Nov 28, 2014

New Music: Hozier

As part of my 30 before 30 goal I wanted to spent more time this year immersing myself in music, specifically new to me music. I hope to post a few of my findings here for you. I'm not a music reviewer so don't expect any titillating review or anything.

You know how I was in a music slump? Joanna at Cup of Jo posted this last week at the perfect time! I added 20 new-to-me bands to my "to listen" list from the comments!  First up, Hozier, who was recommended over and over and over again.

Some songs remind me of the Black Keys and some remind me of those singer-songwriter guys we used to listen to in college (Jason Mraz, Josh Kelly, etc), but his love of blues is obvious throughout the whole self titled album. It's hard to believe he's actually Irish.

Favorite Songs: Take Me To Church, Someone New

When to Listen: doing things around the house (such as making three pies for Thanksgiving, oh wait, just me?), road trippin

Nov 27, 2014

Linky Links

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying a long weekend filled with food, family, and relaxation. Here are some fun links I've enjoyed over the last couple of weeks.

One day I'll refurbish a vintage trailer just like these cool folks.

Great article on how introverts interact with the world. No truer statement has ever been written about me without them knowing me:
If you're looking to destroy an introverted person's attention span, just put them in a situation where they feel overstimulated. Due to increased sensitivity to their surroundings, introverts struggle with feeling distracted and sometimes overwhelmed in large crowds and open office spaces.

More Jenny Lind cribs in nurseries. Glad to see Charlie is not alone. 

As a fellow puzzle nerd I loved this: How Puzzles Help My Writing. If I start doing jigsaw puzzles more regularly do you think I could write a book?  I think yes. 

Speaking of puzzles, I'm thoroughly obsessed with this podcast

I swear I only read the comments on Joanna's blog. I put sooooo many new bands to listen to on my "to-listen" list from this post

Nov 26, 2014

On Thanksgiving and Hospitality

It's here. No questions about it. It's holiday time.

When we were talking about the coming weekend at the end of last week I told Bryan that this was the last weekend of the year. Not really, but sorta. The last weekend before the holidays and new year.

I love this time of year. It's so exciting anticipating the big meals, the festive decorations and events. I really and truly love it. However, I struggle this time of year. You see, I'm not very hospitable. I want to be. I know I should be. But when it comes down to having people over or hosting a holiday gathering I stress out and I want to stab anyone that comes into my kitchen when I am in full-out holiday cooking mode. Stay out of my way or you will pay with my dagger eyes.

It's awful. I hate that I'm this way.

To make it worse I have the easiest Thanksgiving Day in history of adult Thanksgivings. So maybe my 5 year old niece has it easier, but still. My Thursday to-do list: make whipped cream. Seriously. Could it be easier? Well, yes. I could just pick up a tub of Cool Whip and call it a day, but we all know that homemade whipped cream is way better than that scientifically baffling stuff in the freezer aisle. (I'm not bashing Cool Whip, it's delicious by itself. I'm just saying homemade whipped cream is better in a different way.)

On Friday we are having some family and friends over for my annual "I've got to make my own turkey, thank you very much" feast. It's self imposed, I know. The thing is, I enjoy planning a large meal. I enjoy thinking about tablescapes and setting the table. I enjoy standing proudly over the turkey that I conquered.

So I'm trying to adjust my attitude, praying for graciousness, and making tedious to-do lists to take off the stress. If all else fails I've given myself permission for two glasses of wine over the course of the day.

Let's all take some time this weekend to step back and recognize how lucky we are and be thankful for all that we have. Crazy families or psychosis included.

Nov 21, 2014

New Music: Mount Moriah's Miracle Temple

As part of my 30 before 30 goal I wanted to spent more time this year immersing myself in music, specifically new to me music. I hope to post a few of my findings here for you. I'm not a music reviewer so don't expect any titillating review or anything.

We've reached the point in this exercise where I'm a bit burnt out. Hence a month long break a few weeks back. So now I'm just going through my list of music to listen to and choosing them randomly.  This week's listen is Mount Moriah's album from 2013. I have it noted that it was one of Pitchfork's best albums of 2013. Yup, I'm now officially a whole year behind. Whatevs.

Since it's been a while since I've sampled their music to put on my list I wasn't sure what to expect. Somehow I wasn't expecting a twangy, nearly country sound. Although they are from North Carolina, there is a Southern rock influence to the sound.

While not my favorite listen of the year, it is refreshing to be exposed to different sounds. It's not an album I'll be purchasing, but I did enjoy listening to it. If you enjoy a strong lady voice with a twangy sound, then this band will be for you.

When to listen: road trippin', background music as you work, cooking

Nov 18, 2014

Life Lately

Besides getting Charlie's room ready, we've been a bit busy this last month or so.

This biggest news is that Bryan changed jobs. Instead of repping several brands and being totally independent (besides me as his lovely assistant), he's now repping Mizuno only and is a full-time employee again. He's done a bit of traveling as part of this transition and I've been busy boxing up old samples to send back to the old lines.

It's been stressful and busy, but it's better to get this out of the way before Charlie comes. Bryan still has a good bit of travel ahead of him as he shows the newest line.

The weather has been changing from early fall to full on winter. We've had two snowy mornings so far.

Our sweet friends, Chad and Julie, threw a baby shower for us last Friday night. Bryan and I were thrilled that their baby sitter went out of town so we could spend time with our favorite little man, Cade.

The bump continues to grow and I'm distracting myself with holiday preparations. I'm nearly finished with all our gift shopping. We are no-Christmas until after Thanksgiving people, but I've been busy making preparations in my head. It feels good to get a lot of the legwork out of the way ahead of time so that once Thanksgiving is past we can just relax and enjoy the season. You know, as much as humanly possible. There is always still tons of holiday stress no matter how well organized anyone is.

I'm trying to figure out what Bryan's job change means for me and what my new role will be. I never thought I'd be a stay-at-home mom so this is taking some getting used to. Early in the mornings, when Bryan is trying to coerce me to get up, I like to think that I'm really a stay-in-bed mom.

So that's the latest with us. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving and the Christmas season which are right around the corner. Then it will be Charlie time!

Nov 17, 2014

Preservation Post

Well we're in the middle of November and we've had two light snowfalls so far!  This is pretty much unheard of in our area. Getting snow twice in one winter is a big deal. Granted, both occasions were no more than a light dusting, but still.  The garden is now put to rest and we're just waiting to see how my fall seeds do.

When I chatted with Christina on the Garden Brew podcast she brought up preservation. It is something I've been experimenting with the last two years and I thought it would be a great topic for a blog post.

Last year I kicked off my preservation pursuit by doing some pickling. What else was I going to do with all those cucumbers? I purchased Saving the Season by Kevin West and started doing some research. I put up two varieties of pickles and two types of pickled okra. I felt good about myself.

Unfortunately they didn't really pan out. The dill pickles were soft and weird. The bread and butter were okay, but we never ate all our cans. One variety of okra turned out soft and weird as well and the other I just didn't get around to eating. Oops. I also did one jar of diced tomatoes from Saving the Season. This worked out well and I used the jar in a tomato sauce last winter. This one jar is responsible for my planting more tomatoes this summer. We all know how that turned out.

I set out again this summer to preserve some of our garden abundance. I tried the dill pickle recipe from Saving the Season again (haven't opened a jar yet), and put up two batches of bread and butter pickles from John Currence's Pickles, Pigs, and Whiskey. I had extra brine so I made refrigerator pickles with the extra liquid and we both loved the flavor. We have high hopes for these.  With my CSA and garden I had a ton of peppers at one time. So I made a sweet pepper relish which turned out fantastic. This was my huge win for the year. I put up 6 half pints and had some left over that I kept in the fridge. I'll give a few away as presents at Christmas time.... reluctantly.

But I didn't stop at canning this year! I also took some time to blanch and freeze swiss chard, kale, green beans and okra. I also put one bag of stewed tomatoes in the freezer. I haven't tried any of these yet, but I feel confident I didn't screw these up.

If you are in need of some inspiration, this story from the Bitter Southerner made me want to put something up, possibly jam.

Currently I'm taking a self study program through the National Center for Home Preservation. I've only completed the first section, but I'm excited to get into the more meaty subjects in the coming weeks.

Looking forward I'd love to continue to do more pickles and relishes. I'd also like to do some fruit preserves. I had high hopes of putting up more tomatoes this year, but my crop didn't pan out this year. Next year though...

There is so much you can do with home preservation besides basic pickles. Have you experimented with home preservation? What are your favorite recipes?

National Center for Home Preservation - my go to website for canning and freezing
Saving the Season by Kevin West
Pick a Pickle  by Hugh Acheson - fun flip book I purchased earlier this year, but have not used yet
Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry by Cathy Barrow  - this is on my wish list this year (hint, hint Bryan!)

Nov 14, 2014

New Music: Luke Winslow-King's Everlasting Arms

As part of my 30 before 30 goal I wanted to spent more time this year immersing myself in music, specifically new to me music. I hope to post a few of my findings here for you. I'm not a music reviewer so don't expect any titillating review or anything.

Well, after taking a few weeks' break from listening to new music, I'm back this week. Up this week it's the newest album from New Orleans artist Luke Winslow-King.  Luke has a regular gig at one of our favorite New Orleans' haunts, Three Muses. He's got a folksy, bluesy sound that would make you think he is from Mississippi instead of Michigan!

Everlasting Arms is an upbeat bluesy album featuring Luke and his wife's vocals. Some songs feature a little New Orleans jazz sound (I'm Your Levee Man) and some are more country (Wanton Way of Loving). It is a well rounded album that has now moved to my "to buy" list.

Favorite Songs: Everlasting Arms, Swing That Thing, Domino Sugar, Traveling Myself - screw it, I'm downloading the whole album.

When to listen: Road trippin', multi-tasking, when you are Jones-ing for a cocktail at Three Muses - oh wait, just me?

Nov 10, 2014

Pansies and On Being a Pansy

This year I did something a little different. You see, I've had this beautiful plant stand I got from my grandmother's a couple years ago. I've been meaning to put something in here, but just never have. I haven't really experimented in the ornamental planting area before. It's new, unfamiliar territory.

Having been raised in the South, this means I've spent a lifetime reading my mother's and grandmother's Southern Living magazines and being amazed by the gorgeous containers featured on a monthly basis. But my mom didn't really put containers together, so I never felt comfortable doing them either.

Until this year. I decided it was time. Time to get over my fear of ornamental plants and time to use the planter.

Here's the silhouette of the planter. It's lovely and feminine.

In the center I planted an ornamental cabbage and then put 9 or so pansies around it. I know. This is not rocket science. Why did it take me so long to do this?!

Having worked primarily with edible plants the last five years I hate spending money on purely decorative plants. It seems frivolous. But it has been so nice to have this lovely little arrangement by our front door the last month or so.

They are thriving too! Which is more than I can say about my mums which are not pictured for obvious reasons. They do not look pretty.

Now if only I can bring myself to use my other two decorative pots collecting spider webs on my front porch (which you can kind of see in the first photo).

Do you create decorative plantings? How do you do it? What are your favorite plants to use?

Nov 7, 2014

Links I Love

It's been a while since I've done a link post, but I thought I'd drop in and do one every once in a while again.  Mainly, just because I love looking back and seeing what I was reading or knowing I've linked to a specific thing here and can quickly refer back to it.

Without further ado:

Fall cookbook roundup - I'm pretty sure at least five of these will make their way into my collection. I've already told Bryan that I only want cookbooks for my birthday and Christmas.

I want to Bryan to make this Apple Skin Infused Bourbon because I can't.

What I wouldn't give to visit Grey Gardens!

A long read on gluten.

Along the lines of my current favorite topic: kids food and cooking: Food bloggers discuss cooking after baby.

Just bought supplies to make this for holiday presents. I'm going to experiment by making matches with bourbon, brandy, and rum too!

I plan to go back and read comments on this post on being a homemaker over the weekend.

Nov 6, 2014

One Room Challenge Reveal: Charlie's Room!

It's finally here! We did it! Congratulations to all those participating in the One Room Challenge! I have an even greater respect for you than I did before. That was intense!

If you are just joining me I took our old guest room turned office to nursery! Our first child is due January 28th and with the holidays and work travel schedules I wanted to get the nursery done in November. Check back to week one to see the before shots in the room's many iterations. Catch up on week 2, week 3, week 4, and week 5.

A word of warning before we get to the after shots: I did not style this room. Mostly because we do not have much baby stuff yet. The toys and books you see are all we have.  We have a shower coming up in a couple of weeks and with the holidays I know we'll be given many of the items we will need. There was no way I was going to go out and buy toys and books when I know we'll be flooded with them in a matter of weeks. I'll have to do a follow up post after Charlie arrives to see how we really live in the space.

The glider cushions won't be ready for another week or so. I tossed some fabric over the ottoman to give you an idea what it will be like.

Those are blackout curtains. Trust me, they work. I kind of want to sleep in here myself.

A sweet giraffe print we got at RiverArts Festival.

Reginold, the knight, is probably not the most child safe item, but he's been with us for a long time. He was with us on the day that Bryan proposed and has lived with us from day one of marriage. Bryan thought he'd be perfect in a little boys room. He'll have to go live upstairs when Charlie is first mobile until he is steady on his feet, but I love that he lives in here now.

We got the book print at RiverArts Festival a few weeks ago. My mom picked up the Ann and Andy watercolors at a consignment sale.

I spray painted the old mirror gold to match the curtain hardware. I love that when I peek in this room I get a glimpse of the full room.

The old lamp got a new shade. It still needs to be re-wired, but we're getting there.

We found these tea towels when we were in Savannah and Bryan thought they'd be nice in the nursery in some way. Originally we were thinking pillows, but I loved the idea of cutting them out and using them as art. They add a whimsical flair.

The room isn't 100% done, but it's close enough. And I have a few months to put the finishing touches on anyways. So what do you think?

Nov 5, 2014

The Real Food Delimna

Food is a big deal to me. It always has been. I plan trips around where I want to eat. I'm constantly thinking about what my next meal, and probably the one after that too, will be. So when I found out I was expecting ... okay, I'll be honest, even before I knew I was expecting... I've thought about food and my children. What foods I would serve them and what I would not.

Naturally I only want the best for them. No hydrogenated or food color products for our Badd Babies. I've read books on "real food" for babies and had countless discussions with Bryan and close food conscious friends. But then someone leaves me a zip lock baggie of slice and bake cookies and I start questioning everything.

Can I raise a child who does not know the glorious delight of a slice and bake? Is it fair to him?

A recent post I read from one of my food heros, Mark Bittman, on kids and eating has stuck with me. He says,
I think it was easy for Karen and me to see that the key to getting our daughters to eat well was to offer a broad variety of foods, let them discover what they liked, put few restrictions on when and where they ate (although there was no eating while watching TV) and keep junk food out of the house.

His logical approach to feeding his kids - real food, no junk - aligns most with what I hope I can provide for our kids. His daughters would ask for "vacation cereal" at times. I laughed when I read that because the only time we were allowed sugary cereals growing up was when we went to the beach each year.

So maybe Charlie will know the glories of slice and bake cookies and Kraft macaroni and cheese, but only occasionally.

How do you feed your kids?

Nov 4, 2014

Win in Wynne

When we found out I was expecting Bryan started planning to do a marathon. He's talked about a running a marathon the last year or so since his last one was in 2009.  One of his training buddies ran a marathon just before each of his three kids were due. It was a way to get running out of his system for a while as running had to take a backseat to a new baby those first few months.

Bryan sat down early in the pregnancy and looked at his calendar and potential marathons to run. He decided to get it done before November as he starts traveling in November and it is hard to train consistently when on the road. He picked out a marathon on October 25th in Greenville, SC and started training.

Unfortunately due to some unexpected life changes he was unable to make his marathon. But, he did find another marathon just one week after his planned marathon only 45 minutes away in Wynne, AR. So Saturday morning we got up early and drove to Arkansas.

It was so very cold that morning. One spectator I was chatted with said that the wind chill was about 28 at the start of the race. I believe her.

The start of the race.

Wynne is a small town in the delta region of eastern Arkansas. Which really means there is nothing around. I followed directions on the race website to try to catch Bryan at mile 5, but I had to drive about 7 miles to get there and by the time I arrived he had already passed. He's fast like that.

I was able to catch him between miles 11 and 12 and then again between 13 and 14 just after the halfway point.

By the time he came back by the second time there were two other spectators and a few other runners had passed. It was a small, small race. That's okay though.

Bryan had an official finish time of 2:43:15. His GPS watch said the course was a little long and he'd argue that his 26.2 time was 2:39-something. I'm just thankful that he finished injury-free. Oh, and to make it even better, he won. My husband won a whole dang marathon. I'm pretty proud.

We spent the rest of the day resting. He deserved all the snuggles!

Nov 3, 2014

First Frost (And Podcast Link)

Welcome Garden Brew listeners! If you aren't a Garden Brew Podcast listener, I was recently interviewed by Christina and am featured on the latest episode. You can listen here.

Sunday morning we woke up to our first frost. Although we knew it was coming, it was still a bummer to have the first frost arrive a little early. Typically we have our first frost a week or two later.  Our local weather blog mentioned that in the city, where we live, the typical first frost date is November 12th. Last year we were around November 7th.

Friday, heeding the freeze warning (yes, that's a thing) I went out and picked all our green tomatoes. I really haven't done much clean up yet, hoping that our first frost wouldn't be for a few more weeks. So we will see how things are faring in a couple days post freeze. I'll probably spend the next week or so cleaning out the beds for the winter.

The first frost means it's the official end to the summer garden, which always leaves me feeling bittersweet. Bitter since it means no more fresh tomatoes and cold weather. Sweet because I'm always a little tired of tending to the garden this time of year. And who knows what next year garden holds. With a little one around next year it's hard to know what I'll feel up to doing.

I still have my carrots, beets, spinach, and lettuce for the next few months to tide me over the next few months. And many of the herbs will last the winter as well.