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quinoa in Canada

photo credit: Cody Howard

If you’re like me, sometimes you look at your smart phone in complete awe. We walk around with a computer in our pockets. No longer do we need a watch, a camera, an encyclopedia, a dictionary, any array of how-to books, a landline, and the list goes on.

And no longer do I tear out pages from magazines in doctors’ offices. Yes, I’m sorry to admit that I was one of those people. Now, I just whip out my phone and snap a photo of that recipe or article I must have.

photo credit: Debby Gooding

The following recipe is inspired from one such photo I took during a recent visit to a doctor’s office. I don’t recall the magazine, probably a celebrity weekly or women’s monthly, since those are the magazines I usually gravitate towards in that situation.

I’m in Quebec Canada with Kim Howard and her dear friend, Debby Gooding, at Deer Lake, which is the Howard Family’s gorgeous Canadian retreat. Click HERE to read more about it in this posts from my last visit in July, 2013. One of my favorite things about this magical place is all the vintage vibes.

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August 15, 2018   2 Comments

savings bonanza

I’m in Carlsbad, CA at my timeshare this week with Marissa and my cousin, Michelle Lorts. Michelle and I drove over on Saturday and picked up Marissa, who flew in from Austin, TX.

This is the view from our balcony. Not too shabby.

We’ve had a wonderful, relaxing and coooool week thus far. Not missing the 110+ degree AZ days one single bit!

Here are Michelle and Marissa out in the front of the resort under an African tulip tree. Isn’t it gorgeous?

But the real news I have to share is the amazing deal I got on wine at Von’s (Safeway in AZ) grocery store. We went in to buy some orange juice and a couple of bottles of Michelle’s favorite Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate. When we strolled down the wine aisles, we immediately noticed that all the wine was on sale with yellow tags on every shelf. The Brancott was regularly $13.99 a bottle and was on sale for $9.99. Sweet!  Michelle grabbed 2 bottles.

Then I looked a little farther down the aisle and saw a couple of red tags among all the yellow. Upon further inspection, I saw that the Robert Mondavi Oakville Fumé Blanc which was regularly $34.99 a bottle was on clearance for …..  wait for it….

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August 9, 2018   5 Comments

yellow is the new red… and green

Do you remember a few posts back when I shared my excitement over finally being able to grow something, besides herbs, in a garden?

Well, are you ready to see the surprise harvest?

The surprise is that I forgot what I’d planted. I thought it was zucchini and watermelon but turns out it was watermelon, cantaloupe and English cucumber. This weekend I had another wonderful surprise!

The watermelon was not your run-of-the-mill red fleshed watermelon, it is yellow!

I had completely forgotten I had planted the super cool yellow instead of the everyday red. I was overjoyed but honestly a little disappointed too.

Disappointed because I’d looked for yellow watermelon in the market when I was creating the Harmony Board for Lisa’s birthday last week but I could not find any. And there it was – in my own backyard the entire time. Doggone it!

When shopping for the board, I may not have found the melon I wanted, but I did find yellow kiwi at Costco. Did you even know there was such a thing? I discovered it a couple of summers ago, but this was the first time I saw it at Costco. The green kiwi is the smaller fuzzy one on the left. The yellow is slightly larger and has no fuzz.

Just as with the watermelon, they taste much like their everyday cousins.

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August 3, 2018   No Comments

Cioppino

Cioppino is a fish stew that was created in San Francisco in the late 1800s. It is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in San Francisco is typically a combination of crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish from the Pacific ocean.

The Cioppino I served yesterday at Sunday supper for Connor, my dad and myself was a seafood medley that came in this bag from Costco. It consisted of shrimp, mussels, scallops and calamari rings.

Not only did it not come from San Francisco, according to the packaging, that I am just now reading, none of it even came from the USA! Oh well, it tasted great and since it was frozen, it didn’t really matter.

Since you may be using live mussels, I’m writing the recipe accordingly. The frozen mussels were already cooked and opened, so my stew was actually easier to make.

When using tomato paste, I like to use the paste in the tube instead of the can. For this recipe I used sun-dried tomato paste from the tube. It is more intense, so I used 2 tablespoons instead of the ¼ cup I tell you to use in the recipe. I’m assuming most people have regular tomato paste on hand instead of sun-dried paste.

Have you seen these wonderful red and yellow striped bell peppers in the market? They are Striped Holland bell peppers. According to a specialty produce site, “the bell peppers are yellow bell peppers with deep red stripes that seem painted on in swaths. The bi-colored peppers are hand-grafted and slowly ripened to maximize flavor and maintain consistency.”  I’ve been using them all summer for my crudités Harmony Boards and wouldn’t usually use them when cooking, but I had one that was looking a bit wrinkly and tired, so I used it here.

Fish stock can be difficult to find. I use a combination of clam juice, chicken broth and water. If you do find fish stock you may substitute it for the chicken broth.

I served Connor and my dad’s stew over angel hair pasta, which is not traditional, but I knew they’d like a little more bulk to the dish. I had mine without pasta. Everyone was happy!

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July 30, 2018   5 Comments

Thursday round-up

First up, I want to share with you the Harmony Board that I created for the birthday dinner celebration for my dear friend, Lisa, on Tuesday night.

I’m spending my summer working on a business plan, website, social media pages, logo, etc. for Harmony Boards. Kim and I are going to her family home in Canada later this month to escape the heat and to brainstorm and plan the launch party for late summer or early fall.

Of course, I’ll keep you posted once we have the date locked down.

Secondly, while I was going through the photos on my computer looking for some pictures I took back in April, which I needed for my last post, I came across something I’d meant to share, but then forgot all about.

If you remember in THIS POST from May 2nd, which was about my backyard remodel I said,

“In a future post, I’ll share with you all the drama that occurred on granite delivery day. It was quite the thing.”

Do you think July 26 is too late to finally share it? Hopefully not, because here we go.

Photo credit: Lifted from Ronnie’s FB page

On the early evening of Wednesday, April 4, 2018 my friends and former neighbors, Mike and Ronnie Jaap, stopped by to see my backyard remodel. They were considering using the same company I was using and wanted to check out the progress over here. Afterwards, we had plans to go out for dinner.

Earlier that day, in the late afternoon, a load of granite had been dropped off in the road on the south side of my house. The pile was in the street on the other side of my double gates. The pile had orange cones on all sides. This is common practice around construction projects and is allowed.

It was about 6:00 pm as Mike, Ronnie and I were walking on the far north side of the backyard, talking about how happy I was with Garden Plus Landscape & Pools. Suddenly, we heard a loud crash and looked toward that double gate on the other side of the yard to see a huge plume of dust and dirt explode over the gate.

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July 26, 2018   2 Comments

cave-life

As I type this on the afternoon of Monday, June 23rd, it is 115 degrees outside and I am hunkered down in my house. It may be more appropriate to say that I’m hunkered down in my cave because that is what I have turned my home into. And not for some fun reason – like having little kids over and building forts and caves out of sheets and blankets.

No, I live in a cave now because of my most recent electric bill. I only regret that I didn’t create my cave sooner!

The bill arrived while I was in Texas. When I got home, I tossed all the bills on my desk without opening them. I went to pay them this morning and was horrified to see that my electric bill was $150 higher than it was last month. What the what?!?

I’m already exceedingly conscientious about turning off lights and keeping the blinds and curtains drawn in the heat of the day. I don’t run my large appliances until late night or early morning and I resist the temptation of setting the thermostats too low. In fact, when I go to bed, the A/C on the opposite side of the house is set to 86 degrees, which is quite warm when it often doesn’t get out of the 90’s outside at night. So a $150 increase seemed insane!

Granted there were 3 more days in the billing cycle this time. Last month was 30 days for May 8 – June 7. And this bill was 33 days for June 7 – July 10. But $50 more per day does not add up.

The front of my house faces west, which is not ideal, especially since the double front doors have glass fronts.

So in anticipation of the summer heat that would stream through those doors, I bought a shade panel at Costco back in April and hung it outside to block the sun from coming in through those doors.

No doubt that has helped immensely. But obviously not nearly as much as I’d hoped.

Here are the steps I’ve taken to see if I can get that bill down into the almost bearable range.

The first thing I did was cut out a large piece of cardboard (thank you Amazon!) and blocked the light coming in through the skylight in the kitchen. I actually did that the week before I left for Texas.

Today, I closed the vents and doors to one of the bedrooms, the office and one bathroom. Less square footage to cool is the hopeful thinking there.

Next, I put more of the cardboard over the glass blocks in the master bath.

That window faces south, but as you can see, it lets in plenty of light, which translates to plenty of heat. It may not look attractive, but I don’t give a hoot about aesthetics right now.

This house has another front door on the west side, a mother-in-law set-up of sorts. And that door also has a darn window in it.

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July 24, 2018   2 Comments

TX State Capitol

On Sunday in Austin, I did something I’ve done on my last three visits and something I’ve never done before.

The first outing of the day was our traditional pilgrimage to Radio Coffee & Beer. It is just down the road from Marissa and Jeff’s house and we’ve walked there before, but not this time. It was far too hot and humid for that.

I’m sure the coffee is good, I wouldn’t know personally since I don’t drink coffee. But what we go there for is the food-truck with breakfast tacos.

Breakfast Tacos are a big damn deal in Austin! It’s their staple, they obsess over breakfast tacos. So much so, that a taco place on South Congress has a sign out front that clearly states, “No Breakfast Tacos.”  I suppose that cuts down on people being disappointed when they read the menu. I mean, you know it’s a big deal when you have a sign that says what you DON’T have!

Photo credit: Eater Austin

So yes, Tram got her first taste of one of the favorite of all the breakfast tacos in the city, The Migas, from the Veracruz All Natural food truck.

I posted a recipe for migas back in November 2013, long before I laid my eyes and tongue on the Veracruz version. Since then, I’ve recreated theirs for an all-taco cooking class I did last fall. I’ll need to make that again in the near future and get the recipe up here for y’all.

If you’re heading to Austin anytime soon, here is an article with the 22 Essential Breakfast Tacos in Austin.

After breakfast we did the new thing. We toured the Texas State Capital. Marissa works right down the street from the Capital, so I see it every time I visit, but have never gone inside. It is beautiful! The building was constructed from 1882 to 1888.

Tram and I went crazy for the gorgeous details. The front door tells you what to expect when you walk inside. That hardware!

The door hinges were my favorite thing. This bulky heavy piece of metal is beautiful but wait until you see what is revealed when the door is open.

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July 20, 2018   No Comments

Waco & Magnolia

As I said yesterday, we got up early on Saturday morning to drive the approximately 90 minutes from Austin to Waco in hopes of beating the major Saturday morning crowds so we could eat at Magnolia Table.

It was about 8:15 when we arrived and I immediately knew we didn’t leave early enough when I saw the packed parking lot. Tram and I hopped out of the car to get our names on the wait list while Marissa parked.

Our hopes were slightly dampened when we saw the Disneyland-like line winding around stanchions in true Disney form. We got in line and Marissa soon joined us.

We stood there for about 15 to 20 minutes until an employee came around to let everyone know what the deal was. We were standing in line to put our name on the wait list. She couldn’t say how long it would take us to get to the front of the line, but once we put in our name, it would be another hour and half to hour and 45 minutes until we got a table.

The three of stood there for another 5 minutes or so and then Tram said that she didn’t “have” to eat here to be happy. I was so relieved! Marissa and I said that we didn’t either and we got out of line and went around the building to the “Take Away” part of the restaurant to shop.

One fun find in the shop was the packages of our hometown Hayden Flour Mills that we spotted on the shelves. The store carries the pizza flour, cornmeal mix and stone ground oatmeal. Local pride right there in Waco!

I can’t begin to tell you how much I covet this CAFE sign in the Take Away store. LOVE!  The girls each got a coffee to-go and we were on our way to the Silos, about a 10 minute drive up the road.

As for our Miles to Magnolia, Tram and I traveled 1049 miles from Phoenix and Marissa traveled 102 miles from Austin.

Here is my advice is you go to Magnolia Market. Don’t go on a Saturday or this is what you will encounter. Don’t get me wrong, we still loved it, but I have to believe it is better during the week.

And there is much to love besides the store, the grounds are gorgeous too.

From the Seed-Supply garden store to the gardens themselves, the great lawn and food trucks, you could easily make a day of it.

I love how Jo beatifies everything, even the rusty contraptions coming off the silos that probably moved the grain in and out – back in the day.

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July 19, 2018   2 Comments

Austin with Tram

Tram and I went to Austin last weekend to visit Marissa and to drive to Waco and visit the Magnolia Market Silos (Tram on the steps) and Chip & Joanna Gaines and the family.

How excited were you when you read that sentence? I was all a flutter writing it and imagining it to be true.

We did visit the Silos, Magnolia Table and other Magnolia-related attractions along with a few not-so-Magnolia sights.

As for Chip & Jo, we found their hand prints outside Magnolia Table and ….

… we drove by their farm. Driving down the highway in front of it isn’t exactly stalking, but kind of felt like it.

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July 18, 2018   1 Comment

botanical

I hate to admit it, but I’ve never been much of a gardener. I’ve had an herb garden my entire adult life, so I can grow herbs. And I’ve always had fruit trees, but that’s not gardening.

I’ve tried to grow tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, radishes, peas, pumpkins, eggplant, okra, and even zucchini. I’ve had success with not a one! Not even zucchini. Everyone else I know gets so much zucchini, that they are begging people to take it from them. Nope.

This year it’s different. I don’t know if it’s the new house, new garden, new dirt, or new attitude, but I’m a farmer now! At least that’s what I said in my Instagram post above.

But it turns out I’m not really a farmer because I thought the photo above was a zucchini. I forgot what I’d planted. It’s a cucumber. See #squash above? Not a farmer.

Here is that same cucumber a few days later.

And here is my current harvest of cucumbers. Why is there Ketel One behind the cucumbers? Because my friend, Jen, told me about the new Ketel One Botanicals. I love the idea of them. They are lower in alcohol and calories. Botanical is vodka distilled with real botanicals and infused with natural fruit essences.

I made a delicious cucumber martini with the Cucumber Mint Botanical and my homegrown cucumber.

Back to the garden, I was also successful with cantaloupe and watermelon. 

I’ve harvested that lovely perfectly round watermelon above and now I’m waiting for these weird shaped ones to be ready.

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July 12, 2018   3 Comments