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The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Five--minus Four

Okay, so I don't have time to discuss the five things my senses are experiencing right now, but I do have time for one. And that will be...


Keeping Faith by Jodi Piccoult

In typical Piccoult style, this story focuses on a controversial topic. Little Faith is having conversations with God, who she refers to as a She. That, along with the ability to heal people and experiencing stigmata has got this girl thrust in the public eye. So, is she for real? Or is someone putting her up to it? Hmmm. An interesting premise, I did enjoy this book as a relatively light read, but was a bit disappointed that Piccoult's signature twist at the end was absent.

Little Children by Tom Perrotta

Another somewhat light read, this one did get me thinking, although not as deeply as I thought. The jacket cover seemed to promise another sort of book. At times, the author's descriptions were a turn off to me. But, then again, he did weave a pretty good story. A convicted child molester's story is intermingled with the story of the suburban affair between a stay at home mom and a stay at home dad. I found the book compelling, but the ending left me a little let down.

In Gratitude

~for the Goldfinches who decorate my back yard feeders like bright spots of sunshine.

~for old fashioned hardware stores with old fashioned service.

~for the library request system.

~for too many books to read due to many requests becoming available quickly.

~for the school year ending soon!

~for rhubarb.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Wild Kingdom

We love where we live. Living in the North 'burbs of Saint Paul/Minneapolis sometimes gets us a lot of teasing. For some reason, our urban dwelling friends just think it isn't cool enough in the 'burbs, but we love it here. I actually had someone say to me, "Oh, you live in the 'burbs, how could you possibly know about trendy design." Um, okay. It takes us about 20 minutes to get to either downtown, we have a huge yard compared to the city lots we've lived on, and best of all, we are surrounded by lots and lots of Ramsey County Open Space. These areas will never be built upon, so we get to drive by and also hike through beautiful natural spaces. This was part of the reason we moved where we did.

Both D and I grew up in the country. So, to be away from nature would be very hard for us. When we vacation or get spare moments, we like to hit the woods. We're proud to say that Young One prefers experiences in nature over just about anything else he'd be offered, including Disney World!

Yesterday, we were reminded many times why we love it here. As I was waking up over a steaming cup of hot coffee and Young One over some pancakes, we spotted an albino squirrel hopping along our fence. Yes, we probably could have seen this in the city too, but it was very cool nonetheless. On the way to the bus stop, a beautiful Robin's nest was discovered in one of our trees. As we waited for the bus, we watched a Bald Eagle circle in the sky. After school, an Indigo Bunting came to one of our bird feeders, and later, a beautiful hummingbird was hovering over our rhododendron bushes. Later in the evening, as we were talking to friends in the front yard, a pair of Osprey caught our attention with their screeching. As the sun set, we watched several herons glide by.

Maybe the 'burbs aren't cool, but we don't care. I've lived in the city and I've lived here. I'll take here any day!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Old Fashioned Flowers

I took a trip down memory lane yesterday while browsing at our neighborhood garden center. It's funny how as a kid, you don't realize that you're learning and filing away facts that will pop out at random times in your adulthood.

My mom wasn't much of a gardener. It wasn't that she didn't try or that she didn't want to be. I think it was just not a priority. Having three kids, working more than full time, and helping dad in the orchard took up all her time. In fact, sometimes I wonder how she ever had the energy to even think about planting a garden.

She inherited some perennials and a few flowering bushes from the previous owners of our farmhouse. She refused to trim back the lilacs and the mock orange bush, much preferring their wild abandon to manicured restraint. And wild they were. Her lilacs were almost as massive as the house and the mock orange bush exploded every summer in a riot of fragrant white blossoms.

A small perennial bed in the front yard sprouted delphiniums, some type of sedum, and my beloved peonies. Every Spring, the peonies would spring forth with red-tinged finger like branches, reaching for the sun. As they grew, massive blossoms bent the stalks nearly to breaking, sometimes trailing on the ground. They were always riddled with little black ants.

We'd cut the white blossoms and bring them into the house to sit in colored water, in the hopes of turning them unnatural shades of green or blue. Hitchhiking ants would cover our kitchen counter, much to mom's chagrin! I loved those white flowers, but it was the deep, rosy red ones that had the most special place in my heart. So beautiful were these crimson beauties, that we left them on the stems. They were much too pretty to pick.

At the garden center yesterday, I walked down the rows and down memory lane. Delphiniums just peeking from the pots, lilac bushes fragrant with unopened blossoms, and my beloved peonies. I finally purchased one for my garden. I don't know why it took so long. I have a special place for it, right in the front yard. And maybe, just maybe, I'll pick one of those big red blossoms to bring indoors.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

A delicious, light version of this traditional Springtime treat!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 8x8 pan sprayed with nonstick spray, add these ingredients:

1 pound strawberries
4 cup fresh or frozen rhubarb
2 Tbsp honey
2 TB cornstarch

Toss to combine.

In a bowl, crumble together:

1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar
4 TB light margarine, I only use Brummel and Brown
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Place crumble on top of filling. Bake about 40 minutes or until filling is tender and bubbling. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Five


Escape by Carolyn Jessop

A peek inside the FLDS polygamist sect told from a very personal perspective. Carolyn was born, raised, and married in this secretive society. While not much of a writer, I did find this book riveting. While I knew a bit about this type of Mormonism, I had no idea the extent of the abuse and brainwashing that exists in this cult. Carolyn paints a very sad picture. One that got me thinking about how lucky I have been in my life to be born as I was and married as I am. And one that got me thinking that we need to fight more for these helpless victims.


The birds singing. It really is going to be summer soon!


Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. It's a relatively light recipe. I'll share it soon.


Duh. The Crisp!


Gardening books. I'm working on so many outdoor plantings, my head is spinning! The books are keeping me organized.

I Dig Dirt or the Story of a Haphazard Garden

There's nothing like a few seedlings, some brightly colored seed packets, and a freshly tilled garden plot. I know, I KNOW! I live in the burbs. I couldn't possibly have a room for a garden. But, I do. And it's been both antagonizing and providing me great joy for the nine years that I've lived here.

We moved into this house in the fall which gave me some time to really settle in the house. As Spring dawned, I had had plenty of time to dream about the yard. As we had moved, nine times in seven years, I was ready to really to put down roots (pun intended)! So, I planned the garden for a good part of the winter.

D did the muscle work and even provided my garden with a picket fence and a gate that swung out on a somewhat squeaky hinge. And so began my love and sometimes hate of gardening. I planted an odd little assortment of vegetables and weeds. And I learned a few things that summer. Like the fact that raccoons know just when to harvest your corn just before it's ripe enough for human consumption. I also learned that no matter where it's grown or with how much love, a rutabaga will not be consumed by D or Young One.

That's OK. I loved my little garden. I planted herbs and flowers around it's border. It was a lot of work and as the summer went on, I tended to miss more weeds. Thankfully, the first frost came just as I was ready to throw in the towel.

And that's pretty much been the pattern of my gardening. Ask me about my veggies in the fall and I'll probably say, "I'm never doing this again." But, then winter comes and the blank, grayness of the landscape starts to get to me. And winter stretches out beyond my ability to cope. And those dang seed catalogues come. And I start thinking about... GREEN! And the cycle starts all over again.

I spent today digging in the dirt and my back is feeling it tonight! I planted zucchini, pole beans, asparagus beans, broccoli, kohlrabi, tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, onions, carrots, radishes, and rutabagas. My goal is to really tend it this year. And, hopefully, I can inspire Young One to join me. Maybe, he'll even eat some of it!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Five


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Oh, this book, this book. I loved it. When I finished it, I held it to my chest and just sighed. I wanted more, but it ended perfectly. What a fantastic look into the experiences of the Afghan people. This book centers on two women, their individual backgrounds and their relationship with each other. I have to admit, I knew very little about Afghanistan. I'm ashamed to share this fact. I mean, we've all watched the news, right? But, this book brings you deep into the heart of the people of Afghanistan and what life was like for them. This was more than a page turner, and I really don't want to tell much more about the story except that YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. I couldn't read this fast enough, yet I wanted to savor every word.

I plan to read something a little more lighthearted next book as A Thousand Splendid Suns is quite sad. But, you must read it. We all must truly understand what has happened there.


Dolly Parton 16 Biggest Hits

My best childhood friend shared tickets to Dolly's concert last night. In advance of that, I ran out and picked up this CD. It's a really fun compilation of Dolly's songs. How can you not sing along?


Chamomile lip balm. Very soothing.


Iced Kona coffee. By far the best coffee I've ever had. I don't waste a drop, so after I brew a pot, I put the leftovers in a pitcher in the fridge. It reheats very well and tastes great when served over ice with a splash of creamer.


Pansies. I just deadheaded my Pansy pots and window box. I just love them so much. They're such a sweet, friendly flower, with their little faces. I mixed several colors and kinds on my front porch and I just love how welcoming they are. I tried a new "ruffled" variety this year as accent plants and they look almost like orchids.

In Gratitude

~for Dolly Parton. Her concert last night was amazing. What a talented and genuinely kind person. I admire her for sticking to her values while pursuing her dreams.

~for old friends who really are the best ones.

~for moms. Not just my mom, but for all the women who mother in their own unique way.

~for gathering together with other moms. Thank goodness, I'm not alone.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!