Last week was the end of a long chapter in my life. The house I lived in for 6 years transferred ownership to my buyers and I officially moved out. I will never pull into that driveway again, never dash up the stairs to grab the scarf I forgot in my closet, never make a huge mess in the kitchen while putting together a delicious meal, never enjoy a glass of wine with loved ones on the couch in the living room, never plant another garden in the backyard… It is with absolute certainty that I can say that this experience would serve as the perfect definition of bittersweet. All week long I found myself sitting in the middle of two extreme emotions: liberated joy and crushing sadness.
The latter was the stronger of the two feelings in the last few days as I went through the closing of the sale and emptying of the final things in the house; but there was a constant optimism underlying the sorrow attempting to remind me of the great things ahead. Emotions are tricky, aren’t they? The logical side of me was rolling her eyes at the weepy side and biting her tongue even though she wanted to shout: “Hey dummy, you’ve been waiting for months to sell your house and move on from this break-up, why are you so sad!?” Conversely, the emotional side of me was angry at the rational side and more than once she wailed: “Why doesn’t logical me and everyone else understand why I feel sad, and isn’t it OK to feel this way anyway?!” Fortunately I am somehow comfortable living in the middle of juxtapositional craziness and although I felt completely disheveled, I was equally fine with oscillating between the sad and happy, rolling with whichever felt stronger and appreciating that what I was feeing was all valid.
That said, it’s been a tough couple of weeks. Particularly the last handful of times I went into the empty house, after I had moved out and was returning to pick up the last of my boxes or clean up before handing over the keys to the new owners… I left the house in tears more than once and felt sick to my stomach every time I drove away. There’s something quite heartbreaking about saying a goodbye that you know is permanent. It was the same feeling I had when I said goodbye to the dog and the cats that my ex took after we split – there’s this terrible finality in walking away from something or someone you know you will never see again. And in this case, this goodbye was to a really beautiful house that I cherished very dearly as a wonderful home for many years. And even though the life I shared with my former partner is over and I know that he and I are both better off in our new lives, I still have happy memories of the time we had together in that home.
So my goal with this post is to pay tribute to the house, my home, which I loved and will always love. And if Julie Andrews has taught me anything (apart from the best word in the world, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious), when I’m feeling sad, I just need to think of a few of my favourite things. Here are a few from the first house I ever owned.
The floors. Hardwood oak, medium brown, with beautiful and unique swirls in every individual piece. I still remember the first days of installation – pulling each strip of wood from the piles of boxes, delighting in the idea that these gorgeous pieces were just like a fingerprint or snowflake, unique and unlike any other in the pile.
The mudroom. Square slabs of slate in shades of grey, blue, yellow, green, and even a speckle or two of red – all with a magical feel of the cosmos that would take me away into reveries of outer-space whenever I allowed myself to stop for a moment to recognize their beauty. One side of the room was comprised of pale grey built-in cabinets framing the washing machine and dryer with a large and sturdy matching bench opposite, all designed for optimal convenience in this welcoming room that served as my main entry on the side of the house.
The dolomite. The kitchen was already perfectly installed when we purchased the house (IKEA kitchens for the win!) so there wasn’t really much to do in this room apart from dressing it up a bit. The dolomite tile that I chose as backsplash was absolutely stunning: a soft white with the faintest whispers of grey streaking throughout, along with a pale grey grout… it was special. And then to top it all off, functional hand-build shelving was added on either side of the stove, just above the backsplash.
The closet. One of my favourite decisions made in the early days of the purchase was to tear down the wall between the linen closet in the hallway upstairs and the walk-in closet in the master bedroom, leaving me with all the space a girl could need for a (dare I say it?) dream closet. Pure white, good lighting, hooks for days, bead-board and ample shelving – it was the best closet I’ve ever had. (And that’s saying a lot, because the first place I ever rented had a spare bedroom that I used as a full closet.)
The fireplace. Remember that cosmic tile from my incredible mudroom? It was reclaimed for a fireplace-makeover in the first few years at the house. Where the fireplace was previously a pale indistinct purple-beige with absolutely NOTHING going for it, the refreshing makeover gave the mantlepiece new life with a crisp white on top contrasted by the bold and bright colours of the slate along the base.
The colours. Fossil Grey, Stratosphere, Seagull Grey… I can’t remember all the creative names of the paint colours I chose over the years but the colours are imprinted in my memory. Deep blues upstairs, a pale baby blue in the kitchen, varying shades of grey throughout the main floor, pure white in the bathroom and closets, and a pale greyish green in the mudroom all gave me joy from the first stroke of the paintbrush until the very last time I walked through the house.
Why were these my favourite things? I chose them. Living in this house allowed me the experience of my very first time decorating my own place, choosing the finishing touches, playing interior designer, and leaving my mark in every room. But, as much as I had a role to play in choosing the aesthetics in each room, my ex played a much larger role by installing them and adding special touches that I will always remember with gratitude. Strangely it occurred to me as I was writing – all the things I listed are vestiges of his handiwork. He was (and is) a talented craftsman – a quality that I continue to admire to this day. Just as I loved my house and will always love it, I loved him and always will. We weren’t right for each other, but he was good to me and we made a beautiful home together.
Saying goodbye to this house was as much a goodbye to the structure as much as it was a goodbye to him and all the beautiful work he did. “A few of my favourite things” could turn into an ongoing series about all the amazing work he did in that house – the raised bed for my garden in the backyard, the sturdy bannister that he installed after tearing out the weird wonky original that was there when we bought the place, those handmade cabinets and countertop he custom built around our washer and dryer in the mudroom, the inserts he installed in the oversized windows to give them an extra touch of character… It was a good home that we made, even though it wasn’t meant to be ours forever.
On that very last night in the house I walked from room to room, running my fingers along on the walls, taking in every corner in the hope that I would never forget those precious spaces. And now, as I write these words, I feel a fond appreciation for the home we made together and the lovely work he did for us in that house. More importantly, I know that there was great love in that home and that is something truly unforgettable. He worked hard and we worked hard together – regardless of how it ended, that house remains a monument to that love and work, and that is what I said goodbye to. These are, they were, they always will be, a few of my favourite things.
*Disclaimer: Most of this post was written over 7 months ago, when I wrongly believed that my house was sold. (Oh, how young and naive I was.) I started to write a congratulatory (and somewhat panicked) summary of how I was feeling in the midst of this transformational moment in my life… and then I abandoned ship when the sale didn’t quite pan out. Since then, I have lived through the highs and lows of additional offers that have fallen through, each time becoming more anxious and eager to sell. And now, over a year after listing the property, my house has actually sold.
Or, should I say, the house? It isn’t mine anymore. It is betrothed to another. It is no longer mine. It is surreal and strange to feel that using the word “my” isn’t even appropriate anymore. This is just a place for me to sleep and house my clothes. It is currently a hot mess of boxes and empty cupboards and I will be out of here in about 3 weeks. It is all very odd but satisfyingly clear that this is exactly how it was supposed to happen.
When I reread the extremely premature post that I started before the sale was really a final sale, and considered the title of the post (which is left exactly as it was when I started to write in April), what strikes me the most is that I really got it right with that concept: Sold. Or, Everything’s Changing. EVERYTHING IS CHANGING. And everything is ALWAYS changing… because the things I expressed in April have evolved and shifted and grown in such a way that reading my April segment feels like I’m reading from a different story altogether. The story-teller is the same, but she’s changed a lot in half a year.
April 2016: Written prior to the first heartbreak of an almost-sale.
My house is officially sold. It is so unreal that I sort of need to say it again: My house is officially sold. This is huge. This is really and truly and finally the beginning of the end of my 7-year relationship (and 6-month divorce). It didn’t occur to me until very recently that this break-up isn’t really over until the house is sold, the closing papers signed, and all of our things divided and moved out. While this house is still owned in both our names, while his last few things sit collecting dust in the basement, while the cats he will eventually take live here, we are still in a twisted post-divorce relationship. By default I am and continue to be intrinsically connected to my ex no matter how much I think and feel that I am ready to be separated from him. Until the day we walk away from this beautiful home forever, we are still part of each other’s lives and it was a total shock when I finally had this realization. (How was this not glaringly obvious from the start?) Here I was thinking I was moving forward, when really I have just been teetering on the verge of that final major change without quite falling off the ledge. Well. Now I’m in a free fall. Everything’s changing.
With this change comes an influx of varying thoughts and emotions that change more often than I can keep track: Relieved that the house has finally sold. Sad that I have to leave the (now broken) home that I have cherished for over 5 years. Happy that I can finally move on from this break-up. Heartbroken that I soon have to say goodbye to my cats. Satisfied that we were able to sell for the price we wanted. Scared (with a side of panic) that I am moving into the next phase of my life which is completely unknown and unplanned. Excited for the immediate possibilities just ahead of me now that I won’t have the burden of a mortgage and house to care for. Stressed about packing my entire house in less than a month. And just exhausted by the range of emotions.
When I first shared that I was going through this separation, I wrote about my need to take things one day at a time. Those digestible days started to roll into one another and soon weeks turned into months and I started to see this break-up in phases and steps. But all along, I felt this wonderful comfort living in a limbo where I was somewhat stuck between moving forward and staying completely still in the tightly bound restriction of my unsold house. So here I am, now freed of that constraint, and the certainty of change has me paralyzed.
Most people dislike change. Or at least this is a general assumption I have made to make myself feel better about my utter repulsion at uncontrolled change. It is uncomfortable and scary and I won’t deny it – I hate it! But… I am trying to embrace it, first, because I have no choice and second, because I know that the benefits of this particular change will be positive and exciting. When I shared my Thirty Thoughts at the beginning of the year I wrote about pushing to get out of my comfort zone and this is the biggest push I can think of. The fact that I can’t control it makes it an even better adventure, because I will have to force myself to let go and live my mantra of nonetofigo by going with the flow and making choices when they are immediately in front of me. Scary! Trying to frame it as exciting!
As I have inched toward that sold sign being displayed on my front lawn (FYI, selling a house is a crazy process), I have tried to mentally prepare myself for the discomfort of change that is just ahead of me. Going to yoga really helps, mainly by keeping me grounded and helping me release stress – that hour on my mat is an exercise in breathing slowly while focusing on my body and spirit, and after each session I feel calm and happy and at peace with whichever emotion might be at the top of my heart on that given day. Lately I have taken this further by setting an intention at the start of each session. This is something a few of the instructors encourage for your hour of practice and it’s a simple statement you repeat to yourself – may I be happy, may I be calm, may I find strength, etc. I always make a point to choose an intention that reflects how I’m feeling off the mat – to love myself and enjoy my time alone, to release my stress and anxiety, to say yes and try to live with yes energy, and so on.
When it became clear in recent weeks that the sale of my house was imminent, I found myself regularly repeating “may I embrace change” at the start of each session. Hopefully it’s preparing me for what’s ahead and incredibly, the very first time I set this intention I was offered the opportunity to embrace change almost immediately. It was a Monday night session of yoga with a new instructor I had never seen before and mid-way through the hour she announced that we would be doing wall yoga for the rest of the session. Wall Yoga! Talk about a major change in my usual yoga routine. I laughed to myself internally, repeated “may I embrace change” and (delicately) jumped into the harness.
It was terrifying for about 3 minutes… and then so much fun. You literally hang off the wall in your usual poses and completely let go, allowing the harness and gravity to hold you in place while pulling you downward in perfect harmony. It is one of the most liberating things I have ever done in my life: The act of relinquishing all control, releasing the fear of falling, and finding that magical spot between hanging and holding myself firmly in the pose, all while taking those deep and calming breaths… it was amazing. Yoga already makes me feel so powerful in body and mind, so pushing sideways off a wall with just the tips of my toes brought me to superhero level.
The universe was clearly trying to send me a message when I set that intention for the first time. Embracing change doesn’t have to be terrible. It can actually be the greatest feeling in the world. I don’t think I could make this statement without having gone through the process of evolving from being totally scared of letting go in that harness to being completely enthralled with the powerful energy I felt once I got past the initial discomfort. And I know this experience was meant to happen exactly when it did, just as I find myself on the very edge of this immense change in my life.
So although it is difficult, I am trying my best to put a positive spin on the coming changes. The safety of my limbo between the break-up and my new life has put me into a lull that I’ve been happy to settle into – you can’t make major choices or changes when you still have the responsibility of a shared mortgage with your former boyfriend, and that’s suited me just fine. It’s like I hit pause on my life while the house has been listed so I could go through the process of grieving for and moving on from the relationship.
Now I’m approaching the end of that cosy little pause; it’s time to hit the play button and I’m going to have to start making decisions about what happens next. There are some big questions looming… Where will I go? What will I do? Who will I share my life with? Have I really learned from the failings of my last relationship and will I be better in my next? It’s a lot to think about and with every question comes the implication of another change in my life. It’s scary. But sort of exciting. As my sister told me on one of my bad days when the prospect of all this change had me in a panic, the possibilities are endless and that’s not a bad thing! I have all the freedom in the world to do whatever I want – the only limitation is what I choose to impose upon myself.
My intention to embrace change in that yoga class and the ensuing adventures in wall yoga feel like a microcosm of my entire life and current situation. Saying yes to change instead of no, feeling that very real fear when confronted with making a change, going through the uncomfortable process of changing, and then realizing that the change is better than anything I could have imagined was exhilarating. I’m starting to believe that this could apply in all areas of my life and I think I’m actually getting on board with my sister’s excitement about the endless possibilities (instead of letting the crippling fear take me over). It’s a choice to say “yes, this is scary, but yes, this will be thrilling too.” It’s a decision to let go and accept that it’s impossible to control everything. It’s the difference between jumping and falling off that ledge. I like to think of it as somewhere in between – I want to jump fearlessly into the unknown and fall with an open heart toward whatever will come, knowing that wherever I land will be a place filled with people I love, fuelled by the positive energy that I bring with me.
November 2016: Written after a year of divorce and growth.
So much changed in the 7 months since I first thought my house was sold. My 6-month divorce extended into a year-long debacle that dragged on for so long that I would sometimes forget that I still had a house for sale and an ex-boyfriend still in my life. People would ask me if it was hard and stressful to still have this going on, and it became such a standard part of my existence that I would just shrug and say, “meh, not really”.
And yet, when I got the call from my agent – the call confirming that all the conditions were lifted, meaning that this was really done – I cried. I laughed and I shrieked and I cried, and I felt as though a physical weight had been lifted off of me. It was a weight that I had carried for so long that I didn’t even realize it was there, dragging me down and telling me that this was normal, this was real life. The shift was unbelievable. Suddenly I felt so light and so free – able to breath, able to stretch, able to lift my head and consider everything available to me in this enormous and amazing world. No more limbo.
Reading the incredibly long thought process about my impending (and then aborted) exit from limbo shows me how much things really do change. (And also how they sort of don’t?)
- I don’t have cats anymore. I said goodbye to them in July and it was heartbreaking… but I survived.
- Moving in less than a month? HA! What was I so worried about? I have 3 weeks this time and I’m thrilled to be ripping off this bandage as quickly as possible.
- I haven’t been to yoga in months… and this trip down memory lane has reminded me how much I was getting from that practice. Why did I ever give it up?
- At some point between April and November, I started to embrace the things that scare me. There’s something exhilarating about being afraid and pushing through that fear – there’s nothing quite like breaking through to the other side. To me, it brings out these amazing feelings of being powerful and alive.
- I feel dubious about how optimistic I was by the end of my April post. Was I fooling myself into thinking that I was ready for these big changes? Was it a beautiful lie I told to find comfort when so much was uncertain? I’m not sure that I really felt ready to move forward… compared to now when I’m practically counting the days until this is all behind me.
- The big questions still plague me (Where will I go? What will I do next? How will I do in my next relationship?) and so do the people asking them (CAN I JUST MOVE OUT OF MY HOUSE AND END MY 8 YEAR RELATIONSHIP PLEASE?) but they don’t bother me as much. Nonetofigo, one day at a time, I’ll get there.
- I feel no panic whatsoever. Complete uncertainty, yes. Extreme excitement, absolutely. But there’s an absence of panic for sure.
I’m ready. Bring on all the changes, let’s see where my next adventure takes me.
It’s been a strange adjustment period over the last few weeks where meal planning is concerned. Now that I’m living alone and don’t have a second person to feed (not to mention a second person who had a big and manly appetite), I find I need to shrink my meal plan substantially to prevent wasting food. Three meals at most is really all I need to plan for, especially since nearly all the recipes I love are made to feed 4+ people (and last time I checked, I generally have the appetite of 3/4 of a person).
This has proven challenging: I love food, I love to cook, I love trying new recipes, and I love making all my favourite dishes in regular rotation… so cutting back and paring down my menu on a weekly basis has been hard! It’s also a little sad to be making meals for one. I’m no Julia Child, but I do think that everything I make tastes really good so it’s always a bit of a bummer to take that first delicious bite and not have anyone sitting next to me to confirm that I have in fact made a delightful meal. Last weekend I had friends over for dinner and it was the highlight of my entire month. (And not just because they all told me that the food was excellent, it was also really nice to have human company in my empty house!) Sigh. Divorce problems.
On the plus side, at least I am enjoying food again. The first few weeks after the break-up were obviously really rough and I struggled with having no appetite and zero pleasure eating, even when I knew the food was delicious. Thankfully I am (sort of) back to normal and my desire to eat ALL the food and try ALL the recipes is back with a vengeance. So enough of my divorce talk – let’s get to the good stuff!
Weekend Food Party: I stumbled on this recipe for Peanut Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach in a BuzzFeed article earlier this week and knew immediately that I was going to make it this weekend. (Gotta say, one of the positive things about this divorce is the fact that I can now make whatever I want, and I’m sure that this vegetarian meal would have been on my ex’s veto list.) This was last night’s dinner, and I must say: YUM. It was warm and hearty and flavourful and I’m excited to have it again later this week. I omitted the clove because I don’t have any in the house but put in extra ginger to compensate, and man was it good. And of course, I doubled the recipe, putting half in the freezer to eat in a few weeks. (Hopefully it defrosts well… guess we’ll see!)
There was a surplus of cheese in my fridge (leftovers from my mini dinner party last weekend when I made Stuffed Shells and Bolognese) so I decided to make a double batch of my homemade Mac n’ Cheese – one for the freezer and one for my stomach this week.
Monday: PF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps. This recipe is sooooo good. I’m sure I have featured it a few times already this year and I can’t wait to make it again. The main reason it made it to the chalkboard this week is because it includes ginger on the ingredient list and I was already picking some up for the Peanut Stew, and I really hate seeing ginger go to waste in my fridge. Also it’s sooooo good. Did I say that already?
Tuesday: Movie Night! I’m going out with friends to see a movie! I have a social life!
Wednesday: Fajita Chicken Bake. This is so easy to make. It’s literally roasted chicken breasts with peppers, onions, seasoning, and cheese. A little rice on the side… Easy with a capital E.
Thursday and Friday: Leftovers Au Max. Peanut Sweet Potato Spinach Stew. (Sweet, sweet stew.) Mac n’ Cheese. (Cheesy, carblicious goodness.) Fajita Chicken. (Spicy, cheesy yum.) PF Chang’s Chicken. (So PF. Much Chang.) If I somehow miraculously consume all of these things before then, well, I’ll improvise. Or more likely I will somehow end up not making one of the above before next weekend. It’s all very strange, this single life.
This week’s menu is all about favourite dishes or ingredients that are seasonally appropriate (meaning: cheesy comfort food / the last of the in-season produce that I’ll be able to source in Canada for the next few months). My last menu ended up stretching out over 2 weeks between dinners with my parents and a few random unexpected nights out… so this week I am back at it with a “light” menu (meaning: planning less meals than there are days in the week under the assumption that I will eat leftovers / enjoy takeout / share dinner with my new best friends – my mom and dad).
Sunday Food Party: I almost forgot about this delicious Chicken Enchilada Casserole that was the very first recipe I ever featured on This is an adventure, way back in 2013. The bean-corn-onion mixture in this recipe yields twice what you need to make the casserole so I decided to go double or nothing make two casseroles which will allow me to freeze one for future enjoyment.
Monday: I’ll be testing this recipe for Spaghetti Squash Alfredo since squash is fantastic this time of year and I love me some Alfredo sauce. (Cheesy creamy sauce? Yes, please.) I’ll make a side of green beans to have with the squash, sautéed in some butter and garlic, yum.
Tuesday / Wednesday: Salade Niçoise à la Andrea. There’s this great sandwich and salad place about 5 minutes from my office and they do a nice twist on this classic French salad with chickpeas instead of green beans and potatoes, and I’ve concocted my own version with spinach, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, tuna, hard boiled eggs, and a simple balsamic dressing made with dijon mustard and a touch of honey. The eggs and chickpeas and tuna have so much protein that this salad is insanely filling, I looooove it.
Thursday: Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Soup. So simple, so good, enough said.
Friday: Who knows? This is an adventure.
My last post ended with a list of the good and bad that comes with divorce, and I have since identified another “good” item to add to the list: Meal Planning! It is incredibly easy to plan a menu when you don’t need to vet your ideas with someone else and seek approval to try a new dish. So today I’m feeling like – Andrea 1, Divorce 0.
On the menu this week is whatever I want, whenever I want… I might as well erase the days of the week on my chalkboard since it feels like my plans are never really stable these days. Last week when I meal planned (sans chalkboard), nothing really stuck – I ended up trying out a yoga class one evening, changing my mind about a new recipe I wanted to try, and struggled with having no appetite, all the while working around visits to the house. (Dear Universe: Please help me to sell my house ASAP, cool? Thanks so much, bye.)
So please know while I list days of the week and corresponding meals on here, it’s just for the sake of form and not at all representative of my chaotic life. I’ll probably end up eating McDonald’s tomorrow for all I know (which my younger sister has reminded me more than once is the universal meal of divorcees around the world).
Weekend Food Party: I baked this weekend for the first time in ages! I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner on Saturday and I offered to bring dessert so I could make a double batch of the brownies that I tested and featured on this blog way back in 2013. This afternoon I made White Bean Tuna Salad for lunches this week and dinner this evening, because my new favourite thing to eat on Sunday night is salad. (I know. What?! I’m telling you, being single opens up all kinds of doors – stand alone salad for dinner would never have flown in this house a few months ago.)
Monday: Last week I made a batch of Turkey Chili for dinner one night and froze half of it, so I’ll defrost that one night when I don’t want to cook, served with some couscous and a mound of grated cheese.
Tuesday: Spaghetti Squash with Italian Sausage Tomato Sauce. I forgot about this one but found it on my “Recipes I Love” Pinterest board so I’m excited to try it again. I remember it being super easy to make because you cook the sauce while the squash roasts, so I feel like it will be a good weeknight meal when I am feeling industrious one night.
Wednesday: TBD. I mean… every single night of my life is TBD and I now know that I should always plan that at least one night will be take-out, or dinner with my besties (aka my parents), or just a melange of leftovers / random food in my pantry, or who knows, dinner with friends?
Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner. I LOVE breakfast for dinner. Eggs, Sriracha Sauce, Cheese, Toast, Beans, COME ON. I predict this will become a regular staple dish in my meal planning in the coming months. It’s just so quick and easy and comforting, and since I have started up yoga classes on Thursday nights I need to always plan for something that I can throw together as soon as I get home.
Friday: Beef and Broccoli, another dish from my “Recipes I Love” board that I know I can make pretty effortlessly on a work night. Plus I have tons of frozen meat in the freezer right now so not having to buy the meat made this an easy choice.
Anyone following this blog might infer that I have been starving over the last 3 months since I have neglected to share my weekly adventures in meal planning – but rest assured, I’ve been eating! Menu making on the other hand? Well, let’s just say that Summer 2015 has been an even split of one crazy project at work (thus junk for dinner at night) and glorious boating weekends (thus many a picnic with mini sandwiches). My man acquired a little beater of a boat and while he’s been fixing it up, I’ve been occupied with another all-consuming project at work… so things like blogging and gardening and and cleaning and meal planning (and generally doing anything other than driving to the office or tanning on a boat) have been abandoned and forgotten. These days, my life looks like this:
Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. BOAT!!!!! BOAT!!!!!!!!!! Sleep. Repeat.
It’s time to reset – there isn’t enough moderation in my life and I need to get into a more healthy pattern of balancing work and home. (Not that there’s anything wrong with spending my weekends on a boat, but even Lily is feeling neglected these days and that poor dog needs all the attention she can get.) So first things first: I’m restarting my weekly meal planning, or at least I’m going to try.
Sunday Food Party: As the saying goes, Go Big or Go Home. I decided to kick things off by putting a few favourites on the menu to get me back into the swing of cooking up a storm on the weekend. We’re long overdue for a large batch of my Bolognese – I’ll freeze most of the sauce but I’ll save some for later this week.
For lunch (today and every other day this week), I’m throwing together the Lemon Parsley Bean Salad that I’ve featured here a few times – it never gets old and I’ve got plenty of herbs in the backyard to toss in there. I also got a fillet of salmon that I’m going to cook as a side to the salad for some extra protein.
Next, a double batch of my Homemade Mac n’ Cheese – I’m going to freeze one and keep the other for dinner one night this week. I love a giant serving of that cheesy carbliciousness along with some greens, like this beauty from a few months ago (and yes, those are chips on top – my not-so-secret ingredient in this heavenly casserole):
Finally, (I told you this Sunday was a big one!) I am trying out this Summer Pasta with Zucchini, Ricotta, and Basil. (Yummmmmmmmmm. Why, why do I love ricotta so much!?) Sadly, the zucchini in this recipe will NOT come from my garden (the crisis in July turned into a full blown epidemic in August), but I picked up some zucchini from my local market, which is just as good.
Monday: Turkey Tacos with Homemade Taco Seasoning. This seasoning. Oh. My. Yes. It is so good!!! I urge you to try this and forever replace the weird processed stuff from the grocery store. It’s so easy to put together: Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Oregano, Paprika, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, BOOM. As the recipe says, use 2 to 3 tablespoons with 1/2 to 3/4 cups of water over 1 pound of browned meat… so simple, so good! We’ll have some corn on the cob as our side along with all the classic taco toppings: salsa, sour cream, cheese, greens, etc.
Tuesday: Spaghetti Bolognese, courtesy of my Sunday Food Party.
Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli, Rice. Our old favourite and we’ve got lots of chicken breasts chilling in the freezer (pun intended) ready for my man to do his thing.
Thursday: Mac n’ Cheese, courtesy of my Sunday Food Party along with some fresh green beans from my local market.
Friday: To be determined. I’m guessing we’ll be out for the night, or feasting on leftovers, or grabbing some takeout because my man’s best friend is getting married Labour Day Weekend so there are friends in town and lots of happenings.
Well, it was bound to happen. My unfaltering, magical, no muss, no fuss vegetable garden finally decided to give me a hard time. July 2015 will forever go down in history as the month that the garden stopped being low maintenance and started stirring up trouble.
THE CRISIS: Last weekend, I awoke to a startling development in the garden. Nearly all of the leaves on my zucchini plants were covered in strange looking white spots and I could tell right away that something was amiss. After dashing back inside to consult with the Internet, I quickly surmised that the odd white splotches were most probably powdery mildew.
What is powdery mildew? My online research tells me that it is essentially a mold that develops on the leaves of certain plants when conditions are very wet and humid. (So, for anyone living in the greater Montreal region – basically June through August.) My man worked in landscaping in another lifetime and had already taught me that it’s important to avoid watering the leaves in the vegetable garden, so I have always made sure to water only the soil at the base of each plant; but we’ve had a somewhat rainy season followed by some fairly humid days (thanks, Mother Nature). Powdery mildew develops on the top and bottom of leaves but it can easily spread down the stem and into the entire plant, which can ultimately impact the yield and quality of fruit coming off of the plant.
THE SOLUTION: There are apparently a few different ways to handle a powdery mildew crisis. A lot of the articles I read suggested spraying the leaves with a homemade concoction of water and baking soda (or in one case, water and milk); others implied that the entire plant may need to be scrapped if the mildew has spread too much; but nearly all of them recommended cutting the sick leaves as soon as possible to hopefully prevent the powdery mildew from infiltrating the entire plant (or worse, garden). I decided to go for the most basic solution and cut off all of the leaves that were covered in the white stuff, as well as any other leaves showing signs of mildew growth.
By the time I got through one of the two zucchini plants, there were only a handful of leaves left! It also became glaringly obvious that the second plant was patient zero – the entire thing was COVERED in white splotches and even the stems were blanched. So, with a heavy heart, I tore the entire plant out as gently as possible. (The Internet also told me that powdery mildew spores travel by air so it’s important to be really careful when extracting the infected leaves.)
As I completed my crisis management mission, the zucchini corner of my garden was looking pretty sad and forlorn. The remaining plant toppled over as I was cutting back the leaves so I awkwardly tried to replant it. There were already a few zucchini babies at the base of the plant and I’m not sure if they will make it after the great leaf purge of 2015 since they really depend on the leaf shade to develop. That said, last year’s zucchini harvest was wild and the plants seemed to grow on an infinite trajectory, so I’m cautiously optimistic that what’s left of the plant will somehow flourish and deliver despite the crisis.
THE UPDATE: Just a few days after cutting back, I was pleased to find healthy green leaves sprouting up in the space their sickly sisters and brothers previously occupied. The zucchini babies at the base of the plant were looking a little withered but a few new ones were starting to grow in as well, so things were looking to be moving in a positive direction…until yesterday…when the white stuff came back. Blerg.
I cut those trouble-makers back as soon as I spotted them, and did the same this afternoon when 2 more leaves appeared to have caught the mildew, and now I’m beginning to think I may need to try out that baking soda-water mix to see if I can get my poor zucchini plant back on track. To be honest, the saddest part about this entire crisis is that I’ve spent the last 12 months finding zucchini recipes on Pinterest in preparation for a zucchini explosion in the backyard. Oh well. Adventures in gardening!
On a happier note, my cucumber plants are spectacular – I plucked my first little cucumber on Sunday morning and upon close inspection of the leaves, they do not appear to be bound for the same fate as my zucchini plants. There were a few suspect leaves that looked a little questionable, but I cut them back and everything looks to be in order…for now…
To be continued!