Thursday, August 26, 2010

Batering at its best

Remember in a previous post a few months ago when I was wishing for new bathroom counter tops to go with my new flooring? Well, I'm making it happen ... 50% anyway. A friend of mine just happens to install granite counter tops, and he approached me willing to trade my organizing skills in his kitchen for a beautiful, granite counter top. How perfect, right? He's a bachelor, but getting married soon, and he wanted his space organized before his soon-to-be-wife and all of her stuff moved in. His kitchen wasn't bad, just lacking a woman's touch! Here's how I helped:

Pots & Pans Before ..... and ..... Pots and Pans After

Spice Cabinet Before ... and ... Spice Cabinet After

Tupperware Before ... and ... Tupperware After

(He's eventually going to install a Lazy Susan here, but it needed a temporary solution.)

Pantry Before ... and ... Pantry After

Under Sink Before ... and ... Under Sink After

Utensil Drawers Before ... and ... Utensil Drawers After

Dishes Before ... and ... Dishes After

(This isn't a dramatic change, but it's an open front cabinet, so it must look it's best!)

Catch-all Drawer Before ... and ... Catch-all Drawer After

(Just sounds better than "junk drawer," right? Come on, we all have them!)

He was a very happy customer, and his fiancée was even more thrilled. I finished it just in time for his housewarming party. Can't wait to get my granite counter top. Hopefully I'll be posting pics of it in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yummy Recipes - Chocolate Macaroons

When eating Paleo, dessert can be a real challenge. Occasionally we'll cheat (like on Sunday when I had two cupcakes at church). But at home when we're craving something sweet, we'll either have fruit drizzled with honey, or these guilt-free little treats. I couldn't find unsweetened coconut at my local grocery store, so for a while, I made these with sweetened coconut (not strictly Paleo because of the added sugar). On a recent trip to Central Market, I found the unsweetened kind in the bulk food section, so I loaded up. The textures of the two types of coconut are very different, therefore the finished products came out quite different, but both really good!

Chocolate Macaroons

3 large egg whites
1/3 cup honey
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup almond meal (ground, sweet almonds)

Preheat oven to 350*. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat using an electric beater or food processor until stiff peaks form.

Fold in honey, cocoa powder, walnuts, coconut and almond meal until just combined to minimize the handling of the batter.

Spoon 1-2 Tbsp. of mixture per macaroon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until light brown in color. Cool before serving. Makes about 2 dozen. Enjoy!

Coconut Walnut Macaroons
Same recipe as above, except omit cocoa powder.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Think outside the box hedge

After many months of neglecting my flower beds and the yard in general, I finally decided to do something about it. I dusted off the garden shears and went to work. I trimmed some limbs and even bought some new plants to spruce up the front beds. I was really on a roll. But eventually I had to face something that I'd been dreading. A real quandary of sorts that left me scratching my head ...

this ...

This, my friends, would be a not-so-pretty box hedge in my backyard that is dead only in the middle, courtesy of the last freeze. Lovely, eh?

So, what would you do with this?

Well, here's what I did ...

... that looks soooo much better, right?
(Insert sarcasm here)


But then I had a green thumb moment and it just came to me.

I now know exactly what I'm going to do with this awkward space, and it's going to be fabulous.

Any guesses? Check back soon for updated pics on what I decided to do!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Order of the Purple Foot

We got stomped on Sunday. Grape Stomped that is. Every summer Dry Comal Creek Vineyards holds its annual Grape Stomp. We were virgin stompers, so we weren't really sure what to expect. But we were with good friends, and we started drinking before noon, so we knew that it was bound to be a good day.

I was the designated stomper and Kent was the juice collector. His job was also to use a little scrubber brush to keep the screen clean of debris, so that the grape juice could flow freely. It was a true cardio test, let me tell you, because the stomping lasted for a full 10 minutes! Did I mention that we were outside in 100 degree heat?

I tried to hike my skirt up slightly and do my best I Love Lucy impression, but that didn't last too long. As soon as I let go of the rail, I felt like I was going to fall on my arse -- those grapes are slippery little devils!

They weighed our juice after the 10 minutes was up, and we had collected 2,394 grams of grape juice. The weigher-dude said that we were ranked first in our group, but there were still two more groups to go.

We ended up placing third overall! Yeah, we were pretty pumped. Our prize was a bottle of wine and some wine bottle "jewelry." We made friends with a couple sitting at our table that drove up from Houston just for the Stomp, and they ended up getting first place.

Can't wait to "get stomped" again next year!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Look, Mom - no cavities!

I feel the need to brag a little bit. I had my six-month dental cleaning yesterday and had no cavities. But what's really impressive is that I've NEVER had a cavity. Not one. No fillings either.
Which means that if I can make it to my next cleaning in six months cavity-free, I can proudly claim to have no cavities at age thirty, ahem, twenty-nine. I consider that a pretty impressive feat! But do you think cavities are inevitable? I mean, how long can this continue, right?

From age seven to sixteen, I had some kind of metal in my mouth at all times. My teeth were a real train wreck and needed lots of help. I had expanders, retainers (front and bottom), lip bumpers, head gears (oh so attractive) and braces. I still have a permanent bottom retainer today. I guess I adopted good brushing habits from hearing my orthodontist preach to me enough times about how important it is.

However ... I don't floss. Ever. Gross, I know. There's just something about watching food particles fly out of my mouth and stick to my mirror that makes me cringe. I usually floss the morning of my dental cleaning (like I really expect that to fool them?), and when I'm in the chair I vow to the hygienist that I'll do a better job, but by the next day, I'm over it. The hygienists always comment on what beautiful teeth I have, but when they start the dreaded plaque scraping, my sensitive gums bleed and my whole mouth turns into a horror film.

But if I want to shoot for the Guinness World Record of Oldest Person to be Cavity-Free, then I really need to get serious about this whole flossing thing. Kent flosses almost every night and puts me to shame. Should I tape a reminder to my bathroom mirror? Put floss on my pillow every morning so that I can't go to sleep without flossing? How do you hold yourself accountable for things that you HATE doing?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yummy Recipes - Kale Chips

If you liked my roasted broccoli recipe (and wow, a lot of you did!), then you'll love these kale chips. This recipe comes from my sister-in-law, Tina. Her three boys beg for these. Like potato chips, you can't stop at just one. These are a low-calorie, nutritious snack. They are great for parties, and always spark conversation. Since we're currently not eating dairy, kale is a great source of calcium.

Kale Chips

1 bunch of organic kale (organic kale is only $.20 more where I shop)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350*. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale leaves with a salad spinner or paper towels. Drizzle kale leaves with the olive oil (I like to put the leaves in a big bowl, and use my hands to make sure that the oil has coated every piece. 1 Tbsp. will not seem like enough, but it goes a long way. If you use too much, the chips will be mushy and not crispy.)

Spread kale onto cookie sheets in a single layer, making sure not to overlap (this is key), and sprinkle with the sea salt. Depending on the size of the bunch, I often have to bake them in two batches. (I used two cookie sheets for this first batch and one cookie sheet for the second batch.)

Bake until the edges are brown, but not burnt, 12-14 minutes. Serve immediately. Enjoy! (Notice how much they shrink up during cooking. This makes it very easy for two people to finish off an entire bunch of kale in one sitting. Now that's gulit-free snacking!)

Kent and Leyla betcha can't eat just one!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Insert witty, creative blog title here

I've been wishing lately that I had given more thought to our blog before I started it almost two years ago. I come across so many blogs with catchy, clever titles .... ours, not so much. I was just so anxious to join the world of bloggers that I just threw a lackluster title up there in order to fill in that required bit of info to complete the set-up process.

And as much as Kent enjoys reading "our" blog, he's not exactly a contributing writer ... so should I transform it more into "my" blog? It doesn't help that I have total blogger's block when I try to think of a creative title. I can't change it yet, because I have yet to come up with a title that I am in love with. But if/when I do, should I take the plunge and make the change?

Help, I'm having a blog-life crisis, and could use some advice!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Caveman Style

For the last month, Kent and I have been eating "paleo" (abbreviation for Paleolithic diet) or "primal." Paleo is a diet which is inspired by the way in which our ancestors ate. More specifically, it is inspired by our ancestors from the Paleolithic age (approximately 2,600,000 to 10,000 years ago), a.k.a. cavemen.

This means that we have eliminated a lot of foods from our diet in order to increase our overall health. We no longer eat any dairy, grains, legumes, starches or added sugar, and obviously no processed foods of any kind. We DO eat lean meats (grass-fed beef, etc.), fish (preferably wild-caught), eggs (DHA Omega-3 = eggs from chickens that have been fed flax seed, marine algae or fish oil -- not grains), vegetables & fruits (organic when possible) and certain nuts.

This five minute video helps to explain it:

We've both lost some weight (hubby more than me - so typical of men, right?! Actually, he's been to the gym regularly, and I haven't, mainly due to being out of town a lot this past month, but still not a great excuse), and both of us have noticed that our skin appears clearer and healthier looking.

It's been a fun challenge for me to find appropriate paleo substitutes for recipes. Some of my favs are: almond meal (ground almonds) instead of flour, julienned zucchini instead of noodles and smashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.

So we're both enjoying living as cavemen. However, Kent has yet to club me over the head and drag me to his cave. I guess our "modern" wedding ceremony was good enough for him.

Recipes coming soon!