Friday, January 1, 2016

In the mood for a healthy breakfast

Coconut Breakfast Farro with Spiced Oranges and Coconut Cream: Start Your Morning and Your New Year Right!







When I was a kid, my dad always made breakfast on Christmas morning: Sara Lee coffee cake, bacon, scrambled eggs, and of course, coffee.  My dad makes the best coffee.  This little tradition has carried over into my and my brother's adult lives; I always make something festive for Christmas breakfast, and this year, after telling his girlfriend about the coffee cake ritual, she made a homemade coffee cake with streusel topping.  I find that so cute.





New Year's morning is not at all like Christmas morning.  Brian and I are usually hungover (or at least, I am.  Brian doesn't seem to get hangovers), I usually wake up way late, and because we've spent the last month indulging, the last thing I want to make is a big, holiday breakfast.




This year was a little different.  We didn't drink and I woke up early (well, the dogs woke me up early).  But I am a little tired of all the indulging, even though we've kept it in check this year.

I recently saw this pin, which lead me to this recipe, which lead me to this blog, written by a Canadian lass who makes and blogs gorgeous vegetarian recipes.  The recipe, citrus with a spiced vanilla syrup, bewitched me.  Spiced vanilla syrup, you say!  Citrus!  What a lovely combo!



I also had it in my head to make a porridge, like this.  In terms of porridge ingredients, I had quinoa, brown rice, oats, farro, and kamut on hand.  I turned to my ever-reliable Pinterest, and found this broken farro porridge recipe from Blogging Over Thyme, which has you blitz your farro to dust in a food processor or blender.  It... didn't so much work for me.  I guess my blades aren't sharp enough or my appliances aren't strong enough.  I didn't so much end up with powdered farro as I did just regular farro.  So I went with that.



While the farro was cooking, I made a spiced vanilla syrup that I then used to poach slices of orange.  I simmered green cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and allspice with sugar and water until thickened slightly and reduced by about a third.  I added the sliced up oranges and simmered for about fifteen minutes until the liquid was reduced by about a quarter and the oranges were soft and starting to fall apart.






Since I'd failed to make farro porridge, I wanted the farro to be interesting so I added some unsweetened shredded coconut about ten minutes before the farro was finished cooking, just to soften it.




That looks like a king's ransom in vanilla beans, but don't worry, I don't go around putting 15 vanilla beans in every dish.  See, two or three year ago, I ordered bulk vanilla beans from Beanilla.  I think I ended up paying about $1 per bean, which isn't cheap but it's loads cheaper than buying beans at the grocery store (maybe $6+ per bean?).  Using this recipe, I used 14 vanilla beans, split between two bottles (one vodka, one whiskey) to make vanilla extract.  After I'd used both bottles of extract, I was left with those 14 beans.  Most of their flavor had been leeched out, which is, of course, the whole point of an extract.  You extract the flavor.  But the beans still had some life in them, and throwing them away seemed too tragic.  I'm not cheap, but I really hate waste.  So, I left the beans to dry on a paper towel for a few days, and then stuck them all in a large mason jar that I then filled up with sugar.  I gave it a good shake, and viola!  Vanilla sugar.  Because the vanilla beans weren't all that strong, there wasn't much point in refilling the sugar after I'd used it, so I decided to take these lovely, hard-working vanilla beans, and give them one final task: this spiced syrup.  I'm telling you, I got my money's worth out of those beans.




Breakfast Coconut Farro with Poached Oranges

Vegan and Gluten-Free
Serves two

Ingredients:

1/2 cup farro
2 cups water
pinch kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 oranges, zested
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
3 green cardamom pods
3 allspice berries
1 star anise
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 can coconut milk


Prepare the farro: bring 2 cups water to the boil, add pinch of salt, and farro.  Reduce to simmer and cook until al dente, about 40 minutes.  In the last 10 minutes, add coconut.

Prepare the syrup and oranges: zest the oranges and add zest, cardamom, allspice, anise, and cinnamon to a saucepan with 2 cups water.  Bring to a simmer.  Add sugar and bring back to a simmer.  Keep on a low simmer until reduced by a third, about 15 minutes.  Add vanilla and simmer for another minute or so, just to burn off the alcohol.  Remove syrup from the heat and strain into a heat safe bowl or glass measuring cup.  Discard cinnamon sticks, etc.  Return syrup to the saucepan and add oranges.  Continue gently simmering until oranges are soft and starting to fall apart, about 7 minutes.

To serve: spoon the coconut farrow into your bowl, and add some poached oranges.  Add a spoonful of syrup to the 1/2 can coconut milk and stir to combine.  Drizzle over the top.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In the mood for the perfect New Year's Eve cocktail!

Three Perfect Cocktails for New Year's Eve!


What are you plans for New Year's Eve?  We're going to a Roaring 20s Party!  It's a birthday party, but if you think about it, it's the perfect party theme for NYE.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't want every party I ever went to to be a Great Gatsby party!
 




Head over to punkymoms.com to check out my post on NYE cocktails!  I've crafted three cocktails to suit any occasion - whether you're partying it up like Daisy Buchanan, or going to bed early, I have the perfect drink for you!

Monday, December 28, 2015

In the Mood for Bourbon Milk Punch!

Hey, guess what?  I wrote a post over at punkymoms.com about one of my favorite cocktails - the Bourbon Milk Punch!


Bourbon Milk Punch is everything you want out of a cocktail!  It's creamy, dreamy, and boozy, with a fine dusting of nutmeg.


It's perfect for Christmas or New Year's morning, and Sunday brunch!



 Go check out my post here, and whip up a batch of Bourbon Milk Punch!

Monday, November 16, 2015

In the mood to set up my office: which chair should I buy?

So I'm trying to decide between two chairs to put at my desk.  We recently added a desktop that my parents owned but didn't use (thanks Mom & Dad!), and I need a chair that have variable height, and that provides arm support.  The whole typing with my elbows hanging out in mid-air gives me a migraine.

The benefit of office chairs (as opposed to pretty chairs) is that they often give you variable height and arm support, but they don't often have adjustable arm support.  I had good chairs at my last few jobs that allowed me to change up the arm support height depending on whether I was typing or writing by hand.  I found this chair on Amazon for $75.



Pro: adjustable arm support, adjustable height, good price.
Con: ugly as hell.  Screams "office."

Our "office" is actually a little corner of our library, which is light and airy and lovely.  The last thing I want in that room is an ugly, black office chair.


However, I will buy an ugly black office chair if I have to.  But what are my other options?

This little number is super cute, a great color, has arms, and is height-adjustable, but the arms aren't adjustable.



I've also seen hacks where people have spray painted the base gold.


Lovely, right?  The gold makes it look like a much higher end chair.  The problem is, of course, that while it has arm rests, the arm rests aren't adjustable and may not be the right height for me.  Also, it's $200, which is more than double the Amazon chair.



Again, pro: arms, con: the arms are not adjustable.  So, it would depend on whether the arms are the right height for me.  I love the shape of this chair, it's so 1960s, which would go well with our library.  I also love that it's faux leather, which means it won't collect cat hair the way fabric does, interweaving it into the weft of the fabric to create a new, cat-based textile.  I could also do the same thing as the chair above, and paint the base gold.  The con, aside from the fact that it might not fit my body right, is that it's $150 - twice what the Amazon chair costs.  On the other hand, it's at least 10,000 times cuter than the Amazon chair.  That's worth something, right?

So, now I get to go to Ikea!  If the white chair works with my body, then I think I'll get it.  If not, then I'll have no other choice than to go the ugly route.  All things equal, which chair do you prefer?




Saturday, November 14, 2015

Not in the mood to be in a fashion conundrum

So I have a little riddle for you.  What should a thirty-five year old woman who has recently quit her (awful) job and who is now experiencing the much longed-for experience of being a housewife and homemaker wear during the day that is both practical to her activities, appropriate for being out in the world, and also not make her feel like a hideous monster?  Take into consideration that she lives in central Florida during an El Nino year, and it's mid-80s in November.

I guess the biggest reveal there is not the weather, it's warm this autumn, but the fact that I quit my job!  Woooooo!  

But the real issue is that it's hot as hell and I have no idea what to wear.  But it's not merely the weather that's causing this conundrum, it's also the fact that I'm no longer required to dress in office-appropriate clothing.  I've accumulated a lot of business and business-casual clothes since I graduated law school and realized I had only casual/ school-friendly clothing and no office-appropriate clothing.  Apparently I go in cycles.  What I need is a nice blend of business clothing and casual clothing.  

I think the real reason for the lack of blend is that lawyers have to dress much more conservatively than other office workers.  We have to go to court, and that means we have to wear suits.  I've never worn suits every day, but my office clothes are almost suit-level of conservativeness.  Even on casual Friday, it's only a few degrees less conservative than a suit.  This means that there's really very little overlap between my "work" clothes and my "casual" clothes.  Further confusing the mix is the difference between casual day and casual night clothes, and the fact that the weather is so damnably hot here in Tampa, and it almost seems as if I need four different wardrobes.  I mean, that wouldn't be the greatest tragedy in the world, but it's a bit wasteful, especially since I'm not bringing in an income.  Also, I've found that having a lot of clothing doesn't really help the "I have nothing to wear" problem.

So, let's break it down by need!

  1. Office clothes, for when I go to court and/or go back to work.  I have this pretty well covered.  I have suits and blazers and dresses and heels aplenty.  Of course, if I end up being unemployed for long and/or having kids, who knows whether these office clothes will be appropriate (or even fit) once I do go back to work.  But that's a problem for another day.  For now, I'm fine.  I shall buy no more office clothes!
  2. Casual day clothes.  Now this can be broken down into two categories:
    1. Housewiffery clothes, for when I'm working in and around the house, doing my housewife thing, cleaning, gardening, etc.  Currently, this category of clothing is essentially my gym clothes and my grungy gardening clothes - you know, old and not in great shape + exercise shoes.  It's not a good look.
    2. Clothes appropriate for leaving the house.  You know, clothes that don't make me feel like a monster.
  3. Casual evening clothes, for seeing friends, going on dates, etc.  Ordinarily I'd wear a pair of skinny jeans, a top, and some heels, but you know what?  IT'S TOO HOT FOR JEANS.  In November.  At night.
So it looks like I need to focus on 2.1 and 2.2, with a slight nod to 3.

I think I also need to do my hair and makeup, if not daily, at least a few times a week so that I feel more human. 

Naturally when trying to figure out pretty much anything, I turned to Pinterest.  But when I searched "cute casual outfits for summer," what did I get?  ALL JEANS.  Also, even though it's as hot as summer (November 17-18 are slated to have highs of 89 degrees.  It's going to be in the 80s on Thanksgiving.), it still gets dark early like Fall, and it seems depressing and just wrong to wear summery colors and clothes.  I mean, I could spend the day at the beach, but I don't want to look like it.  Fall is for darker colors, and layers, and textures.  How can I get that sense of fall in 85+ degree weather?  I guess I can do the colors of fall, but the lightweight fabrics and cuts of summer.  I bought this figgy dress, and if the weather complies, I can wear it with tights.  I can wear shorts, so long as they're more restrained than the wild, too-hot-to-care hedonism of summer.  I've been wearing my birkenstocks lately, which are dark leather and have a late summer quality to them.  I think that dresses and shorts should be my go-tos.  I just need some sleeveless tops to round out the wardrobe.

Now that we've solved that little problem, here's the bigger question: how does one dress for a day spent cleaning out closets and garages and gardening, yet not look like a grungy slub?  That is a hard nut to crack.  Pinterest is of no help, as it's nothing but hot bodies in leggings and sports bras.  I need something that's easy to move around in, has pockets for my iPhone (podcasts get me through the day thank you very much), isn't too precious because I spend a lot of time cleaning, and is comfortable and (at least somewhat) flattering (or at least isn't unflattering).  I think that might be too much to ask.

Anyone have any favorite exercise clothes?  Are exercise clothes the answer?  I'm getting mighty tired of wearing the same thing every day.  Help me!


 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In the mood to do some sewing

So, I like to say that Pinterest is a window into my soul, but actually it's more like a window into my brain, because it shows exactly what I'm thinking about.  As you may have learned by now, I get REALLY INTO THINGS.  And Pinterest will show you exactly what I'm really into at any given moment.

Right now, I'm really into sewing.  I've always loved sewing.  I mean, fabric is so pretty, and not to dumb it down, but sewing is kind of magical.  You have this fabric and this thread, and you use this magical machine to create something new, something that didn't exist a few minutes ago.  My mom is a big sewer/quilter and pretty much as soon as I was old enough to understand what a sewing machine was, I wanted to use it.

Alas, historically my sewing projects have been really simple.  Much in the same way I have no patience for recipes with more than 10 ingredients, so too do I have no patience for involved patterns.  I can sew drapes (essentially rectangles) and pillows, but those are just straight lines.  What I'm dying to try right now is blouses!  And dresses!  Nothing too complicated, (leave that to the actual professionals), but simple, clean lines.

Here's what I've been pinning to my Sewing Projects pinboard.

1.  Simple sheath dress.








I've also been pinning some adorable fabrics!  I'm loving the Cotton & Steel line at fabric.com.

This would be lovely for the sleeveless sheath dress, so 1960s mod!



This would be so cute on a blouse, like the simple blouse, above.  It's pink tigers, people!



I'm picturing this for a shift dress, or a sleeveless top.



And this would be so sweet for a blouse.





So, what do you think?  Should I take the plunge and try my hand at garment sewing?  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In the mood to talk about cat ownership: Intro to Kittens

So a friend of mine just got her first cat, (Hi Danielle!), and had some questions about first time cat ownership.  Since Brian and I have five (yes, five) cats, and we've become total experts on the subject, I thought I'd put together a series of posts on first time cat ownership.

First off, the Quirks of Cat Ownership:
They puke everywhere.  They shed everywhere.  They destroy everything that you love.  And yet, when they snuggle up to you, purring and sweet, all of that just doesn't matter.  It probably should, but it doesn't.  And why?

BECAUSE THEY'RE SO CUTE.



Gaahhhhhh!  So cute!!!!!


I've already told the story of how Brian and I went from having zero cats to having five cats.  I didn't grow up with cats, because I was allergic as a kid.  (I'm mildly allergic now, but I get allergy shots and that seems to have helped.)  We were a dog family.  We had a standard poodle named Max and a tiny chihuahua named Madeline.  In 2003, after I moved back home from college, this adolescent grey tabby showed up at my parents' house and decided to move in.  We really had very little say in the matter.  He caught the mice that were terrorizing us, and we named him Oliver.  He's a sweet, if slightly neurotic, boy and we love him.

When Brian and I adopted the triplets, I had no idea we would be adopting cats.  We'd gone to a cat show because my mom wanted to get a Siamese, and there was supposed to be a good breeder at the show.  We never found the breeder, but we dropped by the SPCA booth and ended up adopting three tiny kittens.


I remember asking my friend, who had grown up with cats, what I was supposed to do with these kittens once I got them home.  Nothing, she said.  Just let them go.  Make sure there's a litter box, and that they know where it is, give them food and water, and let them go.  So that's what we did.



There's a great debate raging, that has likely raged from the beginning of time and will not likely be resolved as long as we roam this earth: which is cuter, a puppy or a kitten?  I really can't take a side.  I'm only human.  Besides, cats and dogs are just different.  Dogs are incredibly social creatures, as social as humans, if not more so.  They crave acceptance.  Puppies look to their humans for approval, they're human-focused, which makes an owner feel very loved indeed.  Cats?  No so much.  Cats are not very social creatures as a rule.  They're loners.  Consequently, they really couldn't care less whether what they're doing makes you happy or not.



Puppies like eye contact, and can even take direction by following a human's eyes.  Kittens do not.  (Fun fact: cats actually consider direct eye contact a threat.  If you want to show your cat that you're not threatening them, blink your eyes slowly.  The cat will likely blink back to show that they understand that you're not threatening them.)  I think that this is a pretty good metaphor for puppies vs. kittens: puppies need reassurance, eye contact, a structured day, a kennel until they're house-broken.  Kittens don't.  You just let them go.  They'll find their way.



Come back for more tricks, tips, and observations of cat ownership!