As usual, we came back from New York with loads of jam. I like to take advantage of the rhubarb that grows everywhere…I get some from Steve’s Uncle Bob, from a plant that is over 60 years old. That plant came from an even older plant–over 100 years old now and still growing–that was on the farm where Steve’s mom grew up. This year, I also found some glorious NY apricots, plus I harvested mint for jelly in the neighboring pasture. Between all that canning and the jam I had left behind, we had a big pile of jars that needed labels.
Last summer, I ran out of adhesive labels and thought that I might try printing some of my own. I found a few online (some favorites are here and here), and then realized that I could just use a little clip art and make them up just the way I liked. The real discovery was using kids’ washable glue to attach the labels, something I did only because it was what I had on hand. Many of the labels I found are designed to be printed on Avery adhesive labels, but all I had was paper. And what a revelation! Instead of spending all that time peeling and scraping to get the label off when I was washing the jars, they slipped right off. So now I am entirely sold on the paper and glue approach.
Of course, Anna agrees entirely. Glue, in large quantities if possible, is much more fun than stickers.
My favorite labels, I think, were these printed from Martha Stewart, lovingly hand-lettered by Maggie.
It really was a big project, literally dozens and dozens of jars to label. Before too long, the girls’ enthusiasm for labeling faded, and instead they began playing a game in which the various jars were sisters or princesses or some band of characters having all sorts of adventures. Meanwhile, I kept plugging and got the last few labels glued on.
And now that dwindling pantry isn’t looking so bare!
Of all the things I was looking forward to seeing on my return home, the garden was right at the top of the list. Thanks to drip irrigation, things are mostly in good shape. The one glaring exception is the cucumbers, which curled up and dropped dead with angular leaf spot. The real bummer is that it also spread to most of the melons, so it looks like no canteloupe this year. A few of the watermelons seem to be okay, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I think I’m going to have to take a year off of growing cukes to try and get this eradicated from the soil.
Anyway, there’s plenty that’s thriving. So I headed out to the garden to pick a few things for dinner, and ended up making the 15-minute ratatoullie from Lydie Marshall’s wonderful Chez Nous. (A side note: I’m thinking this may be the summer of French cooking. I was drooling all over that book, which I haven’t looked through in awhile. And Steve is currently reading Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, inspired by his recent read of Child’s My Life in Paris.)
Ratatoullie is a perfect example of one of those foods that I’d probably never make if I wasn’t growing eggplant in the gardent. But this recipe was hard to resist, since I could make it almost entirely with things I’d grown myself. Onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, eggplant, and even cayenne peppers.
If my onions and garlic were a little on the small side, the extra work was well worth the satisfaction of being able to use all my own home-grown ingredients.
My next job? Getting to work on the enormous zucchini that I pulled from the garden yesterday. I think there’s one of these in my very near future.
We’re home again, settling back in and trying to catch up on sleep lost on the overnight drive. Returning from New York kind of feels like the beginning of a new year, a fresh start after some time away. The recurrence of the trip gives me the chance to take stock and look back at our lives over the past year. I find myself reflecting on how I can bring some of the rhythm and ease of that place into our lives at home, despite the pressures of work and just life that seem to mount no matter what we do.
To that end, I have three goals for now. 1) Get more sleep, mainly by going to bed earlier. 2) Always go to bed with a clean kitchen. 3)Spend more time outside together as a family. I’ll let you know how it’s going.