April 29, 2010

Yoga Inspiration

These two videos sum up two of the most important values of yoga. The first is a video about a man who has lost over 300lbs, over three years, by doing yoga and eating healthy. To me, this video represents how yoga can give you the power to make changes in your own life that may seem impossible, but through consistent practice and making little changes over time, you can overcome almost anything, no matter how long it takes.

This second video is of a woman who has been doing yoga her entire life, she is now in her 90s and is still teaching classes! Yoga is not just an exercise, it is a lifestyle. If you choose to live this yoga lifestyle, it will continue to provide you with mental/emotional/physical/spiritual benefits for your entire life. Living the yoga lifestyle also gives you to power to have a positive influence in other people's lives. Whether you are like the woman in the video, and leave a vast legacy of teaching hundreds of people yoga over the decades, or you just smile at others more and perhaps let them merge into your lane in traffic, you are bringing more light and happiness into the world. Like the instructor in my class said last night, "you can't just come to class 1 hour a week, and be an asshole the rest of the week, and be a yogi." lol, so true.

I hope these videos has inspired you to do something positive with your day, whether you practice yoga or not, namaste!

April 27, 2010

Book List

In addition to my Life List, I have also begun working on a Book List, I got this starter list from Thebest100lists.com. I chose this particular list because it has been voted on by regular people, rather than literary critics (whos' opinions I do not really value that much). I'm just not that into the heady, high brow take on literature. I just love a good story, and high quality writing. I've crossed off the books I've already read, and put stars by my favorites :) I will probably add to this list as time goes on. Please feel free to email me suggestions at jfo_55 at hotmail dot com. Thanks!

1984 by George Orwell

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien *

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen *

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck *

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling *

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Ulysses by James Joyce

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

East of Eden by John Steinbeck *

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez *

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain *

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand *

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess *

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand *

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley *

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger hated!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman *

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Life of Pi by Yann Martel *

Middlemarch by George Eliot

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

On the Road by Jack Kerouac *

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The Stand by Stephen King

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden *

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Emma by Jane Austen

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Light in August by William Faulkner

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

April 26, 2010

Grilled Artichokes with Lemony Garlic Sauce

Yesterday was the perfect Sunday. Zak and I went out to breakfast (paid for by his poker winnings!) at Snooze, a very popular Denver breakfast joint. With popularity comes a 30-45 minute waiting list, buuut, they provide free coffee to keep you from getting too cranky about that. So we sat on the sunny sidewalk (yay alliteration) and played scrabble on Z's phone. We're both pretty bad a scrabble, but it sure did pass the time.Zak got the breakfast burrito, and I got the blueberry pancakes (I just can't seem to get anything else when we go out!). Man, that burrito is the size of a kitten (best analogy I could come up with sorry) so he definitely saved half for lunch later in the day.

After that we played with Irving, my mother's puppy (who we are currently pet sitting), and Watched Jurassic Park II, and let me just say, dinosaurs taking over San Diego? Totally awesome! Finally, we got our garden ready to plant by digging up the weeds and grass clumps and tilling the soil. Then, I made dinner. On the Menu: Grilled Artichokes with Lemony Garlic Sauce.

Please forgive the low quality of this photo, it was really rainy and dark out!

I build the rest of the meal around the artichokes, we ended up having porkchops (also cooked on the grill), salad and mashed potatos. I had been searching for an interesting artichoke idea for a few weeks, because, to me, artichokes symbolize the beginning of the warm season and all the outdoor fun it entails. I came across this recipe on allrecipes.com, and actually followed it to a T because it is simple, and perfect. You will love it, I promise!

Grilled Garlic Artichokes
(with my notes in parentheses)

2 large artichokes
1 lemon, quartered
3/4 cup olive oil 4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice from one lemon wedge into the water. Trim the tops from the artichokes (this was not easy in any way, I had to sharpen my knife twice, but it was worth it in the end), then cut in half lengthwise (remove the purple fuzzy inside with a paring knife), and place halves into the bowl of lemon water to prevent them from turning brown (I thought it was easier to just squeeze the juice over them, because the juice got inbetween the leaves better this way).

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat (use charcoal if you can, sooo much better!!).

3. Add artichokes to boiling water, and cook for about 15 minutes. Drain. Squeeze the remaining lemon wedges into a medium bowl. Stir in the olive oil and garlic, and season with salt and pepper (This turns out to be very hollandaise-esque, it's cool how the lemon juice and olive oil emulsify so easily, I had no idea they would!).

4. Brush the artichokes with a coating of the garlic dip, and place them on the preheated grill. Grill the artichokes for 5 to 10 minutes, basting with dip and turning frequently, until the tips are a little charred. Serve immediately with the remaining dip.

These turned out to be sooo delicious, I can't even begin to describe how satisfying the smoky, lemony, garlicy heart was when you finally got to it. This recipe is definitely going into my repertoire for the grill. Speaking of artichokes, did you know that if they are left un-picked, they become these insane looking, but beautiful purple flowers? Pretty cool!

April 22, 2010

San Francisco Road Trip

Last weekend, I flew out to SF with my little sister to help her pack up her apartment and move back here. We drove back in 2 days, staying with friends in Salt Lake City. It was a whirlwind of a trip, but we managed to have a really fun time, and I got to finally eat my beloved Parisian Macarons. I sampled them from two different shops, La Boulange, and Miette. At LB I got a raspberry and vanilla, and from Miette I got a lavander rose, and a grapefruit. These cookies are so wonderful, they are crunchy on the outside, and gooey on the inside. My favorite thing about them is how colorful they are, it's absolutely delightful to see them all lined up in a shop window according to color, ranging from chocolate brown, to bright pistachio green, to pink raspberry.

We also drove to the beach, where I got to put my feet in the ocean (not a common occurance, living in a landlocked state). The water was freezing cold, but the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous day. After that we went to haight-ashbury and my sister sold some clothes at Buffalo Exchange to make some extra gas money for the trip home. Then a little more driving around the city, and visiting with a friend before we left SF and headed to Sacramento to stay for the night.

The rest of the trip was just driving, driving, and more driving, except for a brief stopover in Provo, UT (near SLC) and some much appreciated hospitality from some friends who live there. Spending so much time in the car allowed for some serious sister bonding, music listening and book reading. Since my sister opted to drive the whole way (lucky me, I don't like driving) I was able to sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Note my sister's shirt...Bob Marley indeed.

We saw some breathtaking sights, and some really boring ones as well (WTH Nevada?) but just getting out of my city and being on the road provided a nice breath of fresh air for me. The break from my regular routine left me feeling emotionally rejuvinated.

April 20, 2010

Caramel Apple Pastry

My sister in law pointed out that I had promised to post my recipe for Caramel Apple Pastry and never did! How flaky (pun intended) of me lol. Sorry to anyone waiting for this, and Medora, thanks for reminding me!

I love love  LOVE this dessert. There are so many ways you can adjust this concept to be as quick/easy or as complex as you want. There are 2 main componants of this dessert, obviously the APPLES, and the PASTRY.

First... the apples. You can slice them thinly and arrange them in a pretty design, or you can chop them finely in the food processor with almonds to a relish-like consistency. No matter how I disassemble the apples, I always use the following spices: a big amount of cinnamon, a medium amount of ginger, and a small amount of all-spice. I don't measure the exact amounts, but a good guess is, for 2 cups of apples, use 1 1/2 tsp Cin., 1/2 tsp ginger, and 1/4 tsp all spice.

Now, the pastry.  I suggest just buying the frozen puff pastry in the "dessert" section in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store if you don't know how to make your own (I don't... yet). I am not a puff pastry purist.

For the caramel, I like to use easy dolce de leche, you can find the recipe in this post.

Caramel Apple Pastry

1 box frozen puff pastry
2 cups chopped or sliced apples (granny smith are the best)
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp all spice
1/2 cup dolce de leche

Honey spice glaze (optional)*

Pre-heat the oven to 325 F. Take the frozen pastry sheet and cut into smallish, rectangles about the same size of a napolean (or about 4x2 inches) you will need 3 rectangles per pastry. Put on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and store in the fridge to thaw.

Core, peel, and prepare your apples however you like. I usually put them in a food processer with the spices and pulse until they are small chunks. If you slice them, toss with the spices.

Take out your puff pastry rectangles and arrange them in groups of three for each pastry. Place the apples on two out of the three rectangles, leaving one alone (for the top). Make sure to leave about 1/8 in of pastry along the edges. Spoon about 1 1/2 tsp. of dolce de leche on top of the apples.

Bake the pastries un-assembled for about 15-20 minutes, or until the top layer rectangles are completely puffed, and slightly brown.

After the pastries have cooled enough to handle, stack the two apple covered layers, then top with the plain layer. Drizzle with honey spice glaze, or a little powdered sugar or cinnamon. Enjoy!

* Honey Spice Glaze
Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat, add 3 tbsp. honey. Once the honey is melted and thin, add 2 tbsp. butter and swirl until the butter is melted and incorporated into the honey. Now add a dash of cinnamon, and allspice. Finally stir in a cap full of vanilla extract, swirl until everything is incorporated, and take off the heat immediately. Drizzle over your pastry and enjoy!

An Award!

Kayla, at Sense of Style is Eternal, has graciously passed on this award to me, thanks K! Her blog is lot's of fun, with some great outfits and now wedding planning! Check it out!
The Rules:
•Accept and thank the person who gave it to you!
•List 10 things about yourself
•List 5 additional things you DON'T like

10 Things About Me:

-I'm short, 5 feet 1 inch

-I am a geek and love Harry Potter, LOTR, Star Wars, and any other good sci-fi or fantasy lit and/or films

-I had a pretty chaotic life growing up, but have overcome the bad things from my past and have a really happy and stable life :)

-I am borderline obsessed with ABBA, I absolutely love their music, and listen to it almost every day

-I did Tae Kwon Do in college, and will probably start taking some kind of martial art (aikido?) again as soon as I can afford it

-I am going to start the Yoga Teacher Training Program of my dreams in about 3 weeks, and I am so excited/scared/nervous I can barely contain myself

-I grew up on a ranch, and hope to move to the country again someday

-I love to dance, even though I look like a total freak when I do

-Biology is my favorite subject to learn about

-I think funny/ugly faces are just about the funniest thing ever, nothing makes me laugh harder

5 Things I don't Like:
-Red onions
-Flying insects
-Rude people
-Fried food

I will pass this award on to: anyone who would like to use it as an opportunity to share more about themselves! I just can't choose any one particular blogger because you are all so wonderful and unique :)

Thanks for the award Kayla, you're too kind :)

April 15, 2010

Strawberry Clafouti

Last weekend I made strawberry clafouti. I was inspired by Kelly at Make Grow Gather, and her lovely looking confection. She recommends using this recipe, so that's what I did. While mine didn't turn out quite as nicely as hers, it sure was tasty! I served it with some vanilla ice cream on Sunday night when my brother in law came over for dinner.

I had never heard of a clafouti before, so I did a little research on good ole wikipedia and found out that a Clafouti is a version of a Flaugnarde made in the Limousin region of France. It usually uses black cherries with the pits still in, because, apparently, this enhances the flavor. I will definitely test out this theory later in the summer when cherries are in season.

I love this dessert because it is so easy! It took me about 10 minutes to prepare, you can't beat that with baked goods! It comes out of the oven all puffy like a soufle, with the gooey strawberries popping up here and there, very satisfying looking. I tried this twice, the first time I did the recipe as is, and the second time I added lemon zest. I must say, the zest really brought it to a whole new level for me! The texture is very similar to bread pudding, so I served it warm with some vanilla ice cream, very delicious!

Strawberry Lemon Clafouti
(From here, with slight modification by me)

1/2 tablespoon butter
8 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 2-qt. baking or gratin dish with the butter (or use bakers spray with flour, worked fin for me). Toss strawberry halves with cornstarch until evenly coated, then arrange berries, cut side down, in bottom of dish and set aside. In a blender, whirl eggs, milk, flour, granulated sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt 15 seconds. Pour batter over strawberries. Bake until puffed, golden brown, and set in the center, about 50 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.

This weekend, my little sister is moving back to Colorado, so I am flying out to San Francisco tomorrow to help her get packed up. Then we are driving like mad to get back here by Monday so I don't miss any more work! It will be a crazy.ass.weekend that's for sure. While I am there, I only have one goal, and that is to finally try a Parisian Macaron. I have seen pictures of these little delicacies all over the internet, and I have even tried to make them. Unfortunately, I failed, and there is no place in the whole state of Colorado (that I have found) that sells these little guys. So please, wish me luck in my pursuit of the most yummy looking colorful cookies!

*sigh* soon we will be together my loves!

April 14, 2010

Finally! Garden Plans 2010...

I think it is finally time to start planting my garden! The trees have began to blossom, and the bugs are coming out in full force. Last weekend, I evaluated our new outdoor space to see what I could do, and it looks like the little bed in front of our house is perfect for a vegetable garden, it gets about 8 hours of direct sunlight a day, and is right next to our house, so hopefully only the bravest squirrels and birds will try to eat my produce.  I am going to try to grow some tomatoes upsidedown this year. I read about this in Real Simple Magazine. If you grow your tomato plants in hanging pots, you will not have to try to prop them up with flimsy wire cages! I am also going to plant my pumpkins and squash in the backyard, away from the rest, because in my experience, these will take over the entire garden if they are in a confined space.

Front yard flower bed:
Bell peppers
Jalepeno peppers
Loose leaf lettuce (field greens)
Carrots (I've never been successful with these before, so we'll see how it goes)
An herb garden with:

Tomatoes in hanging pots on the patio

Back yard:
Pumpkins for carving
Pumpkins for eating
Butternut squash
Possible more corn

I will also plant a few flowers, just for fun :)
I have 2 calanchos that desperetely need potting and 2 primroses that also need a home.
Growing up, our entire porch was covered in morning glories, they are one of my favorites. It is such a consolation to me when I have to get up early to see the lovely flowers that only come out in the early morning.

I have found that the Farmer's Almanac website has a plethora of gardening advice, so I will be basing the planting dates off of their guide for my region. I will make sure to take tons of pictures as things start to pop up and grow!

April 12, 2010


Today, I had grand plans of posting about a delicious strawberry dish I made this weekend, buuuut instead I am posting about my insane morning. On my way to work today, my stick shift started feeling weird when I was changing gears, almost loose. As I was getting going after a stopping at a stop sign, all of the sudden the stick wouldn't go into gear, the stick was wobbly and felt disconnected. Luckily I was on a residential street, and only going about 15mph, so I coasted over to the side of the road, and parked.

I pulled up the leather cover from the stick shift to find that the part that connects the stick to the rest of the car was held on with DUCT TAPE and had come apart! Oh my gosh, I can't believe I have been driving a car that is held together with tape.

LUCKILY we just got a AAA membership a few weeks ago, so I gave them a call and they sent a tow truck to come drag my poor car to the mechanic. Our membership means that the whole tow was covered, so we didn't have to pay anything for it! Which is great since we just found out that it is going to cost $400 to fix the car.

Well, all I can say is that I am SUPER lucky that we got that AAA membership, and also that we have a mechanic that we can trust. I would have been feeling a lot worse right now without those two things.

I left my camera with the pics from this weekend's dish in the car...so as soon as I get it back...Strawberry Clafouti! Weird name, delicious dish :)

April 9, 2010

Pinatas for adults, and a mustache and rootbeer party

A month ago I asked my husband "what do you want to do for your birthday?" and he answered "I want to have a moustache and rootbeer party!".  So I basically took that and ran with it. For our wedding we had a DIY portrait station where people could pose for funny photos with some props and costumes I had made. The most popular prop were these felt moustaches I cut out and put on sticks so you could hold them up to your face. So my sister and I made a buch of these for the party to hand out as favors. I also asked the guests to bring a few bottles of their favorite rootbeer for a rootbeer tasting.  I love organizing surprises, so I decided to get a pinata for the birthday boy and surprise him with it during the party.

There is actually a really cool pinata store about a mile from our house so I ducked in there (underneath all the pinata dragons and ponies hanging from the celing) after work and picked out a traditional star shape. To fill it, I wanted to do something a little different, that adults would have fun with, because I didn't think our friends would want a bunch of crappy candy. I went to a dollar store and picked out the following things:

glow sticks
fake roses
mardi gras beads
mini bubbles
1 bag of candy

Once everybody had arrived, had a beer and a burger in hand, and was appropriately moustached, I told everyone I had a special surprise for Zak, and brought out the pinata. We strung it over a tree with an extension cord (I couldn't find my string!) and let the birthday boy do the honors. When everyone saw the contents they went nuts! I wasn't expecting it to be that big of a hit with everyone, but they were as excited as kids running around trying to get different color glow sticks and putting the flowers in their hair. It was so much fun!

That vampire/scarecrow in the background was a wedding gift from zak's bff, so we set him out as an honorary guest.

After everyone had settled down from the pinata frenzy we had a little bonfire in our landlord's fire pit...
I am the fire Master!!

Everyone decided that since there was a pitchfork, we just had to do an "American Gothic" photo, please excuse my horrific hair, the wind was blowing!

Finally, we all went inside and had some strawberry shortcake :)

haha, looks like someone was caught having 1 too many servings of dessert :)

Mr. Birthday boy was falling asleep by the end of the night, now that's a good party!

April 2, 2010

Old Family Photos & My husband's birthday!

My grandfather was a well known horse trainer, he invented a special kind of saddle and wrote a book on his method.  It's is my family's one and only claim to fame! He was also a pretty good photographer and has passed down these great photos to us. My grandparents had a horse ranch in Texas before moving to Colorado in the late 50's and building the ranch that would later become my home.

This is my grandpa

This is my grandma

Here they are in KS where my grandpa was stationed in the army

On the ranch with my uncle as a baby

Apparently hats are a great way to scoop up and drink water while hearding cattle!
I don't know who this is but he's pretty badass!
My dad and his big brother on Christmas day, this photo cracks me up :)

This is my dad doing some fancy tricks!
My dad is on the right, the other guy is some dude who came to our ranch to study with my grandpa.

Yet another un-named badass.

This was a road trip my grandma took before she was married, I LOVE these because it reminds my of "On the Road" a little bit :)

I am currently working on scanning all the old family photos onto the computer so we can have them forever. I think these are the best heirlooms, I just can't imagine anything more wonderful than seeing what life was like for my amazing grandparents. I feel so lucky to have these photos!

Also, today is my dear husband's birthday. He is 27 today, and it is our 5th birthday together :) We have been together since I was 19 and he was 22, and we have really done a lot of growing up together. This quote pretty much sums up how I feel about our relationship:

"We had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two." - Captain Corelli's Mandolin
He is the love and light of my life. I am so lucky to call him my partner in crime for life!