Friday Faves: Food and Photography

Happy Friday all!

As we prepare to settle in for the long weekend, I thought I’d take a minute to share two things that are a big part of the leisure in our household. The first is food. The second is photography. A third is a combination of the two.

Our family is what I like to refer to as “the keeper of the memories”. We were snapping photographs of any and everything before smartphones with good cameras were as ubiquitous as automobiles. When an extended family member is looking for “a picture of Sally when she was about 6”, it’s a pretty decent bet that we have one in one of our many photo boxes.

Nevertheless, I am not the best photographer. I occasionally manage to get a decent shot, but my husband, and two of our daughters, have a much better eye and hands that are much more steady. What I occasionally achieve through luck, they regularly accomplish with skill.

One of the aforementioned happens to be my favorite food blogger, up and coming though she may be. Her latest recipe invention is the combination of everything I love in a dessert. It’s chocolate, it’s flourless, and it is very low in sugar. As a matter of fact, it’s easily modified by switching the coconut sugar for a substitute without losing much of its appeal. It tastes as good as it looks:

You should make this. Really!

It seems that lately our backyard has been transformed into Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I’m totally aging myself with that reference, but I really don’t care. I’m not sure why my first thought wasn’t Animal Planet, but who knows what makes a person’s mind draw on the reference of an obscure television show from her childhood that she never watched and barely remembers?

Anyway, our backyard has been a hotbed of animal adventure of late, and my husband has gotten some great shots. I wondered briefly if the animals in our backyard are more active, or if it is simply that all the time at home provided more opportunities for us to witness it. I suspect the latter.

First up, the snake that we caught having an amphibious lunch in a backyard palm tree:

Circle of life?

Next is a couple of shots of a magnificent hawk. He hung out on the edge of the house for a bit:

A little later, we noticed that he’d found a mole in the yard, and was preparing to have a tasty supper before he decided that our fence didn’t make for a good table, and took off:

Do you see the mole in his talons?

There has been quite a lot of excitement on the animal front of late. I even stumbled on a rattle snake several weeks ago when I was taking out some trash. We [meaning my husband] disposed of him promptly. No time for a photo worthy camera shot.

Lastly, although this isn’t a new photo, it is one of my favorites because my daughter made my cornmeal biscuits look delicious and food magazine worthy:

Like I said: food, photography, and food photography.

Have a great weekend!

Friday Faves: Food and Fitness Edition

Happy Friday, all!

Did you guys hear about the entire town that has gone on a diet to stave off the possibility of residents gaining what has become known as the “quarantine fifteen”? It’s not a bad idea! While I have gotten a chuckle out of memes such as this one:

Quarantine Barbie

Not everybody thinks it’s funny. There have been a lot of articles admonishing women to stop talking about trying to stay fit when we’re all trying to stay alive. This is not only frivolous, they say, but fat phobic. The problem, of course, is that this disease is disproportionately not fat phobic. It’s a bad time to go all-in on the body positivity stuff.

Last week, I pulled a muscle in my back. At least, the doctor was pretty sure that’s what I did when we conducted our virtual doctor’s appointment. As a result, I went a whole week without weightlifting or my morning walks. I’d already put on 2 pounds in March, and although I pulled it together in April, I felt like it was time to go the extra mile to keep me on track for however long I’m spending less time out and about. Moving around at home is definitely possible, but so is stillness. I figured it drastic times call for drastic measures, and my resistance to an extremely low carb diet has melted away.

I’m not interested in keto as a way of life. Period. Florida peaches are in season right now. My daughter drove recently out to a farm and picked some up. Peaches off of a tree created by God in the season that they were created to be harvested. There is nothing bad about eating a peach, but I have completely cut out grains and most fruits if they are out of season. It’s been extremely helpful. Not only do I feel lighter, but I feel better.

I restarted my workout this week, and I’ve taken up keto baking as an alternative to traditional baked goods. Baking is in our blood around here, and I miss it when I can’t bake because I’m trying to get and stay fit. Two of my favorite blogs of late are Kirbie’s  Cravings and All Day I Dream About Food. Yesterday, I made these butter pecan cookies from All Day I Dream About Food:

These rolls from Kirbie’s Cravings are still one of my favorite low carb recipes:

The formal school year has ended here, so time at the kitchen table will be drastically reduced, which is also helpful. Besides math -which never takes a break- and reading good books, our school load is drastically reduced. For now, which means more opportunities to get outside.

At least until the Florida summer swelter kicks into high gear.

How are you staying healthy during this crazy season?

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Miami Arts District

My beloved and I recently whisked away to Miami to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful, picture-perfect weekend with sunny skies, temps in the mid-70s, and postcard-worthy beach views. One of my favorite parts of the trip, however, was our walk through the Wynwood Arts District. So this Friday, I thought I’d share some of the spectacular murals on display at the Wynwood Walls.

This first one made me smile as soon as I lay eyes on it. It is so happy and cheerful:

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You can get a feel for the scale of this one by noting that I am 5’9″ standing in front of it:

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This one isn’t quite as big, but something about the paint dripping upwards really grabbed me:

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This one, which you can see is at the top of a taller building, is really spectacular:

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This woman spanning the width of the wall was pretty cool:

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Last but not least is another mural featuring yours truly for scale. The wind took over my hair, but I really liked this mural too:

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My husband has something of an artistic gift, which I do not share, but I have acquired his love of creativity and design. Gifted artists remind us that we are the Imago Dei of the Great Creator.

What are some of your favorite artworks or mediums? Feel free to share! Have a glorious weekend.

 

 

Friday Faves: Chucktown, SC

sunset kiawah

The view we enjoyed during our stay.

We recently had occasion to spend a great week exploring the charming and historic Southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a city with subtropical weather (not unlike Southern Florida), surrounded by water, with scenic views in every direction. For my Friday Faves, I thought a brief recap of my favorite stops would be a fun thing to do.

  • Kiawah Island: The combination of the weather (after the first two days of rain), views, and general beauty of the place made it a place I’d love to stay again soon.
  • The City Market: The array of vendors selling everything from local specialty foods to the work of local artists was a feast for the senses. I really enjoyed touring and shopping there
  • Low Country Cuisine: You can’t really go to a food region like this one and not enjoy the local seafood, especially a plate of shrimp and grits.
  • The Sound of Charleston: This musical history of the city featuring beautifully performed music from plantation fields, confederate battlegrounds, and Gershwin’s South Carolina inspired opera Porgy and Bess, which contains the well-known song, Summertime.
  • The unquestioned highlight of our short excursion northward was getting to meet a friend I first began communication online with 8-10 years ago. She is every bit as delightful in person and I look forward to getting together again with her much sooner than a decade from now!

Next week, I’m thinking of listing a few of my guilty pleasures. We’ll see…

Y’all have a great weekend!

Friday Faves: Apple Season!

“Pumpkin spice” is advertised everywhere we look from September through Thanksgiving (and I’ll admit I made these “pumpkin spice” energy bites yesterday), but for me, the real treat of the fall season is a crisp, sweet, tart apple.

Sidebar: The quotes around the words pumpkin spice are because in reality, there is no such thing as “pumpkin spice”. Flip over any package of the stuff, which is ubiquitous on spice aisles this time of year, and you’ll find a list of ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Or at least you have them when you cook as much as we do: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and possibly allspice.

While these are indeed used to flavor pumpkin pie, they’re also used for sweet potato pie, some apple pies (minus the ginger, of course!), butternut squash recipes, and many more that I won’t bother to list. My point is that the pumpkin spice gimmick has been a cash cow for the food industry when most home cooks already have the stuff in their cabinets. You can even flavor your own coffee with it for a fraction of what Starbucks charges! But as usual, I’ve digressed from the topic at hand, which is the happiness apple season brings me!

For today, I was trying to decide how to list my favorite apple varieties. I concluded that I’ll list my top five -in no particular order- along with what I use them for. Not all apples shine best in the same ways!

Granny Smith: a great baking apple. These were cultivated in Australia in 1868 by a “granny” named Maria Ann Smith. Something about Granny Smiths makes just about anything you bake with them taste phenomenal. I suspect it’s that bit of tartness juxtaposed against the sweetness of the other ingredients it is baked into. I will occasionally eat a Granny Smith just because, and one of my daughters only ever wants to eat Granny Smith, but I consider it best as a baking apple.

Pink Lady: Cultivated and principally grown in Australia (in 1973), pink lady apples are a cross between tartness and sweetness. They are a little crunchier and a little sweeter than Granny Smiths, and they work well when making drinks such as apple lemonade. We’re big around our house about making eclectic drink combinations for Sunday dinners.

Gala: Cultivated in New Zealand during the 1930s, these are my favorite economical snacking apple. The perfect combination of crunchy and sweet makes them a favorite to slice and eat along with a salad for lunch.

Honeycrisp: Hands down, the apple I most look forward to this time of year! These apples, cultivated in the 1970s in Minneapolis, taste like a very decadent treat. They are more expensive than most other varieties of apples, but in my book, every bite is worth the added cost per pound. Cooking Light explains here why Honeycrisps are so expensive.

Those are my favorite apples along with some random trivia about when and where they were cultivated. We don’t experience much resembling a change of seasons down here, so we have to take our bits of fall however we can get them. For many Southerners, that’s pumpkin spice. For me, it’s all about the apples.

Do you enjoy the apple season? If so, which are among your favorite varieties? There are so many, after all!

Friday Faves: GPS for Living Edition

 

As I posted recently, September is (for me) the ideal time of the year for planning and setting goals. It’s almost my defacto New Years. A perfect season in terms of making the adjustments I need in order to keep moving forward in areas I have heretofore ignored, grown stagnant, or even simply seen my forward progress slow down a little bit.

My number one way of keeping things on track is by using tracking tools. Some are old-fashioned and simplistic but helpful for daily use, others are apps which I have found amazingly useful, and some are just products and services which add value in ways that I appreciate. So here are some of my favorite tips, tools and trackers to help me get where it is I want to be as we move through this time of year.

  • Goodreads: This is the best place to find reviews of books I may be interested in, and an excellent way to decide whether I think I want to follow up and read certain books. Goodreads member reviews are far and away better than Amazon book reviews because they’re written by book people, and most importantly, they are less likely to  be reviews written by people who haven’t read the book or have some other agenda.
  • Whiteboard for daily lists: I have to admit, that for a long time I felt kind of inept as a homemaker when it became increasingly clear to me that without a list of tasks I am far too easily distracted and flight to get stuff done. By list, I mean a big, red reminding me throughout the day, one that I can check off as things get done. It’s not that I won’t do anything without a list. It’s that I won’t finish as many things without a list. There is always something to be done, and it’s very easy for me, in the middle of one task, to get pulled away into beginning another. The ever present list and the innate satisfaction I get from seeing all those checked items, keeps me focused.

list

recent to-do list

  • Planner (paper kind): Despite the ease with which I can save appointments on my phone, and I often do it that way, there’s still something nice about whipping out an old-fashioned planner book. Judging by the numbers of shelves they occupy in Barnes and Noble as well as other book and office supply sections this time of year, I’m clearly not alone.
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch: This is not only a fitness tracker (although that is my primary use for it).. It is helpful on less busy days to be able to see which hours of the day I can up my activity level  if possible. I also like my smartwatch because it makes it easier for me to not have my phone on me as much. When you have a big family, and I realize how postmodern this sounds, not missing texts and calls can be important.
  • Lose It food tracker: Love this as a way to keep track of my calories and nutritional macros. Having gone back and forth about this (as it’s another one of those areas where those of us of a certain age are supposed to just *get it*), I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever I need to do to get a thing done is what I need to do to get it done. And keeping a record of what I out in my mouth is useful to me. Is what it is.
  • Large, insullated water bottle: Staying hydrated is supposedly one of the foundations of health, along with sleep, nutrition, and movement. So I fill my 40 ounce Camelbak up every morning with the earnest intention of depleting it, and then filling it and depleting it again. Most days, I only get one full bottle down, but between that, my morning decaf, and the glasses of iced green tea (sweetened with stevia), I am much more hydrated than I would be without it. And it’s in my favorite color:camelbak blue

I could go on but you get the point. If I’m going to make any kind of forward progress in my life in areas that matter (including several not outlined here), I need a map. Several it seems, for every goal I’m working towards.

What about you? Are you a naturally disciplined person who takes the bull by the horns and gets things done without training wheels? Or are you more like me, sadly lost and wandering without a handy guidebook to keep you focused?

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves Potpourri

I don’t have a bookish list of Friday Faves this week, but I’ll plan one for next week. Meanwhile, join me for another post of potpourri.

~This week, my husband shared a couple of thoughtful items with me that are certainly among my favorite “finds” of the week, and also worth sharing. One is a story (author unknown) about the importance of perspective:

A writer was in his study room. He picked up his pen and started writing:

“Last year, I had a surgery and my gallbladder was removed. I had to stay stuck to the bed due to this surgery for a long time.

The same year I reached the age of 60 years and had to give up my favorite job. I had spent 30 years of my life in this publishing company.

The same year I experienced the sorrow of the death of my father.

And in the same year my son failed in his medical exam because he had a car accident. He had to stay in bed at hospital with the cast on for several days. The destruction of car was another loss.

At the end he wrote: Oh God! It was such bad year!”

When the writer’s wife entered the room, she found her husband looking sad and lost in his thoughts. From behind his back she read what was written on the paper. She left the room silently and came back with another paper and placed it on side of her husband’s writing.

When the writer saw this paper, he found his name written on it with following lines:

“Last year I finally got rid of my gallbladder due to which I had spent years in pain…

I turned 60 with sound health and got retired from my job. Now I can utilize my time to write something better with more focus and peace..

The same year my father, at the age of 95, without depending on anyone or without any critical condition met his Creator…

The same year, God blessed my son with a new life. My car was destroyed but my son stayed alive without getting any disability…

At the end she wrote: This year was an immense blessing of God and it passed well!”

The writer was indeed happy and amazed at such beautiful and encouraging interpretation of the happenings in his life in that year!

Moral: In daily lives we must see that it’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.

He is more likely than I am to remember the importance of a positive perspective in the midst of a stressful season, but I’ve grown ever more grateful the longer I’ve lived.
~The second thing he shared with me was a reintroduction to this sermon by Voddie Baucham on the true meaning and purpose of marriage. Worth a listen.

 

~We had a party recently in which board games were the center of the action. Some of the games the kids chose were among my favorites, and some weren’t. Board and card games are an excellent, screen-free way to interact and have fun. Here are a few of my  favorite board games and my least favorite board games.

First up, my favorites:

  • Scrabble: I’ve been a word game fanatic for as long as I remember. I will always choose a word game over any other kind and Scrabble is the classic, quintessential word game.
  • Uno: I am not quite sure why I enjoy this simple card game, but I do. I suspect in part because it doesn’t take forever to play around.
  • Taboo: The game where you help your people figure out what you’re describing without using any obvious words as clues. Fun stuff!
  • 5-Second Rule: You have five seconds to name three items in a particular category. Sometimes it’s easy, but others it’s harder than you might think.

My least favorites:

  • Monopoly: I have lost my patience for just about any board game that cannot be completed in an hour’s time, whatever that says about me.
  • Werewolf: My kids like this game, and I have not been able to figure out why
  • Telestrations: I cannot draw. The end.
  • Twister: Enough said.

~Continuing with my theme of fun in the kitchen on Fridays, I stumbled onto an excellent grain free chocolate chip cookie, which I served at the aforementioned party to rave reviews. One of my requirements for any keto, paleo, or whatever-other-o recipe is that has to be good all on it’s own. In other words, it can’t be “good for a paleo cookie”, or “good for a keto cookie”. If that’s the reaction I have when I taste it, it isn’t good enough. This recipe produces a good cookie. Period:

As much as I wish I had come up with this easy recipe on my own, it’s not mine. You can find it here. Perhaps I’ll share my pancake recipe next week if I remember to both write it down and take pictures.

~Lastly,  this month’s reading list is an overlapping of three very different books, each enjoyable in its own way. I hope to finish them all within the few weeks:

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy, published in 1905
  • The White Horse King: The Life of King Alfred the Great, by Benjamin Merkle
  • The 5000 Year Leap, by W. Cleon Skousen

As I said, three very different books, each with varying degrees of thought required. To complete them in the midst of an increasingly busy fall schedule will require a bit of focus, but I hope to do it.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend!