Saturday, July 28, 2018

Musings - July 2018

Books: I am still making my way through a very dense book on local economics. (Although I did kill off that book on Queen Elizabeth!) And so, to distract myself, I raided both the local Little Free Library (Empire Falls by Richard Russo which was enjoyable but pointless - and I guess that's the point of a beach read) and the beach Little Free Library (And The Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass which was extremely pointless and not enjoyable) plus I hit the bookstore for another from JR Ward's series, Blood Fury. It was fine - just like the rest of the series but they have achieved a boring, formulaic sameness.

Gratitude: Books. Fireworks. Fireflies. Good vets. Kittens. 

Listening: In the car, driving, podcasts are my jam. I probably have 10+ I listen to at least occasionally. But sometimes I binge: Chalene Johnson. Dave Ramsey - this month. At the office there is usually a lot of Pandora happening.

Perfume: I slacked off a bit. There have been so many mosquitoes I did not want to do ANYTHING to draw them!

Recipes: My ex-mother-in-law made the best broccoli-mango salad (from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe). I had occasion to make it for 4th of July as the broccoli in our garden has been very prolific. And it was very well received by adult kidlets, but even 11 said it was "pretty good".

The garden was overflowing with peas and mint and basil. So I did what any sensible person would do. I made pesto!

Garden Pesto:
- Equal parts mint, basil and peas (I used 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup cashews (I had left-over  purchased for the broccoli-mango salad)
- 1/2 cup good Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
And blend....

Jericho (18) doesn't eat peas. but this pesto she ate on crackers until we finished it all.

I also found the easiest Southern Living recipe for quick cobbler ever. Which I modified to be even easier by using frozen berries.

Quick Cobbler:
- 1 stick of butter (melted)
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp of almond or vanilla 
- 1 egg
Mix. It will be thick. You will end up using a spoon to cover the fruit. 

You can use individual cups or you can use a shallow pan. I use a bread pan. And I put in 3 cups of Triple Berry frozen fruit (I almost always have that in my freezer - store brand, nothing fancy). Then I top the fruit with the cobbler topping. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until golden on top.

This might keep for a few days but I wouldn't know because it doesn't last in my house! We serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And we served it about 3 times this month.

Self-Care: I have been all about skin care. Cleansers. Serums. Oils. Creams. I've hit the age where I don't mind eye crinkles or laugh lines but hate those wrinkles on my forehead. Instead of searching for a magic cure, I should just probably wear my Frownies more often!

But this month I added a Juice Beauty serum and oil to the morning routine. Perhaps that will help.

Things 11 told me:  As she was playing in the beach donut I got her, after I said it was for her, but she wanted me to use it, she said -  "Too bad. Sometimes you have to share."
- "Is this garden fresh?" is now her standard query to any vegetable because obviously the ones from our garden taste best!
- "The secret ingredient is venom." is now her standard answer to any recipe inquiry. That one, I may have started.

Watching: Preacher (Season 2). Cloak and Dagger.

Take-away - Time slithers. In summer it seems endless like you have forever. But there are only so many days in summer and so many summers. Take the time to make the most of them. (Preferably with wine and people you like!)

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Texas Weekend

Austin is GORGEOUS. (As a friend said - the vibe is just indescribable.) I think of Texas as flat and dry - I've visited Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Laredo, Waco and other dry Texas places in the past. I'd forgotten that Austin is in hill country and has rivers. No lakes - although Lady Bird Lake is a piece of the Colorado River. We went in mid-June for a weekend get-away/meeting a few of Guy's friends for a birthday event - Mike's 50th as seen below with Guy and Mike, the birthday boy! (He still looks 47, right?)

And I remembered Austin was hill country after we accidentally walked 9 miles the first day! We are such Midwesterners - it's only 1/2 mile, of course we can walk that! Do that a few times and BOOM! 9 miles just happens. (As do ginormous blisters but that is another story.)

There is art literally everywhere in Austin! They make art of nearly everything - witness the Hope Outdoor Gallery which was once a burgeoning condo development. You can't walk down a sidewalk without seeing art! Improvised spray paint art or gorgeous planned mosaics. There is no end to the creativity you see in Austin!

The food in Austin is out of this world. I did not have a single bad meal! The food was good for me (vegetarian, lactose intolerant, and gluten sensitive freak) and him (just loves good food). The funny thing was - we did no research and picked nothing in advance. We just stumbled upon places as we explored. A few times we used my Happy Cow app to find a place near us, due to ALL the walking blisters. Because I'm a serial sharer... here is my rank ordered list of AMAZING Austin food:
- The Peached Tortilla (Asian/Mexican fusion)
Blue Dahlia (fresh, seasonal- and the menu is the most beautiful blue which they make the dye for in their own kitchen!)
The Clay Pot (date night Indian and very large cocktails)
Koriente (fresh, reasonably priced Asian)
Frank's (gourmet hotdogs and amazing brunch - pictured is my plate of veggie Eggs Benedict)
The Goodall Kitchen (a touch pretentious with a limited menu but the art is absolutely museum worthy)
There were likely a dozen other places we could've easily tried - and might next time!

We stayed at The Pearl Vintage Inn Hotel which is wonderful location. A touch off the beaten path but close to downtown. Magically lit up at night  - like when we arrived - with tiny fairy lights on the trees. Private entrances for many of the rooms. In some ways it felt like a bed and breakfast. It's amazing - comfortable and quiet. We stayed in the Far East room which was Asian elegant and had wonderful furniture, plus included its own outdoor balcony where Guy took his morning coffee. (I sooooo wanted to have a reason to use the lovely outdoor bar on the 1st level.Would've been fun to host something there!) My only complaint was that the owners were obviously not foodie people. The "breakfast" offering was cut-up, store-bought pastries, sad granola, and overripe bananas + grocery store tea. No. But the room was beyond amazing - so win! (I got the fancy $20 bill chocolate at the airport store for a joke.)

During our wandering tour on Saturday, we stumbled into a African-American Writers event at the George Washington Carver Museum, which had the most lovely bathroom I've ever seen in a museum. And got a real sense of Texas history at the Bollock Museum. We also wandered around the capital building being totally tourists and taking pictures of various statues. Hats off the the Austin Parks Department - we found the Old Bakery Emporium which was so cool! Tiny shop (all things made by local artists over 50), a mini art museum, and a small history museum in one location near the capitol building.

I also happened upon the ModCloth Fit Shop in Austin! I'd literally seen a ModCloth dress on Instagram that week which I loved - and while at Sunday brunch at Franks, we spotted the shop on our phone maps within walking distance. Sadly, the dress was not what I expected (way more formal fabric and 3 skirt layers!) but I did find an adorable skirt - with pockets! While you can't walk out of the store with what you love, they will ship it to you for free and because you can try it on - you get the right size every time.

And since it was me traveling, what travel story could I tell that wouldn't include the gorgeous flowers? And a mystery. 

This pink flower was a tree that grew to our balcony and flowered.

This orange and yellow flowering bush was on our walk. I'm not sure what it is but I recognized it. Last year when i was in Tucson on business, there was one of these outside my hotel room which attracted various butterflies.

We passed several of these profusions of orange flowers on our walks. 

This blue flower looks like Phlox - but not quite - to my eye.

Last, but not least is this weird tangle of twig or vines is my mystery flora. I saw them in a number of trees - clustered like flowers. (This one had fallen - that's how I got the close-up.) When I first spotted them, I thought birds nests! But in looking at the fallen one, nope. Something else. Still not sure what as I wasn't sure what to search to find them and my flower identifying app has fritzed out. (If you know a good app for flower identification - please let me know!)

And that, my friends, is a 4 day weekend to remember. Time together, time to explore, time with friends, time to relax/recharge. What else could you ask for?

Take-away - Take time. Make memories. They are what lasts in relationships.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Musings - June 2018

Books: There was a pleasure trip, so I got to read a good bit - after what may be my prerequisite airport book binge. The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne which is a very good book set in Michigan - is one of those airport buys. It's not a mystery but more of a survival guide with a point of view. It was a very enjoyable plane read! Lab Girl by Hope Jahren was boring on the "human" parts and utterly amazing in the pieces about plants. Powered through the my Kindle Unlimited edition of Pamela by Shannon Meyer while waiting at the DMV. Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb. (Not quite sure how we are up to like 20 in this series but they are all a good read.) Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz which is a good beach read -  and cults seem to be a persistent theme....

And if you got to this blog from a note you picked up at a Little Free Library - hi! I tend to share!

Gratitude: Steam cleaners. Book kittens. Evening mist across the fields. Beach. Family hula hoop contests. Tiny harvests. Pretty to-do lists.

Listening: Susan Hyatt. Christy Wright's Business Boutique. Sting. And so much Pandora.

Perfume: I'm all about wearing out my upstairs perfume (Paper Flower by Love and Toast). And when I forget it - which happens several times a week - then Hardcore Happy by Pacifica. 

Recipes:  I have been absolutely gorging on Southern Living magazine. I have about 3 years of backlog going. Kind of ridiculous as it used to be my favorite source for recipes and design inspiration! This month in a summer issue, I spotted a Strawberry Rhubarb Pretzel Pie. And the season is right for all these ingredients! Several of the kidlets liked it, and we decided it could easily be made with other fruits. (Spoiler alert - the crust smells AMAZING as you cook it.)  

I also made up a quick salad based on what was in the pantry and the garden. I have a returning fennel bulb that's just kicking up stalks like crazy - and it may have split to 2 bulbs - we'll find out. Plus I had lentils just hanging out in my pantry and some diced tomatoes.....

Lentil Fennel Salad

- 6 cups of water
- 2 cups of dry lentils 
- 3 long stalks of fennel, sliced thin
- 1 small yellow onion, slice thin 
- 1 can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar or coconut vinegar

Cook lentils with water according to package directions. (I used brown, green would probably taste even better.) Broil fennel and onions for 12 - 15 minutes (a little olive oil, salt, pepper on them.) When everything is done. Mix in a large bowl with the can of diced tomatoes. 

Juice the lemon, mix with oil and vinegar to taste + salt and pepper. Dress the salad with the mixture.

This takes about 25 minutes to make - and not all of it hands on. Plus while this is good right off, it's better if it sits overnight.

Accompaniments: A touch of feta cheese. A bit of fresh mint.

And life tip... keep a bag of mixed, triple berries in your freezer. Quick pie! Saved Father's Day dessert since the place we selected did not have dessert. (What?!? But really, no dessert at Silver Beach Pizza. Just awesome pizza.)

Self-Care: I'm continuing to love the 100% Pure line. In addition to the Blood Orange Cleansing Balm (which as mentioned last month is the bomb), 100% Pure offers a night lotion that has CoQ10. This is the thing my skin loves to help fight off wrinkles.  I used Avalon Organics Wrinkle Therapy for a good number of years. (I've abandoned it due continuing issues with the pump across multiple purchases. Ease of use is a thing. If I can't use it easily, I'm done.)

Sunscreen. An absolute must in southern climates. My favorite is from Alba. (pictured.)

Things 11 told me:

- She was doing a project with her sister and when I told her she was covered in glitter, she replied, "And now I glitter like the stars!" - and when I said she'd made the kittens glittery, she replied, "I made them fancy for the vet."
- She was in a splash fight with her brother at the lake. As he was losing, he claimed handicap. (She was also fighting one armed as he has an arm in a cast.) Her answer to him quitting? "No quitting! You chose this war."

Watching: I finished out Devious Maids and that is a super fun show! Total mind candy. Frivolous. A mystery. And fun. Also rocked out Season 2 of Wynona Earp; it has the best soundtrack ever. Now I'm currently watching Empire.

Random: Austin, Texas is GORGEOUS. There is art literally everywhere! You can't walk down a sidewalk without seeing art! The food was fantastic, too. We took a long weekend and went to see friends. It was so nice to take a break from all the things.

And... 18 graduated! She also won several scholarships for college. We did the required pix with dad and with siblings. I was touched when I asked if she needed any other shots and she replied, "Yes, one of you and Dad with me." (I had on the wrong make-up for photos but whatever! )

Take-away - Take time off. Go somewhere new to you. Have an adventure. It will change your perspective.

PS - FYI, I do invest in the parent company (Hain Celestial) of the Alba sunscreen pictured. Because I believe if you love and use it, so might other people! That's literally my 401k investing philosophy. And I'm sharing with you that the sunscreen is awesome because I love to share.

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

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