Pimp Their Crib + Baby Grass

Just a quick post to share one of my recent projects.

Our friends, Curtis and Tiffany, who will be having a baby soon (and very soon), asked me to paint the walls of their nursery-to-be with a tall grass motif based on their crib/curtain set.

This is what we started with:

I transferred the design onto the walls with the help of an overhead projector. Tim came to help paint one day. We mixed up a few greens for some variety.

I took this picture with my phone, so I’d have proof that I’d actually done it.

After I finished the walls, the parents-to-be installed new bamboo flooring, shades (nice choice with the brown!), an area rug, pendant light, and a comfy glider/recliner. Nice job, guys!

I couldn’t resist including a picture of the family’s cat, Pepper.

Do not be fooled by her seemingly peaceful appearance. I put myself in harm’s way to get this shot. She is the queen of her castle, and ain’t nobody messin’ with that! Good luck, baby S.!


In a semi-related note, our sod out back seems to be establishing itself. Yay! Plus, I over seeded the area with some old grass seed we had in the shed, and some of it has been popping up as well. So, it seems we also have some of our own baby grass!


Our Radishes

Last week, I picked the rest of the radishes left in our little patch. Not only were the radishes full-grown and ready, but the carrots we planted in the same space were begging for more room to stretch out.

Look at all those beautiful greens! I always feel bad about throwing them out (composting, actually). So whenever possible, we wash and save our greens. And tonight, I cooked them in some olive oil with garlic, crushed red pepper, and Gimme Lean (veggie) sausage. Mixed into some thin spaghetti and topped with pecorino romano and black pepper, we all (including Moxie and Moo) gave it a thumbs up!

Oh, Sod it!

Last week, Tim picked up some sod, and we spent an evening laying it down.

Each roll of sod was approximately 2 x 5 feet. Since our plot is about 5.7 x 10, we needed six pieces.

Tim had already cleared and roughly leveled the area after he built the compost bin, but did a once-over with a loop hoe and rake, to get any new weeds that had emerged and to adjust the leveling. While he did that, I picked out the stones that came up. Then we dampened the ground a bit. I don’t know if that’s proper procedure, but we figured it certainly couldn’t hurt.

Rolling out the first piece. Look at how red that soil on the sod is!

We laid the pieces in a brick pattern, so there wouldn’t be a seam line straight across the middle.

Since our plot is not quite six feet wide, we needed to trim a few inches off the center strips.

After we finished laying the pieces, we gave it the best soaking we could with a watering can. After having to fill that can at least ten times (can you say tedious?), we went out the next day to get a little sprinkler.

So, here’s where we’re at:

Here’s hoping that we can keep the grass alive (without too much watering)!

New Compost Bin

Tim and I both grew up in families that gardened and composted. So, when we got married and were in our Fairmount rowhouse apartment, it felt weird for us to throw our food scraps into the trash. We knew we wanted to compost, but as urban newbies, our main concern, was that little (and maybe not-so-little) icky critters would get into it. So, we decided on a fully enclosed Envirocycle compact tumbler, which served us well for several years. Recently, though, we’d been creating more scraps than it could handle, and were saving them in a supplementary tub in the middle of the yard. In order to continue with our plan to have grass in the center section, we needed to get that tub o’ compost out of there.

Tim left the corner supports a bit tall, in case we decide we want a lid on top

So, two weekends ago, we designed, and Tim built a larger compost bin. He used leftover decking and fencing that we already had, and two rolls of mesh hardware cloth. In the narrow space to the right of the bin, we will build or find a container for our saved shredded leaves.

A lift-hatch allows finished compost to be accessed from the bottom of the pile

A tip to anyone thinking of trying their hand at composting: the most important thing is to keep the proper proportion of dry browns (shredded fall leaves, dry grasses, saw dust, etc) and wet greens (organic grass clippings, kitchen scraps, used coffee grounds, etc). There should be at least four times as much browns as greens. If you don’t have enough browns in the pile, the breakdown will be delayed, and the pile can get smelly. And who wants a smelly pile?

The new bin was filled with what had been sitting in compost limbo, layered with several handfuls of shredded fall leaves

If you’re interested in reading a little more about composting, check out Mike McGrath’s Compost 101.

There she is, siting in the back corner…

Do you compost? If so, do you have any helpful tips or stories?

Our Mother’s Day Brunch

Growing up, our family tradition for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, was to bring the honoree breakfast-in-bed. Although we no longer do the “in-bed” part, we still continue the tradition of making a surprise special meal for the day. So, on Sunday, my sisters and I put together a Mother’s Day “brunch” for our mom. And I have to say, we did a decent job…although she probably won’t appreciate that I’m posting her picture here. Get over it, Mom, there’s another one further down, too. :P~


  • Mimosas
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Feta
  • Biscuits with Creamed Chipped Beef or Creamed Veggie Sausage
  • Turkey, Beef, and Veggie Bacon
  • Salad of Watercress, Spring Garden Greens, and Fennel with Orange Dressing and Almonds
  • Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Coffee or Almond Icing
  • Biscuits with Berries and Fresh Whipped Cream

And now to the pictures…
pretty in pink hydrangeas and Tim’s painting, “Sheaf”

Momma: “Mmmm, I love cream chipped beef!”
Me: “Yes, we know. That’s why we made it.”

Timmy’s plate

Too busy eating to talk

Andrea’s diggin’ the veggie bacon

Tamarind, Amy, and Jamie gettin’ jiggy with the desserts

One can never have cupcakes too often…chocolate with almond and coffee icings

Biscuits topped with fresh strawberries, cherries, and fresh whipped cream. Yum!

Does your family have any Mother’s Day traditions?
Did you or your family do anything special for Mother’s Day this year?

An Experiment in Growing and Eating

a mix of radish, carrots and mesclun (mainly arugula, kale, and leaf lettuce)

Tim read somewhere that carrots and radishes can be planted together because radishes are quick to mature and should be ready to pick by the time the carrots need more space. When he was planting them, I suggested that we also scatter some mesclun seeds over the same space. My logic was that radishes and carrots mainly grow down and lettuce grows up, so there wouldn’t be too much competition. So, at one end of a raised bed, we have a commingled patch of carrots, radishes, and mesclun. Not sure how it’ll work out. It’s an experiment. But so far, it seems okay.

Earlier this week, I thinned out some of the radishes that were growing too close together and cut some mesclun for our first garden salad of the year. I served it along side grilled veggie burgers topped with Swiss cheese, roasted red peppers and sautéed radish greens (in olive oil with some diced onions). I’d never tried sautéing radish greens before, but I figured they were young and tender enough that it just might work. Tim really liked it. But then again, he likes almost anything… :)

Oh, and I can’t forget the sweet potato fries. Did I ever mention that I love sweet potato fries??? No? Okay, here goes: I loooove sweet potato fries!

How about you? Have you tried anything new in your garden or kitchen lately?

Pressure Cooking in Philly

We live a half-block down from our neighborhood’s public high school. About a month ago, when walking Moxie, I noticed there was an unusual number of white vans and work trucks parked alongside of the school. I mentioned my observation on Facebook and a friend directed me to an Inquirer article about Rachael Ray remodeling the school’s culinary arts classroom. Whuh? Come again? Rachael Ray at little ol’ Frankford High??? And wait — Frankford High has a culinary arts program??? Mind you, previous to this, I’d only heard negative comments about the school. So, it was nice for me to hear something redemptive was happening there.

Rachael Ray invited Bobby Flay to share a recipe with the class.
Photo by David M. Russell (Rachael Ray Show)

To my surprise, after further web-searching, I found that the story gets even better. Not only does Frankford High have a culinary arts class, but that it has a 100% graduation rate (as opposed to 60% school-wide). Not only that, but Frankford’s culinary students have dominated the city-wide Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) cooking competitions for over a decade. And much of their success can be attributed to the dedication and toughness of their teacher, Wilma Stephenson, who has been at it for over forty years. The success of her students caught the attention of Jennifer Grausman (the daughter of C-CAP’s founder), who decided to produce a documentary following the story of her classroom and students over the course of a school year. Named Best Documentary at the 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival, Pressure Cooker just came out on DVD and is next up in my Netflix queue.

Pressure Cooker DVD, and images from the filming

So, a month after noticing the work trucks, I got to see the much-awaited classroom makeover episode of Rachael Ray on Monday morning. And lemme tell you, the tears were flowing during every segment. But, hey, I’m a crier (really, ya don’t say…). But seriously, I dare you to visit Ms. Ray’s site and watch all the segments of the show (in order). If your eyes stay dry throughout the whole thing, please see a doctor immediately, for you must have a lead soul.

Using my keen sense of observation, I figured out that Christian, one of the current seniors in Ms. Stephenson’s class, lives right up my street! (Screen captures from the Rachael Ray Show)

On a side (but very related) note, if you watch the final segment of the show, you will hear Ms. Ray mention that the C-CAP program is ending. That is not technically true. Rather, C-CAP’s relationship with the School District of Philadelphia is in danger. In order to get more state funding, the school district has made a decision to transfer the focus of their culinary arts curriculum from “back of the house” (read: kitchen) jobs, and more towards “higher paying, front of the room” jobs. Because this emphasis is not within the scope of C-CAP’s mission, after 2012, they may no longer be sponsoring contests and scholarships in Philly. And that would be a shame, because the chance to compete for scholarships is one of the main goals that Ms. Stephenson’s students strive towards all year. Those scholarships give them hope for a better future, one that they’ve worked hard for and deserve. I really hope that whatever decisions are finalized, are made with the best interests of the students in mind. Because I want want to continue to hear about great things coming out of Frankford High in the days and years to come!

Baby Shower Mini Cupcakes

Just a quick hello to share a few images of the mini cupcakes I made this past weekend for a baby shower in honor of our friends’ coming little one.

“Shoup” is pronounced like “shout”, but with a “p” at the end.

I made the mint (green) icing especially for Tiffany, but also made some vanilla for the boring people — sorry Curtis! ;) Haha.

I’m glad they were a hit. Yay!

Side note: These are the first images I’ve posted so far taken with my new-to-me camera! I got it from a friend, who, fortunately for me, got an itch for the next best thing, and thus, gave me a great deal on his hardly-used camera. Thanks so much, Kirk!