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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Funky Flowers

I have been taking pictures of the flowers in my yard for the past few years using a special "tool" along with my camera.  It's been lots of fun and I can't wait to take more this summer.  But for now, this is the first batch of spring flowers:  can you guess what they are?

Here's what they really look like:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Has It Been Two Years Already?

I realized the other day that I have been blogging for two years, since February 2010.  Then I got to thinking about what it's done for my life.  

I've discovered I can tackle something I have no clue about, and make it fun and learn along the way.  

I've made many wonderful friends across the world and realized we are all pretty much the same, but different in ways that make me smile.

I've discovered that if I could figure out how to make a living off blogging, I would.  So far, I haven't worked that out, so I must keep that full time job to pay the bills.  And I haven't decided if that's something that will limit my creativity, or expand it.  

I have found an outlet for my inner ramblings.  Now everyone can peek into my inner thoughts and random nonsense. It keeps me sane.  Online vomiting is a good thing!

I have realized that I love to share what I'm reading, cooking, and doing in my backyard gardening.  And I get to take pictures and share them, too.  

This has enabled me to stretch myself and figure out how to use my computer, camera, iTouch, and produce podcasts to share with others.  Wow!  I can't believe I can do these things.  And there's so much more to learn.

Blogging can suck up so much of my time that I get nothing done.  It's all about balance this year.  Not blogging so much, reading other blogs every few days instead of all the time.  I make an effort to comment, cause everyone loves to know others are reading your words.

I've learned that a blogging book club is a great idea, but just doesn't fly.  It's easier to post a review and then have people talk about a book than get people to read one book a month together.   This was a huge disappointment to me, but a lesson in letting go and moving on.  And it's the same in "real life", too.  People love the idea of a book club, but don't want to commit.  Ce' La Vie. 

I have learned that if women ruled the world, we would eat incredible food, run like hell, and laugh all the time.  

Blogging is fun for me.  It's not a forum for discussing life problems, or how the world is going down the shitter.  It's a place where I can just have a good time, with occasional bouts of seriousness.  

So here's to another year of discovery, laughter, and great recipes.  And yes, photos of flowers.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gardening in March?! What??

Our beautiful, unseasonably warm weather continues for most of this week.  I think today is the last day til the weekend where we are having sunny skies and temps in the high 70's.  So, this guilted me into going out into the backyard to begin cleaning up the junk left over from last Fall.  Last Fall, I was preoccupied with training for a half marathon, and I pretty much left the yard to the fates.  Besides spending one afternoon blowing leaves from the lawn, I cut down a few perennials and called it a day.

Doesn't look too bad for being neglected.  I have to keep reminding myself it's only March, and not late April.  It's hard to do when the lawn is turning green, and these are popping up about a month earlier than they should:

Bleeding Hearts--I have two plants, and they will triple their size in the next few weeks.  Can't wait to see them flowering.

Daffodils are up and blooming!  Reminds me that I need to plant more for next year.  They make me smile.

These are my "Crap, I don't know what to do with these, so they'll go here" plants:  tiger lilies.  Also known as Ditch Lilies, since they grow wild here.  Just pull over on a country road with a shovel and dig a few up.  Love to see them in the summer blooming all over the back yard.  

And I even have a few hostas already up.  Huh?  Most of them are still hiding.  And--happy day!!  I believe my lavender plants have survived another winter and are showing some green.  This past winter really was so mild, I would be shocked if they didn't pop up again.  The rosemary and oregano I had in pots on the patio have been cut back and are showing signs of coming to life again.  Thought they were toast, but the other day I saw green so I cut away the dead stuff and checked again today and now there's even more new green growth. Saves me a bit of money on new herbs--so I can spend more on basil plants. 

I'm looking forward to spending more time in the yard this summer.  It is a great way to work those muscles--especially the legs.  The first few years I had my house, I spent a lot of time around the yard, putting in plants, digging up grass, and putting down rocks.  Now it's time to reassess, plant new stuff, and have lots of flowers blooming in the coming months.  

And I'm so out of shape, 30 minutes in the yard raking, clipping, and pulling junk has left me sore.  Off to ride my bike!  Enjoy the day :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Latest Food Addiction! Woohoo!!

found it here
This picture is so darn big 'cause this dressing is looming rather large in my life lately.  A trip to Trader Joe's a month or so ago had me picking up two of these--one for me, one for a friend who loves it so much it was like crack to her mouth.    I put it in my cupboard and proceeded to forget about it for a few weeks, until I decided to make a salad for work lunch and thought "Hey, I think I'll try that dressing."

Composing my salad of mixed greens, kalamata olives, croutons, and roasted red peppers, I grabbed the bottle and took a dab with my finger.  Hmm.  My recent knowledge of Green Goddess Dressing was not what this tasted like--then I realized this isn't Green Goddess Dressing, but just plain 'ole Goddess Dressing.  It has tahini in it, which takes it to a whole new place on the taste bud scale.  Green Goddess dressing is a mix of avocado, herbs, lemon juice, and other things.  This dressing has none of that in it.  Totally different in taste and appearance.

My taste buds loved it.  I have had 4 salads now, each with this dressing and no cheese.  Historic  because I pretty much always put some kind of cheese on my salad.  But with this dressing, the richness requires no cheese, thank you.  And--the taste is so huge, you really don't need much to dress your salad.  That tahini taste goes a long way.  

I'm going to be near Trader Joe's again in a few weeks, and I've already told Bud we need to stop.  I will be buying bottles of this dressing to help me make it through the summer.  It is that good.  And, it is also an excellent dipper for pretzels--and probably anything else you'd dip in a dip.  Yum.

What's your latest food discovery/addiction/can't live without?  Besides salted caramel frosting, this dressing, and umm...a rediscovery for Bananas Foster, I am hoping I'll suddenly crave raw veggies and water all the time, 24/7.  My thighs and belly certainly need them.  It will be easy as heck to eat more salads with this yummy dressing in my kitchen.  Thank you, Trader Joe's!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Cleaning Has Begun

It is uncommonly beautiful in Iowa today.  Usually this time of year is full of mud and muck and brown everywhere.  Today it's sunny, in the low 70's, and the earth is waking up!  I am torn between going out for a run and taking the bike out for a spin.  I think running will win out, since I desperately need the cardio and I have a 5K in a few months that I want to be prepared to run fast!

A dentist appointment is putting a snag in my day, so I have tried to be productive  around the time for my fantastic x-ray, teeth cleaning, fun fun fun dentist visit this afternoon.  Since I don't want to be all gross and sweaty lying in that chair, I'm going for a run afterwards.  Somehow I'll have to ignore that bizarre craving for McDonald's I always get after a dentist visit and go for a run instead.  Then it's a few errands, then back home to get cleaned up and prepare for a supper on the grill.  

Instead of lying around this morning (oh so tempting) I went outside and started to tackle a few yard projects that will need to be done.  Here's one project I managed to accomplish this morning:

 This is what the path from my patio to the garden shed looked like before I took a shovel to it.  It's been slowly consumed by the yard over the years.
This is what it looks like now!  There's actually a stone path under all that muck.  A good rain will wash that dirt off and I've managed to bring back the path from a certain fate (becoming part of the yard).  Anything that requires less mowing gets a thumbs up from me.  And it all took just about 15-20 minutes with a shovel and my Yardy.  

While I was outside, I opened up the garage.  Uggh.  It's small, but messy.  Lots of accumulated junk.  After living in my house for 11 years, I realize I've left a lot of things to just gather dust, instead of taking care of them when I should.  So I cleaned up the garage a bit, swept it out, and it looks much better.  Still some work to do, but much of the old seed packs, flower pots, and empty grass seed bags are in the trash.  And I found these:
My Dad made these for a friend's Mom years ago.  They were in her garden for quite awhile, until she sold her house.  My friend brought them back to me, and unfortunately the roofs of the birdhouses fell off, and I must have tossed them last Fall.  Pondering whether I should let them go or keep them, I had a great idea that I can't wait to try out.  Dad's bird houses will once again grace a garden.  Wait and see in an upcoming post what I do with them.  Repurpose, recycle, remember.

And I saw signs of Spring in my yard:

Keeping with the advice my friend Diane talks about in her blog , I am looking around the yard and making plans on what to work on when.  Happy to have made a start today, but lots more to do.  It's only March, so I feel ahead of the game, since this is usually stuff I don't start on until the end of April.  

If this weather changes, I'll be pissed.  I'm ready to plant some herbs in pots and get my garden moving again!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Review: Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas

Probably not the smartest thing to read the day after I decide to get semi-serious about cutting out the garbage and beginning to run/walk again.  

But, I'm giving two book talks next week at a women's conference and thought I'd toss in a fun nonfiction book about food and Paris--a win win for most women.

Paris, My Sweet is Amy Thomas' book about living in Paris for 2 years and working as a writer for the Louis Vuitton empire.  Amy relocates from New York for a short 6 month stint that becomes a bit longer as she falls in and out of love with her job and Paris. 

One thing you must know about Amy:  she loves sweets.  She wrote a blog in New York about fabulous desserts around town, and went on a one week self-guided chocolate tour of Paris a few years before getting her golden opportunity and moving there for her job.  This book is chock full of places to go in  the wonderful city of Paris for sweets of any kind:  croissants, chocolate cakes, bonbons, and so many other bits of heaven that I feel like I've sampled them all.  She also talks about the wonderful breads, cheeses, and pretty much any food she comes across in Paris--and is amused at the number of "Frenchies" that flock to American fast food restaurants.  

What I liked about this book was Amy's attitude.  She's 36 and has had a lifetime of fun, friends, and a typical single New York life.  But she realizes that she needs to take this opportunity and make the most of it.  Her friends have begun to find partners and have babies, until she's the only single one around.  It gives her lots to think about--where does she want to go with her life?  Does she want to have kids?  What kind of career choices should she make?  Should she stay in Paris or go back to New York?  

All the kind of stuff that makes a woman run to the nearest sweet place and buy a little gift of love for herself.  Amy's time in Paris, while filled with moments of absolute happiness and bliss, are also peppered with loneliness, a feeling of not fitting in both with the language and as a single woman (apparently Parisians do not like to hang around single men and women--everything is built around couples), and feeling isolated from a true Paris experience.  Amy manages to write about all of these conflicting feelings without sounding like a whiney baby.

This was a cute biography that made me really think about what I put in my mouth.  How much stuff do we eat that has no flavor, no love or care put into it?  I want to make a baguette all by myself, in my teeny kitchen.  I want to taste what I'm eating!  So really, it was a great book to read for me at this time.  It's helped me focus on eating good food that is prepared with care and is bursting with flavor.  And--pay attention to what I'm eating slowly .

And if you're ever in Paris, she's listed all her favorites in the back of the book.  


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Coffee, Ham Sandwiches, And Moi

My life has become so damn boring lately that I'm even tired of myself.  

The highlight of my last week was making and eating brownies with a salted carmel frosting.  Of course I ate too much and felt sick for the rest of the day, until I took a nap and then made chicken and noodles.  That was Saturday.  

By Sunday night, I felt revived enough (and the sugar had all left my body) to eat another big chunk of the brownies.  They still tasted awesome, and I have decided that I have not lived until last Saturday, when I made that salted carmel frosting.  

Now it's Thursday night; I have tomorrow off but have to spend it sitting at the hospital waiting for my Mom to have a special experience with a scope in a special place. This will be optimum reading time, since I have no idea how long it will take, and don't want to leave and come back in case something weird happens.  Nook will be fully charged and a back up book will be in my purse.  

I talked in my last post about reading off the shelves at home, and rewarding myself with a $5 deposit in my trip fund for every book I read that I already have at home sitting on my shelves.  Well, I'm up $5!  Finished a wonderful book and found the letter  from the publisher in the ARC I had on the shelf--and it was dated February 2011.  So yes, I had that book on my shelf for a year.  So long that it originally came out in hardcover, and now the paperback is coming out in a few weeks.  Oops.  (BTW, ARC means advance reader's copy.  Usually a paperback version of the book that's coming out in hardcover.)

But this has fired me up!  Bud was laughing at me last night as I prowled from bookcase to bookcase, perusing the titles and trying to figure out what to read next.  Like I don't already have 4 books started.  Now I'll have 5.  

And since tonight I'm going to be lying on the couch, reading away, I though I would include a recipe for a super easy dinner that Bud calls "Breadcrumb Pasta". I made it last night for supper cause I wanted some comfort food, and after a busy day at work it is a no brainer for a quick meal.  I calculated a rough estimate of how much it cost to make, and I came in at around $5 for both Bud and I to eat a huge pan of it.  I substitute deli ham for the proscuitto, since it's so horribly expensive.  I bought enough ham to make myself a few sandwiches and have enough left over for homemade pizza on Friday night.  Here's the recipe, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis:

Oh--another thing:  I cut down on the olive oil a bit, and keep back a cup of the pasta water just in case the pasta gets a bit dry when you're mixing it together.  I also toss the ham into the breadcrumbs while they're toasting so it warms up.

I usually roast broccoli to have with this, too.  

There's always enough left over for Bud to have for lunch the next day.  This is how much I love this man--I give up this highly addictive pasta dish for his lunch.  Sad clown face for me!