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31 January 2012

...because your style is not labeled in one word...

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I love quizzes.  (don't you??)

I've always loved reading chick magazines and filling out all the answers to the "Learn what your 
worst trait is" and "Are you a good friend?" and "Figure out your style in 17 easy questions!". Fun! 


 The only problem is that you might end up thinking that your style is "eclectic" or "modern" or "Asian" )
(seriously? Asian?? That is really a design category...as if Asia doesn't have thousands of varying design styles?! Blech.)

My office space...a study on the things I JUST LOVE
Moving on. A long time ago I learned to give up all the design labels.  Those quizzes are fun, but when it comes to actually defining your style, they do little more than give you a sticky label to tag on your style.  Design books that try to pigeonhole you into a specific style do the same.  The thing is -  - everyone's style is slightly different and there aren't enough labels in the world to accurately do them justice.  So join me in ditching the labels and simply learning your style inside and out without labeling it!!

 My article this week on Houzz is all about creating ideabooks to help you learn your own style.  Using "just love" books, you can delve into the defining features of your preferences and get a better grip on what you should be looking for when you are purchasing items for your home.  Go check out the article right HERE and I would love it if you made your own "just love" ideabook or pinboard and showed them off here in the comment section or over on the facebook page!!  Let's see what you JUST LOVE!!

What can I take from this exterior shot that I JUST LOVE?  Perhaps a hallway softened by plantings or botanical prints?

Don't Underestimate Your Kids | Pickled Turnips and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes

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Sometimes my kids really surprise me with the dishes that they like.  Sometimes I'll make a pasta dish I think they'll love it and they barely eat 3 bites.  Other times I make spinach smoothies for salads for myself that they keep asking for seconds of!  Craziness!  This is one of those dishes...


I made this little salad of pickled veggies for myself last night and chilled and marinated it overnight for lunch today.  When I pulled it out of the fridge, the boys kept asking for bite after bite, so I finally gave them each a serving and they whoofed it down.  One even asked for seconds.

Later when I was photographing the dish, I noticed a little hands sneaking into the frame...



Yeah -- they kinda liked it :)



So what IS this dish you ask??

It is a simple pickled salad of raw turnip and yellow tomato.  The marinade, pickling "juice" is a basic salad dressing and it infuses the veggies (Especially the turnips!) with a tart flavor.  I suppose the flavor would intensify if you left the salad in the fridge for a few days, but ours lasted but an evening.


Pickled Veggie Salad

2 cups of Cherry Tomatoes (I used yellow!), washed, not peeled
2 medium turnips, peeled and julienned

Marinade

1 T Spicy Brown Mustard
1 T Lemon Juice
1 T White Vinegar
2 T Olive Oil
1/2 c Water
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper

Mix ingredients and let the flavors meld in the fridge overnight.  Serve cold or room temperature.  Easy Breezy!

What have your kids surprised you with??  Did they end up liking beets or kolrabi?  Do you have a broccoli freak in your house (we do!)

30 January 2012

To like or not to like...that is the pinteresting question

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Hello hello! Good Morning!!!

Here is the question of the day...

Should you or should you not...................LIKE what people are pinning from your site on pinterest.

This is my dilemma....

You see, pinterest is the best gage of what readers are liking on my site.  (Thank you Gail for showing me how to find my source page!) Not only do I get to see which projects they want to KEEP, but typically posts are given a "title" or comment as they are pinned.  I learn a lot from glancing through pinterest and seeing what people are saying.

 
 Last week, I realized that my pineapple post was a big hit over at pinterest, so I decided to post the ginger post I had in queue right away to capitalize on the new followers and subscribers that are into pantry planting.

The problem is...I'm a big fan of the "like" button on facebook as a "thank you".  You know...someone says "You hair looks great!" and you press "like" to say thanks, right?  Well, I've been "liking" pins that people have pinned from my blog as a way to say a quick "thanks".  My questions is whether it reads as a thank you or as an egocentric move of an egomaniac.

In fact, I've been experimenting the past few weeks.  I will spend one week liking a bunch of pins...just down the page, like-like-like - thank you-thank you-thank you like a politician.   Then the next week I didn't "like" anything.  My goal was to see if people hated me liking everything and started to unfollow or whatever.  Well...the results are in and my "liking" made no difference whatsoever...

SO...I need your opinion...do you see it as a thank you when someone likes your pin from their blog or as an ego-maniacal move???

Thoughts??

27 January 2012

Redbud: Nessa of Moments and Impressions

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So I've "known" Nessa for awhile now (via blogland), but recently, it seems she and I  have been emailing like over-tweeeeeety songbirds.  I'm kinda in love with this girl and I think you might fall for her too...

She has a way of speaking to her audience that is sweet and insightful, not at all crass or over sharing.  She is a blogger that lets you see her heart, but isn't opening up just for the attention or shock value.  Mixed in with the musings of life are fabulous decor, gardens and recipes (my kind of GIRL!).



One of my favorite recent posts lately is simply titled today.  
Then there is the one titled change.
Or maybe you would love the post Two Spoons.

Take your pick!  Go read a post or two and make sure to tell Miss Nessa that Amy Renea says Hey! 

Want to meet the rest of the redbuds?  Check them out below!


26 January 2012

How to Plant Ginger Root

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So hey....apparently planting a pineapple top as a hosue plant is big news...everyone's all pinning and asking questions about growing your own pineapple and gaining a cheap new houseplant, so I thought I would show you another one of my pantry planting successes.  Ready for some NEW houseplants??

I've been on a major ginger kick lately, so a few months ago, I planted a few chunks of ginger to multiply my supply.  Now, people are going to get on my case because you are supposed to lay the ginger on top of the soil, but I plant it right under the surface so my babies don't steal it and eat it.  (Yes, they literally do things like that if plants aren't rooted down yet...no foxglove for THIS family!)  I have had no issues growing ginger this way!!

So here's a chunk of ginger root, about an inch long, unpeeled....

[ Thanks to Andrea for  mentioning in the comment section to be careful to make sure there is a "node" on each section you plant.  All of the important "stuff" to grow is hidden in that node and without one, the ginger will just rot.  You can kind of think of it as the "seed" inside the little piece of ginger.  A node (or bud or whatever you want to call it) is just a little knob on the ginger...you are probably more familiar with potatoes.  You know when potatoes sprout in your pantry?  That little sprout came from a node.  (See a photo HERE)  Try to find those little bumps on your ginger.  If all else fails, try taking an inch off the end of each little "finger" -- those almost always have a node on them!]





25 January 2012

Taste Testing Frozen Vs. Fresh Squash and Ginger

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SO. You've heard enough about squash and pumpkin and ginger from me the past few days to last you a lifetime. I ask you to read one more post. Then go make some soup. Then eat it and love it.  One warning...DON'T USE THE FAKE STUFF!

Remember that oven shot?  Yeah...those were all different techniques and finished with different amount of ginger, fresh vs powdered, etc. etc.  I was going to write a big long post on the advantages of both, but it all boils down to one thing.

The soup that I made from frozen squash and powdered ginger?  The chickens ate it.  I did not.  It was THAT BAD.  It gives squash and ginger a bad name.  So please please use my shortcut on the squash, and if you are desperate go ahead and use frozen squash (no don't really...it won't be as good), but please please please know there is NO substitution for that roasted fresh ginger.  I know it is a pain to peel, but it totally makes the dish.  Promise.





The following photos are the stocks and broths that I tested...







Want the recipe for the Nicole's Squash and Ginger soup?   CLICK HERE
Want to see how I made the prep process a little easier?      CLICK HERE
Want to see roasted Jarrahdale Pumpkins or Beets?              CLICK HERE

24 January 2012

Roasted Jarrahdale Pumpkin Soup

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Do you have a few pumpkins still sitting around from Halloween?  Chances are...they are still good enough to eat!  (...but not for long...they might start to rot around this time of year, so now is the time to eat them up!)  I had some Jarrahdale Pumpkins (the blue kind...you can see them growing HERE) and they were about to be sacrificed to the compost if I didn't do something about it within the next couple of weeks.  Since I was so in love with Nicole's Squash and Ginger Soup I decided to try the same recipe with my pumpkins.  Surprise, surprise...I loved it!

So here are the pumpkins cracked open.  They have blue skin, but typical orange pumpkin innards.  Simply gut the pumpkins, then roast whole using THIS METHOD I used with butternut squash.  Add the ginger, butter S and P to the cavity and roast on 400 degrees for a few hours until the flesh is fork tender.  I add a little more ginger than in the squash recipe because the pumpkin taste is a little "deeper" and "earthier" than the squash, so I like more ginger to "brighten" it up.  (I know...I hate using those words to describe food too...like I'm a "too into myself Top Chef contestant" or something...but I couldn't think of a better way to describe it.  So there you go -- brighten up your pumpkin with a little ginger!!)


If you have been following along on my facebook page, you might have seen this photo (above) and wondered what I was up to.  Well...let's just say I've been eating so much squash and pumpkin lately that I might start to turn into an orangey looking Bilirubin Baby pretty soon.  Those separate pans all full of squash were my taste testing experiments to see which method worked the best for this delicious dish.

Anywho....after your pumpkins are roasted and very tender, with a skin looking like the pumpkin below, you know they are ready to pop out of the oven.  LET THEM COOL and then scoop the flesh out (don't loose any of that yummy ginger and butter sauce!)  Puree the pumpkin with vegetable stock (FULL RECIPE HERE) and save the soup for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months (or probably longer...).



Had enough pumpkin and squash yet???  Sorry Hardy!  FROZEN squash coming up next!!

23 January 2012

How to Plant a Supermarket Pineapple Top (Easy!)

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So you buy a pineapple at the grocery store, eat all the goodness up and have tons of rind leftover. You throw the pineapple top in the trash, and you feel a little twinge of guilt as all that weight hits the bottom of the can. You throw it in the compost and you feel much better, but you still feel like you are missing out on an opportunity. Why? Because you are throwing away a pineapple! That pineapple top can usually grow a whole new plant if you give it soil and water and light, and this time of year is the PERFECT time to give your pineapple a head start on the growing season.  The roots begin to develop before the leaves and fruit, so growing your pineapple indoors while it is getting established and then allowing the pineapple to have more light before it fruits (this summer) works perfectly!


It's really simple...just chop the top of the pineapple off with a decent amount of core still left on it.

Experts say you should let it sit out a day or so, but I just plop it right into the soil.

I plant mine in a pot and move in from indoors to out, but if you are in zone 9 or 10, 
or it is summertime for you, feel free to plant your pineapple straight into the ground.

Dig a hole, hold the soil to the side and drop the pineapple in with the spiky hair pointing UP!
The soil should nestle right in around the bottom of the first set of leaves.


Pat the soil down around the plant to settle it in. (It IS a plant now, no longer just a pineapple :)


Ready to see the results of your pineapple top planting? 
 Click HERE to check out the new plant!

20 January 2012

Redbud: Little Sketchers

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Did you know...?

"All children have great thoughts and great ideas which find expression in doodles and sketches…random thoughts, random doodles, find place everywhere. Be it walls or bedsheets or whatever ‘canvas’ the little ones lay their hands on!

Given a chance, every parent would like to cherish each one of these amazing masterpieces. But, they usually run out of ideas and space. Some art adorns the walls, the refrigerator, the pin up boards while some gets stored away in boxes, files and folders. 

And very soon they all grow up."  (from Little Sketchers.com)


Today's Feature Friday (NO this is NOT a sponsored post!!) is such a special little website.  It is called Little Sketchers and showcases bebe artwork.  It is a place where your child can set up a free gallery and you can upload their photos, drawings, artwork and plain old sketches.  It is a community of artists and wannabe artists and I find it so inspiring.  Kids have all the great ideas, don't they?

I have been trying to capture our "everydays" with my Project 52 (yeah...it might take a few years to get to 52, but we are still trucking along...forgetting the whole week thing...), but a few months ago I really started to consider the kid's artwork.  I don't want my house cluttered with papers everywhere, and we do have this ART DISPLAY CASE, but I need better solutions.  One solution will be to upload photos of the boy's sketches to their galleries on Little Sketchers.  I'll need more solutions in the coming years though (our home is overrun with art...) so stay tuned...I have my eyes fixed on one particular stairwell that is 20 ft high or so....

not my kiddo...taken from littlesketchers.com...but he is a cute kid, isn't he??  And check out that ship drawing!
The site is completely free (and remember - they aren't paying for this mention...I just found them and loved the concept), so what do you have to lose?   Even if you don't check out Little Sketchers, be inspired by their mission to save that precious artwork somehow!!

Has your kid made something amazing lately?  How will you remember it??





Want to meet the rest of the redbuds?  Check them out below!

19 January 2012

Spinach Margaritas. Dinosaur Smoothies. (Spinach Smoothies...shhh...)

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So here is the deal. You've all heard of spinach smoothies, right? Maybe you have tried them. Perhaps you blow them off because you know you would hate the (me too!).

At a certain point though, weight loss becomes NECESSARY and everyone's claims of "oh you can't taste the spinach at all!"  and "they are so gooood" start to convince you.

I am here to tell you the truth.

1.  If you make a spinach smoothie with a banana and a wee bit of fresh fruit, it will still taste like spinach.
2.  That is ok if you work yourself up to it.
3.  You can fool your kids by naming them "dinosaur smoothies" or "blueberry smoothies" or "turtle smoothies".
4.  You can fool yourself by calling them spinach margaritas.
5.  Start your spinach smoothie journey with grace.

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So let's start with the grace.  You are going to be drinking chopped up fresh spinach.  You need to ease yourself into it.  The nutritionists out there are going to kill me, but my advice is to start out with a little sugar.  (Yes, I know it defeats the purpose...but we are EASING our way into this ok?)  When you make your first smoothie, try adding the juice from the can of pineapple (NOT the heavy syrup, just the juice).  You can also try adding orange juice, lemonade or another yummy juice (that might have added sugar).  The goal eventually is to get rid of the sugary additions, but for your first couple smoothies, it is ok.  (Again, no expert here, but strong flavors and a little sugar helped me get started on this journey...)


On to the kids....calling it a "frog smoothie" (or whatever fun name you come up with) goes a looooooong way.   The reverse psychology of telling them "you can only have one cup now, but you can have another at dinner.  Please don't ask for another cup now because I will say No" works too.  Say that really sternly and they'll be begging you for spinach.

The harder challenge is convincing yourself (and your husband).  First off...you must admit to yourself that you are drinking spinach.  Don't go thinking you will be drinking a pina colada.  Next, make it delicious to YOU.  You have to add STRONG flavors to mask the greens.  A lot of people like banana in their smoothies...I hate it.  Instead, I go with really tart citrus flavors like lemon and lime.  A lot of lemon and lime.  ...and then I rim my Margarita glass with kosher salt (yes I really do), add a bunch of ice to the smoothie and drink up.  The strong salt and citrus mask the greens, pineapple adds sweetness and the ice makes it a really thick, icy drink that I prefer.  The point is to make it a drink you would actually drink...just with spinach.

Once you start craving your morning smoothie, then you can start cutting down on the sugar and fruit.  Take away a little juice here and there...add more water or ice...add more greens...try different greens, etc.

SO.  YES, you CAN drink a spinach smoothie.  NO, it will not taste as good as a Margarita.  YES, you can make it a PRETEND Margarita and have one every morning!  Yum!


My Beginner Recipe:

GIANT handful of spinach (around 2-3 cups)
1 can of pineapple in juice (NOT heavy syrup)  -- pour the whole thing in
1 can of lemonade concentrate
2 limes (juice and flesh all blended up)
Lots and lots of ice (or water)

Blend in 2 or 3 batches in the blender (or use less juice and concentrate for smaller batches).  I combine everything in a pitcher and save it for later.  You can also freeze some and make popsicles, etc.

My Advanced Recipe:

GIANT handfuls of spinach (4-5 cups)
1 can of pineapple or 1 fresh pineapple (no juice)  (or peaches or pears, etc, etc)
2 lemons and 2 limes (or just add lemon and lime juice to taste)
Lots and lots of ice (or water)

What is YOUR smoothie recipe?

18 January 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Ginger

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So Monday I told you all up and down about how wonderful Nicole's soup is right?  Did you try it?  Well, as you remember, I was eating the soup for lunch and dinner for like a week, so that is a lot of cooking squash...which also means a lotta lotta peeling and gutting squash.  A lotta lotta.  Now for those of you not familiar with peeling and gutting squash...let me give you a brief lesson.

You have to cut off the top of the squash, then cut of the bottom.  Then you have to start peeling the thing.  From the top in little strips, around the whole top of the squash.  Don't peel your fingers in the process!


Then you get to the bottom and it becomes even more difficult to peel.  See how thick that skin is?   
Peeling it is a NOT fun job and if your knife isn't sharp, it becomes quite a dangerous job -- beware!


Once the squash is finally peeled, you cut it in half right down the middle and then scoop out the "guts.  
Messy and not fun, but not nearly as bad as peeling...


Once you get the guts out of the squash, you can toss them in the compost or separate the seeds from the pulp and roast the seeds...nom nom!


In Nicole's recipe, this is the point where you cut the squash into cubes, roast and then puree the squash.  To be honest, the peeling, gutting and cubing was taking forever, so on my second batch I decided to roast the squash in its skin.  From what I have read the skin has a bunch of nutrients in it, and I'm thinking they probably leech into the flesh while roasting...that's just a theory though - don't quote me.  The fact of the matter however, is that leaving the skin on while roasting is MUCH much easier.  I did two batches and taste tested them to make sure that the taste didn't suffer, and I couldn't tell the difference between the two!  So from now on, my squash soup is going to be roasted whole like this:

Do you see how the skin just crisps around the top?  
Once the squash is roasted simply use a spoon and scoop out the flesh as close to the skin as possible.

What about the ginger??
Simply add your peeled and chunked ginger (no getting around the ginger peeling) and a little salt and pepper
into the "guts" cavity and sprinkle the whole squash with kosher salt and pepper.


YUM.  Eat up!

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