Monday, May 14, 2018

Honey Fruit Salad

Finally....fruit.  After a long winter and bitter fruits, I'm stocking my fridge with fruit.  When I'm indecisive.  I usually just toss together about five cups of random fruits and then squeeze a lime or lemon over top and drizzle with a few T of honey.  Toss and eat within a day.  If it does start to turn a bit, you can bag it up and freeze it in the freezer and blend it into smoothies later on.  I missed summer.  

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Garden Party Hacks

The above photo is my overgrown garden....and a plastic bucket from the dollar store I sprayed to look like a galvanized tub.  
See that orange bucket?  I passed out Halloween candy from that random bucket that has been hanging around my house for way too long.  I bought  Krylon spray that has a primer built in and goes on plastic (I found it at Walmart for just over 5 bucks).  It only took one coat.  The great thing about this approach is it makes these buckets more affordable, and you can vary up the shapes and sizes of buckets you use to create a cluster of drink buckets instead of one large bucket.....and you can toss them after b/c it was a buck, plus a little spray.  I'm taking this quick trick and 7 more to Good Morning, Texas tomorrow.  I'll be live sometime after nine.  I'll post the video later on facebook as well.  

Monday, May 07, 2018

Repurposed Container Garden

I'm doing all the 'easy' things first on my list of 40 before 40.  A(nother) garden is on my list.  The truth is, I've planted....and killed, many fruits, veggies, and herbs through the years, but this year I wanted to plant something I was proud of that fit 'me.'  I can successfully grow jalapenos....this year I put two of those in the mix b/c I knew they wouldn't fail me.  This was one thing on my list-really GO FOR a garden again, and I went back and forth about creating a box and filling it up in the traditional way.  I may go back there again, but this year I tried this out.  I had all of these things, except for the baby bath, lying around my yard or house.  The baby bath is vintage from Hungary.  I bought it off of William Sonoma when they had a sale going on...after I saw one at my friend Kelly's house.  Each piece is upcycled in some old stand with the tabletop missing, an old galvanized pale I had my brother drill holes in, an old coke grate I'm hoping cucumbers will love hanging out in....
Next up I'm going to make a planting station out of an old door.  
In the meantime, I commit to not overwatering.  Not forgetting it's out there, and doing a little research when the plants protest their new homes.  

Friday, May 04, 2018

Homemade Jam

     I'm working through the 'easier' things on my 40 before 40 list right now.  Some things are simple, but I've never taken the time to try them canning.  I've always wanted to can something, in particular, jam.  I didn't take this through the whole process of boiling this and sealing the jar b/c my plan was to A)  See if it was worth preserving.  B)  Eat it quickly. 
     Having made this recipe, I will definitely make more and boil it to seal the jar so I have jam past the strawberry season.  I don't think I've ever had homemade jam, I'm not sure I can ever go back to the store.
     I found this recipe at allrecipe.  I used the one with the fewest ingredients (and no gelatin).  See that foam at the top?  You can skim it off if you want-it's just air bubbles. do you.  The below recipe makes about 3 jars of jam, but I halved the recipe to start with....because there is nothing worse than three jars of grossness, but....having made it.....I'm going to go cut up the rest of my strawberries....and there will be gifts in the future for some of my friends.
Strawberry Jam
Ingredients:  2 lbs of strawberries (4 cups total of crushed strawberries), 4 c. of sugar, 1/4 c. lemon juice.
1.  Hull and roughly chop up strawberries.  Crush with a pastry cutter until the larger chunks are crushed and it's mostly juice.
2.  Add strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice to a pan.  Stir on low until combined until the sugar is dissolved.
3.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Stir frequently.  Allow jam to get to 220 degrees (I used a candy thermometer).  This took a few minutes (10 min), and the process helped break down the strawberries even more.
4.  Use a funnel to pour into hot (sterile) jars.  Leave 1/4-1/2 inch at the top.  Wipe off liquid from the top before adding the seal.
5.  Place in fridge if you are eating right away, or prepare in a water bath if you are saving these for later.
*Mine is a little runny, but it taste sooooo good.  I read to test to see if it's ready to gel, place a plate in the freezer.  After 10 min of boiling, place a teaspoon of jam on the plate.  Return to the freezer for 1 minute.  Pull out and run your finger through the middle.  If it doesn't pull back together-it's ready.

Monday, April 23, 2018

40 Before 40 Album Pieces

I started a new project.  I'm making a 'little' album of big and little things I want to do over the next year and 3 months.....before I turn :gulp: 40.  I've completed my first two things, and made the pages to prove it.  One-I haven't worn earrings in almost ten years....and so I was determined to get a pair of earrings back in my ear.  Silly, but true.  I also have never organized the stupid Tupperware in my kitchen.  My kitchen is in desperate need of repainting, but my goal was to at least be able to open that cabinet of terror without stuff falling out.  It hasn't happened in the 17 years I've lived here.  It was time!  I have big things (trips/people to see), and more little things.  I'm just trying to fill these months with memories.  I don't want to rush it, but I also don't want to waste it!  Once I've done ten pages or so I'll do a better tutorial on the pages.  In the meantime, here are the first few pages and a little video of the supplies I'm using!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Spring Wreath

I took this wreath recently to Good Morning, Texas.  It's currently my spring wreath, which replaced a wreath similar to this I made years ago with REAL eggs I blew out and cleaned.  They were beautiful, but they broke often.
A few years ago I discovered 'fake' hard boiled egg that you can get at Walmart, most craft stores, or (in my case) the 99 Cent Store.
I spray painted 3 1/2 dozen blue and flicked them with brown paint to look like Robin Eggs.  
I also grabbed some moss at the dollar store and I hot glued the moss and the eggs to a grapevine wreath and then added a bow.  Easy, and very cheap!

Friday, April 06, 2018

Nest Cookies

I usually try to post crafts before the holiday, but....I still don't have my act together.  I'm trying really hard to chill out on my scheduling, but it was another crazy spring.  So, all this to say, I'll post this here for next year.  If time is an issue this is SUCH an easy 'cookie' that I shared last week on Good Morning, Texas.  You can make these a little dainty and they would be super cut cupcake toppers as well.  The easiest version of this...
You take a handful of chow mein, melt some chocolate, stir the chow into the chocolate and toss until it's coated, and drop it on the wax paper.  I also popped some cadberry eggs on top to look like eggs before the chocolate hardened.  The chow is sold in most grocery stores near the Asian food section.  It really is such a tasty cookie and so simple....and adorable!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Easter Bouquet

I made this bouquet last week on the cheap.  Obviously, I went with the Easter theme, but this could be used for any holiday.  If you are using real flowers (which I was) and you want to be able to keep them in water, the key is to get a smaller vase to go inside the first that leaves just enough room for your candy.  In this case, I got both vases at the Dollar Tree.  I also added some peeps on sticks.

I used a fat/squat one on the show and a plastic Dixie Cup inside for those flowers (I just cut it down a bit so it didn't stick up over the vase).  If you grab a bouquet for 5 bucks from the store this can either be a fun table decoration, OR a fun hostess gift....just a thought!

Monday, April 02, 2018

Apple Crisp (Vegan)

I've mentioned a time or two everyone in my family seems to have their own dietary restrictions.  My only restriction is I only want to eat tasty food, so I'm always trying to find a tasty recipe that meets those other needs.  I found this Apple Crisp recipe recently via TasteBetterFromScratch and I just tweaked it a bit to make it dairy free (vegan).  It was super delicious regardless of whether that is something you are looking at.  In the future, I'd probably add more of the topping, but that's b/c I like sweets with my sweets!  I'm going to type out the original recipe below, if you want the dairy-just substitute the margarine for butter, and the almond milk for milk-the same ratio as listed.
For Crumb Topping:  1/3 c. (dairy free) margarine (cut into small pieces), 1/2 c. oats, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/4 t. cinnamon, dash of salt, 1/2 c. flour
For Apple Filling:
3-4 large apples (I used a mix of different kinds of sweet and sours, peel them and slice them thinly), 3 T. margarine (melted), 2 T flour, 1 T lemon juice, 3 T. almond milk, 1/2 t. vanilla, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/2 t. cinnamon, dash of salt.
Ice Cream (dairy free) for topping.
1.  Heat oven to 375.
2.  Combine the crumb topping ingredients with a fork or pastry blender until it looks like small crumbs.  Place in fridge while you make the filling.
3.  Peel and slice the apples.
4.  In a separate bowl mix the melted butter, flour, lemon juice, milk, and vanilla.  Pour this mix over the apples and top to coat.
5.  Place apples into an 8x8 pan.  Top with crumb coating.
6.  Bake 30-35 minutes (it should be golden brown)
7.  Let it cool for 10 minutes and serve up with ice cream.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Greece Tips Part 4 of 4

1.  The Greece people are pretty much the friendliest, nicest, most helpful people I have come across.  I have (now) heard this over and over, but there was never a time I went in to ask a question in a store that the people weren't more than helpful.  Seriously, I love Greek people.  

2.  Most people (especially in tourist area) speak awesome English.  We are so spoiled, but this was something I wondered about and it made things so much easier.  

3.  Of course, there are areas of town that are less safe, but I never felt unsafe in the various tourist areas.  

4.  We had read the ferries would be empty at this time of year, but that was not true.  We were glad we bought our tickets in advance because it was soooooooo crowded on the ferry.  Apparently there was a movie released in China recently that took place in Santorini and they have been flocking to Greece.  So, on our ferry it was hard to find a seat and there were five buses of people on a tour that got on/off the ferry.  We had paid the extra 5 E for a reserved seat and we were so glad we did this!  

5. We hired a car service via Athens Welcome Tours to and from the airport and to and from the Ferry, this was awesome b/c they were right there at the exit to both and on time, so we didn't have to figure out the taxi system etc, and I didn't see that it was much more expensive, and the convenience was well worth it.  

6.  Yes, there are a lot of things closed in Santorini at this time of year, BUT the scenery is uninterrupted, and there are still hotels and restaurants and stores open so you can have a great time without the wall to wall tourist.  

7.  It got REALLY windy a few days which prevented planes from getting into Santorini, but....the ferries still ran on those windy days.  

8.  I had read most places in Greece only took cash.  I found most places took credit card.  I think they just prefer cash because of the taxes the government puts on businesses, but it wasn't necessary to have TOO much cash around.

9.  When you are ready for your check at a restaurant, you have to ask for it.  Greeks aren't in a rush and they are all about letting you have a leisurely dinner, so the assumption you will want it 'quickly' isn't there b/c they want you relax and not feel pressured to leave.

10.  Some random things-a lot of people smoke in Greece.  I guess in a world where there are few places to smoke this was weird for me.  Even the airports had smoking areas.  Random #2-you can't flush toilet paper down the toilet in Santorini. They have trashcans you are supposed to put your tp in...I get it, but...uhh....just thought you should know.

11. The food is amazing, but when you order a Greek salad, don't expect lettuce, it's all the good veggies.  Olive Oil is my spirit food.

12.  I want to go back, like, yesterday. I'm sure this list is to be continued, but above are just a few tidbits I don't want to forget.  

Monday, March 26, 2018

Corinth, Greece Part 3 of 4

When we returned to Athens from Santorini we worked with Athens Timeless Tours again (and again....I get nothing for telling you about the company, I just loved them sooooo much).  We requested, Markos (above) b/c I swear we are family by this point, though I have a feeling he's this great to everyone given his reviews on tripadvisor, but.....I'll call him brother if I want to.  Seriously, do yourself a favor if you go to Athens and hire this company.  They go all over, and I can't imagine you won't want to fight me for family rights to my new Greek brother.
We decided we wanted to see Corinth.  I had been reading about this ancient town recently in the bible, and I wanted to see the Las Vegas of history and see where the gospel took hold.
It was about an hour outside of Athens.  Our first stop was the famous canal.

The trip is yours to make of it.  We booked a half day, and one stop we wanted to make was at this pottery shop where the owners make museum replicas of different things that were found.  One of the owners on site stopped what he was doing and showed us how they made their objects, again-the Greek people are a-maz-ing.  
Next up we went to Ancient Corinth.  All the museums were half off at this time.  There was an area where they had different things that had been unearthed from these sites.  I did have to ask about all the headless statues we found and I was told a lot of them lost their heads during the Christian crusades b/c they were destroying all the idols.  Good to know b/c I was starting to really wonder about ancient 'art.'

They had all sorts of items found in the city from decorations to toys, and bottles, but the mosaics were pretty impressive.  

Outside the ancient Corinth museum you can walk around the site of the old temples, where the shops would have been, and ancient springs and fountains.  The wild flowers and poppies were in full bloom as well.  

We also got to see an area called the Bema where Paul would have probably done some preaching.  

After touring Ancient Corinth, we climbed up to Acrocorinth.  It has been built up by the various conquerors, and just the 'outside' view was pretty stunning.  You can go up without the walls and see the old acropolis here, but it's pretty dangerous, so we enjoyed the view from the nearby hill.  

I loved to see the sites and scenes where the Corinthians would have lived and worked and listened as the gospel sparks began.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Santorini, Greece Part 2 of 4

Greece has been on my bucket list for almost ten years.  Specifically, Santorini.  I love to ask people I meet locally and while traveling what the most 'beautiful place' they have ever been is, and I heard "Santorini" over and over again, so I knew it was a must.  I had heard the time to travel there is in the summer b/c so much of it is closed up during winter months, but when I looked and saw the temperature was in the 70's, and there ARE hotels and restaurants and stores open, I decided this was the perfect time to go.  No heat and no crowds?  Sign me up!  I traveled there via ferry, which turned out to be a good thing b/c two of the days I was there were windy and few to no flights were able to get onto the island.  I'm going to write more about the ferry in my last post (4).  
I decided to stay in Fira b/c I had read this is where most of the things would be open at this time of the year.  We stayed in a little 6 room hotel called the Aroma Suites.  The above photo is our balcony view.  A lot of the rooms are built into the volcanic walls of the mountains.  Not only was the location gorgeous, the people at the hotel were so helpful and set up our rides to and from the ferry a private tour of the island, and a boat ride.  The staff and view can't be beat.  

Santorini hangs off the cliffs and overlooks the caldera which exploded and let the sea into the middle once upon a history.  You can see the famous town of Oia from Fira, but it looks like white stone resting along the circle of the island.

As you walk along the volcanic rock embedded roads there are all these doors that open up to restaurants with stunning views that often lead down steps to hotel rooms and pools.  I took a million pictures of all the unique doors and the view below.  

There are beaches along the shores of the island as well (though most are sheer cliff drops to the sea).  There is a black sand beach, a red sand beach, and a white sand beach.  Our guide told us the black sand beach was hopping during the summer.

There are buses and taxis, and even a 5 mile hike you can take from Fira to Oia.  We had a guide who took us to Oia and showed us the stunning views of blue domed churches and wind mills.  The truth is, each town has a view that will steal your breath, but I know this is the site that tourist flock in the summer for the sunset views.

It just so happened that in early March, our hotel had that sunset view.

One famous site around Santorini are the donkeys.  There is an old port with a cable car that will take you from port to the stores above if you come in via cruise ship, but there are also these donkeys that will make those 600 steps for you as you ride on top.  It turns out in the winter, these guys are busy hauling cement and bricks up and down the paths in Santorini to help the workers prepping the buildings for coming tourist.

I definitely hope I get to head back here some day, along with other nearby islands.  In the 'winter,' there were plenty of great restaurants to enjoy, stories to visit, and paths to travel.  Each corner had a view and a secret to reveal.
I ate a lot of great meals in the town square of Fira.
The ONLY thing I did not love the entire trip was the catamaran ride we took out to the caldera.  Let's be fair, it was so windy, but it was the most 'adventurous' boat ride I have ever taken on the largest swells I have ever encountered.  More than half the boat spent a majority of our ride throwing up.  We did find some calm in the hot springs near the bubbling volcano, and the meal was great, but I ate cautiously b/c I knew there was a ride back.  I imagine it would be great if the water was calm, but.....I'm just going to let someone else tell me about that.  My next visit I'll keep my land legs in place and take a few more hikes and enjoy the sea from the shore!
Santorini does NOT disappoint.  I hope to head back in the summer, but I'm so glad that I went this first time in March before the crowds b/c I was going for the views, and I think I loved them most in the quiet of the morning with just me and a donkey or two.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Athens, Greece Part 1 of 4

Last week I flew to Greece for the week.  I had no idea what to expect, but of all the places I have visited, this trip was by far one of the best.  Ever.  I love Greece.  I thought I would be checking it off my to do list, but I have to add it back because one time won't be enough.  Usually I try to post these things in one email, but I just can't get it all in, so this is a four part series of post b/c I have so much I want to remember.  I journaled each day, and I could never tell the whole story in words, but I will say-if Greece isn't on your bucket list-add it.  If it is, move it up!  I had heard March was not a great time to visit b/c of weather, and I'm sure at times this is true, but for me, the weather was perfect.  The days were in the low seventies, and the evenings were in the upper 50's.  There was only one day with clouds, and no rain.  It's not a place it rains often, so I would think the odds would be in your favor, but who knows.  I DO KNOW that by going in mid-March everything was cheaper.  The hotel we stayed it (Electra Palace) was so nice, and very affordable.  The beds were soooooo comfy, and the room was really large by European standards.  It was situated in the Plaka area near great restaurants and stores, and the views of the Acropolis were spectacular.  I'll start by saying, everything I share is just my opinion and I paid full price for it all (I always wonder on blogs, so....transparency-I get to have real opinions since I paid for them).  Another thing we did (twice) was taking a private tour.  I have taken a million group tours, and for just a little more we decided to take advantage of this.  I looked up some companies via tripadvisor and Athens Timeless Tours was the one I went with.  One reason was good reviews, but the other was that if you didn't make your flight or something happened the cancellation was free, and when you are traveling that never know.  I have never loved a tour so much.  No only did our guide (Markos) completely cater the tour to us, he knew how to time is so we arrived at all the places we visited before the crowd and he brought us much closer to the sites.  Plus, he was amazing-soooooo nice and full of great info about Greece's history, current politics and culture, and he gave us spot on advice for Athens and beyond for things to check out.  The company also does an airport pickup, and tours to different cities around Greece.  More on that later.

The first full day was about touring Athens.  I had read you only needed a few days, and that's probably true if you go at this time of year, but Athens is also a great spot to start from for day trips in the area.  We headed up to the Acropolis first.  We walked around the sites at the top.  I can get OVER the fact that these buildings have been here for 2000+ years and that we get so close and get to climb all over these grounds to view this detail up close.

I also stood below the acropolis on Mars hill where Paul stood and the words from Acts 17 were said as he overlooked this site.
Next up was the Acropolis museum where a lot of the original pieces from the monuments at the acropolis now live after they were looted, taken off, and eventually returned.  One neat thing about this (relatively new) museum was that as they began to build they discovered all sorts of artifacts below the museum.  When this happens (which it happens often) you have to stop and call in 'people' to check out the site before you can continue to build.  To get around the delays this was causing they built the museum on risers with clear floors so you can see below to the artifacts that were uncovered during the build.  

Next up was the Temple of Zeus.  There are just a few remaining columns, but once upon a time it was larger than the Parthenon, and one neat feature is one of the columns that has fallen and you can see the segments that made up this towering column.  All of the sites during this season are half off until the beginning of April. entrance and few fellow tourist.  

Next, our driver drove us up Lykavittos Hill.  It has a great view of the city.  This is where I should say-I don't think I could ever drive in Greece.  The plus is the drive on the same side of the road as we do, but those roads....geez, such tight spaces to squeeze through.  So, the hill was quite a feet to climb, and....again, my new Greek friend did all the hard work and we just got to enjoy the view!
A few other stops included the changing of the guards and a view of these interesting outfits as they guard the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of Parliament.  

We also stopped at the site of the first modern Olympic games.  This is also where the 'first' marathon ended.  Last detail (for now), it's the only place that the Olympic flag always flies.

Our last stop on our tour was Ancient Agora where Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato hung well as Paul.
I walked around the ancient grounds, but then I also walked around the modern city where (on Sunday, which was the day we visited) they have a flea market with vendors with antiques and a lot of locals were hanging out in the cafes along the path.   

Back near our hotel we shopped the Plaka.

We also enjoyed dinner at our hotel with this view from the windows.  The food was great, and you can't beat that view.

Next up, Santorini.....

Thursday, March 08, 2018

New Orleans in 48 Hours

Last weekend I went to New Orleans.  It is my third time to head through the city.  Several years back....when I was running, I had added the New Orleans Rock N Roll half marathon to my wish list.  It was the last one left sitting on that list.  Unfortunately, I haven't been running much in the last year.  I kept telling myself I would start, but life has been a little hectic lately.  Running takes time.  And more than the time to get physically ready, I just haven't been there mentally.  It was such a good thing for me for several years, but now I'm sort of floundering.  I ran a race in December and I trained a LITTLE.  My body mostly relied on adrenaline and muscle memory.  Since that time, I have not done a single thing.  I had already signed up for this race as 'motivation' to get my butt in gear, but all I wanted to do the last few months has been huddle under blankets and read.  So....heading down to New Orleans with a very short time scheduled I wasn't sure if I would even do the race.  I decided last minute to walk it.  It took forever.  Side note, if you DO like to run, this was a really easy course.  I'm not sure there is a single hill.  The only challenge is the significant number of pot holes in the road.  It was a course filled with jazz bands and it took us through some of the French Quarter, which was fun.  In the end, it's finished.  I'm not signing up for any races any day soon and I'm going to go relearn what it is that gets me motivated.
As for the rest of the was all about the food.  There were some not so great meals, but the highlights were....Atchafalaya.  The plus is there was a great jazz band and the food was really good (chicken and biscuits for me, but apparently the shrimp and grits is what brings all the people).  It was hopping with locals and we ended up waiting 2 hours for a table, but the band and the weather saved that from being a miserable wait!

After the race I grabbed these things that were very much like Beneits, but they had rice inside and this strange lemon honey water, but they were strangely good.  The best part was the atmosphere at the restaurant, Cane Table.  It was a quite little nook behind a thriving sidewalk along the French Quarter.  It's no CafĂ© Du Monde, but it was a neat atmosphere with (well deserved) good reviews.

I also grabbed dinner with my pal Maurine's little sister, Joy who lives near by and I got to meat her baby boy.  We headed to Mother's.  Again, the line out this door was outrageous, but the food really was good!  It's an old deli.  I got the ham b/c my uber driver assured me it was the best ham around (which the sign says), but they had a ton of great looking deli sandwiches.  It was a nice break from all the traditional grits/chicken/jambalaya etc.  I would definitely go again.

...and as if I didn't eat enough.  I also snagged a biscuit at Copeland's at the airport.  Normally, I wouldn't post about a biscuit, but, by George, this was one might-tee fine biscuit.

This is a bit of a hodge podge of a post, but the truth is, I need it to live here.  Should I find myself in New Orleans a 4th time, these are some of the experiences I don't want to forget!