Friday, May 29, 2009

Things I'm Into Right Now

*Man vs. Food
I rarely watch the Travel Channel. It depresses me because vacations and travel just aren't in our financial plan right now. But I do love Man vs. Food with Adam Richman. Adam travels to various places, hunts down and reports on the local flavors, and then at the end of the episode attempts a food challenge involving massive quantities of food, such as a 7 1/2 pound hamburger. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses, but it's always entertaining.

*Excellent Mail
This past week has been a strangely good mail week for me. It was bizarre. Unless I get something good from Dawn, most days my mail consists of catalogs destined for the recycling bin or bills. Plus, because I'm not really doing any internet shopping anymore, I hardly ever get to see my UPS man. (Our relationship is really suffering. It's so sad to see him zoom right past my house. I don't know if he even recognizes me! sigh)

Aside from Daphne's delicious preserves(which I'm trying to ration out and make last more than a week), I received a care package from Kashoan. It was filled with little goodies, but here are a few of my favorites.

Fishin' Kitty:Salt and Pepper Shakers:Let's just say I have trouble keeping salt and pepper shakers. It was nice to have a new set.

Corn Bag:Kash makes these, and when I found out she was sending me a box, I had my fingers crossed that she'd throw one in. Pop it in the microwave for two minutes and then put it wherever you have aches and pains. We have similar "boo-boo packs" (as my daughter calls them) but they are filled with other substances and I gotta say that I think the corn is the best. It really holds and distributes the heat evenly.

The last piece of fun mail was a box from Heather in Australia.Last month she blogged about a cd that she'd been listening to of "various chicks doing covers of Neil Finn and Crowded House songs." I immediately wanted to know more about this since I'm a huge Crowded House fan and had never heard of this cd. Heather offered to make me a copy plus an accompanying cd of some of the hits of the Finn Brothers from their various bands/solo careers. It was so cool of Heather to do this for me, especially since the cd of covers isn't available here in the states.

(Crowded House have special meaning around here, because they were the boy's first-and so far only-"real" concert. Although he had fun, he ended up falling asleep during the show, which is something we still joke about. I know it was late, but who sleeps at a concert? I always tell him I'll take him to another show as soon as I'm positive I'm not just paying $35 a ticket for him to take a nap.)

*Homemade bread I made bread!!! And it doesn't taste like a door stop!!

My previous attempts at bread making have been ok, at best. We ate it but.....only because we hate to waste things. (You know it's bad when the day after it's made it already has to be made into croutons.) I made two loaves using the recipe over at Beauty that Moves. My loaf making skills need work, since one loaf had a giant hole down the center. It was still quickly devoured by my son and his friend. Ten year old boys don't care much about the appearance and presentation of their food.

*Isabelle
Jay and I have had her since before we got married. She deserves to show up here from time to time for no other reason than she has seniority. She's earned it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is everywhere right now. It seems as if at least once a week I'd click on a blog only to see pictures of someone eating rhubarb in some form--cobblers, pies, ice cream(!)---or just standing around chomping on a stalk of the stuff. To be completely honest, it was really starting to piss me off. I had never tasted the vegetable. I went on a search for it here in Gainesville and it's not easy to come by. I finally found some today, but it was thin, super ugly and way overpriced. I thought I was destined to be rhubarb-less.

Imagine my joy when I came home to find a package from Daphne on my doorstep. Along with some other goodies, there was a jar of her strawberry-rhubarb-apple preserves, fresh from her canning project this past weekend. How cool is that?

Of course I immediately began eating it straight from the jar, but then chose to be a bit more civilized and mixed it with some yogurt.
It is equally tasty both ways.

I'm undecided on whether to share it with the family or hide it in the fridge behind something yucky. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Random Thoughts

*Saturday evening Jay watched No Country for Old Men, while I tried my best to not look at the TV screen. Afterwards, I didn't fall asleep until two in the morning and then had nightmares. For me, the jury is still out on Coen brothers movies. (I think I'm the only person in the world that hated Fargo.) I just don't do well with cinematic violence. Sometimes I have to just watch and hush though, since Jay routinely sits through movies like Suburban Girl and Twilight. Next movie on the list: The Squid and the Whale, a favorite around here.

*I'm still aching from our weekend climb up and down the 236 steps at the Devil's Millhopper.
I've mentioned this giant sinkhole before, and we go often, but I don't know if my muscles will ever get used to it.

Afterwards we walked the trail around the sinkhole.I try so hard to get shots of my kids surrounded by nature but it's difficult because they're never still long enough. I also really wanted a nice photo of the girl's crooked ponytails (they are always crooked), but much like pictures of the elusive Big Foot, it's blurry and out of focus. Maybe next time.*I'm taking a break from reading about trashy vampires. I started reading The Ice Storm by Rick Moody, but about 70 pages in I realized it just wasn't suiting my current mood. Bored rich people in Connecticut having lots of sex. Not fun sex, but regrettable, shameful sex. I'm into the story so I'll probably get back into it in a few weeks, but now I'm reading Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint. Daphne is always raving about de Lint and I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. I don't normally read fantasy, so I wasn't sure if I'd *get* it. So far I'm loving it--I think it helps that the book is set in modern times, just with magic and mythical creatures. I'm definitely getting lost in it, which is something I need right now.

*Jay and I had a long talk the other day about our goals for the future. I mention here quite regularly how we hate Florida. This state just doesn't have anything to offer us. We don't fit in here. Plus, it's expensive. Basically we overpay to live somewhere we hate. It just isn't worth it. But we have kids, a mortgage, debt---we can't just pack up and leave. So we seriously and realistically mapped out what we would need to do to get out of Florida within the next two years. I won't go into the details of the plan here because surely it would bore you, but it involves maintaining the level of spending we've been at this year, continuing to pay down debt, and paying off our car with next years tax refund, thus freeing up more money to save. I realize that none of this sounds fun, but honestly I'm giddy knowing we have a plan. It's good to have goals.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A New Bag and I've Been Declared a Wiener!

Did I need another bag? No, probably not. At this point I have more bags than I have a need for, considering I rarely actually go anywhere other than the grocery store. But a few weeks ago Jay went out of town and brought me back a large stack of fabric from IKEA and I've been itching to make something.

I lined it with bright yellow upholstery weight fabric. (I really wish I lived closer to an IKEA, the fabric there is so inexpensive.) I used the same pattern that I've used in the past. I really love making these. I think the pattern is the perfect mix of easy and difficult. Now that I've done it a few times, it's mindless enough to where I can lose myself in thought while sewing, yet just challenging enough so that I don't get bored.

I'm thinking of making yet another bag, but altering the pattern so that it's bigger. The kids have been wanting to go to the beach and I would need a bag large enough to hold all the items necessary for a day trip. Of course I also need to get up the courage to get this ghostly pale body of mine into a bathing suit and hope that I don't blind all the other beach goers, but that's another story. Anyway, if I do make a bigger bag, you can bet you'll be seeing it here. Beach pictures of my white legs and cellulite though, will be kept to myself.

In other news, Daphne gave me a blog award and declared me a wiener! Or a winner, if you prefer.
For what it's worth, I prefer wiener. This is probably because I spend so much time with a ten year old boy who laughs at things like the phrase pro bono.

I'm so excited to get this award because, well, it's nice to be honored. Plus, I totally dig Daphne. She isn't afraid to grumble and she gives awesome, in depth reviews of the books she reads.

The rules of the award state that I have to accept the award and post it on my blog (DONE!) and that I have to choose other bloggers to give it to. That's the part I have trouble with. I'm even more scatterbrained and indecisive than usual today. (Don't believe me? It took me 45 minutes just to decide which two bag photos to post.) So I'm just going to pass the award on to one blog I recently started reading:

This Wonderful, Crazy Life by Not Your Aunt Bea

After she left a comment here, I popped over to her little corner of the internet and found posts where she mentions food, beer, and how she recently lost her doggie. One might say we have a few things in common.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Aprons

I've been spending far too much time lately looking at handmade aprons on Flickr. There are so many beautiful ones. I'm especially drawn to and inspired by the wrap style aprons. (Take a look here at the Dottie Angel etsy shop to get an idea of what I'm talking about.) I love how they look like skirts.

After looking at all the apron prettiness, I had found myself lying in bed at night thinking about trying to make one of my own. Yesterday afternoon I whipped together this one as a first try:(You'll have to excuse my cruddy photos. It's rained here for three straight days and there is absolutely no sunlight, which does nothing for my already poorly lit house. So I had to take these outside, in the rain, while trying to keep the dogs from jumping on me. I'm sure my neighbors on the other side of that fence think that I have completely lost my mind.)

Like I said, I made this in one afternoon so it isn't as detailed as some of the ones I've been admiring. It's just vintage fabric, lined with a natural colored cotton blend, a blue and white seersucker tie: and a ric rac border on the bottom:After I finished this apron, I realized two things:

One being that I forgot to add pockets. I suppose I could always add a pocket or two, but because I already lined it, the pocket stitching would show on the other side and that would bug me. And to remove the lining, I'd have to disassemble the whole thing, which I'm so not motivated to do. Fortunately, I don't think pockets are absolutely necessary.

The second thing I realized is that, um, I never wear aprons. So this was a pretty pointless sewing project. Although, possibly I should start wearing them. My clothes might last longer plus this particular apron covered up all the holes in my tee shirt, which was kinda nice. I may try to make another one. One that is shorter and more utilitarian with a lot of pockets. Similar to the ones worn at The Home Depot, but more feminine and not bright orange. As for this one, it will probably end up going to Dawn in the next care package. She can add her own damn pockets if she so chooses. See, a gift and a task all in one! How kind of me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just a Few Things.....

*I've joined a Flickr group and you should too: Daily Ritual. It was started by Curious Bird and it showcases all the little things we do daily. Pictures are posted once a week, on Wednesday. I can totally commit to one picture a week.

*I'm really enjoying this Saturday Night Live clip from a few months back:
Warning: If you don't like slightly raunchy humor, then don't watch it. And if you do watch it, don't leave any comments about how I'm a pervert or my mind is in the gutter. I don't care.

Edited to Add:: For whatever reason some of you aren't able to see the clip. If you can't, and want to, it can be found here at Hulu.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Allow Me A Moment to Blather On Incoherently

I suppose this is sort of stating the obvious, but rain is really hard to photograph. I can show you wet grass or where rain drops have landed on my shoe, but the rain itself is hard to capture. Wasn't it just last week that I was complaining about how hot and dry it's been? Well, someone must have gotten the memo that I was pissed, because for the last few days its been 59 degrees and rainy. I don't understand the completely unpredictable weather, but I'm not going to question it too loudly.

I've mentioned here recently how hard it's been for me to focus on the positive in my life. I'm in a rut and although I know no one can really change that but me, I don't know how or where to begin. I also need a change of scenery. But that, of course, is easier said than done. So I flounder. Getting through every day but not really feeling like I'm living those days.

My life has been very food centered lately. It seems as if I'm always in the kitchen. Sometimes I enjoy this, other times it's a dreaded part of the day. This is one more area in my life that I feel is out of balance and off kilter.

Every time I go out to the garden there are a few more cherry tomatoes ready to be picked.I hope to have enough for a salad soon but I don't know if that's going to happen since I find myself popping them into my mouth on the way back to the house.

This morning Jay made a giant pot of split pea soup, a perfect companion to the cold, drippy weather.
There's a positive :: A husband that makes great soup. And a family that is always willing to save me the butt end of the baguette because they know I love it so much.

As I started typing this, I really had no idea where it would take me. There are no easy answers or quick fixes to the generally bummed way I've been feeling. Some days are better than others. So far, today has been near perfect. I have a cool husband and a lot of pets who are always willing to snuggle. The kids haven't made me want to shove pencils in my ears. Today has been good.

If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this :: Happiness is the butt end of the baguette.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

London Cheesecake

I don't know if I've ever mentioned how much I like Nigella Lawson. I watch her show when I can, but sadly that isn't often because the girl doesn't like it when the TV is on the "dinner channel" for too long. I love Nigella's guilt free attitude about food and eating. She really enjoys food, so cooking isn't a chore. And I adore how at the end of almost every episode there are shots of her, dressed in her bathrobe, sneaking downstairs to nibble on items from the refrigerator. Every time I watch her show I think, I would love to hang out with this woman.

I only own one of Nigella's books, How To Be A Domestic Goddess. At the time I bought it, Nigella wasn't a big star yet here in the states but I had been watching her show on BBC America and was super excited about the book. Before reading it, I had always been scared of baking, just certain I'd mess things up and waste ingredients. But Nigella says "a cake is just a cake." Really, what is there to be afraid of? The Carrot Cupcakes from Domestic Goddess were the first cupcakes I made from scratch. Ever since then, I can count on one hand the times I've made something from a box. Duncan Hines just doesn't do it for me anymore.

The one baked good that still really frightened me was cheesecake. Between all the eggs, the egg yolks, the springform pan, and the water bath....there is just so much I'm unfamiliar with, so much that can go wrong. That all changed today though---I was bored and I had so many eggs in the refrigerator that it would be no huge deal if a few of them were wasted in a cheesecake experiment.

So I took the plunge and made the London Cheesecake.
The topping didn't come out as pretty as I would have liked, but I'm certain that's just because I'm an impatient doofus and removed it from the pan too soon. The taste though, is amazing.I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at a store bought cheesecake again.

Do you want to be a Goddess in the area of cheesecakes too? Well, you don't have to buy the book because the recipe is on Nigella's website. (FYI: If you hunt around the internet enough, you can find a few versions of the recipe that are a bit easier to understand for silly Americans such as myself who just don't get things like measurements in grams and "digestive biscuits.") Don't be scared of cheesecake. If I can do this, so can you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cookies, a Movie, and a Bag with a Button

Yesterday I made these cookies. Although mine didn't come out nearly as round and lovely as Mav's, they are tasty. At first I was a little unsure of a cookie without sugar, eggs, or butter, but I was pleasantly surprised. Plus, these little guys are actually quite filling, making them a perfect quick breakfast or after school snack. I bought the fancy maple syrup to use in the recipe but I think next time I may try good ol' Mrs. Butterworths or maybe store brand. I know that will knock them down a few notches on the healthy meter, but I just don't see myself regularly working $7 maple syrup into my grocery budget.

Last night Jay and I watched the documentary What Would Jesus Buy? The movie follows Reverend Billy as he tours the country preaching about how Christmas has become so commercialized and he warns about the "shopocalypse." I have mixed feelings about the movie. While I agree that Americans spend too much money and this country has become a nation of consumers, I don't think simply walking into a Starbucks screaming, "Stop Shopping!" is the answer. It may be eye opening for a few, but judging by the reactions of the people in the movie, most thought Billy was nuts.

It would do us all some good to really evaluate how and where we spend money, but this means different things to different people. You can't just stop shopping. It's not that easy. I also think it would be wonderful to always support locally owned businesses, but that isn't always an option. So of course, I think the idea that Billy wants to "shut down Target" is completely ridiculous.

Ultimately, I liked the movie (it was produced by Morgan Spurlock-whose work I love), I just couldn't relate to Reverend Billy. He's passionate, and I admire that, but I don't think his over-the-top antics did much to get people to come around to his way of thinking. Which is a shame, because he has a really great message, he just needs to spread it in a way that is more palatable.

********************************************************************

One more thing before I go: My friend Kashoan participated in the Big Button Challenge over at Polka Dot Cottage, making a very groovy bag. Now it's voting time. I know Kash wants to win, so if you're so inclined, please cast your vote for her bag. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Alfred A. Ring Park

Most of you probably look forward to Spring. Your flowers bloom. Your weather becomes pleasantly warmer. You're able to spend hours on end outside. Sigh. I'm jealous. Here in Florida, we've already had 90 degree weather. Spring for me signals the beginning of the end. Soon it will be too warm to go outside and we'll be housebound until Fall. Until that happens, Jay and I are trying to cram a few more park trips into the schedule. Today we went to the Alfred A. Ring Park.
I tried to find some online info about this park but none seems to exist so I'm just going to describe the park as I know it. It's really less a park and more a nature trail. It has picnic tables but they're at the entrance right next to the bathroom and I've only seen them used once and that was by a hobo. I think most of the people that come here do so to run the mile long trail for exercise, not for the parks amenities. The park does have a little play area but it's quite sorry so we rarely use it. We refer to this as a "walking park" not a "play park."The trail runs along the Hogtown Creek.It hasn't rained here in a really long time so the creek hardly has any water in it. (I always feel melancholy when I see a dried up creek---why is that?)One of the coolest things about the park, in my opinion, is that it seems to be a little bit different every time we go. A tree almost always falls here during inclement weather: Plus, the many small bridges going over the creek tend to sink in the ground after a heavy rain, making them lopsided and bockety. As Jay says, "It's never the same park twice."

Of course, Liz Lemon's favorite park feature is all the wonderful smells to stop and sniff:The park also has a wildflower garden but I've lived in Florida all my life so wildflowers native to this area do nothing for me. Honestly, it looks like a patch of weeds. But I understand others might be into that sort of thing.

I hadn't meant for this post to be so negative. I really do like this park. I had fun when we went this morning. The trail is great and I love that I can bring my doggie. But as I sit here writing this, drinking my third glass of iced tea in 15 minutes, with my blackout curtains shut in order to keep out the sun that has been shining for what seems to be 60 straight days now, it's just hard to feel the love.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Random Thoughts

I feel like I've been slacking lately when it comes to my blog. It isn't that I don't have time...I suppose I've just been feeling uninspired lately. Not so much writers block, more like thought block. I've been staying busy doing other things and mentally there just isn't much left for the ol' blog. Random Thoughts are easy though. I have enough brain power for that.

*Liz Lemon is proving to be a wonderful buddy for me. Being only a year old, she still has a bit of puppy in her. She's housebroken but loves to play and run and chew. We definitely need to buy more dog toys.
*There is less than a month left of school. My son's fifth grade graduation is coming up and soon he'll officially be a middle schooler. I'm scared.

*I like to have a blanket at the end of my bed. If I want to read in the middle of the day, I can lay on top of the covers and pull the blanket up, tricking myself into believing that I'm not being lazy because I'm not actually in bed. I'm on top of bed. Do you see the difference? During the cooler months I like to have afghans but now that it's warming up I needed something lightweight. I finished this patchwork number yesterday. Most of the fabrics are by Heather Ross from her West Hill and Lightening Bugs lines.(A large portion, if not all, of these fabrics were bought from the down shadow lane etsy shop. This is one of my favorite places to shop for fabrics. She has a great mix of styles, her prices are better than average, and shipping is super fast.)

Back to the blanket :: I chose fabrics by the same designer because I sort of wanted it to "match."Normally, I don't mind the crazy look of something pieced together with scraps but I wanted this blanket to be a bit more subtle and have some continuity.

The only thing I bought specifically for this project is the orange dog fabric.
I've loved it for a while but never bought it because I didn't really have a use for it. After Lulu died, I thought adding it to the blanket would be a nice way to remember her. I also embroidered this little patch:As silly as it sounds, I think the making of this was therapeutic for me in some way.

*I made another Artsy Clutch today.This one is for a friend of my moms. She wanted something "blue and satiny...you know, like a Chinese lady's dress." Fortunately, my mom knew what she was talking about and picked out the supplies. Didn't my mom do an awesome job matching that button? Amazing.

I was apprehensive about working with the fabric on this one because up until now I've only used cottons. I was certain I was going to end up with a satiny ball of garbage. But I took it slow and it came together really easily.

As I've been typing all this out it's occurred to me why I have that uninspired feeling: creatively, I've done a lot this week. No wonder I'm all tapped out. I'm going to try to spend the rest of my Saturday on the back porch with a beer and a trashy vampire book.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Listing

It's been a rough ride lately but I feel like maybe I'm getting my groove back. We're settling into a new routine around here and all the components are falling into place. For the last few weeks I've had a stressed/anxious feeling that I just couldn't shake. Thankfully, I feel it starting to slip away. Here's a few bits of my life.

Forgoing:: Housework. I'm sick of it. I've decided that clean floors and spotless bathroom counters are just not that important to me anymore. I still clean, just not as often. So if you ever stop by my house, don't be offended by the pet hair or the chocolate milk spots on the floor. And don't ask how long they've been there.

Listening to:: Middle Cyclone by Neko Case. My favorite song on the album, Don't Forget Me, is a cover of a song by Harry Nilsson, who happens to be one of my favorite dead musicians.

Watching::
The United States of Leland. Leland seems like a good kid. Then he murders his ex-girlfriends brother. The movie deals with the aftermath of the murder and how the whole community is effected as everyone tries to figure out why Leland did it. This movie, while certainly not upbeat, was fast paced and thought provoking. Plus, you can't go wrong with people like Don Cheadle, Ryan Gosling, and Jena Malone.

Eating::
Tofutti Cuties Sadly, my grocery store isn't going to be carrying these yummy non-dairy ice cream sandwiches anymore. On the bright side, they were on clearance and now I have a freezer full of them.

Making::
Pajama pants into pajama shorts.
Every spring the girl has stacks of pajama pants that still fit and are in good condition, but go unworn because the weather is just too warm. The matching tops are usually stained or worn beyond repair, so I'm left with stacks of pants.

This year I decided to get thrifty. I chopped off the legs and hemmed them. While I was hemming, I stretched the bejeezus out of the fabric, to give it that faux ruffle.
She will most likely wear these without a shirt, because that's the kinda girl she is.

Loving::My mothers day gift.
A new friend. Jay picked her up at the shelter. She's a one year old Beagle mix. I already adore her. We affectionately named her Liz Lemon, after one of our favorite TV characters.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Springtime Random Thoughts

(I want to thank everyone for all the kind words about the loss of my buddy Lulu. It truly helped.)

A few shots of my teeny-tiny garden::

As you can see, weeding my strawberry patch is not high on my to-do list.This is probably why I only get about a dozen strawberries a year.

My tomatoes are doing amazing though:This shot was taken last week. I was able to pick my first tomato this evening.

My cherry tomatoes are growing nicely as well:I really can't take too much credit for the success of my garden. I don't do much other than water it. My only explanation is that just maybe the two years of composting are finally starting to pay off.

The other day the girl wanted me to play with her. When I agreed, she took me outside and told me we were going to play "run."Her instructions: Run around the yard as fast as you can until you get tired. It was close to 90 degrees out and it hadn't rained in weeks. I couldn't think of anything I'd want to do less than play "run." Fortunately, she was happy with me taking pictures of her playing run.

We eat a lot of beans around here because well, beans are healthy and wicked cheap. Now that the weather is warmer we don't want to cook them though so we add them to other dishes, stuff them in pitas, or just snack on them out of the can. (Okay, I'm the only one doing that last one.)

One of our favorite bean recipes is Black Bean and Mango Salad. I originally found the recipe last year in the free magazine given away by Publix -one of the major grocery stores here in the south. For those of you lucky enough to not live in the southern part of the country, I thought I'd post the recipe here for you.

Black Bean & Mango Salad

* 1 can of black beans
* 2 cups diced mango
* 1 cup diced sweet red bell pepper
* 6 green onions thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
* 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Mix it all together and enjoy. Jay and I usually double the recipe. We are thinking of even tripling it-we are wild like that.

I snapped a picture this evening before chowing down:
I hope you appreciate the extra effort put into the picture...you know, the pretty bowl and use of actual silverware. A lot of times I just eat my meals out of Tupperware with a Hello Kitty fork.

I know what you're all wondering now:: Tammie, where do you put all the empty bean cans until trash day? To answer your question, we have some of these bags, bought a few years back from Gaiam. The problem with these bags is that if you aren't real good about washing your recyclables (we aren't), they get nasty quickly. Really nasty. So after a while you need to get someone, in this case my husband, to construct you a box in which to hide away your ugly, dirty recyclables.(Weird picture, I know. The sun was going down and this box was about to be moved into the kitchen, where the lighting is even worse.)

My favorite part:

Secure hinges so the lid doesn't snap down on kid hands. Jay thinks of everything.