Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nursery Time

Remember how I made the curtain for my yet-to-be born nephew's nursery? Well, my sister took a picture and sent it to me. I think they did a great job on the nursery which is now all ready for him. We are all impatiently awaiting his arrival, especially my sister. July. Texas. Pregnant. That's all you need to know.

I'm also including a picture of the crib. See that turtle bedding? John and I bought it as our gift to the baby. It's from Pottery Barn Kids and cost more than the queen-sized set on our own bed. Pirates. BUT! Can you see how I mimicked the bed skirt with my curtain. PBK needs to hire me to sew cheaper versions of their items, right? I'm not sure if you'll be able to see it or not. My picture sizes are funky today. :( Just know that my seamstress skills are awesome. And baby, hurry up and get here! Your mom is cranky.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wine Night

This past Saturday, John and I hosted some good friends for another installment of wine night. For some reason, very early in the planning for this night, I selected a theme of “Food on a Stick.” While these gatherings are all about the wine, I got really hung up on incorporating sticks into the meal. Why is this? You ask. Beats me. I was so focused on the stick food that I didn’t even select a wine theme until pretty late in the game. What I finally settled on is what I’m calling Summer Whites. These didn’t necessarily have anything to do with summer, mind you, but it was a blazing hot day in Ohio and I thought the whites would be more refreshing than a bold red. I was right (one point for Ashley).

My appetizer menu included cheese, both seasoned Havarti and Colby jack, caprese bites (which are cherry tomatoes on a stick with fresh mozzarella topped with basil alongside Balsamic vinaigrette) and bread and crackers (not on a stick). For dinner we had chicken skewers with 3 dipping sauces. I was particularly proud of these sauces because I love condiments. I spent a long time looking for these recipes as I wanted them all to be homemade. There was a Spicy Peanut Sauce (deliciously zippy!), the Neely’s BBQ Sauce (delightfully tangy), and a Cilantro Cream sauce (I can't remember where this recipe came from!) that was a nice coolant in between the kick of the other two. We had zucchini and summer squash, also on skewers. The fruit course (now we’re talking fancy) consisted of kabobs of watermelon and pineapple with another dip, Strawberry Crème, fat free!! For dessert, our guests contributed chocolate peanut butter bars (thanks guys!) that were even better for breakfast the next morning, and I tried my darnedest to make Cheesecake pops.

Let me tell you something about cheesecake. When the recipes all say, “Just roll the cheesecake into balls, it’s easy.” It’s not so easy. In fact, it’s quite difficult. I mixed up my cheesecake and to speed things along, put it in the freezer and kept setting and re-setting timers until it reached a roll-able consistency. This never happened, especially since I accidentally left the bowl in the freezer overnight. One of the recipes I consulted said to pour the batter into ice cube trays. While I knew this would be easy, I was really striving for round cake pops. Hope abandoned, I succumbed to the trays for more freezing.

Then, there was the melting of the chocolate. This is not the first time I had a chocolate melting incident. On our first wine night there was a botched fondue attempt. When John said, “Let’s try it in the microwave”, I agreed, despite my better judgment. If you’ve ever melted chocolate in the microwave, you know that it goes from good to bad very quickly and also hardens much quicker than on the stove. A second only slightly more successful attempt was made at melting in the double boiler. This got and kept the chocolate more liquidy but did you know that once you put frozen cheesecake into hot melted chocolate the cheesecake starts to melt? Yeah, me neither. Needless to say, they did not turn out nearly as cute as I wanted. I end up having to spoon the chocolate over the pops and get them back in the freezer post haste. Thank goodness there were 4 hands. There may have also been terse exchanges and grabbing of spatulas when someone wasn’t moving quickly enough. I won’t name any names. (John) Lucky for me, and my guests, they tasted fine so all was not lost.

Enough about the food already, let’s hear about the wine!!

This is the only picture I got so you could see the labels and I’m too lazy to hunt them down on the internet. It was taken post party, obvs.

We started dry with a Sauvignon Blanc from Markham Vineyards. This was a 2007 Californian offering brought by our guests. I’m going to guess it was somewhere in the $10-$15 range, as most of our wines tend to be. The bottle referenced grapefruit and citrus, which I believe we all tasted. I swore there was some honey too which in a dry white, you don’t usually have but I commented on my uncanny ability to taste honey in all wines. My palate is cool like that.

We moved to the evening’s blend and also the local wine from Valley Vineyards, a winery about 45 minutes from us. It was called White Reflections (retails for $11 or $12, I can’t remember which) and is a blend of many grapes including Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and Cayuga. The label said it was semi-sweet. I liked this one but John later said he didn’t care for it. Could have fooled me by the refill he poured.

And a type new to all of us was a Viognier from Loredona winery in California. In my research, I found that Viognier used to be exclusively made in the Rhone region of France until the 1980’s when a group called the Rhone Rangers brought the grape to California. How fun is that name? Do you think they wore masks? Anyway, this wine was interesting and a crowd pleaser for sure. It smelled very sweet and floral but most Viogniers are typically dry. This one had hints of peach and honey. (Honey!) I think this one was also around $12.

All in all, another wine night success. Even if my cheesecake pops looked wonky.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

I moved my way up the library hold list for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest at a surprising rate. I was ecstatic to receive the e-mail that it was waiting for me last week. This is Stieg Larsson's final book in the Millennium series that he turned in before he passed away unexpectedly. He never saw them published but boy am I glad he wrote them in succession and turned them in all together. If you are planning on reading this series or have yet to make it through the second book, you should skip this synopsis. Just keep on reading!!!

Hornet's Nest picks up where Girl Who Played with Fire leaves off. Lisbeth Salander is near death and has just been found by Mikael Blomkvist. Her attempt on her father's, Russian spy, human trafficker and all-around bad guy Alexander Zalachenko, life has failed so they are both being brought to the same hospital. From there, Lisbeth has a long road to recovery having been shot multiple times and buried alive by her half-brother, who is now on the run after having killed a cop. Meanwhile, she faces serious charges of assault against Zalachenko and other random goons. Blomkvist begins a mad rush to clear her name, find out who is behind a secret faction of the Security Police called the Section, and keep his magazine at the media forefront.

That was brief, again, because I don't want to give it all away but if you've read the other two, you'll love this one. I think it was my favorite of the three. I'm sad there are no more. I really enjoy this thriller genre. I think I ought to seek out some more of this theme to read.

Monday, July 26, 2010

That beer is smoky.

Though I mostly focus on drinking wine, I'm a girl who can also enjoy a good cold one from time to time. Sure, beer has more calories than wine but sometimes, when the weather is as hot as it's been here in Ohio, a beer just hits the spot on a Friday night. One beer I'm particularly fond of is from the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, TX. I first had Shiner in, where else, Texas! They love this stuff down there. Lucky for me, it's readily available in other states too. I like the Shiner Blonde and John and I are both fans of the Shiner Black Lager. This past weekend while I was picking up the wine for Wine Night (more on that later this week) I was also tasked with selecting the weekend's 6 pack. We have now learned I should not be allowed to select something that seems "interesting."

Pictured above is Shiner's summer offering "Smokehaus." In case you can't see, it's Mesquite smoked beer. This should have been my first clue but I forged ahead to the cashier anyway. As I showed off my purchase to John, I was met with an upturned nose and some comments about how it probably won't be any good. Spoilsport.

Well, he was right. The Smokehaus was not good. I had been optimistic because it said summer beer and we really like summer beers. This literally tasted like barbecue in a bottle. Not so appetizing or refreshing. It's possibly one of those beers you should really drink with food, which we were not doing. Maybe we'll try that on the remaining bottles. It certainly was interesting, in kind of a bad way. Sorry, Shiner. It won't keep me from visiting your establishment this November though!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

6th Super Summer Sunday Salad Supper

This picture does not look very appetizing but on our 6th SSSSS we ventured into the land of steak salads. Another S! Since we have done a lot of chicken salads and last week's Cobb included ham as the protein, it's only fitting that we give steak a try. John loves steak salads and often orders them in restaurants. They are not my fave but I'm a trooper and since we're in the 6th week, I was trying to be inventive.

John marinated some top round in worcestershire, salt and pepper and then stuck it under the broiler for 20 minutes. For a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, it wasn't too terribly tough. It was no filet mignon but really, what is? In fact, we should have been having a real steak dinner because it's Restaurant Week here in Dayton and we were going to go to Fleming's (YUM!). But, this being a non-eat-out weekend and us wanting to save our pennies for all the vacationing we're doing soon, we stuck to our salad supper. Anyway......along with the steak and spinach, I added craisins and blue cheese crumbles. I didn't do my own dressing on this one because for some reason I was feeling totally unmotivated. Kraft's Asiago Parmesan Vinaigrette matched nicely though. This wasn't my favorite salad we've done but you've got to branch out sometime, right?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fitness Update

Good news! I have successfully food journalled for a whole week. I credit my stick-to-itiveness to this Lose It! App on my iphone. I haven’t had an official weigh in yet but last week, after just 3 days, I was down 2 lbs. (during an illegal weigh-in) So, that’s definitely a start in the right direction. John and I have both been ramping up the workouts. We haven’t slacked at all. And we eliminated Thirsty Thursday. It was only empty calories anyway so this will save us money and allow us to bank calories for the weekend when we get to splurge….just a little. John has seen a loss too. All good things!

In other fitness news, my foot has been doing well running outside too. I hardly have any of the pain during my run and as long as I stretch after, the pain then is minimal. It’s mostly exacerbated when I make a poor choice in work shoes. Sometimes heels are unavoidable. But, I just keep stretching and move on. My only concern with adding in more running is that my thighs ( BIG problem spot) are going to get bigger. I hope that doesn’t happen. My hope is that with the running and strength training they’ll slim down a bit. That’s key for me getting into a smaller pant-size. Only time will tell……

More good news! We booked our flight to go to Austin at Thanksgiving. We are spend spend spending the money lately but at least it’s not on superfluous things. On the contrary, as I’ve hardly been to the mall at all in recent months. Most expenditures are of the vacation variety and vacations are never superfluous. My sister is due in 2 weeks. TWO WEEKS!!! Hence the main reason for the Thanksgiving trip. That and I loathe being home for Thanksgiving. I much prefer to travel, even if it is the busiest travel time of the year. The absolute best part about this trip is…….non-stop flight!!! That’s even better than seeing my sister, bro-in-law and the baby (J/K, B!) Only thing I hate more than connecting flights is having to connect with a dog, and Sadie will be in tow this trip. Sadie doesn’t like to connect either. She’ll be pleased as punch. Only 45 until we leave for the cruise and 120 until we go to Texas. Who’s counting though??

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ecco Domani Chianti

I haven't reviewed a wine in awhile. I've been drinking them, just not writing about them. Not much to write home about I guess. That is, until I poured this little gem. We bought this bottle of Ecco Domani Chianti on sale at Meijer for $9.99 down from $12.99. I love wine and I love a wine that's on sale! It was to be paired with the Smoked Mozzarella ravioli we bought for our Saturday Date Night in. Note: this doesn't necessarily match up with a cheese raviolo but the smoke on the cheese had big flavor and stood up pretty well to the wine.

This bottle of Chianti is made of 100% Sangiovese grapes. Chianti is a red wine that I think a lot of people (and by a lot of people I mean me) overlook. I won't make that mistake again. This was delicious! While I enjoy a big, tannic wine, this Chianti was quite the opposite. It was dry but super smooth for a red. Lots of drinkability. The bottle noted cherry and red fruits (there are a lot of red fruits out there, they should have narrowed this down some).

Anyway, I would definitely buy this one again. Try it for yourself!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Super Summer Sunday Salad Supper #5

Doesn't that just look scrumptious? On my fifth foray into salad-dom I chose a classic yet never attempted by me salad, the Cobb Salad. A cobb is a salad chock full of chopped toppings. In this case I layered blue cheese, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, ham, cucumber and more cheese on top of a spinach bed. How colorful!! This delicious number was packed with protein and though I don't really like tomatoes on my salad, I had some leftover from the market so I added them too. John ate most of those.

I also made my own ranch dressing. I think what makes a good salad even better is the addition of a homemade dressing. I found a recipe in my blender cookbook that I had never tried for buttermilk ranch. As luck would have it, I had all the ingredients! It was tasty, however, not so much on the ranch flavor. I overdid it slightly while I was grating onion into the dressing so it had a strong onion and parsley flavor that really tasted nothing like ranch dressing at all. But, it was light and creamy and low fat! It paired really well with the cobb salad. Next time though, easy on the onion juice.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

To Market, To Market

John and I love a good farmers' market. There's a decent one in downtown Dayton (quel surprise!) and there are a number of smaller ones sprinkled throughout neigboring communities. But, when I read about the Findlay Market down in Cincinnati, I thought for sure we had to go check it out. Findlay Market has been in existence since 1852. That's a long time, yo. It's a Cincinnati institution, or so I'm told. Even though it's nearly an hour drive south, I thought that was worth it in my effort to be a tourist in my own state and also find new and exciting things to do. There was also a second reason to make the drive to Cincy, more on that later.

The only downside to Findlay Market is that it's in the not-so-classy neighborhood of Over the Rhine. But, having adjacent parking lots and going on a Saturday in broad daylight, I figured it'd be teeming with people (I was right) and that we'd be safe (right again). Check out all these beautiful flower boxes on a building near the market. Vibrant, yes?

I was hoping for an experience akin to the West Side Market in Cleveland that I know and love. This was similar, though smaller. Mostly I was on the hunt for ingredients for a Saturday date night in. We settled on fresh ravioli filled with smoked mozzarella. These were absolutely delicious, though not super healthy. There were a lot of fresh pasta and ravioli varieties. It was hard to choose. Meat and cheese counters were abundant. I wanted some blue cheese but the line was really long and I couldn't really tell if they were calling numbers or if you just took your chances.

Man, did it smell good in the market! There were a lot of prepared food vendors but we had our sites on other lunch options (again, more on that later) Of course, there was a ton of fresh produce that all smelled so fresh. The prices, for the most part, were good. I am not a big pepper person but the red bell peppers were only $1.00 That's a steal!

We got some peaches for a recipe this week, tomatoes for Bruschetta to go with the Smoked Mozzarella ravioli, a gigantic cucumber, and I couldn't pass up the Bing Cherries. I love fresh cherries! Great for snacking. A successful trip to the market to be sure!

By the time we finished supporting the local farming economy, we had worked up quite an appetite. I had plans, my friend, to visit another Cincinnati institution, Montgomery Inn. Montgomery Inn is a well-known BBQ restaurant and since we love BBQ like we love farmers' markets, we were all inn. Get it? There's a location down on the river in a boathouse, though that's not the original M.Inn. We got a little lost going the 6 miles through downtown Cincinnati to the restaurant but that's no surprise. A GPS and 2 different sets of printed directions couldn't be foolproof with me at the navigation helm.

Finally we found the restaurant. We pulled in and thought the fact that there were no cars there at 12:30 on a Saturday was probably a bad sign. I swear on their website it said that they were open for lunch at 11:00 am. Well, I don't know what I read but they were definitely closed and not to open until 3:00 pm. BLAST! We had both been looking very forward to this meal and saved up calories all week for a BBQ blowout. It was not to be. We went across the river into Kentucky to Newport on the Levee and ate at Claddagh Irish Pub. We've always enjoyed Claddagh and there isn't one near us however, you always leave there feeling disgusting because the menu isn't the healthiest. This time was no exception. I felt pretty defeated. And to top it all off, my car started making a strange noise that I'm not super comfortable with. Fingers crossed that noise goes away on its own!

So, all in all a good little Saturday, even if our lunch plans did fall through. Sadie had a great time at doggie day camp and our dinner was delicious. We watched Up in the Air after dinner which was also really good.

We have plans next weekend and don't need to be tourists but I'm already plotting for the weekend after that. Where will we go next?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Fair Lazy

My Fair Lazy is Jen Lancaster's 5th memoir. It has an incredibly long subtitle that I won't type out here but basically this is her journey from a reality TV loving woman into a super cultured lady. Jen often suffers from verbal diarrhea in which everything she's thinking comes right out of her mouth to anyone who's nearby. She also hopes becoming more versed in theatre, music, art, international cuisine, etc. will stop this problem because she'll always have something interesting to say.

Lancaster is a humorist, in my mind, but My Fair Lazy wasn't as funny as some of her previous works. I still enjoyed it but I wouldn't start here. Such a Pretty Fat is my favorite of hers. But really, you ought to start from the beginning to get the full flavor of who Lancaster is and her conversational writing style. So anyway, this is worth reading but like I said, if you haven't read anything else by her before, start with Bitter is the New Black. cooking news....

I want to share a delicious and healthy recipe with you that turned out mighty tasty for me this week. It's called the Chicken and Orzo Supper from Eat Better America, a great resource for healthy recipes. Another bonus is that it was very filling and didn't have many ingredients. At only 350 calories a serving, how can you pass this one up?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Weightloss Woe-be-gone!

Are you tired of hearing about my fitness goals yet? I sure am tired of making them, breaking them, and making them again. Maybe this time they’ll stick. John and I have both been disheartened by the lack of weight loss (read: weight gain) progress we’ve made in our lives lately. We typically do really well on diet and nutrition during the week and then completely blow it on the weekends. We only eat out a few times a month but when we do, apparently, we go whole hog. Also, on the weekends we tend to enjoy the occasional (read: frequent) glass of wine or beer and with alcohol comes snacking. Not good. With the cruise just under 8 weeks away (!), we figure it’s time to step up our game. Yes, cruises can be gluttonous by definition so we might as well be in shape before boarding the ship, right?

For more than 2 years, I have tracked my workouts. I try to work out 20 times in a month. I have a chart on the fridge and I just write down what I did. It’s easy to slack on working out regularly when you don’t have a constant reminder of what you’ve actually done and when. This has worked pretty well for me in keeping to task and I’ve foisted it upon John too. Each box has a section for my workout and one for his too. I’m such a taskmaster. I will always maintain that having a workout buddy is crucial to fitness success. Even though John and I don’t often exercise together, we do keep each other accountable.

While I do keep up with my workouts, I feel we both could be doing more. We’re now going to basically a 24 workouts a month schedule and using Friday as a rest day. We are both making a concerted effort to add strength and intervals and for me to run more often. Wish me luck on that endeavor!

Because I’ve had lots of success writing down workouts, I need to extend that to my diet. In the past, my efforts at food journaling have lasted approx. 1 ½ days. I quickly tire of counting calories and gauging portion sizes. As I mentioned, weekdays are not the issue. By the time I get to Saturday when I should be writing down “Big fatty burger and deliciously salty French fries” my chart has long been pushed to the side. This time, I vow it will be different. John has discovered the Lose It app on our iphones. I’ve used fitness apps before and found them cumbersome (see above: 1 ½ days of food journaling). Lose It, however, has a much friendlier interface. I put in a goal of losing 1 lb. a week but really if I don’t lose it that quickly, that’s okay. I’m trying not to focus as much on the scale as changing my weekend eating habits. It will be difficult but again, I hope this reaffirmed interest will help me lose it weight-wise and not lose it by eating badly on the weekends. Get it?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Super Summer Sunday Salad Supper

It's baaaaaack! This is the third installment of our Super Summer Sunday Salad Supper. It was equally as awesome as the previous efforts. This week's theme was Asian Invasion. On a bed of spinach I put mandarin oranges, snow peas, red onion, and some tremendous chicken. John cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and cooked them stove top in some olive oil. After salt and pepper he drizzled hoisin, a sweetened, thicker soy sauce, to carmelize and flavor them. C'est magnifique! (I don't know how to say magnificent in any Asian language). I had to take some help from Ken's this week on the dressing. I had every intention of mixing up an Asian vinaigrette but I completely forgot about that at the store and instead bought John's fave, Asian Sesame Ginger salad dressing. It's good but it's got a kick for sure. This salad was out of bounds. Domo arigato.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What a weekend!

John and I have been making serious strides in finding new and exciting events to attend, restaurants to try and places to go in an effort of jazzing up our lives here in boring Dayton. OK, I should say I seek these things out and sell them to John as the most fun he'll ever have. Sometimes he agrees. I had hoped that we would have some weekend visitors this summer. We invited lots of people. Unfortunately, either we're bad hosts (highly unlikely) or everyone was blowing smoke when they said they would love to visit because thus far, no takers. No matter. We'll just explore on our own and know that we are cool and also that we ARE good hosts. Don't believe me? Come on down to Chez G. We serve fresh made waffles and scones for breakfast.

So this weekend, we got our grocery shopping out of the way on Friday night so we didn't have any pesky errands to accomplish on Saturday or Sunday. Saturday we had a slow morning and then got dressed to head to Waynesville. It's a cute little town only about 15 minutes away by country roads with shops and restaurants. Epitome of small town America. I hadn't been since taking my mom there last year and John had never been in any of the stores. It was a beautiful weather day and we had a great time walking up and down main street. It's mostly antique stores and stores if you are really into decorating in a country style but they're still neat to see. And, I was able to pick up some more square candlesticks that I had discovered and purchased last year. They are the coolest and I've only ever seen them in this store called The Nesting Place. Then we had a delicious and healthy lunch at the Cobblestone Cafe. I had a Hawaiian Chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun (yum!) John had turkey and apples on cinnamon bread (yum again!)

We had been discussing all week where we would have dinner on Saturday night. There were many options but all were super fatty. Once again, we are on a renewed fitness kick. Not wanting to ruin our momentum with Five Guys (drool) we ended up at Dorothy Lane Market, a gourmet grocer nearby. We bought filet, because I had a hankering for beef, asparagus and fixins for blue cheese mashed potatoes. This is our go to at home fancy meal. It never disappoints. John would be the chef because I had early evening plans. (More on that in a bit) And we headed on home so I could take a monster nap.

It was my wholehearted intention to go for a run after my nap. When I woke up, I had talked myself out of it and into being lazy. Then, about 4 minutes later and racked with guilt, I laced up and hit the road. However, by the time I got home from running it was already 4:40 and I had somewhere to be by 5:00. Oops! There is not much worse in the 'getting ready' world than showering, still be hot from running after showering, and then also having to blow dry your hair. I was not sufficiently cool and it was apparent from the halo of fuzzy hair around my head. But again, I was late so I had to get going. I left John to his own devices and to make dinner for us and I went to do something I had never done before.....Bachata.

Bachata is a latin club dance and the studio where I take zumba was having a Chips, Dip, Beer and Bachata event for $10. An hour for snacking followed by an hour lesson in how to Bachata. Try as I might, I could not convince John to go with me. Luckily, one of my zumba friends did want to go and also being unable to convince her husband to attend, said she would go with me. You don't necessarily need a partner for Bachata but the instructor did end up dancing with the 4 unpartnered students. It was so much fun! This was definitely something outside my comfort zone. I like to dance but I have never taken any Latin-based dance lessons. We do a variation of bachata in zumba and with a little encouragement from my instructor, I was pretty sure I could handle it. I'm really glad I went although my feet were killing me by the end having spent the day walking through stores, running 3 miles and an hour of dancing in heels.

Back at home, John had the table set and wine poured by the time I got home. What a guy! We were enjoying a bottle of Outback wine from a northern Ohio winery, Matus. It's pretty desserty so we didn't have it with the steak but drank it afterward. Dinner was delicious. A day of great (and relatively healthy) food all around!

Onto Sunday, another lazy morning and some weekly pool time. I'm really trying to gradually tan before our cruise in 8 weeks. I am prone to burning which isn't fun for anyone, for me or those around me who encounter my sunburn induced crankiness. After the pool I had the most lazy, out of it day ever. I didn't go anywhere. I tried to sew these basket liners for my sister and failed. Still not sure if I can salvage those. And, despite my best efforts I napped again! I should never nap on Sunday because my sleep schedule is already thrown off. The only thing of worth I did today was run. See? I told you I was on a renewed health kick. Having gained 6 lbs in the last 3 months, I realized I had been slacking off on my running in lieu of long dog walk dates with Sadie. Yeah, not the same thing as running.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon is the second book in the Outlanderseries. This one, like Outlander, I purchased because I knew it would take me quite awhile to get through 900+ pages. I ended up stopping and starting a few times as certain books became available to me at the library.

At the end of Outlander, Claire and Jamie learn of the deadly battle at Culloden where Jamie and his clan will meet certain death and we learn of their plans to try to change history by stopping the Jacobite rebellion. We also learned that Claire was pregnant. Dragonfly in Amber begins with a 50-something Claire and her daughter Brianna touring around Scotland. We find out that some years ago, Claire returned to her husband, Frank Randall and raised Brianna. Frank has since passed away and Claire intends to show Brianna parts of Scotland and ultimately fess up about the time travel business in her past when they find Jame's gravestone at a church.

Claire seeks the assistance of Roger Wakefield, adopted ward of the now deceased Rev. Wakefield – a colleague of Frank’s, who is now grown and quite a historian. She’s hoping he can provide some insight on what became of the Fraser Clan in the battle that Claire and Jamie worked so hard to thwart. Eventually we do go back in time with Claire to the 1700’s as we see what has become of Jamie and their journey to save his clan and his life.

I enjoyed Dragonfly as much as I enjoyed Outlander. Yes, it’s a bit slow-going but there always seems to be something to pique my interest before I get too bored. There are a lot of repeat characters, including Jamie’s arch nemesis, and once again, the last page had me wishing the next book was in my hands waiting to be cracked. I think I’ll take a short break from this series though. I have a handful of other books to get through before I head back to the highlands. If you haven’t read Outlander, clearly you’ll want to start there. But, if you have and enjoyed it, then you should also like Dragonfly in Amber.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Baby Sewing Project #2

My sister registered for a nursing cover but didn't get it which is just as well. I was going to tell her to return it if she had because at $35.00, I thought it was a big rip off. I knew I could make one for about $6.00. She picked out some fabric, shipped it up to me and I got started. I've been saving the link to this tutorial for a LONG time. I'm kind of happy I can delete it now, not seeing a need to make another nursing cover in the foreseeable future.

It has an adjustable neck strap and also some boning so that you can see down in at the baby. I was going to model it for you but I thought that may be kind of creepy. I was going to say, "OK, just picture me nursing this baby." Since I don't have a baby, I wasn't too comfortable even picturing myself nursing one. YIKES to the max! Let's just see the picture, shall we?

I love the color palette of this fabric. I think the aqua, red and yellow really pop against the chocolate brown background. I was also able to do the top-stitching with yellow thread which is awesome because it probably would have otherwise taken awhile for me to use that up. Only 2 more baby sewing projects to go but, I saved the hardest ones for last.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garden Gal

In case you've been wondering, my balcony garden is doing pretty well so far. I planted it about 6 weeks ago, give or take. One of my hanging plants met a premature demise. In fact, I need to get it out to the trash because it's just dead and not very pretty looking. Also, my cilantro went kaput. This was especially disheartening because I have a lot of recipes that I was intending to use my homegrown cilantro in. Oh well. Maybe next year.

I do have 2 standouts that I'm really pleased with though. Here is a picture of my basil.

When first planted, it was shorter than that little table on the right. Now look at him! I have used it a lot and am hoping to make my own pesto in the coming weeks. I wish pine nuts weren't so expensive. It won't really be saving me any money but how good would fresh pesto taste? So good, is the answer to that question.

Now, here is my tomato plant when I first put it in.

And here he is now, green tomatoes and all!

There are probably about 15 tomatoes growing on this plant. I was so happy to see and count them but they haven't really gotten much bigger recently and they're certainly not getting red. I'm worried that my cage is leaning and stunting their growth. Does that happen? Also, it's possible my pot is too small, but I followed the instructions on sizing. I'll just be patient. I think maturity was 75 days on these Husky Reds and while we're not quite there, I think I'm pretty darn close. We've been having a terribly hot summer and I think all my plants (save for the dead ones) are taking to the climate rather well. The trouble may be that they only get partial sunlight and only for part of the day. Ah me, condo living.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mad for Madras.....and a weekend round-up

This July 4th weekend was a busy one. John and I did a LOT of cooking and washed, what seemed like, a never-ending pile of dishes. I was feeling a bit gloomy because months ago we had planned to be at my family reunion in Vermont over the 4th. Those plans fell through but I haven't been there in 5 years and I really wanted to take John. Maybe next year...... I'm jonesin' for a s'more bad.

I kicked off the weekend taking Sadie on a hike in the Metroparks. I like to do this close to a scheduled hair cut or bath, both of which happened for her on Saturday. Friday night I chop chop chopped lots of vegetables for some sides we would be eating all weekend. Did you ever notice that things like pasta salad make a TON of food? Well, when only 2 people are eating them, you have to eat them for multiple meals. After I write this post, I'll be eating the same meal for the 4th time this weekend and there are still leftovers. See why I was hoping to be with family for this holiday?

Saturday I went to zumba and sewed. I had put Sal the Sewing Machine away for awhile. I didn't sew anything in the entire month of June. My sister had sent me some fabric and lots of instructions for various baby-related projects for me to take care of. I thought I had all the time in the world until I realized she's due in a month. Yikes! Better get sewing. I finished 2 on Saturday and have 2 more left. I'll show you one here.

The curtain saga goes something like this. She registered for bedding at Pottery Barn Kids. Very early on, WAY before the shower, the matching curtains were sold out and not to be re-stocked. Much lamenting from Texas. She (and I) searched high and low for madras plaid curtains to no avail. Finally, my friendly Joann's stocked some madras fabric. Yea hurray! What I've done here is mimic the bed skirt of the bed set that I bought her. Because this is just a valance it sewed up pretty quickly. I used white broadcloth for the top, madras on the bottom, and navy grosgrain ribbon to detail so they would look like she bought them with the other things.

I wanted to hang it on one of my rods to show you how it hangs but the finials wouldn't fit. Pretty cute, right? The walls in the nursery are light blue so I think it will fit right in. Here's a close up.

When I finish everything up and package it for Austin, I made her promise to send me a picture of the finished product in its final environment for all of you to see. I'm super thoughtful.

Saturday night we went out to our new favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner, how patriotic of us! It was delicious but that really started our downward holiday weekend eating spiral. I know I keep saying it but for real this time, I've got to buckle down in the next 2 months before the cruise.

Sunday I laid out at the pool and then we went to the outlets hoping for some great deals. I only bought 2 blouses for work so that trip was a big fail. I guess I didn't need to spend the money anyway. More eating and then we went to an outdoor orchestra concert. Well, we tried to go but only heard 2 1/2 songs. We got there late remembering that last year there was an intermission and a second half. Because it was blazing hot outside, we figured we'd just see the second part. Wrong. They were definitely finishing up when we got there. Skunked. We did see fireworks from our balcony though. That was nice because we didn't feel like driving anywhere else to see them.

Monday I went to the pool again. I'm really trying to tan slowly because I'm prone to burning. But, if I use suntan lotion and go in little spurts, well it seems to be working. I have freckles on my nose at least. We went to the mall and also got oil changes for both cars. This is my least favorite chore. Anything car related really. Those are man errands. Hate it.

And now I'm staring down a work week, even though it is shortened. I've had a few short weeks in a row and now, no extra days off until Labor Day. This may take awhile.

Hope you had a happy holiday too!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Sadie says, "Have a safe and happy fourth of July this year!" She celebrated by getting yet another summer hair cut, and a patriotic bandanna that she won't let me take off and sometimes looks like a superhero cape. Super Sadie!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

This Book is Overdue!

I think I learned about This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save us All, by Marilyn Johnson, from the New York Times, but I can’t be sure. I was on the hold list for a long time for some reason. I guess a lot of other people also found this interesting. With my love of libraries, I knew this had to make its way onto my ‘to be read’ pile.

I don’t have much of a summary for you here. Johnson eloquently implores readers to realize that even though we are staunchly ingrained in the digital age, your local library and especially your tireless librarians will never become old hat. I couldn’t agree more! I’m not interested in e-books in the slightest. While I read articles on my iphone, I could never read a whole book paging through on a screen. I like my bookmarks too much for that. In fact, I lost my favorite magnetic bookmark a couple books ago and need to find a replacement. Currently, a post-it is pinch hitting. Anyway, Johnson offers anecdotal tales of various libraries and patrons around the country and world. She explains the studious and reference-loving underground amongst librarians, their duties to readers and writers alike and how important supporting your library is.

As a bibliophile, I really enjoyed this work of non-fiction because I am a library lover. What is the word for library lover? There must be one. It was funny at times but slow at others. Admittedly, there were certain chapters that I just skimmed. But all in all, a good little read. And it’s good for me to throw in non-fiction every once in awhile.