Friday, December 21, 2007
Celebrity Detox by Rosie O'Donnell
A great insider's view of The View, this book chronicles the tumultuous year Rosie spent on moderating the daytime talk show. It's interspersed with tales of her childhood and fractured bits about the biz. I especially enjoyed the insight about Barbara and Barbra. An easy read, yet thought provoking.
A Very Special Acoustic Christmas by various artists
Finally, a Christmas cd that doesn't make me want to hurl it out the window.
Fresh pine at the garden center. I spent a delightful hour this morning shopping at a local garden center at their "it's almost Christmas" sale. Hanging out in the greenhouse felt like a mini trip to the tropics.
I haven't even started any Christmas baking yet. Hopefully, tomorrow! I don't have much to report on in taste this week. We've been eating a lot of leftovers and, GASP, frozen dinners. I'd be much more frazzled than I already am if I was actually cooking meals!
Wrapping paper, sticky tape, and bows. 'Tis the season!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
These wonderful cookies have fit well within my new, healthier lifestyle. At one WW point each, or three cookies for 2 points, I feel like I'm getting something decadent, sweet, and best of all: chocolaty! I'm sure these are going to be a staple in my home! Well, at least until I find something else as good!
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mini or regular size semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat egg whites until fluffy and soft peaks form. Add sugar, a little bit at a time, continuing to beat until all sugar is incorporated and mixture forms stiff peaks. Fold in vanilla and chocolate chips. Spray 2 cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour. Remove excess flour. Drop meringue by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake 30 minutes, switch racks and turn cookie sheets from front to back. Bake another 30 minutes. DO NOT OPEN OVEN! Leave cookies in oven, shut oven off, and let cookies stand in unlit oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy!
The Year of Fog
by Michelle Richmond
This book traces a traumatic year in the life of photographer Abby Mason after she loses her fiance's six-year-old daughter. The moment Abby stopped to photograph a dead baby seal while walking on a fog-bound beach in San Francisco is one she will replay in her head a thousand times. That's the last time she saw Emma, who was racing ahead, eager to collect sand dollars. Panic and fear soon give way to sheer exhaustion and emotional shutdown as Abby and Emma's dad, Jake, immerse themselves in the desperate search for the missing first-grader.
by Harlen Coban
A fluff-filled thriller, it's perfect for this busy time of year when you just wish to escape into an easy read. Cope, the main character, was a counselor at a summer camp in which several fellow counselors were murdered. Well, apparently murdered. It's filled with twists and turns, and has a somewhat predictable ending. However, it's a worthwhile read and a nice way to spend an afternoon.
I am Legend
by Richard Matheson
Just as chilling as the first time I read this as a teenager, Matheson just gets in my head and won't leave! His ability to completely engross the reader is timeless (the novel was written in the 1950s). You must read this before seeing all three versions of this movie: The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, Omega Man with Charlton Heston, and I am Legend with Will Smith--my reason for rereading this! Can't wait for the movie.
Talk Radio. I've OD'd on Christmas carols!
A Christmas Candle. Picked it up for less than $4 and I've got it sitting on my candle warmer. I love it! It's a combination of cinnamon, pine, and Christmas cookies! Really wonderful, especially since I'm trying to avoid eating too many of the holiday goodies that are around--just smelling them is enough!
I've made these delightful and delicious treats twice in the last week. They seem sinful, but are surprisingly point friendly! The recipe will be posted soon!
Many, many packages from UPS and the USPS--and a few from FedEx! I've done most of my shopping online and really enjoying the unveiling of each gift as they arrive.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Stuff Stuff Stuff. I get so tired of the push for more stuff. That isn't what it's all about, is it? I mean, has Santa really replaced _____ (fill in the blank with your chosen religion's seasonal symbol!) This time of year some members of my family, not blood related mind you, call frantically asking for details on all the STUFF that we want. I like to fondly refer to them as my outlaws. It's taken almost 15 years of marriage to make them realize I just won't do a list. It's not in me. The one year I caved on this ethical issue, it wrecked my holiday. And not only that, but I bought a few of the things on my list much to their chagrin and I refused to give them any more information about thread count, color, number or size. Their repeated phone calls met with my nonwillingness to play the game. One of my outlaws even had her Christmas list bound at Kinkos. It literally made me ill to visit her home any time of the year, seeing her Christmas list front and center on her refrigerator so she could add at will. The binding of the list pushed me over the edge.
I won't allow Young One to create a list. He's been dropping not so disguised hints lately and it's really quite funny. He still believes in Santa, and I do too! But, we really do make this holiday more about togetherness and happiness and not all about the STUFF.
I mean, how hard is it to shop for someone and to be creative enough to surprise them. If you know them well or even if you don't. Think outside the meticulously wrapped Christmas box (with bow purchased at Hallmark for $14.95 no less!). Give them the gift of an experience or make a donation in their name. Wander a grocery store and fill a basket with impulse buys. It's not that hard is it? It is the thought that counts, so if you require someone to make a list, how much thought have you put towards a gift--and what does that mean about how you feel about someone?
But, I'm digressing, back to the original thought.
I've only gotten up early once on Black Friday. I waited outside an OfficeMax store, internally berating myself for my participation in this odd tradition. I made small talk with a group of young college guys who wouldn't tell me what they were there to purchase, just in case I might battle them once we're inside, so I kept my mouth shut. Maybe this is what you do, I thought. Maybe I should keep the fact that I was clutching my now cold coffee mug waiting outside the doors of an office store at 5 in the morning just to get a free scanner (with rebate) and a cordless phone for $4 (with rebate). Oy!
The doors opened, everyone rushed, I thought I heard a few screams and I'm sure I felt a few feet trampling mine. There were employees directing traffic with deer in the headlights faces. One pointed me towards a ceiling high stack of scanners. I grabbed one, careful to step away from the pile just as a lady using her electric cart as a battering ram knocked the top layer off the tower. I ran to the checkout only to wait 30 minutes in line. I drove home, sweating, shaking and dodging road rage. I got the scanner, even remembered the damn rebate forms, but had completely forgotten the phone.
The scanner never did work. We just thew it out a couple of months ago. I did get the rebate, but it was in the form of store credit and I really have no need for great quantities of office supplies, so the rebate expired.
Moral of the story? I will be sleeping in, as much as I can on Black Friday. I will laugh and grimace at the same time when I see or hear about other's experiences. I will turn the channel when the news channels show people trampling over each other to get this year's "Cabbage Patch Doll" (remember those?). And I will still not make a list. It just isn't in me, nor is this pursuit of stuff stuff stuff.
This recipe has been in my recipe box for a long time. I take it out each year when I start to feel that chill in the air. It mixes up quickly and is both a delicious and thrifty alternative to purchased hot cocoa. It makes a big batch, so be sure to have a large storage container or use zip closure storage bags. You must mix very well. I have young one use a big whisk and he has a ball!
10 cups dry milk powder--use fat free
4 3/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
In a large mixing bowl, combine milk powder, confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and creamer. Stir till thoroughly combined. Store cocoa mixture in an airtight container. Makes about 15 cups mix, or enough for about 45 servings.
For 1 serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mixture in a coffee cup or mug, and add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve. Top with dollop of whipped cream or a few marshmallows, if desired.
Without marshmallows or whipped cream= 3 points per serving. I find half the amount of hot cocoa mix works best for me, so that's about 1 point per serving.
Catching Genius by Kristy Kiernan
Sisters Estella and Connie grew apart early-Estella, a genius, began college at 12 and was the apple of their father's eye, while the younger Connie was blessed with good looks and a charming personality. Now in their 40s and after eight years of not speaking, the sisters are forced together to pack up their childhood home in Florida as their mother prepares to sell it.
This is one of those can't put down books. I love the way the author changes the perspective of the story so that you can see it through both sisters' eyes. Having a brother, who is just as brilliant as Estella, makes this story especially poignant for me.
Young one hinting at Christmas gifts. Truly touching and funny all rolled up in a brown-eyed package. Love it.
Grapefruit candle from White Barn Candles set atop a candle warmer. I get busy and can't trust myself to blow out a candle when I'm not around it. So, I bought this fantastic candle warmer at Michael's for four bucks. I also grabbed a candle warmer cover to pretty it up a bit. My house smells great and I don't need to worry about the flame!
Decadent Dark and Delicious Sippin' Cocoa
Eating healthily has got me sippin' a lot to feel full and satisfied. I make this homemade cocoa every year. Thankfully, it's relatively healthy, but most importantly, it satisfies my chocolate crazes (not cravings--it's well beyond that!). Recipe to follow.
My laptop scratch pad. I'm Christmas shopping online and I feel like I'm on that mouse all day!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker
Nineteen years ago a famous man disappeared and took his two children with him to raise them in complete isolation in a utopian "Sanctuary." This story is what happens when those children venture out into the big wide world. It's really a fascinating story. It weaves past and present beautifully.
I'm tuning out more and more and just enjoying some peace and quiet.
Ok, this recipe needs a little tweaking, but it sure was great to wake up to a hearty, healthy breakfast. I'll keep playing with it and get a recipe posted soon.
My new antique kitchen table! Delightfully found by my mom at Goodwill, this table just fits in my house perfectly. I wish it could speak it's history!
Friday, November 2, 2007
Am I the only one tired of this?
I mean, have we become such a country of busy-ness that we can't savor each holiday as they come? Living in the moment has become living for the next thrill. And unfortunately, we're missing out on a lot.
Being thankful, celebrating Thanksgiving, has somehow become a casualty of our hurriedness. And I think it's happened before we could even raise a turkey drumstick in a resounding, defiant NO!
Is it that we aren't thankful anymore? Is this a trait no longer celebrated? Are families so busy, the holidays of Halloween and Christmas gotten so huge that they've overtaken the simple celebration of thanks? I hope not.
Speaking to a few kids at my son's class Halloween party, I was able to get a glimpse into what they see as the best holidays. Halloween and Christmas rank right up there. Thanksgiving, when mentioned, was met with a few simple comments. One girl's words are etched in my head, "Oh yeah, that holiday. We have to drive a hundred miles to eat turkey with my grandma. But, the shopping on Friday is fun." How sad. Whatever happened to Over the River and Through the Woods...
Remembering to be grateful is hard sometimes. I understand that. But, my biggest concern is that we're not living in the moment and that we're focusing as a society on the holidays that mean getting lots of stuff for ourselves and missing out on what's truely important. Sure, traveling some distance to celebrate with family for some might mean some strained relationships and swallowing an overcooked bird. But, it's more than that. Tradition, thankfulness, and togetherness cannot be overlooked. And they can't be bought or discounted.
So, in my family, at least. We'll be gathered around a big table with our loved ones. And before, during, and after the meal, we'll be giving thanks.
The before starts right now!
Monday, October 29, 2007
Kip has won the lottery and the prize is to get blasted into outer space. The kicker is, he gets stuck up there. And so he begins to write his epitaph, not knowing that anyone will ever receive it. Meanwhile, on Earth, the entire population is receiving his words. In fact, he's become a world phenomenon.
Sound Aida the Musical
I periodically delve into Broadway. Love this one. Elton John at his best and the vocals are amazing. Try to keep from singing along!
Scent Cinnamon and Sugar!
Taste Cinnamon Twists
I was dying for a cinnamon roll and these filled that craving! They'd also fit that, "I've got to have a cinnamon and sugar bagel or pretzel" craving!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take one can of refrigerated breadstick dough. Open, unroll dough, and cut in half to make 24 small sticks. Spray a baking sheet with butter flavored cooking spray. Place dough sticks on sheet. Spray dough with butter flavored cooking spray. Mix 2 TB of white sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Sprinkle about 1/4 tsp of cinnamon sugar mix onto the bread sticks. Tie each stick into a knot, stretching dough as necessary. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Enjoy!
2 WW points each twist
Touch The new red checked pillows I made!
One of the hardest things to keep in mind is that I didn't just suddenly inflate into fatness overnight. So, it makes sense that it will take a long time to deflate into a healthier weight. It's taken me almost a month now, to really get this. And I mean, really get it. But, I haven't been whining about it!
I read a lot of message boards and blogs about weight loss. Sometimes I just want to scream at some of the people who go on and on about the struggle. The struggle becomes the issue and they don't take the time to celebrate the fact that they're on their way. I know. I know! Everyone takes a different approach and everyone has a different journey that they need to take towards a healthier lifestyle. But, in the same respect, you choose what you put out there. You choose how you wish to look at this challenge. And the choice you make is probably the same choice you make in dealing with any difficult challenge in life.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is this. You need to flip a switch in your mind. And you need to celebrate the small things. So, the number on the scale isn't falling as quickly as you wish it too. What else can you look at to measure progress? Can you take joy in your clothes fitting better or feeling more energetic? Can you focus on the fact that you're on your way to a better lifestyle and that the scale can't measure that? Can you take all of that negative energy and beat it out during a workout?
I ask all of this because I get glimpses of that darkness when I see you reaching out on the Internet. And I chase those contagious feelings away as quickly as I can. Maybe these people need more help than they can get from anonymous internet connections. And maybe they're not ready to take this journey yet. Whatever the reason, I try to stay away from these feelings as much as possible. No, I'm not covering anything up. I'm just refusing to go there.
I've lost 1.3 pounds this week, making me just shy of 10 pounds gone. Slow and steady. I know I can win this race.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Can you believe this? I need to go bake or paint or take a walk. Something to wash this away.
Friday, October 26, 2007
We're so shocked at the image of blood, even the thought of blood. But, this war has been sanitized, dry cleaned, and hung up for our approval. Photoshopped images flash on our screens at six and ten. We no longer refer to dead soldiers, but have changed their names to "troops." So many troops died today in Iraq. And no one even questions it anymore.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Fall screams apples and I've written about my grandma's apple sauce. Being on Weight Watchers, I've risen to the challenge of trying to fit my favorite treats into the points plan. It's actually been quite fun. But, last weekend, it took every ounce of my being not to make my mom's apple pie. In fact, I began to think I could smell apple pie cooking and could almost see them cooling on my counter.
Now, I was not hallucinating from hunger, it was just this serious craving that suddenly came over me. I haven't really experienced this before except for a sad fixation on pizza rolls and cheap frozen pizza when I was pregnant with my son (what was that all about, anyway?).
So, I decided to take a Skillet Apple recipe that I've had in my apron's back pocket for a few years and slim it down. I simmered 2 medium sized apples and ate the whole pan full myself, alone, while watching a movie. It was fantastic! And the pie craving subsided. Figure about 2 points per apple.
I hope you enjoy.
Simmered Apple "Pie"
2 apples--use sweet apples like Honeycrisp (my favorite) or Fuji (my second favorite)
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp apple pie spice or cinnamon
1 TB Brummel and Brown
a little ginger if you like it
Wash, peel, core, and slice apples. Place pan over medium heat, add apples and the rest of ingredients. Cover and simmer, stirring often, and adding more water if they get dry. Cook until apples are tender, uncover if they're too wet. You can serve topped with low fat granola or crumbled cookie/graham cracker/animal cracker/cereal crumbs if you have more points. You must serve warm for full pie like nirvana.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
It's amazing how your perception of yourself can change over the years. Sorting through my closet recently, I noticed a great number of items that I haven't even worn yet. They were all purchased in sizes that are too small for me. I didn't buy them with the intention of wearing them when I lost a few pounds. They weren't extreme bargains that I just couldn't pass up. They were purchased thinking that they were the right size for me.
I'm always struck at the shock of seeing myself in a mirror at the mall or catching a glimpse of myself in a shop window. Who is that person standing so close to me? And then, I realize, it's me. I don't know how it happened and yet, there I stand. It's the same thing with snapshots. While I try to avoid cameras whenever possible, there are a few photos of me that are particularly eye opening. In fact, really seeing one for the first time is what prompted me to start losing weight.
There I am on the beach with my husband and son at my favorite place to escape to: Sanibel Island. And I'm enormous. I mean, even my elbows are huge--how does that happen? This is definitely my before picture. And I'll share it--once I have a really good after to show!
Anyway, I've got the before pictures and I have a couple of items of clothing that I just can't wait to get into. But, what keeps me going, is hearing my dad call me Little Butt again. And, while my dad has been gone three years now, I know that once I reach my goal, I'll hear it again, if only in my mind.
Friday, October 19, 2007
It's chocolate. And sometimes it's all that I can think about. Being on Weight Watchers and really trying to stick to my plan hasn't been as hard as I thought it was going to be. However, getting a real chocolate fix has been a challenge. Sorry folks, but a chocolate graham cracker isn't going to satisfy my cravings! Thankfully, there is a community of other WW devotees from which I can learn tricks, tips, and best of all recipes.
I discovered this recipe from one of them. I wasn't sure it would work. I mean, three ingredients and one of them is water? But, it did! And I'm happy to say, this recipe has more than satisfied my chocolate cravings. I'm looking forward to trying several variations of this recipe and I'll report my findings.
I hope you enjoy! The poster said it was one point for a piece, but using the recipe calculator thingamabob they have at ww.com it said two points. That's ok. It's worth it! It's decadent and delicious and you don't need to be on WW to enjoy it! Top with Cool Whip Free.
Chocolate Fudge Cake
1 Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 14 ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix!)
1/2 can water
Mix well and bake in a 9x13 inch pan as directed on the cake mix package. Serves 24. Cool and cut into serving size pieces for better portion control.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Sight The Owl and Moon Cafe by Jo-Ann Mapson
I'm not quite done with this one, but have enjoyed it so much, I wanted to share it with you. Four generations of women, all with their own unique perspectives and all with their own stories to tell, and all living under the same roof! I picked this book off the shelving cart of my local library and have enjoyed every page. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.
Sound Firecracker by the Wailin' Jennys
Just buy it, they're fantastic! Folky, great harmonies, and some sing along even if you can't sing tunes.
Scent Mud Cake
Watching my diet has been difficult. And getting my chocolate fix has been more of a challenge. This cake smells fantastic. I won't post the recipe unless it's good enough for this blog, but if the smell is any indication, it will be amazing!
Taste Stay tuned!
Touch Petting my freshly groomed Border Terrier, Pip!
Monday, October 15, 2007
This has to be said. I can't contain myself anymore. You look at me with your haughty superiority, holding your decaf skim latte to your side as you stare at my grocery store purchases while we wait to check out. I can read your thoughts.
You think, I did this to myself. That it's not because of the bad luck of inheriting fat genes. You know that it's because I sit night after night with my spoon rocketing back and forth between my mouth and a pint of Ben and Jerrys, even though there is no Ben and Jerrys in my cart.
For that matter, there has never been any Ben and Jerrys in my cart. I eat very healthy food. People are sometimes very surprised by that. That I love vegetables, don't eat fried food, and that my cholesterol is on the low end of normal.
I've seen you before. At the gym, at school functions, wherever I may wander. And you're all the same, same, same. The deep sigh of your attitude. I can't even meet your eyes.
There is nothing you can say or think that's any worse than anything that I've said to myself. There is no critical look or scrutiny that you can give me that I haven't already given myself. You see, we fat chicks wound ourselves every day with our thoughts, our avoidance of interactions, and our inability to just be who we are. We beat ourselves up daily. And so there's nothing you can do or say that will hurt worse than that.
Many of us work out daily. We lead active and fulfilling lives. We have loved ones, close families and friends. And we didn't get fat just from sitting around stuffing our faces. You see, the truth is, getting fat kind of sneaks up on you. You avoid facing it as much as possible. You hide behind bigger clothes and avoid even looking at those brands that you don't fit into anymore. You quit tucking in your shirt, but you don't really even notice that since it's much more comfortable not to.
I think the reason I'm writing to you, Skinny Chicks, is because I'm so tired of you making me feel worse than I already do about my body. I figured that if I just brought this out in the open, perhaps you would realize that what you are doing is in no way helpful to someone like me. In fact, it's really counterproductive. So, I've decided to just let you know, that we fat chicks aren't going to stand for it anymore.
And here's why: an ugly attitude is so much more ugly than my fat thighs. And judging someone based on their size is not only shallow, but perpetuates misunderstanding between people who are different from each other. And let's face it, we're all different.
So, instead of holding yourself superior, why don't you smile and say hello to me. Why don't you talk about the high price of groceries or make a joke about one of the tabloids? Why don't you mention the good old days when there were people who helped bag your food? Why don't you take a moment to try to connect with someone, bridge the gap? You might just find out that you like me and you might just find out how much I work out, exercise, and try to be active. You might just find out that it's you that has a problem reaching out--and maybe that's why you stand with your attitude.
I don't mean to be bitter. I know that most of this is my perception of what, for you, might be just a glancing look. And if that's it, I apologise. But, if it's not, then know I see you for what you are. And there's nothing worse than that.
A Fat Chick
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Good pictures of food require excellent lighting, well placed garnishes, great backdrops, and most importantly, a photographer with a full stomach. I took this shot in the two short seconds after I set it at my place at the table. And I didn't even preview it. Now, I could crop, edit, photoshop, etc, but then I couldn't tell you about this fantastic meal as quickly as I'd like to!
My husband and I are trying to eat a healthier diet. We've both joined Weight Watchers and are working out at least five days a week. It's been difficult at times, but also a welcome new challenge. We both see this as a necessary life change and definitely not a diet. And, to tell you the truth, I've had a lot of fun surfing the internet for new recipes that fit with our healthier lifestyle. If you're interested in a fantastic dessert, scroll down and try the Lemon Souffle. If you're a lemon lover, you'll love this one! And it's only 2 WW points and/or very low cal.
Just a sideline, I remember as a child, watching my mom trying to lose weight. It seemed to involve a great deal of cottage cheese and pineapple. And also Heath bars, which she told me were diet. Believing my mother to be the ultimate truth teller, I didn't try a Heath bar until I was well into my late teens. Imagine my surprise, and laughter, when I realized her hidden Heaths were delicious!
Anyway, I stumbled on this great pork chop recipe when I realized there was nothing, but chops and some venison from last year's hunting season in the freezer. The chops definitely won out over the venison. I was looking for comfort food. Something that would be worth my husband coming home to! I know this new, healthier life is a real challenge for him.
I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did! Total WW Points 7.
Braised Pork Chops with Pan Gravy
1/2 tsp Marjoram, dried
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 Bone-In Pork Chops
1/2 cup water
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup fat-free chicken broth
Season chops with herbs, sear in pan coated with nonstick spray. Add water and cover. Cook 45 minutes to an hour or until tender. Remove from pan. Stir cornstarch and chicken broth together. Whisk into pan juices. Cook until thickened. Serve over chops and with cooked Jasmine rice.
Cider Roasted Squash
1/3 cup apple cider
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 pound winter squash
1 TB Brummel and Brown
Cut squash in half, remove seeds and cut into eighths. Place into casserole. Pour cider over, sprinkler with cinnamon and dot with margarine. Cover and bake until tender.
Love love love pita bread. This is a great, low cal dinner bread.
Toasted Pita Bread
4 pita rounds
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Preheat oven to 425. Mix oil and garlic. Place pitas on a baking sheet. Brush with oil mixture. Heat in the oven, watching closely, until puffed and slightly browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt.
Michelangelo was intimidated by Pope Julius into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Even more interesting than the politics, power, and corruption of the Papal court is the fact that Michelangelo knew nothing about the art of fresco. You'd think this would be a dry read, but it's not. My dream is to get to Italy soon and I'm trying to read as much as I can about it before getting there.
Sound: The Waking Hour by David Francey
Love love love this artist. I just discovered him while wandering around Amazon. Folky, poetic, Francey gets in your soul. Born in Scotland (I guess my Scottish ancestors led me to him!), he makes Canada his home now. His melodic accent comes through in many of his songs. Stunning, yet simple lyrics. I'm definitely going to be investing in more of his work. http://www.davidfrancey.com/
Scent: The oven cleaning. Yuck.
I hate this smell, but it's got to be done. How can you get rid of that burnt metal smell. Anyone know?
Taste: Lemon Souffle
This amazingly light and low calorie dessert will impress guests and thrill your family. Like lemon meringue pie without the crust. Put it in the oven just before sitting down to dinner and serve right out of the oven. Yummy.
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup water
4 large egg white(s)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat six 1-cup soufflé dishes with cooking spray. Coat with 2 tablespoons sugar, tapping out excess so dishes are evenly coated.
In a small saucepan, stir together remaining sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in lemon juice and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until boiling, thick and translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer to mixing bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Fold into lemon base. Divide among soufflé dishes and smooth tops.
Set in a roasting pan and add hot water to come halfway up sides of dishes. Bake 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Touch: new jeans!
I'm losing weight and got some new, smaller size jeans in the mail today!
Simple moments like that sometimes creep into my day. Today, I was in a hurry all morning. There was laundry to do, the kitchen and bathrooms to clean, and some very dreaded vacuuming. Dreaded, because I had just done it yesterday, and young one had brought in some mud and tracked it from the backdoor all the way upstairs to his room. Isn't that how it is? You get something done, checked off that big list, and then whammy, you find you're doing it again. But, I digress.
This morning, my hubbie complained that he couldn't hear me on the phone. I was scurrying around trying to accomplish something, rather than just sitting and listening, as I guess I should have been doing. I was attempting to feed the dogs, not quite a quiet task. As the kibble dropping into the steel bowl, I couldn't really cammouflage the fact that I wasn't completely focused on, what for him, was a very important conversation. A missed, simple moment. (And yes, I am feeling thoroughly guilty about this!)
It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day clutter. We all have huge to do lists and so much that is yet to be done. I think our country as a whole has gotten caught up in the hurry scurry of being BUSY and we're not focusing on what is really important in life, the simple moments.
So, try as I might to be able to reach dear hubbie, to try to apologize or at least rid myself of some of the guilt, along came my little bird. Bright yellow goldfinch, peeking in on me. I stopped my rushed cleaning, thinking, what the heck am I rushing for, and stopped to look into his beady brown eyes. Staying as still as possible, I noticed a rare sight at my bird feeder just beyond my little gold friend. A bluebird, bright feathered with his signature orange breast, sat at my feeder. If not for my little goldfinch friend, I would have missed a Bluebird. They don't often come to feeders (they don't eat seed) and I usually only just glimpse them as they pass through my area in the Spring and the Fall. As the bluebird sat and preened, I watched a bright red Cardinal, a Purple Housefinch, and a black and white checkered Downy Woodpecker join him. My heart rate slowed down and I felt just a bit of peace in my busy day. Just what I needed, a simple moment.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
In fact, I think my favorite time of year is the fall. The change in the weather, the leaves, back to school, the way I cook after a summer of grilling-- I love it all.
Every year, we make a special trip to the cabin to celebrate my son's birthday. We spend the day with his best friend, hiking through the woods, walking on the country road picking "agates" (to them every pretty rock is a treasure!), and trying to spot critters. This year, was an unseasonably warm day, but the leaves were glorious.
We saw a Bald Eagle hunting, an amazing bright green tree frog, a Shamrock Orb Weaver Spider. We collected giant fern leaves, discovered mushrooms in amazing colors of pink and yellow, and were able to get up close and personal with a tree that a black bear had been scratching on.
The kids were able to shoot a pellet gun, setting up elaborate targets. They climbed trees, got dirty, knocked over dead trees, lifted giant logs searching for salamanders, and just generally enjoyed the outdoors. They picked up garbage off the road from careless passerbys and identified many animal tracks (some, I even think they got right!) It got me thinking about the number of kids who never get to see and experience a woods or grandpa's farm or spend a day out in nature. And, while thinking of this, and watching the sheer joy and smiles on the boys' faces, it made me just a little sad.
As cities grow larger and families become busier, will many children grow up nature deprived? Will they have no thought for our green spaces and before we know it, will the importance of the outdoors be lost on a generation? Something to think about. I know there are books written about this, but the reality of it really hit home this weekend.
Enjoy the pictures!
Friday, September 14, 2007
I support library book sales and libraries in any way that I can. This book was purchased at a small town library book sale. Every once in a while, I need to read something that's just fluff. I thought this would be a nice, light read, predictable, but fun. And that's exactly what it was. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sound: Some Hearts by Carrie Underwood
I get a lot of grief for loving just about any music that I lay my ears on. On any given day, depending on my mood, I'll listen to bluegrass, folk, classical, rock, hard rock, pop, punk, Broadway, country--you name it, I'll listen to it. Catch me mad or having to scrub something and I might just be blasting Aerosmith. Need some energy, I'll pop in some Wynonna. Feeling sad, I just might look to Barbra Streisand for a little inspiration. This week, I've been tackling some much needed cleaning and organizing around the house. Carrie has been the best, sing-along-and-clean music I've heard in a long time.
Scent: Lemon scented ammonia.
It's 50 degrees outside and I've got the windows open, the music blaring, and I'm stripping my kitchen floor. It's really more ammonia than lemon, and my sinuses have sure got a workout! I'm halfway through the job and wondering why I decided to do this today!
Taste: Double Fudge Brownies
Touch: My new Baker's Edge pan!
If you love the edge cut of your favorite bar recipe, you've got to get one of these!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
orchard apples--enough to fill the pot or crockpot your cooking the sauce in. A mix of apple varieties provides the best flavor. Go to your local orchard and buy second quality apples. Never buy first quality for cooking! Wash, quarter, core, peel, and slice into your pot. You can use one of those apple peeler things, but I think they leave too much core in the apple. Sit down, put on some good tunes, and while away an hour or so peeling apples. It can be a very peaceful, albeit hand cramping, time in your day!
Add a small amount of sugar--Norman always used lots of sugar, much more than I do, and I guess that's why her sauce is so good! I use less because of Young One, but also because I like a tarter sauce. It's important to add the sugar at the beginning of the cooking process so that it caramelizes.
Cook over low heat, stirring often, until apples are softened and a light brown color is achieved. I use my crock pot on high and stay close, because it gets done very quickly. I like to leave it slightly chunky. When Young One was a baby, I left the sugar out and cooked it until the apples completely fell apart.
Enjoy warm or cold. It's great with vanilla bean ice cream and a sprinkling of homemade granola.
The one thing I know for sure about being a parent is that you're guilt ridden at every step, so I'm learning to forgive myself, and move on. It's easy to type this, but not so easy to live it. I think I heard somewhere, that Mom is Latin for guilt. Well, not really, but sometimes it feels like it.
So, he carried his Lunchables two days, ate hot lunch one day (It's PANCAKE DAY MOM), and I sent a healthy lunch one day. The lunch I packed was enjoyed, but it didn't travel very well. And the amount of trash that it generated was not fitting with my attempt at cutting down on waste in our house. So, I caved once again, and bought a Laptop Lunchbox system on ebay. And we love it.
Laptop Lunchboxes are compartmentalized lunch totes, made from Tupperware-like plastic. It's like a Japanese Bento box. It washes up easily, comes in an insulated carrier, and is completed by a drink bottle and utensils. Young One loves it and can't wait to use it. The "system" we purchased came with a recipe book and guide to healthy eating. I don't know how far into that we'll wade, but may use it for inspiration.
Right now, we're at peak harvest time, so we've been hitting the farmers markets and enjoying fantastic fruits and veggies from the grocery store. The best way I've found to get Young One to eat fruits and veggies is to make sure he's really hungry when he's trying them and to make sure to present a wide variety. It's going to be interesting to see what can get packed into his laptop lunchbox and what will come back home.
I'll keep you posted!
I don't normally read thrillers/crime novels, but this one caught and held my attention. Set in Ireland, the author, a woman who lives in my area, is amazing in her descriptions of Ireland. She also creates characters that are instantly recognizable and become more and more endearing with each page.
Sound: Spring Awakening by the Original Broadway Cast
Nothing short of spectacular. Can't wait until it makes it way to Minneapolis. Or I just might have to make the trip to NY for this one.
Scent: Homemade Applesauce
Taste: Homemade Applesauce!
Touch: Vintage Tableclothes
I'm making pillows out of vintage tableclothes. The fabrics go wonderfully with my antiques. I love the colors and they're so durable and kid friendly.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
This year, my garden just didn't work out. And, I'm ashamed to admit, my zucchini didn't produce any squash. How can this be possible? Zucchini can be grown by just about anyone. It's the butt of jokes, and it's ginormous yields are the stuff of legend. I tried every trick in the book to get them to polinate, but no squash was produced. And then we got hit with a horrible hail storm.
This year, I had to (gasp) get zucchini from a friend. Her relief at being able to get rid of some of her bounty was apparent, although restrained. Those of us who've raised the mighty green squash know that you can't get too excited when someone's willing to take some off your hands--you don't want to chase your recipient away from future hand outs.
I've been known to secretly deliver my zucchini bounty in the dead of night. Stealthily stalking neighbors and friends, I'll leave my green calling card on their front porch and then run for cover. Heck a friendly smile at the mailbox from a new neighbor just might insight me to rush a basket of fresh from the garden zucchini to their doorstep. Anonymous zucchini drops are commonplace around here. I even got one last year while I was out making my own deliveries!
When my harvest is plentiful, I've been known to serve the squash hidden in all three meals of the day. Shredded, it can be added to breads, muffins, sauces, and pasta bakes. But, this year, since I'm zucch-less (and yes that is a word), I'm using it as the feature flavor. These are two of my favorite zucchini recipes. I hope you enjoy!
Teriyaki Zucchini Stir Fry
Splash of canola oil
Zucchini, cut into rectangles--halve lengthwise and cut into long strips, then cut into 2 inch pieces
One large onion, sliced
Fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Prep all vegetables before heating pan. This one cooks up fast, so be prepared to be with the pan the whole time! Heat a wok or frying pan over high heat. Add a splash of oil. Drop in vegetables and, using two wooden spoons, stir fry until veggies are tender and caramelized. Remove from heat. Season with teriyaki sauce to taste, coating vegetables well. Don't use too much or it will be too salty. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice.
Zucchini Corn Saute
A splash of olive oil
Several small zucchini cut into coins
One medium onion, diced
Canned or frozen corn
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese: Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack--whatever you have around
Heat a wok or frying pan over medium high heat. Splash with olive oil. Add onion and zucchini. Cook until caramelized and tender. Add corn and cook until heated through, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and top with a small amount of shredded cheese. Enjoy!
Great fictional book of letters from a woman in Iowa to her sister back home. It's set during the Civil War and provides a unique perspective of this time of our history.
Sound: Songbird by Eva Cassidy
I first heard Eva at a hospice memorial service for my dad. Sadly, Eva died very young from melanoma. Her amazing voice and music live on.
Scent: Fall is in the air!
Taste: Teriyaki Zucchini Stir Fry
Touch: New school clothes!
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We're going through a difficult time in our house. Summer hasn't been long enough, but between our busy schedule and his friend's filled calendars, he's been missing his school friends. I'm trying to balance this topsy turvy time of year the best I can. There's a great deal of joy to be found with recent purchases of new "school" shoes, new pencils, and the obligatory new backpack (this one on wheels!). And we all know, there's nothing like the smell of a new crayon box, even though, I've been informed, that they use markers in fourth grade. Hey, I deserve a new box of crayons every year, don't I?
Anyway, I'm getting off the subject a bit. Along with trying to present school in the best light and balancing the dreaded return with the thought of making it a really great year, we've taken a look at the proposed school lunch menu for September. And I have to say, after a summer of making really healthy choices, it's got me a little down. It's also sparked some interesting conversations around the house about just what would be a healthy hot lunch at school, how some menu choices just fall very short of what they should be, and how what we put in our bodies ultimately fuels our minds. Ok, that's getting a little "let's all join hands and sing" for me, but you understand where I'm going.
For the most part, school lunch fails to meet our parenting ideals of what kids should really have for lunch. It's colorless, salty, and filled with far too many prepackaged foods. So, we've decided in our home to try using school hot lunch less and less and try taking lunch along more and more. I have visions of packing individual containers of fresh sugarsnap peas, yogurt, and lentils, but the reality is, it may take some time for young one to get used to this.
There are expensive options out there for laptop style lunchboxes, but I really don't think it's necessary to spend a fortune on small plastic containers. We'll use what we have here and send them in an insulated bag that he's had for a while. We've got a great Thermos for hot and/or cold stuff. My goal is to use only reusable containers and to concentrate on packing great lunches that will rank high on the lunch trading scale of deliciousness (and Lord help me if he does figure out he can trade for nuggets or fries!).
I'm looking forward to trying this. I understand it will be a bit of an investment in time and I'd gladly welcome any suggested menus. There are some great websites out there outlining kid friendly fare, but I'd like to hear from people who've made it work and what they're serving.
Friday, August 17, 2007
My garden is filled with tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, zucchini, broccoli, and rutabagas. My attempts at growing Chinese Long Beans and Baby Bush Squash had miserably failed earlier in the season. And my sweet corn was enjoyed for the fourth year in a row by a raccoon who seems to enjoy taunting me with his ability to pluck the corn from the stalk just a few days before it's at it's peak ripeness.
At this time of year, I begin losing interest in my garden. I'm often longing for the change of seasons, looking forward to cooler weather and school to begin again. The reality of my garden isn't exactly as I planned it in the Spring. I remember my planning sessions and many drafts of my garden layout fondly, knowing I'll do it again every Spring. I think people who live in areas where the seasons don't change, don't understand this need to dig in the dirt once the snow thaws! We plan, seed catalogs in hand, long before Spring has sprung.
But, I digress. There is a bit of a gambler in me. I rarely measure when I cook and I like to try new things. Gardening is the same type of gamble. Plant these little seeds and you just might get something amazing. Or, as in my case this summer, you just might battle Mother Nature and lose.
Heat and hail. There's nothing I could have done differently in my garden this year. The beautiful plants that just didn't get time to produce were knocked down and splintered by two to three inch balls of ice falling from stormy skies. It happened in just a few short minutes. And in a way, it was really ok. I was really ok. Because that's what happens when you gamble, sometimes you win and sometimes, well, you just have to surrender.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
We've had a hot summer here in Minnesota. Temperatures and humidity have soared to new highs. The heat has been relentless and nerves have been on edge. So, you ask, you're baking bread? Turning your oven on in to raise the temperature even higher?
No. But, I've been wanting to do it for weeks! Every day, I've checked the forecast, I've poked my nose out of the air conditioning, and it's been hot, hot, hot! And my craving for homemade molasses bread has continued on and on.
And then, I woke up this morning to find open the windows weather! Blissfully cool, dry breezy BREAD BAKIN' WEATHER! I've never been able to do a cartwheel, but I almost tried this morning.
A break in the hot weather has got spirits soaring all over our neighborhood. With the windows open as I was kneading bread, I could hear kids laughing and lawn mowers humming. I honestly had a bit of a June Cleaver moment, well, without the starched apron and the Valium induced smile.
Here's a variation on my Great Aunt Marilyn's Molasses Bread. She's a grand old soul who never makes less than a dozen of these sweetly scented loaves. I scaled it down to make three large loaves and adjusted the recipe to suit what was in my pantry. If you can't get cool weather, crank the airconditioning to sub zero and bake away!
Marilyn's Molasses Bread
2 TB active dry yeast (or 2 packages)
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups lukewarm water
3/4 cup molasses--I didn't have enough molasses, so I used real maple syrup to
1/4 cup real butter, melted
1 TB salt
2 tsp cinnamon
12 cups flour--I used 11 cups unbleached bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups raisins
Grease 3 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Dissolve yeast in 1 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl and add 2 tsp sugar. Mix in remaining water(3 cups), 3/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1 tbsp salt. Add to the yeast mixture and add the remaining sugar (1/2 cup minus the 2 tsp); mix until smooth.
Add the 12 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the 2 1/2 cups of raisins. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 12-15 minutes). Keeping the dough warm, grease a large mixing bowl with butter. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour)
Punch down the dough and divide it into three even parts. Place in the 3 pans. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375° F.Place the pans on the lower rack. Bake until loaves are golden brown, about 40 to 60 minutes. (Or until a spouse or child yells, "Is it done yet?" at least 3 times.) Remove bread from pans and brush the tops with melted butter. Place on wire racks. I dare you to wait until it's cool to try it!
I've been a reader of several blogs for years. I have my favorites and hope to include them here sometime. I love the foodie blogs, but really don't want to just concentrate this blog on food, although I definitely love to shop for, read about, and cook good food. Food will be a central focus, but I hope to touch on more.
So, join me, will you? This feels like a take a deep breath moment. Here we go.
Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!