It was hot, back-breaking work, but someone had to do it. Almost as soon as we got the announcement from Temecula Berry Company that their blueberries were ready to be picked, we headed down and got to work. In the end I think we ended up picking 16 pounds, even more than last year. I felt so bad for the poor folks waiting in the heat behind us as our buckets just kept coming and coming. But I knew it would be worth it when I figured we would easily have a year's worth of jam in our cupboard. 

I've been using the traditional hot bath canning method the past couple of years, and lugged out the huge black speckled pot, and the racks, and all the utensils, and boiled gallons and gallons of water, and just sort of slogged through it. But then I discovered Rachel Saunders', fantastic Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, and was liberated with her deliciously easy oven method. Making 4 small batches (28 jars in all) was remarkably swift.  I also switched up and used her East Coast Blueberry Jam recipe which called for almost a cup of lemon juice and some cinnamon and vanilla. Very tangy and sweet and fresh-tasting indeed. The recipe and method is way too long to include here. Check out Rachel's book!












One of the best exhibitions I've seen in quite some time was Art in the Streets, currently at the MOCA in downtown LA. Inside was an unbelievable treasure of street art that spanned from Cornbread to Banksy (which, for those who aren't in the know, like I wasn't, that's about 40 years.) The intrepidness, the innovativeness, the wildness, the brilliance of those who are able to take nothing and turn it into something. To trace the history of what was then a new movement in art. It was fascinating. 

The boys could not get enough of Spike Jonze's skate videos that were looping in one of the rooms. If only I could have photographed Mateo's face watching this:


"Mom," he said. "I have got to learn how to skateboard now." Uh oh. 








When I was at Artisanal LA a few weeks ago, I came upon quite a lovely discovery: the Out of the Box Collective. For a few years now, I have been looking for a CSA (or community sponsored agriculture) program here in Santa Monica, where I would receive in-season fruits and vegetables each week from a local farmer. Funny thing is, even in a town with a world-famous farmer’s market, that was almost impossible to find. So when I happened upon this cute little company, I had a feeling I had finally found what I’d been looking for.

Yes, indeed I did. Walking up to my door to two crates of amazing food is certainly right up my alley. One crate was full of produce: cherries, leeks, chermoya, spring onions, herbs, potatoes, spinach, salad greens, tangerines, parsnips, carrots, beets. The other was filled with other “locally-produced artisinal specialties,” so there was hand-churned butter, goat cheese, handmade pickles, balsamic vinegar, free-range eggs, chocolate, pistachios, and a very handsome fresh pie shell that you see above. I was amazed that every single thing was almost used in its entirety within the week. What a way to make one more disciplined in using what is the freshest and most available at that moment. Only took one time to get me hooked.

The first night of my bounty resulted in a wild mushroom, spinach and ricotta pie, adapted from the LA Times.


Wild Mushroom, Spinach, Ricotta Pie

1 pound fresh spinach or 1 (9-ounce) package frozen spinach

2 tablespoons butter, divided

4 leeks, pale green and white parts only, sliced into thin rounds, about 4 cups

20 ounces assorted fresh wild mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup white wine

2 eggs

1 cup ricotta cheese

3/4 cup soft goat cheese

3/4 cup gruyere cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup grated Parmesan

1 tsp. each of sea salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Coarsely chop the spinach. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add the spinach and cook until the water evaporates, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the spinach to a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan over high heat, saute the leeks, mushrooms and garlic with the remaining butter until the garlic is aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are softened and the liquid evaporates, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a separate medium bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 tablespoon thyme, the parsley, nutmeg, lemon juice, Parmesan, sea salt and pepper.

Spoon half the cheese mixture into the pie plate, then cover with half the spinach. Sprinkle with half of the remaining thyme. Cover the spinach with half of the mushroom leek mixture. Cover with the remaining spinach, then the remaining mushroom and leek mixture. Sprinkle over the remaining thyme, then spoon over the remaining cheese mixture. Top with the gruyere. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving, if you can wait.

















First off, seeing Prince in concert never, and I mean, never gets old. We had some ridiculously great seats (even closer than the photo suggests), and didn't get home until 3:00 in the morning. Can't tell you the last time that's happened. It was a very good night. 

We also managed to find ourselves on our friend Rachel's beautiful sailboat. Watching Matt take pleasure in one of his life-long hobbies, as sailing is, is always a treat for me. 

I forgot to put a few photos from last week's Mother's Day preparations. Perhaps too busy prepping that I forgot to photograph the final product for my mom. Oh well. I did manage to include one of her favorites, the lemon bars.

There was (an adult) birthday party filled with hilarious old-school games. A certain husband of mine came home injured, but okay.

And at long, long-last, a first new tooth.



















The second half of our Spring Break sojourn. We went from feeling enveloped by the trees and dampness of Big Sur to being laid open books yellowing in the summer sun. It was a perfect counter balance. Beginning with our cabin, Rattler Ranch was an ideal home away. Not too precious, but with just enough to make it feel like we were home in the middle of nowhere. The owner, Diane Best, and her extraordinary paintings brought back memories of the desert I grew up in in the seventies: bare, wide open, strip mall-less, golf-course-less, with the occasional dilapidated shack. We found ourselves chanting at Bhakti Fest as the full moon rose, eating New York-style pizza, trying (unsuccessfully this time) to get a sound bath at the Integratron, scraping our knees on rough granite boulders in the State Park, counting the colors of the wildflowers, making sunprints, walking like outlaws through Pioneertown, and catching open-mic night at the saloon Pappy & Harriet's. It was fabulous. Nico and Mateo also found a new appreciation for cowboy hats. They caught the eye of everyone in town. 





















Wildflowers blooming, the feel of damp moss on fingertips, the rush of the Big Sur River, children left alone to explore, achieving the perfectly toasted marshmallow, the donuts and quiche and pizza and wine (not all at once) at Big Sur Bakery, sleeping in a cabin and not a tent in the woods, searching for lizards and mountain lions, the view at Pfeiffer Beach, running full speed down a sand dune, clothes shed to run through the ocean, the sunrise through the Redwoods, the colors of dusk through the Redwoods, wine and adult talk by the fire 'til late, the glow of children sleeping by the fireplace, homemade granola for breakfast, no cell phone service, the inventiveness of our children and their friends, the smell of campfires still left in our clothes after we've unpacked, the feeling of being enveloped by green and clean air, a brilliant sun, and the chance for all of us to reconnect. 






It feels like a summer today all of a sudden, which is strange because just a few days ago, this warm, filling stew seemed just right. Well, I think soup is good in any sort of weather even if warmer days have really arrived. I've made variations on the idea of tender, salty beans, coupled with creamy yams, and they've all been pretty good, but this one was good enough to share. What made the difference? I think some green garlic, some super sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes, a dash of maple syrup and some lime juice did the trick. 

Black Bean Yam Stew

{adapted from a few different places}

4 cups cooked black beans (2 cups dried)  
1 large red onion chopped
3 leeks (white and light green part, chopped)
2 heads of green garlic chopped (or 8 cloves garlic)
1 large sweet potato, cubed
4 carrots, chopped
2 Tbsp. ghee or olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground corriander 
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 large tomatoes, diced or 1 small can tomatoes (14.5 oz / 400 gr.) 
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt

If using dried or sprouted beans, soak overnight in a bowl of salted water. When ready to use, drain and rinse beans. 

Bring six cups of water to a boil, add beans. Don't add salt at this point, it can cause the beans to break open. I also like to add a small piece of kombu, which tenderizes and add some vital minerals to the mix. Cook together until tender about 45 minutes. Be sure not to throw away the bean cooking liquid, the starches in the water will help to make a thicker soup.

Heat ghee or oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add spices. Stir until fragrant. 

Add chopped onion, leek, and salt. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables soften. Add garlic, the rest of the chopped vegetables and the tomatoes. 

Using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor, puree 2 cups of the cooked beans (approx. half the total amount) with 4 cups of the reserved cooking liquid. Add to the pot with the remaining whole, cooked beans. 

Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. 

Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the juice of 1 lime, olive oil, maple syrup, and cilantro. 

Serve immediately with a drizzle of some nice olive oil, add cilantro and enjoy!


The other night Matt and I went out…on a monday night…til 1:30 in the morning. Yes, that's right. We are officially of an age and station in life where that statement can possibly raise some eyebrows. It certainly raised ours. Things have been pretty non-stop around the Lombard household lately, so we figured why not willingly venture to the bowels Hollywood to see the mash-up artist/DJ Girl Talk? You know, dance a little, drink a little, let loose? Well, when we got to the Palladium (which I hadn't been to since the Red Hot Chili Peppers played there in 1989) the floor was so jammed with an eager, already sweaty, twenty-something crowd, that we headed straight for the balcony. The good ol' balcony where two working parents in their late 30's with two small children who will be up at 6:45am can safely watch a show. It was like we were some over-protective chaperones watching a bunch of kids get their groove on at the school dance. 


Once the music started, I got pretty into it. It's pretty amazing to watch this guy mix a million disparate musical parts right there on stage with his laptop, which is why we really wanted to go in the first place. All the folks around me were certainly into it, recording most of the show on their cellphones for I don't know what purpose. Oh right, maybe they have a blog. But at one point I looked back and there was Matt swaying from side to side with his head down, both index fingers pressed firmly into his ears. "It's too loud for me to really enjoy it," he yelled. I think our concert/club days are numbered. 


But as we left (probably way before it was over), we tried once more to feel as though we still belonged to this massive group of sweaty hipsters. Then I looked at the time, 1am, and like two Cinderellas, which I'm sure Matt will be happy to be compared to, we rushed our little selves home.

By the next morning, as I blearily poured cereal for two hungry little boys, I still thought it was worth it. 










A weekend under the auspices of a "Super Moon." What gifts did it bring? Well, for starters, a super-soaker late-winter storm, a lovely dinner at Forage and a very tasty recipe for cheesy-starry crackers.

Sharp Cheddar Cheese Stars

{adapted from Smitten Kitchen}

6 ounces (1 1/2 cups coarsely grated) sharp cheddar, orange if you can find one you like
4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 57 grams) butter
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces or 62 grams) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces or 31 grams) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon table salt

1 1/2 Tbsp. whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, running the machine until the dough forms a ball, about two minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out 1/8-inch thick. Form shapes with a cookie cutter, dipping it in flour from time to time to ensure a clean cut. Gently transfer crackers to an un-greased parchment-lined cookie sheet with a 1/2 inch between them. Sprinkle lightly with salt if you want. Bake the crackers on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are barely browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.