29 September 2010

Soup Weather

I love fall for many reasons, one being that the weather (and the seasonal produce) are perfect for making soups. So with a crisper full of veggies from the co-op and a free afternoon, I decided to whip up a batch of apple-potato soup.

First I gathered all the ingredients together:

1/2 red onion
1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 medium leek, chopped
large garlic clove
2 tart apples (I used Anna), peeled and chopped
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 large celery root, peeled and chopped
3/4 quart vegetable broth
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

First, I sauteed the onion in the olive oil over a medium-low heat in my lovely blue Lodge dutch oven. After about ten minutes, the onions were soft and transluscent.

 Then I added the leeks, celery, and garlic, sauteeing for about five minutes.

Next, I stirred in the apples, potatoes, celery root, veggie broth, apple juice, ginger, salt, and pepper.

 Bring it all to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, or until it looks like this:

 Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Then process with an immersion blender in the pot. (I love these things!)

Once the mixture is smooth, add cream, chives, and thyme. Cook on low heat until heated through.

Garnish with more thyme or chives to serve. Yum!

What's your favorite soup to enjoy on a fall evening?

28 September 2010

Operation Co-operation

I have really wanted to buy more local and organic produce, especially after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver a while back. My usual grocery store of choice is Central Market because they have such an assortment of fruits and vegetables - not to mention other tempting goodies. But once I started looking at where this beautiful produce was coming from, places like Colombia and New Zealand, I realized it was travelling much further than I thought!

Without going into all the whos and whats of food mileage and sustainable agriculture, let's just say that I was looking for another option. So when a friend of mine told me about the Health Source Organic Co-op, I got really excited! She and a friend were picking up at a location in Saginaw, but after looking on the website I saw there were many other locations - some even right down the street from my workplace!

I knew that my husband and I would not be able to finish off 15 - 30 pounds of local organic fruits and veggies every two weeks, so I asked my sister-in-law if she and her husband would be interested in going in with us. Fast-forward a few weeks to today, our very first pick-up! Here is the stash I came home with (to be divided between our two families, of course)...

What a rainbow of yumminess! I can definitely say Operation: Co-operation is a huge success. ;D

19 September 2010

Weekly Wows!

This week workers started in on our detached garage! We have discovered that there are many quirks living in an older home, one of which is that part of our wooden garage was just built right into the dirt. Over time the wood has deteriorated and the structure has sunk into the ground, so it's looking, well, not so stable. (I am always worried I'll come out to my car in the morning to find it buried beneath a pile of garage parts!) It is quite ambitious to fix this problem - epecially without tearing everything down and starting over - which involves digging trenches, cutting the roof, using scaffolding to lift up the existing front half of the garage while a slab is poured and then new studs and siding are put in. There are just piles of wood and cinder blocks outside our garage right now, so there's nothing exciting to show. I'll post pics when they start "raising the roof" though - that should be interesting!

Friday night after Clay got home from a week in Madison, Wisconsin, we went to see the Sound of Music at Casa Manana.

This is one of my absolute favorite movies, so I was pretty sure I would love the musical - and I did! Little Gretel was heartwarming - especially her constant yawns (With a start time of 8:00, I have a feeling it was past her bedtime.)! Unfortunately, it was not a sing along production (that show is tonight), but I may or may not have sung along anyway! ;D

I had to work a volunteer training all day Saturday, so my dear, sweet Clay took it upon himself to tidy up the house while I was gone! It was so nice to come home after a long day to a clean house. I am such a lucky gal. :D

We got to have dinner with our good friends, the Allens, on Saturday night. After a scrumptious dinner at Charleston's, we came back to our house for dessert and a slideshow of our trip. (Clay and I can't resist a captive audience!) I tried out a new dessert called Crack Pie...

...and it was super-yum! You can find the recipe here. Sweet friends + sweet treats = a perfect evening.

This week marks the first day of fall, which is my very favorite season! I love the cooler weather, colorful pumpkins, cozy sweaters, and beautiful foliage. Apparently the weather in Texas has not quite gotten the memo that it's supposed to be cooler now, but that definitely won't stop me from pulling out the fall decorations. :D

What's wow-ing you this week?

13 September 2010

Always. Sometimes. Never.

plan out menus for the week before grocery shopping.
sing along with the radio (if I know the song).
send thank you notes - and postcards when I go on trips!
kiss my hubs goodnight.
enjoy reading and sharing good books.

floss before bed (trying to get better!).
bite my nails when I'm nervous (also trying to get better).
drink coffee in the morning.
let dirty dishes pile up in the sink. And maybe on the counter, too. :}
buy flowers for myself.

watch scary movies (there's enough violence and gore in the world already, people!).
carry cash - so let all your mugger friends out there know!
can resist anything covered in sprinkles.
wear high heels. Ick.
can remember anything useful from college Spanish.

What about you - what do you always, sometimes, never? You should always share. ;D

12 September 2010

Book Reports: A Gift, A Diary, and A Know-It-All

One of my very favorite things about vacation is the opportunity to read more. With two intercontinental flights and an infinite number of train rides, I knew there would be LOTS of time to read on our recent trip. I'd like to review three books - two that I read and one that Clay read (and I started). They were all very different, but enjoyable in their own way.

Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
I knew going into it that this would be a lighter, more fun read - nothing mind-bending or philosophical here. The writing style was generally good, with the exception of all the nicknames the author gave to her characters, names like "Mrs. X" and "HH." Also the nanny in the story was actually named Nanny! It took me a while to get that all straight. (Look, I was on vacation and didn't want to think so hard!)
Now I realize this book was fictional - though based on personal experiences - but there were some things the nanny had to endure that I just couldn't believe! It was especially interesting to watch a real-life family and their nanny on our flight from Madrid to Athens and wonder just how true the story was. (The kids were brats, that's for sure!)

The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I accidentally picked up the wrong book at Half Price when I was scouting for vacay reads. A friend had recommended two of Potok's books, one of which was My Name is Asher Lev...and apparently I just wasn't paying attention until I pulled it out of the suitcase and realized I had the wrong book. Not to worry! It was still a fascinating story. The writing was exquisite, describing the humdrum things of life in an incredible way. It also talks about a community of Ladover Hasidic Jews and the dynamics there. Although this particular sect is ficticious, it is based on a real-life group and so it was interesting to pick up bits and pieces about their belief system.

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
This book was purchased specifically for my husband's reading pleasure. The author of this book, A.J. Jacobs, decided to read through all 30-something volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which is something my husband would totally do. (He is, after all, a know-it-all.) It was quite funny to hear Clay laughing out loud at various entries, sometimes so much so he would have to put down the book until he could regain composure! Needless to say, Clay was quite appreciative of my book choice. :D

Next on the list: Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan. That is, unless my fine readers have something else to recommend!

11 September 2010

Europe Trip!

So my husband and I went on a trip. We saw...















and Prague!

(If you'd like to see more photos, you can view them here.)

We had a wonderful time seeing the sights, experiencing new cultures, and being with each other 24/7! Funny stories from our trip to come soon. Now on to our next adventure! ;D

08 September 2010

A Brief Guide to World Domination

One of my lifelong goals has been to dominate the world. Just kidding! But seriously...

You may be wondering exactly how I chose this topic for a blog post. Perhaps I'm feeling rather confident after our recent overzealous overseas trip (try saying THAT three times fast!). Maybe the jet lag has gone to my head. Or just maybe I'm recalling the days in elementary school when I seriously planned to become first woman President of the United States. (That's pretty darn close to world domination, right?)

Or maybe I stumbled across something incredibly wonderfully non-conformist as I was catching up on my blogs. :D

This evening I found myself reading the manifesto of one Chris Guillebeau, who penned said Guide to World Domination - and I just had to share it with you! He explores on the idea that you don't have to live your life the way other people expect you to. This is a HUGE reminder for me because I am a people pleaser, big time. I mean, it makes sense when you think about it - why should you succumb to the monotony that the masses preach? He includes some pretty incredible exercises in the short "report" which help you to identify exactly how to go about living your own life which may or may not include conquering the world. And although he doesn't mention God or faith, I think it definitely plays into the fact that our Creator has made us to do great and exciting things - if we will only take the risk.

These ideas have developed into a recently-released book called The Art of Non-Conformity, which I have already added to my Amazon wishlist. (hint hint)

Interesting Side Note: Chris is attempting to travel to every country in the world (according to his list, there are 198 total) by the time he turns 35. He documents many fascinating things on his journeys, which you can read about here.

So, dear readers, what will you be dominating? Here shortly, I will be staking my claim to the bed and hopefully beat my husband to it. ;D

06 September 2010

Home Again, Home Again - Jiggity Jig

You know, it's funny the things that you miss when you're away from home. Things like your very own pillow, the shampoo you regularly use (instead of the kind that comes in travel size), the ability to read a menu or a street sign, knowing for sure when someone is talking to you (or when they aren't), and food whose ingredients you are actually familiar with. And of course, keeping up on my blog list!

Ten countries and 17 days later, we have finally returned home from our wonderful vacation! It was quite an amazing and exhausting trip, which I hope to share with you soon. (I do have over 2000 pictures to go through, after all!) Clay and I are so fortunate to share this trip to the other side of the world, but we sure are glad to be home. :D