Monday, February 28, 2011

Signs of Spring

We have had some amazingly beautiful, clear days here in SoCal recently, complete with snow-covered mountains in the backdrop.  However, despite the cold, signs are spring are here:

Potted dafodils beginning to bloom...


Camelias...

The first blooming of geraniums (they act like a perennial here)...

Beautiful and fragrant lavender...

A few potted herbs...

I took down the February hearts and hung up my spring wreath, too, which I love against the black front door:

Wishing you warm thoughts of Spring!

Blessings, Steph.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cold days in SoCal...

It's been cold here....and on the nearby mountains there is SNOW!  Any exercise I have done in the past few days has been in the warm comfort of a gym...otherwise, I have been holed up at home cooking, baking and reading (in addition to all the usual responsibilities)..and I might add that I have been enjoying it.  :)



Last night I made Chunky Tomato and Bacon Soup-I adapted the recipe from an afternoon tea cooking class that I took with my sister a couple of years ago.  Basically, I reduced the fat content significantly.  It may not look too lovely, but it tastes FABULOUS, (believe me!):

Here is how I made it:

Chop up a medium onion and cook it in a little butter with a pound of turkey bacon, cut up into small pieces until fully cooked.
Add 8C peeled tomatoes cut up (I used organic canned tomatoes), 1-2C chicken stock/broth, and some fresh or dried thyme.  Cook on low for about 25 minutes or so.
Add 1/2C milk and 1C nonfat cream and continue cooking on low for 10 more minutes or so.

I served this soup with crusty bread and a fruit salad.  Later in the evening, I made an orange cake from scratch even though I promised my husband I would stop baking so much!  SIGH.  He did enjoy it, at least.  This is what cold weather does to me (it is likely a God-send that I live in a sunny climate or I might be HUGE from all the baking and tasting!).

I have a lasagne baking in the oven right now!  :)  The hubs has been out in Joshua Tree hiking and climbing in the cold (this is his idea of weekend relaxation) and I know he will appreciate it when he gets home.

Earlier today I made baked lowfat tortilla chips for one of my boys.  Here they are:


Just cut corn tortillas into quarters and placed on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Spray the tops of them as well, add sea salt and broil on low, taking care to check them LIKE A HAWK.  Halfway through (after about 2-3 minutes) I turn them over.  This saves a ton of fat over the storebought variety.  I have a homemade salsa recipe here that is easy and is as good as you would find in any authentic Mexican restaurant!

Happy cooking,
Steph.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So Funny!

I just love this post from the Pioneer Woman and if you have time check out this love of a Bassett Hound.  Hysterical.  Ree, in addition to being an insanely good cook, (she is famous for this sinful chocolate sheet cake ), turns out to be a fabulous photographer.  This Bassett is captured beautifully.

Enjoy.  :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rainy Day and Brownies...

Cloudy, misty skies...


Youngest son with a cold trying to get warm....3 blankets and a fire no less...


Reading (and swooning) for me in between tylenol administrations...


A break from the rain.  I wonder why she so enjoys laying on the wet bricks???  Goofy dog.


Baking to pass the time and to try a frosting recipe that has been in my files for about 17 years...



It is awesome.  Here is the recipe (I halved it and spread it on a small batch of brownies):

Mocha Buttercream Frosting:
1 stick of butter
1 box confectioners sugar
2T baking cocoa
1t. vanilla
extremely strong coffee as a liquid

Mix butter and vanilla and add sugar, cocoa and some of the coffee and blend.  Adjust as needed.  YUM. 

Hope today is a lovely one, rain or shine!

Steph.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Faith, Hope, Love...

These three........but the greatest of these is LOVE.

Here are some scenes from Valentine's Day around my house:

A welcoming wreath...


Beautiful red roses...


A special gift from my husband...



Fun cards (the dog with hearts was sketched by my Mom)...



Homemade red velvet cupcakes...


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY TODAY AND EVERY DAY!!!

Blessings, Steph.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Plantation Shutters

I have always loved the look of plantation shutters, even though I swoon over so many other types of window treatments.  But in sunny SoCal, shutters are a great way to keep the beautiful but glaring sun partially hidden from interiors when necessary.  They are also great for adding re-sale to a house, particularly where we live.

For so long I have been dissatisfied with the window treatments in my living and dining rooms (I have a home with a very open floor plan so that the living and dining rooms are connected and need the same treatment/color scheme, etc).  Think "lovely" 1970s architecture!

Here is the before of the living room:

You can see that the living room window is an L-formation.  I used white wood blinds originally, and then put upholstered cornice boxes above them, leaving the triangular windows alone.

Here is the during (we had replaced our living room windows several years back and it was one of the best decisions we have made for the house):



Here is the after (for now)...my wingback chairs are being reupholstered and I am hopeful to have them back in another week or so...so this area won't look SO empty as it does now...


YAY, much better!  And here is the dining room at the opposite end ( I am sure I will take a bunch of pictures of all the improvements together (windows, area rug, wingback chairs) when it is all put together (I also designed the stained glass window years ago):



Shutters can be pricey, but I took advantage of a sale at the Home Depot and got them for 10% off at least.  The area rug was also on sale, and the fabric for the wingback chairs was a STEAL, so I am going to still label this one Design on a Dime.  :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Triathlon Chronology


I have been thinking about writing this post for a long time.  My racing days are over thanks to new interests, a too-busy family and work life, and multiple joint/running issues.  But I wanted to do some sort of "farewell" to this beloved sport, in which I participated for 6 years.

Why did I race triathlons?  In short, it was to save me from myself.  :)  That may sound odd, since triathlon is inherently self-absorbed, but the many hours spent swimming, cycling and running used up extraordinary amounts of time that I feared might have been spent on "problem" pursuits.  But by the bitter end of my racing career, triathlon strengthened my best and closest relationships and vastly strengthened my faith.  By the time I was over saving myself, I started using triathlon to help others.  All in all, it really served me well.  *sniff*



Overall, I raced 24 Triathlons, four of which were serious endurance events, including 2 Half-Ironman races and two Ironman races (IMFL and IMAZ).  I also raced 15 Half-Marathons and one sad "little" stand alone Marathon.  I believe several 5K and 10K races were thrown in as well.  :)

The Ironman distance includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a full marathon (26.2 miles).  I trained for nearly a year for my first one, and for 6 months for the second.  At my absolute peak, I was training 20 hours per week, including 6 *hour* bike rides each Saturday.

How did I do?  Well, in the Triathlon world we call it FOP, MOP and BOP.  That translates to Front of the Pack (FOP), Middle of the Pack (MOP), and Back of the Pack (BOP).  I went into triathlon at age 40 having a childhood recreational swim background and NO running background whatsoever.  I had been spin cycling in the gym, but that was it.  Once I got on a real bike, though, I thought I was in heaven and it turned out to be a unique area of strength for me (who'd of thought it?).

Given my limited sports background, overall I did quite well as time marched on.  In general, my swim would typically end up in the front of the MOP.  If the race was short, the swim would be towards the FOP; if the race was long, the swim would be in the MOP.  My bike was always FOP, except for in endurance events when it would be MOP.  My run split was AWFUL.  Shudder.  I just suffer so running.  However, I would say that I went from the BOP to the MOP over the course of the years I spent racing.  I was constantly plagued with running injuries and generally quite a miserable runner.  But I worked on it over and over.  My fastest half-marathon split was a 2:03, laughable by any real runner's standards, yet I nearly cried when I got it.  :)

I did manage to PLACE in a few short-distance races for my age group.  All of this was solely due to a stellar bike split, usually first for the age group for those few races.  I actually qualified for Nationals in one race thanks to a smokin bike split.  In general, for such races I would swim as fast as I could, transition to the bike faster than other swimmers, jump on the bike and ride like an insane woman, and then pray I could hang on for the run, knowing what a huge weakness it was.  Typically, I would get rundown by the fast gals I had passed on the bike.  In one race, I missed first place by 3 seconds, having been caught by one of said gals.  Ah well.  I managed with a few second places and a few thirds over the course of racing and I was very happy with that.

Interestingly, there were many things I grew to dislike about triathlon.  One of them was the "clone" effect particularly of the most serious male participants.  Honestly, they all looked alike after a while, and the triathlon life seemed to consume so much of their identities that I felt sorry for them.  Another, was the rather  masculine nature of the sport.  At heart, I am extremely femme....and all the sweating, unflattering clothing, and grease began bothering me.  I still have hugely monstrous shoulders, thanks to all that swimming.  Even though I have stopped, they are still somehow attached to me even now.

All that said, I do SO miss being a super fit person and some of the awesome friends that I made through the sport.  My fitness has dramatically declined since my last race two years ago.  I still ride occasionally, though, and hope to pick up more cycling again in the near future.  :)  When I ride now, however, I have noticed that it is difficult to simply ride at a happy, leisurely pace, having pushed myself on the time trial bike for so very long.  Sigh.  Surely that will improve, though.

Many, many people helped and supported me along this triathlon journey....in big ways as well as small.  I will never forget this amazing time in my life and always look back on it fondly.  It is my greatest hope that  my children were affected by it in a positive way...in a way that says "YOU can do what you set your mind to, YES, YOU CAN!"

"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..." (Hebrews 12:1)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Olive Oil Muffins


My husband asked that I stop baking treats for a while....I do believe I had gotten on a roll because I tend to bake when I am anxious or stressed in some way and, fortunately, most of that anxiety has passed now. 

So, after work yesterday and as part of a meal, I decided to make these fairly wholesome muffins.  Honey is used instead of sugar and whole wheat flour instead of white.  This was the first time I made them, and I think I would add blueberries next time.  They are not very sweet and could go with a soup or stew, but honestly they are so filling that one muffin is enough for a meal!

Recipe:

1 C milk (I used nonfat)
1 egg
1/2 C of olive oil
1/2 C organic honey
2 1/4C whole wheat flour
1 t. sea salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.  Makes 12.  Add chocolate chips if you want them to fall into the "treat" department.  :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Primroses

I love burning candles in the "wintertime" here in SoCal.  We do have "cold" days here (kinda-sorta), and when our great and powerful sun goes down, it can be chilly enough for a fire in the fireplace and veggie soup on the stove.  Primroses tend to be a favorite "winter" perennial around here.  I have some now on our kitchen table.  Funny, they remind me of Lady Primrose at the amazing Crescent Hotel in Dallas , where I went for afternoon tea several times while living in that area. 



Peace,
Steph.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

FEBRUARY IS THE LOVE MONTH

If anyone needs a lesson on LOVE, read 1st Corinthians 13.  It's very powerful (and humbling)!  PERFECT to think about on Valentine's Day because, really, it's not about us.  :)

I am linking here where there is even more wisdom for wives.  Happy Loving! 

Blessings,
Steph.
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