Lately we've seen a few hummingbirds zipping around the patio, flitting from pink to purple flowers and back again. Spouse caught this photo last week on his cell phone. Hummingbirds don't wait for you to go find the camera! What a treat to see this amazing little creature right outside our window.
In other news, as I'm sure you've noticed, I'm playing around with the new "Dynamic Views" Blogger template. I realize this may be too dramatic a change for some (you know who you are!), but I think it's really interesting to see all of my past posts shown in photo form. You can change the way the posts are displayed by clicking on the menu across the top (choose "classic" to return to a more traditional display). Feedback is, of course, welcome!
I've been somewhat neglecting my blog lately due to the fact that I've been up to my ears in a variety of projects since July -- all fun stuff which I'm grateful to be doing! At the same time, I hope to get things under control very soon so I can get back to some "normal" activities. I haven't scrapbooked a single page since MAY and that alone is somewhat distressing to me!
Among many other things, I've neglected my gardens which I had worked so hard on at the beginning of the summer. Fortunately, the sedum is looking beautiful right now. Hopefully those lovely bursts of color will draw the eye away from the areas of UGLY!
Last week the store where I teach held a big scrapbooking garage sale. Holy mole -- bargains galore! I participated as a vendor and took a few things to sell. In fact, I used the garage sale as an impetus to re-work some of the storage in my craft area.
Previously my space was comprised of folding tables and a variety of stacking drawers. I love stacking drawers, but the overall look was NOT pulled together. I bought a new table (actually a dorm-sized computer/gaming desk!) and two sets of Target cubbies. After I assembled them, I added canvas bins to some of the cubbies, leaving some spaces open for decorative storage containers. (Please ignore the bottle of Oxi Magic and cords all over the floor. This is a "transition" photo!)
Then I set about finding containers to fit inside the canvas bins so I could use the space as efficiently as possible. I ended up buying a variety of containers, including these "Really Useful Boxes" (that's really what they're called) at Office Depot for my ink pads.
The organization project is still underway and will be until I get a bit more time to finish it up. At that point, I'll post some photos. Meanwhile, it's back to work on those projects!
The weather recently turned a bit colder and (I'll admit) it got a bit chilly in the house before we finally broke down and turned on the furnace. (And of course, it wouldn't start -- but that's another story.)
And with the change of seasons, we saw the re-emergence of Tinsel's most artistic, yet practical creation -- Towel Tunnels. While I've never actually seen Tinsel making one, there can be no doubt that she's the architect. As soon as the weather gets chilly, Tinsel's the first (and only) cat around here to burrow deep under the blankets. Lily doesn't go for covers unless we're having a blizzard.
You can see one of Tinsel's Towel Tunnels from last winter here.
I found the season's first Towel Tunnel in Bailey's bathroom, normally the warmest room in the house, right next to the furnace vent.
Later I was surprised to find a Blanket Tunnel (based on the same concept) in the basement. Poor Tinsel must have been really cold to have resorted to this!
You can see that the Towel Tunnel and Blanket Tunnel are somewhat loosely constructed. Last year, Tinsel's Towel Tunnels got sturdier as the winter wore on. I'm sure she'll continue to purr-fect her technique again this year.
I've been going through my craft supplies and pulling old tools and materials for the upcoming Memory Bound garage sale, September 23 and 24. As part of this process (and believe me, it's a MESSY one!) I've been trying to consolidate some of my storage.
I recently ran across the tote I use to store my fabric paint. I collected quite a lot of fabric paint back in the day when I was making matching seasonal sweatshirts and t-shirts for Bailey and me. I even took a set of sweatshirts to the state fair and won a blue ribbon! But I'm no longer doing fabric painting. For some strange reason, Bailey doesn't seem to want us to dress alike! Go figure!
Fabric paint can be used on paper, so I'm keeping some of it, but I I thought I'd move it to a smaller tote and sell this one. It's a nice tote but takes up too much space in the closet.
But now, it looks like the tote may have to stay here...
Lily seems to have taken it over.
It's the purr-fect size for her!
And who knows -- with Halloween coming, maybe I could make us all matching sweatshirts!
Today I'm sharing a recipe for a Potato and Green Bean Salad which I made last week. I developed a love for this type of salad during the year I spent in France back in college. I first tried a similar recipe when some friends and I took an extended trip to the south of France where the simple style of cooking relies heavily on fresh ingredients. This is one of those recipes which (like meatloaf in Iowa) seems to vary by household. Add tuna and it becomes a version of a Salade Nicoise.
I put together this salad based on a recipe from Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard (a great read, by the way). I added a few ingredients based on what I had on hand (listed below the recipe). If you're looking for a simple one-dish meal which gets even better after a day or two in the fridge, this one's for you!
Potato and Green Bean Salad
Adapted from Lunch in Paris **
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cut extra-virgin olive oil or more to taste
1.5 pounds small red potatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 pound green beans, blanched
1 small red onion, minced
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup tiny black Nicoise olives
Combine the first 6 ingredients for the vinaigrette in a glass jar or container. Shake to combine. You can make the vinaigrette several days in advance.
Place the potatoes in a pot of highly salted cold water, bring to boil, and cook until tender.
Trim the beans and blanch in lightly salted water for 3-4 minutes. They should remain bright green and retain their snap. Drain and rinse under cold water; pat dry with a paper towel.
Drain the potatoes. While they are still warm, place them in a large bowl with the onion, parsley, thyme, olives, and green beans. Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Leave in the fridge for an hour so that the flavors have a chance to blend. This salad is best served at room temperature. Serves 4-6.
** The original recipe includes pastis or anisette, a licorice flavor. I'm not a fan of licorice, so I left it out and added the following ingredients, commonly found in a Salade Nicoise, a traditional dish from the south of France:
Two packages of white tuna, drained
Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), green olives and capers -- had a half jar of each in the fridge so added them in
Serve with a loaf of crusty bread. Dinner doesn't get much better than this, in my opinion!
I don't know about you, but I'm really enjoying this cooler weather. Summers in Iowa are much too hot for my taste, so I always welcome fall temperatures when they arrive.
With fall comes the opportunity to try out a few new "comfort food" dishes. Last week we tested a new recipe from Clean Eating magazine. I subscribed to this magazine a few months ago and it has been a wonderful source of healthful recipes. This particular recipe, Balsamic-Glazed Chicken and Veggies, came from their website. Click here for the recipe, also shown below. I'll try anything with balsamic vinegar listed as an ingredient!
I personally LOVE crock pot recipes. It's great to throw everything together and forget about it until dinner time. This particular recipe really needs a larger crock pot than the one I have. It was a tight squeeze, even without the kale. (I left it out because Spouse thinks it looks--and tastes!--like lawn mulch.)
This is what the completed dish looks like, out of the crock pot. Can you imagine how great it smelled? We enjoyed it with couscous and some crusty bread and I also froze a good portion of it for later.
This recipe is definitely a KEEPER. If you're looking for a new crock pot dish to try this fall, I'd highly recommend it!
Balsamic-Glazed Chicken and Veggies
Olive oil cooking spray
6 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp Sucanat (I substituted brown sugar for this sweetener)
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium yellow squash, sliced
6 oz sliced white mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 head garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
2 cups finely chopped kale (I omitted the kale; the recipe was great even without it.)
Remove lid from slow cooker, mist interior with cooking spray and place chicken inside.
In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar, rosemary, soy sauce and Sucanat. Add remaining ingredients, except for kale, and stir well to coat.
Pour vegetable-sauce mixture into slow cooker, over top of chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 4 to 5. One hour before serving, stir in kale and replace cover. Before plating, use a fork to lightly shred chicken in the slow cooker. Serve over brown rice, quinoa or whole-wheat angel hair pasta (or couscous).
It's been a little over two weeks since we took Bailey back to Indiana. We've been busy with work and other projects but still...it's very quiet here. Among many other things, I miss the piles of flip flops in the laundry room, the wet towels on the bathroom floor (yes, I did just write that!), and especially hearing her sing around the house.
At the same time, we couldn't be happier and more excited about everything she's experiencing at IU! Band camp is done now and classes are in full swing. Her fall semester will be filled with marching band, two different percussion ensembles, and a nice mix of courses -- including her first conducting class.
When you don't see your daughter very often, you really start to cherish the few pictures you can get. I was pretty excited to find her in several photos from drum line rehearsals. I can tell by looking at them -- and you probably can, too -- that although we miss her like crazy, she's exactly where she belongs!