Homemade Preserved Lemons

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The latest in the Ben’s Bitichin’ Kitchen series – Preserved Lemons!

There are endless ways to flavor and prepare preserved lemons for making marinades, salad dressings, seasoning rice pilaf, or just adding the brine to flavor some yummy Bloody Marys.

We have several lemon trees on our property, and the two Meyer lemon trees produce the most delicious citrus. The trees, however, seemed like they hadn’t been pruned in years, so Ben took his pruning shears outside and went to town on those trees. He picked every last lemon off the branches, and you could feel the trees taking huge sighs of relief.

That said, we found ourselves with more lemons than we could use. If you find yourself in this position, or you’re just looking for a fun activity, get out your spices and start playing around!

Here’s how we did it:

Start with your bowl of lemons. Pick out the best ones for the preserving process – the others will be used for their juice.

Grab some empty mason jars.

Separate out the ‘pretty lemons’ and quarter them – but don’t slice them all the way through!

Ingredients:

Salt & Sugar.

Rose petals and green tea.

Dried chilis.

Tellicherry peppercorns.

Cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

Long peppercorns.

Dried habaneros.

Juniper berries, bay leaves, and star anise.

Begin by salting the surfaces of the ‘pretty lemons’ that you just quartered. Put some salt and spices (whatever combo you choose) at the base of the jar. Add two or three lemons, then layer more salt and spices. Add more lemons and layers of salt and spices until the mason jar is full. Squeeze about 3-4 ‘ugly lemons’ worth of juice on to the top of your creation. Seal the jar and keep them in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. Turning the jars a couple of times a day.

We played with a bunch of different spice combos. Here are 3 of my favorites:

#1 – Rose petals, juniper berries, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, salt, sugar.

#2 – Green lemons, habaneros, chilis, star anise, long pepper, extra salt, bay leaves.

#3 – Chilis, tellicherry peppers, bay leaf, juniper berries, salt.

This was so much fun, and the fruit of your labor will be delicious!

Birthdays in Sea Ranch, California

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Once we realized that our birthdays were on the same weekend this year, we knew we had to do something special. We lucked out HARD with the home we rented in The Sea Ranch, CA. All the homes in Sea Ranch are mid-century modern architecture which Ben goes gah-gah for. Our spot was tucked away on a bluff over-looking the Pacific Ocean. We were surround by giant redwoods and the pack of turkeys that lived in the woods around the house kept Sammich and her friends busy.

I’m obsessed with that feathered wreath! It was one of the first things I saw walking up to this incredible house.

I’m not a brilliant photographer but I love the design of this home.

The sunroom was my favorite spot in the house! It was so bright and relaxing…for me, anyway. Sammich barks at skylights so she realized quickly on the first night that this was her least favorite room.

I couldn’t capture the beauty of the outdoors. The yard was full of beautiful flower varieties and, everyone’s favorite, a hot tub. Sitting in the hot tub at night, under the stars, with the ocean as your sound track, is a pretty magical experience.

I was sad to be leaving on our last day so I took a video to capture the absolute pleasantness of this place.

The pups were so excited to be together and the only thing that could have made their experience even better were long hikes to tons of different beaches – so that’s exactly what we did. Ben’s birthday is April 7th and mine is April 9th so we always look for ways to celebrate our #betwerthday.

We began a hike along some beautiful, rolling, grassy hills that eventually led us to a bluff with a steep – and I mean STEEP- set of stairs down to the beach. I took this video half way down the stairs. We were the only people crazy enough to actually go down to the beach and quickly learned why nobody else did when Sadie almost got washed away by high tide.

We found another beach were the Gualala River dumps into the Pacific Ocean. It was incredibly beautiful. Our friend’s dog, Sadie, ran after some pelicans and didn’t realize there was a river until she was fully immersed in river water. She’s a nut and we love her for it.

We tried to go tide pooling but found the tide a bit too high for it. That didn’t stop Ben from walking on water. I told him he should make this his new LinkedIn profile picture.

On my birthday, we took a day trip up the coast to Mendocino. It’s an adorable little town tucked on another spectacular bluff on the coast. After some brunch, we headed over to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. Ben was so excited when he found out they allow dogs on leash. Sammich was in hound heaven with all the intense smells here. There are endless paths with bright pops of color everywhere you look. We took the path that lead us to – wait for it – another insanely beautiful bluff with a view of the ocean. Paradise.

We tried to get Sammich to pose in front of the Elephant Ear plant but she was…distracted.

Said beautiful bluff.

Happy Birthday to us!

Hard Nights, Better Mornings

I have posted a lot about mornings lately which is unusual because my whole life I have been incapable of operating in the early hours of the day. Getting up to go to a 9-5, or early call time, often involved a set routine whereupon I could zone out and just go.

Ever since moving in with a morning person and adopting a puppy, I have found myself awake (whether I like it or not) with the sun. Recently, our little Sammich has been sick with a full-blown puppy cold. She has been coughing and wheezing and while the vet assures us she just needs to relax and sleep and let it pass, it’s been hard hearing her up at night coughing. The other night was especially hard and none of the household got any sleep. We were all up before the sun, and after a little puppy breakfast (and coffee for this human) everyone was starting to feel better.

Sometimes it takes a rough night to be able to wake up and meet the morning with gratitude.

Our tummies are sympathizing with Sammich so we kept it light – d’Affinois cheese on sesame toast, avocado, hard-boiled egg.

She’s been having to work for full naps since coughing fits keep waking her up. I caught a moment of rest for this little one – some morning routines (like puppy naps) never change.

What to know

Any time we have a pet emergency after our normal vet has closed, we always head to PETS Referral Center in Berkeley, California. They have a top-notch staff that treats every dog with love and kindness.

Fort Funston

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Even though we live close to San Francisco, the traffic usually makes it too much of a hassle to get to. This past Sunday, we woke up early to go meet up with our best human and canine friends.

On the coast of the Pacific Ocean is a beautiful hiking and beach trail that is perfect for taking a restless pooch…or three. Fort Funston lives up to it’s name. Sammich was nose to the ground the entire time except when she spotted her two besties – Daisy and Sadie.

Daisy and Sadie are trustworthy enough to chase balls out to the horizon and come running back. Sammich…not so much. We have to keep her on a leash because there are too many steep cliffs and she can run way faster than us. She still managed to have the time of her life. From the parking lot arrival, to spotting her two friends, to all the new ones she made along the way. The sweeping ocean views weren’t so bad on these human eyes either.

What to know

Fort Funston park is a great spot to take your pup in San Francisco.

Short Box Series for Pilates Reformer

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The short box series on reformer can be used as essential level preps or full-blown intermediate exercises. Feet pulling the foot strap taut as you utilize the strength of your core to articulate your spine. The movement of your arms create longer levers which increases the difficulty of this exercise. The arm movement and spinal twist are assisted by engaged obliques.

Below are three exercises for the short box followed by a full video:

Round Back for Short Box:

Start sitting up straight, feet pulling strap taut, neutral spine, palms on top of one another in your lap. Inhale to prepare, exhale to tuck your pelvis and roll onto your back pockets.

Inhale to lift your arms over head, maintaining that round thoracic spine.

Turn abs on even more, pulling belly toward spine, and roll over your thighs – maintaining that c-curve of your spine.

Exhale to stack back up to a neutral spine from tail to head.

Straight Back for Short Box:

Begin by sitting upright on your box with a neutral spine, feet pulling strap taut. With bar overhead, pull on opposite ends of the bar to engage your arms.

Inhale to prepare, exhale to hinge at your hips and tilt back with a straight back.

Inhale to maintain this position. Exhale to engage your obliques to help you hinge at your hips to pull you back up to straight.

Twist With Round Back for Short Box:

Beginning with the photo above, sitting straight up, arms overhead pulling bar.

Inhale to prepare, exhale to tuck your pelvis and roll back onto your pockets as the bar comes down in front of your shoulders.

Inhale to maintain that c-curve of the spine as you lift the bar overhead.

Exhale to twist to one side. Inhale to return to center. Exhale to twist to the other side. Inhale to return to center.

Continue the inhale to pull belly towards spine as you round forward over your thighs – keeping bar level with shoulders.  

Exhale to keep the bar still in space as you stack back up to a neutral spine from tail to head.

Inhale to lift bar back up over head with neutral spine.

Here’s what that looks like:

Study Guide

It has been a while since I’ve had to sit down and pound some anatomy. Not since Biology 101 in college have I had to utilize my memorization skills for more than just digesting scripts.

Now that my Reformer class is over – I’m finding my superior administrative skills are kicking in to high gear. I have a lot of hours to log before the certification is complete and that means staying on top of my schedule.

On top of the logistics, I have a lot of anatomy to learn before the written exam. As a creative – anatomy is not something I’ve put a lot of focus on in the past. Having invested hours in studying, I can tell you that it’s mostly tedious but then there are ‘a-ha’ moments when all of a sudden you ‘get it’. In those moments I feel smart. I love acting because it makes me feel talented – but I have been enjoying the studying time for Pilates because I’m really digging the sensation of being in love with my mind’s capacity to learn new things.

When I can work from home, I get my work station set up with the following:

  • Wench mug with the lattes I told myself I would try to stop drinking.
  • Monthly calendar
  • Work books and manuals
  • Observation notebook
  • Past class lessons
  • As many different colored pens as possible because – color is fun.
  • Muscle flashcards
  • And the $1 Venmo note from Johnny I won in a game of Uno – reminds me I’m a winner.

Hound Howls

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Having a hound usually means you can expect those full-throated howls. Whether she’s saying hello or yelling at a neighbor, it all sounds the same. I like to think of it as her talking to us.

We’ve recently discovered that if we howl with her when she’s all worked up she can’t help but howl with us. I picked up my phone the other night just to capture one of these moments.

We have some chewy dental dog treats that she loves way too much to be able to enjoy. When we give them to her, she usually spends a minute or two excitedly pawing at it. Once she builds up the nerve to grab it in her mouth she proceeds to run around all over the living room and kitchen looking for a sufficient hiding spot. Thing is, there is never a sufficient enough spot for her treasure and the agony of having something that’s too good that you can’t hide it away throws her into a fit of misery howling. It’s the cutest damn thing. Enjoy.

Tree for Pilates Reformer

A lot of the exercises I’ve been focusing on this week are especially great in promoting spinal articulation. This exercise is called Tree and it’s an intermediate level exercise. It’s important to maintain an engaged core to support your spine. I love the leg stretches at the beginning of this exercise – it feels especially yummy as a hamstring stretch.

Here’s how to do Tree:

Keeping one foot pulling taut on the strap, extend and flex your gesture leg three times.

After the third time, keep your gesture leg extended and bring both hands to meet at your ankle.

Begin to slowly walk your hands down your leg and you roll your spine down vertebrae by vertebrae.

Once you feel your sacrum level on the short box, release your head to look back – keeping your hands on your leg for support.

If you feel like you want more – extend your arms over head and grab on to the rails of your reformer to enter a full spinal extension.

Take an inhale to tuck your chin and your draw your arms back up to the gesture leg. Begin to walk your hands back up that leg as your spine peels off the box.

Once your spine is back in neutral, bend your knee and set your gesture leg down.

Here’s what that looks like all together:

This exercise is best done towards the end of a workout. Making sure your hamstrings and abs are warm and firing before putting them to the test.

Semicircle on Pilates Reformer

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I know, there have been a TON of Pilates posts lately – but that’s what’s up in my life so that’s what’s up here. This week, I have been working on form for many of the intermediate reformer exercises. This exercise is called Semicircle and I hated it when I first tried it. You have to roll your lower thoracic spine into extension and it’s a really odd sensation. People don’t normally bend back in half. This week, I went slow and controlled through the movements and I found a really satisfying spine stretch that left me feeling looser and taller after my workout.

Here’s the Semicircle for Pilates reformer:

Footbar at position 2, heels together, toes apart with toes on the footbar. Feet and legs laterally rotated. Roll your hips up to one long line with your body.

Push through your feet to engage your quads and straightened out your legs.

From here, start from the top of your spine and slowly roll down through the spine to drop into the well of the reformer.

Maintaining that spinal extension, bend your knees to pull the carriage back in to the stopper.

Tilt your pelvis to roll your hips up – articulating the spine from bottom to top. Come back to your starting position at one long line.

Now, reverse the semicircle. Starting from the top of your spine, begin to articulate back down into the well of the carriage.

From here, extend your legs out to straight to push the carriage away. Lift your hips in line with your shoulders and knees.

Bend your knees, keep your hips lifted, as you slowly return the carriage back to the stopper, maintaining that long diagonal line with your body.

Here’s what the semicircle looks like all together:

Before the Storm – Hurricane Katrina

Whether it’s good or bad, it’s got to be a party. Laissez le bon temp rouler!

The residents of this weather prone bowl were used to dire warnings. The bowl people had their own way of mitigating the damage of the usual autumn storm – whiskey smoothies and crawfish boils. It was no wonder that they took no mind of this year’s installment. Before it had even finished crossing Florida, residents here began boarding windows and accumulating provisions for the ‘Hurricane Parties’ that would be taking over the city, block by block. It was hard to tell whether the electricity in the air was atmospheric, or something emanating from the revelers below. Signs outside shops announced closers with the giddy excitement of school kids with an unexpected day off. The anticipation had not yet turned dark. Even as the clouds rolled in lower and denser and darker so did the citywide celebration crescendo to a fever pitch. It wasn’t until the storm passed that fear began to set in. It wasn’t nature we had to fear, but man himself.