Favorite Food Finds

This is my favorite popcorn! Of course I like that it comes in a huge bag at Costco for almost the same price that a little bag costs at Walgreen’s. Three ingredients: popcorn, coconut oil, and sea salt. And the best is that it is 130 calories per ounce, which is a nice sized snack bowl.

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This is my favorite dark chocolate. When I first started W.W. 11(!) years ago, my sister said that I could have one of these bars for 4 points. I still think they are the best dark chocolate, but now I eat one or two little squares instead of a whole bar:)

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This is my favorite milk chocolate. Yeah, nice that it is sugar free, I guess its good that they are low carb, but I really like this milk chocolate because of its super smooth texture and excellent chocolate taste. I like to have two small squares with my bowl of popcorn.

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This is a new product at TJ’s. They have been selling the cacao nibs in small metal containers, and I really liked them. LOL, I liked them because they were 1 calorie per nib, and they had an intense chocolate flavor. Sometimes, just five nibs was all I needed.

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One more TJ’s product–fresh edamame from their produce department. I really like edamame. My former trainer used to make an edamame tofu salad that was just delicious. I made this simplified version of it, using chicken instead of the tofu. No recipe, but it has an Asian accent to it–soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, salt and pepper. And obviously corn.

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And then there’s Shelley’s Hippie Granola! Making a batch of this stuff makes me very happy. It smells absolutely delicious while it is baking, and tastes just as good when its done. I’ve been making more yogurt lately, so yesterday I made another batch of Shelley’s granola. Yumm. Yumm. Yummmmm.

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Before the Storm

It does seem I only write about the garden these days, doesn’t it? I still have plenty of thoughts about food and health and weight maintenance, but it takes more work to write about those things. Here, go read Charlie’s musings about attempting to get his eating under control. He says it so well:)

In the meantime, here’s the latest from the garden. This morning a big storm is blowing in, so I went outside to see if I needed to stake anything up. Here’s a few shots of what I saw:

The foxgloves and friends in front of a pink maple:

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A more composed photo:

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I got this oriental poppy at Annie’s Annuals last year, and waited impatiently all year for it to bloom. It had one giant bud for a long time, and then one day, this bloom appeared. It is ridiculously large. But it seems it might be the only bloom I get from this plant? We shall see.

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The Japanese maples are doing so well. They love this weather we are having this year. A bit warmer (but not too warm,) and a lot more rain!

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I love these cheery pink blossoms on some of the ground cover I planted last year.

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This is some kind of hardy orchid. I moved it last year, and it is doing very well in its new location.

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I am learning the value of moving plants in a garden. I’ve had this wild geranium for a LONG time. I love the blue of its blooms. But it always got too much sun, and didn’t really bloom much. So last week, I wanted to use its spot for the new rose I got. I had MLG move it to the back of the garden, where it is mostly shade. It was immediately happier!

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The geraniums and impatiens are still waiting to be planted. They look kind of pretty here! Pondering that…

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This is the last stone work we are going to do for a while. I got ONE MORE LOAD of stones on my way home from the doctor this week, and MLG is scheduled to work on placing these stones to make a path here. That is a heavenly bamboo in the foreground, and the two hydrangeas behind it. They are looking VERY good this year. I can hardly wait for them to bloom. That reminds me–I have a hard time making a decision on when/where/if to prune plants. I have started googling “when to prune _____”, and then I just go out and do it! It seems to be working very well. The plants are looking a bit healthier, and are giving me more blooms as a result.

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The front bed is ready for a few plants. Yesterday I pruned the cherry tree a bit, and the honeysuckle too, so that the bed will get more sun. That is Chloe. She never stops moving outside. She must patrol the yard. Noah doesn’t seem to notice everything that she thinks needs to be observed closely.

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Fortunately, inside she has no problem settling down. She (along with all the other dogs) are happiest when they are touching me:)

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Happy weekend, everyone! I wish for you sunny skies and cool breezes.

Garden Doings

I think I skipped a week, so I’ve got more pictures than usual in this post.

I got some plants for the birdcage. I used creeping jenny from my own yard, because it seems to be creeping everywhere. I put that in the stump slots. So far it seems to be taking off.

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I knew I needed bright flowers in here for them to show up. I got a primrose, some small bright yellow perennial, and the green plant is sweet woodruff, which I love, but which Noah also loves. I decided this was the safest place to plant that!

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The cherry tree in bloom:

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Close-up:

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The lilac bloomed well, but way up high! I have been carefully pruning it for two years, and it seems to be working.

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Close-up:

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The fringe bush is blooming. I like this plant, but it also irritates me. It seems to have a mind of its own. I foresee a serious pruning in the near future.

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For some reason it occasionally sends out white blossoms as well as the pink.

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I bought coral geraniums for the front pots this year, to match the door:)

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And I couldn’t resist this Japanese maple at the local nursery. Its shape and color called to me!

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THEN, this week I went to get another load of rocks. Hopefully, this is the last load. They have a very nice nursery at the rock place, and I saw the roses. They were beautiful plants, and about half the price that other nurseries charge. I couldn’t resist this pink one. It is exactly the same color as the paint that I had mixed for my bedroom and bathroom! Its called Lasting Peace, with the old Peace rose as one of its ancestors. Its a grandiflora, and has a beautiful smell as an added bonus. I took this picture in the car on the way home!

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The next day, MLG was here, and he got it in the ground for me. I think this will be the perfect place for it.

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On that same trip, I made a stop at Costco. This was my only impulse buy. I am hoping it will help me to keep my tools in one place. I drive myself nuts by leaving them where I am working, and then immediately forgetting where it was I left them. Also, it says you can sit on it. My back is not enjoying the weeding at all. Maybe this will help.

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And now, the cherry tree is coming to an end of its blossom. Its even fun to see the petals on the ground.

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There’s one lilac blossom low enough for me to grab and take a sniff of on my way in from the garden. Such lovely, heavy blossoms, all for the price of a little fertilizer and some water.

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We had a nice rain last night, and now we are predicted to have sun and warm for the next week. I predict I will be spending quite a bit of time outside, working in the garden and splitting logs (MLG brought his log splitter over and was kind enough to leave it for me to continue working on the log pile.)

This ‘n’ That

You know how one of the first things we learned as dieters was to READ THE LABEL!? Well, that is still good advice. It helps me to make wise decisions. Recently I made myself a strawberry protein smoothie (1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup yogurt, etc,) and I remembered I had some spinach in the freezer. I got that out and added a handful. I love to make a frozen protein smoothie for lunch so I can drink it on the way to the gym. I am all about saving time. I took a taste of it before I left, and thought “that spinach tastes like basil.” I thought about re-doing it, and leaving the spinach out, but, being all about the saving time, I took it and left. It was okay, but I made a mental note to toss that spinach when I got home. Later that night, I remembered to get the spinach out of the freezer. There was the bag, clearly marked “basil.” Read the labels!

Follow-up to the dog food discussion.  After re-doing my stats on the cost of making my home-made dog food, I discovered that it cost quite a bit more than I had figured at first. I decided to make a visit to the local “canine cafe” to see what they knew about the raw food diet. I was pretty sure it would be way more expensive than I wanted to spend. Turns out, they had it all ground up and pre-frozen for almost the same price that it was costing me to make it myself! That will save me a couple of hours each week. But there’s a lot more hand-washing going on around here. I don’t particularly like handling all that raw chicken every day. I’m still going half and half. They get the raw food in the morning, and kibble and carrots and sometimes apples at night. It didn’t seem to have any ill effects on their digestive system…

Some foodie notes: I started listening to a quilting podcast. They include a recipe each week. I noticed this one for “Mary’s Rice Pudding of Death” and noticed that it didn’t have added fat or that much sugar in it. I did the stats, and decided it would be worth a try. SOOOO delicious, and so very worthy. I did use brown rice, because that’s what I had on hand. Mine didn’t look like the picture, but it was so very tasty. Yesterday I woke up with an urge for baked oatmeal. Only I didn’t feel like making a whole recipe. I decided to try making a single serving. It was a HUGE success, at least in my mind:) Here’s how I made it. I also simplified the ingredients from what most baked oatmeals include. Last night I made Biz’s Chicken Cilantro Won Ton Soup again. I had found the chicken cilantro pot stickers at Trader Joe’s and wanted to try them out. This is such a good bowl of soup, and those pot stickers are much better than the ones I got at the local grocery store.

Here’s the final shots of the dye studio. J. the contractor came back and put the subway tile backsplash up. I actually went out there and dyed some wool this week! Very fun. I had my first dye spill on the granite, and it cleaned up well. I do envision the granite and backsplash eventually being multi-colored. We shall see.

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Good Bones

This week has been super fun in the garden. Of course it helps that we are having a lovely early spring, which has been warm enough to make things pop out all over, but still cool enough that blooms will last longer than usual.

I got a few plants, and had a few ideas, and when MLG got here, I asked him if we could try them, and then he had ideas to embellish my ideas. So fun!! I feel like we are actually getting a good form for the garden now–“good bones” as they say.

This was a huge chore that actually got done several weeks ago. This was my last  (and oldest) lace leaf Japanese maple that was still in a pot. I bought it 30 years ago when I first moved here! We had discussed getting it into the ground, and since we had such good rain, the time came to do it. MLG cut the pot, just like the one he did last year, so that is only the rim of the pot in the ground. It was terribly heavy, and MLG took the tree in and out of the hole several times to get it in just the right direction and at just the right height. And then he brought over these old railroad ties, and used them to make a border around it. And found some leftover bricks to make a nice platform for the dogs’ water bowl.

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I was enchanted by the look of the railroad ties, and I asked him if he could use some to make a border along one of the stone paths. Yay! More places to plant stuff:)

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And then he surprised me by putting the railroad ties along the back of the Camperdown elm. You can see we are not done with the rock work here, but we have a plan. Just have to go get the rocks…

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Over by the fence by the road, he planted another spirea (I call it bridal wreath) next to the forsythia, and I got another honeysuckle, which he planted next to the fence. I love the pink honeysuckle that I have, but it has no smell, and I missed that.

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This is just a view from the backside of the front corner beds. Its kind of a miracle that the tulips did not get covered over by that brick path!

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So I saw this ivy at the nursery and was just charmed by it–a pale tricolor leaf. And I wanted to keep it in a container and put it up high, so it could trail down. My neighbor had had a pine tree cut down, and she offered me some of the wood. So MLG brought this stump over, and spent some time making sure it was “level” (these are the things I would never bother to do, but they add a lot to the overall soundness and structure of the garden.)

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I had been thinking about moving this “fairy garden” out by the studio door. This way I could have some color out there, and the deer would not be able to get to it. But it needed a perch. So MLG went and got another bigger stump, and went through the same leveling work, and gouged some holes in it so I can try to grow some little hanging plants in there!

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On the other side of the door, I have my planters all cleaned up and ready for some geraniums, as soon as all danger of frost is past. The deer didn’t seem too interested in geraniums last year.

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Here is one of the maples called Peaches and Cream–a good name for it, don’t you think? It gets more green as the season goes along, but this is how it starts out.

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And this is just a view of the shade garden. I love that that fern comes back every year in the spring. It was the very first thing I planted in the very first bed that MLG built for me.

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In the back of the garden, more exciting things are happening. MLG mentioned quaking aspens last week, and I do love them. The aspens grow naturally up the hill from us (at a much higher elevation), on the way to Lake Tahoe. I checked with our local nursery, and she said that they would grow here, as long as they were somewhat shaded and in a protected area. Well, it just so happens that we had the perfect spot for them. I bought two of them. They literally look like two very tall sticks, so not very impressive in a picture. And another maple in the ground in front of them. Hopefully I’ll have some good shots to show you later in the year.

I really feel like this year we have made some great progress in making a cohesive garden, and I have thought more about what I really enjoy, and less about what is the “right” thing to do. I’m leaving room for some colorful annuals, and I even bought some peat pots to try to get some of my seeds started, since we can have frost up until May 1st here.

Have a good weekend, and buy yourself a plant. Plants are one of the great bargain pleasures in this world. $2.50 for a 6 pack of petunias can brighten your life for a long time!

Infidels

editor’s note: Queen Sophie has demanded equal time on the blog. She keeps close track, and has noticed a disturbing trend of featuring dogs other than herself on the blog. In my defense…well, once you hear Sophie’s thoughts, you will realize I have no defense. 

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Life in the kingdom has become almost intolerable. Where once upon a time, I only had to deal with the giant oaf, now there is a never-ending parade of interlopers and infidels.

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“Really. This is where the oaf spends 90% of his time.”

Now I have to deal with not one, but TWO irritating short-nosed snorting infidels. They have NO respect for the monarchy.

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“Exactly WHY am I forced to observe the short-nosed infidel in the place of honor???”

*editor’s note: EVERY morning, this is the scene under the desk where I check my emails and read blogs. EVERY morning, there is a continuous barrage of ominous growling going on. Yes. ONLY Sophie is growling.

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When we move out to the studio, there is a bed CLEARLY made for one. ONE member of the royalty. And yet, they ungraciously force their way into MY bed.

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“The young infidel.”

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“The grizzled interloper.”

THIS is how the bed was meant to be used.

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editor’s note: have you all noticed that this is the ONLY picture where Sophie looks semi-relaxed?

And now. AND NOW. The unkempt fuzz bucket. why? Why? WHY??? She pretends to be all sweetness and light. But I know better. It is just a ruse to attempt an overthrow of the kingdom order. I have seen her in action, and I know better. (editor’s note: occasionally Zoey will get a bit testy with the other dogs when she is on my lap:) )

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Such are the woes of a ruling monarch. Do you remember the scene in the movie, The Last Emperor, where the Chinese empress ate an orchid in a fit of despair? Well, what do you think I am doing?

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“Its unnerving to be constantly on guard against anarchy.”

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editor’s note: in my defense, how can I resist such cuteness?

editor’s note: for those who worry that the Queen might be suffering some neglect in such a crowded household, this is where she sleeps EVERY NIGHT. The cutest thing she does is to sleep at my feet while I am reading, and then as soon as I turn the light off, she comes up to the top of the bed and dives under the covers, and spends the rest of the night cuddled up next to me. 

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Counting

Do you all know about Charlie’s blog? I used to read him years ago when his blog was called “back to the fridge.” Then I lost track of him. THEN I heard that he was Biz’s brother! And then I found his new blog. He is an excellent writer, and more importantly, he is really funny. Recently he wrote a very detailed post about using food journaling as a weight loss tool. Read his post–he says it much better. The upshot of it was that without journaling for 8 years, his net weight loss was 10 pounds. WITH journaling for 8 years, he lost 27 pounds. That thought totally intrigued me. I’m pretty sure most people would be thinking, “27 pounds in 8 years? That’s no good.” Well, at this point in my journey, I would be THRILLED to be 27 pounds down in 8 years instead of 27 pounds up. So I dusted off my Lose It app, and started journaling my food again. Lose It makes it so much fun.

Easter is a day that I enjoy staying home and going to my own church, and having a special meal (and maybe some Easter treats.) I wanted lamb, because of watching my cooking shows. I went to the local butcher, and they were sold out of leg of lamb, so I found these lamb kabobs. Perfect for a single person! Then on to the grocery store, where they had GIANT artichokes. Yes! What do I want with my lamb and artichoke? Bread. Some good bread. I headed over to the bakery and got some pugliose bread. And I would let myself have some real butter with my artichoke and bread.

Now usually I would not track a special day of food like this. But I thought, what the heck? So I entered all the food I planned for the day, including my Peeps and chocolate, and it turned out that I was only 67 calories over the allotted amount. What?? Anyway, I did stick to eating what I had written down, and it did make me a little happier to know that I was not going completely overboard.

A note about the treats: I used to love Palmer’s chocolate bunnies. I have noticed the past few years that they did not seem to taste as good as they used to. So this year, trying to break the spell, I seriously considered NOT getting a chocolate bunny. Then I saw the Lindt bunny. I’ll try that one, even though they were way more expensive than the Palmer’s. I tried a bite of it, and I HATED it. Put it down, and sub’d some popcorn and half a pack of M&M’s. VERY satisfying. Of course, no Easter is complete without YELLOW Peeps. And look what my BF sent me–I love it so much!

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