Saturday, January 30, 2010

Meals for a year: Good idea or not?

Just in case you haven't been paying attention, grocery shopping has changed dramatically in recent years. With an exponentially growing plethora of food products on the shelf, as well as food prices going up, it can become daunting to buy groceries each week and not feel like you're spending your whole paycheck! Even if you're not shopping at Whole Paycheck (one of Whole Foods' nicknames, in case you haven't heard that one).

This last week I heard about a woman who has saved a great deal of money in her grocery budget by charting out meals for her family for an entire year. Initially I was a bit skeptical. What would a free-spirit kitchen roamer like myself do with that kind of structure? Freak out, probably. And bust out of the albeit-self-imposed grocery bag...

But then I watched the video clip from Good Morning America and took a look at her calendar and was kind of inspired. I don't know if I need to do an entire year, but I could certainly chart a month or two and see how it goes. We have some pretty standard meals that we concoct on a regular basis, and if I leave a few nights here and there for the "free spirit" to run wild, we might all be happy. And after a couple of months, see how it goes and adjust--especially with changing seasons. I didn't see a lot of seasonal cooking going on with her calendar...

Side note: To be honest, I was impressed with this mom just on the basis of her having four boys! Women who have more than two kids get gold stars in my book just for showing up, period. I have a good friend who has four boys, and she's a genius homemaker, from-scratch baker, renders her own lard and spins wool at the crack of dawn (no kidding). So I know, by association, the challenges of cooking for a full and chaotic house!

I'm inspired to give this a whirl. I'll let you know how it goes.

Here's the calendar of the meal plans.

And here's a link to the video at Good Morning America. (It would NOT embed, no way no how. Frustrating.)

Happy grocery shopping! Is this something you'd consider doing? How many children would you have to have to make it worth your while?!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday night grateful moment

This week the list is long. Maybe because it's been a long week? Possibly. A mixed week. Some good--very good--and some not so good.

But always with the grateful...

* I am grateful to be a mom. And to be a mom to such an amazing son. Blessed. This video has been bouncing around the internet this week and I really enjoyed it. I think other moms can relate...

* I'm thankful for my spouse, so very much; that he's feeling better and better from that rotten cold. (I'm also grateful that I haven't succumbed to the cold, and knock on wood, won't get it this time around. I've been feeling a bit sore-throaty and puny today, but I've been dosing up my Cs and such, so keep your fingers crossed for me.)

* I'm thankful that Ma and Pa are safely in a warm place. If I can't be somewhere warm, my loved ones should be, right?

* I'm thankful that so many people I know took time this week to reach out to those around them and make sure they knew they were loved. When something sad happens, the pause can cause ripples far beyond the original act, and I'm hopeful something good will come of such great sorrow.

* I'm thankful for out-of-the-box thinking. Take a look at these art installations I found this week at a fun website, Those are strawberries falling on a bird? Wild. There are other strangely beautiful art pieces too... check it out.

* I'm thankful for sweet babies to remind us that we all start somewhere. And it's usually somewhere pretty special. And it reminds me that there's a sweet (and fast-growing) baby that I need to go visit again soon!

* I am thankful for humor and laughter and the ability for us to laugh at ourselves. I really do try for that last part, most days. There are moments when I can be a dour, humorless wench (I know, shocking!)--but I do try to keep those moments to a minimum. As this whole thing with Conan and Leno has intrigued me, I couldn't help but tune in briefly to watch Jay and Oprah chat about it the other day. Such serious business, this late-night talk show stuff. Puhleeze. I think Jimmy Kimmel says it best in his clip below.

Don't you just love the Mad Men style art? Clever.

* I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a part of a community where volunteering is such a big part of the community's culture. I enjoy my time with fellow volunteers very much and have made some great friends among the groups I participate in. Next time we meet, folks, I'm bringin' cake. (Yes, courtesy of our friends at!)

* I'm thankful for hot lemon and honey.

* I'm thankful for popcorn and apples.

* I'm thankful for sleep.

* I'm thankful for friendship. For shared challenges and concerns, for listening and talking, for support and for cheerleading, whatever the day/week/month holds...

* I'm grateful the fog has cleared (for the moment), and while it's still gray, it's not sitting on our heads quite so claustrophobically.

* I'm thankful for straight talk. That in a world where so often it's all about posing and positioning and aligning and adjusting, I appreciate the people who are straight, who tell it like it is (kindly, please) and operate from the place where we're all eating at the grown-up's table now. Refreshing.

* I am thankful for pretty things. How about this cupcake holder? Sweetest thing ever.

* Thankful for the weekend. For peace and quiet and relaxation. Hope yours holds much of the same.

Meme for a foggy Friday morning

Doing what I'm told, yep. A blogger I follow, Cha Cha at noodleroux, posted this meme a week or so back and invited her readers to steal it. So here I go, on this still, gray (and yes, still-gray) Friday morning, as I get ready for a conference call to a meeting in Seattle that I'm supposed to BE at, but there was no plane to fly out on this morning... the joys of small town/small airport/big fog living!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My men and I on vacation, with sunshine.

What is your greatest fear?
Dying in great physical pain. Torture.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is your favorite journey?

On what occasion do you lie?
Really try not to. Learned a long time ago that honesty works best for sleeping at night and looking in the mirror in the morning. So don't ask me if those pants make your butt look big, please.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Good. Sometimes even twice (so I've been informed), as in: Good good.

Which living person do you most despise?
No one comes to mind. I'm pretty sure there are some tyrannical leaders of third-world countries that I have some hate for, but no one in a 100-mile radius.

What is your greatest regret?
Being too opinionated at times, not being open enough to a change of plans or diversity of thought. Not being teachable.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I'd really like to be able to sing beautifully and effortlessly. But I consider it an act of God to keep me humble that I sing so-so (on a good day) and best in a group.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To be more realistic some days... less boundless optimism.

What is it that you most dislike?
Negative self-talk. Not in me, of course. Others.

What is your most treasured possession?
Little trinkets Seth has made for me over the years. My wedding ring.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

What is your most marked characteristic?
Probably that boundless optimism I mentioned earlier.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Character. And kind eyes.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Companionability. Is that a word?

What do you most value in your friends?

How would you like to die?
In my sleep. When I'm 99. (Aim high! Boundless optimism!)

What is your motto?
It changes often. Right now it is: What will you do with your one wild and precious life? --Mary Oliver

Your turn! Feel free to post to your own blog, or answer in the comments.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday 13: 13 items I currently buy at the grocery store that I want to make from scratch consistently

F ood has become a hot topic, especially when you start talking about nutrition and how to eat better... lots of judgment, lots of ideas about what's right, what's wrong and lots of conversation about how everyone should be more conscious about their food choices.

So this post comes with no judgment. What you eat is your business. This is just where I'm at: looking for ways to eat fewer processed foods and more real foods, because I simply know that I feel better and more energetic when I do. Which is not to say that I won't ever have my cheesey potatoes at Taco Bell, or my onion rings with tartar sauce at The IceBurg, or my queso and chips at Taco Del Mar, or chomp through a package of Twizzlers or Junior Mints with real movie theater popcorn, or... well, you get my drift. I'm human. I live on this planet and I love to eat.

I've been making a conscious effort to bring less processed stuff into the house, and it leaves a few gaps, I'll say that. And requires more of me in the way of prep and cooking. So these changes will take time. But for the moment, here are the 13 things I want to start making more of myself, passing by those middle aisles in the grocery store...

1. Cereal. Just need to convert the boy to granola... (Full disclosure: I succumbed to General Mills' marketing this week and bought the chocolate Cheerios AND the banana nut Cheerios "just to see what they taste like." Ugh. Not so much. But still, I had to give it a try. Why?)

2. Chips. I think of these as edible food-like substances (to crib a line from Michael Pollan). I'd like to say good bye even to the baked ones, but that will take a minute or two.

3. Crackers. Ditto.

4. Pasta. It's so easy to make from scratch, I can't believe I don't do it more often. I have the coolest attachment for my Kitchen Aid, there's really no excuse.

5. Salad dressing. So easy. And always tastes better homemade, too. I used to make ALL my own salad dressings when catering, but have slipped back to the bottle...

6. Yogurt. Mostly because I know I could and it would make me feel all Pioneer Woman-y. (I don't even know if she makes yogurt, it just sounds like something she would. I just bought her book last night, so I'm eager to check it out--my kind of cookbook: lots of pictures and all 4-color!)

7. Bread. Kind of a given, if I'm going to knock crackers and chips off the list. I'm not such a yeast girl, so I need to work on this one...

8. Spaghetti sauce/pasta sauce. I made a bunch this last summer and we've already gone through quite a bit of it... so next summer, even more!

9. Salsa. This is difficult in the winter when tomatoes taste like cardboard, but it's still a goal...

10. Soup. There's nothing like a canned or boxed soup to up the sodium content immediately. So as rarely as I do open those cans/boxes, I'd like to do it even less.

11. Ice cream/sorbet/gelato. Homemade flavor, yum. And very easy, too.

12. Cakes/cupcakes. I am much too reliant on mixes. Not because I can't make a cake, but because I've become lazy. Yep, I said it.

13. Macaroni and cheese. This is one of Seth's staples... Mac-n-cheese-n-peas. But as I poured that bright orange powder into the pot tonight, I just had to say I've bought the last case of that from Costco. This one will take work, but he's a game guy and I bet I can convert him. I'll keep you posted.

One thing I don't think I'll ever be able to make... and don't really feel the need to, is CHEESE. I will be happy buying cheese until the day I die.

If you're interested in information on this topic, I can't imagine anyone more worthy of reading than Michael Pollan. I've read most of his books, and been alternately frightened and inspired; frightened at what I've been eating without consideration, and inspired to eat more thoughtfully.

Here's an interview from with Mr. Pollan. And his new book, Food Rules, was featured yesterday on Oprah, along with the movie, Food, Inc. I can't say I'm exactly looking forward to seeing that movie, but I know I should watch it, and I will. 

To follow more Thursday 13 bloggers, click here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not the best news day

I had a funny kind of post in mind for today that included mocking the Apple iPad, making jokes about Steve Jobs standing in for Obama during tonight's state of the union address (as Slate speculated earlier this week), and really having a laugh at John Edwards' expense, since it appears his wife has FINALLY left him.

But the news that's been on my mind the most all day is of an acquaintance from college who decided yesterday that she couldn't go on anymore and ended her life. We were never especially close, just different girls with different groups of friends in college, but we were always in each other's periphery as we had the same major, and I have a couple of friends who have stayed in touch with her and know of her struggles and pain through the years. It's for them, and for her family that I am especially sad tonight. I know little of that kind of darkness, and wouldn't wish that kind of heavy burden on anyone.

We all know people who struggle with the stresses of life, and we all know on a theoretical level to reach out as best we can. But at times like this we can't help but ask what more we could have done. It's hard to see the purpose in this kind of loss, and I flounder to find meaning in why a bright spot such as Cheryl would succumb to the darkness.

So, I have few words. But this poem by Mary Oliver says a lot of what I wish I could say, what I wish for myself and others. I know I've posted this before, so forgive the repetition.

When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
--Mary Oliver

Oh, I did think of something else to say: Tell those you love that you love them. Every day. Multiple times.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Invest in the process

I have been on a bit of a craft blog tear lately. It's just overwhelming and inspiring, all at once. One of my new favorites, Kind Over Matter, posted this beautiful piece of art recently. It is just what I need on this rainy gray day.

Here's a video clip I found via Twitter today. The speaker has some good thoughts--nothing SO new or SO innovative, but really really good reminders on how to move through this world like someone with intention. It's 10 minutes worth spending.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Homemade noodle soup

Well, it was just one of those days. One of those low-energy (me), sick-work-from-home (husband) kind of days. A real recipe for getting not much done. Which is okay, I guess, every once in awhile. It was nice to have a partner in my not-doing-much. The to-do list is chock-a-block full for the rest of this week, for both of us, and hopefully there will be a little sunshine to go along with it.

But for today and the fog, there was soup. I simmered the broth on the stove most of the afternoon and the garlicky smell permeated, nicely, without being overwhelming. I would have made it chicken-ish too, but couldn't find any organic free-range chicken at the grocery this morning and I've just turned a corner about the hormone-filled stuff. So it was a noodley, brothy bowl of healing.

Noodles in warming broth
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
5 celery ribs, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 container vegetable stock (mine ran out last week... used Safeway Organics and it's good)
1 container chicken stock (ditto)
3 whole bay leaves
3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 tsps. MacKays Chicken Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

I was most attracted to the noodle recipe below because of the boiling water. I hunted high and low and can't believe I haven't shared it here before (this could have something to do with my slap-dash labeling...), but my favorite all-time cobbler recipe has boiling water in the crust, which I believe is key to the dough's heavenly consistency. I found it on

If you are in any way intimidated by the idea of making noodles, let me just say this: I understand. It's not hard once you get that you can drop completely imperfect pieces of dough in the soup and it will all taste lovely. That, and you can use whatever noodles you might have in the cupboard and skip this step. Either.

2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat flour, half regular)
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp. oil
1 c. boiling water

In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a hole in the center of the flour and add eggs and oil. Pour in water and stir quickly until a stiff dough is formed, working in as much of the flour as possible.The amount of flour used will depend on the size of the eggs--you may need a little more or less flour. (Here's the main ammendment--I added substantially more flour, probably almost one cup. I was doubling the recipe, but still...)

Place dough on a heavily floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Cut dough in half. Dust work surface with flour.

Roll out each half to about the thickness of your favorite commercial noodles. The dough may also be passed through the rollers or a pasta machine.

Cut with a sharp knife into 1/2 inch wide strips. Separate strips and let dry on a floured surface for 1 hour. Repeat with remaining half of dough. (Second ammendment. No waiting. I started this too close to supper to impose waiting on the dough to rest, and then cutting and resting again. Didn't impact the noodle quality, in my humble, hurried opinion.)

 The best compliment I've had in awhile from Seth: Mom, can I have this in a thermos for my lunch tomorrow? Why yes, you can!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hollandaise delight

H ow do you know it's Sunday morning at our house? The kitchen is a mess. Joyous, happy, massive mess. There's a potato pancake in one pan for the young man, omelette in another pan for husband, and me nibbling from both pans... but this morning I was in the mood for something eggy (*shock*) and rich (*doubleshock*) and realized I hadn't had a bit o' hollandaise in a long time.

My challenge (besides wrapping my brain around THAT. MUCH. BUTTER.) was finding a recipe that suited my lazy mood. Not in the frame of mind for standing over a double-boiler with a whisk, let's just say. I have seen various blender hollandaise recipes, so decided to investigate and experiment! And, I also wanted to make a small serving--no "well, I have a cup of sauce so I must eat a cup of sauce and promptly nap" nonsense today.

One quick caveat: If you're going to make a small quantity of sauce, you'll need a blender that has a blade right at the bottom of the blender jar. I first thought I'd use our VitaMixer, which has such a great and powerful motor that I could only imagine heavenly hollandaise from it. But, the blade is raised from the bottom at least a half-inch, so the egg yolks just sat happily while the blades whizzed crazily above them. So I transferred to a smaller old blender with a low-down blade and it worked very well.

 Hollandaise for one
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
dash salt
dash cayenne
1/4 cup melted butter

Put the yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in the blender jar. Heat butter until melted and bubbly but not browning. I did this in the microwave. Be sure to cover your butter so that there isn't giant explosions in your microwave, fyi. Whiz the yolk mixture for 20-30 seconds until frothy; then slowly pour the butter in a steady stream through the top of the blender (take out center of lid but keep the outer edge on so that you don't have extreme splatter). Keep whizzing for another 30 seconds to a minute, until the sauce thickens.

Pour this delectable mixture over whatever strikes your fancy. Today my eggs sat on a bed of sauteed spinach with a few avocado slices on top, with the bright and happy sauce over the whole lot. It was heavenly.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday night grateful moment

Yeah for Friday! So glad to be here. Now. Ready for the relax. Ready for the grateful.

This week I'm grateful for:
*Glorious weekend ahead with my men. I feel sleepin' in comin' on.

*The wind has stopped. Or at least paused. I hope it stays that way. I would add "permanently" but that seems a little more than I could hope for.

*It's cold. Like it COULD snow if we asked nicely. I plan on asking very nicely.

*Did I mention the weekend ahead with my boys?

*Collective wisdom. Not everyone has all the answers, but I know from personal experience that a lot of people (at least a few I'm lucky enough to call husband and relatives and friends) have a little wisdom. Put that all together in a pot and wow, it can really help move mountains. At least mentally. Mentally this week, I feel like mountains have moved.

*Exercise. We finished week 3 of morning exercise and it feels good. It ALMOST feels like a habit. One week at a time...

*My friend Rhonda got a job. I am so thankful for that, for her. Yippee!

*I'm thankful for the memory of my mom singing "You are My Sunshine" to me as a little kid--that picture at the top prompted that memory when I found it. What a happy memory that is for me, and I enjoyed passing it along to my boy when he was a wee one. Maybe I need to bust it out again!

*Color. While we have had more sunshine lately, we're still operating in the brown-gray-blah end of the color spectrum. So imagine my delight at discovering this palette from Crayola--it shows the progression of the palette of 8 original colors to their current plethora. How beautiful. Take a look at this list of colors from Crayola over the years. Pretty wow. I would love to be in charge of naming colors, don't you think? Fun job.
*Glad for a sense of humor. I found this little "news" piece especially humorous this week.

And this explanation of the Canadian government at work made me laugh out loud! If you're not Canadian, it might not hit you quite the same way...

*This creativity in pie-making made me smile. And this was from a link at, so this was quite the Canadian week online, eh?

*Thankful to have cookie-making on the agenda for the weekend.

*Thankful for friends and birthdays and meals together.
Meeting some new people and chatting with long-time friends. It's a joy for a borderline extrovert such as myself. And shush to any of you who went, "Borderline? Sher?" Ha.

*Thankful for popcorn.
How good is a big salty bowl of popcorn with a crisp apple? So good.

*And cheese.
As ever.

*Thankful for hugs.
Human contact with loved ones, what a joy.

I hope your weekend holds a few of these things--hugs, popcorn, cookies, maybe some snow? Enjoy!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday 13: Thirteen reasons I wish it would snow

1. It's January. It only seems right.

2. Snow is beautiful. I love watching falling snow.

3. I haven't had a chance to break out my new x-country skis that I bought last winter during the massive snow storm. By the time we got back from the holidays last year, the snow was gone and we just haven't had enough since.

4. Snow would cover up stuff in the yard I'd rather not see.

5. If it was snowing, I bet the wind would stop. The wind has been nonstop this week and is driving everyone nuts.

6. All the plants seem fooled into thinking it's spring, which just isn't right. Snow would send them back into their winter mode.

7. Plenty of other places in the country have snow; why not here? 

8. Snow makes everything so quiet and peaceful.

9. I haven't gotten enough wear out of my boots this winter.
I do love my boots.

10. I want to take some pictures of snow.
It's just not fun taking pictures right now with the grays and browns outside.

11. It's beautiful waking up to freshly fallen snow.
Have I mentioned that already? I think it deserves another spot on the list. That, and I'm running out of reasons...

12. I like seeing the birds at the feeder
in the snow, and all their little tracks on the front walk.

13. I could really use a snow day with Seth.
I love snow days. This one is probably the top of the list!

I know I will get comments about how nutty I am, how snow is bad bad bad and I should be thankful not to have any, but I just can't help it. I want snow! If you have snow and don't want it, I can feel for you... sort of. Spring is coming, but I am still hopeful that between now and then we can see a few flakes. Forecast says maybe we'll get some this weekend... I will be doing my snow dance!

For more Thursday 13 participants, go here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

West African Peanut Soup

As the bowl of soup appeared before me, I heard the word "peanut." My first thought was, "No way. Not gonna like that." And was a little frightened, frankly. But one taste and I was converted. Completely. Granted, this was more than 20 years ago, but I do get that the idea of peanuts + soup is not something that most people would automatically put together. But my plea would be to give this one a whirl. It's delicious.

I hadn't made it in quite some time, but saw a version of it somewhere online and was reminded me how much I missed it! I did quite a bit of online looking around for recipes, but when push came to shove, I went back to the original that I've always made from Sundays at Moosewood. And it turned out as lovely as it always has.

West African Peanut Soup
Serves 6-8

2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. cayanne or other ground dried chiles (I used tubed chile paste)
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger (again, I also used the tube ginger)
1 cup chopped carrots
2 cups chopped sweet potatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups tomato juice (I use V8)
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional--I never add this)
1 cup chopped scallions or chives (garnish, also optional)

Saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Stir in the cayenne and fresh ginger. Add the carrots and saute a couple more minutes. Mix in the potatoes and stock, bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

In a blender or food processor, puree the vegetables with the cooking liquid, tomato juice and peanut butter. Return the puree to a soup pot and taste for sweetness. Add sugar if desired and reheat slowly. (I also taste for heat. If it needs a bit more, add a touch of chile/cayenne.) Also according to preference, add more stock or tomato juice for a thinner soup. Serve topped with scallions or chives.

I served this soup today over white rice. I got that idea from one of the online recipes... it was only OK, in my humble opinion. I get how that might be a worthy idea, but the soup itself is so tasty on its own, I don't think it needs anything added.

Side note: I do have to say that white rice is like crack, man (not that I know, of course...). I haven't had white rice in ages (we're a brown rice family) and it was quite yummy--I made a little bowl with sugar, cream and currants after lunch and boy-oh-howdy that took me back to some rice puddin' days. Maybe I'll post on that a bit later... if there's any rice left to take a picture of!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday morning huevos rancheros

E ggs, glorious eggs! Eggs are one of my favorite options for breakfast. And every once in awhile, I like to have them a bit differently prepared than my usual soft poached... so on those rare mornings (I'm still addicted to the breakfast shake we have most mornings), I look for something a bit more inspired. I happened to be browsing tastespotting last night and saw a huevos rancheros recipe and must have dreamed of it all night, because I woke up this morning bent on having my eggs thusly prepared.

Huevos rancheros
Makes 2 servings

Cooking spray or olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, some juice drained off
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to tasteTortillas, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa and sliced avocado for serving

Preheat a large fry pan over medium heat, spray with cooking spray or add olive oil, whatever your preference. Add the onions and peppers and sauté until tender, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the beans and tomatoes to the peppers and onions. Stir well and continue to sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in ¼ of the cilantro, as well as the cumin.

Turn the heat down to low. Make 4 wells in the bean/tomato mixture. Spray a little bit of olive oil into each well. Crack an egg into each of the wells. Season each egg with salt and pepper and cover the skillet. Allow the eggs to cook until they reach your desired doneness.

Spoon the eggs out onto two plates, with extra tomato/bean mixture as well. Serve with warmed tortillas, salsa, extra cilantro, diced avocado and sour cream. Enjoy!

On a foggy morning, this breakfast provides just the bit of sunshine needed to think about all that's on the to-do list! Now, off to clean and tidy up around the house, usual Sunday stuff.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A smile for your Saturday

J en posted this yesterday... couldn't NOT steal and share. Makes me want to go set up a prank like that somewhere... except maybe with Skittles or something cheap... cotton candy? Paper clips? Yeah, I'm thinking it wouldn't have quite the same impact. I guess only Coke will do. Well, a Coke and a smile...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday night grateful moment

R eady for rest. That's the motto for the two old occupants of our house right now. Tiredness has descended... we are whipped. Luckily, rest and relaxation are exactly what's on tap this weekend.

But before the rest, some gratitude.

For one day of sunshine. Well, maybe like two-thirds of a day? That's probably more accurate. But it was lovely lovely.

For color in an otherwise mostly gray week. Butterfly cupcakes? In rainbow colors? How marvelous! Found these on a fun food blog and they just brightened my day. Take a look at the instructions--not too difficult, it seems... now I just need a little girl to make them for! I don't anticipate Seth asking for these at his next birthday... Ha.

For a reminder of my Grandma, through her dish cloths. I framed these last summer but don't think I've shared them here. My Grandma makes these all the time, and when I visit, there are usually a couple of new ones for me to take home. Recently she made noises about not making them anymore, so I took my most recent batches and framed them. I love how they brighten my kitchen wall. A blogger I've recently been following, Swistle, made a cloth this week and posted about it, and even though I walk past them at least a dozen times a day, it made me take another look at Grandma's colorful cloths. And be thankful for them.

Good folks to work with, good cause to work towards. In the throes of another fundraising luncheon--seems like a blink since last year--and enjoying working with the group again. Fun times, and really heart-warming the extent (so far!) that our community has stepped up to help with sponsorship/tables, etc. Looks like our room will be full of people who care about kids--how great is that?
For a sense of humor. I got a lot of laughs this week from the silliness at NBC and the hoo-ha over what to do with Jay Leno and Conan... Ah well. Such important things to consider in this otherwise rather somber time. Mostly the fun came from people twittering (or is that tweeting?) and facebooking and blogging about it. Oh, and Conan's letter to the People of Earth. I don't watch either Leno or Conan (I can't stay up that late and the dvr is full of other things I'd rather watch AND if I was going to watch--I'd watch Craig Ferguson anyway) so I can't pretend there's any real loyalty one way or the other, but I have come away with a bit more respect for the redhead. Related, but not completely, here's Jimmy Kimmel talking with Leno. I like Jimmy too... he is good at sticking it to Leno, just a bit!

Speaking of that otherwise somber week... grateful for those who survived the earthquake in Haiti, for those that have mobilized to help with the rescue effort and for the power of things like "Text HAITI to 90999 and send $10 to the relief effort." You know how much that one little phrase has rasied so far? $3 million for the Red Cross alone. Amazing.

For the folks of the blogosphere; the ones I enjoy reading, anyway! I have enjoyed Gwen Bell's ideas for awhile now (her blog title is Big Love in a Small World--major social media lady, she), and she started another blog at the new year: The Mindfulist. Good, simple ideas to improve your life and actually disconnect you from this darn addicting medium every once in awhile. The quote for the day at the Mindfulist: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” --Charles Dickens.

For coffee, and coffee dates. Had a few of those this week. Some work-ish, some play-ish. All good. And coffee, though I am mocked by the men of this house for my love... I just can't help it. Love love love.


For creativity. Take a look at that Starry Night cake! Makes the rainbow cake look kind of easy and pitiful, doesn't it? Though, husband seemed a little so-what on it--I think taking a bit of a bright blue cake isn't high on his list of must-have desserts. I just love the thought that went into it--how easy would it have been to just make a sheet cake with the starry night portrayed. But no, this cake artist wanted layers! Very fun.

Grateful for my family, near and far. I'm thankful that there is mostly wellness, and mostly blessings. But even among the blessings there are pains and sorrows of course, as with any family. We pray every night that God will hold all of you in his hand and bring you comfort. We all need that, the comfort.

Thankful for fun music. Jen sent me a new music idea today and I checked it out immediately, of course. And had to share it with you all too. The video is fun--it reminds me of being 15 and making those posters of all my favorite things and hanging them in my room... lots of glue and dreams.

Happy weekend. May you truly feel the blessings of rest.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday 13: Thirteen happiness quotes

S unshine! Wow, to wake up and see blue sky, pink clouds and real sunshine? Just a miracle, I tell you. A very happy miracle. (As opposed to all the sad miracles you hear about? I know. Always stating the obvious..)

I've been saving these quotes up for awhile, waiting for just the right week to pour a little happiness inspiration out into the world. What with the whole post-holiday, January-is-too-long funk that's been going around, this seemed like a good week...

Combine that with a heavy dose of real-world natural disaster and, well, maybe happiness quotes seem a little flip when there are people struggling to survive, find water, find loved ones? Perhaps, but the sentiments below are as applicable this week as any, in fact, maybe even more so. I trust you can read them in the spirit with which they are shared, and find some nugget of wisdom that resonates with you to carry you through another week.

In no particular order:

1. There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do. --Freya Stark

2. Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. --Denis Waitley

3. Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves. --Helen Keller

 5. People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you're fortunate. But happiness is a result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly. --Elizabeth Gilbert

6. Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. --William James

7. Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them. --Jack Brown

9. Remember, happiness doesn't depend on who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think. --Dale Carnegie

10. Your time is limited. Don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drowned your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. --Steve Jobs

11. There is no duty we so underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world. --Robert Louis Stevenson

12. Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it. --Groucho Marx

13. Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. --Abraham Lincoln

I leave you with this graphic, found at, which frankly, in my book, sums it up fairly well.

May your Thursday be filled with happiness!

For other Thursday 13 participants, or to join, click here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New! Search feature!

Y ou may be super observant and already have noticed a little change to the blog. Have you? Take a look over on the right. Yep, a search function. Courtesy of our friends at Google (and Blogger too, I suppose).

So, this will teach me to do a better job of tagging my posts--recipes especially--and hopefully it will help out the two or three or four of you who might want to search for a specific dish or ingredient. And it also prompts me to go back and make sure the recipes I have already posted are tagged sufficiently that they can be found lickety-split. By me, too. I have spent far too long some days, looking for something I posted a year ago and didn't label properly!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A little word-ish inspiration for your Tuesday

T he wind blew through here last night, so while normally I might complain about the wind and the noise and bluster, today I just can't--it blew the fog away. I am very happy that the gray ceiling got moved a bit higher. I can see mountains and trees and everything! Much appreciated, wind. Thanks for doing your job.

My newest favorite thing to listen to is The Writer's Almanac on American Public Media, hosted by Garrison Keillor. There's a poem every day, and a biography of an author. You can get the email sent to you every day, and I do, but then I like to click on the "play" and have Mr. Keillor read it to me (you can also subscribe to it via iTunes!). I love his voice, very soothing. He could read me to sleep any night.

I highly recommend it as a little spot of "different" in your day.

And the motto of the show? Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.® Can't hope for much better than that.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

White bean rosemary soup

W hite beans and rosemary... before I gave it a try, I'd never thought of it before. But once I'd had it, the flavors became forever entwined in my mind. This one is a keeper. During the catering days, I made it almost every week for months and months... It was a regular for delivery lunches! I haven't had it in ages (years?) and was craving some soup goodness in all that gray last week... this hit the spot. I made a pot, ladled myself a happy bowl and dipped some toasted wheat bread in it as I went along. Heaven. The rosemary is key. If you're not a rosemary fan, you might give this a pass.

I think I originally got the idea from Ina Garten, but have since adapted it to my quirks. I like it simple, very simple. And I found, too, that the rosemary oil imparts a great deal of flavor that the rosemary twig only hints at. Who needs a rosemary hint? I like to really know it's there.

White bean rosemary soup
Serves 3-4

1 medium onion, diced
3 Tbsp. rosemary oil (grapeseed or olive oil, see below)
3 cups cooked white beans (I've used cannellini, great northern beans and butter beans--all are great.)
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper (I've been using white pepper lately and loving it, but go gentle.)

Saute the onion in heated rosemary oil over medium heat. Stir until translucent, about five minutes. Add the white beans and vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the beans have started to lose some shape. Take a potato masher and mash the soup a few times, taking care to leave some beans whole, for texture. Turn the heat down to low and add the half-and-half, and heat through, adding salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve, with a swirl of rosemary oil on top for color (and flavor!).

Rosemary oil
Take 1 cup of fresh rosemary leaves (off the branch) and wash and dry them thoroughly. Place the leaves in a small saucepan and pour in 1 cup of olive or grapeseed oil and bring to a simmer. Once the oil is simmering, shut it off and let the leaves steep for 15-20 minutes. Pour oil through a strainer into a clean glass jar and store in a cool, dry place. Enjoy!

If you're not up for making rosemary oil, it is usually available in grocery stores, with other specialty oils. Usually flavored grapeseed oil, since it takes on flavors really well. But don't hesitate to try making it either--it's very easy and you'll be drizzling it over everything once you've tried it.

I took a little extra joy in making this soup last week since I had homemade vegetable stock AND homemade rosemary oil on hand. Can't really think when the last time THAT happened! (Never. That's when.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday night grateful moment

I sn't that image above just the perfect juxtaposition of most days? Or most hours of the day? Pick one, and hope for the best. Of course, I suppose a better way to approach things is the image below (from Lisa Ridgely's calligraphy blog)... I try, I really do. Some days are better than others...

I'm sure I've said this before, but this must have been the GRAYEST week ever. EVER. I used to poo-poo those people who claimed to have season affective disorder and had big old lights at their desks, but that was back when I was young and cheerful. Now I'm old and crotchety and a big light shining in my face would feel pretty good right about now. I am hoping for either snow or sun. Is that too much to ask? I think not. I'd even take both.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you've got to keep on keeping on. Part of that is the practice of thankfulness, of which I have no short supply.

*Grateful for the best men a girl could ask for. I am blessed, every day. I could enumerate the many ways they both make me feel loved, but then you'd be blushing and jealous, and I'd feel bad for you. So just take my word for it.

*Grateful for color in a gray season. Wonder why the Christmas tree is still up? Well, it's coming down Sunday, much to Seth's chagrin--he was lobbying for the end of January. Ha. (Picture above is me experimenting with my new little photo studio set up. It pretty much rocks.)

*Grateful for beautiful images. 30 amazing examples of latte art--check it out. I was surprised at the detail! And also how many bunnies and little animal images are in the mix too... I'm all for bunnies, but on my latte? I think I prefer the more organic images...

*Grateful for promising health outcomes. My friend Jen is two chemo treatments down for her lymphoma and the tumor has already been reduced by 70%! That's amazing. So glad it's working and so glad you're sleeping better already, Jen.

*Grateful for interesting things to read and ponder... no shortage of that on the bedside table, or laptop... This week I hopped back on to Twitter and I know I've likened it to riding waves of information, but that's really the best way I can think of to describe it. There are a few little tricks in figuring out who to follow and who to NOT follow, so that you're getting information you care about, but generally, I enjoy being back. In my little web wanderings I found a few gems to think about, for your spare time...
The Good Guy Contract. Makes sense to me... I appreciated his thoughts on this somewhat common concept.
The Writer's Almanac. Love the inspiration--I get this delivered to my inbox every morning. And you can listen to Garrison Keillor read it to you every morning too. I really love his voice (Be well. Do good work and keep in touch. That pretty much sums it up). Today's snippet was about Isabel Allende, about her writing process, and it was quite motivating in the writing arena.
The Art of Community. I am really looking forward to taking a look at this book, which was available to download free online (but you can also buy it at Amazon if you would like!). He's got an interesting perspective on publishing and online communities--I'm curious about the applications for non-profit fundraising, as well as just for business in general.
Favorite news story this week. A heartwarming account of someone helping out a fellow traveler in a time of need. You would want this guy looking out for your grandma.

*Grateful for creativity and talent. These guys knocked my socks off this week. Can't get enough of them. At first I couldn't figure it out--I hadn't heard about them before... I know, I'm slow that way. But really, aren't they good? I have a feeling we'll hear a lot more about Sam Tsui and Kurt Schneider in the years ahead. At least, I hope so!

Here's their interview with Bonnie Hunt. (I love her. I'm sad her show got cancelled. I never watched it, but still... I really think she's a beautiful, entertaining lady.) Sam and Kurt explain how they got started and how the partnership works.

*Grateful for people who can make the most of bad situations. Remember when the Newark airport got shut down this week, because some guy went the wrong way into a secure area (to kiss his girlfriend goodbye?) and the whole place locked down. Well, some people decided to sing their way through it. I can imagine finding this rather amusing, but I can also imagine (in the moment) feeling not so much... but, since I wasn't there, I'm choosing to find it amusing.

*Grateful that Ma and Pa got faster internet service on the island!
Now I can inundate them with video clips and they can actually watch them. Very exciting.

*Grateful for rosemary. The scent reminds me that we will have summer again. Things will grow again.

*Grateful for cheese. Always. This will never end. Bury me with cheese. Seriously.

*Grateful for hot chocolate with whipped cream AND marshmallows. (Did you know a 13-year-old boy can pretty much finish off a can of whipped cream all by himself? It's almost magical.)

*Grateful for the weekend ahead, the relaxation and the deconstruction of Christmas... and a clean house at the end of it! That's the plan, anyway.

Happy weekend, all. Peace, joy and love.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Music makes the world go round

T o know me is to know that I love music. Not all kinds, but quite a few different artists and genres. I have some super music sleuth friends who are always coming up with new and unique artists to expose me to, which I greatly appreciate! And I do very little actual radio listening to find new artists; iTunes fulfills that role for me most days, and a little Pandora thrown in for good measure...

Of course, there's more than just music or songs, in and of themselves. With the amazing technology available to DJs, song "mash ups" are quite common--a combination of songs that together make a new one. The TV show Glee featured a number of great mashups in their first season, especially in one episode where the boys face off against the girls. The boys combined "It's My Life" with "Confessions Pt. 2" and the girls did a "Halo/Walking on Sunshine" combo. Kinda cool.

The two following videos take the concept even further by combining the top 25 songs of the year into one song. It's pretty wild. If you go to DJ Earworm's site, there's even a color coded lyric chart that shows which lyrics came from which song for the 2009 video.

  • The Black Eyed Peas - BOOM BOOM POW
  • Lady Gaga - POKER FACE
  • Lady Gaga Featuring Colby O’Donis - JUST DANCE
  • The Black Eyed Peas - I GOTTA FEELING
  • Taylor Swift - LOVE STORY
  • Flo Rida - RIGHT ROUND
  • Jason Mraz - I’M YOURS
  • Kanye West - HEARTLESS
  • The All-American Rejects - GIVES YOU HELL
  • Taylor Swift - YOU BELONG WITH ME
  • T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake - DEAD AND GONE
  • The Fray - YOU FOUND ME
  • Kings Of Leon - USE SOMEBODY
  • Keri Hilson Featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo - KNOCK YOU DOWN
  • Jamie Foxx Featuring T-Pain - BLAME IT
  • T.I. Featuring Rihanna - LIVE YOUR LIFE
  • Soulja Boy Tell ‘em Featuring Sammie - KISS ME THRU THE PHONE
  • Jay Sean Featuring Lil Wayne - DOWN
  • Miley Cyrus - THE CLIMB
  • Drake - BEST I EVER HAD
  • Beyonce - HALO
  • Katy Perry - HOT N COLD

In a way, I prefer 2008's mash up to 2009's. Not quite sure why, but my niggling irritation at anything related to Lady Gaga might have something to do with it. But each year has artists I'm not so fond of (Mariah Carey, anyone?)...


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

All this gray is in serious need of a rainbow

So, the fog. Have I mentioned the fog here in Walla Walla? It's a crazy lady, that fog. No fun at all. (And not even a faint resemblance to that sunshine we had on New Years...) Yesterday we got a blast of rain that lifted it a bit, but I fear today will bring more of the same... So what do I need when all I see is shades of gray? Some color!

Remember the rainbow cake I found here and then made for Seth's birthday? I haven't forgotten it either. I just love that cake. Jen made that cake recently for her boy. I get emails about that cake, questions of Facebook about that cake. That cake connects people. That cake could stop wars, in my humble opinion. Or, at least provide a nice snack break for the soldiers, in between military maneuvers.

This lovely blog recently featured some fab photos of what I call a rainbow cake on steroids. I mean, seriously, folks. How many layers are there? The picture I found/downloaded came with those lovely colorful marshmallows on the side, so I just left them there (I'm clueless on how to get rid of them, really...) but I'll admit they are distracting. Focus on the cake. Try and count the layers--I came up somewhere in the realm of 26. Dream about how yummy it probably is. Gives a girl something to ponder in these post-holiday-the-landscape-looks-like-pea-soup days...

Here's another example of a rainbow cake--all the colors mixed together in two layers. Kinda psychedelic, eh? A nice variation on the six layers of the "original."

Here are a few other rainbows to see you on your way.

This is a color placemat. How cool. If my mom could eat off this every day, I bet she'd be happy--those are Pantone colors, Ma.

Fabric swatches, oh my.

Rainbow butterfly cookies, yum yum.

 And rainbow pancakes!

And rainbow alphabet cookies. All from the same happy blogger.
She's about as rainbow nutty as I am!

Subway walls. Even if you're underground, might as well see a little color.

Hope your day contains a little sunshine, somewhere!

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