What time is it?

Today is all about Time! Everyone is talking about it, and they’re happy too. Because it seems like we have an extra hour today.

Hours on the digital clockface
Hours on the clock face

How often have you checked, and rechecked, your watches and clocks today? Some don’t match. At least it doesn’t seem like they match the sunlight,  your hunger pangs, and your sleepiness.

Really, how often do you think about time? Before you say, “well, not that often“, think again.

Here’s a short list of time musings:

  • Time to go
  • Time to eat
  • Time to start
  • Time to think
  • What time is it?
  • What time does it start?
  • How long does it last?
  • Set the timer
  • Time goes on
  • Give it some time
  • I don’t have enough time
  • I wish I had more time
  • I will be a little late
  • Quality time
  • Did you have a good time?

But what does time look like? Did you think of a clock face? If so, did you envision a dial or a digital clock? Did you think of the darkness in late afternoon so we can have lighter mornings?

Today is a good day to reflect on this time observation since, in my part of the country, we are experiencing the end of Daylight Savings Time. We get to “fall back” and roll the clock back an hour. That’s a positive step for a happy life (maybe a stretch but we’ll go with it this week).

We get an extra hour. How will you spend it? Will it help make your week more productive?

Remember the old saying: “Early is on time. On time is late. And late is in trouble.”

Have a great day, every day!

See you on the blog!

Time for Tea

Cup of Tea
Cup of Tea

Enjoying a cup of tea, that is a positive step for a happy life. It’s one of the little joys. It’s appreciating the small things. It’s important to do for yourself.

Is your cup ready yet? Go ahead, go make a cup. What’s your favorite flavor?

Different flavors go with different times of day and fit different occasions and events. There are teas for the morning, afternoon tea, and teas that pair well with desserts. Tea can be enjoyed hot or cold, your choice!

Tea lovers tend to have a pattern. “I always drink Earl Gray in the morning”. “I always drink Green Tea in the afternoon.” “I only drink Darjeeling.” “Oolong is my favorite.”  And tea lovers tend to have a stash of teas.

There are teas for everyday drinking, such as my large stash of green tea bags. I keep a lot of Earl Gray and mint tea on hand for quick cups too.

As you can see from my stash, I’m not partial to one particular flavor. I like variety. It might be that I like so many teas I can’t always decide which one to make next. There’s no reason to limit your tea. The choices are endless.

Assortment of speciality teas - black, green, oolong tea
Assortment of speciality teas – black, green, oolong tea

My favorite tea shop, Gong Fu Tea, offers wonderful flavors. Reading their menu takes you on a trip around the world of teas. A small cup of tea is like a short vacation to the place where it was grown.

However, I usually reserve my specialty teas for weekend treats. It takes skill to brew the tea properly using the correct water temperature and brew time.

Traditional Tea Service Set
Traditional Tea Service Set

 

Ceramic covered tea steaping cups
Ceramic covered tea steaping cups

Then for special occasions, I enjoy the formal tea services. It raises the whole experience to a new level. It’s quite relaxing. Some people think they can taste the difference when tea is brewed properly. Maybe so. Or maybe you notice it when you make time for tea. Either way, it’s ok as long as it brings you joy.

What’s your favorite tea flavor? Do you prefer hot or cold tea? Sweetened or not? Tea lovers understand why I think there will be a part 2 of this “Tea” post featuring collections of tea mugs.

 

See you on the blog!

 

Garden Season Wrap-up Part 2

The last garden harvest - quite a haul
The last garden harvest – quite a haul

The last garden wrap-up post revered all the fresh garden produce. This is Part 2 and it not only celebrates the last haul, but also digs into the dirt of garden work. Best to harvest and save all the green produce you can; it might ripen up if you place it in a cool, dry place.

Now, there is a lot of postseason gardening work to do to winterize your garden. Get ready to dig in the dirt…

Pull It Up

Withered tomato plants and stakes
Withered tomato plants and stakes

First, you have to pull up the very long stakes that you use to stabilize the growing tomato plants. Long poles can be unwieldy! You can see the withered tomato plants. Time for them to come up.

The Dirty Work

Hauling away tomato debris
Hauling away tomato debris

Next you have to pull up the plants themselves. It’s really not as hard as you might think. The plant is usually taller than I am, and strong enough to hold many heavy tomatoes, but the roots are shallow so it’s easy to pull up the whole plant, especially if the soil is a little moist.

Cucumber vines and bean plants have long ago stopped producing. They pull up very easily.

I stack up the plants on a tarp to haul to the compost pile. This part is quite messy. Dirt goes everywhere, you’re pretty much covered head-to-toe by this time.

 

But, digging in the dirt is one of the joys of gardening. Enjoy this part! I told you there was a lot of postseason gardening work.

Supply Storage

Packing away the cages and stakes
Packing away the cages and stakes

Then, you have to pull up the cages. Stacking them together is more cumbersome than anything!

Haul the poles and cages to a covered area to hole up for the winter months.

Raking- Don’t Skip This Step

Goodbye tomato plants, until next spring
Goodbye tomato plants, until next spring

Lastly, you rake, and rake, and rake. You never get up everything, but it’s a good practice to clear out old debris, especially if any of the foliage had signs of the common tomato fungus, blight.

Even if tempted, do not skip the raking step. Next spring, you’ll be glad you did the postseason clean-up work.  Did I mention before that there is a lot of  postseason gardening work, and it is dirt-y?

What’s Left

A few banana, cayenne, and jalapeno pepper plants remain
A few banana, cayenne, and jalapeno pepper plants remain

There are a few plants left. Some of the sweet banana peppers, cayennes, and jalapenos are still in the garden. Maybe a few more will ripen over the next few weeks.

Brussel sprouts and sweet potato vines extend the season
Brussel sprouts and sweet potato vines extend the season

 

 

There are a few Brussel sprout plants left too. I’ve harvested most of the lower hanging sprouts, but the upper fruits will thrive in the cooler temps.

And, there are a lot of sweet potato vines left in the garden. They’ll be OK until the first frost. It will be digging time soon.

And That’s a Garden Wrap-Up, Part 2

Enjoy being outside working in the garden this fall. It’s a good feeling to wrap-up the garden in a caring, methodical manner. It’s a positive step for a happy life – taking care of your land, digging in the dirt, following the seasons of the garden.

See you on the blog!

 

Garden Season Wrap-Up

It’s time to wrap-up this garden season. Harvest the last produce and enjoy the last of the fruits of your gardening labor. Until next season…

Tomatoes

It may seem odd to be still harvesting Better Boy tomatoes. After a hot week, you can sometimes harvest too many tomatoes again. I already have a freezer full of tomato soup. It’s time to pull out the stops and make those other recipes that use a lot of tomatoes at one time – sundried tomatoes, homemade pizza sauce, a tomato tart and another batch of salsa – extra spicy since the jalapenos are ripe now too.

Cherry tomatoes from the garden
Cherry tomatoes from the garden
Tomato mozzarella salad with garden fresh tomatoes
Tomato mozzarella salad with garden fresh tomatoes

We all know that tomato mozzarella salad is the best when made with homegrown tomatoes and garden fresh herbs. Enjoy the last few servings. And remember to pick all your cherry tomatoes. They all seem to ripen at the same time but they’re tasty in stir fries, roasted with other vegetables, sautéed, in a salad, or my favorite – by the handful.

Save Your Garden Herbs

Dry garden parsley to use later
Dry garden parsley to use later

Don’t let your herbs wither in the cooler temperatures. If you can’t take the pots of herbs inside for the winter, just cut them back to the base. After you clean the herbs, dry them with an absorbent towel and then loosely scatter the herbs on a baking sheet. It may take a few weeks for them to dry out. Toss them around every few days to keep them drying.  You can also bunch together small handfuls and hang them by a string in a cool, dark place (like the garage). When they eventually dry out, crumble them into a storage container for your own homemade dried herbs. You will have your own dried sage, rosemary, parsley, chives, basil, etc… They might last you all winter.

Brussel Sprouts

Roasted garden Brussel Sprouts with pinenuts
Roasted garden Brussel Sprouts with pine nuts

Even though you’re using up the last of the summer favorites, it’s prime time to begin harvesting fall favorites like Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. You can either harvest the whole stalk of Brussel sprouts, or just break off a few at a time. It’s nice that they store so well and for a long time in the refrigerator. Brussel sprouts are simple to roast at a high temperature with a little olive oil. You can also shred them to make a great fall salad.

 

 

Garlic Overwinters in the Garden

And in the new space you create after pulling up the end-of-season plants, try planting garlic cloves. Let them stay in the ground all winter. In the spring you’ll see green stalks sprouting through the snow. Leave them there a long time. We’ll talk about harvesting them next spring (to make room to plant your summer tomato plants).

Enjoy being outside working in the garden this fall. The temperature is a bit cooler. There are still many vegetables to harvest and enjoy. It’s a positive step for a happy life – living off the land, eating what you grow, following the seasons of the garden.

See you on the blog!

What To Do With Cauliflower?

You won’t believe it is cauliflower! Really. You thought of cauliflower as a second class vegetable that you might occasionally eat only if it was covered in a cheese sauce. Maybe if it was coupled with broccoli and in a cheese sauce you would try it. Or if you picked it from a tasty crudité platter with a good dip.

The New Cauliflower

Introducing the new cauliflower. I resisted the foodie trend for a long time. First I roasted some cauliflower and made a soup. It was terrible. So I resisted the cauliflower band wagon even longer.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Until one of those recipe videos on Facebook caught my attention. It looked easy. But I was still skeptical of the taste. Eventually, I decided to give it a go. On our regular pizza night I decided to make a cauliflower pizza in addition to our traditional pizza. That way I would have a backup in case the cauliflower pizza was a total bust.

There are a zillion cauliflower pizza crust recipes on Facebook and Pinterest so you can find your own, but here are my tips:

Homemade Cauliflower Pizza Crust with Tomato and Basil
Cauliflower Pizza Crust with Tomato and Basil
  • Regardless of whether you use fresh or frozen cauliflower, you do need to squeeze out as much water as you can.
  • Pre-bake the crust as the directions indicate, or longer, because no one likes a soggy pizza crust.
  • Add spices and some cheese into the crust mixture. Cauliflower seems to absorb and represent the flavors well. This adds tremendous flavor and aroma to the dish.
  • Bake a little longer than called for and let sit a few minutes before slicing. You’re trying to firm the crust.

 

So now that it’s mixed and baked, how does it taste? Describing the taste as “neutral” sounds negative, but it’s not. The taste is fine; it’s good; it’s good enough to repeat for the next pizza. What it doesn’t taste like is a vegetable. It tastes like a good, mixed grain flatbread. It doesn’t taste like deep-dish pizza crust; it doesn’t taste like a thin-and-crispy crust either. It does taste like good pizza crust.

Cauliflower Rice

So, after the successful cauliflower pizza crust I bought a bag of frozen cauliflower “rice”. It did stay in the freezer a while until I figured out what to do with it. Again, another Facebook recipe video caught my attention. This time it was to make cauliflower fried rice. And it was a huge success!

I tried this recipe for Cauliflower Fried Rice. I served this tasty Sticky Honey Garlic Butter Shrimp with it. For full disclosure, I did substitute frozen cauliflower for fresh, which only made it easier and faster to make. And that is a positive step for a happy life!

You can’t tell the different between cauliflower and rice in this recipe. They look the same, and they taste the same. It does not taste too veg-ish at all. And just like rice, it is filling to eat. We didn’t have any leftovers, so I cannot say how well it saves in the refrigerator!

I am a cauliflower convert now. I didn’t even get into the health benefits because the taste stands on its own. I will be attempting more cauliflower substitution recipes. If you have a favorite, let me know.

See you on the blog!

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

That’s what fall is made of – pumpkin this, pumpkin that, and it’s all good.

Fall pumpkins stacked like a snowman.
Fall pumpkins stacked like a snowman.

In keeping with the blog post about going outside, which you can read here, we ventured out to the pumpkin patch. Actually, the pumpkin patch has a lot more than pumpkins.

If you read my blog post about a bountiful tomato harvest, which you can read here, know that I continue to be impressed with and inspired by nature. Pumpkins seem to produce bountiful harvests too.

Pumpkins

Warty pumpkin
Warty pumpkin

There are many of the beautiful, traditional orange pumpkins, but there are also unique varieties that add color, contrast, and interest to the world of pumpkins. There are white, green, pastel, red, and multi-colored pumpkins. There are striped pumpkins. There are double pumpkins, mini pumpkins and HUGE pumpkins. Among the most unusual are bumpy pumpkins, which some people call “warty” to go along with the Halloween witch theme.

Pie pumpkins for baking
Pie pumpkins for baking

And don’t forget the small baking pumpkins; they’re perfect for making seasonal favorites such as pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. Did I mention how much I like pumpkin seeds?  Ever wonder where all the pumpkin spice comes from?

 

Gourds

Mix of colorful gourds
Mix of colorful gourds

At the pumpkin patch you’ll also find gourds in all extremes of shapes, sizes and colors. You can compile quite a collection of interesting objects to make a seasonal display on your front porch or to make a long-lasting centerpiece.

Squash

Butternut, Spaghetti and Acorn Squash
Butternut, Spaghetti and Acorn Squash

There are also many types of vegetables mixed in with the pumpkins and gourds at the pumpkin patch. You can find several varieties of squash. They’re know as winter squash and you can cook with them. Try the spaghetti squash, acorn squash, or the most familiar butternut squash. They have the advantage of being able to be stored at room temperature for long periods. So, mix them in the centerpiece you make with the gourds, then pull out one at a time for your meal.

Corn

One of my fall favorites is colorful, dried corn. It seems to me to be a traditional change-of-seasons icon. Maybe that means I like corn in all states: on the cob, dried, and popped! Maybe that is why going out to the pumpkin patch is a positive step for a happy life!

Colorful dried corn
Colorful dried corn
Colorful fall flowers
Colorful fall flowers

Seeing the change in color scheme of fall flowers is a signal that we’re changing seasons, once again. It’s all good. Time to move along and enjoy the present.

No wonder we have officially entered the season which could be called pumpkin everything: pie, latte, spice, seeds, bread, muffins, pancakes, risotto, curry, ravioli, hummus, granola, ice cream, cheesecake, chutney, soup, butter, … you get the idea – pumpkin everything!

That’s what fall is made of – pumpkin this, pumpkin that, and it’s all nice. It’s a great motto!

See you on the blog!

Go Outside

Go outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes. A quick break outside in the fresh air is a positive step for a happy life!

Most of the time I do this on a beautiful, blue sky type of day. I know there are aspects of a rainy or snowy day that are wonderful, but today I’m talking about going outside on warm, sunny days.

Blue Sky
Blue Sky

The vastness of a big blue sky is a perspective adjustment. A few white, fluffy clouds add dimension to the view. This adds new meaning to the thought of infinity. It’s time to just breathe.

Green grass
Green grass

Now, look down. Pretty green grass grows in many shades of green. You can see it reaching up to the sky. You can feel it absorb the warmth of the sunlight.

Prairie grasses
Prairie grasses

 

Now, look around. Prairie grass blows in the breeze. Bees buzz all over the lavender. A potted plant in the shade happily flowers. These plants exist outside in nature every day as we hurriedly pass by, often barely offering a glance.

Lavendar plant
Lavendar plant

 

 

Beautiful red plant
Beautiful red plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sky, grass, and other plants come together to make a healthy ecosystem. We all benefit from the gentle contributions from each member. Take time to go outside, stop whatever you’re doing, and enjoy them all! It doesn’t take that much time, just a few minutes – and a few deep breaths.

Here is another appreciation of plants in our world.

See you on the blog!

Happy Bike Trails

Riding a bike is fun. It always has been since I got my first bike. But riding your bike on bike trails is a whole new level of fun.

The Space

Biking around the horse farms
Biking around the horse farms

The scenery around many of the bike trails is what distinguishes a trail bike ride from a walk in the park. You travel behind the scenes, along routes that car drivers don’t even see from the road. The only traffic you encounter is other people out enjoying the nature paths, maybe with their four-legged companion. Occasionally a few horseback riders will cross your path too.

The beauty of nature is one of the most enjoyable aspects of a bike trail ride. The green space is mostly quiet, vast, and peaceful. You can spot birds, deer, and varieties of plants, flowers and trees. It’s amazing to watch the seasons change from your two wheels.

The View

Enjoy the view from the wooden bridge while bikeriding!
Enjoy the view from the wooden bridge while bike riding!

One of my favorite bike trails crosses a river and loops around a lake. The old, wooden bridge is a landmark place to stop for a water break. As you can see, it also offers a great photo opportunity!

Bike around the big lake!
Bike around the big lake!

 

It’s a breathtaking moment when I crest the little hill approaching the lake. The beautiful view of the lake, woods, and city skyline make the many-mile bike ride to get there all worthwhile. Whew, that’s why we rode that far – to see this! Take a couple of laps around the lake; it’s a flat, easy ride. Stop on the long bridge for more photo ops. And call that a positive step for a happy life!

 

The Exercise

Well, the ole saying – what goes up, has to go down – interpreted to a bike trail ride means that when you bike to the lake, you do eventually have bike back to your starting point. Sometimes the return ride takes a bit longer than the first half. That’s ok; it gives you more time to enjoy the pretty scenery.

I find the bike riding exercise to be most relaxing – it’s like exercise without realizing you’re working so hard because you’re captivated by the scenery. Give a bike trail ride a try!

See you on the blog!

 

Tomato Time

It is tomato time of the year. It is that time of year when the garden reaches maximum production of fresh tomatoes. It seems like the various varieties can stagger their ripening until a point at which they all come together to yield ripe tomatoes at the same time. Warm days do the charm on the tomatoes so every day you can harvest a full basket or two.

Tomatoes for Every Meal

During the peak of the season, you can enjoy fresh garden tomatoes at every meal. Have a few cherry tomatoes in your scrambled eggs for breakfast. Have a tomato sandwich or tomato soup for lunch. The dinner possibilities are endless. Think beyond sliced tomatoes, or tomatoes on your regular salad. Try broiled tomatoes with herbs and cheese on top. Try tomatoes with a blue cheese sauce. Make tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Homemade pasta sauce and pizza sauce are tasty uses of fresh tomatoes. And Tomato mozzarella salad never gets old.

Do you still have extra tomatoes? In the photos below you can see some of my favorite ways to use a lot of tomatoes at one time.  Tomatoes go a long way to bring enjoyment to your summertime meals. That’s why they are a positive step for a happy life.

Extreme Situations

Some years the harvest is just so bountiful it calls for extreme measures. What I mean is that I have to dig very deep into the piles of tomato recipes to find creative ways to use all the tomatoes. Have you ever heard of tomato infused olive oil? Try tomato butter, it’s great on a grilled cheese sandwich. Homemade tomato chutney uses a lot of tomatoes and lasts a long time in the refrigerator. You can make your own ketchup and tomato sauce too.

Never let a tomato go to waste. There is always a creative way to enjoy a fresh tomato, two or ten.

See you on the blog!