Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Word for 2011 :: Revisited

Maybe you remember this post.
My word for 2011 is Spirit.

I made a goal to read more spiritually focused books and simply train my mind on things of a more uplifting nature than my regular go-to topics.
I've been working through my reading list and wanted to give a little update.
Accountability is good for the soul...or something like that...

I read Desiring God by John Piper
Reviewed here.
A heavy but valuable read.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan is still awaiting me on my bookshelf.
I'm kind of saving it for a school break so I can really dive in.
I'm excited about it.

I finished Radical by David Platt.
Reviewed here.
Perspective shifter, for sure.

I am working my way through Spiritual Classics and learning so much.
This is such a practical book - I think every Christian should own it.
Check out my "Quoted" section at my top, right sidebar.
This book is where the quote came from.

And, I had a spot for a fifth book and asked for your input about which book to read.
I found one.
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.
My review here.
Oh my heavens, you guys (no pun intended).
This book is out of this world (again, no pun intended).
It is fantastic.
I think, even if you don't call yourself a Christian or identify with religion, you will get something out of reading this {short, easy} book.
And if you are a Christian...well...get ready for an emotional ride.
I can't really put my thoughts on this book into words, but a blog friend of mine did a beautiful job in her post about it.

And, while I'm talking about goals accomplished, check out To-Do List of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30.
{That's in 18 months!}
I have crossed off a few items and have some of them in the works.
The ones I'm working on now:
#1 - Scheduled for June! Eeeep!
#4 - See post.
#9 - Currently in Job.
#11 - I have a volunteer offering to make this dream a reality!
#15 - I am so proud of them!
#18 - Tentatively: December 2011.
#22 - This Summer!
#27 - So excited to see them in concert!

Just wanted to post a little follow-up and say "thanks" for letting me air it all on the blog and being a part of keeping me accountable.

Now I'm ready to hear a bit about your goals for the Summer and what you're reading!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Kitchen Garden :: Reaping What I Sow & Varmints

I'm giddy.
In the way only a newbie gardener at harvest-time can be.

Radishes and Lavender - grown by moi.

Muddy radishes have never made me so happy.

I got my first full batch of multi-colored radishes and a good bunch of lavender from the garden this week.

(See? Giddy)

But seriously, look at how pretty these are:

That's a white radish.
I never used to be a radish-lover.
But they're so stinkin' fast and easy to grow and it's just really hard to dislike something so pleasingly round and glowing.
I'm enjoying the crunchy/pepper taste...pair them with a little soft butter and some fleur de sel and you'll feel trés french.

And I snipped my first salad this morning and served it up for lunch.

Mixed salad greens, arugula, baby spinach, buttercrunch lettuce.
The fruits of my labor: Joy of joys.

So, while I'm on cloud nine puttering in my garden and turning the spoils into pretty, delicious dishes in my kitchen, the varmints {that's West Virginia talk for squirrels, rabbits and the occasional robin} are having a hay day in my garden too.

And the sight of my sweet little bean bush - doing quite beautifully just two days before - eaten to a sad nub is enough to make me throw a {very disgraceful, very un-Christian} hissy fit.

Yesterday the piglets dragged me out on the deck with exclamations of "a squirrel ate two of our strawberries!"
And yes, in fact, there were two nearly ripe strawberries {still attached by their stems} half nibbled away.
That was it.
You've gone too far, squirrel.
You can eat my beans and dig strange tunnels in my raised beds.
You can even dig up every one of my flowers every. single. night.
But mess with my babies potted strawberry plants?
{I just went hood on those squirrels. I live in St. Louis, I can.}

I'm about ready to poison the creeps.
{Mr. B is protesting in a strangely Save-the-Squirrels sort of way.}

So...this is my plea...if you have a solution for fearless varmints in the garden
{you guys...they are on the deck, 10 feet from my back door}
let me know!
I'd really like to avoid the poison,

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I got a shipment of happiness a few cookbooks in the mail yesterday (my late mother's day gifts).
I have a new total and utter favorite:
This book is like the {new} bible of French cooking.
(New because we all know that Mastering the Art of French Cooking is the original bible.)
This one is like a friendlier, warmer, more personal French cooking bible.
I'm all for that.
I have been reading the essays of life in Paris and the recipe descriptions like it's a novel.
Can't wait to get in the kitchen and start making some of these dishes...
In fact, I joined Dorie's cooking group (online, of course).

Because of the book above {and for a few other reasons}
 I have decided that I was meant to have been born in France.
I'll find some way to forgive my mother for this oversight...
Although, I'm pretty sure she was meant to have been born in France as well.
Maybe we should be blaming Grandma for this one.

My house is a mess.
This is not a new predicament.
Since school started a few months ago things have not been the most tidy around here.
But, we had a slight (very slight, not to worry) emergency this week and I ended up calling the fire department.
The firemen found it necessary to inform me that there was too much {dirty} laundry in my basement surrounding the furnace and that it was a fire-hazard and that, also,
"You  might want to clean out your oven, when it gets so dirty like that it can really be dangerous."
In quite a superior manner.
Oh...well...thank you fireman,
for coming to my poor-depraved little house-wife rescue and telling me how to clean my home.
I am forever in your debt (and forever mortified).

On to happier matters...
I said I got a few books in the mail.
Another was this one:

Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole
Such a sweet little memoir/cookbook about a woman's first year of owning hens in her urban backyard.
It has totally renewed my desire to raise my own backyard chickens
Someday I will...just as soon as I get that law changed {or get up the guts to go rogue and raise my chickens in spite of the law.} and find extra hours in the day.
Gorgeous pictures and mouthwatering recipes in this one, too.

One more book...
I know, I told you this was a problem {but you should see my Wish List!}
Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob

Such a wealth of knowledge - I'm learning so much from this book.

Tonight the Brawny Man and I are going on a {rare and valuable} date.
He's giving me the go-ahead to pick whichever restaurant I desire because, "That's your thing."
I'm having a little anxiety about where to many restaurants, so little time!
I think we may go see Water For Elephants and maybe, if my restaurant discernment is good, I'll have a new installment of Food Crush for you soon.
I am half-way through my first semester of {intense, real, not-just-the-prereqs} nursing school.

And, let me tell you, it is wonderfully interesting... Statistics class is likely to kill me.
All I ask is that there's dancing and rejoicing at my funeral.
And food. Lots of it.

Have a beautiful Sunday.
: )

My Child, The Hitter.

This baby.
I knew this baby was going to be a hand-full while he was still in utero.
In fact, I dubbed him "mean baby" the last trimester of my pregnancy because of his incessant pushing and stretching that brought me to tears more than once.
Mean Baby he was...
Mean Baby he is.

Of course, mother guilt - the ever-present companion of every mother, everywhere - tells me that by calling him Mean Baby I self-actualized his behavior.
It's all my fault.
It always is.

In church nursery last night he hit some children.
Um...let me clarify...
he hit five children.
Five of them.
Innocent little cherubs doing no harm to anyone and he hit them.
Whack! With an oversize lego right on a defenseless, little bald head.
Bam! On the face of a baby girl sweetly gumming away on a teething ring.
Whap! Pull! A hit and a hair pull combo for one lucky little lady.
Zoink! A stealthy bottle-steal right from the mouth of an unsuspecting babe.
{This post is unnervingly starting to sound like a retro Batman episode.}

I was mortified.
{I was working nursery last night and it was a one-woman job to just follow him around doing damage control. There were casualties of Mean Baby strewn about the floor, bawling, whimpering and pouting in certain degrees all night long.}
How do you discipline a 14 month old for this behavior?
How do you teach him boundaries?
How do you tell other parents that,
 "Hey, that monster in there that gave your kid the knot on his noggin? Yeah, he's mine. Isn't he a doll?"

He actually is a doll...

I don't really know where I'm going with this post.
Except maybe to hear from a couple of readers something like,
"You're not alone. My kid was a bully too and turned out okay.
He even grew up to be a good-will ambassador and a genius at that!"
{Something along those lines...}
I guess I'd like to hear, "I'll be praying for you as your try to raise your hellion."
But maybe my biggest motivation for this post is in the hopes that some of the parents of Britt's nursery-mates will read it and see how truly flummoxed I am as to how to stop this behavior and that I don't run a
Baby Beat-Up Training Camp in my home on weekdays and that this is not my fault.
Have a little mercy on the overwhelmed, defeated Mama.

I'm off to dig up my copy of The Strong Willed Child...

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Slight Obsession

Wanna know what I love?
Wanna know what I can't stop myself from reaching for?

A few of my current favorites.
Glossy paged, bright photo-ed, gratifyingly heavy cookbooks.
With treasures inside.

Treasures that make anyone lucky enough to be around your table close their eyes and lose themselves for just a moment in what you've created.

I especially love French cookbooks.

True to hopeless Francophile form.

And here is a new favorite:

I was a bit skeptical when I paged through this one for the first time...
I mean, really? Gwyneth Paltrow: an actress, travel guru, {kinda} singer and now...cookbook author?
But I was sold within the first few pages and somehow Gwyneth and her surprising cooking expertise ended up in my Costco cart.

Nigella holds a special place in my
{not much of a distinction between the two...}

Probably because of this happy little moment.

I don't know what it is.
I just can't seem to have the strength to steer myself away from the "cooking" section whenever I find myself in a bookstore.
It's a serious compulsion here, folks.

It doesn't stop at big, picture laden volumes.
I devour food memoirs.

With an appetite that almost measures up to my love for Chicago-style pizza and the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

It's sort of my little vice...
the cookbook thing.
But I'm not too concerned yet, I just read in Nigella Kitchen that Nigella Lawson has over 4,000 cookbooks
- or, as she says in her charming British way, "cookery books" -
4,000, you guys!
That's so many.
That's too many.
That's exorbitant.

I'm not confessing because I feel the need for reform.
I'm just reveling in my cookbook-induced glow and I wanted you to revel with me.
*happy sigh*

In other {still food-related} news:
I have my first-fruits!
The premier little pickings from my garden adventure...

3 perfect little, misshapen, bumpy, glowing radishes.
Aren't they adorable?!
My girls.
I've been keeping them in a little cup of water on my kitchen window sill.
{so the leaves stay green and pretty}
I'll bring myself to eat them sometime this week.
But there are certain circumstances - the stars must align - I must be alone and in quiet so I can bask in the sweetness of eating something so utterly mine.

Anyway...enough of my happy neurosis.
: )
I hope you've have a beautiful Monday.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Mother's Day

Today Mr. B. {and the piggies} had planned to surprise me and take me out for brunch HERE.
Something I would have supremely enjoyed.
But Beck has been down with a high-grade fever for the past two days
{Teetering on the point of taking him to the Dr. to see what is really up - my very last resort, I assure you.}
and I just had a sneaking feeling that whatever was planned for today would probably have to be cancelled.
It was. Cancelled.
And I was disappointed.
But...I'm also a mother.
And mothering is never more needed than when some little one is down and out.
So, on this mother's day, I found myself monitoring a fiery little forehead, sponge-bathing, saying: "One more sip of must," measuring 2 teaspoons of syrup over and over, and pacing the floor with more than a little anxiety when he started having fever-induced hallucinations.

Today wasn't the most glorious celebration of motherhood known to man but then again, it was probably the most true-to-form.
Mothers never, ever get a day off.
Never never never.

It induced memories of my mother and her beautiful, giving, selfless style of motherhood.
The things she did for me when there were, I am sure, many other glamorous things begging for her attention.

...singing As the Deer to me to soothe me to sleep... birthday candles in a dim room and singing, her face beaming...

...tirelessly driving me to piano lessons - every week, for nine years...

...teasing my bangs so they stood at perfect attention - I had the best bangs in the 1st grade, ask anyone...

...praying with me on her bed that day I was 8 years old, "Jesus, come into my heart..."

...catching me in my first major lie and dealing with it gracefully so that it brought me closer to God and her instead of driving me away...

...bleary-eyed and cooking breakfast for countless groups of sleepless "sleep-over" guests...

...sitting through my high school tennis matches and keeping a positive attitude - I was painfully unathletic...

...praying for me - I know she did this and her prayers must have been something like,
"Dear God, if Ashley is doing something she shouldn't right now catch her in her disobedience and make her feel like total crap for disobeying her dad and I."
Because they always did catch me and I always felt like junk when I got caught...
{maybe she didn't say, "total crap" in her prayers...}

...rubbing my back for what felt like hours while I bawled, prostrated on her bed on the night my first "real" boyfriend and I broke up; and being sweet and sympathetic about it even though she was probably doing somersaults inside because the guy was such a dummy... with me and never wanting to go into "her" stores, it was all American Eagle all the time (except for those times it was Abercrombie and Fitch)...

...planning my entire wedding with barely a peep from the bride - I guess I was too busy living in another state and falling deeply in love with Mr. B. to bother with tiresome things like wedding plans...

Every little mundane, "I-could-be-doing-something-else-right-now" moment that she gave to me I experienced fully and needily.
That nurturance was so essential to me and I didn't even realize it - because a lot of times you don't realize you need something until you don't have it, or until maturity hits you and you can see clearly what made such a difference in your life.

All of these small things taught me how to be a mother.
Little did I know I was in motherhood training through it all.
I only hope and pray that I can take these every-day lessons and be some semblance of the mother she was to me.

My mom with a tiny little Evie-piggy.

Marmee, I love you.
Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mine Too.

So I keep on posting links to my sisters blog for you to read.
So what.
Sue me.

Read THIS post of hers.
Because what is hers in this post is also mine.
And she wrote it so beautifully and perfectly and got the essence of grandma's house so right.
I wish I were there...

I love my sister.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Crostini Any Way You Like It & the Giveaway Winner

May's recipe du jour is Crostini.
Not a specific type, just any way you like it.

Here's how it's done:
{so easy it's almost shameful to have as a "recipe," but you'll love me for it.}
 Any sort of baguette or crusty bread will do - it's a very nice way to use up day old bread that just isn't quite what it used to be.
In fact, you might find yourself buying lovely loaves of bread and "accidentally" letting them go a bit stale just so you can have the happy occasion to make crostini.

Slice the bread into 1-inch thick slices.
Place on a baking sheet or stone in a single layer.
Drizzle or brush with olive oil {be generous, my darlings}.
Broil until just golden.
Flip and broil the other side until golden.
Top with cheese of your choice and a chutney or vegetable topping.

You can use whatever cheese/chutney combination you desire.
If it's a flavor you like, it will work.
But here are some of my personal favorites...

pictured above is the combo:

lingonberry preserves

for an Italian flare:
fresh mozarella
tomatoes and basil
{rub some raw garlic on the warm crostini just after it emerges from the oven}

the one I served on New Year's Eve {and my personal favorite}:
cranberry ginger chutney
recipe HERE
I've found that the combination of slightly pungent cheese and sweet/tart jams, compotes or chutneys gives the best taste.
Really, try combining whatever you find in your fridge.
You might be quite surprised!

This is such a quick, easy throw-together snack {or lunch} and you get a huge return on your efforts.
They're pretty and I don't think there's much else in this great big world of ours that tastes quite as good.
If you aren't already, you'll be a crostini-holic soon after you make these babies.

* * *

And now...for the giveaway winner.
I'm so glad I gave a bit extra time for entries - we had a few stragglers enter yesterday.
{I use the word "straggler" in the most endearing way, I assure you.}

But, the winner of the 3 Silly Monkey's Animal Pillow is....







Lindsey Book

Which I am so happy about because she is about to have her first boy - in a home full of girlie girls
{plus her husband...can't forget about him}
and she could use a good start to her "boy things" collection.

So, Linds, I know how to get in contact with you.
You'll be hearing from me soon!

A little reminder:
Just because you didn't win the giveaway doesn't mean you can't have a little something from
Check out the etsy site; Cynthia has great prices on her products.
 and they're all handmade and great quality.

Thank you all for entering.

Happy Weekend!

*winner was chosen at random by*

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Giveaway :: Expired

Remember THIS little giveaway?
Today was supposed to be the day I chose a winner and announced on the blog.

Beetle pillow from 3 Silly Monkeys

I'm not going to do that today.
I'm extending the giveaway.

Just for one day.

So, if you click HERE and get all the details and enter by commenting on that post...

You still have a chance to win!

And if you win, you might make your little one this happy:

And it's really cute when they're this happy.
: )

I will {really, I promise} announce the winner tomorrow.

ENTER the giveaway HERE.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Making Me Happy

There has been an influx of seriousness lately...
tornado devastation {here, there and everywhere}
finals at school
friends in crisis
the killing of an international enemy
the list {unfortunately} goes on.

But there are things, little ones, that have been making me exceedingly happy lately too.
I want to share them with you.

THIS POST{and THIS one} on vertical gardening @ Poppytalk.
Something I am attempting to create in my backyard.

Our viewing party of the Royal Wedding on Friday afternoon {DVR is a beautiful thing}.
Miss Evie was smitten with the idea of a commoner becoming princess in a matter of a few minutes and a gorgeous wedding ceremony.

I told Evie to find a hat and outfit for our viewing party. She came bedecked in a giant rosette and tutu.
That's my girl.
She looked better than Beatrice, I can tell you that much.

Speaking of hats.
A baby in a plaid sun hat.
No explanation needed...

My little sister's latest, pretty pretty, blog post.

Easter candies.
If these colors don't make you happy, nothing will.
Trader Joe's yogurt covered raisins and chocolate covered sunflower seeds.

My new, gauzy, flowy, summer-y dress from HERE.
Best store around.

My week-long break from school.
Thus, the opportunity to finish some books and review them.
They were both so good:

My spring lamb cake pan.
That I still can't get a cake to come out of  without sticking...
must practice.

THESE read-the-Bible-in-one-year plans I found.
I'm doing the chronological one.

Solo breakfasts of chocolate croissant, strawberries and coffee.
This only happens once a week, friends.

Oh...this site is addictive.
I've been pinning like a crazy person since last night.
{For the record, I do not have time for this.}
If you "pin" find me {starcrossedb} and I'll follow you too!
Or, if you don't have a pinterest account, I can email you an invite.
It's exclusive like that.
: )
Thanks, Andrea for my invite!
So glad to find the little things in life that put a smile on my face...
because it sure seems like the big ones are meant to keep me frowning.
What's turning your frown upside down lately?