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Posts from the ‘suburbification’ Category

How Many?

It is December. Also known as the month where I am too busy for words.

Trips to IKEA in the past week:  TWO

Trying to figure out WTF are we doing with the kitchen!?! This kitchen must die.

death to this kitchen


ikea kitchen shopping

Come to me, wooden countertop. I love you.

ikea kitchen shopping2

Tristan: Currently thinking WTF!?! While contemplating the fact that we have to paint the ENTIRE house…


Veggies eaten: A GAZILLION

I have been trying to fight off the plague (aka one of the nuggets had strep – and I can NOT get sick this month!); so I’ve been fueling myself with goodness.

green smoothiesgrapefruitorange chix sesame kaletofu honey mustard saladrainbow dinner2bburgers ala jenny2

Miles on the treadmill so far this week:  TEN!

Sweat it out, baby. Sweat it out.

X-mas presents purchased:  ZERO

Send elves!



Surprise Visitor

Look what came to visit the other day…

Can you see him?


How about now….?


While working in the yard, we found him perched on top of my portable greenhouse, but didn’t think much of it at the time. A few hours later Tristan opened our patio door and BAM! there he was. Sitting right on top of our gazebo, just a few inches from the house.


I think he wanted to play.

Or did he….? 


A Zucchini the Size Of…

My head….?

No, bigger.

My foot…?

No, bigger.

Tristan’s foot…?


Read more

Holiday Weekend Happenings

What a weekend it was! I had 3. 5 days off from work, and tried to make the best use of my free time and long weekend!

I cooked good food.

I cleaned and organized my house.

I played with my puppy.

I tended to my garden (bugs and all!)

I spent some quality time with my other half.

Some highlights…

Lilly Julyred white blue breadfarmers market basket fulltamale pie sliceenchilaswatermelon

mutant cukesromasichibansungoldscrazy wubba doglavenderpatio playrainbowdead bugstomatoes1DSC_0305Lilly's new gate

Come Saturday afternoon, I made a full dinner for a family that I had never met. I signed up to help out the Breen family with a meal for a couple of months, while Tonya is fighting cancer. I live locally, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. (Thanks again to Caitlin for sharing Tonya’s story!)

I had intended to snap a photo of the food I made for them, with handwritten ingredient tags, etc – but when it came down to it, I was more concerned with packing up and getting the food to them – rather than snapping pics. (Poor blogger = good person? Hee, hee). I took them a pan of Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas, salad with veggies fresh from my garden, my homemade Cilantro-Lime salad dressing, some fresh salsa from the Farmers’ Market and a batch of Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I figured even if Tonya and Kevin didn’t want to indulge in the cookies (they are trying to eat a semi-vegan diet), that their little boys might appreciate the sweet (healthy!) treat. Little did I know, that when we dropped the food off at their house, we would find a house FULL of people! It was a bit chaotic, but we did chat with Tonya for a few minutes, and we met her Grandmother, and the two boys. I received a nice message later that night from Kevin and Tonya, and apparently all EIGHT of them (6 adults and 2 kids) enjoyed our dinner. I was thrilled that they were able to feed their unexpected dinner company with our meal, as I had been a little concerned when we left! But I had made a large amount of food, figuring in that situation, leftovers would probably have been appreciated, as well. Thankfully it all worked out. Now I just have to figure out what to make them for dinner in August…

Monday night, the rain and storms drove us inside to cook out dinner (we had planned to grill the burgers and corn). We cooked our local grass-fed beef burgers in a skillet, and they were still tasty. Come dessert time, we braved what were merely sprinkles at that time, to make S’mores! These were Tristan’s first s’mores ever – can’t you believe the man got to be 33 years old without ever having a s’more? Shocking! We set our marshmallows ablaze and got to work assembling them.


They were even better than I remembered! A rare treat!

Having graham crackers reminds me of how much I love them – but I don’t like the ingredients in store-bought crackers. I must try to make my own! And soon!

We saw a few fireworks from the comfort of our living room… and let me just say – Lilly is NOT a fan. What she IS a fan of, however… is watermelon! Can you tell?!?!

My Grandpa’s Green Thumb

Apparently I have inherited it. I never expected to; it’s come as quite a surprise. But I couldn’t be happier. My Grandpa was an amazing gardener. My childhood memories wouldn’t be complete without his rhubarb pie, homemade pickles, grape juice, fresh berries and canned tomatoes. All grown by him in my grandparent’s backyard. My Grandma and I are freakishly similar in many ways, but it seems that quite a bit of Grandpa rubbed off on me as well. He has been gone for 14 years this May, and I think of him often. I’m sorry that we never got to experience this together. I know he’d be proud of my garden.

I had good success last year with one raised-bed garden, and some containers. This year, I upped the ante. Quite a bit.

Here is how my little garden grows…


Garden #1 - on May 1st


Garden #2 - on May 1st


Garden #3 - on May 1st

And now, exactly one month later…

garden 1 - 1 month

Garden #1 - on June 1st

garden 2 - 1 month

Garden #2 - on June 1st

garden 3 - 1 month

Garden #3 - on June 1st

Ignore the fact that I need to weed, and that we need to mow the yard (what can I say? We were in Asheville last weekend!)


Baby zucchini!!



In the second garden #2 photo, you can see a couple of things… one of them is a hastily staked-up tomato plant, with bamboo sticks. The night before we left for Asheville brought one hell of a storm, and the next morning, I had damage control to do, while trying to rush out the door. I am going to hit Lowes up to get another folding tomato cage for it this weekend. The cone cages are far too small to fit over it now. Also, sort of tucked up underneath the big tomato plant is a tall, but skinny little Sungold tomato shoot. It broke off from the main plant during a storm, and I immediately stuck it straight into the ground. I really didn’t expect it to take (hence the poorly chosen spot), but it did. It has little baby tomatoes on it now, so I’m going to have to make the set-up work!

My garden is organic, and thus, something is already chowing down on my eggplant leaves (seen in garden #3 photo). This happened last year, but whatever it was didn’t care for the fruit (eggplant), and it didn’t seem to have much of an ill effect on the plant as a whole. I am going to try to figure out how to stop it though. The holes in the leaves make me sad! All my hard work!


Pesto! Ahem... I mean basil!



all gardens - 1 month

A view down the line...


The only thing (aside from herbs) that I’ve been able to harvest thus far has been radishes. However, check out my Sungolds… I’m thinking I will be able to pluck one of those babies and pop it straight into my mouth while working in the garden this weekend. Sustenance, right?!


My week in pictures

Easter egg hunts…

egg hunt

… and baking Emily’s Jelly Surprise Muffins

baking with j

The Farmers Market…

frms mkt bounty

… and local STRAWBERRIES!


Reading Tina Fey’s new book, Bossypants

bossypants book

Easter Brunch…

easter1 easter2

kale salad bloody mary easter4

Playground weather…



A handsome man to pump my gas…  (NOT loving the cost though – eeeks!)

eeeks gas

Two days off work, with a day of shopping and lunch out thrown in…

131 main 131 main1


plants1 plants2


Getting dirt delivered for my gardens…

truck of dirt gardens


And… this guy…

t and a easter smooch


Masala Pancakes

Well, not exactly.

This past weekend I made two of my most favorite things to eat…  my classic (whole wheat) pancakes, and what I like to call Chana Spinach Masala. (Which is, incidentally, the best Indian food I have ever made at home, to date. And I have made a lot! Holy yum).

chana masala

Chana Spinach Masala


The pancakes have been a favorite for a while now, and are only made better by the addition of pumpkin puree, blueberries, or chocolate chips… etc. This batch was just straight up basic-style, with maple syrup, raw sliced almonds and unsweetened coconut on top. Divine!


My Favorite Pancakes


Recipes to come, for these and more, so check back! (By Monday, hopefully).

I am working hard on my recipe page, and plan to post:

  • English Muffins
  • My Favorite Pancakes
  • Chana Spinach Masala
  • Cilantro Lime Dressing
  • Granola Muffin Bars
  • Broccoli Salad with Yogurt Dressing
  • Beany Tuna Salad

… and much more!

Has anyone ever frozen sautéed greens before? I still have collards galore, and have reached the time where I MUST take them out of my garden, to make room for spring/summer crops. I was thinking I could cook them up, and freeze them to use later in quiches and casseroles, at the very least. Think it would work?

collards garden

Collards from my garden


I think it’s supposed to be a nice spring weekend… and I hope to get a lot accomplished outside. Tristan and I have dubbed Thursday, “Crap-Friday”, and I am thrilled that it is Crap-Friday no longer! Tomorrow I’m off to the Farmer’s Markets, as per usual… and plan to fit in plenty of playtime with this one here, too…

lil play

My little monkey



Cooking up and taking down…

Now that I’m amongst the land of the living again, I have been enjoying some pretty flowers…

spring flowers

… playtime outside with puppies…


Tug of wubba


They never stop!

… and being a busy bee in my kitchen…

Granola (of course!)… I make a big batch of this every 3-4 weeks.


Spiced Vanilla Granola

English muffins… I make several batches of these at a time, split them and freeze them for easy breakfast and snacks. They are so wonderfully delicious! English muffins are something that I’ve really missed since cutting processed food out. I am so happy to be able to make my own whole-grain English muffins with minimal ingredients.

Eng muffins

Whole-grain English Muffins

Coconut Butter! This is so easy, it is ridiculous. Really. And, this 8 oz jar only cost me $2.79, to make.

coconut butter finished

Coconut Butter

My favorite Almond Butter!! It was definitely time to make more! We’ll see how long this jar lasts. 🙂

jar of heaven

Heaven in a jar

Simple Broccoli salad with yogurt dressing…

brocc salad

Fresh broccoli salad with yogurt dressing

Carrot Pumpkin Muffins…

pumpkin carrot muffin

How could you go wrong with this?

Emily’s Vegetable Masala burgers

masala burgers3

Delicious with avocado on top!

Collards. Lots of collards. (My “fall garden” exploded with them, all of a sudden).

collards, spicy

Sweet & Spicy Collards

Panang Curry


Panang Tofu Curry

Dolsot Bibimbap and Kimchi

dolsot bibmibap

Dolsot Bibimbap



And of course… Lilly’s favorite Crunchy Peanut Butter dog treats!

crunchy dog treats

World's greatest (and healthiest) dog treats!

On the cookbook front, I recently purchased Mark Bittman’s Food Matters, and am in love. (shhh, don’t tell Tristan). I’ve made several recipes out of it already… Brothy Vegetable and Lentil Soup (with some modifications), Skillet Tamales (w/local grass fed beef), Refried Black Beans, Arroz Con Pollo – and then some (with local pastured chicken), and Cauliflower Mac & Cheese.  I have dozens more pages bookmarked to try .

cauli mac inside

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese


Lentil Soup


Skillet Tamales and Refried Black Beans

As for outside of the kitchen, we’ve had a very rainy and chilly week here… Spring? Not so much. I actually love rainy days as a rule, but I have to say – I much prefer the dry days now with Lilly around. Mud sucks. Mud on paws, sucks even more. And mud on my carpet? Don’t get me started.

Also making me long for sunnier days? The fact that our beautiful gazebo took a cartwheeling tumble about a month ago, and now resembles something a 2 year old would make with Tinker Toys, rather than an attractive and useful addition to our backyard.


Anyone know what to do with 145 lbs of crumpled steel?

We’ve bitten the bullet and purchased a new one (ooh, it’s even bigger!) and can’t wait to put it up. However, it is far too soggy out there right now.

So I’m uncharacteristically ready for the sun. Spring. Not summer. Do you hear me, universe? NOT. Summer.


Vanilla from Vodka

I make my own vanilla extract. (For some reason, this statement sounds really domestic in my head).

Why would I make my own vanilla extract, when there is a perfectly good product (Neilsen-Massey – the BEST if you’re going to buy) out there? Because I can. It’s easy. It’s affordable. And it’s good for you! You can make your own high-quality extract for a fraction of the cost; without any added sugar (or god forbid, corn syrup!) or other additives.

Does this sound crazy? It’s not. I promise – If you do any baking, I feel that making your own vanilla extract is totally worth it!

You only need a few items to make this, and of course, patience. It takes about 2 months to “brew” and become the proper strength.



Homemade Vanilla Extract:

* Vodka (or alcohol of choice)

* Vanilla beans (3 beans for every cup of liquor used)

* Jar w/lid

* Cutting board and sharp knife (to split the beans)



Split the vanilla beans in half, lengthwise, starting about a quarter-inch from the top. If you cut them all the way in half, don’t fret. I just happen to like to keep them connected at the top.



Place the beans into your jar(s).

Fill with the appropriate amount of liquor. (One cup of liquor for every 3 vanilla beans).


Screw the lid on tight and give the jar a shake.


I find it handy to put a post-it note on top with the starting date, so I can keep track of my various batches.

Now, store it for two months. Come back every week, or every other week to give it a swirl and shake, to keep things trucking along. I keep mine in the pantry, or in the dark corner of my kitchen counter. Don’t go setting it in the fridge or on a windowsill, but aside from that, you can put it pretty much anywhere that is convenient for you. 


As for the tools needed…  I am partial to Ball jars, but you could use any container (I’d use glass) with a tight-fitting lid.

For beans… I have ordered my vanilla beans from a couple of different sources, and my current fave is Beanilla Trading Company (or Beanilla products on Amazon). The Tahitian beans that I have brewing now are the best that I’ve used thus far. I’m no expert – I just know what I like – so if you have a different preference, by all means, use whatever kind of vanilla beans you like. For that matter, you can (to some degree) use any kind of alcohol that you want…. I happen to use vodka. Medium-low priced vodka. I’ve heard of others using clear or spiced rum, or bourbon even. I am a vodka gal at heart, and I think it gives the cleanest vanilla taste, so vodka it is.


I now have a jar of vanilla “brewing” at all times. Once it’s finished, I pour it into a different bottle or jar, to keep for myself or to give to a friend. Clean your jar, toss your used beans, split open some new ones, and go again. Plan ahead, so you won’t run out!


‘Tis the Season…

… for picking out our Christmas tree! We are planning on getting a tree tomorrow, and decorating it (and the house) on Sunday. I love finding one that is just right! I adore getting a real tree, and that is definitely a benefit of living in NC – gorgeous local trees. Is there anything better than a Fraser Fir? Not for me.

I have a new concern this year, however…

How is this…

"Mom, I promise I'll be good".


Going to deal with this…?

Our 2009 Christmas tree, pre-Lilly.


This will be Lilly’s first Christmas, and I honestly don’t know. I just hope she isn’t obsessed with it, and that she doesn’t try to knock it down! I’ve already decided that none of the super-important ornaments will be on the bottom half of the tree this year, just in case. Who knows, maybe it won’t phase her at all? (*fingers crossed*). However, I’m certain the presents under the tree will be a constant temptation for her. I hear a lot of “no” and “gentle” in my future.