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It’s been so long since I’ve posted that I almost feel like I’m starting a new blog. I thought about it actually, because of what I’m about to introduce to you, but starting a new blog is messy and too much work, so here we go.

One Project a Week.

This idea isn’t new. It’s not even new to me, come to think of it. Shoot. (See An ultimatum; Read: Total Fail). But oh well and anyhoo…

My college friend Anne and her partner Jessica and their sweet little summer blog of old, Jar of Fun, were the inspiration here. They sat down together in the hot hot heat of a Texas summer and wrote down all sorts of stuff to do. From big things like going camping, to small things like coloring in coloring books, they had a great list of fun things to do to beat the heat and fill out the long days of summer. Then they cut up the list and put the individual To-Dos in a jar. (I’m pretty sure it was almost) every day that summer they chose one item out of the jar and did it. And then they blogged about it. What fun! I enjoyed reading about all of their daily big and small adventures, and filed away in my mind the ‘daily jar of fun’ idea, hoping someday I’d return to do it myself.

Well, Someday is today. Because last week, whilst on vacation (I was feeling inspired I guess, and clear of mind), I vowed to Mark that I would do more projects when we got back. I would do more art. More sewing. More baking. More painting. I’ve been horribly bad about flexing my creative muscles this past year (not to mention flexing my other muscles too… must do more running/hiking/biking… filing that away too. Hrm…) I have many many many many many unfinished projects that I’ve told myself I’d get done, you know, someday. And I figured why not merge Jar of Fun with Get Shit Done and do One Project a Week.

I’ve just finished writing down as many items of unfinished business I can think of from the started projects in my office, and a few new things too, since I have things sketched out in my brain that I haven’t even begun in real life.

Here they are:

jar

The rules are:

  1. Pick one To-Do out of the jar every Sunday evening
  2. Work on project during the forthcoming week; make as much progress as possible
  3. Chart progress on L.P.E.
  4. If project isn’t finished by Sunday evening, put the To-Do back into the jar so you can work on it again another week
  5. If project IS finished, smile and shout ‘HOORAY!’
  6. Shake jar and pick a new To-Do
  7. Feel Happy (hopefully) and perpetually inspired
  8. Repeat

Sound good?

Alright, followers. Time to make bets on how long it takes for me to fail. NO! Wait. No. Just kidding.

I will not fail!

OK. Here we go.

First pick is….

Mom and Anna’s co-knitted blanket.

See you in a few days!

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Rainin… Rainin.

Ok, maybe not NEVER… but can you give us just a few days of sun? Please, pretty please?

Is it annoying to complain about the weather? I know, last year I complained about the heat…

Perhaps it isn’t annoying but rather pointless? I mean, what can we actually do about it? Absolutely nothing. Which is why it’s so annoying!

Oh well, today I don’t care. It started raining Friday night, and hasn’t really stopped precipitating some sort of liquid. We’ve seen everything from torrential downpours to thick mist. I really. Am. Tired. Of the rain. The gloom. The cold, enveloping watery veil that seeps into every pore. Yuck.

It’s May, for f.’s sake! Where are my May flowers? Soaked in a puddle, that’s where—all my newly planted daisies and snapdragons are droopy and saturated saying “Enough! Show us some sun!”

I feel squidgy and sowish from not walking to work as I usually do. It’s weird to not walk my 4 miles round trip nearly every day. Walk in the rain!? No way. I’d get to work looking, and probably smelling, like a wet dog. The buses are full and soppy. All the people in there together, we look sad and smushed like marinating sardines. Lots of frowny-faces and frizzy hair.

And speaking of wet dogs, even Gordon doesn’t want to go outside. I tried to take him out last night before bed. It was pouring but he HAD to go out! He got to the top of the stoop and looked at me like “Are you f.ing kidding me?” and walked back to the door. I had to drag him by his collar down the stairs where he promptly peed and hurried back inside. Poor guy. Hasn’t had a decent walk in three days which means he’s extra ornery. I’m not joking, he actually gnawed open a carton of chicken stock, spilled it all over the floor, and lapped up whatever came out. We found the empty carton on the floor with tooth marks in it. Darn dog. He needs a good 10-mile run as much as we do.

Oooh poor us. Pity pity pity party. Boo hoo hoo. I know I sound like a whiny baby. I’m TRYING to find the good in this, I am.

For instance, everything now is so green. And so many shades of green I can’t even count them. It is beautiful. Also, the hot water bottle is perfect for rainy nights, and I do love using my hot water bottle. Hmm… what else. I do like the sound the rain makes when it hits the windows. It’s calming and nice. I haven’t had to water the plants outside, and I know when it DOES get sunny, they’ll do so well. AND, the lettuce I planted outside loves the cool and rain. We’ll have a nice harvest of greens this weekend. OHKAY… there are a few good things about the rain. I’m not so sad or jaded, just looking forward to some sun.

And, hey. I did make quite a fine soup yesterday for dinner—a hot cuppa soup IS the best remedy for a chilly day.

Here’s the recipe—I made it up as I went, but it was so easy. I call it:

Easy Veggie Soup with Pasta (deep. really creative.)

2 T olive oil
2 cups of grape tomatoes, halved
1 t minced garlic
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn (you could use fresh veggies – I just didn’t have anything but carrots)
1 cup diced carrots (really any veggies you like, up to 3 cups)
1 carton or large can of veggie, chicken, or beef stock
1 small can of tomato sauce (not pasta sauce, plain tomato sauce – Hunts makes a good one)
1.5 to 2 cups water
salt, pepper, spices to taste (I used rosemary)
any pasta you like, boiled to al dente **tip! keep .5 cup of the pasta water after it has boiled and stir it into the soup – gives a rich taste to it!

Pour the olive oil into a large pot. Heat the oil and add the tomatoes and the garlic. Let them get mushy in there, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the garlic gets too brown. Add the veggies and saute them until warm. Add the tomato sauce, the stock, and the water. Let simmer until the veggies are well cooked. Salt, pepper, and spice to taste. Cook your pasta, strain. Add .5 cup of the pasta water to the soup and let simmer a few more minutes. Put a few pastas in a dish and pour the soup over. Eat and be warm.

That’s it. Easy as soup.

If it’s raining where you are, I hope you stay very dry and that the sun comes out soon. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to clear up, I suppose you can hunker down, make some soup, and listen to the rain with a good book and a warm blanket.

If it’s sunny where you are, please send some our way!

I was on a granola kick this summer. I’ve tried many kinds and have had some good stuff and some, well, let’s just say it was wicked sugary and not-so-granola good for you.  One would think granola was supposed be to good for you, right?  Oats. Nuts. Seeds. Maybe a little dried fruit even? At its base, yes, methinks it’s full of good natural wholesome foodstuff.  But then you add all the nasty high-fructose corn syrup and other unmentionable (and un-pronounceable) ingredients that you find in the store-bought stuff and YUCK! I don’t even want to know what they’ve put in the box to make it taste so good.  Crack maybe? Who knows.

All I do know is that granola is good. Granola is great. I like granola A LOT.  I was buying soooo much granola and aside from it being “Très Expensif” (I know, not French, but it’s my Franglish for “I spent all my dollars”) it probably wasn’t that good for me.  So I sought a new alternative.  There are many many recipes out there to try, and so try I did.  And, come to find, it’s super duper easy to make, depending on the ingredients, a healthier alternative (at least you know what’s going in!!), and, again depending on the ingredients, a fairly low-cost treat.

So, here we go.

Let’s Make It: Granola

There are three main parts to the granola:

1. Oats — Duh! As I’ll describe later, you can add more to this part, however I think starting with oats is a pretty good bet.  They provide a good base for the add-ins and are soooo good for you (heart-healthy, a good source of vitamins and minerals, and gluten-free).
2. Fats — This can be any edible oily substance, and depending on the fat content and/or taste you prefer, is really up to you … Canola oil, peanut butter, a light olive oil I’m sure would work, melted butter, etc.
3. Sugars — Sugar works with the fat to create an almost caramely coating for the oats and helps them stick together with all the add-ins.  Again, depending on your preference for sweetness vs. health, the sugars can vary … I’d suggest a combination of brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, etc.

Take your oats, a fat, and a sugar or two, mix it up, bake it, and you have a very basic granola.

But that’s boring.

Frankly, you can add whatever you want to the general mixture and get a pretty good product so feel free to experiment and get creative, as long as you have one of each of the three bases.

You might try:

  • flax seed (whole or milled)
  • wheat germ
  • crispy rice
  • nuts of various kinds (walnuts, almonds, macadamias, pine nuts, etc.)
  • seeds of various kinds (sesame, poppey, sunflower, etc.)
  • dried fruits

Really the granola add-in world is yours to explore.

Here’s a recipe adapted from cdkitchen. I’ve changed things around a bit to our own taste and have experimented a bit with different add-ins.  Again–get creative!  It’s granola.  And aside from burning it, you really can’t mess up.  Or at least I haven’t messed up yet, and I am definitely accident prone.  Feel free to share your mixtures and experiences with experimenting in the comments.

First, set your oven to 300 degrees.

Then, collect your tools:

  • Rubber Spatula
  • Cookie Spatula
  • Parchment Paper or Silicon Baking Mat
  • Rimmed Baking Sheet
  • Giant Bowl
  • Whisk or Wooden Spoon
  • Liquid Measuring Cup
  • Small Saucepan

Then, collect your ingredients (these were ours):

  • 4 Cups of Old-Fashioned Oats
  • 1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Chopped Nuts (we like sliced almonds, but choose what you like or keep ’em out and add a cup more of oats)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup Canola Oil (or any other liquidy fat you choose)
  • 1/3 Cup of Honey (you could use molasses or real maple syrup or a mixture–I add enough maple syrup to the honey to make 1/2 Cup of liquid)
  • 1/4 Cup of Apple Sauce (we use all nature no sugar added)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
  • 1 Cup of Dried Fruit (I like dried blueberries!)

Mix the Dry Ingredients (Oats, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Salt, Nuts, Dried Fruit) in the Giant Bowl:

Use a wooden spoon or whisk to work together the dry mixture:

In a saucepan, mix together your liquid ingredients (Oil, Honey, Vanilla, Apple Sauce) on the lowest heat:

You just want to warm them up and get them mixed together.  DON’T LET IT BOIL!  Just warm it up a bit and get everything mixed up nicely.

Then add the warm liquid mixture to the dry mixture:

And give it all a good stir with a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and get everything evenly coated:

Get your baking sheet and cover the bottom with a sheet of parchment or a silicon baking mat.

Then pour the mixture on to the baking sheet:

Flatten out the mixture with your spatula so that it’s about 1/2 inch thick or so and goes all around the edges of the pan like so (Mark is doing a really good job!):

Now pop it into the oven for baking.

It bakes 40 minutes, stirred every 10 minutes to be sure it’s getting baked evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom.

To stir, push the granola from the sides of the sheet into the middle and then press it out again:

If you have a helper or two, you can take turns stirring every 10 minutes.  Mark and Gordon are very good helpers.

During this process it will still be sticky but not crispy.  Don’t overbake!  The crisping happens during the cooling.  The baking helps to caramelize your sugar/oil concoction around the oaty mixture but won’t make it crisp.

Once the 40 minutes are up, pull it out of the oven and set the sheet on a rack for cooling.  Let it cool 30 minutes.  Then use your hands to break up the pieces.  Your granola may be more brittle or more chewy depending on the different items you put in.  If you have a food dehydrator you could put it in there to get it really nice and cracking.  The latest batch we made was more on the chewy side but still yummy yummy.  My sense is that it will get more crisp as it ages.

Store it in an airtight box for up to 2 weeks, if it will even last that long!

It’s great with yogurt or milk or soymilk with fresh fruit, or even just on its own as a snack.

However you choose to eat your granola, enjoy your home made treat and the satisfaction of knowing all the yummy goodness that’s in it and the joy that went in to making it and in discovering something new and tasty. Might I suggest sharing the recipe with friends, and not your granola. Or you might just find yours is all gone!

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