30 January 2012

Garden Dreams

January in New England?

When my backyard looks like this, it is hard to believe it is approaching February. Sure, we have had snow, but it has still come back to this not-quite-winter-looking winter view.

Just a few of my seed catalogs

However, I definitely know it is January when the mailbox gives me these.

This month is always the time when the seed catalogs start coming in. When I dream that my 60+ square feet of garden beds will provide the bountiful produce that I always dream about.

Of course, it also makes me want another hundred feet of garden space and spring weather. I guess one out of two isn't bad?

10 January 2012

New Additions

Just a note - I promise I will stop playing with the blog design! I think I have it about where I want it...

You may have noticed on yesterday's post that I had a couple of "helpers" in my kitchen that had a lot more fur than my children usually do. If you have been a reader of this blog for the last year, you may have seen the mentions of the passing of both of my cats last winter. Juniper was 16, my little girl I raised since she was a kitten. She had a growth under her leg that she was able to fight for several years before succumbing to it. Mookie was almost 20, my shelter cat - my "first child". We had been together since college, in a relationship longer than any other besides immediate family. My daughter took him on as her own the last couple of years, and she was as devastated as I when it was finally time to say goodbye.

I knew I needed a hiatus from pets. Almost half my life as a caretaker, and I admit it was nice to not deal with vets, litter boxes and hairballs for a long time. But I missed having pets. I was raised in a home with pets: cats, dogs, parakeets, hamsters and rabbits have all passed through the doors of my family home at one time or another. I admit to looking at the local shelters websites every so often, just to see what was available. Every time I began to lean towards "maybe", I weighed the expense and the time - and the niblets' clamoring for a dog, which I am still not ready for now - and was able to keep excuses coming up.

Then in mid-December I was doing my usual perusal and found a listing for a Siamese at a shelter near where my parents live. He was gorgeous, a couple of years old, and just staring into the camera like he owned it. I would stare at the listing, then go on my merry way. Then checked the next day, and the next. Then I thought I would just call to see if he was still available. If not, no harm.

He wasn't. But of course by then any willpower I had for ignoring my inner voice was gone, and I knew that I had to go look (just look, I swear, yeah right) at the cats at the shelter over the holidays. Since this is a no-kill shelter, I knew that there would be so many more than listed on the website. So, after Christmas my girlfriend and I traveled to the shelter to "look". There were so many cats. Hundreds. We became landing pads at times, and it was a petting zoo and playtime for those around. The volunteers were wonderful, and I know it is a full-time job to house and care for these animals. after about an hour and checking out some specific cats, I ended up with this kitten settled into my arms, purring like a motor. White with a couple black hairs on the top of his head. I knew this boy was it, however I did not like the thought of a solitary cat, and especially at his age a playmate would be better. While talking about this I ended up feeling a weight land on my back and head over my shoulder. A young tortiseshell kitten had come to join the party.

When I inquired about the two, it turned out they were cage mates, siblings in caretaking, if not blood. The male was the only one left from his litter, even his mother had been adopted. The female's sister was adopted the previous week. If the Universe wasn't clear before - She was now.

Look at me!

Renamed for two of my favorite gemstones, Jasper (eases stress) and Jade (confidence & protection) have made themselves quite at home. A holiday surprise for the niblets, they are pleased to have young cats in the house that enjoy both play and sleep, and I feel like a piece of my heart has healed with these new additions.

Are you finished yet?

When they aren't knocking over plants and climbing on the table, that is.

09 January 2012

Taste Test

So, I knew this weekend would be a baking weekend for me, and I had some overripe bananas sitting in the fridge. My usual go-to recipe is banana bread, which is all well and good, but I had a hankering for some scones.

I had never heard of banana scones before though, but of course the trusty internet did not fail me. The recipe I chose only needed one banana, which left enough to make the banana bread also. My banana bread recipe of choice comes from my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. That trusty three-ring binder that many a mother had sitting on her shelf. Mine does, and this one was gifted to me by her many, many holidays ago, I think the year after I graduated college. It's been with me ever since.

One thing I love about scones is that they have a large range from sweet to savory, tart to laden with onions and bacon. They are so versatile, and are a wonderful snack to have on hand. Plus, I adore bananas and bringing two of my favorite things together is always a plus.

My kitchen helpers. I think they were waiting for me
to spill the heavy cream.

The recipe I used was from a blog I discovered called Cook With Sara. I cannot wait to check out more of her recipes.

The dough comes together nicely.

Getting ready to head into the oven.


I had found another banana scone recipe on The Kitchn site (another fave site for this wannabe foodie) and while I didn't make the scone recipe (this time) I was intrigued by the brown sugar glaze. The original recipe has a peanut butter glaze, and I just could not decide which one to make.

Which is why I made both. What else is a woman to do?

So, I halved each glaze recipe and made them both, figuring I would subject myself and my niblets to taste testing. Each is a powdered sugar based glaze, so they are quite simple. The brown sugar glaze has butter in it, which seems a little more decadent, but as noted in the recipe, you want to eat the ones you glaze immediately, otherwise they could become sticky as they sit.

Like they would last that long.

Brown sugar glaze underway.

Peanut butter glaze is mixed!
After making the glazes, I made up one scone with each and while my daughter would not try them my son was all in for it.

Banana scone with peanut buter glaze

With brown sugar glaze
The results? Well, we loved them both! I think these scones would also be great with a sprinkling of turbinado sugar on the top also before baking, like I will do with muffins. I am sure there are other glaze choices too - like maybe chocolate?


03 January 2012

New Year, New Goals

Well, it is that time of year when everyone dusts off the "OMG I have to make a Resolution!" mantra.

One thing I learned over this last year is that I tend to overcommit, overextend, overtax my own capabilities - and then either sell myself short and beat myself up or give up doing ANYTHING, including the things I do want to do.

To make a resolution, you have to resolve. To make an action, you have to act. Life has no guarantees either, and that includes being able to accomplish everything that you set out to do.  So, is everything here going to get done? No, but I acknowledge that and know I want to approach things with intent, not just say "I should", but "I will"!

This isn't going to be broken down quite the way I had it last year, however, they all tend to fall under my blog themes:

Reading goals -

I upped it this year by 10%, 110 books this year. Goodreads makes a great partner in this with both their widget and shelves.

I still want to try to incorporate audiobooks into this, having finally gotten a taste of them last year. I will stay with non-fiction titles. I want to make sure that I balance what I read for pleasure with what I read for review, and hopefully there is tons of crossover.

Writing goals

I do enjoy blogging reviews and everything else in my life. I also realize I do like having the "work persona" I have over at The Plugged-In Librarian. I am unsure if I can keep myself split like this, so I will have to see if I will resolve to make sure to post both places, or fold that blog back into this one. I have (another) redesign in my head already for this blog, so I may see this all come together much more easily than I think. (UPDATE: Redesign is done, because I couldn't keep my hands off it.)

I want to make sure that I stay true to myself and my own pursuits with reading. I love to read and review. Now that I am an e-original reviewer for Library Journal, a "Lesbrarian" at The Lesbrary, and am a remote reviewer for Kensington Books, where do my reading tastes fit into this? I want to make sure that I am sharing books that I believe in, not that I just can get hold of or are the "next hot read". I am not entirely sure what that means here yet, but we shall figure that out together! 

Additionally, I do want to accomplish some more work-related writing. Reviewing started me down this road, and now I am revising a book chapter I co-authored (fingers crossed), and I really would like to do some more academic writing.

Knitting goals

One thing I mentioned is that I tend to get things for ambitious projects, then either tuck them away or start them and then....stop. So, I would like to finish the couple of projects I still have, then actually take a look at what I enjoy knitting and what I believe I can manage. 

I do not think I will ever be able to crank out lace shawls or cabled sweaters, but I do love hats and scarves. Knowing how much yarn I moved upstairs to the spare room, it is definitely time to inventory (through Ravelry) and possibly get rid of some of the stash (well, maybe). 

Gardening goals

I tend to get a little ADD about gardening (Pretty shiny garlic!) and have ended up with a hodgepodge of half-grown, half-eaten plants that produce far less than they are capable of. I finally sent off my soil to be analyzed a couple weeks ago, and already have the results back. The soil has actually tested fine: nothing out of balance and lead levels are very low. This means I do not have to balance it with amendments. I do, however, need to scale back what a want to produce to things I will actually eat, not try to cram too much into my beds, and be conscious on care. This means having a plan, and I have the next four months to do that. 

In here I will throw that I want to do more preserving. Last summer and fall I made ketchup, tomato sauce and applesauce. I am out of jam, and lost my frozen fruits and veggies during the Halloween storm. I would like to see what more I can create, and try another recipe I have not before.

Self goals

This past year, I turned 40. It isn't a horribly old age (unless you ask my children) but I know that I have not taken care of myself as well as I could, or should. I have found a lovely women's conference that I have been fortunate to attend the last two years, and will go back again this summer as one of the conference coordinators. So, relaxation and pressure get to go hand-in-hand. 

I have started taking a yoga class this fall, and have fallen in love with it. My ex-girlfriend was a yoga instructor, and I enjoyed the few times I tested the limits of my flexibility. I finally made the commitment to attend a class, making room for it, and I cannot believe it has taken this long to do. Along with this I know I need to increase my exercise, as I have found out that I have high cholesterol. This is not a surprise to me; both my parents (plus all of my mom's siblings) do watch theirs. But, I am getting older, whether I want to or not, and I am the only one who can take care of and control of my body and health issues.  

So, exercise and eating habits really need to be evaluated this year. My girlfriend is a vegetarian, so I can definitely see incorporating more of these meals. Even as crazy as solo mom of 2 gets, I have more time to create better meals, if I create the space in my time to do it. 

All of these actions will not only help myself, but set my niblets on a better path when they have to make these kinds of decisions for themselves.

So, I will resolve, I will act. How about you?