Thursday, April 17, 2008

Show me a garden that's bursting into life

It's spring cleaning in the garden - time to bust out some Lady Tools and get the beds ready for planting. Look what was hiding under all those leaves:

The hostas look like asparagus right now, and I wonder why they are purple?

Coreopsis, my favorite, looking unusually tidy.

Salvia, peeking through the daffodils.

All my bulbs were planted in 2006. I didn't think they would flower again this year but here they come.

This viola was a surprise - I assumed they were annuals but apparently I was mistaken. So pretty and dainty.

Everything's coming up roses, even the roses. Both Distant Drums and Honeysweet are flush with new growth, bright red bursts of color exploding from the stems. Even the minature rose is coming back, after spending the winter in a box in the garage.

Otis, on patrol.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You Go Gluten-Free Girl

I'm a big fan of Shauna James Ahern. I've been frequenting her blog,
Gluten-Free Girl, for a while now, and am in the midst of reading her book by the same name. I do not have Celiac Disease, however, I really dig her approach to food. Since going full-blown vegetarian nearly 5 years ago, I've encountered some of the same issues as someone living gluten-free. Granted, the consequences of some gelatin or meat broth slipping past my radar aren't nearly as serious someone with Celiac inadvertently consuming gluten. However, for ethical, environmental and health reasons we are committed to avoiding all meat, which means reading labels carefully and knowing where it can hide. Grocery shopping can be tedious and time consuming. Eating out can be tricky (Me: "Is there meat in this soup?" Waiter: "No." Me: "Great! What's the base?" Waiter: "Chicken broth." Argh!!!!!) It's also easy to get in the rut of eating the same things.

So when I started reading Shauna's blog and book, it seemed oddly familiar and rather appealing. Her outlook is refreshing - instead of mourning the loss of forbidden foods, she celebrates the opportunity to experience new and exotic foods and flavors. Her recipes are tantalizing - I can't wait to try
these Arepas, her Butternut Squash Soup with Smoked Paprika, and Shauna's Autumn Squash, Red Pepper, and Red Quinoa, to name only a few. There certainly isn't a shortage of flavors in the world, and I'd like to try more of them. I'd also like to learn how to cook with them, to figure out what pairs well together, and to be one of those cooks who knows how a "pinch of this" and a "bit of that" makes everything come alive.

I can also identify with the need for improved labeling on food packaging and better education of restaurant staff regarding diet restrictions. A few weeks ago, after starting Shauna's book, I tried doing my weekly grocery shopping entirely gluten-free, just to see if I could. It was hard, and I made several mistakes. I appreciate now that gluten is nearly ubiquitous in packaged foods, and probably winds up in a far greater variety of foods than meat products. Try buying soy milk without gluten, or try figuring out which cheeses are made with animal rennet and which aren't, and you'll see that in either case, food labels are inadequate to say the least. And if grocery shopping isn't bad enough, ask a waiter whether your sour cream contains gelatin, or whether the mashed potatoes are made with meat broth, and you're likely to be met with blank stares. On a positive note, things seem to be changing, if only slowly. In the mean time, it's all the more reason to DIY.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Get Back On That Horse!

It's been 3 months?!? Surely not. I'm terrible (said in a Charles Barkley voice) at keeping up with this, which is not to say that there hasn't been progress in my Lady Toolings. And by progress I mean lots of big ideas. An update:

Crafts - My first quilt is in the works. I've got the pattern and the fabric, which is now washed and pressed, and waiting. This particular design was listed under the "simple" patterns at the Fig Tree site and I actually understand the directions, so there's hope. I'm also still working on the Pleasant Kitchen Dishtowels - Tuesday and Friday are done (well, the embroidery is done), which is pretty awesome considering I didn't know a backstitch from a tuna fish before starting. The knitting for the large cabled handbag is almost done (great, a knit bag just in time for summer), and ready for finishing. And finally, a top secret project, which I feel safe in revealing seeing as I'm fairly confident no one actually reads this. Inspired by these fabulous lovelies, I'm making an apron as a bridal shower gift for Megan. I decided not to wing it and bought a pattern, which turned out to be insultingly simple. The pieces are cut and ready to whip together. I am making it sound simple in the hopes that it will be so.

House Projects - The stairs are painted. The "guest" bedroom is painted and ready for a "guest". A new couch has been procured, one that (much to the dismay of our canine family members) cannot be used as a fun barge. Tiles for the backsplash have been picked out. (Historically authentic subway tiles are surprisingly thick - a recipe for disaster.) Slow progress on a never ending journey, albeit an enjoyable one.

Cooking - I have been trying many new recipes. Some highlights include: Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Red Mole Sauce and Tres Leches Cake for Tim's birthday. Quinoa Banana Muffins (my very own recipe!). Chickpea Pasta (a disastrous recipe from Real Simple magazine, which I transformed with some modifications of my own and some hints from Apples for Jam into quite a tasty meal). Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies. I am not good at photographing food, and probably look ridiculous trying to do so. I will have to work on this.

Work clothes - still frumpy, still feels like high school.

Kirtland's Warbler - late May or June. I'm coming for you Dendroica kirtlandii.

Dog walking - I've been a miserable failure as a volunteer dog walker lately. It's too cold, I'm working too late, I'm too tired. No more excuses; I will be better.

Working on Weekends - This went well, for a while. I think I went 6 weeks without a single weekend trip to Mega Stupid Ridiculous Building III. However, last week I put in more hours than I have in a long time, including trips to the lab on Saturday and Sunday. It looks like more of the same is in store for the rest of April. On the bright side, help has arrived and (eventually, in theory) this should ease the load. Also, things are going pretty well on the work front, which always makes for a more enjoyable work day. The pessimist in me, however, fears the arrival of this help will simply double the expectations, in terms of output, which translates into more work for me as I am now responsible for the productivity of said help. Boundaries. Limitations. Delegation. Reasonable expectations. I need to embrace these concepts.