And just like that

I grew a strawberry. Here it is in all its tiny home-grown strawberry glory.

IMG_3312

IMG_3311

IMG_3310It was so cute I almost couldn’t eat it. Almost couldn’t. I’ve never tasted such sugary, ultra-concentrated strawberry flavor before! Now I’m beginning to understand how the labor and love that goes into cultivating small batches of produce brings out the brightest and truest flavors. All you need is that one little bite to appreciate them. But who am I kidding. If given the chance, I could eat a whole pound of these beauties and would still appreciate the heck out of them.

Girl crush of the week

There are many women who inspire me. They may not all be well known figures, but they all put something out into the world (strength, kindness, creativity…), that drives me to want to better myself. They aren’t afraid to be something outside of any boxed-in female social constructs, and they make me so very proud to be a woman.

While I may be a bit rusty now, dance is still a part of me. There are far too few female poppers and animators in the limelight, so this is a shout out to my lady hero of the week, Marie Poppins. I’ve never seen a woman pop so hard while maintaining such grace and femininity. And I’ve never watched another popper whose joy is so palpable! All you have to do is look at her face while she dances and you’ll know. (I initially discovered her on So You Think You Can Dance last year. Her audition is killer. I mean, who pops to jazz?!! Just listen to her speak at 2:20. This is what it’s about.)

Hailing from France, she now lives and dances in the USA and hopes to inspire other female dancers. Thanks for keeping it real, Marie Poppins. I hope this video inspires you as much as it did me.

P.S. Going forward I’ll be regularly posting about these lady heroes of mine in hopes that you will find some inspiration in them as well.

New Toy

Did I tell you I got a new camera for Christmas? A real, grown up, digital camera. I am so blessed. The wanderlust wells up in me all over again every time I take it out to play. Several months ago I drove up to the beach at Semiahmoo hoping to stretch my rusty photography loving muscles and to maybe catch a decent sunset. Well, the sky more than delivered that night. Sunsets are funny. You often think they’re over, as they softly set into those pastels of honey and cream, but, more often than not, you have only to wait a bit longer. Wait until that ball of fire just dips below the horizon, then… POW! An explosion of neons so bright my mind can hardly comprehend them. Sherbet? Wildflowers? The sun cannot be compared to anything other than itself. And here it is, throwing one last party before bedtime.

IMG_0415

IMG_0411

IMG_0324

IMG_0331IMG_0334
IMG_0418How do you describe that inner peace that you feel when it’s just you and your camera and everything else fades away? That meditation. That prayer. Every flap of a bird’s wings, every roll of the waves, and every reflection in every sandy pool is magic. And you can’t help but linger to soak up every last drop of it, even when it’s freezing out and your nose is running and your hands are numb. It’s all worth it, isn’t it. Moments like these make my soul sing praises.

Green things and tomatoes like my daddy taught me

This month seems to be going by so quickly. Recently I’d been coveting pictures of incredibly creative deck gardens and some raised bed ideas for smaller spaces but hadn’t intended on taking any action on it. Knowing near to nothing about gardening, I thought I had already missed my window for planting and figured it was too late to add any new life to my very bare and very boring deck. I’d resolved that this spring was not the spring for deck gardens. However, when a friend so graciously gifted me some herb, berry, tomato, flower, AND succulent starts (Thanks, Joan!), the flame was fueled. I got so excited about putting together my little potted garden that I picked up two more sweet strawberry plants and a cherry tomato. To all of the veteran gardeners out there, it gets a bit addicting, no?

IMG_3164

Basil – For fresh pasta, pesto, or caprese salad

IMG_3161

Mint – For mojitos, mojitos, and mojitos. Just kidding. How about watermelon, mint, and feta salad? Or mojitos?

To my excitement (and confusion), these things are actually growing. It’s as if they like me or something.

IMG_3165

Strawberries! This is all so new and exciting!

FullSizeRender (1) copy

Those little flowers will turn into strawberries, right? Oh, I so hope at least one of my three plants produces at least one little berry. I probably wouldn’t even eat it. I would just set my little strawberry on a very large plate and let it be the very proud centerpiece of my dining room table until it molds over and I must tearfully throw it away. Grow berries grow!

FullSizeRender (1)

And this, my friends, is also happening. Cherry tomatoes planted like my dad taught me. Five gallon bucket, dirt, cage, and trash bag. Okay, I’m sure he did it better than this. My pa has mother nature in his blood. But out of all of the wonderful gardening that we did as a family growing up (and I mean wonderful, magical raised garden beds overflowing with sweet snap peas, and sugary carrots, and candy-like tomatoes, and crisp lettuces, and anything else you could possibly want to snack on as a child during a brief break from play outside in the sun – The kind of wonderful/magical that every child should have a chance to experience), this is what I remember the most. Drill a hole in the bottom of a bucket, add some rocks (I actually used pieces of recycled styrofoam as an experiment. Same idea, I think), add dirt, plant the plant, water until the water drains from the hole, add a cage, wrap in plastic to create a lovely green house effect. I remember these bucket tomatoes producing so well. Fingers crossed that lots of sun and me speaking very kindly to my little green babies will make it happen. How about you? Do you have anything special growing in your yards or decks or patios this year?

Don’t judge a book by its cover…

…or vegetables by their ugly. Not long ago, I read an article on how a European supermarket took a stand against food waste by promoting and selling the ugly cast-offs of the produce world in their stores (at a discount, of course). They touted these quirky veggies by proving that they were just as nutritious and delicious and worthy of love as any other. And they sold out quickly! (Their marketing video, here, is actually really great and definitely worth a watch).

FullSizeRender copy

Well, I have to tell you that these little purple potatoes that I had in my pantry aren’t so sexy looking either. The skins are wrinkly, the ends lumpy, and what’s up with that root?! However, I was beyond excited to get my hands on these little guys. Any idea why a girl like me would get this pumped about a potato? Well, just cut into one and see!

IMG_3178

Wow! That color! The modest purple potato, everyone…And hey, the bunch was only $1.00. Of course I couldn’t wait to eat them. With pigment like that, you know they’re going to be good. I cleaned their nubbly skins by scrubbing under running water and cutting off anything too unsightly (like eyes and roots). There is no need to peel since the skin tastes great too (and just think of the extra vitamins, ya’ll!).

I prepared them by boiling in water until just tender, about 15 minutes. While the potatoes were boiling, I sautéed some sliced Kalamata olives in a little olive oil along with some fresh chopped rosemary. Once the potatoes were cooked, I drained them, sliced them into thick rounds, and added to my skillet. I added a small dab of butter (aka flavor gold) to the pan and sautéed them for a bit on med-high just until the skins began to brown. I then finished with a little sprinkle of Kosher salt.

FullSizeRender (1)

You can see how they turned and even darker shade after cooking. So fun. These babies are actually pretty sweet, almost like a yam, so I would consider that when pairing with other foods. I tossed mine with some fresh steamed green beans (not only for taste but because of the beautiful complimentary colors), added an extra drizzle of olive oil, and just a pinch more of salt. Fresh, quality ingredients need little fussing over. Delicious!

Twine Wrapped Bottles

Sometimes when life gets going at lightning speed it’s hard to remember to sit down every once in a while just to tinker or fiddle or craft. It’s good for the health, I say. I recently carved out a few minutes to make this twine wrapped bottle and am glad I did. As it isn’t always easy for me to toss a thing before weighing all possible options for repurpose, I had been collecting wine bottles of different shapes and colors here and there for a while with the intention of turning them into lanterns. I never quite got around to that. Because one can only have so many empty wine bottles lying about the house before feeling like a wino, I decided to break up the collection and turn a few into vases.

photo 1

I could see these being used as centerpieces for a wedding or set in a small grouping of different sizes on a mantel or dining room table. Mine is currently in my guest bathroom. All you need is a clean bottle, twine, and a glue gun. Starting at the top, run a line of glue right under the lip of the bottle and press the twine into it and let it dry. Do this again until you have at least three glued lines around the top. This is your starting point, so it’s important that it sticks well. From there, continue to wrap the twine around the neck of the bottle, one loop at a time. It isn’t necessary to glue every line down at this point, but it is very important that you wrap the twine tightly or else it will unravel on you. Be sure to also push each new loop of twine up so that it sits tight against the last line and there is no glass showing in between.

photo 2

Continue to wrap until the bottle begins to flare out. Around two or three loops before the bottles starts to widen, you will need to start gluing the twine down again.

photo 3

Each line from here on will need to be glued down or else it will come undone as the bottle changes shape. While holding the twine tight in your left hand, run a short line of glue underneath the last row with your right and press the twine into it. Once the bottle begins to straighten out a little you may be able to stop gluing and just wrap. It’s going to depend on the shape of the bottle. You will be able to tell whether the twine will slip or bunch without glue.

photo 4

As you reach the bottom, flip the bottle upside down and begin gluing the rows down again. I stopped wrapping about an inch from the bottom because I wanted a bit of the glass to show, but you could go all of the way to the base. Glue the last bit of twine down and trim the tail with scissors.

photo 3 So what are you tinkering with these days? Do you have any fun ideas for getting that quick craft fix?

 

Diet sabotage and a body breakthrough

I had the pleasure of going out on a spontaneous mini date with my husband last night after we had spent a good chunk of the day apart, running errands here and there. As far as dates go, I think that spontaneous is really the way to go as those kinds of dates usually come at just the right time, when you are in need of a good chat and some refreshment. We popped into a local pub to grab a snack and a pint and to rest our feet. Gabe ordered a lamb sausage, served over some well prepared israeli couscous, grilled peppers, and an apricot chutney. I ordered the house fries with a (dairy-free) chili aioli. The dip I received was creamy, white, and tasted of onion and garlic. I’m fairly certain that what I got was a buttermilk ranch dressing. However, I’m not sure what more you can do to convince a waitress that what you are eating tastes nothing of chili, lime, or aioli when you’ve already asked her twice whether she is certain that what you received is indeed what your ordered and not the other dairy-licious dip being offered on the same menu and when her answer is a resounding “yes.” Although being unconvinced of this fry dip’s dairy-freeness, I ate it nonetheless. I mean really, it tasted so so good with those hot, salty, hand-cut fries, and, well, you gotta trust sometimes, right?  To my friends with dietary restrictions who like to eat out, I feel for you and some of the toes that you must feel you step on by making requests or being inquisitive about ingredients. I felt bashful having to even ask for the second time whether she was positive she knew what I was eating. I was tempted to have her taste it for herself. So, in conclusion, I’m pretty sure that I unwittingly cheated on my diet. Oh well. You win some you lose some, I suppose. It’s nothing that another few weeks of on-track eating can’t fix, right?

On the subject of winning, I had a major breakthrough with another one of my bodily oddities that, until recently, I’ve been convinced was something I would have to live with for the rest of my life – Earaches. Now, I only get these under very specific circumstances: 1) I must be jogging or hiking and 2) I must be outside. It starts as a dull ache in the back of my shoulders and neck and rapidly moves into a sharp pain in my ears and a pounding in my head. I can only describe it as that feeling that you get when you dive too deep under the water and the pressure makes your ears pop or you are descending in an airplane and your ears won’t pop. Times that by two and add in a migraine and that’s about how it feels. It’s rather debilitating and has made me hate jogging with a passion. However, on a whim and at the beckon of an invite from a friend I have recently signed up for The Color Run, taking place in August in Tacoma, WA (woohoo!). I was authentically excited about this opportunity, but the thought of getting another stabbing to the ears and head was making me reluctant to even start training.

My first trial jog occurred a few weeks ago, and I’ll just say that it didn’t end pleasantly for me. I had tried and failed to glean any useful information from the internet regarding this issue with my ears. From what I had read, many people get these headaches, but none have received many answers from either doctors or physical trainers on what the true cause is and what they can do about it. However, in chatting with a fantastically fit and talented runner friend of mine, I learned that some people (like herself) just have sensitive eardrums and that even the wind passing over your ears while jogging can make them ache. She suggested that I wear a headband over my ears to keep the wind out. I am now happy to report that on jog #2, armed with a soft band over my ears and with consciously relaxed shoulders (at the recommendation of another fantastically fit and talented runner friend) that I experienced no (ZERO!!!) earaches. My jogging style is not pretty, mind you. I’m about as fast as molasses out there and am wiggling my arms and shoulders around like wet pool noodles every five minutes to ensure that I’m staying loose, but NO MORE EARACHES!! is all I care about. I was able to go for a third “run” (and by run, I mean walk, jog, walk, jog, pant, walk, jog, sweat, and so on) and was just as successful in the ear department. I am hopeful that this will be a lasting development in my life and that I can continue to push myself forward into new realms, even to those that I never dreamed possible. Thank you for sharing in my joy with me!