Mar 18, 2018

Wedding in the City: Growing Your Own Wedding Flowers - Part 1



Last year, we organized our own wedding. That included growing, begging, and borrowing some of our own wedding flowers. I am considering chronicling what went into our experience in this project. Who's coming along?



There were a handful of reasons why I decided to grow at least some of own wedding flowers: 
  1. Our Vision: We envisioned little recycled jars full of lots of cheer-provoking blooms on communal tables. We wanted our wedding to feel very natural, cheerful, and simple. We shared an online board, with my husband adding pictures of mostly herbs and greenery on simple white or cream tablecloths and me contributing backgrounds with poppies and flower crowns.
  2. Ethics: The more I read, the less comfortable I felt in contributing to the imported flower industry. Here and here are some starting points. It seemed better if any flowers we used needed to be local and organically grown.
  3. Availability: After calling and emailing a few places, it seemed like even the best stocked local flower farms would not have sufficient blooms in time for our wedding. 
  4. Feasibility: The literature review and feasibility analysis are very important before determining if and how to embark on a project. I obsessively read books on the topic The library systems and local bookstores were very helpful. Also helpful were academic horticultural publications. Given I use Excel daily for work, I used a similar tool to calculate the number of blooms we needed. From then I briefly calculated resources needed and backwards planned the schedule.
  5. Personal interest: This was helpful with the above-mentioned obsessive reading. There is nothing I have ever felt that compares to the joy of the first bit of green coming up from the soil. Then, there is the wonder of the first true leaves emerging above the cotyledons. The miracle of biology in plant form.  
  6. Challenge: I had never grown cut flowers before. All other plants were specifically grown for food, cosmetic use, healing, or efficiently purifying the air. I have an aunt who had a garden purely for the pleasure of it. I now wish that I had listened more when we walked around her beautiful tropical garden or rare plants.
  7. Bonus: When my cousins and I were children, our grandmother used to only make dessert for us if we planted and harvested the main ingredients. We were in the habit of planting with a purpose. Most of the time, we ate things fresh, right away and only our happy, sticky little selves made it home, ready for a bath! However, we always had shelling beans, and she used to make the best sweet bean dessert, sometimes with dried fruits and tiny cookies on top.

 
I started planning the flower growing in November, planted the first seeds indoors in December. About this time last year, our indoor jungle was busiest with plantlets.

Mar 15, 2018

Little Garden in the Apartment






Okay, these are only part of the lovely potted jungle inside our apartment, but so far it's our building's favorite these days. It is a welcome comfort at the end of our commute.

We walk home from the train stop, parking space, or bicycle spot. Lately, on this walk, our boots have been squishing the mushy, wet, icy, snowy winter sidewalks. Some days we push against the wind, our heads in our hoods if we have them. If we are lucky, our feet are dry, wrapped in woolens, hands in pockets. We are not all always so lucky. We see our block down the street, then our building, at last. We smile slightly, briefly at the promise of nearing shelter. Finally, we reach the door.

As we turn the knob, a faint, fresh, floral, spring-like smell whispers to us as we push in, nose first. It becomes spring, at last. The season of joy visits us, if only inside our home.

A bit of greenery is a nice memory aid as we live this long night. Because yes, winter was coming, and winter fell, but spring is coming too.



My husband and I gifted this little greenery to ourselves on Sunday. Upon my husband's insistence on a "car outing", we drove to a very pretty little town nearby, full of cottages and bakeries. I was convinced by the promise of a long-time, little garden center, which he thoughtfully found. As we walked in, we were awed by the smell of jasmines, orange blossoms, gardenias, hyacinths, and these daffodils. No doubt, these flowering treasures were placed by the entryway for this effect. We were thankful.

We walked and sniffed and read labels. We looked at the tactile Irish moss and carefully each floated a hand over a tiny leaf. We grinned, remembering a family video saying "...be nice to the plants". Irish moss was a favorite of my husband's around this time last year, which he proudly grew.

We looked for seed-starting pots to fit our growing eggplant, pepper, and basil seedling sunder the LEDs. I looked at the flowering Meyer lemon trees. Then I remembered that we do not have a conservatory. Someday maybe. But there were these little daffs. Perfect for our climate, should we plant them somewhere to naturalize. I sniffed and excitedly motioned to my companion. He sniffed and smiled wide. So, it was. I picked the least pot-bound daffs with no open blooms yet. We split the already small price, as a gift to each other. At home, I snuggled them together in a teracota pot and added some compost and some rain/snow water we collected from my tiny balcony.

I wonder if these should go into a spring window-box in the next couple of years. Maybe I can give them to my sister to plant in her yard or to the local community garden bed we were just lucky enough to get.



Mar 13, 2018

Pan con Chocolate

With a thick blanket of snow falling in the city, and the road outside our window barely visible, I headed to the kitchen and grabbed the beautiful loaves of whole grain bread that my husband made this weekend.

Growing up with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, sometimes our family would whip up a delicious fresh bread with hot cocoa. We still do this anytime there is a large-ish number of children at the table for breakfast. Normally, folks use regular milk (or goat milk, yum!). However, our household is not very dairy tolerant. Instead we made a "chocolate de agua" and thickened it with a bit of almond butter, peanut butter, and condensed milk. I pinched in some cardamom from a recent trip. The combination is warming, yummy, and comforting -- a perfect treat on a snowy day too.

My husband did not grow up dipping bread into his hot cocoa, but he seemed quite happy with the destination of his beautiful bread. After all, nearly everyone looks to hearty, comforting food during storms.



HOT COCOA

I would not fret if all ingredients are not available. Make it with what you have and you will have made it more your own too.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Cups of water or vegetable "milk"
2 Tbsp almond butter or peanut butter (or tbsp of each)
2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder or 2 oz bittersweet or dark chocolate
3 Cloves
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp powdered or freshly ground ginger
1/2 Tsp freshly ground cardamom or 1 freshly ground cardamom pod
1 Tbsp condensed milk, flavored syrup, or sugar
1 Tbsp corn or potato starch (optional)
1 Tbsp hot pepper jelly or 1/2 tiny hot pepper (optional)

Loose Instructions:

In a saucepan heat the water until it boils.
Dissolve the almond and/or peanut butter until it looks milky. 
Lower the heat to a simmer and add the remaining ingredients. 
Cover and steep for at least 10 minutes, or as many as you can wait. 
Add water if you feel the mix is too thick. 
Steep longer for a deeper flavor.

Mar 8, 2018

A Healthy(er) Chocolate and Beer Cake For Hosting Dinner


Since about age 6, chocolate cake has been one of my absolute favorite foods in the world. My older sister, and best friend, used to make me chocolate cake on special occasions - from scratch. One of the many reasons she was my favorite human. My favorite part? She used to let me lick the bowl. Talk about love and friendship!

We had some very lovely company this evening, a dear friend, and one of the kindest people we know. I also had a snow day due to the storm this morning. So, we made chocolate cake.

Thanks to a few changes we made to the original recipe, we also felt better about eating it. Perhaps we felt a little to good about eating it, since all that's left is a tiny piece. This tiny piece, will likely not see the next day.

This recipe is inspired by Flora Shedden's "wardrobe cake", but with a few changes to suit us. We used whole wheat flour in place of white, half the sugar than the original, mainly dark chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder. We made a frosting with yogurt, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and cacao nibs. It all came out moist and fluffy and the IPA and whole wheat flour gave it a bready, hearty quality.


Mar 4, 2018

Signs of life. Breaking the ice.


Hello and welcome back! There has been a long hiatus while work and life were happening, and so much was changing. During this time, I became more interested in slow fashion, tried to grow food and flowers in earnest (in the unlikeliest places), decorated the city apartment, traveled, and experienced various life and priority shifts.

It is possible that layout and feel of this blog might change somewhat. Figuring out how to dress and how to live are continuous journeys. We might have more posts about the greenery, especially in these winter months. You may read about the "gardens" in the tiny balcony and windowsills. What's new about this: There is also a 4'x8' raised bed at the allotment with a low tunnel for season extension (I may unpack these in upcoming posts).