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Posts Tagged ‘In My Kitchen’

Some of my favorite posts to read (and write!) are In My Kitchen. Pop over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for a list of posts, and perhaps you’d like to join in too?
I thought I wouldn’t be posting this month, but things kept catching my eye, so here I am again with a few things to show you.
In my kitchen there is:

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a skull! We went out for a walk last week and Kaya found this half a skull and wanted to take it home. It is in the kitchen because I have become the mediator in a silent war between Kaya and Lulu. Lulu wants to chew on the skull, and Kaya wants to scrutinise it and pull out its teeth. (That is why it looks a bit dishevelled.) And it turns out that it once belonged inside the head of a wild boar.
In my kitchen there is:

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kombucha in various stages of fermentation. The one on the right is a second fermentation with ginger and turmeric to make it fizzy (and delicious), and the one on the left is a new batch that I fermented with osmanthus oolong tea. I was extra excited about that one, since I really love osmanthus tea. Because I took this photo almost a week ago, I can now report that the tea retains all of its loveliness when fermented with a kombucha culture. Interestingly, the Domestic Man posted a profile of an interesting business in Portland OR called Salt Fire and Time. They seem to make exceptional bone broths (which can be purchased online, if anyone’s interested) but also deal in flavoured kombucha, including osmanthus! I first encountered these flowers in Hangzhou, where they burst into bloom in early autumn and perfume the entire city. They don’t look like much (think daphne flowers) but they have a sweet fruity scent that is hard to forget. It’s the stuff of Proustian flashbacks to be sure.
(Kombucha is a yeast and bacteria colony, by the way (the mothers are often referred to as SCOBY – a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) that you add to sweetened tea. The scoby digests the sugar and ferments the tea so that you are left with a slightly sour, slightly fizzy drink rich with beneficial bacteria. Each fermentation produces a new little scoby, which is why it is so wild and wooly up on top of that new batch – there’s a stack of scobys in there!)
I have been reading and using Nigel Slater’s lovely little book, Eat, a lot lately. Sometimes a cookbook will become the source of all knowledge for a spell, and this one helped me out of a few jams recently. Ali brought home a whole quarter of a lamb not too long ago and I ended up with a few cuts of meat (after a crash course in lamb butchery) that I am not accustomed to cooking, like lamb belly. There was a wonderful recipe in Eat for it, and one for lamb fillet, or loin, as well. Then, while reading through, I noticed a recipe for a Spanish tortilla that called for “banana shallots.” I thought that sounded appealing and a little humorous, and wondered if they were something that I could grow. Imagine my surprise when I caught sight of these elongated shallots among the alliums at the market not too long afterwards!

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They are very delicious, and since Ali is away for a few days I have been subsisting on Spanish tortillas.
Thanks for stopping by my kitchen!

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Well, I’ve just blown back in to the garden from Rome, with spoils to show for it. Only we demolished a lot of it before it even occurred to me that it was a new month already (the boys have made fast work of a hefty chunk of Parmesan).
Do you enjoy poking around on other people’s kitchens? If so, head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and join the fun.
So here are a few things that survived the onslaught. In my kitchen there is:

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this beautiful slab of pancetta. And there is a bit of a story to it, as it happens.
Months ago, I received an email from my good friend Tuba that I ought to check out a blog called Rachel Eats. I consider her an authority on blogs worth reading, so I immediately complied and was subscribed by the end of the first paragraph. There’s good food, and also great stories and photography in her pages, and I’ve learned some invaluable things by reading her.
When I planned to go to Rome, it was in the back of my mind to write to Rachel. It feels a bit creepy to email someone out of the blue, but I did it once before and had a blast (thanks, Daisy of coolcookstyle!) Anyway, long story short we did manage to meet up over coffee and cornetti (very, very good cornetti, I might add, at Barberini on Via Marmorata). It is an odd feeling to meet up with someone you’ve read – a cross between meeting a pen pal and a matinee idol (dated references, I know). But what’s lovely is that there is so much to talk about. Rachel took me and Kaya on an impromptu tour of her neighborhood, Testaccio, and since everything was closed that day (Sunday), she took me to her butcher’s the following day to buy a bit of cheese and some pancetta to take home. It was a lovely little shop, clean and simple and full of cured meats of every description. I could have gotten carried away if I hadn’t been keeping one eye on Kaya the whole time.
Unwrapping the pancetta at home and slicing it (to be enjoyed alongside some fried liver and onions on Saturday, a.k.a. Liver Night), I felt my trip and my daily life collide, and had to smile.
In my kitchen there is:

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a black truffle sitting in a box of eggs. This is also thanks to Rachel. I was flying home on Monday, so I wanted to get a sandwich for the plane. Rachel took me into Volpetti, a pungently scented temple to fine foods. “It’s a bit like a jewellery store,” she said as we entered and she breezily greeted the woman behind the counter and set her to the task of making me a sandwich. As this was happening, pizza bianca sliced and being laden with burrata and prosciutto, I spied a basket of black truffles on the counter. My mother had said she would like to have a truffle, so I plucked one out of the basket and held it to my nose. It smelled like an ambassador from the realm of dirt. Dizzied by the mushrooms hanging above, the rows of olive oil and vinegar, the cheeses and salami, I stumbled out clutching my prizes to find Rachel and Luca playing at the water fountain outside. And the sandwich was an absolute treasure.
Oh yes and about the eggs. My mother wanted the truffle to make scrambled eggs with, and she read that we ought to let it sit among the eggs overnight. Well who are we to argue? We tried it and the eggs, once cracked into a bowl the next morning, did seem to have an earthy perfume. Aided by generous shavings of the truffle itself, we were treated to a plate of eggs that tasted, in my mom’s words, as if they contained “a million mushrooms.”
In my kitchen there is:

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this beautiful brick of salt. My friend Jessica, whom I shared the flat in Rome with, presented me with this surprising gift one night. The boys have had their tongues all over it, crazy for salt as they are, so if you come over I wouldn’t advise touching it. But that doesn’t bother me much so I enjoy ritualistically shaving salt off my salt lick and adding it to my food.
So this month I am drinking, with gratitude, to the generosity of friends both old and new.

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Chin chin!

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I’ve missed a few months, in both senses of the word. I know that we all have busy lives and it is just a matter of claiming the time to do things like sit down a write. Happily, it is pouring rain in the garden today, so I am sitting in the outdoor kitchen listening to it, smelling it and savoring it, because although we will probably have the odd shower in the weeks to come, this is likely to be the last real storm we have before our long, hot and bone dry summer.
There are loads of interesting kitchens to visit; if you’re interested, stop by Celia’s blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial which is Command Central for IMK posts.0
This is a bit of a May and June mash-up, but never mind. In my kitchen there are:

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Cut flowers! And since I never bother to cut flowers from the garden, this can mean only one thing: my mom is back in town. She spotted the snapdragons and was busy with her secateurs in no time. They are a particular favorite of mine. Ali is more concerned with scent when considering plants, and he has filled our garden with fragrant plants. But I love my showy snapdragons because they are a feast for the eyes (the variety is Madame Butterfly. They are hybrids, but these ones have come back for three years in a row, so I forgive them). And besides, if everything were scented it might become a bit much.
My mother went to Paris to visit some friends shortly after she got here, and came back bearing gifts. In my kitchen there is:

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this beautiful egg basket that she found at a flea market. Who knew that such beautiful things even existed? Well, plenty of people I am sure, but not me. It is nice to have something pretty to keep our eggs in, since the ladies put hard work into producing them.
On the subject of eggs, we’ve received an exciting gift from our neighbour:

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Do you see those smaller eggs in the front? They’re from his Guinea fowl! He heard we have an incubator, so he gave us 10 eggs. We’ll give him a couple of the hatchlings in return. I am very excited to have Guinea fowl, not least because I have heard that they are quite aggressive around snakes; we’ve got lots of snakes here. I like the black garden snakes just fine, but we’ve got vipers too, and poor old Lulu (our dog) just got bitten on the nose by a big one. She is at the vet, attached to a bag of serum. She seems to be getting better, but it has been a pretty miserable few days for her. She’s always been aggressive around snakes, but I bet she’ll tone down her attitude now… Anyway, hopefully the Guineas will take over the snake patrol before long!
On Friday, Ali wandered into the garden and came back with this:

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We’ve been here for six years now, and the trees that we planted in those first few years have started bearing fruit in earnest. Not all of them, of course; I am pretty sure we will only eat a handful of our own cherries. But we’ve got plenty of apricots! I’ll have to think of something to do with them all, since I am sure we can’t eat them fast enough.
And that’s a quick look at some of the things in my kitchen this month! While we’re on the subject, here’s the view from where I am typing — if I stand up, I have a clear view of the tub in the rain:

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Thanks for stopping by my kitchen!

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Well, February escaped me so I am grabbing March by the horns here. As always, hats off to the talented Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this excellent series. Stop by her blog for links to kitchens all over the world.

March is the most important month of the year because I was born in it; I am ready to enjoy all 31 days.

And with me in my kitchen this month you will find…

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Liver!

Sorry, I know it isn’t the prettiest food (but I did refrain from a raw shot) but I am very happy to have this liver for two important reasons. One is that these are livers from our own chickens. I hate to admit it, but when we first started to eat our own birds we sort of got through cleaning them out as fast as we could and as long as we got the guts out with no poop explosions we were ready to call it a day. But the chorus of voices chanting about liver’s awesome nutritional profile, nature’s most potent super food, better than a vitamin pill, kept going round and round in my head and we decided to take things a little slower and pay more attention to all that stuff we were pulling out. The birds we were culling were young roosters (too many roosters in the coop) and they had beautiful, dark red livers. I “breaded” them in almond flour with a bit of coconut mixed in (almond flour just clumps like heck on its own, I discovered) with some paprika, oregano and garlic powder thrown in.

This is the second reason I am so pleased:

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I was one of those kids who loved liver, so I am delighted that Kaya likes it too. Baki is another story, but you can’t have everything.

Also in my kitchen this month are my two new best friends, ghee and coconut oil (which was shy, so only ghee in the picture)

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It is fairly easy to find good butter here, so I make it into ghee at home – a very hands off process in my kitchen. I just set it on a low stove until the solids turn light brown (30 to 40 minutes) and strain it through a fine sieve. I find it really nice to cook with. It has a fairly high smoke point (485°F /252°C), doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and it’s not very expensive. Coconut oil, on the other hand, costs a small fortune here, more than twice as much as single estate cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. I brought a lot back from Thailand, though, and I don’t use it as much in cooking.

Two of my favorite things to do with coconut oil are oil pulling and bulletproof coffee.

Oil pulling, like many good ideas, is not new at all. It’s an Ayurvedic practice and basically involves taking a tablespoon of oil in your mouth (I use coconut oil, but sesame oil is traditional) first thing in the morning and swishing it around for ten minutes. Then you spit it out, rinse your mouth and give your teeth a brush. Why do this, even though it feels really weird to have a mouth full of oil and 10 minutes feels like forever? It makes my mouth feel really clean and fresh. There are lots of claims about what oil pulling can do, but for me it is just a nice clean feeling that I am after. There are loads of articles online about it, of course.

Bulletproof coffee is the marriage of ghee, coconut oil and coffee. You just put a tablespoon of each in your black coffee and blend it – in a blender, or using an immersion blender. It makes a creamy and insanely good drink that tastes better than any sugary or milky coffee drink I have ever had. And I am a black coffee drinker, but this just makes me happy every morning. There are some health claims attached to this too, but I’m in it for shallow reasons. As with oil pulling, I’m just thinking with my mouth here.

And last of all, I have a little egg update for you:

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Did you spot the difference? Our Ameraucana hens are laying, and we now have their beautiful blue eggs in the nesting boxes every day. Tell me you wouldn’t want a room the color of that egg…

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Want to see what’s going on in everyone’s kitchens? Stop over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see Celia’s kitchen and find links to many more.

One of the things that I love about reading people’s In My Kitchen posts is that so much of people’s lives are reflected in what is going on in their kitchens. We hear about a bowl and then where the bowl came from, and what it is used for. So I am using this post to summarize a bit of what has happened over the summer and what we are looking forward to this fall. I haven’t been able to sit in front of the computer much this summer, so I feel like I have a bit of catching up to do!

Starting in August, the month began with…Image

figs! In my kitchen, there were hats full of figs for weeks. My neighbor showed me how she dries them, and I followed suit — she just plucked off the stem, halved the fruit with her hands and turned the halves inside out. Then she lined them up on a tray and put the tray on the roof to dry. It works a treat — we’ll have fig compote this winter. It was one of those little lessons in how things are just as easy or complicated as you make them.

In my kitchen there are Mexican Sour Gherkins.

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I photographed them with Kaya’s feet thinking that would show how small they are, but that doesn’t really work unless you know how small his feet are (not that small, actually). I think the grapes in the background might actually be more helpful. This is my first year growing these, and I like them a lot. They have taken over one end of a raised bed and we pick them as we pass by and munch on them on the go. The kids like them, too. They are like sour, grape sized cucumbers. I just read a post about pickling them (which has a very enticing photo), and might try that out since I have some pickles that I just  started in brine. It wouldn’t hurt to throw a few of these fellows in there too, I bet…

In my kitchen there are new refrigerator magnets.

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Baki’s much-awaited return home came on August 5, and it was a noisy reunion indeed. Kaya was delighted to see him, and Baki gave him and us big hugs and we all couldn’t stop talking about how much we missed one another. It is certainly a lot noisier with him around, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

He was pretty busy at day camp, and had cousins to visit on the weekends, but he and my mom did manage to fit in a few museum visits (Baki is really into museums lately). He got me these beautiful magnets at the gift shop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he was most impressed by the Arms and Armory exhibit. What good taste he has!

In my kitchen there are Jordan Almonds.

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There almost weren’t any almonds, but my mother-in-law protested. “I told her, it wouldn’t be a wedding without the almonds!” she said as we sat in her living room the day after the weddings. The almonds had been duly ordered, and the wedding was beautiful. Ali’s niece Zulal got married last month and we went up to Istanbul to attend (the boys, my mother and myself, that is — Ali stayed behind to mind the garden).

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The wedding was in a beautiful old mansion on the Bosphorous. We were out in the garden, overlooking the water, with a lovely, sometimes very lively breeze keeping things cool. After the wedding ceremony, we all headed up to a large terrace with tables around a dance floor. I kept looking for where Zulal and Serhad were going to sit, but there didn’t seem to be any seats empty for them. That’s because they never sat down! They danced the first dance while we ate appetizers, made the rounds to every table, and then spent the rest of the night dancing — they even cut the cake on the dance floor! Once he had eaten his wedding cake, Baki hit the dance floor too and was a complete party animal. We dragged him home at 1 a.m., just as the after party was getting underway.

The next morning, I had a funny feeling in my face. I rubbed my cheeks and remembered the last time I had felt that way — they day after my own wedding. Ali and I just went to the registry and had a meal out with our families, but I remember that we were grinning like idiots the entire day. The following morning, I woke up with a sore face! I must have had the same silly grin on my face the whole night, watching Ali’s beautiful niece and celebrating with our family. Ten thousand years of happiness, Zulal and Serhad!

In my kitchen there are mooncakes!!Image

While we were in Istanbul, we met up with an old friend of ours. We got to know Mun Wei while we were living in Nairobi. She used to come over and we would cook all sorts of crazy dim sum nostalgia fare — dan tat, cha siu bao, and all manner of dumplings. Those were some heady kitchen days. She and her family moved to Istanbul after that, funnily enough, and eventually settled in Australia. So it was quite a coincidence when it turned out that she and her daughter Sarah were going to be in Istanbul right when we were.

Moon festival is on September 19 this year, so mark the date. That is the night to get out your teapot and admire the moon’s brightest night of the year. I am not sure why it is so, but on the 15th day of the 9th lunar month, the moon really does shine more brightly than on any other night.

Of course, moon cakes are the appropriate treat to have alongside your tea and they are impossible to come by here in Turkey. I love moon festival, and moon cakes, so I was all set to make my own this year. I even bought mooncake molds on eBay. I may still use them, perhaps to make some snow skin mooncakes, but I am delighted to have these big fatties that Mun Wei brought us all the way from Singapore, where her parents live.

We did the obligatory photo taking at the end of our reunion and Mun Wei sent us her shots. My mother and I were amazed that we actually resemble one another in them! So even though I am not too keen on photos of me, to celebrate finally having grown into my mother’s face, here is a shot of us with our dear friend and food ally.

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And finally, in my kitchen there are jujubes.

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Anyone who is familiar with Chinese cooking will have come across red dates, but may be (as I was) unfamiliar with the fresh incarnation of these fruits. Ziziphus jujuba, a thorny tree (and they are very nasty thorns when they catch you) bears these smallish apple like fruits. They are crisp when they are green, and sweet with a light perfume. As they get browner, though, their sweetness intensifies and they are like crunchy honey by the time they get to be mottled with deep brown spots. Leave them on the tree and they will go totally brown and eventually shrivel. They retract into the sweet, soft, slightly spongy fruits that we know as Chinese red dates when they are dried. We pretty much gobble them as fast as they ripen, so I have never managed to dry any of my own. One of these days.

And that’s what has been and is in my kitchen these days! Thanks for stopping by.

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In My Kitchen posts are some of my favorites to write and to read. If you want to join in or just read what’s going on in other kitchens around the world, pop over to Celia’s page, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

This month it is heating up, and August looks to be even hotter. I am counting the days until then, though, because Baki and my mom return on August 5. He is having a whale of a time over there, and being kept very busy at day camp. They just went to the Bronx Zoo, where Baki was apparently very taken with the tigers, the penguins, and the polar bears (I hope it was nice and cool in their habitats…).

Although we don’t have Baki here with us in the garden this month, in my kitchen I have this great drawing that he made right before he left:

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We use our stove top espresso machine every day (and it shows — I will have to wash it a little better, ahem…) which may be why Baki chose to draw it. I love his drawings because they seem to amplify everything he sees, which is really a good indication of how he barrels through his days — it’s all superlatives with him.

In my kitchen, I have this wonderful little gadget that my mother gave me:

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It’s a sesame seed toaster. Now, you may be thinking, “that’s a completely ridiculous thing to have,” and I would understand; I was a bit skeptical myself. However, I think it belongs in the same category as some other gadgets that sound useless, (like grapefruit knives, cherry pitter and salad spinners) but when you need them, you really need them, and they make the job a lot easier.  Not every tool has to perform a lot of functions!

For instance, I like to make a cucmber salad that goes like this: I slice cucumbers thinly on the mandoline (being mindful to stop slicing at the precise moment when I have the thought “I can just go a bit more before my fingers are in danger…”) and toss them in a bowl with 1T soy sauce, 2T rice vinegar, grated ginger, 1t sugar, 1 t sesame oil, a big pinch of red pepper, and some salt and pepper. This salad is good just like that, but with toasted sesame seeds on top it is the kind of thing that makes you greedy.

Because of the hot weather, we try to get up as early as we can so we can get some work done before it heats up. The sky lightens at around 530, so we get up a little in advance of that to have a cup of coffee on the terrace. One morning, I went in to the kitchen to make the coffee and surprised a visitor to our kitchen:

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I apologize for the image quality — it was still dark out. But it made me feel like I had stumbled out of my dreams and into a Beatrix Potter book to be staring this little amphibian in the eye. I’ll have to look through Baki’s animal books to see what it is — some sort of toad, but what sort exactly?

Our kitchen is both outdoors and completely open in summer, so I am surprised that I do not get more guests. We do have a tiny mouse that pops up here and there, but it is quite camera shy.

And that is a quick peek at my kitchen this month. Thanks for stopping by!

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I know, it’s the last day of May, but I was going to burst if I didn’t manage to post a few photos from the kitchen over the past month. I’ve missed doing these posts, but luckily I’ve been able to stop in at a lot of great kitchens regardless. Check out Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for links to the amazing and diverse In My Kitchen posts.
So, without further ado in my kitchen this month there are:

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Artichokes! The large one to the left is a regular globe artichoke, but the three small ones are all from my purple artichoke plants. Violetta di Chioggia, to be precise, from seeds that I ordered from Chiltern seeds. Isn’t it interesting how different they all look? I’m happy to report that they were uniformly tasty.
In my kitchen, there are

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Broad beans! And as you can see, they double quite nicely as toys to be sorted in a tart pan. These are the last of them – I’m sure you’ve noticed that they are quite large. The inner beans are already starchy but this makes them perfect for fava, a venerable member of the pantheon of meze, or starters enjoyed around these parts.
The problem with broad beans is getting the beans out of their skins. It’s super tedious and it’s worse when the beans are not young and pert. Perhaps for this reason, fava is often made with dried beans.
Anyway, the procedure is the same once you’ve got your hands on the skinned beans, fresh or dry (although the dry ones benefit from a pre-soak). Cook the beans with water, a quartered onion, and olive oil. The beans should be cooked and a little wet in the end, but you can always add more water. Then blend it all to make a thick slurry, salt to taste, add snips of dill if you’ve got it, and lemon juice. This is absolutely perfect on toast. So if there are any of you out there who waited a little too long to harvest the last if the broad beans, this is something you can do with them. (Alas, no photos!)
I’ve saved the best for last. In my kitchen there are:

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Flowers! This is not that significant in and of itself. I mean, flowers are nice but the real reason that this means something is that the only time we ever have cut flowers on the house is when my mom is in town. Yes, she made it! After waiting for two months, her visa came through and she hopped in the next available flight. She wasted no time in patrolling the garden, snipping flowers. In other words, she has fallen right into her routines here and it feels almost as if she never left in the first place.
Whew – made it! Now to post June’s IMK before the very end of the month…

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