Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Ah, the weather is glorious! Today temps hit 70, the sun was pleasantly warm, birds were singing and the breezes gentle. I pulled out my red metal cafe chairs & table from their winter home, behind the wood pile and onto the patio for a lovely al fresco breakfast.

Then, I attacked the broken butterfly bushes' branches with the loppers and sawed the two snapped saucer magnolia limbs from the tree. The heavy snow from last Sunday did quite a bit of damage to local trees and shrubs. Once pruned everything looks better. I am planning to move a couple of rose bushes once the soil dries out a bit and continue my yard eradication plan by expanding the existing gardens. It is still too early to dig here though, so will play with my garden plans on paper for now.

Emma and Wendy got a lovely afternoon walk along the river path. Nature is budding but no leaves yet. The river is much higher, so hopefully with our usual seasonal rain it will return to normal levels. The dogs and I were tired after an hour and a half of walking in all the fresh air and sunshine. On the way home we stopped for our traditional Easter dinner at Taco Bell. Emma and Wendy got to share a special meat only soft taco.  So for now, wishing you and yours a wonderful Easter and finally, a happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More philosophical pondering

Trying to find a career is something akin to going to TJ Maxx and trying on clothes. Once in a while you find the perfect designer outfit and as a bonus, already own all of the excellent accessories; that's my metaphor for finding a complete dream career; it fits your life, it's interesting, having ideal pay and hours.

Other times we are in a rush, blaze into the Maxx, in need an outfit now; we purchase one we like, in a terrific trendy color but the skirt hangs funny or the sleeve is snug. We put up with the imperfections because we have a need that outweighs those little things; meaning, the job isn't quite right but I need: money, benefits, feel free to slip in your pressing need.

Then there's those dreary Maxxinista days where every item we try on is ghastly. Yep, each one emphasizes our massive thighs or the color gives you a dead look. Finally, stalking out of the dressing room discouraged and maybe dragging a bit self esteem, we say the heck with this, I didn't need anything anyway. Yeah, this is the job you knew wouldn't last, bad fit completely.

So why is the perfect outfit/career moment so rare? There are lots of choices out there. Is it time, or money or both? I suspect we do not take enough time to know ourselves and instead start settling, pressured by others' expectations. I also contend we internalize expectations, thus burying our "silly" dreams. Here's the point where it becomes common to be stuck in the make do outfit or job, because we didn't take the time to keep looking for the right fit.

Take time to smell the roses
Life takes patience and boldness to listen to one's heart, searching for the right focus of our talents. I am fortunate not to be starving or homeless, but I earn only a little over poverty line wage. I am lucky to have fall back options and I have learned to live on a string. Still I long for that perfect option, when, how and where? What risks are worth taking? What is an unproductive waste of time? Will I stumble upon my calling or will I have to conduct research?

So I keep plugging along a little work, a little fun, not much shopping...
Lots of thinking going on though and I will probably be writing more.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snow Baking

I ended my last post with a plan to bake croissants and yes, indeed I did. Perhaps I should look into my recipe book a bit more in depth before becoming so verbally cavalier in the future. Val and I had a wonderful time following the complicated directions; we had flour everywhere, got a terrific workout with the rolling pin and French boulangeries have nothing to fear. After letting the dough chill overnight, re-roll, cut, awkwardly form into crescents and rise, we baked this evening. The smell was glorious and the croissants looked pretty, although somewhat bigger than I expected. The flaky, layered, tenderness of Parisian croissants was missing in the "breadier" centers of ours. Not that this critique kept us from eating quite a few smeared with an assortment of jams and honey which we set out with our afternoon tea! I do think I will try them again and definitely roll the dough much thinner than our recipe suggested, experimenting to improve the flakiness outcome. Very satisfying fun for a snowy afternoon.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Welcome to Second Winter!

March is such a cruel month... hopeful with sunshine, gentle temps and daffodils and then wham! Today we have 8 inches of snow. My six foot butterfly bushes are bent to the ground, Emma beagle is gleefully leaping and bounding through the backyard in snow to her belly and Wendy dog, along with the rest of us are quite disgruntled with the whole weather event.

Fortunately, the dogs had a lovely walk yesterday while my daughter and I chatted and laughed about the ridiculous predictions regarding this recent storm. Since we live in the capricious weather land of Missouri, we did make a quick run to the grocery, primarily for chocolate, cooked up a big pot of chicken and rice soup and started new knitting projects. We are consequently snug and content, albeit truly irritated that this snow prediction came true with a vengeance. Spring will obviously be waiting until April for us.

I had been in a bit of a knitting funk having completed the large shawl and a bunch of Christmas hats and mitts. The weather had been delightful, giving hope to gardening opportunities sooner, rather than what now looks like a lot later... I usually switch to smaller knitting projects for spring and summer such as mittens, socks and the occasional lace scarf, since I truly only enjoy knitting with wool. I have tried cotton fibers but miss the scent and springy hand of the wool yarns. Shopping my stash, I have pulled out some lovely Regia self-stripping sock yarn for a fun burst of purples, blues and gray colors making a new sturdy pair of warm socks. Val has been working on her first pair of socks for about a week, using the Patons Kroy sock yarn in gray brown marl. Her pair is coming right a long! And yes, I prefer #2 wood needles, she loves metal ones.

We are also considering cranking up the oven and attempting to bake some croissants with help from a Julia Child recipe. Since our mother/daughter Paris trip last year, there are quite a few weekends I simply crave a croissant and coffee. I know they will be difficult, but we do have the 1-1/2 cups of butter required on hand. Since we no longer have any other plans for today, why not? I will probably do another post a bit sooner than usual featuring the success or failure of the croissant crafting. Perhaps then the snow will be histoire?! Most likely not, but I can dream and probably will open a bottle of French wine as we bake a la Julia.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Perhaps planning for disaster is not tops on the daily list of chores but taking a few minutes before tornado/ blizzard/ hurricaine season or even looming banking crisis, to consider what might be valuable assets for family comfort and safety is a nifty practice to do annually on the Spring or Winter Equinox . When my kids were young, our family happened to live in California, basically on the San Andreas fault line and although they were trained in earthquake drills at school, you don't get over the primal fear of feeling the earth move and your house shake. Then we moved to Texas, the kids were relieved earthquakes were out of their lives but they were terrified of tornadoes. I invented the family mantra "don't be scared, be prepared." Our little rhyming chant was ever so much better than screaming and tears. It helped the children to focus on safety and be team players with their equally frightened, but more stoic parents.

Decades later,our mantra is a fondly recalled bit of family history, as well as a reminder that being even a little prepared gives you some peace of mind in disaster circumstances. I thought I would share a few hints and tips my kids and I have brainstormed over the years. We currently live in the tornado prone Midwest and one of the best items I have purchased was NOAA Weather Radio Alarm. It hangs on the wall between the bedrooms, plugged into an outlet, but with battery back up and it alarms for severe weather or flooding.

Other upstairs disaster preparedness habits we've developed are: keeping leashes for the dogs near to where they usually sleep for quick grab and go and making sure each bedroom has a working flashlight or LED lantern ( keep one handy in the kitchen too). I've trained myself to leave my purse with keys and phone hanging off my bedroom doorknob, easy to take on my way out.

Since we usually head to the basement under a tornado warning, we've got a cache of stuff accessible there. We have a lockbox stored about four feet off the floor.  A few good things to remember to keep there besides your important papers are: photocopies of your homeowners and auto insurance policies, emergency phone numbers, copies of health insurance cards and a hundred dollars in smaller bills.

I learn that Emma is afraid of grate bridges.
I do not have a finished basement, but we have managed to create a comfortable space with a couple of futons, blankets and a rug. I've stashed some non-perishable snacks, spare batteries, pet food, and a basic first aide kit  in a big plastic tub. Add to those, some bottled water and a deck of cards, and we are ready to sit out an evening or longer of tornado warnings. A terrific site to learn more is . And remember, "Don't be scared, be prepared!"

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It's all good

Today being 3.14 = Pi Day! All you math geeks know this and truly, although I enjoy a bit of algebra on occasion, I really love pie. Yes, this is one of the days I feel very justified to have a couple of luscious wedges of fruit pie for breakfast.  No kidding, my roots hail from Down East (Maine, Connecticut & Massachusetts) and "back in the day" pie was and acceptable breakfast food. It's a bread, fruit and goo that is truly wonderful with a cuppa coffee or tea; beats a jelly filled donut hands down! This morning we all had pie smooshed into a bowl and covered in cream, microwaved or cold, it was marvelous... Of course to celebrate Pi Day one should really know a bit about the mathematical value so I refer you to for an interesting synopsis. Those not so fascinated by math scroll through the formulas and you will find some very cool trivia to impress your friends. Oh, and do have some pie to honor Archimedes...

Snow is gone although we have had flurries, the temps are not sandal worthy. My son and I did get the bird houses cleaned, reassembled and hung in our sugar maple. I went over to our local farm store, El-Mel, for a look and came home with some radish seeds. I am hankering for some crispy veg so while waiting for my radishes to sprout I may whip up a summery salad to feed my longings. Nothing like a fresh potato salad or a crispy salad to spice up the dietary dreariness between seasons. This recipe is an easy quick fix and since I saw some new potatoes at the grocery this might be on the menu soon:
  3lb new potatoes, cut into 1" pieces (any potato red or yellow works, no peeling)
Cook in saucepan 10-12 minutes until fork tender. Drain.
  1/2 purple onion, slice thin
  1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved  (do I measure, NO! just add til it looks good)
  1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (No garden grown, substitute fresh spinach or celery)
  1/4 cup diced radish
  1/4 cup bacon bits  (can add individually as topping instead)
Toss all  in a bowl and stir with a fork. Now in a measuring cup combine:
  1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
  1/4 cup Miracle Whip or mayo
   2 tsp. dijon mustard
Whip dressing ingredients together then pour over veg & mix a little. Refrigerate until ready to serve but this salad is good warm too. Makes 8 generous servings of picnic salad and feeds the fresh craving.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Is Spring sprung?

Dare I say Spring has started to happen? We've had about twelve hours of rain and now some early evening sunlight is slanting through the clouds and patches of blue sky are visible. Most of my backyard is very waterlogged. Unfortunately, my rain barrels weren't all set up to be collecting rainwater this early in the season. Yet today, the air is much warmer and it smells like Spring! I found some miniature iris bulbs blooming already in my stump garden.

This past week, I saw "sky rivers" of blackbirds returning to the area while walking the dogs one evening in a freezing wind. A pair of cardinals have returned to my backyard, perhaps searching for this year's nesting spot. No asparagus spikes yet, although lots of daffodils, hyacinths and a few tulips are exuberantly pushing up through their protective mulch. Exciting stuff, watching my personal environment...

I have started to make lists of yard projects that will be needed before the garden growing season begins and I still have one indoor painting job to complete as well.  I must have been a wintertime slacker or very sleepy, yet Christmas doesn't seem that far past. Life surely is a great distraction.

This year I hope to increase the number of raised beds for vegetables, improve the rain barrel system, build a protective netting cage for the blueberries and continue my stealthy elimination of lawn. I am looking forward to dividing my hostas & daylilies, encouraging my climbing roses to greater heights and severely pruning a prolific wisteria which is pulling my arbor apart. My herb garden also needs some serious design help. I better remember to take my vitamins and stock up on some Icy Hot muscle rub too.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Saving and Celebrating

This past weekend was my baby's birthday, she turned eighteen... One of us is getting old! She is not a cake eater, thus a cookie cake was my game plan. I have bought many over the years but their price has steadily risen and I wasn't happy about spending $10 for one, so I decided to make my own.

Ease of preparation and tastiness were my primary concerns, and I thought a tube of delicious cookie dough from the refrigerated  grocery shelf would be just the ticket. I could feel guilty about not doing a from scratch cookie but iffy results and a kitchen full of dishes aren't my idea of birthday fun, so no guilt here. I went to this link and got the super easy recipe info:

I formed about a ten inch dough circle with my hands and baked the giant cookie for 15 minutes. It spreads out an extra inch or two and is indeed a lovely, "glass of milk" deserving cookie. We cut it into eighths like a pizza after the birthday girl blew out the candles. The Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough I found was on a twofer sale and since everyone devoured the first cookie, I made up the second tube too. No stinting on celebration at our house! (Plus I saved at least 50% on the overall cost of a bakery cookie cake, even making two cookies.)

Philosophical Moment: Saving cash the yummy way