For the last several New Year’s Eves, our nights were spent somewhere far from home, usually with friends, and always with party poppers, glow sticks, and raucous dancing involved. But this New Year’s Eve was different. It was quiet. It was just the three of us, ringing in 2017 with a last-minute staycation in Palm Desert. We cranked up the heat in the pool of our rental house and took a midnight skinny dip together, passed out early (well, early for us) and started the first day of the new year with a leisurely stroll through Joshua Tree National Park.
The five little things that made my week…
1. Rain, rain, glorious rain. We’ve had more rain in the last couple of weeks than we’ve had in the last couple of years combined. It’s amazing for California on so many levels: putting a dent in our five-year drought, bringing much-needed snow to the mountains and setting up for a great kayak season. Here in my thirsty garden, the sight of everything drenched in rain is pure delight. Keep the storms coming!
I’m a little late to the “2016 round-up” game, but I want to dive in before the first week of the New Year is over, take a look back on the previous year, and see what you most enjoyed reading and learning about on the blog.
Based on organic traffic to these posts from regular readers and search engines, and the amount of shares across social media, the following were the most popular posts that I wrote in 2016. Some of them surprised me, and some I wholly agree with!
I love the whole week that follows Christmas. You’re past the stress of holiday entertaining (and perhaps holiday traveling) but still riding a high from the gatherings and good fun of it all. And, you still have the New Year to look forward to!
Here were the five little things that made my week…
1. Christmas morning starts the same every year: I sleep in while the hubby continues the family tradition of making eggs benedict for brunch. He mixes it up every year, and I think his eggs benedicts get better and better each time. This year, it included spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives with a delicious hollandaise sauce made from pastured orange-yolked eggs (though not from our chickens, who are taking their annual winter break). It’s my absolute favorite of all breakfasts, and I could eat this all day long.
Mention “mistletoe” this time of year and most people think fondly of traditions like decorating for Christmas or kissing under a bundle of white-berried boughs.
But beneath all the holiday cheer lurks an opportunistic plant with both a “naughty or nice” side: consumption of the berries of certain species can lead to illness or in severe cases, death, yet other types of mistletoe have historically been used to treat a host of ailments, including leprosy, infertility, epilepsy, and even cancer. (In fact, recent research suggests that mistletoe extract injections could be the next big thing in cancer therapy.)
How this seemingly innocuous — yet deviously toxic — plant made its way into our Christmas culture as the “kissing plant” is somewhat of a mystery, but some trace the tradition back to the Norse god Baldur, god of the summer sun.
The five little things that made my week…
1. Every time we travel, my husband and I collect ornaments from places we love, whether it’s a town, a national park, or other interesting landmark. When we bring all the ornaments out to trim the tree, it’s like a trip through our travel scrapbook. Each year our tree gets fuller and fuller, and we adore all the memories it holds on its branches. This hand-painted Navajo chicken was a trinket we picked up in Taos, New Mexico, over the summer in one of the art galleries. It’s quirky, fun, and reminds us of our own girls!
At last, I can see the back of my refrigerator. It’s been several weeks of feijoas in salads, feijoas on oatmeal, feijoas on pancakes, feijoas in Dutch babies, feijoas in banana bread, and of course, feijoas in chutney and pickles.
I have no idea what this year’s harvest of feijoas weighed in at, but I can tell you it was a lot. After pecking away at the mountain of fruits in the fridge (where we had to keep them since they don’t store well at room temp), there were only a few handfuls left and I decided to try a new spin on the salty sweet pickles I’d made and loved.
At any given time, there’s at least a half-dozen jars of pickles in my fridge. You’ll find pickles of all kinds: roasted beets, green tomatoes, nasturtium pods, radish pods. Notice a theme here? They’re either vegetables or the seeds of vegetables.
Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never made fruit pickles but I’d always been intrigued with them. The interplay of tangy and sweet seems well suited for the bitter-greens salads I like to make in fall and winter. Toss a medley of radicchio, endive, arugula, or dandelions together with pickled fruits (and perhaps a sweeter element, like roasted pears or apples) and you can temper the initial bite of bitter greens without losing their wonderful flavor.
As I found out, feijoas are the perfect pickling fruit. Their sweet and tart profile plays well with warm spices like cinnamon and clove, and they hold their shape and texture for weeks. I haven’t tried processing the pickles in a water bath canner, but as refrigerator pickles, they turn out tender with a pleasant chew.
For the last couple of years, Will and I have been cutting down our own Christmas tree at a Christmas tree farm in Orange County. It’s truly a novelty in Southern California: 70°F and sunny, palm trees swaying in the breeze, eager families in sneakers and T-shirts winding their way through acres of Monterey pines and Leyland cypresses.
We’ve always brought our whole family to the tree farm, which — until this year — was just us and our two pugs. (I wrote about our first time at the farm here.)