4. Preheat Oven. Place another baking sheet on lowest level in oven. Preheat oven to 475F 1 hour before baking (I think we only did half and hour).

5. Sprinkle Toppings And Bake. Uncover dough and drizzle remaining olive oil evenly over top. With oiled fingertips, deeply dimple the dough. Sprinkle evenly with herbs and salt. Place baking sheet directly onto baking sheet already in oven. Bake until golden - about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
Focaccia Out Of Oven
Freshly Baked Focaccia

In other news, I'm so glad Bayla learned to put her head down sideways when she's on her tummy. She's started rolling over in her crib at night but at least now that doesn't make her wake up screaming because her face is planted flat into the mattress. Of course, she does sometimes manage to get her entire leg stuck through the slats in the crib. No clue how this even happens. It really is amazing watching her do tummy time though because she is so much stronger than when she started out. Not only can she hold her arms straight and lift her whole chest off the ground, she pretty much lifts her hips up too. It's like she's doing the cobra pose from yoga. Great for her - I'm not sure I can hold the pose for as long as she can at this point. It looks like she's at the beginning stages of figuring out how to crawl. (OMG, which means we need to tidy up the house ASAP and get a cleaning lady!!) She hasn't quite figured out how to consistently role onto her back yet either but she can spin around 360 while on her tummy. I love watching her go around and around playing with various toys as she goes. Am I supposed to be this by my child?! Here's a picture of her enjoying some sweet potatoes today. This was taken before things got really messy :-)
Sweet Potato Mess

Well, we did it ... we fed solids to Bayla. She was exclusively breastfed for 6 months which was really important to me and now we're starting to introduce her to different tastes. This milestone was a bit bittersweet for me. On one hand, I'm so excited for her to grow up because she's getting to be so much fun and I want to see what she'll be like and really be able to interact with her. But on the other hand, my baby is growing up so fast and I'm already starting to forget what she was like at her tiniest and I'm already starting to miss it and feel that incredible yearning that I'm sure all mothers feel for their little babies who need them so utterly and completely. But, I am going to continue to nurse for hopefully the rest of the year that I'm home so Bayla and I do still have lots of opportunity to cuddle and bond together.

Open Wide

We started her on organic brown rice cereal. Zvi had both the video and still cameras on hand to document the funny faces we were sure we'd get. But Bayla was so well behaved ... she was brave and tried it without a fuss. She smiled most of the way through it and let out the cutest little "mmmm" after each spoon. It was impossible not to melt for our little girl. What a cutie.

I know that generally you're supposed to wait a few days in between new food introductions for babies so that any sensitivities or allergies can be noticed. But I didn't want to keep her on just the rice cereal for too long because as I've heard from every mother who has been through this before me - it doesn't make for happy baby tummies. I had hoped that by choosing a brown rice cereal instead of white that it would help with the situation. But even still, I didn't want to risk it. In any case, it is extremely rare for anyone to have sensitivities to rice so I wasn't too worried about breaking this rule. Also - I was so excited about the whole experience that I just really wanted to give Bayla new things to try. So we did 1 day of the rice which I fed to her twice in the day. Then for the next 2 days we moved on to avocado which I had thinned with some milk. I only gave it to her once on each day partly because that's how our schedule worked out and partly because how much avocado can/should a baby really eat, right? Bayla seemed to really like the avocado too.
Mmmm Avocado

And now we're on to 2 days of apple which so far is going just fine as well. I've also started giving Bayla little bits of boiled water from a sippy cup. I don't want her to have too much because I'm still nursing and I don't want her to fill her tummy up with non-nutritive sucking. However, I'm really adamant about getting her used to drinking water instead of juice as she grows up (I'm convinced that because I was raised on juice, albeit diluted, I am now completely addicted to sugar) and also it's a great way to rinse out her mouth and not get leftover bits of mush all over me and everything else in the house!

And so for now, I leave you with this last picture of my little big girl. There really are no adequate words to sum up the amount of love that I feel for her.

Weekend Cooking

Yesterday, Zvi and I made our first recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. Admittedly, it wasn't the most bready thing we could've made but it sure was delicious. Cinnamon Crumb Surprise is the first recipe in the book and I would call it more of a coffee cake than anything else. For the first time in my life, I actually followed the recipe EXACTLY. And now that I have, I've made note of some changes for next time. For starters, I found it to be a little too sweet so I would cut back some of the sugar, at least in the crumble topping. Secondly, I would increase the amount of apples in the middle layer. I know this isn't supposed to be an apple cake but I found that just one apple really didn't add much of a surprise to the cake and I would have liked to feel more of that flavour. And last but most importantly, the recipe calls for the use of a food processor to make the crumb topping and then a stand mixer to make the dough. Zvi and I both agree that it's just not worth the clean up - in the future, we think that the crumb topping can easily be made by hand.

In general, I'm quite opposed to this extremely precise way of making food. I think it's important to understand the elements and feel your way around the preparation. However, it was really fun measuring everything using our brand new kitchen scale (thanks Zvi!) and watching the cake flour transform into a silken batter after a specifically stated amount of time in the stand mixer. I was tempted to mix a little less ( I mean, do I really need to count to 90 - really?!) but Zvi was around so he kept me on track. It was definitely an experience but one that I don't regret because after about an hour and a half, Zvi and I sat down to quite a lovely little treat.

Cinnamon Crumb Surprise

Earlier in the day I also made some ratatouille. It's a favourite around here. It's so cheery and summery and full of flavour and easy to make! I was thinking yesterday that one day I would be able to make the entire dish out of vegetables grown in our own yard. Not this year as we don't have any eggplants growing but everything else is well on its way ... various coloured peppers, green and yellow zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, thyme, rosemary ... how wonderful is that?! I also love that it's so healthy. In fact, we first got the idea of making it from The G.I. Diet Cookbook.


1 eggplant, quartered lengthwise, then sliced into 3/4" pieces

2 zucchini, halved lengthwise, then sliced into 3/4 " pieces (I used yellow)

3 peppers, cut into 1" pieces (I used 1 each of green, red and orange)

1 sweet onion, cut into large chunks

1 can plum tomatoes ( I used San Marzano), drained except for 1/4 cup of juice

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp each of fresh basil, parsley, thyme and rosemary

olive oil, salt, pepper

Step 1: Arrange eggplant on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until golden brown. Flip and repeat.

Step 2: Saute onion in olive oil until slightly softened. Add zucchini and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium until vegetables have softened.

Step 3: Add tomatoes, reserved juice, vinegar, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Simmer about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Add basil and thyme. Mix thoroughly and enjoy.

Our cookbook suggests eating this with a poached egg. We haven't tried it but it sounds great.

Last weekend we took Bayla to meet Zvi's grandmother for the first time. She lives in a nursing home and we didn't want to take Bayla inside because of all the germs. We have been waiting for warm weather so that we can take Zvi's grandma outside and finally the weather was just right - not too cold, not too hot (though it was quite windy unfortunately). Zvi took some great pictures of their introduction but this one is really my favourite because it is so very Bayla. She sees something ... and then she wants to eat it. 

Nice To M(eat) You!

Here's another great example of Bayla putting EVERYTHING into her mouth. She figured out how to get her feet into her mouth a while ago but I haven't been able to capture it on camera until recently. Usually she gets so interested in seeing what I'm doing that as soon as I point a camera in her direction she stops doing everything to interact with me instead. It's really nice but makes catching all the funny stuff she does a bit of a challenge. 
Caught You Red Footed

I was REALLY disappointed last night when UPS rang our doorbell with a delivery from Amazon at 7pm. Zvi had asked for a coffee hand grinder for father's day so that is what he was expecting. I decided to throw in a little bonus with that gift so that there would still be some element of surprise. I checked the Amazon website and I was actually expecting the delivery yesterday but when it didn't arrive by 5 I figured it would just come today instead. But at 7pm when the doorbell rang, I tried to get Zvi to not answer it to no avail. So he got this book about coffee as a little early present. Hope he's liking it.

We had nachos and slushie strawberry daiquiris. It was amazing. Unfortunately we gobbled it all up before I thought of taking a picture. But really, it was awesome ... I even made some guacamole for dipping.

And the best part of all of this is that I realised how absolutely easy it is to make slushies which means I won't really need to go to 7-11 anymore to get a fix. I can just make my own slushies using juice or fruits even. Much healthier, cheaper and only takes about 5 seconds to make.

Actually, on the weekend we went to Aroma and I had a limonana slushie which was really good. Considering we always have plenty of lemons on hand and we've got 3 different kinds of mint growing in the backyard, I think this may very well become our signature drink.

Yum Yum Yum :-)

First Harvest

So here we have it - our first harvest. 14 French Breakfast Radishes. I planted 16 but we pulled one out a week ago to check on it and one of the ones we pulled out yesterday really didn't develop at all. I should've taken a picture of the whole bunch but I was too lazy to lay them out somewhere with all the dirt still attached. The leaves are edible too ... when they're young and small you can eat them like salad greens but when they're bigger they should be treated like spinach and sauteed or steamed or something like that. Either way, we just chucked the leaves cause they're a bit fuzzy and neither Zvi nor I really liked the texture. 
First Harvest June 3 2010

I was pretty unimpressed by this harvest ... it really is a meagre bounty. But you know, in retrospect, I think it was actually quite great. For some reason, that little bowl of radishes seemed so small and pitiful it just didn't seem worth it to pack them away and eat them a few at a time over the course of a week or whatever. Zvi and I ate the whole bowl all at once. 7 radishes each. OMG - who does that?! They were really tasty - soft and fresh and spicy ... but 7 at once is just way too many. It gave me heartburn like I haven't had since I was pregnant. No matter how small the bowl looks in a few weeks when I pull out the next square of radishes, we are NOT going to eat them all at once. 

Unfortunately our Oregon Sugar Snap Peas are kaput. Either something is chewing away at them or the crazy rain over the last few days has damaged them beyond repair. We still have 2 squares of Sugar Snap Vine Peas and I really hope they survive ... I'm so looking forward to eating them when they're ready! Maybe I should just dig up the remains of those Oregon Peas and replant them. Yes they'll be a bit behind, but so what? This way the harvest will be staggered rather than all at once. If it's not raining all weekend, I'll do that. 

I'm actually so glad for the rain ... it's been crazy hot the last few weeks so despite the headache the impending rain brings with it, it really is quite welcome. 

It's So Hot

I'm really not complaining in general, I mean, at least we've got the A/C to rely on. But it's just been so incredibly hot the last week. It's nice that the weather has warmed but the heat actually makes it kind of difficult for Bayla and I to do much of anything. It's too hot to go for walks outside and I don't want to spend my days at the mall. I can't even put sunscreen on Bayla yet so we've got to avoid the sun as well ... which quite honestly is better for me anyway since I seem to burn despite sunscreen anyway. I've just bought a new bottle of 75! .. so we'll see if that does the trick. 

It's just so hard to sit inside our house all day long. It gets boring and lonely for us. It's very unfortunate that I don't have any friends with a pool. I would love nothing more than to spend the day with Bayla in and out of the water. Best summer ever! :-) But anyway, there's no pool so we've got to make due with the little corner of shade we've got at the side of the house. There's no shade at all in the backyard proper, which is great for our growing veggies... but not so great for me and Bayla. Luckily, our side yard is in shade for most of the day so I've been laying down some beach towels and we've been hanging out there, looking at the clouds, singing and cuddling. 

Lazy Summer Days

Backyard Cuddle

Maybe in the next few months, as she learns to sit on her own I'll be able to put on the sprinkler and have that splash us for a little respite from the heat. Not sure if she would like that, but it's worth a shot. We did get sprayed yesterday when Zvi turned on the sprinkler to water the front lawn and trees while we were standing on the porch. I wasn't expecting the shock of the cold water but Bayla didn't seem to mind too much. Perhaps that will be exactly what we'll do come July and August!

I meant to make this soup and post about a couple of weeks back, but well, that never happened. I finally got around to making it but now that it's not shavuot I don't really need to associate every dish with the smallest bit of shredded cheese as being "dairy in honour of the holiday."

This is another recipe from Kraft's What's Cooking magazine. This latest spring issue is actually quite good. There are 3 recipes in there that I have already made. The Spring Pesto Pasta was great. This Minute Minestrone is great. And the Sesame Noodles were also quite good. I didn't bother blogging about them because I didn't take pictures, and I'm on a dairy kick and the only thing dairy about those noodles is that there isn't any meat in them. Maybe I'll write about them some other time. I've just recently received the summer issue but I haven't had a chance to look through it and make anything from it yet.

The Kraft magazine has a $3.95 price tag on it, though I can't imagine who possibly would pay for it or where you would buy it. I've just checked out the Kraft website and I'm actually not sure that you can sign up for this magazine anymore anyway. They've got another magazine that you have to pay to subscribe to. Maybe I just keep receiving this one because I signed up for it long ago. I hope they never stop sending it, unlike the free Glow magazine I used to get from Shoppers Drug Mart. Yes, it was another long ad for the store, however ... there were some good articles and it was a good way for me to read up about various products. I really liked getting it and was quite sad when it stopped coming my way.

So back to the minestrone ... it's not that I didn't know how to make this before hand. But this is a great version because it's so quick and easy. The recipe in the magazine calls for chicken in the soup which obviously we can't have, but still ... this is a great easy base to work with. You can put in different veggies for a change. And really, the whole thing is quite healthy ... what with its whole wheat pasta and beans!

4 cups vegetables (I used corn, peas and carrots [all we had today that wasn't already earmarked for other things... you'd think it was winter here or something!])
1 1/2 900 mL cartons vegetable broth
1 can 596 mL diced tomatoes
1 can 540 mL white beans, well rinsed
1 1/2 cup whole wheat rotini
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt, pepper, basil, and oregano to taste. I also put in some garlic and onion powder because we somehow had neither fresh in the house.

Step 1: Combine all ingredients except cheese in a saucepan. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring occasionally.

Step 2: Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until pasta is tender.

Step 3: Serve topped with cheese.

I'm not bothering with pictures of this soup, there's nothing to show but suffice it to say that it was delicious and Zvi and I gobbled up our bowls.

Mother's Day Portrait
This is the mother's day portrait I mentioned earlier. It's amazing that it wasn't even taken a month ago and I feel like Bayla has changed so much since then. For one thing, she's got TEETH! One of her bottom teeth cracked through the gums on Sunday and I can see another one starting to pop out. I think it'll be out either later today or tomorrow. What a big girl!

To go along with her new "big girl" status, she's started doing a new kind of smile. It's really funny and looks really cute. It's almost like she's trying to show us her little chicklet teeth. Hilarious.
A new smile

Ah - summer, I love this time of year! Not only are the days longer and the weather just beautiful, this time of year is wonderful becomes it brings freedom from the television! The end of the tv season is a little different this time around though because some of the endings are permanent this time. Heroes has been over for a while and I'm not at all surprised that it was cancelled, so that's ok. I think I'm more or less done watching V as well. The show is pretty cheesy and intrinsically flawed in its basic premise but more than anything, I just can't stand looking at Morena Baccarin , who plays Anna. I liked her so much more when she was Inara in Firefly .

But the biggest change of all in the tv lineup for me is the ending of Lost . As far as I can recall, this is only the second show I've ever watched from start to finish that has actually run its course and not been cancelled somewhere along the way (BSG was first).  To be honest, I was ready for this show to end because it had really gotten a bit silly over the years. Of course, that being said, I was still looking forward to getting answers to the island's great mysterious that had piled up over all these years. After having watched the finale, I was pretty at peace with how it all ended. Yes, it didn't answer much of anything about the mysteries, but it was a neat ending that at least left things wrapped up. But the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I got about the conclusion ... basically, the finale told us that everything about the island really happened (unbelievable-magic-fantastica and all) and that at some point all the characters died (when and how is basically irrelevant) and met up in this made up pre-heaven kind of place (the flash-sideways we've been seeing over the last season) so that they could find each other again and then eventually move on to heaven. I like the ending and I like how it explained what flash-sideways was about ... but what about the last 5 seasons?!?!?! It's funny that all the crazy stuff that happened on the show was real and then the normal looking stuff at the end ended up being the made up part. There were also some continuity errors, at least in my opinion ... like why was Sayid reunited with Shannon as the love of his life when it should have been Nadia? If it couldn't have been Nadia because she wasn't on the island, then how come Desmond got to be with Penny? Watching this collection of unanswered questions really just kind of made me more upset.

Anyway, ultimately it really doesn't matter because the show is over. Truth is that as much as it would have been really nice to get answers to all of those questions about the island, I didn't really expect that it would happen in any kind of satisfactory way and I'm actually much more at peace with this ending than I will ever be about the ultimate end of BSG. I just don't get what happened with Starbuck and how she just disappeared and what that was all about. Best not to bring all of that angst up again.

There are a few other shows that I have watched start to finish but it's not the same because they were cancelled somewhere in between so the endings were slapped together and not at all satisfactory. Dollhouse and American Dreams (Heroes too) are in this group. Shows like Tru Calling,  Journeyman, and Kings were just cancelled without any kind of conclusion at all.

So now, I have my Tuesday nights back. That's really great! I just hope that Zvi and I find a better use of our time come the fall instead of retiring to the couch every evening.

In the meantime, we now have our summer to continue working on our backyard oasis. Everything in our garden has been growing a lot due to the hot-hot weather. Check here to see the progress.

whole garden may 23 2010

I'm really looking forward to start harvesting some of this goodness! Can't wait. 

Continuing on with our week of dairy meals in honour of Shavuot, this recipe is adapted from Kraft's What's Cooking Magazine. I know most of the magazine is an ad for Kraft products ... but I still love receiving it in the mail. Sometimes there are really great recipes included, and if not, it's still great getting a magazine in the mail - especially a free one!

I pretty much tripled this recipe to use the entire package of fettuccine. I don't like making only 2-4 servings at a time usually. Not that Zvi and I like to eat the same thing every day, but it's great having enough to feed guests when they come by. I also really prefer to make a lot of a few things so we have variety and the ability to choose what we eat throughout the week.

This pasta dish was quite good and very simple to make. I usually cook with less pre-made ingredients, but the truth is that making my own cream sauce would not only have cost more money and taken more time, it probably would have been a lot more fattening as well. I would have used my own vegetable broth if I was in the habit of keeping some around, but I'm not. I usually just make my own broth as I'm making soup and I never really put aside any extra for using later on. Maybe I should.

1 900g package of fettuccine
1 bundle asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
1 container herb and garlic cream cheese
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cups pesto parmesan dressing
2 cups frozen peas
chopped basil for garnish

Step 1: Cook pasta as per package instructions. Add asparagus during the last minute. Drain and set aside in large bowl.

Asparagus Pasta

Step 2: Over medium heat, cook cream cheese, broth and dressing. Cook until sauce begins to thicken, stirring constantly. Stir in peas and cook for 2 minutes.
Spring Pasta Sauce

Step 3: Add sauce to pasta. Mix thoroughly.
Mix Together

Step 4: Top with basil. Enjoy.
Ta Da

In honour of Shavuot, I've decided to make a number of dairy meals this week. The first of many was an amazingly delicious braided lemon cheese loaf that I saw on smittenkitchen. It was pretty easy to make, though I did appreciate Zvi taking Bayla outside with him while he was digging holes around the arbour for our new clematis vines. I was working on a pasta dish at the same time (which I'll write about another time) and so it would've been difficult juggling playing with Bayla as well. This loaf is not overly sweet, making it perfect for a light dessert or even breakfast. Smitten mentioned wanting to try it again with a filling other than lemon curd, and I agree ... from the moment I tasted it I started dreaming about how good it would taste made with fresh juicy peaches later in the summer. Cherries would also be delicious ... probably any berry actually and now that I'm thinking about it ... strawberry-rhubarb would no doubt be incredible as it would have that same sweet/sour taste as the lemon curd. But I digress, the cream cheese lemon flavour is amazing and Zvi and I are really enjoying our pre-Shavuout dairy treat.

Don't be frightened of the many components in this recipe. There are many elements, but none of them are difficult to make. Just take it one step at a time and you'll be very grateful that you did!

6 tbsp warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

6 tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
2 eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with water for brushing
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
sugar and poppy seeds for sprinkling

Cream Cheese Filling
1/3 cup softened cream cheese
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

Lemon Curd
3 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3 tbsp sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Step 1: Make Sponge. Combine sponge ingredients. Stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for 15 minutes.


Step 2: Make Dough. Combine dough ingredients and mix with a stand mixer, first using the paddle attachment and then the dough hook. Knead for about 5 minutes until dough is soft and smooth. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour. Dough should be nearly doubled in size.

Step 3: Make Lemon Curd. Here 's a great tip for squeezing lemon juice without getting any pits. In a saucepan, over low heat, whisk together lemon curd ingredients. Whisk frequently until curd has thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer lemon curd to bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. You'll only need 1/4 cup of lemon curd for this recipe but you'll have almost 1/2 cup. Enjoy the remainder with some toast, some yogurt, or just lick it up from the bowl. Mmmm mmmm good!
Lemon Curd

Step 4: Make Cream Cheese Filling. Combine all filling ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Step 5: Assemble Loaf. Gently punch down dough. Roll it out on a well floured surface into a large rectangle, about the size of your baking sheet. Transfer dough to parchment paper lined baking sheet. Gently mark 3 equal columns lengthwise in the dough. Spread cream cheese filling over the center section, leaving about an inch at the top and bottom uncovered. Spread lemon curd over the cream cheese. Cut an equal number of 1 inch strips on either side of the loaf. Be careful not to cut through the parchment paper like I did. I used a sharp knife, a bench scraper probably would have been wiser.
Cream Cheese Filling
Lemond Curd and Cream Cheese Filling

Step 6: Braid Loaf. Remove 4 corner segments. Fold top down and bottom up. Overlap strips on opposite sides of the loaf working your way down. You can tuck the last few strips under the loaf or just press them into the bottom like I did. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about an hour.
Cut Strips

Step 7: Bake Loaf. Brush loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar and poppy seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F. Loaf should be golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting into it, giving the cheese some time to cool.
Ready For The Oven
Out Of The Oven

Step 8: Enjoy. Try not to eat the whole loaf at once ... seriously, it's that good!

What a lovely day - err, weekend, I should say. We had to make it a mother's day weekend because there are just too many people to celebrate with to fit it all into one day. Especially with Bayla. We had a lovely brunch with my grandma and aunt, we visited my mom, Zvi visited his grandma, and then we had Zvi's parents over for dinner. And of course there was our very own little breakfast party for me. Zvi made the most amazing oatmeal pancakes for me. Since we switched away from quick oats (for both health and taste reasons), we are both really loving oatmeal for breakfast on weekends. And this recipe took it to a whole new level .... oatmeal = great, pancakes = great, strawberry sauce = great ... so what's not to love? :-) The only problem, as we both unfortunately discovered later on Sunday night ... is that we both truly are lactards and using butter, no matter how small an amount, in the batter, on the griddle, and later on top of the pancakes just does NOT work for us. Oh well ... lesson learned. Small price to pay for such deliciousness.

Despite all the hustle and bustle of the weekend, Bayla was such a good girl. She often gets overwhelmed by going to lots of different places and being surrounded by noise and people. I was really proud of her. Here's a picture of her relaxing on the couch with her saba before dinner last night. Oh how she loves tv.


"Bayla" made me the cutest card too. It really made my day.
First Mother's Day

And I got these lovely Japanese Forged Flower Shears. I can use them to cut flowers from the garden and also to thin my veggies.

We gave everyone a framed portrait of Bayla. It was such a cute photo that we made one for ourselves as well. I'm hoping Brian will scan a copy for me so that I'll have it online as well. The studio wanted $100 for a digital copy so I decided it wasn't worth it.

Unfortunately we weren't able to get much done in the garden this weekend, or even get to the regular garden chores like raking and mowing because we were busy with mother's day and because despite the fact that May 9th is supposed to be the last frost date in this area - the temperature dropped dramatically and we had SNOW! Zvi had to cover up the veggies with some landscaping fabric and a tarp to keep our veggies safe. We took it off yesterday in the day time but put it back down overnight. I think we may have to do the same again tonight ... but hopefully that will be the last of it.

Zvi did have a bit of time though to go pick up some more stuff for our garden. He's got everything he needs to build the next raised garden bed. Hopefully he'll have some time for it this week. He picked up the landscape fabric and all the soil stuffs to fill the bed. And ... this part is very exciting ... we've got 12 asparagus plants and 2 rhubarb plants to go into the bed once it's ready. Since we got the plants this weekend and since I'm so excited about them, I'm just going to count them as part of my mother's day present :-) They're all happily hanging out in my kitchen by the patio door for now. I'm amazed at how quickly the asparagus is growing ... why just yesterday I was fawning over two very cute little mini asparagus spears and now one of them has shot up at least 2 inches and another 2 have popped out of nowhere. If you look closely in the pictures you should be able to spot them ... and if not, I'm happy to show them off when you come over!
Rhubarb and Asparagus Plants

Oh! And how could I almost forget about this ... Zvi and Brian went to pick up some free maple and walnut stumps because Zvi wants to make stools out of them for the backyard. I'm still really not sure how I feel about this.... especially now that I see they're not all the same and are even different heights.  Are we really going to want to sit on these??? Anyway, apparently the walnut stump weighs about 100 lbs! Crazy. Nice of that man with the house on Dufferin to give them away for free.
Walnut and Maple Logs

Mostly everything that I've planted so far has started to sprout ... still waiting on the carrots, and two of the lettuces. While I was uncovering the bed this morning I took some pictures of the cute little sprouts that you can see here.  Looks like it's almost time to thin some of them out.

Bayla and I have really been enjoying the lovely weather. Why, just the other day I put out some beach towels in the backyard (to do: get a big picnic type blanket), brought out the bumbo chair and we had a blast hanging out and playing our usual games in a different environment.

Fun In The Sun

Too Bright? Borrow Mommy's Shades!

It was too bright out for Bayla so I lent her my shades for a while. She was a little confused at first and resisted the foreign object being put over her face but eventually she figured out that it was cool because she could now open her eyes. So cute! 

The garden is coming along nicely for now. Zvi finished building, digging, and amending the soil so I went ahead and planted some lettuces, carrots, radishes, beets, spinach, onions and peas. 

Square Foot Garden, Here I Come!

Planting Seeds

Bayla and I take little mini trips out into the backyard daily to check on the progress and do a little gentle watering if there hasn't been enough rain. So far some of my onions, radishes, peas and lettuces are starting to peak out of the ground. How exciting!

On Wednesday, I finally got over my fear of organized activities and took Bayla out for a stroller fit class with a group of 7 other moms with their babies. It was a beautiful day and we did a great walk through G Ross Lord Park. Twice up and down the hills, some squats, lunges, skips and stretches later ... I'm actually embarrassed to say that my legs are sore. I can't wait for next Wednesday so we can go again. Until Bayla fell asleep halfway through I had her sitting mostly upright in the stroller and it seemed like she really enjoyed looking around at all the new sights - grass, trees, people, and nature. I'm planning on taking Bayla to a kindermusik class on Monday as well ... another trip out of the house. I can't wait to see how she reacts to an activity with other babies that will be so focused on her and her development. More on that to follow. 

We've barely even started yet! Well, I should say that I've barely even started. Zvi's been working hard in the backyard getting a plot ready for me to plant my veggies in.

Hard At Work

Garden In Progress

He took on such a huge job by double digging it all. Too bad our soil is hard, clumpy clay and is in need of years before the amendments really improve its condition. He's already mixed in 8 bags of triple mix and a whole heck of a lot of free leaf compost. I can see that it does look better than before, but it still seems like it would be too difficult to plant seeds in. I think we'll just spread one final layer of triple mix before he gets on with setting up the grid and then I should be able to plant this weekend!

It's a little late for some things ... I mean, not late as in I can't plant them anymore, but just late as in we could've already been eating radishes and lettuce if not already then very soon. But it's ok, better late than never. Next week is our last frost date in this area so I'm looking forward to planting everything else as well.

Going forward, I think we now both agree that building raised beds and doing square foot gardening is just really the way to go. Yes it's more expensive to start off with ... but our existing soil is just too difficult to deal with and it's not worth all the time. Now we know. Annoying when hindsight is so clear, isn't it?

Speaking of which, since our plot is up against the fence I'm a little regretful that we decided to make it 3 feet wide instead of just 2. It may be quite difficult to get in there and deal with things at the back. And the worst part of it is that it's quite a permanent set up ... we may end up changing the border some day but I doubt we would take the whole thing out and replant a whole patch of grass. Oh well. Zvi's tall though so if I can't manage to reach into the depths of the veggie forest, I have no doubt that I can count on him to help me out!

I've been looking around at other people's front lawn gardens in the area while out for walks with Bayla and I must say that I really shouldn't have paid attention to the spacing requirements of the tulips I planted in the fall. Our little display of flowers looks ridiculous!

Sparse Tulips Out Front

Sometimes it's important to pay attention to instructions ... like when making shakshuka for instance - 5 jamaican hot peppers is not the same as 3 jalapenos!!! But in this case, I'm envious of the lawns that have big beautiful clumps of flowers and I can't help but just shake my head and laugh when I see our display of sparse tulips. I planted a whole lot of other flowers seeds though and I'm patiently waiting for them to show their little heads and improve the situation.

I definitely plan on digging up the tulip bulbs this fall and repositioning them into a more appealing configuration ... and of course I vow to never pay attention to instructions again :-)

About this blog

I started out just being me but I always wanted to be a little like my grandma. Then I became a wife. Then I also became a mom. This is the story of how I learn to put it all together :-)