With temperatures in the 90s now, summer is undeniably here – and with it being the start of August this weekend, it will soon be over. I’ve managed to pick a whole bowl of ripe tomatoes from our garden with many more ripening on the vine, I’m excited to see our various peppers getting bigger and closer to being ready to pick every day, and our lettuce has reached the stage where it resembles a small tree; although we continually pick leaves off the lettuce plants throughout the summer, as we need them, we never seem to be able to keep up with how fast the plants grow and I always find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of it we end up with in the end – but, it’s so nice to have fresh-from-the-garden lettuce. Neighborhood walks are always enjoyable and I love to see how all the trees, plants, and flowers change throughout the seasons; there are some really stunning flowers out now.
I’m so excited to say that we’ve now completed our basement stair beautification project…at least that’s what I’m going to call it. The red oak wood stain on the treads and Benjamin Moore super white paint really made a big difference; I’d say they have come a long way from this to this and this. I was so happy about it, when we finished painting yesterday, that I kept saying we had “sexy stairs”. Now, hopefully in the next couple months, we can finish having work done to our basement, get all the walls painted white, and say goodbye to the mint chocolate chip green color that’s currently in the space. We managed to make it to the Art Fair last weekend, picked our first four ripe tomatoes from the garden, and I cut some hosta leaves and hydrangea from our yard as well to enjoy inside – enjoying the summer weather and our summer garden/yard! (bowl and vase by Abigail Murray)
We’ve had a fairly rainy, cool summer so far – which is why, when it turned out to be such a beautiful weekend with sunshine and temperatures in the 80s, we took advantage of the sunny weather by enjoying dinner and drinks outside and taking a walk around downtown. Enjoying a sunny, summer patio is a thing of beauty!
It was good that we enjoyed a bit of the outdoors on Friday and Saturday as we spent just about all day Sunday working on our house; Ryan managed to get 4 coats of paint on the underside of the basement stairs, as well as one more coat of clear poly on the treads, so that’s done – now we just need to paint the risers and the stringers and we can check that project off our list.
We were happy to see tomatoes and peppers growing in our garden too; I’m looking forward to enjoying them later in the season when they’re ready to pick – we’ve already been able to use some of our herbs and lettuce from the garden and Melody always enjoys time outside on the patio. It’s hard to believe that we’re already in mid-July and summer will be over before we know it; here’s to many more warm summer days and firefly-lit summer nights.
Although our initial plan to go camping got rained out, we managed to get away and take several days over the weekend to enjoy some of the things that Michigan has to offer which we’d never been to before. Here are just a few to note and I’m hoping we can manage to get away more often and explore new things that aren’t too far from home: Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park – this place was beautiful and if I lived closer to Grand Rapids I could see myself visiting here at least once a week; with the many different gardens and sculptures to view here, you really can make a whole day of it!
And then there was the “beer-cation” portion of our weekend… It’s no secret that Michigan has some pretty amazing craft beers and we spent a little time at some fantastic breweries tasting what they had to offer – I know, it’s a tough job…but somebody’s got to do it! Here are some that we managed to try, in no particular order: Latitude 42 (try the 10 Degrees of Separation), Bell’s (while Two Hearted Ale and Oberon and fairly easy to find and enjoyable, try the Jupiter if you can find it), Gonzo’s BiggDogg (ask about their “black box” offering), Arcadia Ales (try the London Porter and Imperial Stout – fun, laid-back atmosphere and REALLY great food!), Brewery Vivant (try the Rootstock), Founders Brewing Co (try the Devil Dancer), Mitten Brewing Co (try the Dock’s No-No and the Seasonal Fruit Crisp which is basically a dessert pizza). You can view more photos from our weekend getaway here.
Guess what we did on Friday afternoon last weekend? A whole lot of nothing, that’s what, and it was wonderful – we just sat out on our patio and enjoyed it; although Melody seemed skeptical about us removing her little patch of grass in this area, I think she’s coming around and warming up to it.
We got plenty of rain on Saturday afternoon and a bit on Sunday as well and in between rain storms we managed to pick up and put out most of our 17 bags of mulch, the rest of which we’ll surely get to this week. I also took the opportunity to cut some of our garden roses and put them in vases around the house; they smell pretty amazing!
And the award for cutest fist bump last week goes to little E – super baby fist bump power!
We had a very busy, very productive Memorial Day weekend full of outdoor cleanup and improvements; we planted all four of our garden boxes (variety of peppers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, herbs, and some marigolds too), replaced small section of grass in our backyard with concrete pavers and pea gravel, weeded and trimmed bushes, and we cleaned up the bed around our birch tree in the front yard and placed stones underneath the bird feeders as the ivy never grew in there correctly – all of which, I think, made a huge improvement and we will most certainly enjoy throughout the summer.
For comparison, here’s the backyard before (complete with awkward, little patch of grass)…
And after (you may remember when we put in pea gravel and planter boxes a couple years ago in place of the empty garden – I mean weed – bed)…
And the front yard, before…
After a long day of hard work, it can be really relaxing to enjoy a walk in the evening light and watch the last rays of the day’s sun glisten off a field of dandelions – they almost looked like stars shining in the night sky in the light of the setting sun.
We did our first big plant purchase for the season over the weekend and it always make me so happy! We’re starting with lots of flowers in pots and hanging baskets: a rose bush (in honor of my Granddaddy), some really pretty pink dahlias, yellow lantana, a variety of geraniums, coleus, sweet potato vine, and various other trailing greens to fill in and spill down the pots. We also picked up a couple orange mint plants and a spearmint plant for our garden box; we’ll wait until later this month to plant the rest of our herb and vegetable garden. It’s lovely to be able to sit in the backyard and feel as though you’re in your own private oasis; Ann Arbor really is stunning this time of year – the trees are flowering and everything is so beautiful and green…and my lilacs are blooming! Want to see more photos of flowers and plants and/or our garden?
We also got started on a really cool DIY outdoor coffee table project we’ve been dreaming up and planning for since last fall; I think we my have it all finished and ready to enjoy by this weekend – stay tuned for more on that…
We had the pleasure of chatting with our mothers on Sunday too – hope you gave your Mom some love in honor of Mother’s Day; here’s a fun throwback photo of me and my brother with our Mom (those are some sweet glasses and awesome hot air balloon shirt, Mom)!
Just in case you didn’t read the last 3 posts, we have waaaaay too many peppers this year and don’t know what to do with them. From hot sauce to pickled jalapenos now we are giving a go at making a salsa for home canning.
- 23-24 roma (paste) tomatoes (roasted on the grill)
- 1+ tbsp olive oil of your choosing (the + is for coating the tomatoes)
- 1/2 purple onion, finely diced
- 8-10 serrano peppers, minced w/seeds in; adjust that for your heat tolerance
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp chipotle powder
- 1 tbsp ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups of cilantro (before chopping)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
1. prep the tomatoes
Heat up a grill to medium/medium high heat. Coat the tomatoes in an olive oil of your choosing; I used a chipotle infused olive oil. Place tomatoes on grill then roast them until skins start to blacken in spots and tomatoes become a little bit soft. You don’t want them too soft as they’ll just turn to mush. Set aside to cool. Once cool cut the top of the cores out and place in a blender and puree.
2. make salsa
Heat a large sauce pan to medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and heat it up. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers to the pan. As they start to sweat add the cumin and chile powders, stir so that they are well coated. Add the tomatoes and vinegars and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes. Add salt.
3. can that s*!t
Follow directions for your preferred method of canning. We used the water bath canning method, which we tried our best to follow Ball’s recommendations. Sanitize your jars and lids and keep warm while you prepare the food above (we used our dishwasher to sanitize and heat). Prepare a large pot for canning and bring that water to a boil. Once the salsa is ready add it to the jars, put lids on, and put them in water bath. Follow the recommendations of time for the jar size you are using and altitude you are cooking at. Once done, remove and set aside for 12-24 hours. Store in a cool place; we’re talking about temperature here not a fashionable location.
4. Is this a tested canning recipe?
No. It is based on many other tested recipes. From what I can tell is that the key to canning salsa is an addition of about 5% acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and making sure it is brought to a boil. There are lots of recipes published by university agriculture programs out there that break down how to calculate the addition of acid to your salsa. We will update this post months from now after we crack a jar open and consume it. If we don’t get sick, success. If we do get sick, yeah diarrhea!
Our jalapeno plant has been rocking it this summer (along with our serrano, bell pepper plants, and our habanero) and since I am a fan of a good pickled jalapeno – especially on some homemade nachos, yum! – we decided to make our own jar of them. I don’t know why we’ve never done this before as it was fairly easy. The hard part for me will be waiting long enough to let them properly pickle and pick up all those amazing flavors sitting in the jar before I put them in my belly! Here’s our recipe below…
~2 cups chopped jalapenos (round slices)
- ½ tsp mexican oregano
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ tsp cumin seed
- ¼ tsp coriander seed
- equal parts distilled white vinegar & water (about 3/4 cup each)
- 1 tbsp honey
- a little salt
Add seasoning into the bottom of a mason jar (preferably one that has been well sanitized). Add the jalapenos on top of the seasoning. Set aside. In a sauce pan add brine ingredients and heat until just before boiling. Pour brine over the top of the jalapenos into the mason jar. Let cool and refrigerate or can them.
What do you do when you have A LOT of serrano peppers from your garden? If you’re us, you take your first crack at making homemade hot sauce. And I think it was a smashing success too; peppery, hot, and packed with flavor and we picked the peppers right from our own backyard! Here’s our recipe below…
- 1/2 thinly sliced red onion
- 22 serrano peppers
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 cup water (1/2 for cooking, 1/2 for sauce)
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/2+ tsp of molasses
Sauté onions, peppers, and garlic, until they start getting soft and slightly caramelized. Add 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer until little liquid is in the pan. Add red wine vinegar and molasses, set aside to cool. In food processor add pepper mixture and puree while adding vinegar and water until you get the texture you want. Salt to taste.