Tip of the Week

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Wishing each of you and your families a very Merry Christmas.  May your spirit be bright and peace be with you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday's Tip of the Week: Cherish the small things

For some you might already know that it's really the small things in life that we cherish. The saying "stop and smell the roses" does truly hold meaning in it.  If you have ever lost someone or know someone battling cancer than you begin to realize that the small things in life are truly meaningful.  Racing through each day just to get by is not living life.  And with the holidays around the corner we really need to stop and appreciate all that we have and cherish each moment with our family and friends.

In the words of Charles Schulz "Happiness is . . ."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is it really easy to poach an egg?

Well, is it really easy to poach an egg?  For me I find hard-boiling is easier, but then this was my first attempt at actually poaching an egg.

I have only had eggs Benedict a handful of times either at my Aunt's or out at a restaurant.  It's just something I don't normally cook or eat.  But I have a bounty of Meyer lemons from my tree and a recipe for Meyer Lemon Hollandaise sauce.   Finally this year I decided to give it a try.  The recipe was from William-Sonoma's  Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch. (and I really do love this cookbook).

I followed the recipe and I was not happy with the technique used to make the hollandaise or poaching the eggs.  I've seen different techniques used on the Food Network and there has to be an easier way then this recipe.  I did love the taste and flavor of the Meyer lemon hollandaise, I would follow the list of ingredients again.  What I didn't like was that if you stop whisking for a second you will have a lumpy, separated hollandaise sauce.  Which is not what I want.

The double-boiler method for making the hollandaise was not easy and required too much hand whisking for me.

Now for poaching the eggs, I have seen chefs crack the eggs directly into the water, but this recipe was different here as well.  First crack the eggs into a separate container then place slightly into the water, finally slid gently into the water.  Cook.  I ended up finding that the egg whites separated farther from the egg yolk that they should of.  I will have to try some other techniques and see what works for me.  This is the biggest part of cooking (besides reading a recipe and measuring).  I experiment with techniques and find what works best for me and there really isn't one technique most of the time.

Finally after cooking I was ready to assemble and eat.  I already baked the bacon in the oven and toasted the English muffins.  I highly recommend homemade or fresh from a local bakery.  The English muffins I splurged on were from a bakery in Napa and they were the best ever.  I can never eat store packaged, processed English muffins again. (and why would I anyways).

Here's the final result before the hollandaise.  These were delicious!  Next time I will try actual Canadian bacon.

The best Green-Bean Casserole

I don't know about you but I am not a fan of the "traditional" green bean casserole.  If you asked me what I don't like about the recipe, I could not tell you one (or two) things, it's the whole recipe.  As a result, I was not a big eater of green beans.  A bad recipe can quickly make a kid dislike a vegetable.  Plus I don't want to use all these processed and canned ingredients.

Mushrooms browning

Luckily, Guy Fieri had a new recipe for the green bean casserole on his show.  After watching, I knew I had to give this a try and maybe I could be a convert to a new green bean casserole.  And sure enough, it was a hit!  I love it.  I even splurged on gourmet mushrooms for the recipe and some were ones that were not called for in the recipe.  This would be where you can make it your own.  Mix it up!

Here's the recipe

The end result with fried shallots

Monday's Tip of the Week: Health 101 duing the Cold/Flu Season

It always amazing me that people still Do Not cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze.  In the last few years the only times have gotten sick (which is a handful in total) is because someone didn't cover their mouth.  With all that we know about how viruses, bacteria and germs are spread, we (as a society) cannot remember to do the basics.

Wash your hands
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

So please remember to cover your mouth and let's make sure we pass this message on to kids and adults alike.  Minimize your risk of catching a cold or the flu this holiday season.

And as a side note, I find, after having my Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor recommend it, that the NetiPot (or ceramic versions) do really help.  Basically you use warm water and a packet of salt (this is not your normal table or sea salt) you pour it into each side of your nose while leaning over a sink.  It might feel weird, but it is worth the awkwardness when you can clear your sinuses and shorten the time to recover.  It's great for allergies as well.  It washes the mucus and clears your sinus passages. 

Stay healthy this year!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday's Tip of the Week: Adding Kale to your Diet

Kale is something I have learned to add to my cooking.  I know the "rage" is kale chips, which are surprisingly easy to make at home, but I find that after awhile kale chips can become boring.  Of course you can add kale to many soups like minestrone, tortilla, etc.

Recently I have found that you can add kale to your smoothie drinks.  I love adding blueberries and cherries with some kale.  Try using almond milk for a nutty taste.  For a healthier version add some flax seeds or bran.
You may be surprised how easy it is to add kale to your diet.

December Already?

Can you really believe it's December already?  I've been super busy since Thanksgiving and I'm hoping things will settle down soon.  So be prepared to see more posts of the projects I have been working on.

I have mentioned crochet hats several times, and I will finally get the pictures posted.  And I already have new crochet projects in the works.  Now I have been working on some sewing and those will be up soon too.

If you are looking for gardening and cooking ideas, tips and such I have those too to post.  Especially since I have a ton of green tomatoes!!

Finally, I have some new reviews of some recent outings to share with you.  I'm always looking for new traveling ideas.

So much to post and so little time at the moment.  Stay warm out there, it's been freezing temperatures this week here in Northern California.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday's Tip of the Week: Bleached vs. Unbleached Flour

Have you ever really read and thought about what the label says on the flour you buy?  Bleached flour or Unbleached flour.  Think about it.  If your flour is bleached then aren't you eating or absorbing some bleach?  And really why do we need bleached flour?

I now only buy Unbleached flour and depending on your preference you can find organic and non-organic.  Either way I would suggest you take a look at your flour and think about making the change to Unbleached flour. 

With Unbleached flour you are not absorbing any bleach, you are not buying products that add chemicals to our environment and the flour is less processed.  All benefits and something that is easy to change.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gift Ideas for you Dog

Maybe it's just me, but I do like to shop for my dogs too.  Some people would probably say I spoil my dogs, and that's okay.  I mean I do bake treats for them so . . .

But if you are like me or are just looking for some new toys or treats for you dog (or other pet) there are many online retailers and some local pet stores that are offering deals this holiday season.  I have already received several emails with early Black Friday deals, other Black Friday deals and so forth.

Here are just a few of my favorite online retailers:
Fetch Dog
In The Company of Dogs
Entirely Pets
Only Natural Pet Store
The Honest Kitchen

And many more as well as some local retailers and feed stores.  I hope you can find something for your dog.  What I also love about these retailers is that you can find organic treats, food and toys as well as "Made in the USA" products.  Both of which is hard to find at most chain retailers, at least around my town.

This year I found some great deals on dental treats for my dogs, which they absolutely love, especially the Terrabones.  And as an occasional treat, buffalo bully stix, since I do not feed my dogs rawhide treats.   But my favorite new item that I know I will have to order for the summer time is the "Freezy Pups Frozen Dog Treats".  My oldest dog loves to eat ice cubes, especially during the summer time and I am always looking for recipes or treats that I can freeze.  These are organic treats and the ice cube tray is made in the USA with recycled materials.  Now that is eco-friendly and just what I am looking for.

So make sure you add your pets to your gift list this season.  Remember that if you have something to feed your dog or entertains your dog when you have guests over, you should be able to avoid holiday disasters with your pets.

Please share your ideas for your pet.  I'd love to hear them and it doesn't have to be just for dogs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday's Tip of the Week: Pet Safety around Thanksgiving

As a pet owner myself I am always reading articles about pet safety and travel.  Today I wanted to share a link to one about pet safety around Thanksgiving.  Please click here to read the article.

I think these tips are very good and should be applied during other holidays or any get-together/dinners at your house.  Not everyone understands pet nutrition or how to react around pets.  This is where some training is useful, especially for dog owners and having a crate is handy.  I crate-trained my dogs, but now I only use the crates for some occasions where I think it is necessary. 

With a little planning and organization everyone can have a fun and safe holiday season, even the pets!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yarn Contest from Tangled Happy

I had to share this contest and blog from Tangled Happy.  If you crochet or knit (or know someone) this  contest is for you.

Please check out her blog post for details.  The wool is from Wandering Wool and there are plenty of gorgeous colors to choose from.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Le't's Make Marshmallows

Recently I had a good friend over and we tried making marshmallows.  A few times a year I usually get together with a few friends and we try different recipes.  It is fun to cook with a small group and try new things.  Most of the time we are able to taste our food creations after cooking, but with the marshmallows they had to set-up overnight.

If you haven't tried making your own marshmallows then you really should try this recipe.  Even if you do not love marshmallows (like me) this could make you a lover of marshmallows.  And the ingredients are not very expensive!  I followed the recipe in the book Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen by Maria Helm Sinskey.  This is a great book with many great recipes and tips for getting the kids involved.  Ina Garten also has a great marshmallow recipe you could try as well.  Dip them in chocolate or coconut for some added fun or cut with a cookie cutter for some different shapes.

Just make some homemade marshmallows and you will never go back to jet-puffed store bought ones.  These taste like marshmallows I remember as a kid.  Somehow over time they added lots of other chemicals and weird ingredients and I found store-bought marshmallows to be disgusting.  I really think these marshmallows would be great for making rice krispie treats, adding to hot chocolate, or giving as gifts for the holidays.  Give them a try. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday's Tip of the Week: A "Greener" Thanksgiving

Part of this blog is about being "green" or eco-friendly.  With the Thanksgiving holiday around the corner I wanted to share some tips for planning your big day.  Whether you are the cook, the host, the guest or going on a trip, there is something for each of you.

1.  Buy a local turkey, preferably organic.  It's true an organic turkey with cost more at the grocery, but think of the money you will save in future on the health needs of your family and yourself.  And an added bonus of buying a local turkey (organic or not) is that you are supporting the local economy and avoiding many chemicals used during transit.

2.  Buy seasonal produce.  Click here to find out what is local in your area (it has all the US states). 

3.  Plan, Plan and Plan.  I can't say it enough.  If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner you need to plan your dishes and make sure you have your ingredients ready.  Thanksgiving is not a time to try a new recipe for the first time.  Test it out before you make something new for Thanksgiving, but don't be afraid to make it your own.

4.  Decorate with natural materials.  I really LOVE the smell of fresh rosemary plants.  You can also shop thrift or consignment stores for second-hand decorations instead of buying stuff at the store that won't last long.

5. Compost your scraps.  I know this is not always possibly, but if you can please do.  This will be beneficial to your garden once it composts completely.

6.  Serve organic drinks and wine.  If you haven't heard of organic wine or bio-dynamic wine please read this article.

7.  Avoid traveling on peak days of the holiday weekend (Wednesday and Sunday).  Consider carpooling or public transportation.

8.  Do not use disposable products to set your table.  If you do not have a set of dishes (it doesn't have to be china) you can find great sets or pair several sets together from consignment stores.  You will be surprised how rustic, yet elegant a table you can create.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Re-Purposing Glass Jars

I am always looking for ways to recycle or re-purpose.  Here's one item that can be used in many ways; Glass Jars.

What can you do with glass jars?  Any glass jar - used spice jars, candle jars, canning jars, etc. will work.  I usually soak the labels to loosen those that are stubborn to remove.  With candle jars I use a candle warmer to melt any remaining wax (which I then pour into a smaller glass votive with a new wick).  And I usually hand wash or put in the dishwasher to clean the glass jar.

Now you have your glass jar ready for projects.  Have a messy desk? Can't find those rubber bands or paper clips?  Organize them into glass jars.  You can even paint and label the jars if you are creatively inclined to.

What do you do with used spice jars (not the plastic ones)?  Clean them up and then you can use them to store your own dried herbs, other spices, spice mixes or rubs and any other small craft item (like beads).

I also use jars for storing my rice, grains, beans, nuts and other baking supplies.  Being able to see the item and having it labeled makes it so much easier to find  in my pantry.  I love the rustic look too.  These jars look great and do not cost very much.  You will also save money by buying the dry beans instead of canned beans and avoid BPA in canned foods.  These make great gift ideas as well.  Measure ingredients for cookies, brownies, hot cocoa into the jars, seal, add a nice cut fabric or a ribbon and a label.  Now you have a great gift item straight from your kitchen to theirs.
Now let's organize the bathroom with your glass jars.  Store your band aids, Q-tips, cotton balls and any thing else you would like.  If you have a beach/ocean theme decor you can hot-glue a seashell to the top.  I even display some seashells that I found and collected as a child.  Very simple decor that also is unique and memorable.

Need some other ideas for your glass jars? 
- glass pebbles
- needles
- beads
- toothpicks
- buttons
- bath salts
- birthday candles
- bookmarks
- paint brushes
- nails, nut, bolts, etc.

I would love for you to share your idea.  Photos are even better.  So what do you do with your glass jars?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Need some color in the yard?

With winter fast approaching, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, many of us are planning our spring garden.  Well, maybe not all of us.  For me, I love having vegetables and fruits.  I mean you can't beat reaping the rewards with fresh fruit and vegetables to eat.

Now I admit I do like other plants and flowers, but I do not like to tend ones that I have to replant every year (unless they are fruits or vegetables).  If I am going to plant something I want to benefit from the plant in some way. 

I love lavender, it's a natural pest control around the house and the flowers can be harvested.   If you plant the English or French lavender you will have a lovely smell in the garden and around your house.  Another great bonus is that lavender plants are drought tolerant.  Besides lavender, I like to plant bulbs, such as irises, day lilies, freesias and tulips to name a few.  I find that I do not have to tend the bulbs much, other tend trimming dead leaves and flowers and separating the bulbs every few years. 

My Aunt introduced me to a few local iris and day lily farms in Northern California.  This year we made it to the Pleasant Valley Iris Farm while the irises were still in bloom.  It was a sight to see, so many combinations to choose from.  You can view the catalog and even order online during the season.  If you live in the area it is worth the trip.  The grounds are nice to stroll through and there are picnic tables to enjoy your lunch (be sure to bring one with you).  In addition, there are several local farms and farm stands to pick up local produce.

 Here are a few of the many colors and variations of irises.  You would be surprised with all them.  The names are always interesting and amusing. 

There are many other iris farms, especially in Northern California.  See if you have an iris farms near you!  I'd love to hear about it. 

The next flower I really love is the day lily.  Some of you might be wondering why, right?  You probably see the typical yellow day lily that many landscapers like to use.  Again there all the colors of the rainbow and type of flower bulb as well.  My favorite is the Amador Flower Farm in the foothills, that my Aunt introduced me to.  But you will find more that just hundreds of day lilies here.  Many other plants and trees are for sale in their nursery and they have a pumpkin patch in October.  It's a great place to visit with the family and you can picnic there as well.  But if that's not your thing, there are plenty of wineries in the area and you can have lunch at one of them with some wine tasting.

These day lilies are available on their website, so you can order them if you do not live close by for a visit.  Each of these bulbs add such great color to your yard and do not require a lot of gardening.  So you can see why I love to add color to my yard with some flowers, but even you can grow these, you don't need a "green thumb". 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Roasting and Freezing Pumpkins

When Autumn comes around, I love cooking with Pumpkin.  Of course my favorite is pumpkin pie, but I have added  many other sweet and savory pumpkin recipes to my repertoire.  Again I found that canned pumpkin has BPA lining in the cans so what is a girl to do?  Well can my own!  Now don't worry if you think you will not be able to can foods, because you do not need a canning pot for this recipe.  You will freeze the pumpkin puree.

 Here are the instructions:

1. Cut the pumpkin (Organic Sugar Pumpkin preferably) in half. Be careful when cutting.
2.  Take all the seeds out (Click here for the post on using pumpkin seeds)
3.  Drizzle olive oil on edges of pumpkin flesh and rub over the pumpkin flesh.
4.  Place on baking sheet (line with foil if you want to make clean up easy), pumpkin flesh side down.
5.  Roast in 400 degree F oven for about 40-55 minutes.  Basically until fork tender.
6.  Allow to cool, then remove pumpkin flesh.
7.  Puree pumpkin flesh in a food processor.
8.  Place puree in freezable containers.  Ball has plastic (BPA free) containers as well as freezable glass.

That's it, you have pumpkin puree to use anytime.

My dogs even love the pumpkin puree on their dog food.  I also use the puree in baking dog treats from the Three Dog Bakery cookbook.  Sometimes I buy carving pumpkins to roast and puree for my dogs, instead of the Sugar pumpkins.

Essentially the Sugar pumpkins are smaller and sweeter, best for baking pies.  I love the Sugar pumpkins for soups, other desserts and savory dishes too.

Left: Ball BPA-free plastic freezer jar
Right: Canning jar with plastic lid

Monday's Tip of the Week: Pumpkin Seeds

This week's tip goes along with today's post on roasting and freezing pumpkins. 

Do not waste those pumpkin seeds when you are roasting pumpkins for cooking or carving them for Halloween. 

Simply soak the seeds and any pumpkin "guts" in water, then using warm water separate the seeds from the "guts".  I forewarn you that it takes some time to do this.  Once you separated the seeds place them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt (and any other spices) and roast in an oven.

Ta-Da you have homemade pumpkin seeds for snacking or cooking in recipes like granola and mole sauce.

I love to store my pumpkin seeds in canning jars.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You can make tamales too

For Halloween this year I decided to make tamales.  My Aunt helped me cook them and I found it was quite easy to make tamales.  Now I have been told more than once that making tamales is a Christmas tradition in Mexico and for many Mexican families.  However, if you love Mexican food, tamales can be made any time of the year. 

Any tamale recipe will work, I used Guy Fieri's recipe as a guideline for putting everything together.  There are many tamale recipes, both savory and sweet.  My tamales were filled with chicken and cheese and topped with an enchilada sauce.  I no longer buy foods that are canned, so I made my own enchilada sauce.  Guy Fieri also has a great recipe for making your own enchilada sauce and it makes a large batch.  I froze over half to use later. 

Freshly cooked tamales
One problem (minor at that) I encountered was that even soaking the corn husks for over an hour there were some husks that were difficult to work with.  Maybe soaking in lukewarm water will make the husks more pliable, but that will have to be tested next time. 

The chicken is easy to cook.  I used a CrockPot and let the chicken cook with some water and spices.  Typically I don't measure the spices, it really depends on how much chicken I am cooking and how spicy I want it.  Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, Paprika, Salt and Pepper were all that I used for the chicken.  The chicken will end up being easily shredded with a fork.

Topped with enchilada sauce

Now let's start cooking.

My Aunt tried cooking the tamales in a bamboo steamer and that worked beautifully, so don't worry if you don't have a pot with a steamer insert. 

You can make tamales too.  The filling can be made ahead and the kids might even enjoy making their own tamale to eat.  Have fun and start cooking!
Ready for serving with a dollop of sour cream, avocado, arugula, chips and salsa

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Irish Blessing

Had to share this Irish blessing.

This is the time of year to be thankful of life's blessing, both large and small.  What are you thankful for?

Have you heard of DROPS?

Even though I have only been crocheting for a short period of time I have a ton of patterns that I want to complete.  Some are for knitting and now I have to learn to knit!  Those of you who crochet and/or knit probably know what I mean.  If you haven't found this website I highly recommend it.  Many of my favorite patterns I obtained from their website, maybe it's the wee Scandinavian in me.  And here it is, the DROPS patterns from Garnstudio (click here).  Just check it out and maybe you will see why I am so in love!

For Christmas I have found several more patterns I would like to make on their website and here is one of them; the felted slippers.  Not a surprise since I love to felt things as I introduced with my witching hour post.  It's not the same as the felt material you find in the craft and fabric stores.  Every thing about a knitted or crocheted item that is then felted is completely different than felt material.  Even pictures do not capture all the features.

Oh and I have already planned another road trip.  I just have to find the time.  Garnstudio also has yarn that is sold online, but I can buy it at the Nordic Mart in San Luis Obispo.  (See what I mean about the travel bug?!?)

Be sure to come back, I will have several crochet hats to share just in time for the colder temperatures we are experiencing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dog-Friendly Sonoma

I am always in search of places that I can take my dogs and go on a trip.  If you haven't been bitten by the "travel bug" you may consider yourself lucky.  I have been, years ago.

Sonoma is a great town with lots of history and plenty of wine!  There are many places that are dog friendly in Sonoma.  You can even find some gourmet dog treats at the Three Dog Bakery in town.  Check out these websites (just a few of my favorites) Dog Friendly.com, Sonoma UnCorked and Best in Sonoma.  There are so many places if you just look.

On my recent trip I took my dogs to Bartholomew Park which is amazing.  You can hike the many trails, wine taste, picnic or enjoy the great scenery.

Here's the map:

My next stop was the town square and shops.  You cannot walk your dog in the park square, but there are many people with dogs walking around the shops.  Not many shops allow dogs inside.  There are some restaurants with outdoor dining and of course the Three Dog Bakery.  Just check polices before you go.  I highly recommend stopping at one of the local cheese shops (though Fido might have to wait outside)!

Finally, I had dinner at the Schellville Grill.  And yes dogs are allowed on the patio which is spacious.  The whole environment at the Grill is great.  Many choices for dining and excellent desserts.  Even Guy Fieri visited the Grill on his show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

There is so much more to check out in Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.  I haven't even checked out the dog parks yet!  I see another trip in the future. 

Maybe I have inspired you to travel . . . Sonoma is a great destination and your dogs can have fun too!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday's Tip of the Week: Halloween Safety & Sustainability

Happy Halloween!!  The witch is now in . . .

No matter how you decide to celebrate this holiday, I think it is important to remember some basic safety tips, especially for pet owners.  Please click here and read the safety tips for the ASPCA if you are a pet owner.  Chocolate and other candies are dangerous and potentially deadly for dogs and other pets.

Now for those interested in sustainability during the holidays.  I found a great website that is all about Eco-friendly products and living.  Click here for the Halloween guide.  I really love the Halloween reusable totes and bags.

P.S.  stay tuned for a post on making homemade tamales!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Paris, oh Paris

I found some great Normandy Brie cheese today at Whole Foods Market.  Specially imported from Normandy, France.  I found that it was hard to resist, since it was on sale, so I treated myself to a slice.  Not sure yet how I want to serve it . . . maybe baked in a pastry or with some of my preserves and crackers.  Choices, choices . .  hmm. 

Either way, I will enjoy my brie with thoughts of Paris in my mind.  I've actually travelled to France two times and I love buying a simple crepe while wandering the city or picking up local baked bread, cheese and other fresh toppings (even a bottle of wine).  The simple delight of great food and cultural experiences are some of the joys in travelling.  I highly recommend travelling to France, be sure to learn a few French words and don't worry if you are single traveller.  The experience is definitely worth the time and money.  Hopefully I can go back to Paris in the near future and enjoy the culture again in a different season.

Here's a few of my photos from Paris in the summer.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's witching hour

Halloween is just around the corner and I have been asked so many times this month what my costume will be.  Here it is, at least in part.  My witch's hat in black, I also have one in purple for my Mother.

I am mastering my basic crochet technique and this is a great beginner or easy pattern for crocheting (Click here for the pattern).  And I have found that I LOVE felting yarn.  Try it once and you will see why I am in love with felting. 

Use can easily substitute other brands of wool yarn as I did.  Patrons classic wool and Lion Brand Fun Fur were my yarns of choice, mostly because they were easy to find.  Just remember to use 100% wool, Do Not use any Super Wash wools or other wool mixtures to felt.

So when it's witching hour, beware . . .

What's for Breakfast? A Frittata

Do you love eggs for breakfast?  I know I do, but I find that trying to make an omelet takes too much time.  My simple solution is the Italian classic, the frittata.  You can add all kinds of vegetables, cheese and meats to your frittata.  Any basic frittata recipe works and you can experiment with different ingredients depending on what you have in your refrigerate.  Here's one recipe I like (click here).  You can use a frittata pan, or what I find the easiest is a pan that can be used on the stove and in the oven.

Some of my favorites include asparagus and goat cheese, mushroom and fontina cheese, tomato, basil and Parmesan, bell pepper and herb, and spinach and white cheddar.  Today was a mushroom and cheese frittata morning, mostly because I had some mushrooms leftover that needed to be used.

Mushroom and cheese

Asparagus and goat cheese

My next frittata is going to be a winter squash and sage.  See what's in season and use what is fresh.  Be sure you are buying local or USA produce, preferably organic for your frittata.  And most important, have fun!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Begging for Cornbread

That's right, I made cornbread for dinner to go with a great Fagioli.  I love cornbread and have had several different kinds.  My ultimate favorite and the only cornbread I usually make now is Honey Cornbread.  Skip the boxed cornbread mix and buy cornmeal instead. You can find the recipe here.  The honey makes this cornbread delicious!!!  I have even substituted the sugar for more honey and it gives the cornbread a sweeter honey taste (and a bit of a stickier texture).  So why did I say begging for cornbread.  Well my dogs have noses, and I mean noses like Detection dogs trained to find drugs or other contraband.  And tonight they smelled my cornbread. 

Now I am not of the school of thought that "people food" or scrapes are bad for dogs.  There are many things dogs should not have for example grapes and alcohol, but there are plenty of things dogs can have.  I typically vary my dogs' food and treats.  This includes baked treats (I have a few dog cookbooks) and other "snacks".  So I see nothing wrong with a bite of cornbread being shared with my dogs.  I will say that there are dogs with corn allergies, so if you have a dog that is, then this is not to be shared with those dogs.  Both my dogs LOVED the cornbread, and the small piece they each got wasn't enough in their opinion because they sat at my feet drooling for more.  I won't give them very much mainly because too much corn upsets my youngest dog's stomach and there is little nutritional value in corn (or cornbread) for dogs.

Once my dogs realized that they were only going to have a bite of the cornbread they ate their dog food and now are contently sleeping at my feet, their bellies full.  This is such a great way to end a day.  A slight breeze outside on a crisp Autumn night and my dogs sleeping by my side.  They do teach us unconditional love.  May your evening be as peaceful as mine.

Re-Purpose: Framed Prints into Cork Boards

Here's a great re-purposing project and it's simple too.  Use a great wood frame of your own choosing, preferably without glass.  I found some old frames and prints in my storage.  The frames were already set up to hang which made this project even easier.  You can easily find cork at your local craft store.  Michael's and Joann's both carry it.  If you cannot find it at your craft store, you can always shop online, just make sure you get the correct size and enough material for your project.


1.  Remove print and cardboard backing (if it's not cardboard, removing the backing). 
2.  Either measure the backing and then measure and cut your cork.  OR  lay the cork out, put the backing on top and mark with a sharpie pen.  Then cut the cork.
3.  Glue the cork to the backing.  If it's cardboard simple Elmer's wood glue works well.  You can use superglue as well.  Do Not use hot glue.
4.  Put heavy books or objects on the cork and let dry for several hours.
5.  Once it's dry you can place the cork (cork side facing out) into the frame.  Fasten it in (this depends on the frame design).
6.  Now you can hang your new cork board!

Optional extras: Paint your frame, add stencils or other designs

Here's my frame before:

Here's my frame after:

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's A Warm October Day . . .

Well it is, here in Northern California.  70 and 80 Degree temperatures are not our norm for this time of year.  My tomatoes are still ripening, as are my cucumbers and peppers.  I see no reason to dig them up, instead I am enjoying the vegetables.  However, several weeks ago who would have thought we are well into fall and winter here.  Winter storms with cold temperatures, even snow in Sierra Nevada Mountains.

My winter vegetable crops are partly planted.  Kale and Boston Lettuce, so far.  And those seeds are already sprouting.  I hope to get Swiss Chard and Collard Greens in soon.

If you think you can't grow any vegetables or herbs, think again.  Here is a quick project (I think I read something similar somewhere).  All you need is one (or two or more) of the plastic salad rectangle containers you buy salad/lettuce mixes in.  You can put a small whole or two in the bottom of the container.  Add soil, seeds, water and watch them grow.  Be sure you know how much sun the seeds need, otherwise your seeds may not sprout or grow as fast.

I planted some summer lettuce seed mixes in one and here is what I have already.

Give it a try.  You may be delightful surprised!
Happy Gardening

Monday's Tip of the Week: Cellphones

Clean your cell phone regularly!  I have been watching the news and have read new studies that are reporting that most cell phones are contaminated with E. Coli.

Time to clean your cell phone for your health and the health of your family.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So Simple Beaded Earrings

I love beaded jewelry.  Some of my beaded pieces I bought on my travels and hold special memories, other pieces complete outfits, while others I made myself.  Today I am giving you a simple pattern to create an elegant beaded earring for yourself or as a gift.

Beading string
Earring hooks
2 color of beads of your choice
small needle (optional)


1. Decide the length of the loop for the earring you want.  This gives you the option of making them longer or shorter.  DO NOT cut the string yet.

2.  Start with the earring hook, tie one end of the string to the hook loop, then measure string to the length and add a few inches extra to tie off in the end.

3. Start stringing the beads.  You can use a small needle to sting the small beads as shown in the photo, or if you are using larger beads you can just string them straight onto the string.
Note:  if you are using 2 or more colors, decide your pattern as well.  I did the same number of red and clear beads in each section of the loop.

4.  Once you finish stringing the beads, tie the other end to the hook loop.  Use clear nail polish to seal the knots if desired.  Cut any ends of string at the knots.

5.  If giving as a give, you may tie at ribbon around the hooks and put in a gift bag or box.  Otherwise you can now wear your earrings!

Monday, October 17, 2011

New: Monday Tip of the Week

On Monday's I will be sharing a Tip of the Week with you.  Everything from cooking, crafts, house-cleaning, pets, travelling and more!  Stay tuned each week.

Today's Tip of the Week:

Use a clean, damp cloth (preferably a kitchen towel or washcloth) to wipe mushrooms clean.  DO NOT rinse mushrooms in the sink, you will have rubbery mushrooms if you do.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Bath Time . . . For the dogs

I have two dogs, which I have not really mentioned thus far.  The eldest is an AKC registered German shepherd and my youngest is a rescue.  I love them both dearly, dogs do teach us unconditional love.  They each have their own personality and crack me up daily.  Have you ever seen a dog play with her food, and I am not talking about just bones?  Well my AKC does, she will throw her dental treats in the air, dance around it, growl or otherwise talk to it, before deciding to eat it.  It truly is a site to see, but I can never catch her with the camera, I think she's too smart sometimes!

Since I travel with them and they do like to be outside at times, I like to make sure they are clean.  Now there are plenty of great groomers, dog-washers and businesses offering these services.  In Nor. Cal.  I like the set-up at PetFoodExpress for washing dogs, but I have seen other private businesses and kennels too.  For me though, I am more hands-on and I don't always want to go for a drive to the pet store.  What does that mean you ask?  Well dog washing at home, my friend.

In the past I remember having to use a hose and tie the leash to the fence, so I could wash my dogs as a kid.  That worked, not always the easier task, but today things are different.  The best investment I would highly recommend is the Booster Bath.  Maybe you are tall like me and do not want to bend over to wash your dog, large or small.  The price pays for itself, especially if you wash your dog or dogs as many times as I do in a year.  There are accessories to go with it and you can find it on Costco.com.  If you have a little dog, there is the mini Booster Bath too, also on Costco.  This tub will save your back and from having to bend over, the perfect item to wash your dog.  I have even seen these same tubs used at Pet Expo events and by professionals. 

My second item you need to invest in to wash your dog is the shampoo.  Being "green" or eco-friendly, I have switched my own soap as well as my dog's shampoo to one's without chemicals.  My absolute favorite is Earthbath and I have found this at many different pet stores and online.  There are a few other brands that do not have harsh chemicals that are bad for your dog, but also bad for the environment.  So I stress that you read the ingredient labels and avoid all chemicals, synthetics and preservatives or other additives.  Buyer beware, I say.

Other items you should probably invest in are microfiber bath towels, there are special ones for your dogs if you prefer.  I found two sets in different colors, one for each of my dogs, on sale at different stores. 
Eventually, I would love to have the dog hair dryers, like they use at dog shows, that way I can wash my dogs more frequently during the winter and their fur would dry faster.

Once you have everything you need, it's bath time!  My dogs smell good and their fur is SUPER soft after I give them a bath.  And I stress super soft fur if you use Earthbath.  It doesn't take long to give both of my dogs their bath, I even hook the hose to the garage sink so that I can have warm water on cooler days.  I wouldn't want to hurt my dogs in any way. 

I do warn you that you should introduce your dog to the tub a few times, even let them get into it, before actually attempting to bathe them.  My youngest can be skittish around new things and I have learned that is the best way so you can avoid a fearful dog.

Well, before I leave you for the day, just remember the more you wash your dog, the less likely you will have flea problems or other issues that go undetected.  Love your dog and they will love you in return.