fortress of sunflowers (1)

Over the last few winters our lemon tree has frozen. Every year, we’ve done our best to try and save it, and this year part of it came back, but the end result was horribly lopsided and diseased. So after five long years (and one really harsh winter), the tree had to come out.


Eventually we hope to put a sandbox in the space where the lemon tree used to be, but it will be a little while before we have the time to build the one we want — we haven’t started yet.


To fill in the space, and discourage the boys from liberally spreading dirt all over the patio, I picked up a six-pack of mammoth sunflowers (yes, I know there are only five pictured, one didn’t survive the transplant), and a dwarf big smile sunflower.

IMG_1398I looped some drip-cord around the perimeter and provided the wobbly starts with a bit of broken-trellis support. The mammoth sunflowers will, in theory, grow 12 feet tall. The dwarf big smile sunflowers has probably already reached it’s maximum height of 12-15 inches.

Hopefully these plants will grow and reach their maximum potential so the kids have a fun sunflower fortress to play in, and when the sunflowers are done for the season, we’ll be ready to put in a sandbox.



This is (1) because I plan to post photos as the sunflower fortress grows.

let’s go fly a kite

It was crazy hot out yesterday (in the 90s) and we don’t have an air conditioner so we packed up the kids, some water bottles and the $4 end-of-summer clearance kite we got at Safeway and headed to the beach. It seems like everyone else had the same idea as we did, so we stopped off at the Salmon Creek school playground instead.

It was a breezy 79 in Salmon Creek, perfect weather for kite flying.
IMG_3613 Gavin and I took turns flying the kite while O chased the tail streamers. P occupied himself on the playground.

IMG_3628After over an hour of kite flying and play we ran out of water, so we headed back into town and picked up ice cream from the local grocery store.

morning adventure to CMOSC

The other morning P and I spent the day exploring the new Children’s Museum of Sonoma County. The interior is still very much under construction, but there are plenty of outside attractions to keep little ones occupied.

P spent a good deal of time “driving” the tractor. They have a large wooden platform built around it, so there is little risk of someone getting pushed off in a shoving match for the steering wheel.

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so this happened, and we relandscaped part of the front yard

The other day I realized it was time to trim the lambs ears, they were getting overgrown, falling over, trampled by small children, and they were in need of a trim. I didn’t get a picture of the mess, because I didn’t really expect to be jumping into a huge new project less than a week before my mother was coming to town.
IMG_1300The more I trimmed, the worse they looked, so two green bins later (thanks to Nick and Sasha for loaning us theirs), they were gone.


A friend of mine had some pavers she was going to “list for free on CraigsList” so I offered to give them a new home without the hassle. Now the boys have more room to run up and down, and will hopefully stay out of the plants. It also widens our driveway just enough to easily roll the trash, recycle and green bins without hitting the car. I used some old cardboard as weed suppression under the Japanese Maple, and emptied a bag of mulch over it.

The old drip system remains in place for now — until I can figure out if I can either fix it, or remove it. It was probably installed when the house was built and there’s a complicated looking box and system with a cluster of cut wires. It will probably be removed. I’m not looking forward to this project.

IMG_1388With the help of my friend, Anne, I picked out a selection of drought-tolerant, low-water, plants that will hopefully do well in the space, and hold their own against the encroaching jasmine, although I should probably “hack it back from time to time” to make sure they have the best chance. I promised Anne I would make sure the plants were properly watered, and I’m in the process of working on a solution (it will probably involve a soaker hose and timer).

White Erigeron

White Erigeron – large, white daisy like flowers with a bright yellow center, bloom in mid summer.

I got a six-pack of white erigeron to put along the border. It is the farthest away from the jasmine, and I hold the most hope for its survival.

Curling Waves Salvia

Curling Waves Salvia – flowers summer to autumn

There is also Curling Waves Salvia, I like the blue-purple flowers.

Autumn Sage Heatwave Glitter

Autumn Sage Heatwave Glitter – blooms late summer to autumn

I decided to throw in some pink, with Autumn Sage Heatwave Glitter, I found the name to be amusing.

Cape Fuchsia 'Funfare Wine'

Cape Fuchsia ‘Funfare Wine’

I picked some more pink in the form of Cape Fuchsia ‘Funfare Wine’.

Hopefully all of these plants survive the drought at least long enough for the rain to come and deal with the plants so I don’t have to remember to water them regularly. I’m somewhat hopeful they all make it, as I think they will all look lovely once they get better established.

lonely brisket pizza

I was going to make a white kale-bacon pizza this evening for dinner, but when I opened up the fridge I saw the leftover brisket and it looked so lonely I knew I wanted to do something with it. The end result was a brisket pizza, topped with caramelized red onion, sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and that other white cheese I had in the fridge — I think it was fontina?

The crust came from and is one of my all-time favorites. I regularly swap out half of the flour for whole wheat, which gives it a bit more depth of flavor.

  • For crust:
    5 cups all purpose flour – or 2 1/2 cups all purpose, 2 1/2 cups whole wheat
    1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon instant (fast-acting) yeast
    2 Tablespoons olive oil – I like to use garlic olive oil
    1 3/4 to 2 cups room-temperature water
  • For the crust, combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or mix in a stand mixer. After everything has come together, set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Stir again for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more water or flour if necessary. It should be dry enough that it holds together and pulls away from the side of the bowl when you mix it, but it doesn’t need to be dry enough to knead by hand.
  • Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Place each one into an oiled ziploc bag. The dough can be frozen for up to a month, or stick it in the fridge for a few hours. Remove them from the fridge and let them warm to room temperature an hour or two before you intend to bake them.
  • Full recipe for the crust: the Alsatian Flammekueche is also amazing!

The BBQ sauce was homemade, liberally improvised from A Very Popular BBQ Sauce on I made a few modifications, and highly recommend improvising your own, take some amount of each, whisk together:

  • brown sugar
  • ketchup
  • white wine vinegar
  • Worcester sauce
  • ground mustard
  • paprika
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch salt
  • garlic powder

The brisket came from Simply Recipes, one of my favorite recipe blogs. It is Beef Brisket Pot Roast, and it is amazing as as a pot roast — we had it with a side of green beans. It makes quite a lot of leftovers, which is where our pizza topping came from. We saved the gravy separately, it did not go on the pizza! Full recipe for the brisket:

The onion was sliced thin (I used my mandolin) then sauteed with two tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of brown sugar, and a large pinch of salt until they were quite caramelized.

Putting it all together to make Lonely Brisket Pizza

  • Preheat oven to 450, spread some cornmeal (1/4 cup or so) on a rimmed cookie sheet, press out the crust dough
  • Spread BBQ sauce over crust
  • Top with chopped leftover brisket
  • Add half of shredded cheese — I used approx 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar, mozzarella and another white cheese (I think it was fontina)
  • Add caramelized onions, followed by the rest of the shredded cheese.
  • Bake at 450 for 15 min. or so
  • Let sit 5 minutes or so before cutting into it so the toppings have a chance to settle/solidify before you cut into it

Gavin called it “amazing” and decreed that I was “wonderful.”


For the curious, the kale-bacon pizza I make is based off’s white pizza with spinach, I use kale instead of spinach and cut back on the amounts of cheese. The toppings I use are as follows, and I usually end up eye-balling the cheese:

  • 4-6 slices thick-cut bacon
    8 ounces fresh kale chopped
    2 garlic cloves run through garlic press
    1/2 cup ricotta cheese
    1/3 cup freshly grated provolone cheese
    1/3 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
    1/3 cup freshly grated fontina cheese
    1/4 cup freshly grated parmagiano-reggiano cheese

Full recipe for white pizza with spinach: