After my gardening post last week, the one in which I promised myself, our daughter (a/k/a Sweetly Six) and you all (geez, that’s a whole lot of accountability!) that would endeavor to break away from my brown thumb and begin a garden in earnest this spring, my girlfriend Valerie Rice (author of the wonderful blog Eat-Drink-Garden) contacted me and said something to the effect of, “Helloooooo, I know a little something about gardening and would be happy to help.”
Of course, that’s the kind of person Valerie is: thoughtful, kind and always willing to lend a hand, even to a gardening imbecile like myself (Silver Lining). I was so relieved (and also a little intimidated!) to put my gardening ignoramus in the hands of such a skilled and experienced gardner. However, she put all of my nervous-nellies at ease, because that’s the kind of person she is. I mean, really. Just look at her smile!
So, before we begin this project, she kindly offered to share her philosophy of gardening, entertaining & reading (turns out we both share an affinity for historical fiction!) among other interesting tidbits with The Silver Pen. Thanks so much, Valerie!
What is your philosophy of gardening? Having your own garden satisfies both body and soul, there is simply nothing better than fresh from the garden produce that you’ve grown yourself. I love how a garden sets your life in rhythm with the seasons.
How old were you when you started gardening? My mother is Belgian and growing up we would travel to Europe to visit family. My grandmother had a beautiful vegetable garden in Wespelaar, Belgium and that’s where I fell in love with the family garden. It was pure joy for me to pull carrots, pick bush beans and turn the most delicious red currants into jam for breakfast.
What are your favorite things to grow in your garden? Oh, those first tomatoes of the season, hands down. Also, radishes and carrots are easy to seed and fun to pull up. You never know how big those little guys might be under the soil. Digging for potatoes is like mining for treasures in your own backyard.
What is the easiest thing to grow? It’s always nice to have fresh herbs, but you get so much satisfaction bringing a salad you’ve grown yourself to the table. I always say start with radishes and arugula. Both of these can be planted from seed, both have short germination times, grow really easily and can be grown in pots on a patio.
What is the most challenging thing to grow? It’s tomatoes. It feels like you’re at war from the get go— your fighting off birds, green-horn worms and then there’s the weather. I try to combat all of that by planting a variety of seedlings every month from March clear through August. Then, if you happen to get a bad stretch of weather in the spring you still have a chance to make some action happen in the later months. There is nothing that tastes like summer more than a fresh, ripe, juicy tomato. It makes the hard work worth it every time.
Where do you find inspiration? I’m inspired by anything and everything, from a perfect serendipity rose to a peep-toe Sergio Rossi pump. But my biggest source of inspiration is always my friends and family, planning big and little events to celebrate them. I’m never happier than when our table is surrounded by those I love after we have finished a meal, the table is littered with wine glasses, burned down votive candles and contagious, well-fed laughing and happiness.
What was your childhood ambition? I grew up an athlete, I was a competitive diver in college, so I always thought I would be a sports journalist.
What is your wildest dream? Honestly… having another baby. My fantasy would be to have an entire troop, but I am beyond thankful for my two darling girls.
Greatest indulgence: This sounds funny, but probably skin care. I spend so much time in the sun that I am always super conscious about preventing skin damage. I let myself splurge on good products to protect my skin.
Favorite movie: It’s a toss up between Age of Innocence, Eat Drink Man Woman and Fletch.
Favorite books: Oh, this is a hard one! I’m a constant reader and there are so many great books. I read every night with the girls, so I have a soft spot for children’s literature especially The Lupine Lady, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and the Harry Potter series.
I’m also naturally drawn to books that are about life and food. Trail of Crumbs, Tender at the Bone, A Year in Provence, and My Life in France are ones I return to again and again. Currently, I am reading Blood, Bones and Butter which is fantastic.
Best entertaining tip: Remember that entertaining is meant to be fun. Do whatever you have to do to make it enjoyable for yourself and that will translate into your guests having a great time too.
In your refrigerator now: What’s not in my refrigerator! I keep the fridge stocked with things like milk, eggs, butter, corn tortillas, salted capers, ketchup, grainy mustard, sirache and our “house wine”— a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
I also like to keep a variety of cheeses on hand, so I’m ready if we have surprise lunch or dinner guests.
Triple Cream Cheese: I like D’afoniois or Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery. Both are excellent and go great with those yummy fig and olive crackers from Lesley Stowe.
Parmesan Reggiano: This makes any pasta dish better. It’s a delicious and unusual post-dinner dessert to break off chunks of it and douse it withhoney. So good!
Israeli Feta: I discovered this feta a couple of years ago at Trader Joe’s and now I can’t imagine life without it. I sprinkle it on everything— sautéed vegetables from the garden, scrambled eggs, rajas….
Favorite drink: I’m a Santa Barbara girl. It’s a margarita— silver tequila, salt, rocks.
Favorite vacation: My first instinct is to say playing on a warm, sandy beach with my girls. That’s wonderful, but the trips I look forward to the most are big city getaways with my husband, where we eat and drink our way through greatrestaurants and have those moments to reconnect outside of the bustle of family life.
Guilty pleasure: The Extra-Crunchy Crunch Burger at the Nugget in Summerland, complete with fries and an ice-cold Corona. Hollye, lunch? (NAME THE DATE, VAL! IT’S DEFINITELY WORTH JUMPING OFF OF THE VEGAN TRAIN!)
Perfect day: All I know is that it would be a mix of the following: waking-up to the sound of giggling girls, water skiing, drinking Budweiser with Jacques Pepin, walking into Christian Louboutin and saying, “I’ll take one in every color,” and end with a huge outdoor dance party with champagne in my hand and Justin Timberlake on my hip (sorry, honey).
Best piece of advice you ever received: The best advice always comes from Mom. My beautiful mother always encouraged my sisters and me to make one-on-one time with our husband a priority. She compared it to a nest, “If your love is strong and meshed together, then it supports the eggs comfortably and the birdies always have someplace to come back to.” The other thing my mom modeled and taught me, was to try something new everyday. Now I’m passing that mantra onto my girls. It’s a really fun task.
Be sure to check out Valerie’s blog; http://eat-drink-garden.com/