April 26, 2023

The Great Outdoors

I can't stress the title enough--it's been such a relief to hang out in the great outdoors, well, if you can call our 1/16th acre yard "great".
After an extremely long winter and chilly spring (the high today is only in the low 60s), we've been soaking up as much time as we can out in the sun.  Our garden is mostly planted, and I've been peeking every day at the pea and lettuce sprouts poking through the ground.  And my zinnias are doing well indoors, and will probably make the trek out this weekend.
We finally built and planted the raised beds this year, and are trying out the square foot gardening method. hoping to maximize what we can grow in our teacup of a yard.
I'm hoping my prayer flags bring good luck and abundance to the garden, especially the cucumbers, which never do well (darned beetles, but then again, they have to eat too--so Buddhist of me).
The chives are doing remarkably well, as usual this time of year.  They're starting to show signs of blooming.
Oddly, everything seems to be blooming all at once this spring in PA.  Even my forsythia, which usually blooms in March, still has blossoms on it, and my lilacs are getting ready to open.

Lest I forget about the kids, our yard has turned back into an outdoor playspace.
Thankfully the boys and their friends have not yet gotten their hands in the garden.  This broken pirate ship (an alley find) has kept them interested in the sand table.  Shipwreck!

For now, my shoulders relax and we breathe in the fresh air when we venture to our little piece of the great outdoors.  Come on 'round the back door for a cup of coffee or tea if you're in town.
Enjoy your weekend!

Mother's Day Finds at Minted {Giveaway}

Mother's Day is one of my favorite holidays, especially that I'm now a mom.  I like that it's a low-key holiday where you can sleep late, have breakfast ready for you, and forgo changing dirty diapers all day, at least if you have a husband like mine, who makes the day a relaxing one for me (I do the same for him in June).

Though I love the homemade cards and drawings from my oldest son, it's still nice to receive a special gift on Mother's Day. I'm not one to fawn over jewels (sadly, diamonds are my birthstone and I'm not a fan of them), however I do go weak for arts, crafts and design.

Have you ever visited Minted?  While you may, like myself, just assume they carry only photo cards and stationary, they have a huge and gorgeous line of art prints, many of them customizable.  I have one in my kitchen, that says "Drink More Coffee" (of course).
Creating a family tree print would be an awesome Mother's Day gift, huh?  I love this unique one, the Heritage Stream, which uses a stream as the "tree" instead of the old stand-by.
Another unique take on the family tree is this Schooner print:
But, if you like the traditional, this one's for you
My favorite is the Family Tree Rings, which will soon hang in our home.  It's simple, elegant and meaningful to me and my family as it includes my husband's and my initials and children's names.
There are so many more gorgeous prints to gift to your mother or another mom in your life, whether she's a coffee drinker, animal lover, has a modern aesthetic, or is inspired by meaningful quotes.  Really, there's something for every mom. We always love flowers, right?
BONUS: If you order something by Friday, (today!), you get a free Minted customized Mother's Day card!

I can't speak highly enough about the quality of Minted's art prints, and I hope you'll like them too.


One lucky reader will win an 8"x12" art print of your choice from Minted!  Please enter via Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received an art print from Minted in exchange for this post.  All opinions are my own.

April 21, 2023

Green Goodness for Your Belly

This weekend I posted a few recipes on a friend's blog, highlighting the tasty and nutritious greens that are making their way into our farm markets.  I'm going to repost here, hoping my readers will enjoy these dishes.

Because she's traveling, my friend shared her box of produce from a local co-op in exchange for using the items as inspiration for creativity in the kitchen and sharing what I made via the co-op's blog (if you're local to the Lehigh Valley, you must check them out--it's called Pure Sprouts and they deliver).

With the items, which featured lots of greens, I decided to make a smoothie, a frittata, and an Asian ramen noodle dish.

First up is a Kale Matcha Smoothie, one of my husband’s favorites.  In case you didn’t know, matcha is powdered green tea and is a bright green color that doesn’t compete with the kale.  You can use raw kale in this smoothie or lightly steam it to make it a little less “leafy.”


(makes four 10 oz. servings) 

3 kale leaves, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
1 apple, diced
2 bananas, broken into chunks
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. rolled oats
2 tbsp honey (add more or less per your taste)
1 1/2 c. milk (dairy, soy, almond, etc.)
1 tsp matcha green tea powder (or substitute 1/4 cup cooled, green tea and reduce milk by 1/4 c.)
1/2 c. ice (optional but recommended)
This is as simple as combining all ingredients in a blender and processing until thoroughly combined.
Enjoy this cold and frothy.  This smoothie can also be turned into tasty popsicles if you freeze them in molds.

Another great way to use spring greens is in a frittata. My family enjoys one at least once a week, and you can certainly tailor the ingredients to whatever you have on hand, and can change up the greens to whatever is available.


(makes one 9″ frittata, serves 8) 

1/2 c. packed, chopped spinach leaves
1/2 c. packed, chopped rainbow chard (de-stemmed)
4 spring onions, thinly sliced both white and green parts (or substitute a red onion)
5 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. fresh minced chives
1/3 c. olive oil
8 large eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Warm a heavy 9″ or 12″ skillet on medium high, then add the olive oil to the pan.  Have your spring onions and mushrooms ready to go.
When glossy-looking, add the onion and mushrooms and saute until soft and browned.  Then add the chopped spinach and chard on top to wilt.
 Meanwhile, beat your eggs along with the milk and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Stir the vegetable and greens mixture in the pan, reduce heat to medium, and pour the eggs over top.  Top with shredded cheddar and chives, then cover and cook on the stove top until the eggs are set and begin to pull from the sides of the pan, usually about 5-10 minutes.  Alternately, you could put it in the oven under the broiler for 3-5 minutes to cook.
 Serve with a salad (more greens, yay!) or just on its own, for any meal of the day.
Also included in my local bin was baby bok choi, so I knew I’d have to make some type of sesame noodle dish; it’s so good with bok choi.  I often use soba noodles (made from buckwheat) but decided to use ramen since I had that on hand.


(serves 4) 

2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 spring onions, whites and greens chopped.  Reserve a little of the green part for garnish.
2 cups baby pac choi (I used the entire amount from the bin)
2 cups chopped pea shoots
1/4 cup finely minced fresh chives
15 oz. dried ramen noodles (discard seasoning pouch, if contained in the package)
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame seeds or sunflower seeds for garnish
Cook ramen noodles according to the package.  Drain and set aside.  In a skillet, heat the oil and saute the garlic and onion until soft.  Add the baby bok choi and saute until wilted and soft, then remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sesame oil, honey and tamari/soy sauce, then add the chives and the remainder of the green onion.
In a large serving bowl, combine the noodles, bok choi mixture, and pea shoots. Here's what pea shoots look like:
They have the flavor of peas but the benefit of not having to wait around all season until the peas are ready.  You can eat them raw or cooked.  I added the ramen noodles to the pea shoots, as well as the hot bok choi mixture, which nicely wilted the pea shoots.
Pour the sauce over the noodles and vegetables, then gently toss with tongs to coat.  Garnish with sesame seeds or sunflower seeds and serve warm or cold. My sons devoured this for lunch, so it was a hit with the pre-k and toddler crowd.  Hope you enjoy it too!

April 17, 2023

Shower Salad

No, I haven't started a Kramer tradition from Seinfeld, saving time by preparing salad while showering.  I'm back to the no 'poo experiment, which I tried unsuccessfully two years ago.  Despite its unfortunate name, it's an interesting method of ridding shampoo from your shower routine and scalp. Let's take a look at the method below:

When I shower, I pour a solution of 1 cup water +1 tbsp baking soda over my hair and let it sit for at least a minute.  Then I rinse it out and pour a mixture of 1 cup water + 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar over my hair and let that sit for a minute.  I keep these solutions in two squeeze bottles in the shower.  It's like my very own salad bar, since there is also an olive oil mixture in the bottle on the far left (more on that later in the post).
Last time I had success with the method, but then went on a trip to Florida and was lazy about packing my supplies.  Plus I had gotten a haircut and the stylist had used shampoo on my hair, thus upsetting the PH balance on my scalp.  I just didn't want to invest the time in retraining my scalp with this method (it took about 3 weeks total for me to have hair I liked).

Back to the drawing board.  I wanted to revisit this method again, not because I'm against the harshness of shampoo, but I felt my hair was looking dull and I was tired of washing it every other day because it was greasy.  I liked how it looked when I tried the method years ago, and thought that I could muddle through the first few weeks to get that soft, silky hair I once had.

Here's my head, 10 days into the treatment.  I'm pleased with the results (despite the bad iPhone photo).
It was much easier this time around 1). because my hair is shorter and 2.) I'm not dealing with that mass of thick pregnancy hair.

My hair gets extra curly and the roots are no longer greasy, though I think that I still need to work some of the oiliness out of the rest of my hair.  Using a boar bristle brush helps.
It will most likely look better in another week or so, and I won't have to wash it as frequently (right now I'm at every other day with the no 'poo method).

In addition to the no 'poo method, I thought I'd give the oil cleansing method a try.  You can find a lot of info via an online search.  I think I may have come across this at some point on Pinterest.  Essentially you use oil to clean and soften the skin on your face.

I use a blend of olive and castor oil, but I must say the results have been much less pleasing than the no 'poo experiment.  My combination skin did not like this, despite trying it for 10 days.  It broke out, and just never felt great.  It might be that I need to experiment with the blend of oils.

One other issue I had was that I think it was allowing me to get sunburned.  We've had some nice days here, and despite using SPF on my face, or only being outdoors without a hat or sunscreen for 20 minutes I was still getting red. I wonder if it was acting like a baby oil suntan method (yikes!).

Hence I've given up on the oil cleansing method and am back to my usual baking soda wash, which has been good for my face (you can see my cheese sprinkler of baking soda in the shower rack in the photo above).  I still don't use soap on it, and usually just wash my face with water before bed.

So that's my shower salad, which is more than you've probably wanted to know about my showering habits.  Have you ever tried these methods?  How did they turn out for you?

April 11, 2023

Through Fire and Water

Finally! A week spent outdoors, without coats, shoes, mittens or hats.  And in water!
It's amazing how a few days of sunshine and 70+ degree temperatures can change a mood, particularly one of frustration and mental exhaustion that has plagued me all winter.  Add to that the blazing tempers (both mine and the boys') that rise up often in the indoor months and you have the fire part of this post's title.
This one above may just have the worst temper, not in its girth, but in its unpredictability and randomness. Here's our one-act play:

Jude: "Milk!"  (or "Muk" as he calls it)
Me: Hands him the milk in a sippy cup. 
Jude: "Nooooooo!!" while rolling on the floor, throwing a full and heavy sippy cup at me.

Anyway, back to the story.  Open windows motivate me to clean, wash the bedding, purge old toys and household items, and begin the seasonal clothing changeover.  And of course bathe the kids more regularly before bed, thanks to Mother Nature's playthings.
We've been knee-deep in water, literally, which pleases the boys very much.
They were so absorbed in activity that I was actually able to pull out the camera for some pictures, a rarity as of late.

These days spent outdoors have exhausted us in a different way, more physically than emotionally as does in winter.  Hopefully we've turned a corner here with our family dynamic.

On a non-related note, I'm 4 weeks into the 6 week figure drawing class I signed up for.
While it's not really a class (it's more of a live model drawing opportunity), I'm pleased that I'm knocking some of the rust off my drawing skills.  Plus it's been fun getting out of the house one evening a week and doing something wholly self-indulgent.  No shopping for food, kids' clothes, or doing some other errand for others.  Plus the coordinator of the even provides free decaf coffee from the coffeeshop next door.

How's life in your part of the world?  Any activities you're spending your free time doing?

April 10, 2023

Grilled Vegetarian Tikki Masala Kabobs

It's been quite a while since I've shared a recipe here, but that's not for lack of cooking.  In fact, I've created so many tasty dishes in the past few months, but just haven't had much time to photograph or blog about them.  But I made a damn-good dinner last night that the Mister insisted I take time to photograph and write about--grilled tikki masala kabobs.
You may have heard me declare my love for Indian food.  I seriously could eat it every other day, I'm so enamored of the spices and flavors.  Give me a meal of chana masala, aloo gobi, raita, naan, basmati rice and darjeeling tea and I'll be your BFF.

While scouring the kitchen for some ideas for dinner (I'm so in need of a trip to the grocery store, but then again my best meals are often born out of a desperate pantry), I saw we had a bunch of sweet potatoes, red onions and mushrooms.  Flipping through a vegetarian grilling cookbook, I found a recipe for tikki masala that had most of the ingredients I already had on hand.  And given that we've finally entered grilling season here in the Northeast, I decided to try it.

Vegetarian Tikki Masala Kebobs (adapted from Cookouts Veggie Style by Jolinda Hackett).  Serves 4


For the kabobs
  • 3 Sweet Potatoes or Yams, quartered
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 1 package of baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 lb. of extra firm tofu, cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 red peppers, quartered
  • water for boiling
  • skewers for making the kabobs
For the sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cury powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Be sure to gve yourself time to marinate the veggies at least for an hour, preferably 2-3.

Simmer potatoes in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, but don't overcook.  Remove from water and allow to cool.  Place vegetables and tofu into a shallow container.

In another bowl, make the sauce.  Combine the spices, then add the yogurt and lemon juice and stir to combine.  Pour over the veggie/tofu mix and allow to marinate at least one hour.  Soak wooden skewers in water for grilling.
Fire up your grill, and while it's heating, place the veggies and tofu on wooden skewers.  Place skewers on a well-oiled grill for 8-10 minutes, rotating once or twice and basting with extra marinade.
Enjoy with naan or basmati rice.

April 9, 2023

Wedded Bliss

There's nothing like a wedding to make you appreciate family and life's significant milestones.  This past weekend, the boys and I participated in my youngest brother's wedding.  Despite the stress of managing two energetic kids, it was a wonderful occasion for us.
And little boys in suits just melt my heart.  As well as little brothers getting married.
Not to be outdone, here's both boys, along with Uncle Jeff and Daddy.
I only wish that I could have been present more during the whole occasion, but with children, that's nearly impossible.  I missed out on the exit from the church, most of the speeches, the first dance (saw it from behind many heads) and the cake cutting, but at least the kids were tended to and didn't go running off into the catering kitchen or down the hill of the gorgeous, massive estate where the reception was held.
The bride and groom looked radiant and happy, as they usually do.  I wish I had gotten some better photos but I left my better camera at the hotel.
SoJo and Jude were completely exhausted, as you can see above, having been up early (by their own accord, not because we needed to be anywhere at 5:30am) and having stayed up late.  But we muddled through and still enjoyed ourselves.
Thanks to my sister-in-law Ashley for this photo!
We have about 4 more weddings to attend this year (it's the younger set of cousins now tying the knot on my side), so I'll have plenty more practice for being mindful and enjoying the moment.  And not forgetting my good camera.
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