Friday, July 27, 2012

Sources of Creative Inspiration for the Week

My desk at home

People have asked me where I get my creative inspiration.  I find that just going about everyday life leads me to new sources of creativity.  My parents were both very creative people, although I don't think they necessarily looked at themselves that way.  They both came from large families and had to be resourcefully creative out of necessity. My father had wanted to be a chef, and ended up a professional photographer for his career.  He was always available to create a set for my Girl Scout troop's holiday show, make me intricate doll furniture or try making just about anything around the house.  My mother sewed and needlecrafted her way through countless doll wardrobes, costumes for that same Girl Scout troop, and kept the two of us looking very hip and chic in the latest fashion trends of the day.  We truly were the family that would see something in a store or a magazine and our immediate response was, "we can make that ourselves!" ...and often we did.  There were a few hilarious disastrous outcomes, but for the most part we were successful.  So I'm a firm believer that you can add your own personal twist on things and make it special for yourself or those who will get to share in your creative endeavors.

My creative parents


Here are some things that sparked the creativity bug in me this week:

Kitchen Adventures

Beet brownies (gluten free) - the link to this low fat, flourless recipe was sent to me by a friend.  I have to admit that I panicked just before I poured the batter in the pan because of the consistency.  I added about 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour because it just didn't seem quite right and I didn't want to waste good chocolate or beets, and I think that a gluten-free flour would work equally as well.  The brownies came out perfectly.  A nice texture between cake and fudge brownies that were super moist,  not too sweet and more healthy than usual because of the beets.  I don't have a photo to show of them because they were consumed before I could snap one.

Natural Flea Control 

Noah

The hot, humid weather has really caused an explosion in pesky bugs including fleas this year.  I want to protect our pets without using harsh or dangerous chemicals and this article has lots of information and practical, natural ways to help protect your pets.  I looked through a few websites that offered recipes for natural flea sprays and came up with the following recipe which seems to be working well and makes our dog, Noah, smell nice (although he doesn't seem to think so).  This mixture doesn't kill the fleas, but they don't like the smell and want to vacate the premises.  You'll want to spray this on your pet outside if possible and then take them on a nice long walk so the fleas will  jump ship outside and not on your rugs or floor.

Natural Flea Spray

1 cup (packed) rosemary needles
3-4 cups of water - enough to cover the rosemary in a saucepan
lavender essential oil
cedarwood essential oil
neem oil
citronella oil
spray bottle

Put the rosemary and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let steep for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.  Strain the rosemary needles and pour the tea into a spray bottle.  Add 10 drops of each essential oils to the spray bottle.  Shake well before each use. Spray your pet's coat until saturated and rub in to help the mixture reach the skin.

Creative Podcasts

And finally, this week I've been enjoying interviews from the broadcasts of After the Jump on my commute to and from work.  The radio show features independent artists, designers and other members of the creative community.  You can listen online or download the podcasts at the link above.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, and thanks for reading!

A ladybug sunbathing in my garden

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Asian Noodle Salad



It was a hundred degrees again today, and I wanted something refreshing for dinner that would take advantage of the abundance of fresh vegetables coming in from the garden.  This noodle salad is also a great pot luck dish and a good way to feature whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand.

Asian Noodle Salad

serves 4-6 people as a meal

Salad


1 package of buckwheat soba, ramen or fettuccini noodles in a pinch (approx 8 oz)
2 green onions
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2 Tbsp minced Thai basil
1 medium cucumber, seeds removed and roughly chopped
1 small bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 cups chopped purple or cabbage of choice
3 cups kale (stem removed) or Swiss chard torn into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1-2 cups of any other vegetables on hand (green beans, peas, broccoli, etc.)
1 cake of tofu, cubed (12-16 oz)
1 cup chopped shiitake or baby bella mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup roasted peanuts (cashews or almonds would work too)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Make the noodles according to the package directions. In the last minute, turn off the heat add the kale or Swiss chard to the pot with the noodles and let cook briefly until bright green. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside to drain completely.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the tofu cubes and mushrooms.  Set aside to cool slightly while preparing the rest of the salad.

Finely slice the green onions, basil and cilantro. In a large bowl add the noodles, onions, cilantro, cucumber, cabbage, bell pepper, carrots and tofu and mushroom mixture. Add the salad dressing and toss until the ingredients and dressing are well incorporated. Garnish with peanuts and sesame seeds.

Dressing

2 Tbsp lemon juice 
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Tamari or soy sauce or Braggs amino acid
3 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp miso paste
1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 large clover garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sriracha pepper sauce or finely chopped jalepeño or Thai chili pepper to taste

Whisk the ingredients together until miso and honey have dissolved. Add to the noodle salad.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading.


 Sunflower from the garden

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scenes from the day




It wasn't a particularly pretty day, being overcast and very humid outside.  However a walk around my neighborhood and in my own garden offered pretty views despite the gloom.  I hope these photos brighten your day.


Eggplant

Rugosa Rose

Tomatoes ripening on the vine

 Vines on a fence


A neighbor's garden


Another view from a neighbor's garden


I hope you have a wonderful day and thanks for reading!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Garden Update and What's for Dinner




The weather is still hot and the garden is continuing to thrive (although the zucchini plants succumbed to some sort of pest).  All the warm weather crops are growing by leaps and bounds and just begging to be photographed. 

   Baby watermelon


 Italian sweet peppers


Corn tassels

The garden is also providing a harvest of veggies everyday.   Soon it will be an avalanche of crops all coming ripe at once begging to be preserved for later in the year.  But for now, the garden is yielding just enough for dinner.  Today's harvest provided the makings of a salad that reminded me of confetti.  The basic salad makings from the garden were butter lettuce, sweet pepper, cucumber, carrots, red and yellow tomatoes plus some purple cabbage from my produce delivery from Washington's Green Grocer this week.

Basic  confetti salad


To make it a meal, I added some avocado, pumpkin seeds, pecans, baked tofu and a dollop of homemade hummus (recipe below after the jump).



To add the finishing touches, I drizzled a little Maple Balsamic reduction (recipe below after the jump) and sprinkled sriracha pepper sauce.


It doesn't take much to make a meal out of what's fresh in the garden or from the farmer's market with the addition of a few items from your fridge or pantry. 

Thanks for reading and bon appétit!

Recipes after the jump...


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Sketchbook Project



Even if you have not picked up a colored pencil or paint brush since grade school, you can join in on this fun project.  The Sketchbook Project is a traveling library of artists' sketchbooks.  You can paint, stitch, draw, write poetry, add photography, collage or whatever your heart desires.  No previous artistic experience is required, just a little inspiration and desire to create.   It's a friendly, low stress environment to share your artwork.  For examples of the amazing variety that others have submitted in the past, check out some of the sketchbooks in the digital library

When you sign up with a nominal fee, you receive a small barcoded sketchbook of about 30 or so pages with a cardboard cover along with a very short list of rules.  You fill the book and send it back by the deadline (The 2013 project is due in January 2013).  The sketchbooks have a library in Brooklyn, NY and they take road trips.  When your sketchbook travels or gets checked out to be perused by someone, you receive a notification to let you know what your book has been up to.  How fun is that?!

I'm using my sketchbook to explore a variety of medium and techniques.   I've been wanting to creatively play with collage, textiles, watercolor pencils, Japanese Washi tape to name a few.  I've been reading Collage Lab: Experiments, Investigations, and Exploration Projects by Bee Shay which has all kinds of techniques to try which are great for art journaling too.   Because I have a deadline to meet, I find I'm more inclined to make the time for my creative play.  Here are a few pages of my dabblings so far in my sketchbook:

Play with watercolor pencils

If this project seems a little more than you want to take on, they also occasionally offer shorter, sometimes free, projects during the year too.  For anyone that has wanted to put their artistic talents out for the world to see or if you want the motivation of a deadline to get you creating, you should check this project out.

Thanks for reading!
 ...One Resourceful Cookie!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Culinary Adventure - Pizza

Homemade pizza using garden harvest
A couple of girlfriends and I got together to spend a little time together on Saturday afternoon.  Both of them are the types that "don't really cook" so I didn't mention that they were going to be integrally involved in helping make our meal come together.  I wanted them to see that it's not really as hard as they thought it was, and it can be a lot of fun and very satisfying to make a meal from scratch.  I had them walk with me through the garden and pick anything that was ripe that they might like to put on homemade pizza.  We harvested, basil, zucchini, tomatoes, spinach and supplemented with veggies and cheese that I had delivered during the week from Washington's Green Grocer.  A neighbor provided us with some garlic harvested from her garden, and I also had some pasta sauce I had canned from last year's harvest along with some store purchased sauce and pesto that I had prepared the week before.  I wanted them to see that you can use whatever you have on hand (or is ripe) and turn it into a great meal.  I prepped a pizza dough recipe from Jamie Oliver before they arrived, but you can just as easily use a prepared pizza dough from the grocery store to save time.  I really enjoyed watching them chop and arrange everything just so on the dough, making edible art.  I love to show people that they can be creative when they think they aren't.  

I hope they left feeling a little more connected to where their food comes from and feeling that they can make delicious, nutritious meals at home more often for themselves too.  

Thanks for reading! 


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mid-summer Garden

Two of the raised beds in my garden


It's now mid-summer, and my suburban garden is in full swing and the summer crops are starting to come in.  This is the fourth year for the garden.  It started as a 4' x 10' "garden patch," so named by my husband.  We had a few tomato and pepper plants plus a small variety of herbs.  The garden has grown a little more each year.  This season I have planted a large variety of crops in about 350 square feet of raised beds scattered throughout the yard and a couple of permanent beds along the fence and foot of our Victorian frame house.  My ultimate goal is to provide about 50% of the produce for our family of 3 adults to include fresh berries, vegetables and herbs during the spring, summer and fall plus surplus enough for canned and dried foodstuffs for the winter.  I've also included a few flowers just for decoration, teas and craft projects.


Harvest of green beans, summer squash, radishes, carrots, peppers, the first cherry tomatoes!, cucumbers galore, lavender, basil and other herbs.


We had been away on a road trip to Tennessee last week, and when I came back, there was an abundant harvest of the first cucumbers of summer. There were so many that I made a batch of relish to be ready for the potato salads and veggie dogs of summer picnics.


Black Icicle Paste Tomatoes




Also, the very first of the tomatoes ripened this week - small chocolate cherry tomatoes that were little bursts of summer sweetness.  Now, as I patiently (ok, not so patiently) wait for the main harvest of tomatoes to come in, I'm enjoying the sights of the garden as everything continues to grow.

















Squash Blossoms


Thank you for reading!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Road Trip to TN


Ryman Auditorium - former home of the Grand Ole Opry

My husband and I decided to take a low-key road trip to Tennessee.  Like most of my friends, you are probably wondering, "Why Tennessee?"  For one thing I have only blown through the state on the way to other places and have spent very little time exploring the scenic state.  For another reason, I have a fabulously fun and inspirationally fit aunt who lives in the Baxter/Cookeville, TN area with whom, I got to spend some time relaxing and exploring her part of Tennessee.  If you ever find yourself wandering around the scenic byways of southern Virginia and eastern and middle Tennessee, here are a few off-the-beaten-path places you may want to explore:

Places to visit in Tennessee

Stratford Hall Plantation, Stratford, VA (about 1.5 hours south of DC) - is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee.  Guided house tours, plus self-guided tours of the gardens and property plus hiking trails to explore. (Discounts for seniors, AAA and National Trust for Historic Preservation members, and free admission during the summer for active duty military and their families)
Blount Mansion, Knoxville, TN - guided tours of the house and grounds
Cookeville Depot Museum, Cookeville, TN - (no admission fee) - historic train depot museum
Delmonico Winery and Vineyards, Baxter, TN - beautiful location, wine tastings and tours available
Lotz House, Franklin, TN - (Discounts for seniors, AAA members) - Civil War house museum with guided tours
McKay Used Books, Nashville, TN - there are multiple locations of this huge bookstore throughout Tennessee. There are lots of used books, cds, dvds and albums.  Be mindful of the pricing as some seemed higher than expected, but good overall.


Healthy eats in Nashville, TN
And if you are looking for some healthy, vegetarian friendly food in and on the way to these locations, you might try:



Cool Springs Organics, Lexington, VA - food co-op and restaurant
Clementine Cafe, Harrisonburg, VA - located in the historic district and offers food, art and music.
The Wild Cow, Nashville, TN - restaurant that offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten free meals

Three Rivers Market, Knoxville, TN - the only community food co-op currently in TN where there is a small food bar and cafe tables

After a week of travels and exploration, I am looking forward to spending some time tending my garden.  I've been assured by my garden sitter son that it is recovering from the storms of the past few weeks and doing well despite the oppressive heat.  It'll be time to unpack the suitcase and put on the garden gloves!
Sunset in TN on the road home



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jam Exchange 2012



My garden is in full swing for the summer.  Hopefully this year's crazy hot temperatures and freak violent storms will still allow for an ample harvest this season. In anticipation of the upcoming abundance of cucumbers, squash, beans and tomatoes, I've joined the 2012 Jam Exchange sponsored by ::Steph Chows::  :: steph chows ::: Jam Exchange 2012  Participants are paired and agree to send their partner a total of 1 quart of homemade preserves by a set date.  I'm really looking forward to sharing my garden bounty with my assigned partner and sampling someone else's culinary creative endeavors.  If you can, pickle or preserve (or are planning to learn this summer), come join in the fun at the link above. I've already started the canning party and some of the fruits (pun intended :o) of my labor are pictured below.

Raspberry-rhubarb jam from 2012 harvest and balsamic-maple reduction

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Old Barn in Delaware




Welcome!  

I hope you enjoy exploring along with The Suburban Hippie.  We will indulge in creative play of all types without breaking the bank and with as little impact on the earth as possible.  As I share in my search to find my creative voice, I hope you will be inspired to find yours too.