Monday, December 18, 2017


Long time, no see! I had fully intended to post back in October but once again, time got away from me. Since then, much has happened. One of the highlights was making my own mochi. I've loved this Japanese rice cake treat for years. (I am not Japanese but I can see why they love making it.) It's traditionally made with a red bean filling so I made one version with that and another kind geared more toward American tastes with strawberry. Of course, I had to make both pink! It seems like it would be difficult to make but it was much easier than I anticipated. My husband was so excited that he snapped this photo of me with my sweet little mochi.

And now back to October when I had intended to post! It was the first hard frost of the season and I was very sad to say goodbye to my beautiful squash plants. We harvested all we could that night. This was our last pick of the crop—beautiful acorn squash, 'Eight Ball' zucchini, patty pan squash, Middle Eastern zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and my favorite, my delicata squash.

We have a root cellar so I'm able to still enjoy the fruits of my harvest. Today I'm roasting some of my delicata squash for lunch. It's so easy. The hardest part of cooking winter squash for me was always cutting it because its exterior is so hard, but I found a solution that has made all the difference. I pierce the skin with a fork and heat it in the microwave for two minutes. It's then tender enough to easily cut. For delicata, you simply cut the squash in half lengthwise then cut it into 1/2 inch slices. 

Speaking of yummy things to eat, I found a new healthy recipe in a calendar I was recently given. It's for spinach puffs! They're made primarily of potato flakes and you guessed it, spinach! I scoop them with my largest cookie scoop onto a baking sheet and bake them for 30 minutes. I loved them so much that I made them as a side dish for our Thanksgiving feast.

I must admit the highlight of this year's Thanksgiving feast was making my own turkey broth. Those of you who've done this for years probably think this is crazy but for novices like me who have never done this before, it was truly a thrilling experience. I suddenly realized what I'd been missing all these years. The broth was incredibly delicious. The only thing that threw me initially was that it gelled into a jello-like consistency. It looked like a big bowl of turkey jello! The following Monday I called my local home extension service to ask about this and found out this was a good thing, meaning that the simmering process had really drawn out the collagen from the bones, creating the jelly consistency. Here is a photo of the broth right after we took it out of the pot so it hadn't gelled yet.

Our broth adventure also yielded this wonderful bowl of turkey meat from the carcass and veggies. This meat was so much more flavorful and tender than the one we ate for dinner. I enjoyed many dinners of this delicious broth and turkey meat.

With our Thanksgiving dessert, I always serve tea. One of my favorite teas is blooming tea in which you place a tea bloom in a pot and let it steep. My favorites are jasmine and chrysanthemum tea. I buy a lot of my tea at Little Woods Herbal and Teas in Ames and I took this photo of one of their tea blooms steeping in a glass teapot. If you're going to bother with blooming tea, you want to serve it in a glass teapot to show off the beautiful bloom.

These are my glass teapots. I served my tea in the larger squatter pot on the right since it serves more people. I haven't used the little one at the left yet but I love its shape. It's better suited to serving two or so people. 

I didn't have much time to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving like I usually do. The pink Christmas tree is up, though. (You can see photos of it in last year's December posts.) I did find these wonderful paper accordion trees from West Elm. I was worried that they might be sort of flimsy but they're very stout little things so I was worried for naught. They make a delightful little winter forest on my table.

I don't know about you but when the weather turns chilly, I suddenly get more in the mood to curl up and read a good book but not just any good book—one that promises to enrich my life somehow. Here are my picks for December. I've read many books on the Danish concept of hyyge so why not this one on the Swedish art of balanced living?

This is totally unrelated to anything that I've talked about but it certainly made me smile when I saw it so I thought I'd end this post with a photo of sweet little sheep fob I recently found. Those who know me well know that I have a fondness for sheep. I don't know if it comes from my love of wool or the fact that sheep are just plain cute creatures. Who knew they made sheep fobs that you could hang from your purse?! 

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Last weekend we enjoyed a fun stay in the Twin Cities visiting friends and taking a tour of backyard chicken coops organized by one of our favorite area shops, Eggplant Urban Farm Supply. The hosts and their chickens were most welcoming, and their landscapes were equally charming. One homeowner invited us to hold her chickens. I was happy to oblige but hubby was a little more tentative.

There were so many beautiful coops and chickens on the tour. 

As I was taking photos at this location, I noticed a feline friend had taken great interest in all the activity around her. 

Many of the chickens at the following stop won awards at the state fair.

We also managed to check out some cute shops we hadn't been to before, including the sweetest candy shop (3rd photo below) and crafty shop (first two photos below). I like how the crafty shop reinvented those large wooden spools that once corralled power cables into colorful displays for fabric. 

When I'm in the Twin Cities (usually twice a year), one thing I like to do is buy my clothes for the upcoming season because they don't have any sales tax on clothing. I found the most comfy tunic and leggings at Lolë. I'm short enough that I can actually wear the tunic as a dress but I think I will wear it with the leggings. I like this shop because they have classic activewear in nice neutrals like gray, black and taupe. I don't like anything flashy when it comes to activewear, and comfort is always at the top of my list. 

The pants have the coolest mesh detail. I don't know if this photo captures it well enough but here it is.

I also love the shop's slogan! It's an inspiring message for us all. 

My other favorite find was this vintage wool pillow cover that I found at an occasional vintage shop right in the heart of the city. I thought it would go perfectly with my pink sofa (pictured below) and it sure did. It didn't come with a pillow form but luckily, I had the right size one in my sewing room. Tom always gets a laugh from the fact that I can find practically whatever I need in this house—and the pillow form was no exception!

We finished the weekend off by treating ourselves to some of our favorite local Des Moines treats once we returned—Jewish potato and spinach pies and Mexican sweet bread dressed in my favorite hue, pink. Yum!

When we returned, we were delighted to find our garden was still flourishing. The butternut, delicata and acorn squash have been producing well and more should be ready to harvest soon.

I have so much zucchini this year that I decided to freeze some so I can enjoy zucchini fritters in the middle of winter. I wasn't aware that you could preserve zucchini but I got instructions on how to preserve it from the Iowa Extension Service. My food processor sure got a workout that day!

Thursday, August 3, 2017


It's been five long months since I posted, so I'm doubtful anyone is still reading but I'll continue to write since I promised myself I'd keep this blog as an occasional diary of life's happenings. It's been a great help remembering when certain things took place and how things like my garden have evolved over the past seven years. To make a long story short, I had a rather rough spring and it's taken me longer than anticipated to get back on the blogging track. I had no less than five family members in the hospital for various things. We sadly lost one but the other four are okay now, thankfully. All the stress took a toll on my well being and I've been trying to practice self-care like yoga and making nutritious smoothies in my new Vitamix to get back on track. I've been taking yoga classes twice a week and a water exercise class once a week at my local Y. I'm hoping to eventually take a couple water classes a week if I can bring myself to get there early in the morning. Part of the healing process has also been getting back in the sewing room. The other afternoon I decided to try making a cute pincushion pattern I found in a Country Register a few years ago. It's the cutest cat head pincushion.

I've also been busy trying to keep up with the garden, which has been a challenge this year since we're practically in a drought here in central Iowa. I don't think we've even gotten a half of an inch of rain in the last three months. As a result, I've been watering the garden nearly ever other day and my edibles are still struggling. I was very disappointed to get only this much from the garden one day last week. I usually get more than twice that much on any given day. Everything started out so well at the beginning of the growing season. I started harvesting zucchini in late June, which people say is early. My cherry tomatoes started coming along in mid July. If you grow zucchini, I'd be curious to know if this is typical timing for zucchini. Feel free to email me by clicking the Email Me button located at the top right sidebar of my blog. 

This is my first year growing tomatoes and among the six varieties I chose is this fun grape tomato called 'Chocolate Sprinkles' and wow, does it taste good. I would highly recommend it. 

I grew this pattypan squash from seed and just started harvesting it last week.

When life does give me zucchini, I make zucchini fritters...

Or a zoodle (zucchini noodle) salad with my spiralizer. If you have a spiralizer, I would be curious to know which brand you have and if you like it (Again feel free to email me by clicking the Email Me button in the right sidebar of my blog). I am 75 percent satisfied with the kind I have but don't feel the suction cups that are supposed to keep the unit in place work as well as they could. 

Speaking of kitchen gadgets, I recently found the perfect solution to making rice and quinoa for my small household of two. It's this handy little mini rice cooker, which I found for $14. I could never bring myself to buy the larger ones since they were way oversized for what we need. This cooker makes up to two cups, which is plenty for us. Best of all, it's pink! I just thought I'd mention it for those of you with small households like us. We use the extra rice to make coconut milk rice pudding.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


My heart always sings when I see the first harbingers of spring—the crocus—in my garden. Here they are peeking through the layer of leaves we leave in the fall to protect the flowers through the winter.  I also noticed the leaves of my rhubarb plant are starting to redden.

Too bad it still feels like winter here in central Iowa. The colder months often find me baking something to satisfy our sweet toothes. My vintage owl cookie jar was crying out for more cookies. 

So I obliged by making a batch of ginger cookies with molasses. They are my favorite kind of cookie. Does anyone else out there like molasses cookies? I always hear about people raving about chocolate chip or peanut butter but I rarely hear people singing the praises of molasses. If you regularly read this blog, you know that my husband is prediabetic, so I have to find ways to reduce or eliminate the sugar in the treats we keep around the house. The only sugar these cookies have are the molasses and turbinado sugar I rolled them in. I also substituted half of the butter (it called for a whole stick!) with a healthier alternative and most of the flour with whole wheat flour. These cookies are NOT designed to crackle as much as regular molasses cookies. I tried three other molasses cookie recipes and we found this recipe tastes the best with no sacrifice in flavor for the healthier substitutions. 

Besides cookies, my husband has also been clamoring for homemade granola. He buys a couple brands every week at the store hoping to find something healthier but good-tasting. I don't know much about granola but he told me it's actually pretty bad for you because of the sugar and oil. So I made it my mission to find a healthier alternative for him. I found most of my ingredients at my local Trader Joes. I already had plenty of old-fashioned oats and unsalted walnuts in the pantry. All nuts we used were unsalted due to my kidney condition. 

I enjoyed baking up this sugar-free, oil-free granola. We like it as dark as possible without burning it. I'd like to eventually add dried fruit to the mix but I couldn't find any that hadn't been sweetened at the grocery stores, so I plan to dry some blueberries in my dehydrator for the next batch. Despite being oil-free, this recipe actually clumps because of the special syrup I use but I'm not one to have to have clumps in my granola. I prefer to break it all up but my husband likes small clumps.

Last but not least, I wish you all a Happy St. Paddy's Day. I just love the way my favorite kitty boutique dressed up their window for the festive occasion! How cute is that?!

Friday, February 10, 2017


Valentine's Day came early here. I received this pretty vintage pink and brown Brother sewing machine from my hubby.

The seller was nice enough to thread the machine so whoever bought it would easily be able to figure it out even though a manual was also included. While I've seen these machines on the internet, I've never seen one in person. If you happen to own one of these or know anything about the history of these machines, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me by clicking the "Email Me" button in the right-hand sidebar of my blog. Thank you, hubby! He also gave me this cheerful vintage granny squares lap blanket that was on my wish list.

This new/old machine will be the perfect addition to my freshly organized sewing room. If you read my blog, you know I've been parting with a lot of fabric lately—16 bags to be exact! They all went to a very good home—a local organization that teaches inner city residents and refugees who cannot afford fabric how to sew. I knew it was the perfect place when I saw that their offices are also home to two friendly cats! What a good feeling it was to give to those in need. 

To reward myself for finally getting through my fabric stash (a huge accomplishment for me), I decided to splurge on a dress I'd been eyeing at one of my favorite stores, Anthropologie. Two years ago, I made it a goal to wear more dresses after being inspired by one of the hosts of a cooking show that I watch. I've been wanting to find more long-sleeve dresses to wear in the fall and winter and it seems like they are harder to find than sleeveless or short-sleeved ones. I was immediately smitten with this one on display in our local Anthro store.

I go to this store because I not only like their clothes but their great customer service. I like this dress's nice comfy, loose fit. I'm sure I'll be wearing it for years to come! You might have spotted my new iPhone in this photo. It will be a shock to all who personally know me as I've lived with a cheap TracFone for years and vowed never to buy a smartphone. Well, my husband decided it was time to get me a better phone and promised me he could find a reasonably priced service. Ours is $35 a month. If any of you who have iPhone have found a cheaper service, please let me know! This is my very first smartphone and it's probably a waste of money as I rarely use it but I have learned how to take photos with it. 

In other but totally unrelated news, I was really excited to find a dairy-free cheese. For those of you who are lactose-intolerant like me, finding alternatives to regular cheese isn't fashionable—it's necessary if we don't want to get sick all the time. I can still eat some cheese but have to be careful about the type and amounts I consume. When my sister was here visiting back in August of last year, she told me about some almond cheese that she really likes. I just found this cashew cheese that tastes equally good. Just thought those of you who are also lactose-intolerant might be interested in this.

This happy find inspired me to start a Dairy-Free Living board on my Pinterest page. Can you tell I have a weakness for pistachio ice cream?! It's great to have a dairy-free option, although I am hooked on the Halo Top brand. 

I finally received my replacement Cuisinart blade after hearing about the recall late last year. So I can now once again make my raw brownies. Just mixed up another batch this morning! I use unsalted walnuts in mine but pecans also work well, however, they are more expensive than walnuts in my local stores.

And last but not least, I wanted to share something about Winnie, our most recent addition to the family. I've received eight emails asking where he got his pink nail caps. Here is a photo of my sweetie. Like his brother Figaro when he was younger, Winnie loves to sit on my lap while I work at the computer. It must be a phase of their youth since Figgy has since outgrown it.

Winnie got his nail caps installed at our local kitty boutique, Smitten Kitten, in Des Moines. We've been going to this boutique for two years and love the service we receive. I got the cutest pink cat carrier here. The clerk called me as soon as they came in and held on to one for me.

This is a darling shop and one of the only ones I think in the area dedicated to our feline friends. They have a large selection of nutritious cat food and will be glad to help you select the right one for your kitty. We've been getting Winnie and Figgy Orijen chicken-flavored food here.

There are two resident kitties, Walter and Lola. I'm not sure which one of them this is as they look very similar except for the fact Walter is quite a bit larger than Lola.

The owner fosters kittens for Furry Friends Refuge, so at any given time, there are lots of sweet kittens running around. Be careful to look underfoot if you visit! An added bonus is that Creme Cupcake is right next door. I love their cake bites and lemon bars. 

Speaking of sweet kitties, I want to tell you about a very special guy up for adoption at Boone Area Humane Society in Boone, Iowa, where we found our Winnie. We are sponsoring this kitty so you can adopt him for free if approved. His name is Mr. Magoo and he is completely blind. I'm so glad the shelter found him as he was wandering the streets of Boone terrified and alone. In case you're wondering, yes, he can find the litter. The shelter says he uses it like a champ. If you'd like to find out more about this sweet guy, you can contact the shelter at 515/432-6112 or visit him at 226 W. 16th St. in Boone!