Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Tonight I am having my first dinner party in my new apartment  – yay and yay! I decided to get crazy and put some labor into making a side dish of fava beans. They are so simple and very in season right now. The worst part? Peeling the beans out of their shell. That’s when I thought (not like slave labor), that it would be really fun to have a kid help me shell beans and teach your child/niece/nephew/grandchild the inner workings of a bean! So it will be a tasty snack and neat to see what the inside of a bean looks like for kids!

Fava beans have a brief season and are the national food of Egypt. I mentioned that favas are a labor of love, and here’s why: Fava beans come in a rather large pod (6 inches or so), which only contains about 3-4 beans per pod. They must be removed from the pod (not as simple as shelling peas), blanched, and then shelled again – favas have a secondary husk, which must be removed before eating. But! Without further ado, here’s a little tutorial. I hope it makes sense without pictures.

Fava Beans with Olive Oil and Parmesan
– Serves 2 as a little snack

  • 1 pound fava bean pods
  • Favas removed from pods (further description of husking follows; removing them from the pods should be self-explanatory)
  • Really good extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Good Parmesan

Place the favas in boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Rinse in cold water and begin the second shelling. Of course, as with all tedious things, there’s an easy way: (for a right-handed person) take the fava bean in your left hand, between thumb and forefinger, “belly” (hollow, scooped out side) up, with the sprout end (sometimes has a black striped) towards your right hand. With your right hand, hold a small paring knife perpendicular to the bean, cut horizontally across the sprout end, making a tiny slit. Squeeze the bean out of the husk; it should pop right out. Repeat, ad nauseum, remembering the whole time how delicious favas are and how much you are going to enjoy them.

Bring another pot of water to a boil and salt liberally. Add the husked beans and boil for another 2 minutes. Rinse the beans lightly in cold water and
drain well. Place on plates and drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add just a few tiny grates of Parmesan.

Eat, savoring bean by bean, enjoying the fruits of your labor.

How to Grow Beans with your Kids @ Home in a Jar: 


  1. Fill the cup with 2 inches of water
  2. Drop the two beans in the cup of water
  3. Leave the beans to soak overnight
  4. The following day, drain/empty the water from cup and take the beans out of the cup
  5. Fill the test tubes just over half way with the potting soil and place each bean inside the test tubes and fill the jar with more soil
  6. Place the test tubes in a well light and warm spot and be sure to water them every day.
  7. Watch the beans. They will begin to swell, then split. Then a small root will grow out of the bottom of the bean, reaching for the bottom of the jar. Soon, a small shoot will grow out of the top of the bean, reaching towards the top of the jar. When the temperature outside is warm enough, transfer the plants to your outside garden.
  8. Keep a close watch each day as you will be able to see how quickly the plants will grow.
  9. Have your children write a report, keep charts or color pictures–whatever they can do–to record this experiment.

Note:  Use a jar, clear plastic cups or a clear plastic container and plant the beans by the sides of the container so that you can watch the beans grow by looking through the clear container.

Did you know that plants need water to live?  As well as absorbing water from the atmosphere (air) through their leaves, they suck water up through their stems.

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Rabbitmoon "Geranium" Smocked Baby Doll Dress

Watching plants grow is a learning experience for children. Planting an herb garden with your child can help her understand where her food comes from and develop an appreciation for growing plants and gardening. Many herbs are easy to grow, making them a perfect introduction to gardening for kids. With summer here and plenty of sun, you might consider growing all you need to make your cooking sing in your own garden or backyard. Herbs don’t need much space and you don’t need to be a green-fingered wizard, either. You don’t even need a garden! In fact, you can start with a few pots on a windowsill or in a small sunny corner. When the plants are mature, you can all enjoy sampling the herbs you grew together.

The easiest herbs to grow are mustard and cress (and they go well in lunchtime egg mayonnaise or roast beef sandwiches!).

Take several empty egg cartons and fill the hollows where the eggs sat with cotton wool. Sprinkle on mustard and cress seeds and water gently. Place in a sunny spot and the seeds should germinate in about a week. Keep the cotton wool moist while the herbs are growing. Harvest with kitchen scissors when the plants are 4-5cm tall and add to egg mayonnaise, potato salad or roast beef sandwiches.

Step 1
Decide whether to plant your herb garden in indoor pots, outdoor containers or directly in your garden. Start with thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil and chives, recommends the University of Rhode Island. Plant indoors only if you have a window that provides at least six hours of sunlight every day or if you have access to a grow light.

Step 2
Sit down with your child and open the seed packets or look at the seedlings. Explain to him that the seeds are the brain of the plant. Purchase rosemary and chives as seedlings for better success.

Step 3
Amend your outdoor soil by working an organic fertilizer such as compost or soil mix into your garden with a trowel. Spoon potting soil into your containers, making certain the pots have drainage holes. Explain to your child that the soil amendments give your herbs the necessary nutrients.

Step 4
Have your child to sprinkle the seeds directly on top of the garden soil or into containers, following the planting directions for spacing. Be generous when planting herbs from seed to allow for inevitable seed loss. Lightly cover the newly planted seeds with soil. Tell your child to mark the row with a stake or plastic spoon.

Step 5
Dig a shallow hole in the soil for the purchased seedlings. Loosen the plant from its container. Give the plant to your child and help her set it into the prepared hole. Place the top of the root ball level with the top of the soil. Ask your child to push soil around the plant, packing it firmly so the seedling does not move.

Step 6
Water the new plants and seeds immediately. Water outdoor plants frequently in dry weather. Ask your child to water your indoor plants with a watering can. Watch for the seeds to push a tiny green stalk and leaf through the soil and look for new growth on the seedlings.

Step 7
Fertilize your plants using an organic herb fertilizer. Show your child how to thin the new plants by gently pulling out the smallest plants. Watch for insects, advises Utah State University, even though herbs usually attract fewer insects.

Step 8
Use the fresh herbs in recipes you and your child make. Pinch leaves directly off the mature plants and sprinkle on salads, in sauces or casserole dishes. Involve your child by asking him to get the herbs from your herb garden before you begin cooking.

Have fun!

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First lady Michelle Obama walks through the White House east colonnade with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, left, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, second from right, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, as they meet regarding the childhood obesity initiative. By Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

How much do you know about First Lady, Michelle Obama’s, initiative to end child obesity in one generation? Today is her 1 year anniversary in her initiative, “Let’s Move.” I watched an interview with her on NBC’s Today Show this morning and it was very inspiring and relatable. I grew up with parents who worked all the time (wait a sec, they still do!), and it was often that we would pick up food or go out because it was “too late to cook.” Similarly, Michelle Obama’s daughters were 6 and 9, and like any other working mom — struggling to juggle office hours, school pick-ups and mealtimes. By the end of the day, she was often too tired to make dinner, so she did what was easy: She ordered takeout or went to the drive-through. 

What is the overall concept of “Let’s Move”?
Most parents would do anything for their kids and want to give them the best chance in the world to be their best. Let’s Move operates under the principle that every family wants the same thing for their kid.  

Let’s Move (letsmove.gov) aims to do for healthy eating and exercise what the government’s anti-smoking campaign did in the 1960s: change how people think about their health. 

Michelle Obama stressed in her interview today that she doesn’t want parents to beat themselves up if they slip up from time to time or get a little relaxed about the food they serve or the time their kids spend in front of a screen. 

“We don’t have to be 100% perfect,” she says. “My kids eat dessert. My kids watch TV. … I love burgers and fries, and I don’t want to live a life where I can never have them again. And if we told families and children that that was the answer, we’d never get there. The beauty is we don’t need to be 100% of the way there. If we get 20% of the way there, we will change the health status of our kids for a generation.” 

So what is her ultimate goal?
To eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.  

“It’s an ambitious goal, but we don’t have time to wait,” the first lady said in an interview with USA TODAY. “We’ve got to stop citing statistics and wringing our hands and feeling guilty, and get going on this issue.” 

She says about 32% of children and adolescents today — 25 million kids — are obese or overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I completely agree with her that the extra LBS. are putting kids at great risk! Risk of what?

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • shorter lives 

Scary facts:
A 2005 study found that kids today may lead shorter lives by two to five years than their parents because of obesity.
Obesity costs the country a staggering $147 billion a year in weight-related medical bills, according to government data. 

How does Michelle Obama plan on doing it with her power in the White House?

  • more healthful food in schools
  • more accurate food labeling
  • better grocery stores in communities that don’t have them
  • public service announcements and efforts to get children to be more active. 

Her inspiration?
Upon moving into the white house – she took a year to settle her kids, but also got involved in a local elementary school where she set up an organic garden for the kids. “The garden was an important first step — just sort of exploring the ideas around nutrition and children,” Obama says. “I was curious to find out whether kids connected with this issue if we talked about it in terms of fun and gardening.” 

Image: By Mark Wilson, Getty Images

And they did. “Kids from urban environments, from households (like) mine, who were raised on fried foods and good, tasty stuff, were fully engaged in the process of planting these vegetables and watching them grow and harvesting them and cleaning them and cooking them and eating them, and writing about how vegetables were their friends,” she says. “So we thought we could be on to something here if we make this conversation a national conversation.”

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Paul and I are presently in Hong Kong – diligently working on the development of the upcoming Spring 2011 le•top, le•top baby and rabbitmoon collections.  We love Hong Kong (Paul’s birthplace) – it is a truly exciting city – the pace is fast and everyone seems to always have a purpose.  This is a fabulous place to absorb energy and excitement!  However, there are times that we miss our ‘other’ home in California – a place that is quiet and peaceful.  Yesterday we discovered that we could experience serenity – surprisingly enough right in the middle of Hong Kong!

Paul’s brother Anthony invited us and other family members to visit the Nan Lian Garden – a place we did not even know existed.  This is a classic Chinese style garden, in the style of the Tang dynasty, that was built over a period of more than 5 years.  The garden covers an area that is over 8 ½ acres – with meandering paths that take you on a journey that results in calm and tranquility.  Beautiful rocks – some so huge we wondered at how they could have possibly been transported – and grown trees were transported in from areas deep in China.  The garden was designed with attention to the minutest details – the buildings in the garden were all constructed using ancient building techniques – everything is put together without the use of nails, just as they did centuries ago.  There are ponds with large koi fish, waterfalls and beautiful plants. 

This garden is part of the Nan Lian Buddhist Nunnery – and held in trust for the enjoyment of the public.  There are no entrance fees – but a strict set of rules that everyone follows – no touching of the garden elements, no shouting or running and in general that visitors show respect.  The moment we entered the garden we felt a sense of peace descend – truly magical!

There is a special restaurant in the garden, maintained by the nuns, that serves vegetarian cuisine of the highest quality, appearance and taste.  We were treated to a very special dinner by Anthony – every one of the ten courses of the meal was entirely vegetarian – following Buddhist traditions that revere all living things.  I could not believe how delicious and varied the dishes could be!  We had a truly special experience – one that I will never forget.

If you are ever in Hong Kong take the time to visit this very extraordinary place, literally a stones throw from streets thronging with people and shopping areas filled with modern amenities.

Nan Lian Garden
60 Fung Tak Road
Diamond Hill – Kowloon – Hong Kong
(click the English button on the bottom right)

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Boxes and Boxes

Boxes Can Have a Second Life in a Garden

When it comes to saving our planet – every little bit helps. Recently we posted how we at le•top recycle our eco-friendly “trash”.  Shipments of garments come through each week and we end up with the  inevitable by-product – an overabundance of cardboard boxes.  Needless to say, we seized the opportunity to donate the boxes to the Hercules Sustainable Community Garden, which in turn uses them in their organic gardens in Hercules, CA.  With the help of our SUPER employees Linda and Tony, we hooked up with this group and hauled off a ton of boxes!

Hercules Letter

Click to See Full Size Letter

The Hercules Sustainable Community Garden Foundation was so sweet, they sent us a thank you letter and are promoting le•top on their site!  Moving one baby step closer to being a “green” company brings all of us at le•top peace of mind.

In return, a big thank you is due to the HSCGF for putting together this wonderful project.  We can’t wait to take a lunch time stroll around the beautiful community gardens when they are planted!

For those of you in the SF Bay Area, HSCGF is always looking for volunteers to get their hands dirty.  Get to know your neighbors while learning some new sustainable and organic gardening techniques.  Their website can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/herculesgardening/

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gardenTopOne of the great things about the San Francisco Bay Area is that we seem to be one of the hubs for the “green” scene. No matter where you live, I think most of us walk around with the question in the back of our minds: “How can I be a little more green?” No, not Kermit the Frog green, but eco-green.

The City of Hercules is about two exits away from le•top headquarters and is on their own “green” kick. Linda (a friendly voice on the le•top phones) teamed up with the City of Hercules on the Hercules Sustainable Community Garden Project and put le•top into action, helping this eco-friendly community garden build from the ground up.

Tony (our warehouse crew worker) loading the le•top boxes into the community garden van

Tony, our warehouse crew worker, is loading le•top boxes into the community garden van.

With Linda’s initiative, le•top has helped donate approximately 22,000 sq./ft. of cardboard needed for the garden’s bed. The cardboard is a great mulch for the ground as it dampens and deteriorates into the ground creating a great layer for the seeds to sprout. It’s also a wonderful weed preventative.

We are excited to be apart of this eco-friendly garden and can’t wait for its grand opening! I am personally looking forward to many a lunch-time to walk around it.gardenBottom

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Happy cyclist!

Happy cyclist!

We live in an area that has four distinct seasons. This lets us explore different outdoor activities. The summer season always makes me excited for bicycling. You get to see your neighborhood at a different pace when bicycling as opposed to driving your car. We began sharing our love of bicycling with our daughter at a young age. She first experienced bicycling as a bike trailer rider. We tried pulling the trailer on dirt roads near our house and quickly realized her little 10-month old head was bobbing up and down quite a bit! Maybe that type of road might not be the best for her age (as a licensed massage therapist by profession, I tend to be a bit protective of that central organ, the brain!). All was good as we biked the paved roads. She enjoyed being a passenger and sometimes would bring along stuffed animals and dolls to ride with her.

On her own energy she began to pedal a tricycle, then got the hang of a two wheeled bike with training wheels by the time she was two or three. When she was about three or four, we got a tag-along (trail-a-bike, third wheel – they have numerous names depending on the brands) attached to our adult bike, and she rode behind either my husband or myself. This bike attachment was pretty safe yet made the adult feel like they were riding with a drunk…as our daughter loved to lean from side to side as she pedaled! 😉 Most of the time we made it safely through our town doing errands or riding just for fun.

Dad and daughter bikers pulling into the driveway after a fun ride...

Dad and daughter bikers pulling into the driveway after a fun ride...

Sometimes my husband would create what he and my daughter called “the triple rig”: she would ride along on the tag-along which was attached to his bike, and the bike trailer would be attached to her bike. This way they could pedal to our local gardeners’ farmers’ market and bring home lots of veggies, fruit and other treats! We were amazed that the years passed so quickly and before long, she was pedaling her own two-wheeled bicycle along with us. It’s been a fun process that we hope becomes a life-long pattern of exercise and enjoyment for all of  us!

Where are you in the stages of bicycling with your kids – trailer, tag-along, tricycle, or 2-wheeled bike?

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