Happy Monday

The sun is shining. Our house is clean. Fridge stocked for the week. It feels good to be home!

Our weekend was spent tying up loose ends, and planning for the spring/summer projects ahead. We tackled everything from the mundane dishes and laundry to exciting things like getting contractor quotes for living room drywall repair. The weather was fairer than expected, and we celebrated with chocolate cake from the farmer’s market.

On Sunday we also took an adventure to run errands and visit with Grandpo for dinner. We dug some starts of Matt’s Grandma’s raspberry and red currant plants, and inherited an old dutch oven that was her go-to red sauce making pot. Many more kitchen memories to come for that piece!

We are also in major plan-making mode. Planning for house projects. Dinners to come – crock pot focus. Planning for a work transition for Matt. Planning for grad school to be over. Planning a Baja retirement dream. Planning, planning, planning.

For planning, doing it with laughter and fun and sunshine sure helps. The week is off to a good start.

The “Cutest Island Community Couple”

Yes, that is what we were told at the farmers market today. Perusing for winter squash, chard and chestnuts in our rain boots on a foggy market morning, the gal selling chestnuts walked up and gave Matt and I this super sweet compliment. We adore out island. After reading blogs and anecdotes online that people have had cool welcomes to the island, we have to say that we have had the 180 degree opposite experience. Everyone we have met has been friendly and welcoming, willing to chat and share their lives with us newcomers.

It is a cozy fall day with the island totally fogged in. Jenny was here for a quick visit, so we took a foggy trip to the lighthouse. The afternoon is supposed to be sunny and warm, but honestly, the fog is so comforting and relaxing that I won’t mind if it doesn’t burn off. Homework, snuggly kitties, and the promise of a hot, local fall supper tonight…life does not get much better.

Split Pea Goodness

Nothing says fall like split pea soup. We save up chicken carcasses to make homemade stock, and after boiling two sets this week, split pea soup was on the menu. We bought beautiful celery from the farmers market, and opened our huge glass canning jar filled with bright green split peas. Rich, warm and filling, this is the perfect meal to curl up with and watch the leaves turn after a day of working in the yard.

Our First Anniversary!

On August 10, 2012 we said “I do” in front of friends and family on a perfect PNW day in Fort Worden’s Battery Tolles. Matt and I still talk about our wedding all the time, reflecting on how it was exactly what we wanted…melting cake and all.

Saturday marked our first anniversary, and we celebrated by kicking back and taking time to enjoy it. No house projects, no plans. We wanted to kick back and enjoy our house and each other. We slept in, went to the farmer’s market and strolled through the grocery store (might sound like a chore but we love to grocery shop). We stopped by the dairy and bought raw milk. We took the scenic way home. In the afternoon Matt made pizza dough so that we could celebrate with homemade pizza for our anniversary dinner. Yes, there is a story there: pizza was the first dinner Matt made for me. We drank champagne with peaches in the hot tub and then feasted on fresh, homemade pizza while watching the Food Network. It was so us, so simple, and exactly how we wanted to round out our first year.

Dessert: yep, our wedding cake top! We pulled it out of the freezer to thaw and even after much transportation + a move, it tasted perfect. The decoration was smeared, and yes, eventually ALL the frosting melted off (just like our wedding day!), but it was perfect.

What a year it has been. Wedding, honeymoon, 1st year of grad school (me), new job (Matt), buying a house…yep, life is pretty dang amazing. I feel so lucky to share it with my best friend.

…..

On Sunday, life was back to “normal”. We worked on the house all day, clicking off projects non-stop.

Paint dining room ceiling: check

Paint dining room trim: check

Build 4 shelving units: check

Swap out mattresses: check

Deep clean bathroom: check

Make butter: check

Move boxes: check

Water plants: check

Yep, it was a very good weekend in our house!

A Lemon Squares Kind of Weekend

Our first real weekend with just the two of us in the house! It does not get much better than that.

We filled our time with leisurely mornings, biking to the farmers market, amazing food, house projects, sunshine and family time. Matt cleaned and painted the storage room floor while I tackled priming the dining room. I ran into a misfortunate combination of previous wall paint and primer not sticking, so fell back on Option B…putting the primer on in stages so that it could dry in stages. This method, although frustrating and inefficient, seems to be doing the trick, and the room should be smooth sailing after one more round of primer.

While waiting for projects to dry, we pulled out our bikes and rode to the farmer’s market. This was our first bike adventure on the island, and was a great one. A quick 3 mile jaunt to town and then we were picking out fresh grown-on-Vashon produce! We filled our backpacks with new potatoes, leeks, zucchini, tomatoes…all of it looked so good…then biked home. I spent the afternoon making a beautiful batch of lemon bars while Matt put a second coat on the basement floor.

Dinner was another treat: pan fried cornmeal crusted cod with fresh market veggies!

On Sunday we slept in again, and cooked up a great farm style breakfast with a new potato hash topped with farm fresh eggs. I primed some more and then Matt and I took an adventure to the vacant lot next door. We have had our eye on this 1.5 acre parcel since we first saw the house listing, thinking it would be a great way to expand our farm capability. We learned more about the owner, and he has not been seen in years, so we are planning to reach out and see if he would be willing to sell. Our adventure confirmed that this property would be awesome. Not really a great spot for a home, but awesome for more land to add to ours.

We relaxed in the hot tub for a few minutes (why not?) before getting ready to go to Tacoma for a family dinner at Grandpo’s. On the way we took a trip to Costco and Home Depot and stocked up on food and stuff for the house. Gotta make use of those off-island trips! Dinner was awesome with the extended Pignataro family. Laughter and Italian food all around. My lemon squares were a hit.

Actually, the whole weekend could be represented in those bars: light and sweet and rich, fresh and bright… something you want to savor and gobble up all at once. Just like the beautiful summer weekend. 

Summer Lemon Squares

Makes 1 – 9×13 inch pan, or thicker 9×11 pan

Crust

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup white sugar

1 ½  cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

Heavy pinch of salt

Filling

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, flour, salt and sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased pan.

3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust.

4. Bake for an additional 20 minutes in the preheated oven. The bars will firm up as they cool. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Saturday at the Market

*apologies for so few photos with these posts…I have been savings posts as drafts, hoping that I will download a few off my camera, but time has not presented itself 🙂 I will get around to images one of these days, but for now, just stories.

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Houseguests are a great excuse to step back from project to-dos and play tourist, so that is exactly what we did on Saturday when my grandparents visited. Saturday morning was foggy and cool, prefect for sleeping in, and we enjoyed a slow morning before a full day of Vashon adventures. Our first stop: the farmer’s market. Now Matt and I loved the West Seattle market, but rarely made it down to fight the crowded stands. Our timing was just always off, and it was not really a very relaxing experience. The Vashon market was a totally different world. The first thing Matt noticed were all the kids running around and playing between the booths, and commented “ I can’t wait to bring our kids here to hang out and play!” We bought a rock from a kid selling rocks for 25 cents, and then found breakfast at a bakery booth. Every bakery, farm stand and artisan at the market was from the island. It was as fresh and local and beautiful as you can get.

We made friends with vendors all around the market, and as word got out that we were new to town, everyone started welcoming us to the island. We got invitations to come see farms, check out workshops and attend art classes. A baker handed us a fresh loaf of bread as a welcome gift. Matt and I were grinning ear to ear.

With full tummies and bags of fresh dinner supplies, we headed out to show Grammy and Gaga the island. We explored the beach on Burton, and took tons of photos at the lighthouse at Point Robinson. Even just driving around the island was a beautiful way to spend time. After the tour, we walked next door to the Palouse Winery for wine tasting with our neighbors. It was great to finally try their wine, and get to know them better. George and Linda are going to be awesome neighbors!

Before dinner, Grammy and Gaga got some down time to hang out on the patio while Matt and I tackled some house projects. He took down the incorrectly installed crown molding in the dining room while I sanded and primed the laundry room. We are getting closer to having that room done!

Dinner was all fresh farmer’s market fare: grilled halibut, fresh corn on the cob and chard paired with a white from the Palouse Winery. Dessert was fresh strawberries with ice cream and cream. Yum! We stayed up sharing stories until after 11. Who pays attention to the clock when you are on island time?

Rendering Leaf Lard

Last week, Matt made a chicken pot pie with some leftover, frozen duck-fat pie crust that he made last fall. The flakey, melt-in-your-mouth crust was amazing, and got us craving pie all over again. We started dreaming of split pea pot pie, strawberry rhubarb…the list goes on. This time we knew that we wanted to try something other than duck fat for the pie crust. It was delectable, but we wanted to see if we could go the extra mile and compare it to leaf lard.

“leaf lard, often called the crème de la crème of animal fats. When properly rendered it rewards with a pure, white lard, perfect for exquisite, delicate and flavorful pastry crusts.”

Now leaf lard is not something you easily find in a grocery store, nor is it something that you can easily buy as a finished, ready-to-bake-with product. We scoured out West Seattle farmers market and found that a local butcher/farmer there that brought it’s raw form to market: leaf fat. Yesterday we picked up b 3 pound package of raw leaf fat ($4/lb) and happily skipped home to start the rendering process. Now I have never rendered anything further than skimming extra fat off drippings from a roasted chicken, but this was not that hard.

Matt chopped the fat into small pieces, and we put it in the crockpot with a ¼ cup of water and left it on low all afternoon until just before bed.

The fat melted down into smaller and smaller bits (we kept the crock on low then eventually just turned it to warm since it was too hot). Just before bed we poured the rendered bits and liquid through two strainers and paper towels (quick cheesecloth!) to produce a perfectly clear, slightly golden syrup. It filled a quart sized mason jar and we popped it in the fridge. What would it look like in the morning? Would it be the perfect, snow-white crème de la crème of fats?

Yes it was. It turned out perfectly. What a satisfying afternoon to produce our own cooking fat at home. It is healthier, local, and will produce wonderful flakey pies and other baked goods. Now bring on the pies!