Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Hello everyone, and happy Wednesday! I was invited by Shelley at Cora's Quilts to participate in this blog hop, and I am excited and happy to share! When you're invited, you tell a little about yourself, answer a few thought provoking questions and continue the blog hop by inviting 3 other bloggers who inspire you.  They will blog the following week about their creative process and keep the blog hop going! This blog hop has seen a lot of quilty folks, which I think is awesome because I quilt, too, but I will be changing it up a bit now that it is my turn. Yes, I quilt, but I also do a lot of crafting, cooking, photography, writing, sports, reading and revelling in the beauty of everyday life. So I am taking the opportunity to invite other bloggers who inspire me and branching out a bit. 

But first... a little about me. For those of you who do not know me, I am a project manager by day, and a schizophrenic creator for the rest of the time. I quilt, cross-stitch, sew, create recipes, blow up my kitchen, play with DIY home projects, and photograph anything that moves (and some things that don't). I enjoy tennis, reading, writing, eating (anything I am not allergic to... which isn't much), traveling, and feeding people. 

I like to include stories of Mike and the Cats (Turbo and Hobo) in my blog. Mike and I have been together fifteen years now, and we have survived a lot of DIY projects together, and some DIY explosions, the most recent being the experience of the exploding beer bottles. Turns out home-brewed beer with added fruit has a very definite shelf-life. Note to self... But now, on to the questions!

What Am I Working On?

Oh so many things. No, really. I have so many projects in the works right now. Some of them just need a little bit to finish, some of them need a lot... they are all in various stages of completion. So I guess we can just start at the top. 

I am working on a couple of beautiful quilts designed by Shelley over at Cora's Quilts. I am working on Diane:

I am working on finishing my Spring Sampler from her collection:

I am working on my eagle cross-stitch:

 It's a bit wrinkly, I know... but that will get sorted out as I finish stitching. I have a ways to go, as you can see... don't hold your breath. :)

I am also working on a custom order baby quilt that I need to finish binding, but you don't get to see it yet because the person who ordered it hasn't seen it yet! I promise, I will post pics when it is all done and delivered. 

I have a Christmas themed table runner I am hoping to get done in time for Valentine's Day next year. 

I am working on getting the pattern I created for my cousin's baby quilt ready to sell online.

I am always working on items for my Etsy shop. I sell quilts, cross-stitch items, and hand-sewn items like tote bags and tissue holders, too.

 I am also working on the idea of a cookbook. I post a lot of my recipes on my blog, but it might be kind of neat to put them in an e-book for downloads. With my food allergies, I eat a lot of Paleo or Anti-Inflammatory Protocol foods, and I find a lot of people looking for information and recipes for those "diets".

How Does My Work Differ from Others in its Genre?

Yeah, that's a good question. I don't really know if my work differs all that much across the different projects, but I am probably one of the more Attention Deficit Disorder bloggers, since I cover so many topics with my blog. I read somewhere that if I want to make my blog successful, I should focus on one thing. But that wouldn't be true to myself since I am pretty much incapable of focusing on one thing! I know that I have readers who are not interested in the sewing/stitching/quilting, and I know I have readers that could care less about the food, and I know that other readers are really just waiting to see more pictures of my cats. So I just try to feed it all. Some day I may split them into separate blogs, but for right now, it's really just a sharing of myself with you, and it comes in this super-disorganized forum because that's how I roll. 

Why Do I Write and Create What I Do?

What I write and what I create are all an expression of who I am, and how I'm feeling. Even when I am quilting or stitching someone else's pattern, it's my choice of colors, fabrics, thread, quilting design... all depending on what I am trying to express. It used to be that I would pick a pattern and spend hours searching for just the right fabric. Now I find that I see a fabric that speaks to me, and then it all just comes together in minutes. Literally minutes. And writing is often the same way... I have something I want to write about, and it will just flow. I rarely experience writer's block when I am sharing a topic or something that has importance to me. 

Lately I have found that I am branching out more in my projects. I used to stick with projects that I knew would be manageable, wouldn't take too much time, wouldn't scare me away... then I attempted a purse pattern. It took me three years. No kidding. I would start to work on it, panic because I didn't understand what I was doing, and then put it away again. When I finally sat down and did it (with some help from my awesome friend Chris Comfort explaining things to me!), I enjoyed it so much I made a second one for a friend. And now, I don't let the fear of not knowing stop me. I grew past that. I am interested to see where I grow next... :) I'm sure you will hear about it. I will put it right here on this blog when it happens.
The infamous purse. :)

How Does My Writing and Creating Process Work?

Oho... if I only knew. Honestly. Sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, or a thought. And I have found that I do some of my best thinking while in the shower in the morning. I designed the Christmas presents for my nephews in there. No joke. When I can clear my head and just close my eyes, there is a clarity to what I want to do (even if I had no previous idea I wanted to do it), and then it just flows.

Sometimes it is because I have experienced something I want to remember, like a trip to Europe might inspire a quilt. Or a meal at a restaurant might inspire a new recipe. Or a book I have read might inspire a craft project. I find beauty in just about everything in life, and it often inspires me to try and create new things. I definitely wouldn't say I have any one particular muse, but I have found that a nice bottle of red wine never hurts, either. :)

And speaking of where I get my inspiration... I would like to introduce you to three bloggers who have inspired me in different ways over the years. I read probably around a hundred blogs on a consistent basis... everything from quilting to recipes, to dying fabric, to farming (no, I don't farm... yet), knitting (no, I don't knit... yet), travel blogs, blogs on how to minimize my carbon footprint, canning (yes, I do can)... just about everything. 

The first blogger that I would like to call out in the blog hop and introduce to you is Janelle Serio with Through the Knitting Lens. She is not just my dental hygenist (no joke!), she is an amazing designer, creator, mother, wife, and friend. Her blog lets you look through the knitting lens and into her world, and you will find yourself a better person for it. 

The second blogger that I think you need to meet is Rudd McGarity with Life Part FOUR. Rudd tells his story of finding inspiration and joy in life with his daughter, his girlfriend, the shop he owns and operates, his sports, and his friends. He talks of personal discovery and growth, and he tells it like it is.

The third blogger that I want to introduce is Amy Venezia with Amy V-talk. Amy's perspective on life, her inspiration, her creations (I hope she shares Nola Creations with you when it's her turn!), and her ability to share life's lessons in a simple, succinct, yet beautiful manner is truly inspiring. Make sure you check out her post on Jessie's Girl that just came up. Not just because it was a good song (which is now stuck in my head), but because it is an important point that I think so many people never see. Some things are just too close for us to see until it's too late. I appreciate Amy's style of writing, the topics she chooses, and how she shares her personal experiences: good, bad, and beautiful.

I am looking forward to seeing their posts next week. Thank you all for letting me share a little about me in this blog hop!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Paleo-friendly Caramel Chocolate Chunk Cookies

You just keep reading that title and you are pretty sure there is no way, right? Because how do you get caramel and chocolate chunk cookies without sugar? Or flour? Well, I have my ways. And aren't you lucky... I'm going to share them. :)

Before we go any further, I just want to let you know that not only did I love the way these turned out, Mike ate them and liked them, too! So if you are looking at the pictures and thinking 'ew', just trust me here. The end result is worth it.

So first things first... you need to soak your dates in water. Pit them, and soak them in water for at least thirty minutes. They look a little icky... just go with it.

While your dates are soaking, put your cashew butter, baking powder and vanilla extract in a food processor (yup... not a mixer, a food processor), and pulse for a few seconds.

It will come out looking creamy and delicious.

When your dates are done soaking, put them in a blender with some sea salt and about 2 Tbsp of water. I have found that it helps to chop the dates up a bit first, since they can get stuck in the blender blades. Blend until it resembles a caramel consistency. You will probably need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides and clear the blades a couple of times in the process.

 Add the caramel-like date mixture to your food processor.

Pulse a few times until it is blended in.

Add your chocolate chips. I use the Enjoy Life Mega Chunks. They are dairy free, soy free, nut free...etc. And they taste like real chocolate. None of the carob stuff for me!

Pulse in the chocolate chips until you have cookie dough.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 9-11 minutes, depending on your oven and how thick your cookie balls are. Just as an FYI... I will be flattening mine out a bit next time so they will only need the 9 minute time.

Then enjoy!

5-6 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked
1 Cup Cashew Butter
2 Tbsp Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips

Soak the dates in water for at least 30 minutes. Then drain the water and put in a blender with the 2 tablespoons of water and the sea salt. Blend until it forms a mixture the consistency of caramel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pulse the cashew butter, baking powder and vanilla extract in a food processor until smooth. Add the date mixture and pulse until well combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse some more.

Use a spoon to put the cookies on a silpat or parchment paper lined cookie tray. Bake for 9-11 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Wait until the cookies have cooled completely before you try and take them off the tray. They will be a bit crumbly.

Store in an airtight container. Remember, there are no preservatives in these cookies, so they will only last a few days. So eat fast. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lamb Tagine

Hello everyone! I'm getting settled back in to my normal brand of ADD/craziness/identity crisis here at DIY and Live to Tell. Thank you all for the cool comments on my Oaxaca posts. I know they had really nothing to do with DIY or projects, but it was still fun to share with you.

Now that I am back in the swing of things, I have more food to share with you. I made a special meal last night because my Mom's really good friend Chris is in town, visiting from Perth, Australia. She sometimes reads my blog, so 'Hi, Chris!' It was so good to see her. So I made lamb tagine over brown rice, with asparagus, and cookies for dessert (I will share that recipe in a later post, but I will share it!).

This lamb tagine recipe is adapted from a traditional Moroccan recipe, and it is Paleo friendly. If you want to go full AIP, you will need to leave out the cayenne pepper and tomato paste, but I still think it would be very good. The recipe also has a very long list of ingredients, but since it is mostly spices, don't let it deter you. It is well worth it!

For those of you who are hesitant about lamb... trust me on this one. This recipe marinates overnight, sears it then slow cooks it, and I'm not kidding... it cuts with a fork. And there is no game-y taste because of all the spices. You will love it. Trust me.

So the first thing I do is mix all the spices together in a ziplock bag. Then sniff it. I'm not joking. Stick your nose in there and inhale. You will be very happy you did this. The smell is wonderful.

I bought this lamb as a shoulder roast and had the butcher at my local grocery store de-bone and cut it into pieces for me. Way easier than doing it myself. :)

I drizzle a little olive oil over the lamb, toss it, and then put the lamb in the bag with the spices. Then I toss it well to combine it, and literally massage the spices into the meat. Just knead away at it until you are sure that you have the spice combo in every nook and cranny of the meat. Then put it in the fridge and let it marinate overnight.l

The next day, when you are ready to cook your meal, you want to take the marinated meat and brown it
in a little olive oil over medium-high heat. It should only take a couple of minutes. You are just searing it, and will slow cook it in a few minutes.

I don't have a traditional tagine oven, so I use my dutch oven for this and it works great. Yes, the spices and olive oil will make a dark coating on the bottom of the pan, but don't panic... this will all come up as you slow-cook it and mix in wonderfully to the sauce. I promise.

When the lamb is seared, remove it to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions and carrots and saute for a couple of minutes. You will notice the spices off the bottom of the pan start to mix in.

Add in the garlic, ginger, meat, chicken broth, zest, tomato paste, and honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, put a lid on it, and simmer for another two hours. Stir it occasionally.

If you want to thicken the broth, use a little arrowroot powder.

I served mine over brown rice, with asparagus (a little sea salt, a little olive oil, under the broiler), and some really fantastic Franciscan Estate Meritage wine. So yummy!

Lamb Tagine:

Olive Oil
2-3 lbs lamb meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
3 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp Turmeric
3/4 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (leave out if AIP)
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
3/8 tsp (or just shy of 1/2 tsp) Ground Cloves
3/4 tsp Ground Cardamom
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
3/4 tsp Ground Ginger
1 large pinch of Saffron
1 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/4 tsp Ground Coriander
2 medium onions, diced
7 carrots, peeled, cut into strips
5 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh grated Ginger
1 lemon, zested
14 oz of Chicken Broth (one can, or I used my homemade broth)
1 1/2 Tbsp Sun-Dried Tomato Paste (omit if AIP)
1 1/2 Tbsp Honey

Place diced lamb in a bowl and toss with a little olive oil. Set aside. In a large, resealable bag (I use ziplock), toss the paprika, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, salt, ginger, saffron, garlic powder, and coriander together. Add the lamb to the bag and toss well to combine. Then massage the spices into the meat through the bag until you know they are in there. Really in there. Then refrigerate overnight.

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 the lamb and brown well, then remove to a plate. Repeat with the remaining lamb. Add onions and carrots to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh garlic and ginger and continue cooking another five minutes or so. Return the lamb to the pot and stir in the lemon zest, chicken broth, tomato paste and honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for another 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The meat should be very tender.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My last day in Oaxaca

So here I am, sitting in the Los Angeles Airport... camped out right next to the Delta check-in. Which is closed. As was the connecting baggage section of customs. So I have my luggage with me. And I found a plug-in, but it doesn't work. And I can't actually enter the airport until 4:00, and they won't take my luggage until 4:00. So I here I sit. So I figured I would put together a blog post until my battery dies. :)

So I had lots of time to wander around Oaxaca before I had to leave for the airport. I found the Saturday market, some great architecture, and spent some time in my favorite park, on a shady bench.

One of my favorite things about Oaxaca is the colors. The buildings are all brightly colored. And the doors are amazing. They have huge wooden doors with smaller doors inside them. Or they have standard sized doors, but they are intricately carved. Or they have doors with some beautiful iron work on them... they just don't have plain doors anywhere! So I took some pictures of buildings with doors.

I took a picture of the display in the bakery... I can't eat it, but man it looked good!

The Saturday market was housed in the plaza outside of one of the cathedrals. I will admit I lost track of which one, but it is an incredible building with beautiful architecture and details.  The market has food vendors, people selling handmade wooden toys, clothing, music... everything! There was even a perfume stand.

They had barrel vaulting in the ceiling, and medallions...

This was some graffiti that was definitely worth photographing.

And an artsy cross outside of a school...

 The flowers are beautiful. I got lots of pictures of flowers. :)

And this is the amphitheater at the top of the hill, where the cultural dance celebration was going on all week.

 It's actually a pretty cool structure!

And I had to include the lamppost because I like it.

This is the Cathedral de Santo Domingo. It is the same place I visited on the first day, and I walked by it every day of my stay here. A large part of the cultural celebration was happening here.

They have a botanical garden in the square. Not exactly sure what these plants are, but they are some sort of succulent, and they are really cool!

 Then I spent some time in the park...

More crazy succulents...

And that about sums it up.

Three more hours until I can go in search of some coffee.