Friday, October 9

Mandatory Kitchen Upgrade

I spent a LOT of time in the kitchen in August and early September. I didn't mind, but it was rough on my furry supervisors. Kitchens are dangerous places, full of knives and hot water and noisy appliances like mixers and blenders. God knows you can't leave humans unsupervised somewhere like that! But, of course, if you try to sit on Mommy's toes while she works you have other problems. Food scraps get dropped on your head (which is not fun unless it happens to be sausage or gravy or something), you get tripped over, and it's not uncommon to find the floor you're trying to nap on either chilly or damp until Mommy gets around to cleaning it. 
Arthas eventually decided to work around this mess using Geostrategic Napping positions. He'd nap on the end of our bed, or in the sunlight in front of the door where he had clear diagonal line of site to me moving around the kitchen. As long as I was visible whenever he rolled an eye open, we were good. 

Nenya has somewhat less faith in me, and insisted upon closer management. After I dropped yet another tomato peel on her sweet head and both of us nearly died for the dozenth time due to her insistence on being directly underfoot, we improvised a solution. Behold, the Nenya cupboard!  

With the mixing bowls evicted and her own personal quilt lining the bottom, she gave this new arrangement her seal of approval. I liked it so much that we're discussing creating a proper puppy cave in the corner of the kitchen when we eventually redo the kitchen. No one wants to deal with losing things in weirdly shaped corner cabinets anyway, right?

Turns out it's not an usual idea - Pinterest has lots of suggestions, like the one below. There's also a particularly adorable version for those of you with kitties.


Where does your house need a dedicated pet space?

Thursday, October 8

Quick Recipes Roundup

With as busy as the last couple months have been, I haven't done much in the way of experimental cooking. I've mostly relied an old stand-bys, or simple one-dish meals based on whatever CSA produce needs to get used up first. I have had cause to pull out a few new recipes, though, and thought I'd share.
Photo Credit

Tomato, Onion & Cucumber Salad
A friend introduced us to this, and my husband loves it. It's a fantastic way to use up that one random cucumber we always seem to get in our CSA!

Zucchini Fritters
I am incapable of making these properly stick together in lovely fritter shapes, but they are quite healthy and taste great... even when served in what I euphemistically call "explosion style"... aka piled on a plate! 

Pan Fried Sardines
From the Well Fed 2 cookbook, these are fast and amazing. I can never keep the sardines together, and they usually end up being little chunks rather than whole, but they are the epitome of comfort food. I like to throw them over garlicky sauteed kale, but they'd go well with just about anything. Since sardines are shelf-stable and relatively inexpensive, this has become one of my always-on-hand back-up meals.

Paleo Maple Carrot Cake
I confess to being terribly skeptical when I saw the book My Paleo Patisserie, but this recipe made me a total convert! I'm not doing wheat these days, but wanted to be able to eat the birthday cake I was making - and this was perfect! It uses only almond flour, and was much faster to put together than it looked like it would be! Tip: if you don't have the six inch cake pans called for, just make this in two regular 9 inch rounds or as cupcakes!

What's cooking in your kitchen?

Wednesday, October 7

Decorating for Fall

I'm pretty sure that my sister got about 98% of the decorating genes. Not only does she have an eye for it, she loves it. While I enjoy appreciating other people's decor, I haven't really been the type to put a lot of effort into my own. I can't stand clutter, and dislike the idea of having to store a bazillion totes of holiday decor year-round.

During our recent trip, however, we picked up some wonderful Fall-scented candles that we found for an excellent price. Finding myself with a few spare minutes and inspired by reigniting the wood stove and the luxury of having candles again, I decided there was no help for it. I'd have to do a few simple Fall decorating touches. 

Thanks to Pinterest, I've been pleased to discover decor options that require very little time and no storage which is perfect for me! I opted to go with Printable Apothecary Labels, since I've always got a variety of bottles and jars around for other purposes, and Printable Book Covers since of course I've got lots of books, too!

Tip: Milk makes an excellent, non-toxic and easy-to-remove paste for applying paper labels to glass surfaces.

The pictures aren't great, but I'm very happy with how these turned out. Hopefully we'll carve a few pumpkins for the front porch steps before the month is out, as well. 

What's your preferred style of decorating?

Tuesday, October 6

Best News Article

Photo Credit
I generally try to keep the news at arms' length. Spending too much time with uniformly depressing news articles causes my natural hermit-like tendencies to flare, and I end up wishing for a zombie apocolypse to come at cleanse the world. Not really constructive. 

I do try to skim through the headlines most days, though, just to make sure that if the world happens to catch fire or something I'll be in the know. On rare occasions, this results in finding something wonderful - a story that actually improves my faith in humanity!

Last week, for example, I ran into one of the best stories I can remember ever seeing in the news and I simply have to share it with you: Grandmother with an AK-47 Saves Cops Attacked by a Street Gang.

I have no idea how a 79 year old woman has been able to keep an AK-47 in California (which is nearly as restrictive as NY when it comes to gun legislation). But I am thrilled to see someone putting gangs in their place. I know it's too much to hope that legislators anywhere will see this and recognize the potential for cleaning up America's crime through appropriately arming responsible homeowners and supporting their rights to defend themselves and their property, but I am nonetheless delighted that someone did it and got credit for it rather than punished for it. 

Hope this story gives your faith in humanity a boost as well!

Monday, October 5

Book Review Roundup

Over the last couple months, I've racked up a lot of hours either on the road or in the kitchen. As much as possible, I've been stuffing those hours with audiobooks since reading time has otherwise been fairly rare. There have been some great finds, and a few duds, and I thought I'd take a minute to share about them in case anyone is looking to stock up on reading material before the cold weather properly sets in! 


Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
This is hysterical in a dry, British humor sort of way. The misadventures of two long-time friends, one an angel and the other a demon, seeking to avert the apocalypse because they rather enjoy living on earth. The plan seems to be working... until they lose the Antichrist.

Conversion by Katherine Howe
You know a book is good when you can almost feel the character's headaches, panic, and exhaustion because the story has sucked you in so deeply it's like you're actually there beside them. 

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Beautiful and complex, like all of Morton's works. The ending was superb. 

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Lush and enchanting, with a tragic undertone. A very good read. 

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
My least favorite of her books so far, I think, but still quite good. 

Beautifully written and intriguing. Fair warning: it's the first book in an as-yet unfinished series, and the second book isn't as good as the first. As a read-alone, though, it's great!


Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton
This book should be required reading by anyone and everyone who gives to charity, volunteers with charities, or works with the non-profit, development, municipal management, government or church sectors of life. 

A very well done exploration of the social, physical and nutritional aspects of how and why the rates of ADHD have skyrocketed, and what we can do about it.

Books to Avoid

The Misfit Economy (Sounds promising, but doesn't deliver.)

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Ditto) 

Five Questions of Christmas  (Seems like an interesting idea, but had serious issues with flow/cohesiveness and didn't really relate to Christmas.)

What have you been reading?

Friday, October 2

Tough Mudder #4

Last weekend, we had the privilege of getting away for a long weekend. After a summer that somehow turned out to be crazy busy, and that rolled straight into Fall without pause, it was amazing to step away and regroup.

My parents graciously took our furry babies who LOVE to stay with Grandma & Grandpa and play with their furry cousins; I'm quite sure neither of our babies missed us in the least.  

We started our trip by doing our 4th Tough Mudder - in Maine! Neither of us had ever been to Maine (a brief stop at the airport not withstanding), so it was a fun adventure. It was also new for us to have a mud run so late in the year; usually our last one is in August. It was interesting to try something different all around. 

Seeing as the rest of the Fall remains about as packed as the summer was, we were also celebrating both My Prince's birthday and our upcoming 11th anniversary this trip. (Side note: how do two confirmed introverts with no kids get such busy schedules? Seriously!?) Accordingly, although our meals were chaotic or skipped while on the road, our dinners were celebratory and divine. If you're ever in Portland, you must check out the Back Bay Grill. If you're in NY's Finger Lakes region, go eat at Kismet Bistro. Both are truly worthy of rave reviews - and coming from me, that's saying something! 

We're squarely back in the swing of things now, but I've found myself thinking much more often how easy it is to replicate so much of what b&b's boast about this time of year... if I'm willing to set aside my to-do list. I won't be replicating fancy dinners, but I'm perfectly capable of making (really good) hot chocolate and dragging a quilt outside to sit on the porch and enjoy the flaming colors of turning leaves or the stars glittering in crisp autumn nights. Even if it's only for 15 minutes here and there. 

So with happy vacation memories lingering in my mind, I'm challenging myself to pay attention to - and take advantage of - these opportunities to take mini breaks from the day and savor the Fall luxuries readily available to me. Will you do the same?

Thursday, October 1

Fitness and Fits

My Prince, after completing his 1st half marathon this summer!
Mel Joulwan, Paleo blogger and author the amazing Well Fed cookbooks, recently included a link in her digital newsletter to a fantastic 2013 blog post titled 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out

Written by the mother of a young girl, it emphasizes that fitness is not about looking great in a slinky dress or about checking yet another box off your to-do list every day. Her list also makes it clear that it's not about being a super-athlete or part of the gym-goers club. It's about taking care of yourself. 

She notes that she hopes her daughter will grow up in the habit of choosing to be physically active because it is part of cultivating larger schemes of good habits and opens doors to wonderful opportunities - hiking or biking in woods enjoying the fresh air, for example. I hope at some point to build on this post at my other blog, because I was struck by how many of her points were also true of clean eating. 

But I was also struck by the number of people in the comments section having fits! Not everyone can exercise, and certainly many of us don't enjoy traditional work out routines, and that's both fine and completely understandable. But I was shocked at how many people objected to simple ideas like wanting to take care of oneself. It is appalling to me that we could live in a society that not only doesn't value self-responsibility enough to consider it a virtue, but that actually bashes people for personally valuing it! I was reminded of an article I saw recently about how people are actually becoming disabled by choice (aka "transabled").

Rather than get depressed by how ridiculously warped people's ideas can be, I decided instead to take these things as a reminder to appreciate the people in my life with the kinds of values and motivations I love, respect, and aspire to.

So thank you. 

Thank you for modeling for me the kind of discipline it takes to learn a new skill, and the pride that goes with making something worthy and lovely using talents long honed. Thank you for the energy and creativity you pour into the challenges and opportunities you tackle every day. Thank you for showing me what it looks like to offer grace and encouragement when someone dives headlong into something they're passionate about, even if it isn't for you. Like the little girl the Wellfesto blog post was intended for, I am blessed to be influenced and encouraged by people who choose to offer their best, rather than trying to drag others down to a lower common denominator. And for that, I am thankful.