March 23, 2011

flower power

Pretty, pretty flowers. The greenhouse is full of them. They are good for the soul.

I am making a determined effort to appreciate the fact that I have these gorgeous beauties at my beck and call.

(Even gorgeous beauties that are covered in aphids. It would seem this batch of lady bugs are pooping out on us. Perhaps it's time to call in some reinforcements.)

I'm making a determined effort not to succumb to the late winter (even though it's technically spring) dreary and depressed doldrums.

Easier said than done, right?

Today is our first sunny day in weeks and weeks and boy, does it do a winterized heart good to finally see some blue skies.

On a totally different, non-flowery note, we recently re-discovered a jello recipe we haven't had since the 80's. It's quite scary to think that the last time I had this I was probably wearing acid wash jeans and sporting very big Aussie Sprunch sprayed bangs.

Dear 80's,

It's a recipe for raspberry jello with a pretzel crust. It is one of the wackiest combinations out there, but there is something truly delightful about the saltiness of the pretzels, the tartness of the raspberries and the creamy sweetness of the cream cheese layer. I promise, strange as it is, it's worth a try.

This is also one of the messier food photos I've ever taken. It would be much more appetizing if I'd taken the time to primp the subject even a little bit, but alas, it was not to be.

Raspberry Pretzel Jello. It may not be pretty, but it sure is good.

March 15, 2011

feed a fever chocolate pudding

I never get sick.

Never say never.

Today is day eight of what shall forever be known as Sickfest 2011.

Good times.

So for today, I'm going to give you a choice. You can either hear all about my sickness, or I can talk about chocolate pudding.

You pick chocolate pudding? Good choice!

Sometime on Sunday evening, I got a hankering for chocolate pudding. After a week of nothing sounds good, nothing tastes good, I all of a sudden needed chocolate pudding and I needed it bad. It was too late to go the homemade route, and I've never found a recipe I really liked anyway, and I came up empty handed in my pantry search for a box of instant to hold me over, so in a phenylephrine/dextromethorphan/chlorpheniraminemaleate induced fog, I went to bed puddingless.

The next morning, I was gazing in wonder and amazement at these adorable Lego cake pops, and they made me realize I had not visited Bakerella and her cake pop wonderland in ages.

Are you a Bakerella fan? My boys were pretty much past the cake pop stage when cake pops came into fashion, but I still think they are about the coolest treat on a stick imaginable.

As I was catching up on Bakerella's latest happenings, I came across this pudding cup post, complete with a delicious homemade pudding recipe, and knew I had to get up off the couch right that minute and give it a try.

So glad I did.

It is smooth and delicious, rich and creamy. Pudding perfection.

You can find the recipe here. I wasn't in a peanut butter mood, so I left it out this time, and substituted a few tablespoons of butter instead. Butter seems like such a strange pudding ingredient, but every pudding recipe I've ever seen calls for it, so who am I to argue.

I started feeling better from the very first spoonful, so I think chocolate pudding will forever be my very favorite sick food.

Chocolate cures what ails ya.

March 8, 2011

tales from the cow keeper

Okay, so I totally stole that title from my good bud, Jayme.

But she doesn't mind. She's cool that way.

Plus, she consulted her lawyers and they said she couldn't stop me without extensive litigation.

It's true though, I am a cow keeper. For the moment anyway.

More on that in a minute, because I found a surprise in the greenhouse yesterday. A fully blooming, lush and gorgeous bleeding heart. It was in my old potting soil bucket under the bench. Apparently this bleeding heart was going incognito last fall when I was dumping out pots of dead, shriveled up flowers. I'm pretty sure I didn't purposely try to kill one of my very favorite plants of all time.

I love, love bleeding heart.

Bleeding heart is also one of my favorite plants to photograph, what with row after row of adorable little hearts all lined up and waiting for a photo shoot.

See? Adorable.

But, back to the keeping of the cows.

The Meadowbrook Farmer has been gone since Saturday, which leaves me in charge of the farm. Sounds like a big job, right? Are you envisioning lots of chores and tractor driving? If you are, you would be mistaken.

Basically, my job consists of taking a walking tour of the back field to make sure everyone is present and accounted for, and also keeping an eye out for any mama who might be entertaining the crazy notion of having her calf a bit early.

At least that's the official job description. My version adds the task of keeping an eye on the bull at all times, (without making eye contact), while dodging cow pies and keeping my daisy boots mud free.

Here are my daisy boots a year ago. They do not look like this anymore.

So sad.

So, even though I failed miserably on the mud front, the upside is that the bull didn't even look my way today. Yesterday, he looked my way and that always makes me nervous.

I don't like the bull. I don't like the look in his eye.

I'm pretty sure he's up to no good.

But I do like my bleeding heart, and it doesn't make me nervous even one little bit.

In other farm news, my refrigerator is dying. It's freezing things that aren't in the freezer, and in case you were wondering, frozen lettuce is not happy lettuce. Apparently, this is a sign that its days are numbered, so I'm in the market for a new one.

Any thoughts on the french door top, freezer drawer in the bottom style? It seems like a pretty good design, but I'd love to hear from someone who actually has one.

With my hubby gone, it's just been me and Junior Number Three. Which pretty much means it's just been me. Junior has quite the social life lately and if he's not with his friends, he's at five hour play practices (opening night is next week).

He was sweet enough to turn down a Saturday night invitation to spend the night with a friend because he didn't think I'd want to spend the night all alone in the house. I guess he didn't know I'd made my peace with the Boogie Man years ago. At this point, I'm all, "Bring it on, Boogie Man! Give me all you've got, because I'm tired and I'm going to bed."

It did, however, make me think back to my babysitting days when I'd get myself so freaked out that I'd sit in a corner with a fireplace poker in my hands. That level of paranoia may directly correlate to the fact that after the kids were in bed, I'd watch all the scary movies that my parents were smart enough not to let me watch at home.

Word of advice to any highly imaginative teenagers out there....don't watch baby sitter themed horror movies whilst baby sitting.

You will pay a very high price.

You will also pay a high price if, as a newlywed, you choose to watch The Shining with your new husband. Because you know what? Those new husbands? They go to work the next day, and it's hard to get Jack Nicholson and his axe out of your mind even in broad daylight.

For the most part, I stay away from the scary movies these days. However, a couple years ago, my bff and I did go to see the new version of "When a Stranger Calls" just for kicks and ended up watching the whole movie through our fingers.

Did you know it's scientifically proven that if you watch something scary through your fingers it makes it less scary?

Okay, maybe it's not scientifically proven, but it sure sounds like a study that Congress would spend our tax dollars on, doesn't it?

Well, I have no earthly idea how a post that started out with flowers and cows ended up with boogie men and scary movies.

But now you've got me curious.

Are you a scary movie watcher?

Do you let your imagination get the best of you when you're home alone and hear a noise?

Or, are you brave and strong and down to earth and no nonsense about such things?

This will be fun!

March 1, 2011

spring dreams and carrot cake

It's March!

Even though Spring usually doesn't even consider making a real appearance here in March, the calendar makes its arrival official and that's all I need to start thinking springy thoughts.

I have snow on the ground and more on its way, but still I dream of green grass, pink blossoms and temperatures that don't take your breath away.

My seed catalogs get a second glance....and then a third and fourth. I can safely let my mind wander down the garden path and those wandering thoughts have the hopeful feel of possibilities. (As opposed to the somewhat dramatic and desperate January and February garden thoughts wherein I am absolutely convinced that I may very well die from an overdose of gray and brown long before sunshine salvation arrives.)

The plants we overwintered are coming out of hunker down mode.

We'll be starting the petunia cuttings later this week and then it's game on in the greenhouse.

I made the best springy carrot cake this weekend when my company was here, and if you're needing your own dose of cream cheese laden springtime goodness, you might want to give this cake a try.

Carrot Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil - I substituted 1 cup applesauce for 1 cup of the oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots

Combine sugar, oil, (and applesauce if you choose to substitute), and eggs. Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to
sugar/egg mixture. Mix well and fold in carrots and pecans.

Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake at 300* for one hour.

Cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 - 8 oz package softened cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Cream the cream cheese and butter, then mix in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Spread on the cooled cake and lick the beaters and the bowl clean.

This, my friends, is a bit of heaven in a 9x13.

So, how about you. Are there any signs of spring in your corner of the world? Are you still in the depressed doldrums of winter, or are your thoughts turning toward the equinox?

I need to know.