Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pain at the pump, and everywhere else

Who else is ready to ask for a compressed work week to save on gas? I know I am! Since I know that won't really fly, I'm going to tighten the belt and work on my garden this year. In years past I've relied on my parents to supply me with the excess produce from their gardens. This year I've decided to dig in and do it myself. We still have to eat, and with gas prices going up by the hour I really don't have an alternative.

My list includes tomatoes for canning (paste tomatoes), cucumbers, lettuce and other leafy greens, carrots (I may have waited too late!), melons, peppers, radishes and sugar snap peas. There are other things I'm considering, but I have to find a way to integrate them into my current beds since I don't really have a garden spot prepared yet. I have two spaces that need to be tilled and with a little work they will be ready. I've spent the last three years growing flowers, so I have lots of spots I can tuck plants into if need be. I had a volunteer grape tomato that sprouted in my flower bed last year from the compost pile. I didn't nurture it at all other than the occasional watering and staking it, so the couple of handfuls of tomatoes I got from it were a real treat.

I've managed to get some fruit trees planted, but it will be several years before they are producing enough to save money. I have planted apples, blueberries, cherries, nectarines, figs, crabapples and have a persimmon tree that volunteered itself a few years ago.

The problem now is finding the time and motivation. The last couple of years have really burned me out on gardening, even though I still love it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pictures!

I know how much everyone in the blogosphere loves pictures, so here are some to go along with this post.

Jambalaya! 

I was really pleased with the way this turned out, other than the minor tweaks mentioned in the other post. I also added a few pieces of jalapeno smoked sausage for extra flavor.


Hummus
I omitted tahini (sesame seed paste) because I didn't have any and sesame is a really strong flavor. The beans and red peppers gave it just enough flavor. This was great with my lunch today.  I had a tuna salad sandwich and celery sticks dipped in this hummus with banana bread for dessert.

Banana Bread
I guesstimated at the amount of butter I needed and undershot it just a bit. I also generally replace some of the fat with apple sauce, which I was out of. I tweaked this recipe with ground oatmeal and wheat flour, so apple sauce would have made it more moist and would have been pretty essential. It wasn't bad, but I could definitely tell a difference in the texture with the addition of wheat flour and oatmeal.

Oatmeal Crackers
As promised, here are the oatmeal crackers I made. I needed to roll them out a bit thinner and make sure they are all close to the same thickness before baking. Amazingly, these taste just like a Triscuit, only a little thicker, with the texture of a thin crunchy cookie. I think they will be delicious with the hummus.

All in all I'm happy with how everything turned out, but a couple of things needed tweaking either in the recipe or the technique I used. I will definitely try different versions of the oatmeal crackers to see if I can sweeten them up and maybe add some pecans or other nuts for a semi healthy option to cookies.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Recycled crafting

I really love making useful and pretty things from other stuff that has been discarded for some reason. I get this from my mother. If something appears remotely useful, she won't throw it away. Amazingly, she has most of it organized in bins or neat stacks. I can usually go to her house and say "Hey, Mom, do you have...?" and most of the time she does!

Last year I made a wreath from some old barbed wire fencing we removed from behind the house.

Bird House and Barbed Wire Wreath

Alas, the fence post was rotten and got knocked down and the birdhouse fell apart. The wreath, however, is still hanging up in my yard. I also have a star shaped wreath that hangs on my bottle tree in the west end flower bed.

Bottle Tree

Yes, those are outdoor "Christmas" lights, though I prefer to call them festive lights. Really they can be used to illuminate any party or celebration. Plus, they just look cool.

Working with barbed wire is not as difficult as one might think. You will need a couple of tools to make your work easier and protect your hands from injury. Fencing pliers and a pair of leather work gloves are all you really need. If you want to use other types of wire to "tie" the wire into the desired shape, you will also need some pliers appropriate for cutting it.

If you've made wreaths before, the concept is the same. Twist, bend and secure the wire in whatever way is easiest for you and then hang it. I don't recommend hanging a barbed wire wreath on your front door, or on anything you don't want to get scratched. They are perfect for outdoor accents because the wire will last for years and they are practically indestructible.

I like that I can leave them in the yard without worrying about weather or animals destroying them. In fact, the weather only adds to their appeal over time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A timely purchase

I've been looking for a trench coat for several years now, with much disappointment. Even though I have a tight budget, we get a LOT of Spring rain and sudden downpours. This is a functional piece that will get lots of wear. Who doesn't want to look stylish while staying dry and warm?

I've window shopped just about every clothing store on the internet. Most with the features I wanted were too expensive, and the ones I could afford were not flattering or had too many fussy details. I'd finally settled on three options when I started poking around on Amazon.com.

Enter the Michael Kors Trench Coat.

MICHAEL Michael Kors Women's Sb Trench,British Khaki,Large

It's flattering, semi-lightweight, simply constructed, lined, water repellent and has a detachable hood. It also comes in several colors, though I opted for the British Khaki. For the awesome price of $75 dollars I now have a classic and well-made wardrobe staple that will last for years. It also happens to have a designer label on it.

It's perfect for Spring rain storms that pop up here with little warning and can be used in the fall and milder winter months as well. Not a moment too soon, as the Spring rains have already started!

I'm hoping to con someone in to taking a picture of me in it.

Last night's cooking adventures

I decided to go ahead and try some of the recipes I posted about yesterday. I made jambalaya and it turned out great! I had to modify the ingredients slightly because I didn't have some of the seasonings on hand that I needed.

I used Mrs Dash Extra Spicy Seasoning Blend because it had all the seasonings I needed. I ended up using nutmeg instead of cloves to tone down the bright flavors of the peppers, and it really could have used a touch more. It gave the dish a deeper and somewhat sweeter flavor. I used low sodium or "no salt added" everything, so it also needed a little salt. All in all, it was very good.

I even took some to work today for lunch.

I also made banana bread and subsituted 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/4 each of ground rolled oats and wheat flour. It was a nice mid-morning snack to tide me over until lunch. I modified the banana bread recipe from Joy of Cooking if anyone is interested.

Tonight I'm working on the hummus and oat crackers for mid-morning and afternoon snacks. It's really hard being at work and having a snack attack with nothing on hand but what I can pull out of the vending machines!

How to be a better blogger

In addition to revamping my eating and exercise habits, I've also decided to become a better blogger. I've been reading up on the topic, and there appears to be a wealth of advice available.

The first thing I have to do is decide what I want from this blog. Do I want to retain this as a personal blog to strut and stroke my vanity while feeding the voyueristic tendencies of blog readers or do I try to take this to another level and become a semi-professional blogger? There are pros and cons to each scenario. If I keep this as only a personal blog, I can pretend that no one reads it and write about things that interest me. I can also post when I feel like it and not be under any pressure to post on a schedule.

If I decide to take this to the next level and become a semi-professional blogger, I have to really step up my game, figure out what the hot blog topics are every day and post on a regular schedule. It would also mean figuring out how to attract more readers and turn this into a revenue stream. Is that really what I want to do? If I decide to write on a schedule and really put some time into my posts I would want to compensate myself in some fashion. Hm.

Like most people, I blog for a reason. I enjoy writing, even if I'm not a "professional" writer, and I like to hear what other people think about what I write. It's a form of validation, if you will.

I suppose for now I'll let it ruminate and just keep writing. As always, I'd love to hear your feedback!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Recipes to try

My family and I have decided to start eating healthier and getting more exercise. Part of that is cooking more homemade meals and finding healthier alternatives to things we love.

Any type of cuisine is a go in my house, but especially Cajun and Mexican inspired dishes. We love spicy food! Up until now I've bought a pre-mixed jambalaya kit at the grocery store, but I finally looked at the nutrition info. The sodium content alone was enough to make me put it back.

Instead, I'm going to try one of these recipes:

Healthy Jambalaya from Calorie King

Healthy Jambalaya from SparkRecipes

I found several others that claimed to be "healthy" but these two had lower sodium and fat content than the other recipes I was able to find. Try one and let me know what you think!

Other things I'm trying my hand at this week include Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas, Homemade Oatmeal Crackers, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Oatmeal Pancakes. I buy oatmeal (rolled oats) in bulk and try to have it for breakfast at least 3 days a week. I add a little brown sugar, raisins, dried cranberries and chopped apples for flavor and extra nutrition. That and my coffee really get me going in the morning.

What recipes are you trying this week?

SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life
SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Earrings

I picked up some new earrings on my lunch break today. There were a couple more pair I wanted, but I had a budget.

Disc earring Earring combo

This first pair I bought for parts and recombined it with this waterfall dangle earring. The jury is still out on whether or not I like this combination. If the metal disc were darker I think it might look better.

Knick Knack earrings Knick Knack earring close

I was going to cannibalize these for parts, but I find I really like them just as they are. Especially after seeing a similarly styled pair in the Sundance Catalog for $240. Granted, the earrings sold by Sundance are made in the US of precious metals and stones, but they are far out of my price range. The costume pair will suit my needs just fine.

Let me know what you think about the Franken-earrings!

Spring 2011 - Part II

In Style's Spring 2011 trends include:
  • Bright colors - Yes.
  • Menswear - No. I have several suits already, but I'm not going out and getting blocky suits with shoulder pads. I haven't worn shoulder pads since the 80's and don't intend to ever do so again.
  • Seventies - Maybe. It depends on whether or not I have something suitable in my wardrobe already.
  • White - I already have lots of this.
  • Lace - Probably not. I have a couple of pieces that have small lace or eyelet accents, but that's about as far as I take it.
  • Sporty - What I've seen so far is either preppy, or things like drawstrings and sweatpants prettied up in an attempt to make them stylish. Sweatpants and heels don't mix, I don't care what J. Crew or any fashion magazine says.
  • Modern Metallics - Sparingly. I have a metallic purse and some metallic sandals. That's about it for me.
  • Florals - Maybe. I tend to avoid these because I just don't like floral prints on my clothing.
Elle:
  • Denim/Chambray - YES! I have a nice dressy chambray skirt already picked out.
  • Building Blocks - Again with the color-block. I think I'll just stick to bright colors.
  • Eastern Front - I'm pretty sure this includes harem pants. No thanks.
  • Into the Wild - Animal prints. I might spring for a pair of snake sandals.
  • Lace Race - Again, no.
  • Sheer Bliss - Can't wear to work, and I don't really enjoy see through clothes for the most part.
  • Down to Business - Men'swear inspired, again. I already have plenty of this, but in a more feminine vein.
  • That 70's Show
  • Punk'd - Not really my thing.
  • Prints Charming - Bold prints, again. Nah.
Basically, if you were old enough to have a "wardrobe" in the 70's you should have saved your clothes.

In the last 10 years or so, the basic building blocks of my wardrobe haven't changed that much. I don't usually tend to follow fads or trends and have built my wardrobe with basic, classic pieces I can wear forever. Well, not forever, but you know what I mean. It has gotten pretty boring, in my opinion, and I'm really trying to spice it up a little.

As a rule, the fashion industry has little to do with my self image or what I like to wear. While I love reading fashion magazines and looking at what everyone else is wearing, I pretty much go my own way. I hate the impossible beauty standards imposed on women, but looking at clothes is fun for me.

As long as I don't get caught up in the bullshit, I'll continue to read fashion blogs, occasionally look at fashion magazines and keep (mostly window) shopping.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guess What?

Name change! I decided to change the name of this blog, delete the other (empty) blog I had by the same name and redirect a URL I already owned.

If you want to visit the URL, it's http://www.moderncountrymom.com/.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Trends

I've been scouring fashion magazine web sites, trying to figure out ways to incorporate trends into my wardrobe without looking like a fashion victim or looking overstyled or spending too much money. I'm attempting to work with the wardrobe I already have and buy some new pieces that I can wear for years. Barring weight loss or gain, there is no reason to completely replace your wardrobe every year (or every five years) if you shop wisely.

I'm a big-busted curvy girl, and there are plenty of things that look absolutely ridiculous on me. Empire waists and anything that lacks structure completely hide my figure and do nothing to flatter the curves. Clothes like that flatten everything out to the widest point on my body. Since my chest is the widest point on my body, it starts there and falls straight down. Not a good look for me.

That being said, I am really digging some of the trends for Spring this year. Others, not so much.

Glamour's trends for 2011 include:

  • An oversized sweater - This is a no-no for my figure type. Instead, I might go for a more body conscious tunic sweater, belted in the middle if I'm so inclined. I save the slouchy look for weekends and grocery runs, thank you very much.
  • A pleated skirt - This is something that has been a wardrobe staple for decades, and with the right pleating can flatter almost any figure. Accordian pleats might not be so good for my hips, but a skirt with a few well-placed inverted pleats is on my shopping list.
  • A fringed bag - Maybe. Fringe has also come and gone over the years, so it's something that could be stowed and brought out later. However, I'm on a bag diet. I have every possible bag I could need, and I'm not buying any more for a while.
  • Track pants - Hmmm. I can't wear these to work, and I have plenty of casual clothes I wear on the weekends or when I'm doing outdoorsy stuff.  
  • Major volume - I've already discussed how blousy and voluminous clothing is unflattering on my figure, so I'll have to stick to volumizing my hair. A volumizing spray, blow dryer and teasing comb are my tools of choice.
  • Something color-blocked - Maybe. I like bright colors, so I'll have to think about this one some more.
  • The great white shirt - I have at least 4 white button down shirts in various sleeve lengths. I'm covered on this one.
  • Wider leg jeans - I have to be careful with this one too, but I do have a pair already.
In the interest of (some) brevity, I'm going to break this into several posts. Be back soon!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New running/hiking gear

I splurged when I got my tax return and bought a new pair of running shoes and some light hiking socks. I'm trying to work back up to running, and I've been doing some hiking and walking lately to get myself in shape.

I got a pair of Thorlos Light Hiker socks and a pair of New Balance WO1320 running/hiking shoes. I have to say that the socks are THE most comfortable socks I've ever worn. They are light, breathable, offer support and have cushion where you need it. Unfortunately they are just a bit too tight to wear with the shoes, but I'm looking for similar socks in a lighter weight for running. They will be perfect with my hunting boots!

I also splurged on some workout wear from REI (on sale even!) and Athleta.

I've made a goal for myself for this year to start an exercise routine and stick with it. Two years ago I lost some weight, and I've gained it all back over the last year. I'm tracking my workouts and hikes on My Fitness Pal. Come on over and join me if you want!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What to do with a gray suit

If you work in an office you probably have a basic boring suit lying around in your closet. I do, but mine is more of a beige than gray. When you look at it you probably think "This is more of a uniform than a fashion statement."

The March issue of Lucky has a feature with 26 basic pieces of clothing, called "90 days of Outfits" with pictures of all the pieces and ways to combine the pieces for work and weekend. I took it a bit further and decided to break it down by the gray suit pieces and cut the outfits out that I liked and could wear to work. I was going to attempt to make a set at Polyvore, but I couldn't find the feature on luckymag.com, so I did the next best thing: I used scissors and glue dots to make a scrapbook-esque collection.

Everything you see here is found somewhere in the March 2011 issue of Lucky. All images are the property of Lucky and I make no claim to them whatsoever. This is merely an arts and crafts project that I'll store in my fashion file for later reference. (I also have a shitload of scrapbooking supplies that I need to use.)

I have many similar pieces to those in the 26 piece collection they featured. A lot of of it was pretty bland, and I like a little pop of color with gray and beige. Some of the shoes were also not to my liking, but that's ok too.

I hope to do more of these in the future, and maybe even try on some of the outfits I come up with based on the gray suit. I have a hard time photographing myself... I really hope you enjoy this, and I really hope Lucky continues to offer features like this. It really inspired me to get in my closet and see what I can create with my existing wardrobe!

What to do with a gray suit Section 1 The Jacket


The Skirt Options
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