Monday, December 31, 2012

Kicking Clothes--and Bad Habits?--To the Curb

The end of 2012 seems to be a good time for cleaning out the closets. Today I ran across two HUGE bags of clothing and bedding by the side of the road:

In the bags were a lot of men's solid-colored cotton polo shirts and tee shirts (size XL) and women's tees and tops (size small).

Even though everything was clean and neatly folded, they smelled of cigarette smoke. Euww! Off they went to Goodwill, pronto.

The parking lot at the Goodwill dropoff location was full--I'd never seen so many cars there! So, yay for cleaning out your closets. Boo to leaving your clothes by the side of the road. And maybe 2013 will be the year a couple of my neighbors kick the nicotine habit?

One can always hope.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Boxes of Yum

I was at Target recently looking for a pet gate to keep the pugs out of the kitchen. No luck. But I stumbled upon two adorable glass storage boxes:

What a find! I've been looking for a non-plastic food storage box for a while. (SO sick of buying plastic, which is bad for the environment.) I wanted a box that's not too big, not too little, is easy to stack in the fridge, and doesn't have a complicated lid with annoying snaps or locks all over the place.

Hello, cutie. If there were four more, I would have bought them. But these were the last two.

They will be the perfect way to store cut-up raw veggies in my fridge:

The contents are easy to see (and therefore more likely to promote healthy snacking on my part):

The boxes are small enough that I can stack them on top of each other on the smallest, top shelf of the fridge.  

And having pre-cut veggies at eye level means that, if I'm going to indulge in a grilled-cheese sandwich for lunch, at least I have some healthy sides:

Yum, indeed.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hallmarks of Winter

The signs of Winter in Southern Callifornia are subtle, but they are there. You know it's winter when:

1. The grass is bright green but covered with fallen leaves:

2. Moss pops up in shady areas (it disappears completely in the summer):

3. Citrus trees are laden with fruit, and it's time to harvest the persimmons:


4. Hydrangea bushes, previously cut back, are already setting up leaves for the coming spring:

5. Violets are in bloom:

6. There's raindrops on the roses:

7. Wind and rain have scrubbed the skies clean, and the brilliant white clouds and shocking blue sky take your breath away:


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Happy

Merry Christmas, to all my friends and family who celebrate this holiday.

(that's me, having a blast at a Christmas past)

May you be as happy as a baby with a box!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter Tablescape

Start with an heirloom crystal pitcher. Add a couple of crystal pieces found at yard sales for a few dollars.

Toss in some branches blown down from a tree in the back yard. Finish off with some pine cones and acorns picked up in the neighborhood, embellished with glitter.

Mother Nature adds in the light and the rainbows.

Happy days, everyone, and let's be grateful for our blessings.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Favorite New Sandwich

I have a new sandwich I'm crushing on. Yes, it's just a grilled cheese sandwich, but it's taken up a notch or two:

It starts with my friend's homemade, crusty peasant bread, and then I add smoked English cheddar, Crosse & Blackwell's Major Grey's Chutneyand Durkee's Famous Sauce (a mustard-y kind of spread).

I spread a little butter spread on the outside, then cook the sandwich to melty-cheese perfection on a cast-iron skillet--which is unmatched in giving foods a crispy, golden outside:

My friend's delicious--and gorgeous-looking!--bread is made of only five ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt, and a little wheat bran or cornmeal for a decorative exterior. It looks like it was baked in a clay pot in a wood-burning oven in Northern Italy. Nope. Just a preheated casserole dish with a lid.

And--extra bonus--it requires no kneading! Here's a link to the recipe. This bread may change my life.

It certainly has changed my sandwich.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Chews for Dogs

Every day, my three pugs get an afternoon snack: a piece of dried sweet potato. They are tough and chewy like rawhide, but very low calorie (a plus for me, as pugs tend to get overweight very quickly).

If I don't dole out these treats by 3 p.m., the pug thugs start pawing me and looking longingly at the pantry, hoping I'll get the hint.

They looooove their sweet potato snacks! I love that they're low-fat, high fiber, and made of absolutely nothing except the orange tuber. But I don't love the price:

A pound of these puppies costs more than $17, after tax! Ugh.

So I was thrilled when my friend C sent me a link to making these snacks at home. (Why I didn't think of this on my own is another story.) But anyway, just take your basic, grocery-store sweet potato:

Cut it up in slices maybe 1/3 of an inch thick, lay the slices on a cookie sheet, and put them in a very low oven (150 degrees Fahrenheit) until they are dried out but still slightly flexible--overnight works well for me. I pop them in as I go to bed, and in the morning I have this:

Sweet potatoes treats for a fraction of the cost! The only difference is that mine aren't crinkle-cut.

Does that matter to my pugs?

Let's see: Pao's got his tongue out in anticipation, Mu Shu is dancing on his hind legs. Nope!

Nom nom nom nom nom.....

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snowflake Decor for Pennies

I was in JoAnn Fabrics yesterday, and I noticed all the holiday decor was on sale. Deep discounts were everywhere I turned. So I snapped up a bunch of stiff, sparkly snowflakes on wire stems for just 23 cents each. I tucked them into plants on the front porch:

The porch is looking really festive now, with a fresh new doormat and a poinsettia that our gardener gave us. Roosevelt, do you approve?

I popped more of the snowflakes into some simple glass jars and vases filled with inexpensive sparkly things: I found the silver snowflake with rounded edges and the white paper snowflake at Goodwill. The gold one I made myself out of popsicle sticks, leftover white paint, and glitter:

The new snowflakes cast pretty shadows on the wall behind them:

This apothecary jar holds another snowflake, some pine cones I picked up while walking the neighborhood, and a little "gift" I made from wrapping an empty box with a scrap of shiny paper and a bit of leftover ribbon:

The snowflakes are cute present-toppers, too. This present, for my yoga teacher, is wrapped in a sheet of handmade paper (on sale at the local art store) and some brocade ribbon plucked for free off the tables at the end of a party for somebody's golden wedding anniversary:

Pretty decorating doesn't have to cost a bundle! Look for sales all year long, stockpile things that catch your eye (no going overboard and appearing on "Hoarders," please!), and look for things like branches, pine cones, seed pods and leaves that can be transformed with a bit of paint and/or glitter.

And maybe one glittery snowflake, on sale for just 23 cents.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Birthday #3, Pao Pao!

Today the pugs got a special treat--these gorgeous snowflake cookies, sent to me from my Lovely Sister #1. They look almost too pretty to eat:

But they got eaten, because today, December 17, is a special day for this character:

Pao Pao, my youngest pug, turned 3 years old today! Here he is (on the left) with his brothers, waiting for the command to attack the birthday cookies in their bowls:

Pao Pao is the only one of our three pugs that we've known since infancy. Before he was old enough to rescue, we visited him, his momma, and his siblings. The Boy adored Pao because the puppy put up with this sort of nonsense (he's the one on the top of the stack):

He wasn't much bigger than The Hubby's hand when he was ready to come home with us:

I remember him sitting in my lap on that first car ride home, and how his fur stuck out in the sunlight:

 He was so darn cute!:

He and The Boy totally bonded:

Of our three pugs, Pao Pao is the "funnest" one, the one that's up for any adventure, from swimming in the pool:

 To meeting Giant Doggies:

To taking a bath without fear or complaints:

To going along with my silly schemes, like wearing jewelry:

And costumes:

From the beginning, he adored his two big brothers, although they took a little while to warm up to such a pest:

He was a cute, tadpole-shaped puppy for about 2.3 seconds.

 Then he blossomed into a tall, rangy adolescent with the heart of an athlete and the soul of a clown:

  And now he is one of Los Tres Amigos, my potatoes, my dear hearts.

Happy birthday, dear Pao! You are my little princess.

Er, prince.


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