Top 5

Putting it All on the Line

I am in love.  My clothesline is actually making me happy.  I find the few quiet minutes it takes to hang the clothes up both meditative and satisfying.  Wait.  Did I just say laundry makes me happy?

This isn’t my first clothesline, but so far, it is the best.  Granted, it’s new, so I don’t know how it will stand the test of time.  But I really love the design.  Which is funny.  I actually wanted a traditional, two post with lines stretched between set up.  I envisioned my kiddos running between the sheets as they hung on the lines.  But we’re short on space, so we went for the umbrella style.  And I love it.  Here’s why…

It holds a lot.  A LOT a lot.  Like four or five loads.  Maybe more.  More clothes than I have clothespins for.  All the cloth diapers, inserts and wipes, all the kids’ bedding, all of my clothes and towels, tons and tons.

It spins.  This means that I can hang the whites on one side and the darks on the other.  Then I can rotate it so the whites get bleached by the sun, and the darks stay in the shade.  Awesome.  Also, I can stand in one place, with the sun behind me, to hang and turn the line as I fill each side instead of moving around or staring into the sun.

What are you hanging under there? In the past, I would hang lots of items, but not everything.  I never hung our unders up, for example.  I didn’t want the whole neighborhood ogling my ultra sexy nursing bras.  ;)  But with the new line, that’s just not a concern.

The trick to hanging the tightie-whities is pretending you’re wearing them – they go under all your other clothes.  That’s right, if you don’t want the neighborhood to know if the husband wears boxers or briefs, keep them on the inside.  Those t-shirts and dish towels are totally concealing the undies from prying neighborhood eyes.

Clothesline?  What Clothesline?  I can take it down and put it away if we’re having a garden party or something.  Not that this has happened, but it’s a nice option.  Also I think taking it down in the winter to protect it from the weather will probably make it last longer.

It is pretty and it smells good.  Ok, that is true of drying clothes outdoors, no matter what kind of line you are using.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love it.  Nothing smells so nice as sun-dried sheets.  And I really love how laundry looks on the line.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I see a full line fluttering in the breeze.

Do you hang your laundry out?  What do you love about it?

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Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Essentials Every Kitchen Needs

When we got married, Rick had a lot of the kitchen basics covered, or so I thought.  When my mom offered to buy us cook ware or dishes I declined.  I’m the practical type.  I figured his dishes and pots and pans were working and that was good enough for me.  I didn’t realize the value of good quality kitchen items and that this was the one big opportunity to get these big-ticket items given to us!  Instead, I registered for pillowcases and a shower curtain.  A SHOWER CURTAIN!?

Fast forward eight and a half years.  Rick’s pathetic cheap-o non-stick pans are long gone.  I’ve inherited my grandpa’s awesome cast iron, and I’m slowly building up my collection of stainless steel to replace the mid-range non-stick stuff I bought, oh, seven years back.  And Rick and I know what we’ll buy our kids when they leave the house or get married, even if they think whatever they have is “just fine.”  There are just some things that every kitchen should have.

Here are my top five items that are truly essential to a kitchen:

1.  A sharp knife.  Ideally, you need a good chef’s knife and a sharp paring knife at minimum. More is better.  If you could only have one, though I’d go with the chef’s knife.  At least that way you can chop an onion, which is the base for nearly everything else you’d need a knife for.

2.  Cast iron skillet.  It can brown up meat perfectly, bake corn bread or cobbler, fry an egg or make a frittata.  It’s not hard to clean at all (despite the rumors you’ve heard).  I honestly can’t think of a pan I use more unless it’s my dutch oven.

3.  A sizable dutch oven or a heavy, oven-proof stock pot with a lid.  Soups and stews, braising, roasting, chili or mac and cheese.  This is a kitchen work horse.  My dutch oven is enamel-coated cast iron and can roast a chicken just as beautifully as it fries one on the stove top.  It makes one-pot meals far tastier than any crock pot.  Soups it can do in its sleep.  In a pinch, your stock pot can do most of these things too.  I never look at wedding registries any more.  This and a dutch oven one-pot meal cookbook is my go-to gift.

4.  A wooden spoon.  Ok, I know this seems simple, but try managing a meal without one.  I’ve been in kitchens with no good cooking utensils and found myself wishing desperately for a plain ole wooden spoon.  They don’t scratch any surfaces, are strong and sturdy and generally can’t be beat by anything plastic or metal.

5.  A stainless steel saucepan.  With a lid.  Besides the obvious (sauce), you can boil noodles, steam veggies, make popcorn or no-bake cookies in it.  And it’s easy to clean.

I almost added a garlic press to the list.  I can’t believe how much we use ours, though a good chef’s knife can do a comparable job.

What about you?  Can you not live without your funnel or food processor?  A good baking sheet or pizza stone?  What are your kitchen essentials?

Categories: Food, Top 5 | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Five Things I Learned in the Garden This Year

Last week, The Crunchy Chicken blogged about her Top 5 Biggest Food Gardening Mistakes.  Usually I just comment on the blog, but I thought my comments from this year warranted a post of it’s own, instead of taking up a page on Deanna’s blog.

This year was the first year that I was quite successful with getting my early spring crops in the ground in a timely manner.  This led to great lettuce and spinach and peas!  Hooray!  I am a garden champion!  Look at me!  And then the lettuce lingered and instead of calling spring gardening done, I let the early crops limp along delaying my main summer planting.  And, as a result I learned some valuable lessons…

1.  Don’t plan on planting summer crops in the same place as your spring crops.  I actually thought this would work.  But the spring crops will inevitably take too long and if you don’t plant your zucchini until July, expect to be the crazy woman who asks her neighbors for zucchini (who actually ASKS for zucchini?).  My neighbors were shocked when I came a knockin’.  Really.  Instead, next year, plan to plant fall crops right behind the spring crops.  Keep the summer garden area sacred… a few extra early peas are not worth my beets and tomatoes!

2.  Don’t water by hand.  Normally, we run a drip system in the garden.  It saves water and it saves on weeding.  This year, we kind of rearranged the garden beds and Rick needed to make a new drip configuration to match.  This spring was really rainy so making the system was delayed.  By the time it got hot, we were in baby-prep mode and it never happened.  We watered by hand.  This means, sometimes we watered and sometimes I forgot, and we had an awful lot of weeds.  We still have an awful lot of weeds.  Tomatoes dried out and then were soaked.  What, are we amateurs here?  Get a drip system.  They save water.  they save on weeding.  They save your plants.

3.  Don’t plant your tomatoes in the same place every year.  Again with the amateur mistakes.  I KNOW these things.  I really do.  But for whatever reason, I just didn’t pay attention.  The 13 varieties of heirloom tomatoes I carefully planted (on time!) have produced exactly squat this year, and they’ve been dying of some mystery disease starting on the West side of the garden and moving East.  Yi.  I know better.  So does Rick.  But we did it anyway.  Boo hoo.

4.  Plant more garlic.  This one actually came from a success!  We planted garlic last fall for the first time.  Garlic is like a miracle!  One clove of garlic becomes this gorgeous full head by late spring.  Amazing.  Delicious!  Victory!  Plant more!  And along these lines, get your neighbor gardening too.  Our neighbor’s garden was wonderful this year.  He enjoyed it, we enjoyed it, and we worked together on it.  now he’s already plotting and planning for next year.  I see a giant pumpkin in my future yet!

5.  Cut yourself some slack.  This is gardening, not nuclear fission or some other super crazy hard sciencey thing.  It’s supposed to be fun.  And it is, no matter what.  So what if we didn’t have any zucchini this year – every one always has extras of those lying around.   Boo hoo that my tomato plants bit the dust.  Instead I was able to find a local farm that will sell me a perfect box of organic Romas that I didn’t have to pick myself.  And they were really perfect.  Oh yeah, and I had a baby in July!  Seriously – it’s ok to rely on the CSA produce some years.  The great thing about gardening is that you get to try again next season.  These mistakes are not permanent!

How about you?  How did your gardens do this year?  What have you learned?

Categories: Garden, Top 5 | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Summertime Top Five

To me, this weekend is the official kick off for summer.  To celebrate, here are my top five favorite things about the upcoming season!

Sun-warmed tomatoes, straight from the garden.  We have thirteen varieties this year.  I truly, truly can’t get enough.

Farmers markets  Even though we have a big garden and a CSA membership, I really love strolling around a Saturday farmers market.  We always come home with a treasure.  Like the time we bought five kinds of mushrooms – just because.  Or some late-season strawberries that we had eaten practically before we left the stall.  Amazing breads, greens to die for, radishes in the colors of the rainbow.  And all the varieties of squash at the end of the season.  Such an adventure.

Dining alfresco  Whether an impromptu picnic lunch with the kiddos, a late-night backyard BBQ with friends or an everyday dinner on the back patio.  Eating outside is fun.  Bonus points for cooking outside too.  Sun tea, s’mores, and grilled corn on the cob to name a few.  Through some experimentation, we’ve managed to grill a few somewhat unusual things too, like pizza, biscuits and peach cobbler.

The Fourth of July  I love, love, love the fourth.  A BBQ with friends, sparklers and spinners with the kids, popsicles, watermelon, staying up late.  One year (2005) we saw fireworks from the beach with our friends in San Diego.  Last year it rained, so the neighbor invited us all to pile into his Volkswagen Bus.  We drove to an empty parking lot, popped the top and watched the fireworks display through the window of the top bunk.  We’re hoping for a repeat (with or without the rain) this year.  Every year, I can’t wait to get my patriot on.

Bare-feet and Line-dried Clothes  Ok… I know it’s really two things.  But I love being barefoot in the cool grass.  I’d run around barefoot everywhere if I thought I could get away with it.  And I love the smell of line-dried clothes in the summer time.  Particularly sheets.  We hang clothes to dry throughout the year, but laundry that’s been crisped by the summer sun and kissed by a warm breeze is just better.

What are your favorite things about summer?

Categories: Garden, Simple Living, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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