Category Archives: nom

How does your garden grow?

A colleague at work has been quite the inspiration. Each time I see her, she has an amazingly colorful salad and she’s upped her game recently by creating what looks to be delicious mason jar salads. I’ve seen mason jar salads trending on Pinterest and have pinned a few (the ones that show how you layer and assemble for the best culinary experience) but had yet to try and attempt my hand at making one.

On Monday last week, this colleague was gifting jars of salads to others as thanks for their good deeds in an already crazy school year. I sat by, pouting and lamenting that I couldn’t do anything quite as lovely. My salads are always boring, I don’t have any interesting vegetables. I can’t….

Mindset check.

I challenge students to push themselves and sometimes forget how hard is to apply the same principle to myself. I’m reminded of the series of events that led me to try hosting a DIY Paint Night and of the character I’m sharing with students this year who, while brave, has a very fixed mindset (Ally from Fish in a Tree). If I’m going to be asking students to make an effort, to think outside the box and get out of their comfort zones…shouldn’t I be able to do the same?

So, taking advantage of the farmer’s market that’s down at Bixby Park this Tuesday, I wandered through various stalls, studying produce, jumping for joy at golden beets and I gradually amassed an army of vegetables.







Sitting down for the lunches this week was a double celebration. One in the fact that I had a beautiful lunch before me. The other, was for my joining the ranks of students who take the first step and try.


In retrospect, maybe I’ve been wanting to make mason jar salads subconsciously all this time. I somehow happened to have a case of mason jars delivered on the same day as the farmer’s market and, now that I think about it, I may have planned for this over the summer, by helping mom grow her garden.

If you don’t already know, I’m something of a DIY fan. I think it comes from how my dad, when we were younger, would always be tinkering to make things for us: Disney Princess lamps, a zoetrope machine after my siblings and I couldn’t step away from one at a museum (we all fought over who got to use it), or bookshelves that fit, Lego® like, around our bunk beds so we could tuck away both books and glasses. Mom would make dresses, fun hair ties and bows, clothes for the dolls—she was the reason why I admired Maria von Trapp.

Mom mentioned wanting to build a trellis this summer. She had a packet of seeds that she wanted to plant and vaguely remembered that the seeds she had would result in vines that spread upward and sideways and liked to climb. She didn’t know what would grow, only that things would grow. I think we spent a day thumbing through Pinterest looking at ideas and exploring possibilities.

This is what we ended up building.


PVC trellis 1


PVC trellis 1 (front view)

The first trellis was constructed from PVC on the left side of the yard and it used netting, the type you lay down to prevent weeds. The idea was that the vines would climb up, and there’d be enough space for whatever grew to drape downwards.

The second trellis was constructed with the same frame and placed on the right side of the yard. We ran out of netting but mom didn’t want us to make another run to Home Depot, so she got creative with rope and twine and twist ties.


I had a little assistance with trimming PVC. A variety of tools was at my disposal, including a saw and a jigsaw that I think was about as old as I was.





The funny thing was, the older jigsaw was designed with no safeguards. The Craftsman saw was newer, but I couldn’t figure out how to bypass the safety mechanism. I used the older jigsaw, being hyper careful to unplug it after each use, annoying myself each and every time I did this.

Here’s what the trellis and plants looked like just starting out:



It’s a nice reminder that mother nature also works hard and try and stretch and grow. My favorite things to watch growing are the little strands that latch on and to something and twist around and around, becoming curly Qs: they show such tenacity (and look just a little bit wacky).


Here’s what the trellis looked like as of today:




Inspired by a colleague to make a simple salad this week, I’m ever grateful for the chance to explore and attempt new things, provided that my mind stop second guessing itself. I’m reminded of the word play in Fish in a Tree, when Mr. Daniels challenges Ally to look at the word IMPOSSIBLE in a different way.


Now let’s talk about the two different prototypes, the netting  vs. rope: which worked better and why?


And cue your respective song of choice: In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry. Summertime, the classic by the Sundays. Island in the Sun, Weezer.

Couldn’t resist that last one for old time’s sake. Way back in the day some friends and I went to a concert of theirs when they were labeled as Goat Punishment, oh that takes me back.

Yes it is summertime, three entire months where I’m not obliged to wake up at 5 am and have to eat like Pavolv, conditioned to the bell schedule. Time where I can make a meal like this and actually savor it:

The luxury of enjoying lunch.

The luxury of enjoying lunch.

That’s penne pasta, cottage cheese and a mixture of veggies for you there, seasoned with some pepper. Mmmm…

You’ll be able to tell that I like food when you see the tremendously BIG bowl that’s needed for me to consume this. Slowly, now, remember….

In addition to the hefty pyramid of books I’m reading over the summer, I also take the time to look over cookbooks. NetGalley comes to my rescue again, as the only thing I’m spattering when attempting recipes is my phone screen.

I’ve come across some wonderful cookbooks, some with recipes that are easy, some with recipes that take a little more time. It’s worth a look through if you haven’t tried it and for a foodie, it’s a good way to mix up your culinary repertoire.

Back in the day — before NetGalley and Blue Apron— my sis and I’d watch cooking shows over the weekend, and whatever was being made we’d list the ingredients, then head to the grocery store to round up the items and attempt a meal. Alton Brown was a favorite. As was America’s Test Kitchen. The latter had a rather authentic Asian Chicken Noodle recipe that we made for the family and everyone loved.

When I mention being on a school schedule and having the summer free to do as I please, lots of folks are envious and ask what I do with my time. Reading. Eating. Looking for recipes that’ll keep me happily fed when I’m back on the clock come August.