Top 5 Pictures from February

Last month I posted my Top 5 Pictures from January and I thought I’d follow suit and do it again this month. It’s interesting to look back on the pictures I’ve taken with a more critical eye – it’s one thing to pick the best picture of the day, which is often difficult for me – but the best from the month is a whole other game. I almost went with a Top 7 but eventually I narrowed it down to a traditional Top 5 – just for you.

the snowflake

This picture got a lot of attention at the 365 site – more than I was expecting to be honest. I am pretty pleased with how much detail I was able to get.

all my heart is in your hand

This is one of those pictures that just tugs at my heart strings in spite of any technical flaws in the picture. The symbolic meaning behind the picture combined with the memories of a great afternoon with my little boy just make this picture perfect for me.

my new hobby

I’m loving how this picture came out – and it’s capturing a pretty huge milestone. Dan taught me how to knit last month and I’m still going strong(ish) with it. I wasn’t crazy about these metal needles which are extremely slippery, but they did make for a nice picture. I recently switched to a smaller pair of bamboo needles which I’m using to knit a baby blanket for a friend of mine and her upcoming little bundle of joy.

ten tiny fingers

This picture was taken a long with a whole bunch of cute pictures of the girl attached to these cute little fingers, but artistically speaking this one was the money shot. Another popular one at the 365 site.

baby blue eyes

Lastly, I love how I captured her beautiful blue eyes in this picture. Her brother’s eyes were actually even more brilliantly blue when he was her age. Now they are a much lighter grey blue which I am very fond of. BB’s eyes have changed shade several times since she was born – I’m a bit curious to see what color they settle on when she’s older.

I can’t believe it’s March already. I’m pretty proud of myself for still sticking with this project and I gotta tell you, I’m loving it. If you’ve been doing a 365 project also, I’d love to see it – feel free to share a link with me in the comments section below!

daybook: march 1st

best toy ever

Today…

Outside my window: it’s a fairly standard sunny but probably cold day. Honestly unless it’s snowing or raining, it all looks the same to me. I’d like to tell you I’ve been outside today and could tell you if it’s cold or not, but I haven’t. I try to avoid those flights of stairs during the week when I can.

I am reading: Easy on the Eyes by Jane Porter. I loved the last book of hers that I read, Odd Mom Out and so far this one has been pretty great, too. Porter is excellent at sucking me into her books and making me really care about her characters. This one deals a lot with self image and society’s expectations on beauty and celebrity.

Last night: we went to Best Buy (after a lot of unnecessary driving around looking for one, only to find out there was one about 5 minutes from our home that we somehow didn’t know about) and I got to play with the DS a bit while Dan looked at netbooks. I was fairly unimpressed with the game they had on display but it was nice to get a feel for the controls – love the little stylus. I was also very impressed with their game selection as compared to other places we’ve looked (Target, Walmart, Game Stop).

In the kitchen:

  • Monday: Spaghetti with Mushroom & Tomato Sauce and Sliced Italian Bread
  • Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner: Pop up Pancakes
  • Wednesday: Mac and Cheese (a la blue box)
  • Thursday: Mexican Rice Bowls (recipe idea from Womens Day mag)
  • Friday: Fish and Chips

I am really excited about: how active and mobile the baby is getting. I suppose I’m also a bit apprehensive as it means a lot more “no don’t touch that!” and so forth, but mostly I’m just proud. Before I know it she’ll be chasing after her big brother and getting into all sorts of mischief.

going going gone

I really want to make: this Irish Whisky Cake recipe I found online, maybe for St Patricks Day? Also the Pioneer Woman’s glazed doughnuts keep calling out to me. In general though, I want to make cookies but haven’t decided what kind yet. Suggestions?

This weekend we: talked about taking a little daytrip to Milwaukee later in the month, just to get away for a bit – we are both kind of longing for a vacation but also trying to be sensible.

Some other links I think you should click:

One last thing I want to tell you about before I go:Did I mention yet here that I’m officially running Linux on my mac? I haven’t moved all my stuff over, unpacked and the like but so far so good. I haven’t lost my internet connection since I switched over or anything stupid like that. Mostly though I’ve just been looking for software and trying to figure out how I can get tweetdeck or something similar to run on the version of Linux I’m using (Ubuntu 9.10).

apple vs penguin

Blogsplash: Thaw by Fiona Robyn

Thaw by Fiona RobynI’ve got a great treat for you – it combines two of my favorite things: books and free stuff. You see, author Fiona Robyn has decided to blog her novel, Thaw, bit by bit over the next few months so that you can read it for free! Thaw is the diary of Ruth who you will meet in the first entry below. You can continue reading tomorrow here.

These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat — books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about — princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say, ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for,’ before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

Continue reading here.

Over-Used Recipes Week: The Meals We Could Make Blind-folded

Over-used Recipes SwapTiffany at Simple Modern Mom had this stellar idea to share our most loved / over-used recipes we make so often we could practically prepare them blindfolded. The idea is pretty basic – link up your tried and trues at her blog and check out the recipes other participants have been making for their families. The goal is to broaden our dinnertime options with already tried and truly loved meals. Sound like fun? Link up your own recipes and then check out what’s cooking at Simply Modern Mom.

Here in our lovely little Wisconsin abode we’ve been enjoying a lot of seafood and vegetarian dishes since switching to a pescetarian diet a few months ago. I’ve got a nice assortment of recipes but I’m always looking for more – especially meals that are less expensive with more staple ingredients. Anyway, here are six of the recipes that have been rocking our world:

Parmesan Baked Salmon

Recipe Info

  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 25 min
  • Makes: 2 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp KRAFT Real Mayo Mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 2 salmon fillets (1/2 lb.), skin removed
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 5 RITZ Crackers, crushed (about 1/4 cup)

Directions

  1. HEAT oven to 400°F.
  2. MIX mayo, cheese and pepper until well blended; set aside.
  3. PLACE fish in shallow foil-lined pan; drizzle with lemon juice. Top with mayo mixture; spread to evenly cover fish. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs.
  4. BAKE 12 to 15 min. or until fish flakes easily with fork.
  5. We typically serve the fish with couscous or jasmine rice and if I’m lucky my husband cooks up some lightly glazed carrots, too.

Another fabulous seafood recipe that we love is The Pioneer Woman’s Penne a la Betsy

Recipe Info

  • Prep Time: 25 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 6 oz pounds Penne Pasta
  • 1/2 pound Shrimp
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 whole Onion (small)
  • 1 cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 cups White Wine (or To Taste)
  • 1/2 can Tomato Sauce (4 Oz)
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Parsley, to taste
  • Fresh Basil – To Taste
  • Salt To Taste
  • Pepper To Taste

Directions

  1. Cook the penne pasta until tender-firm, also known as al dente.
  2. Peel, devein and rinse (under cool water) 1 pound of extra large shrimp.
  3. Heat about 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes until just opaque. Do not overcook them. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  4. Now, put the cooked shrimp on the cutting board and pull off the tails. Chop the shrimp into bite –sized pieces and set aside.
  5. Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic.
  6. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally.
  7. After the garlic and onions have cooked a bit add your white wine. Let the wine evaporate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. If you would rather not use wine, you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead (about ½ cup).
  8. Now add an 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Then add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat down to low and let simmer.
  9. Now chop your herbs, about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about the same amount of chopped basil, or if you’re feeling very proper, chiffonaded.
  10. Now add your chopped shrimp back into the tomato cream sauce. Give it a stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Throw in your herbs and stir until combined. Finally add your cooked penne pasta and give it a good stir.

One of my new favorite foods is eggplant and it’s all thanks to this recipe. I appologize, I don’t remember where we found it…

Eggplant Parmesan

Recipe Info

  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 282

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2-1 cup marinara sauce
  • Basil (optional)

Directions

  1. IMPORTANT: Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices, then liberally coat with salt and set in a colander for 1 hour to drain. Rinse the excess salt from the eggplant and pat dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the soy milk and egg replacer and mix well.
  4. In another medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the salt and pepper.
  5. Set up a breading station with one bowl for each: flour, egg replacer mixture, and bread crumb mixture. Dredge the eggplant in flour and shake off the excess. Submerge the eggplant in the egg replacer mixture, shake off the excess, and then coat evenly with bread crumbs.
  6. Place the eggplant in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the eggplant is crisp on the outside and tender inside.
  7. Serve topped with marinara and chopped basil, if desired.

We just recently found this great Quesadilla recipe at the Tasty Kitchen and it’s quickly become a favorite of mine. We just had this for dinner last night…

Tomato and Black Bean Quesadillas

Recipe Info

  • Prep Time 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time 10 Minutes
  • Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes, Drained
  • ½ can Black Beans, Rinsed
  • ½ cup Frozen Whole Kernel Corn, Thawed
  • ¼ cup Chopped Onion
  • 1 tablespoon Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  • ⅛ teaspoons Garlic Salt
  • ⅛ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
  • 1-½ teaspoon Lime Juice
  • ¾ cup Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • 3 whole Flour Tortillas

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients except cheese and tortillas. This can be eaten immediately, or let it sit for a few hours or overnight to really bring out the flavors. Feel free to use dried cilantro if you don’t have fresh, and add more cayenne if you would like it with more heat.
  2. To make the quesadillas, heat up a lightly sprayed nonstick pan and place a tortilla in it. Sprinkle cheese over half the tortilla, then cover that half with the tomato black bean mixture. Add another layer of cheese and then fold the other half of the tortilla on top. Cook for a few minutes, and then flip and cook the other side. This should be long enough to get it crispy golden outside, while melting the cheese and warming up the salsa on the inside.
  3. Save any leftovers to eat as salsa, a topping for a Mexican salad, in a burrito, or to make more quesadillas!

This French Onion Soup recipe is so easy to make and absolutely delicious – it’s also a pretty inexpensive meal, most of the ingredients are things we always have on hand. Use leftover french bread later in the week to make french toast or serve on the side of a pasta dish.

Recipe Info

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 394

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 8 oz. of sliced French bread
  • 4 oz. your favorite cheese

Directions

  1. Heat the oil or water in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and stir until the onions are well coated.
  4. Add the water and soy sauce or tamari and stir well.
  5. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, covered, until the onions are tender, about 45 minutes. Add more water if the soup becomes too thick.
  6. Serve in individual bowls topped with the French bread and cheddar cheese.

Alright and lastly, this recipe from Real Simple for Samosas is easy, tasty and reheats well.

Recipe Info

  • Serves: 12
  • Hands-On Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 cups (about 16 ounces) mashed potatoes
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 15-ounce package refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1 jar mango chutney (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the potatoes and peas.
  3. Unroll the piecrusts and cut each into 6 triangles. Place a heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture in the center of each piece. Gather the corners of the dough and pinch to form a point. Pinch the seams to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet.
  4. Bake the samosas until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with the mango chutney, if desired.