Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wild and Precious Life

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Today I added eleven things to my already overflowing 'To Do' list and I was struck by one of my favorite Mary Oliver quotes, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?". 



I want to remember that each of these 'to do's', in the end, is how I spend my time and thus how I spend my life. Are they worth a piece of my life? Are your 'to do's' worth a piece of yours?

Here's a link to the full poem

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Holiday Self Care

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The holidays are upon us, which are an amazing time filled with lights, and cheer, and family & friends, and perfect gifts to celebrate the one's you love, and stress, and obligation, and stress. And did we mention stress? 

Hectic lives are made even more hectic with the crush of commitments to make the perfect holiday. 14 teacher gifts, 8 neighbor gifts, 20 co-worker gifts, cookies to bake, evenings filled with battling it out with fellow merry-makers for the perfect present, rushing from work to holiday gatherings, all while still trying to find some time to revel in the reason for the season and share with those who are less fortunate (hopefully). Well, it's enough to make anyone crack. Remember in this season of giving, that's you "can't pour from an empty cup" and it's essential to give to yourself with self care. 

If you don't make time to take care of you, you may look up and discover you missed the moments of wonder in the holidays. Staggering into January, exhausted, you still have three months of winter to look forward to, putting away all those festive decorations, and a mountainous credit card bill. The time to find balance is now!

So, without further ado, here's our list of six essential self care practices to get you through the holidays:

1) Just Say No

You don't need to have a grand reason or conflicting arrangements already made to justify saying no to a holiday obligation. If you say yes to everything asked of you during the holiday you may be busy from dawn to midnight every day of December, which leaves no time to enjoy the season. It may be saying no to a party invite, a new project, the opportunity to hand knit socks for the homeless, or, equally important, no to your own impossible expectations. Sure, it might be nice to work with the kiddos to hand craft teacher gifts, but $1 boxes of mini-chocolates will get the job done and free up an evening that might otherwise end in tears. 

2) Meditate

"I'm busy enough; I don't have time to meditate," you might think. But seriously, mindfulness mediation has been proven to decrease stress and increase happiness. Left to it's own devices brains are constantly dwelling in the past or racing toward the future. Activities are conducted thinking about what we need to do next. Practicing mindfulness meditation helps you hone the skill of acknowledging your thoughts and releasing them, which can help you exist in the moment so you can relish those moments with loved one's instead of skipping over their smiles as you race to the next thing. 

3) Structure a morning routine

Now is as good a time as any to create a morning routine that fills your cup. Starting your day off right provides the foundation for a good day. What does your ideal morning look like? Is it getting up early for a morning run? Rolling out of bed and onto a yoga mat? A few quiet minutes with your partner enjoying a cup of coffee? Meditation? Setting an intention for the day? Journaling? Praying? What is the thing that you need to put you in the right mindset for the day? Once you've determined that, figure out how to build in the time you need in the morning to give yourself that strong start for a good day.

4) Plan fun for the new year

The flip side of the holiday coin is how everything fizzles out in January. Exhausted and spent out, the holidays end and there's nothing to look forward to but the credit card bill. As a way to reduce your obligation load and give yourself something to look forward to, shift some of your holiday plans into the new year. Maybe you host your appetizer party in January. Or a cook-off for most creative use for leftovers. Maybe you send New Year letters, instead of Christmas cards. Maybe you create a new tradition such as, closet clean out party (I am a huge fan of organizing, so this would be fun for me, some of you might have gotten chills reading those words, find what works for you), gratitude letters for why you appreciate the person who gave you a gift instead of standard thank you cards, crafting parties where you reinvent leftover items from the holidays, etc.  

5) Practice moderation

The holidays are rife with cookies, candies, potlucks, parties, festive cocktails, etc. Saying no altogether can lead to feelings of resentment and depression and then a boomerang of overeating. Conversely, throwing caution to the wind and eating whatever you want at every turn can lead to some serious regret and self-loathing when you climb on the scale in January. Instead, practice moderation. Find a balance. When you go to a party, scan the offerings and choose one indulgence or bite sized portions of several. Enjoy a taste of the season, but stick with one cookie instead of ten or a few bites of pie instead of a full serving. A loved lived life is about balance. 

6) Get some exercise



It may seem counter intuitive and you may be thinking that you don't have the energy for exercise with all your other obligations, but getting some regular exercise will keep your energy levels up and fight off those extra calories ubiquitous around the holidays. Hopefully there's a type of exercise that brings your some joy, such as a walk around the block with a loved one after a meal, or at the very least things you don't hate. If going to the gym would be Dante's third ring for you, then don't do that, but maybe you enjoy listening to an audio book on the elliptical at home or jamming out to music at a dance class. Find what works for you and make time for it. You deserve it. 

Hopefully these few quick and easy routines will help you have a loved lived holiday this festive season! If you have tips that work for you, please share them below!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Slow Cooker Gluhwein

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Are your ready for the taste of the Christmas Market or Christkindlmarkt

If you've ever been to a German Christmas market, you've probably had the opportunity to try some German mulled wine otherwise known as Glühwein. You can buy this at places like World Market (at least if you don't live in Utah) or you could make your own, which is IMO, much better. Here's a quick and easy recipe.

I like to start with a wine that already has some natural sweetness. Many people advocate a dry wine, but if you go too dry it can be a bit antiseptic, plus you're adding sugar to it anyway, so let's not kid ourselves here. What you do want, though, is something flavorful. Now, I'm not talking about a sweet red wine, though if you are one who drinks a lot of soda you might want to consider this, but I'm talking about something that hints at sweetness while still carrying a robust  red wine flavor. My favorite options are Zinfandel or the new Bota Box Nighthawk wine.

Slow Cooker Glühwein


Slow Cooker Glühwein or Mulled Wine Recipe from
www.alovedlivedlife.com


Ingredients

1 bottle red wine (Zinfandel, ideally)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
5 whole allspice
1 orange, sliced



Directions

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker on low for an hour or so and then switch to warm for many, many (6 or so) hours allowing the spices to really saturate the wine. The key is that you don't want to wine to simmer or boil; you're not trying to cook the alcohol out, just infuse the flavors. The great thing about making it in a slow cooker is you can serve out of it during the evening, if you're practicing your hygge and entertaining in the cold winter nights.  If you don't want to make this in the slow cooker: Place all the ingredients in a sturdy sided, nonreactive saucepan and bring to just below a simmer. Heat together stirring occasionally for 45 minutes or so. Note: I placed the allspice in a tea ball and embedded the cloves in the oranges, but you can do it however works for you. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Smoked Turkey Paella

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     Looking for something, well, AWESOME to do with your turkey leftovers? Paella, that most quintessential Spanish dish. If you've never had paella, it's a rice dish seasoned with saffron, onion, tomatoes, and just about anything else you want to add. It is a hearty meal best shared with family and friends, (can you say hygge) and, in our case, we decided to use leftover turkey in lieu of chicken. 

     We also decided that paprika-laden Spanish chorizo (not to be mistaken with Mexican chorizo) would be absolutely amazing with the smokiness of the turkey and, of course, there had to be shrimp! It's a great one pan dish and although we are total kitchen gadget junkies (yes, we own a paella pan) I used a heavy skillet for this iteration and I cooked it on the stove top instead of the the turkey fryer burner we use during the summer months. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes of prep time and 30 to 45 minutes cooking time, so it really can be dinner in an hour and it will blow your family and friends away! 

Spanish Chorizo!
     There are a few specialty ingredients you'll need to make a proper paella. The aforementioned Spanish chorizo being one. Do not confuse this with Mexican chorizo, the Spanish version is a salami-like sausage seasoned with paprika and can be cut into cubes or thin slices. Boar's Head makes a Spanish style chorizo which we use since there isn't a Spanish market anywhere near us. Boar's Head is quite good and I've been very happy with it . A friend mentioned there's a great online Spanish market called La Tienda where you can get chorizo, if there isn't any available near you. 
     The second specialty ingredient you'll need is saffron. This incredible spice is the stamen of the crocus satimus, yes- the flower! It provides a delicious flavor as well as a bright yellow color to any dish it is added to and a little goes a long way! Saffron is hand harvested, so I'll admit, it's spendy, but a bottle of saffron will last a long time and as it's dried, it won't go bad.
Saffron Threads


The final specialty ingredient, and arguably the star of the show, is the short grained Spanish paella rice which cooks quickly and absorbs a lot of liquid. When the dish is complete, the rice is dry and the grains have structure, and it isn't creamy like arborio rice used in risotto. I've never tried using a short grained rice other then paella rice in any paella dish I've made, so I don't know how, any other short grain rice might work as a substitution. This is paella after all, and the rice is key to the overall dish, so just order a bag online or find it locally and do it right- trust me, you won't be disappointed!

Yep, the bag says it all!




Smoked Turkey Paella- serves at least 8!

Ingredients

4 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp Saffron threads
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 Medium Onions, diced
1 Bell Peppers, chopped
15 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
2-3 Garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Paella rice
1/2-3/4 lb leftover turkey
1 lb. Spanish Chorizo, chopped (request a thick cut from the deli counter, 1/4"-1/2")
1 lb. Shrimp, shelled and deveined


Directions

In a sauce pan, bring the chicken stock and saffron to a slow simmer, keep hot. Meanwhile, using a heavy bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat and when hot, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, smoked paprika, and minced garlic to the pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium heat.

Add the two cups of paella rice and stir to coat the grains. Once they are coated, add the stock and stir to fully combine. After that- let it sit, resist the urge to stir it! One of the most flavorful aspects of paella is the socarrat, a crusty caramelized crust that forms on the bottom of the pan as the paella cooks. After about 10 minutes add your diced chorizo, shrimp and turkey. You can work the meats into the rice a little, but take care not to disturb the socarrat. After all the stock has been absorbed, approximately another 10-15 minutes, remove from heat and cover with foil. Allow the paella to sit for 8-10 minutes before serving.

Bring the whole pan to the table and serve straight from it being sure to scrape up some of the delicious socarrat from the bottom to go with each serving! Bon Appetit and be sure to let us know what you think of this recipe!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Practice Hygge this Winter

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Are you like me, staring out the window at a grey day wondering where summer went? It's hard to stay upbeat when the weather is dreary and the days are short, but I was inspired by something I was reading the other day. Since 2012, a happiness survey has been conducted to figure out where the happiest countries in the world are and what they're doing right (Spoiler alert: none of the happiest countries are tropical paradises). 

Denmark, home of seventeen hours of darkness in the winter, is consistently one of the happiest countries in the world. They were just knocked out of the top spot this year by Norway. Entire books have been written about the dynamics of happiest countries, so this isn't where I will explore my hypotheses about why, but a gem from Denmark is their practice of Hygge the concept of which sort of translates into candlelit coziness and well being.



This winter Mr. Awesome & I have some ideas of how you can bring some Hygge (pronounced Hue-gah) and some happiness into cold, dark winter days:
1) Plan a game night with your family or friends
2) Read by the fire (or space heater)
3) Eat dinner by candlelight
4) Learn a great indoor hobby, like knitting
5) Make your inside space cozy and comfortable by decluttering and surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy
6) Light a candle on your desk while you work
7) Do yoga by candlelight
8) Practice self-massage
9) Run a bath
10) Bake something! There's nothing cozier than the rhythmic processes of baking, the warmth coming from the stove, the smells filling the air, and then indulging in something warm from the oven
11) Share your baked goods with a neighbor
12) Brew a cuppa
13) Tackle a puzzle 
14) Write a letter - to yourself, someone you admire, someone who might be alone this winter
15) Create a pretty landscape to look at out the window - white lights in a single tree, gnomes peeking out of the snow, a snowman, pine boughs on your window ledge, something that will make you smile to see
16) Host an activity - potluck, make holiday decorations, movie night, etc.

How do you practice Hygge? We'd love to hear your thoughts below. 



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Guys, we need friends... real friends... or it might kill us

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     Men are horrible about keeping and maintaining friendships. Okay... full disclosure, I'm horrible about keeping and maintaining friendships. When I was a kid, I had tons of friends and got along with just about everyone. In high school I got along with the preps and the jocks, the burnouts and the nerds, just about everyone. The years have gone by and Mrs. Awesome and I have moved from place to place we've had so many incredible experiences and met so many amazing people and made some good friends along the way. 


     But as I've grown older, I've realized I've tended to distance myself from those old friends and from making new ones. I keep in touch, largely thanks to social media with a few of the guys who knew me "back in the day," one of my closest friends I've known since the second grade. I don't truly know how it happens, but I think as we find our paths, our families and our careers, substantial friendships seem to falter. I think back to when I kid and right up through my teens- and the friends I had I could talk to about what was going on and what I was going through. Whether it was school, or girls, my parents, whatever- there was always a friend I could talk to. But at some point we change, become more reserved, less willing to talk about anything with our friends, less open to the challenges and struggles in our lives and less willing or perhaps able to spend time to build, grow and nurture those friendships.

     A friend of mine and I would regularly say, 'we can go years without talking and within a few minutes of getting caught up it's like no time has past.' I used to think that was a good thing, now I'm reconsidering, thanks to Mrs. Awesome. Trying to make some sense of what might have driven a wealthy, successful man to barricade himself in a high-rise hotel room and open fire into a crowd of concert-goers she read me an article on loneliness in middle aged men and the psychological and physical toll studies are showing it takes. Now, please, don't for a moment think I'm suggesting this is what fueled his attack on these innocents. I'm simply saying it got me thinking.

     There have been numerous studies conducted John Cacioppo, co-author of the book "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection," told TODAY. Mortality risk can be increase by 26 percent due to regular feelings of loneliness according to a meta-analysis of studies. Additionally, loneliness has been linked with cardiovascular disease, the progression of Alzheimer's disease, and increased chance of stroke according to Dr. Richard Schwartz, co-author of "The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century." 

     So what's a guy to do? Cacioppo offers a few suggestions. First, we have to extend ourselves. That means making the effort. Hitting "Like" on Facebook isn't enough- put the devices away and make real connections with your friends. Make plans to do things together, share experiences and make memories. We're all busy, and Schwartz suggests building in regularity- scheduling time regularly is one of the best ways for men to build and keep friendships. Secondly, back to Cacioppo, seek out others with similar interests. Whether that's through websites like meetup.com or local clubs and organizations, we're more likely to build friendships. And lastly, Cacioppo recommends that we find friends who want to spend time with us for reasons beyond material benefit. Finding people who want to hang out with us because they want to be friends- and don't expect anything in return.

     So there you have it guys, it's in our best interest to get out there and start making some memories. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a friend and his family in the mountains for the annual elk hunt this year. It was an absolutely great time and it was fantastic to spend a couple weekends sharing the experience, and even though I didn't get an elk this year, we're already talking about next year's hunt and getting together plenty of times before then.



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Host a Sweater Pumpkin Party

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Crafting is fun, but crafting with friends is even better. Have some fall fun by hosting a Sweater Pumpkin Making Party. You just need a few quick things:

1) Friends or acquaintances
2) Consumable Sweater pumpkin makings: old sweaters (I got mine at Goodwill); polyfil (I got mine at Saver's); yarn; embroidery floss; and sticks for stems (I gathered mine from my yard and baked them in a 170F oven for several hours)
3) Hardware: Scissors or cutting mat with cutting roller, hot glue gun

We followed this video for our sweater making, and it's really easy. 

Hosting the pumpkin making party is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
1) Pick a day and invite your friends; I like to use Facebook events. 
2) Plan a potluck, if you want. I threw together some Chili Mac in the crock pot and friends brought sides and dessert. I have some ideas for fall cocktails too! 
3) You can either provide the sweaters and essentials, let's say you're cleaning out your closet, or have friends bring their own.


You don't have to follow a traditional color scheme for your sweater pumpkins. Go with
what works with your decor! 

One of the great things about making sweater pumpkins, is that they don't have to be perfect! When was the last time you saw a perfect pumpkin? Have fun with it! Share a picture of how your pumpkins turn out!  

Friday, October 27, 2017

Utah Pumpkinmaker Cocktail

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Utah Pumpkinmaker Cocktail Recipe, using local
favorites.

     It's Fall Cocktail Friday! This week is an autumnal take on the classic Boilermaker drink using a pair of Utah local brews - Wasatch Brewery's Black o' Lantern Pumpkin Stout and Ogden's Own Distillery's Underground Herbal Spirit. People often think that no one in Utah drinks, but there are plenty of us out there, and though Utah can have some funky liquor laws there are still excellent local breweries and distilleries. The Utah Pumpkinmaker Cocktail is for the savory cocktail lover. Both Underground and the Pumpkin Stout are excellent on their own.
     Underground is a liqueur containing 33 different herbs and spices. It has a lower sugar content than most liqueurs, which means firstly, all of those 33 flavors dance across your palate as you enjoy it, and secondly it isn't nearly as syrupy as many other liqueurs. 
     Black o' Lantern has Imperial roots... Imperial Stout roots that is, to which pumpkin and spices are added. Beer Advocate gives it a 3.7/5 and I find that the balance of the stout, pumpkin and spices are excellent with enough malt and hop to keep the beer from being too cloying as can sometimes be the case.

So you take the brilliance of the pumpkin stout with the spiciness of Underground add a dose of Halloween Frankensteinian experimentation and you create a savory pumpkin pie in a glass, with a kick! It's ALIVE!!!

Ingredients:

1 can of Wasatch Black o'Lantern (or your favorite pumpkin ale)
1 oz. shot of Underground (or a herbal liqueur such as Jägermeister)

Directions:

Pour the beer into a pint glass and Underground into a shot glass. Drop the shot of Underground into your glass of pumpkin ale and enjoy (responsibly)!

There is a great debate about whether the shot should be dropped in the beer or served on the side for the traditional Boilermaker. That's for you to decide, but for the Utah Pumpkinmaker you want to meld the flavors.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Loving life when sick

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Loving life when sick may seem impossible, so maybe it would be more appropriate to say, love and care for yourself when sick. We've hit that time of year, when people are dropping like flies with health maladies. Cold. Flu. Pneumonia. Stomach Viruses. It's sickness season.

Life is busy, busy, busy. And when illness hits, it can be hard to throttle down, but it's important to practice self-care to help yourself recover more quickly. If you won't do it for yourself, do it for the unsuspecting souls around you. Trust me - your coworkers, friends, fellow volunteers, parishioners, PTA members, cosplayers, etc. - they don't want what you've got. Keep your germs to yourself and stay home, especially if you're coughing or sneezing like it's your full time job. 

Since you're at home practicing self-care, here are some things to do to help you love life a little bit more while you're sick. 

Try yoga for when you're sick


Get some sleep - your body is tired, so go with it


Consume something tasty and good for you, like honey, chicken soup, vitamin C. Here are some other ideas, plus info about the effectiveness


Take care of yourself so you can get back to your regularly scheduled loved, lived life quickly. Do you have a tip that helps you feel better when you're sick? We'd love to hear it in the comments below. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Good or Bad Quote

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This quote always reminds me that I can choose to focus on the good or I can choose to focus on the bad. Today I choose to search for the silver linings. 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pumpkin Cardamom French Toast

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We admit it - we get caught up in the pumpkin hysteria each Fall too. But, the same old pumpkin spices can get old fast, so this weekend we whipped up some pumpkin french toast with the exotic influence of cardamom and ginger. Give this Pumpkin Cardamom French Toast recipe a try and let us know what you think!


Ingredients: 

1/2 c. canned pumpkin
3 eggs
3/4 c. whole milk
1 t. cinnamon
3.4 t. cardamom
1/4 t. ginger
1 t. vanilla
1 loaf of white bread, cut into thick slices (We used sourdough and the tartness was a nice off-set to the sweetness of the pumpkin and syrup, but it's not for everyone)
Cooking spray
Maple syrup & butter for serving



Directions:

1. In a square Pyrex pan mix pumpkin through vanilla, being sure the eggs get well incorporated. (We find the square pan makes it easier to submerge a couple of pieces of bread at a time.)
2. Preheat a skillet or griddle. Spray lightly with cooking spray, if needed. 
3. Slice the bread into thick (around 1") slices.
4. Place bread in the delicious pumpkin batter. Once saturated to your liking, place on the hot griddle. Cook until brown; flip and cook on that side as well. 
5. Spread on some butter and drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fall Cocktail Friday

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The gradual fade of summer to fall brings mixed weather; some chilly autumn days you want to bundle up with a blanket and a hot drink while others bring heat and sunshine, t-shirt and cold drink weather. At the end of the work week, it's the perfect time to relax with Fall Cocktail Friday. This week's recipe, Bourbon Autumn Apple, is good hot or cold, like layering clothes for Fall. 



Ingredients

1 c. apple juice
4 oz bourbon
2 oz barenjager
2 oz triple sec or Grand Marnier
1 apple, sliced
Fresh grated nutmeg
A sprinkle of cinnamon


Directions

Mix all ingredients up to nutmeg in a cocktail mixer. Add ice if serving chilled or heat it in a saucepan or microwave for a cold day. Garnish with a slice of apple, grate some nutmeg, sprinkle some cinnamon, and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Painted Acorns

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A cold front has blown across Utah, which stirs the desire for a hot cup of mulled cider and some autumn crafting. After several years in our house with Fall acorns pelting down like incoming asteroids, I decided to get proactive and harvest the acorns for some inside crafts. 

An hour with the ladder and I had a bowl full of acorns. In order to kill any critters, I first filled the bowl with some cold water and sloshed them around to knock off any dirt and small spiders. Then I dried them off as best I could, you could also let them air dry for an hour or so, but I'm impatient. I preheated the oven to 175F and cooked them for a couple of hours stirring occasionally to kill any critters inside. 

At this point, there pretty much wasn't a single acorn cap attached, so I used some wood glue and glued their caps back on. Next time I think I would use a hot glue gun, but I am prone to burning myself with those, so I was exercising caution in favor of uninjured finger tips. 

After the caps dried, there were a number of acorns that had holes in them from insects boring in, so I decided it would be much prettier and craftier to paint them. I did some Pinterest searching for options on how to paint them and there doesn't seem to be a hard or fast rule. Some prefer craft paints and others advocate nail polish. I personally love the gloss of nail polish and being a bit of a nail polish addict I have tons of colors, many of which also coordinate with the main decorating colors of our house, so I opted for nail polish. 

The truth of it is, painting acorns is fiddly and time consuming. You can only paint on side at a time and most nail polishes (especially the light colored ones) require multiple coats per side. Basically it took me days to get it done, but I love the result. 

I also like that there are only a few painted so they pop like jewels against the brown of the unpainted acorns. 



What do you think? Is it worth it? 


Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Bee Friendly Garden

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I don't know about you, but for me the somnolent hum of bees, the beautiful drift of butterflies, and race car swift hummingbirds visiting my garden completes the summer. Bee populations are in decline and under threat. It's a stressful time to be a bee. And we should all be concerned about this, because bees pollinate a good portion of our fruit and vegetable crops. I wanted to be a bee friend and plant bee friendly plants in the gardenbut our backyard is heavily shaded, which is a blessing and a curse, because the flower bearing plants bees and butterflies love tend to not do well in heavy shade.

Ever since we bought our house I've hated the bush-tree things in our front yard (I have no idea what they are, if you know, please share!). We've planted some insect friendly plants along the way - butterfly bush, salvia, lavender, but the majority of the garden real estate was taken by the ugly bush trees.


Before picture featuring ugly bush/trees.

So, last Friday I was standing on the sidewalk staring at the house.

"It always makes me nervous when you start looking at the house like that," Mr. Awesome said when he saw me.

"I was just thinking about how ugly those bushes are."

"Well, if you hate them, we should take them out."

Mr. Awesome is the best.

So, what do you do when you have a bathroom renovation project to finish? Start a new project, of course!

For a change, everything went according to plan and between the chainsaw and winch, those ugly tree bushes were out in an hour. Next to go were the rose bushes, which were supposed to be red, but turned out to be magenta. Plus, the bees aren't really a fan. I gifted them to a friend in exchange for her russian sage.

A trip to the garden center and now our front garden is filled with Mexican sage, Russian sage, Bee Balm, Day Lilies, and Penstemon to go with the Butterfly Bush, Lavender, and Salvia. A hummingbird came to drink from the Mexican sage as we stood at the garden center, how could we not buy that?

I am thrilled with the result and hope it will fill these fast fading summer days with some insect beauty to go with the pretty new flowers.

After - much improved! I look forward to seeing how
the plants fill in next year.

What do you think? Would you plant a bee friendly garden?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cheesy Green Chile Bacon Cornbread Recipe

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This weekend we're heading out on an off-road camping adventure with our Off-Road Club. The group is putting together a big barbeque with everyone bringing a dish. We were asked to bring a side, which immediately made me start thinking of the logistics of keeping a side dish tasty, appetizing, and safe to eat at the appropriate temperature be that hot or cold. And then I thought of the perfect thing - something that doesn't need to be kept hot or cold! No, I'm not talking about chips with fake cheese dip - I'm talking Cheesy Green Chile Bacon Cornbread. Delicious and good at room temperature. And who can say no to bacon... or cheese... or green chile, for that matter? 


Green Chile Bacon Cheddar Corn Bread recipe. Delicious, cheesiness with a bit of kick from www.alovedlivedlife.com


Ingredients: 

Serves a crowd, so halve the recipe if you're not feeding numerous hungry Jeepers
2 c. cornmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
4 T. sugar
3 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 c. buttermilk
Bacon grease from cooking bacon
1 block of cheddar, grated (8 oz)
5 fresh Hatch green chiles, roasted, skinned, seeded and chopped or 2 4 oz cans of green chiles, chopped 
6 slices of bacon, cooked (fat reserved) and crumbled (but not too fine)

Directions:

  1. Grease a 10 x 15" pan
  2. Preheat oven to 425F
  3. Mix together dry ingredients (cornmeal through salt)
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and bacon fat (make sure the bacon fat isn't so hot it cooks the egg when you pour it in)
  5. Add wet to dry, mix until there aren't large lumps. 
  6. Add in bacon and green chiles, mix in
  7. Pour into prepared dish
  8. Sprinkle cheese over the top
  9. Cook until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes




Friday, September 8, 2017

Bathroom Renovation Part 1,000,000

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A while back all we could talk about was our bathroom renovation and then...nothing. What's going on? 

Well, let me tell you. Very little. 

We've pretty much decided that the bathroom has a soul and it is pure evil. Re-tiling the bathroom turned out to be a huge undertaking that involved racing to the tile store for another box of tile and one night that went on until 3 AM, but once we were past that part we thought we were home free. That turned out not to be the case at all. 

The bathroom has fought us each step of the way. For example: 

  • It turns out the vanity is slightly smaller (like 1/2 inch in all directions - shorter, shallower, narrower) than the previous vanity, so we didn't prep and paint the walls far enough. Back to patching and painting. 
  • Because the vanity is slightly smaller, the light fixture wasn't centered over the vanity. 
  • And the baseboard was too short. 
  • And though we bought a Moen faucet of the same type that we already had for the tub/shower combo, things have changed and what was there wasn't quite right, so we had to figure out how to make it work and our perfectly centered faucet hole in the tile, ended up being too low. 
  • This faucet perfectly covered the hole,
    until it had to screw onto the copper pipe.
  • And suddenly there are scratches on the top of the vanity. How did that even happen? 

Scratch number one
Not one, but two scratches. How? Why? 
Each thing we fix ends up creating more things that need fixing. Add in a trip to China and we have zero motivation to work on the evil bathroom of evilness. So, we hope the bathroom will be done someday, but we're not sure what day that will be. 

Once this project is done and the travail fades from our minds like the pain of passing a kidney stone, I am sure we will love it. But for now, this bathroom is teaching us about finding the humor in the not so pretty parts of your loved, lived life. 

Do you have any home improvement horror stories? We would love to hear them! 

Also, if you have any suggestions on how to remove scratches from a stone counter top, we would love those too. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When Foodies Go Backpacking

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We love to be outdoors. Camping. Hiking. Off-roading. We also love good food and cooking. Our camping meals have included Hawaiian garlic shrimp, green chile stew, and snow crab legs. But that was all pull up to the campsite car camping.

This past weekend we were going backpacking. Which means we would need to carry everything that we need for the weekend. On the face of this, I was excited. But then I started to think about meals. Sure for many a protein bar may be an adequate meal, but that would be perdition for me.

I turned to my first resource, Mr. Awesome who has done multi-day backpacking trips leading troops of boy scouts and has a culinary degree. 

Mrs. Awesome: "What did you eat for lunches?"
Mr. Awesome: "Easy cheese and crackers or maybe vienna sausages."

I shuddered in silence beside him. It was time to go through all my Backpacker Magazines and create a menu. 

Mrs. Awesome:
"Chorizo mac and cheese!" 
"Granola stuffed pears!"
"We need full fat powdered milk for coffee."

Mr. Awesome: "This is going to be nothing like the backpacking trips of my youth."

So, here you have it. This is what it looks like when foodies go backpacking for two nights. 


Yes, those are flasks hiding in there.

Dinner we picked up on the way to the trail head. We got underway much later than originally anticipated. 

Day 1:

Mix up the granola with some cinnamon and pecans before you go. I added some dabs of butter in the zip lock bag. I didn't bother with sugar as granola and fruit are sweet enough for me. Around five to seven minutes over some coals and they were a delicious way to start the day. I used nonstick aluminum foil and didn't need to spray it with cooking spray as suggested in the recipe.  www.alovedlivedlife.com

Lunch: Lemon pepper tuna on crackers


I didn't get a good picture of the chorizo in this mix, but it was there. The taste of this was amazing. I changed the spice mixture suggested and went with garlic, paprika, pepper, salt, and ancho chile. I'd eat this at home. Clean up is a bit of work. As the recipe suggests, using full fat Nido dehydrated milk makes a big difference. 

Day 2:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with granola 

Lunch: Dehydrated meal (see, I did choose one thing that was easy)

Add in some snacks and some marshmallows and I will say it was all delicious. I would do it again. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Blushing Sangria

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Summer is the perfect time for sangria and it's fun to get creative with you flavor combinations. Blushing Sangria is one of our favorites, made with a rosé wine.  


Blushing Sangria recipe - perfect for summer!


Ingredients

One bottle of rosé wine
1/4 c. vanilla vodka
1/4 c. triple sec or other orange flavored liqueur 
One apple cored and chopped
Five cherries cored and cut in half
One can of San Pellegrino Sparkling Blood Orange Juice (add this right before serving for a refreshing effervescence)


Directions 

1. Combine first five ingredients and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. 
2. Add San Pellegrino right before serving. 
3. Garnish with fruit and serve over ice (or not, if you're a purist) on your next sunny afternoon relaxing and enjoying your Loved, Lived Life. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hopped-Up Green Chile Butter Chicken

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Our hop plants were a house warming present from our awesome sister-in-law. They are beautiful additions to the yard and in the past we've dry hopped a beer with them, but this year they haven't produced many hops. So, in honor of our wild hop harvesting hike (how's that for some alliteration) we decided to make a hopped butter chicken in the slow cooker so it would be awaiting us upon our return. Here's how you can make it too just in case you come across some hops in the wild or grow your own and are wondering what you can do with them beyond make beer. 




Hopped-Up Green Chile Butter Chicken

Ingredients

Half a stick of butter
4 chicken breasts
4 roasted mild green chilies, chopped or one 4 ounce can  
2 garlic cloves, minced
Rind of one lemon, grated
Juice of half of aforementioned lemon
2 T. fresh oregano or 2 t. dried (Here's an article about how to convert measurements between dried and fresh herbs, in case you were ever wondering about that)
4 fresh hop cones in a tea ball or other sachet (optional, but won't be hoppy without it)
1 c. chicken broth or 1 cup water and 1 t. chicken bouillon
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. corn starch

French fries, spaetzle, mashed potatoes, egg noddles, or other carbohydrate to serve the chicken over. 

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Turn on high for 5 hours or low for 7 hours. 
2. Remove the chicken from the sauce and thicken with cornstarch by bringing to a simmer and whisking in. 
3. Place the carbohydrate of your choice in a bowl, we chose Five Guys French Fries, (you may remember how helpful their fries were for the lobster poutine) and ladle the chicken and sauce over the carb. 
4. Devour.

The taste is delicious, both tangy and creamy. If you have really high alpha acid (i.e. bitter) hops, you might want to reduce how many cones you use. If you aren't sure, but know the variety you planted, check out this guide. If you found them in the wild, you could always try nibbling on one of the cones and see how scrunchy your face gets. Let us know if you give it a try and how it turns out. Or if you have a clever way you like to use hops, other than brewing, we're intrigued to hear. 




As you can see, we didn't get back from our hike when expected and the chicken shredded, but it was still delicious.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Off-Roading in the Deschutes National Forest

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Bend, Oregon. If you ask a local, they'll tell you it's a horrible place to live and under no circumstances should you ever consider moving there... all part of their ploy to keep this gem in central Oregon all to themselves! With wilderness just out the back door, adventure is always calling and there are hundreds of miles of trails awaiting in the Deschutes National Forest. Access to the back country is as easy as turning off the pavement and onto a gravel or cinder road, and within a few miles, you're surrounded by towering pines. It's incredibly beautiful and an easy trailing adventure for anyone with a four wheel drive vehicle and a little clearance.

Mrs. Awesome, her awesome mom and I recently spent 5 days during the last week of June visiting family who are fortunate enough to call Bend home. The Bend family was eager to see us, only this time they had a single request- bring Heathen. If you haven't met Heathen, he's our 2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Sitting on 35" Tires a 3" Teraflex lift and Ace Engineering Rock Sliders, he was more than up for the adventure we sought. 
Heathen perched atop Pilot Butte, looking towards (from left to right) Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top,
South Sister, Middle Sister and North Sister Mountains
I'd done a mountain of research prior to the trip, and the National Forest Service offers a plethora of free downloadable maps. Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) are also available and what's truly incredible about these, is that there is an app which links with the GPS in your phone or tablet which gives you real time mapping even without phone signal. The app is called Avenza and you can download it free here as well! A couple of means of navigation are important and the Bend family had a hard copy map as well which was quite handy.


Was it a left or a right after the 532nd tree?

For our run we planned on taking forest roads from the west side of Bend to Three Creek Lake. We headed out of Bend on Skyliner's road, on the west side of town. After a couple miles we turned right on Forest Road 4606 and then a quick left. My awesome brother-in law had navigation duty and before long we were climbing upwards into the foothills and above Bend
.


Mt. Bachelor, a lot closer up!
Just a few pines!

The streams were flowing pretty fast!
As we climbed the air got cooler and before long we turned along the road which led us the final nine miles to the lake.  However a couple miles in, we started to see snow and before long, the trail became nearly impassable.

 


Discretion being the better part of valor, and knowing we had to get back before dinner... we finally reached a point where I decided we'd have to turn around, rather then risk the chance of getting stuck. Heathen's equipped with a winch and I had all of the recovery gear necessary, but I think the best way to keep from getting stuck in the first place is knowing when to change your plans.  We had a blast in the snow and mud, and with the doors off, we all got plenty muddy. The laughs and memories were more than enough! And really, that's what A Loved Lived Life is all about. Taking the road less traveled, finding your happiness and joy. In our case, it wasn't an icy mountain lake, but rather an impassable road, a foot and a half of snow and a muddy trail. Get out there and go have fun!