Sunday, December 15, 2013

Earth and Heaven

Scent 2. Earth and Heaven is rich and a little bit spicy. The description reads:"Full of the best things of both worlds! This is the scent of a celestial compost heap, and be assured that's a good thing. At least it is to us, and presumably to the wee compost worms that lived diligent lives and went to their just reward. :)
Heavenly frankincense and rich dark chocolate all mulched together with wet earth, a touch of patchouli, and the sweetest, gentlest clove in the world."

This is better than Brownian Motion. My first thought was "I smell like a dirty hippie!" but I didn't. I smelled like a clean hippie. A celestial hippie. If Brownian Motion is the fall day coffee shop scent, Earth and Heaven is the bohemian summer road trip scent. It's totally in my rotation, although I'm not sure I'll wear it to work again. I was entirely too aware of the fact that I smelled like a church/head shop (what? They both smell like incense!). Rick liked it better than yesterday's fragrance, too. He didn't love it but he only made faces at it instead of insulting it so that's progress!

I didn't really get the clove until the very end, but on application the chocolate hit right away, and it's a delicious chocolate. It dissipated really quickly though and I got what I was looking for: the wonderful foresty smell underneath. There isn't a lot of fresh leafy green in Earth and Heaven. It's mostly browns - not a balanced compost heap but a deep humus like a leaf-littered forest floor. The patchouli (or maybe it was the frankincense?) stuck out bold and strong and stayed alllllll day. It lasted beautifully. I'm thinking these fragrances are keepers for the longevity if nothing else!

5/5 Stars, a great rich fragrance with a touch of spice. Leans toward "woodsy oriental" but not nearly as heavy-handed as the orientals I'm used to.

Tomorrow: Four Seasons In Mighty Contention on Trivial Matters.

Brownian Motion

...smells like mocha. Or maybe hot cocoa, depending on your skin. It lasted admirably. I didn't reapply it all day, and I was still getting whiffs of it as I walked around 6-7 hours into my shift. After that it settled down quite a bit but I can detect it on my wrist if I stick it right up to my nose, and it's been 12 hours or so since I put it on. That's pretty good longevity!

Longevity aside, Brownian Motion isn't the greatest scent in the ZOMG Smells catalog - but it's not a dud either. It's a little too chocolate-y and not enough bitter coffee and swirling cream. It's simple and sweet and warm, great for a crisp fall day and although you do get a hint of sharp caffeine at the start, when it leaves the scent is entirely delicious cocoa. I liked the bitterness better, oddly.

Rick thinks (probably because of the sweetness) that it smells like something a preteen girl would wear. That isn't necessarily an insult (he's not exactly a fragrance geek, either) but it's not what I'm going for and he has to live with whatever scents I'm wearing, so this one isn't going to hit regular rotation. I like the scent (which is good, since I spilled it and put the tissue I used to soak it up into my shirt drawer). It's just not "me".

4/5 stars, great longevity and decent projection, true to description on page but somehow not what I was expecting. Simple scent, not a lot of change between application and drydown. Loses its sharp coffee edge as the day goes on and ends in sweet chocolate. Definitely a "gourmand" fragrance.

Tomorrow: Earth and Heaven.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

ZOMG, Smells!

I used to work in fragrances. I love good smells and I love the way scent interacts with emotions and memory and I generally geek out a little around fragrance, even though my work wasn't that involved - I just got into it more than some of my coworkers.

Anyway. For a couple of years now I've had this thing on my christmas list. It's a sampler pack from a teeny tiny little company called ZOMG Smells. They call it a Squee Party, and it's 10 scents of your choosing in tiny sample sizes, and with scents like Camping in a Vanilla Forest, That Dream Where You're Naked at School, and Xocolatl, how could anyone resist?

I could, because I was broke, but there it sat on my Christmas list anyway. Today a package came, and even though the mailman shoved it pretty roughly into our mail slot it was ok, and it was a squee party sampler, and it had the 10 scents in it that I thought I'd like most, courtesy of my sister who is the best gift-giver in the world. Except the rest of my family, because they're pretty damn good too. But right now, my sister is at the top of the list.

And I got even more excited when I opened the package, because the girls at ZOMG Smells are awesome, and threw in extras. Here's what I got:

1. Brownian Motion (wearing it now. I smell like a coffee shop!)
2. Earth and Heaven
3. Four Seasons In Mighty Contention on Trivial Matters
4. Xocolatl
5.Garden Nap
6. Nuee Ardente
7. The Chieftain's Wife
8. Smoky Black Chai
9. Camping in a Vanilla Forest
10. Purple Almond

(and the extras)
11. Deified
12. Zeppelin to the Moon

So over the next few days I'm going to wear each one in turn, review it, and enjoy the heck out of a bunch of fancy new smells.

Although the first thing I did when trying Brownian Motion this morning was spill it on the bedroom floor... so the bedroom smells like a coffee shop now. Oh well!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Wheat Free No More.

After a test week of gluten-free that didn't leave me feeling any better but did open my eyes to the royal pain it is to avoid bread when your husband loves baking, and then two more weeks of eating plenty of wheat and having no discernible reaction that could be attributed solely to wheat, it would appear that wheat is not the issue or at least not the whole issue. I've "tested" cookies (chocolate chip!), lemon squares (flour in the crust), various breads, cream of mushroom soup (wheat as a thickener), pizza... and while I did have a major bloating reaction to something the other day I couldn't pin it on wheat. I might be reacting to onions but only the dried, minced onions we buy in bulk. Rick likes to top his loaves of bread with them and cooks with them in a lot of dishes. I'm guessing it's deeper than an intolerance to onions though, because I seem to be able to eat fresh-cooked onions just fine (I don't like them raw anyway).  Back to square one. Maybe it's just hormones, or stress. I've been stressed a lot lately.

We're hosting a big family Thanksgiving for the first time ever, next weekend (the 17th). I'm excited, but also nervous, and the house is in no condition to show off to guests (of course). So this week is CLEANING EVERYTHING WEEK, and maybe some patching/painting/shuffling things around to host eight people in our tiny dining room. The good news is that I might actually have the Christmas decorations put up early this year, with help from my mom and sisters!

Also NaNoWriMo. But that's kind of a low priority at this point. I'm staring down the fact that I'm never going to be a published author if I don't finish writing something, but at the rate I'm going I won't finish anything before I'm 40. So be it. I'm always a late bloomer. Maybe I shouldn't have named my blog after a spring-blooming flower!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

It's only Day 4?

How do people live like this?

Tonight I worked a closing shift, which is why I'm blogging at midnight. After work I went to the store to pick up some more veggies and found myself wandering the aisles, staring blankly at various gluten-free offerings and wondering about the meaning of it all. It's pretty clear that if you want any sort of processed gluten-free food (crackers, pasta, cookies, cereals, bread, snacks) you're going to pay: in some cases three or four times the price of the regular wheat-containing stuff. Who can afford to pay those prices? Not I.

On to the meals:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon and mulberries! I forgot we had them in the freezer until I went digging for something to throw in my oatmeal. They were frozen the day I picked them from our tree this summer, and I'm so glad I saved them. Tea with sugar as usual - today it was lemon ginger/hibiscus.

Lunch: Scrambled eggs with ham, cappicola and swiss cheese diced in, and some sliced homegrown tomato on the side. I motivated myself to cook, finally! It was good. More tea with lunch, black, and a chunk of chocolate. Hoping the caffeine would help the sinus headache that had been hovering since morning. It did not. This failure to control my headaches does not bode well for winter.

Dinner: Rick made chili this morning, so I packed it up for dinner at work and ate it over rice with a big slab of swiss cheese melted on top. Chili is always better with cheese, especially Rick's chili, which tends toward the spicy side. There were onions in it but fully-cooked onions don't seem to bother me nearly as much as raw onions, onion powder, or dried onions do. I wonder if there's a chemical change that takes place during cooking which might explain the difference in reaction. Also nibbled more chocolate. I'm on a kick lately with the chocolate bars...

And Rick made bagels, which he insisted that I taste. So much for a whole week of gluten-free. They are however really, really good. I think I might have one tomorrow for breakfast and see how it goes down. I know that a proper elimination diet should be at least three to four weeks (and much more restrictive, if you're really trying to suss out an allergy) so I'll probably spend the next few weeks doing more diet tracking and avoiding wheat where I can... but if the bagel doesn't cause any problems I'll feel a lot better. And if it does? I don't know.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 3.

3 days in! Nothing out of the ordinary so far. Today I was grumpy. Stayed up too late, mashed the alarm into silence and dozed with husband rubbing my tummy (which was a little upset, weirdly enough) until the very last minute. Ran out the door, got to work and walked right into a million customers who all needed help at once. So much for yesterday's quietude... There are certain times when my stress level peaks and I just can't get it back down again because I need everyone to go away for an hour and once that happens I tend to overreact to EVERYTHING. Today was one of those days and I was glad to be done with it.

Breakfast: In-a-hurry roll-ups! Provolone and 3 kinds of deli meat because they were the first grab-and-go gluten free things in the fridge. I may or may not have actually put them together and eaten them in the car. Not my finest breakfast plan ever, but it did keep me going - which was good because the half cup of chai tea I slammed before work was not enough and the cup I made in the break room went cold long before I got to drink it. Sigh.

If I had more time I would've gone for scrambled eggs with ham and cheese diced in, which would have at least pretended to be healthier and more breakfast-y.

Lunch: Trumped-up leftovers (do you see a pattern here?). Chicken, a baked potato with butter and chives, and canned peas. Scraped out the last of the zucchini pickles and had some trail mix for 'dessert'.* I finally finished my tea and refilled my travel mug with water, and didn't even get to finish that before I was pulled in four directions at once again. Apparently employee hydration is not important to customers. Who knew?

Got home, snacked on a piece of ham and a pinch of trail mix, chugged some Sierra Mist from the fridge..
 Dinner: More leftovers! I made chicken and rice soup with peas, spiced with some dried minced onion and black pepper. I think I over-ate, and about half an hour later... boom, bloating. Is it the onion? (Survey says: probably!). The rest of the soup is in tupperware for lunches. I'm going to try it again tomorrow and see.

I nabbed two flowers from the garden center on the way out. Started to dig a hole for one of them in the "flower bed" behind the neighbor's massive concrete-block garage wall and hit a lot of chunks of stone and concrete down there. Yaaaaay. Gonna have to dig it out deeper/wider and re-fill with better soil, but I spent the rest of the daylight helping hubby replace the drum brakes on the right rear wheel... it was a learning experience, to say the least.

I'm sleepy already. Today was not the best day, but I hope tomorrow will be better.

*We make our own "trail mix": craisins, honey roasted peanuts, dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and organic unsulphured dried apple rings. Most of the ingredients are bulk buys, which makes it super inexpensive, and it's awesome for lunches.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wheat-free, Day 2.

It's hard not to just grab bread and make a sandwich. Or have cereal, for that matter. Even our "toasted oats" cereal has wheat in it! So, for that matter, does Campbell's Tomato Soup (flour as a thickener). So much for easy canned meals for work. This may be more difficult than I thought.

Breakfast today? Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal. I love apples and I like oatmeal so this was a no-brainer and a great way to start the day. It kept me going well until my very late lunch, although I had a mostly quiet day at work (for once). When I'm more active I get hungry a lot earlier.

Lunch was leftovers - the rest of the egg salad wrapped in romaine leaves, more zucchini pickles, and the remainders of the apple from breakfast, sliced and packed with a sprinkle of lemon juice. During a break I caved and finished off the Hershey's milk chocolate bar that was floating around in the bottom of my lunch box. Not as good as dark chocolate, but it was a good little sugar boost. I wasn't as sleepy as I usually get right after lunch, which was a good thing because I was stuck at the garden register all afternoon in the rain. You can imagine how busy I was... (not!)

When I got home, Dinner was waiting in the oven - roast chicken, baked potatoes with sour cream and chives, and butter-soaked green beans. Mmmmmm. I have a love affair with butter and I am not afraid to admit it. Those beans were good. I'm trying to have a fruit or veggie serving with every meal. Not that it's unusual to eat vegetables around here, but I've been known to slap together a ham and cheese sandwich and completely ignore the lettuce and cucumber in the crisper drawer. Without bread carbs to fill me up, I'm paying more attention to finding other 'filler' foods (rice, potatoes, quinoa), which are bland and boring. So veggies not only make sense in terms of health but to spice up the presentation of my meals - nothing looks less interesting than a white or brown starch and a brown chunk of meat and no color on a plate!

In other news, there's a sale on the last surviving perennials in the garden center, and they've already set up the holiday merchandise inside. Uh-oh.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wheat-Free, Day 1.

So I've been showing signs of a potential wheat intolerance for a while (since college, I think, back when half my meals were ramen and the other half were pasta dishes from the food court). It's been really inconsistent though, and I passed it off as gas, or (sorry, guys) period bloating. Then I thought I had it pegged on white-flour elbow macaroni because a bowl of mac and cheese felt like it was killing me. Then it turned out I didn't know after all because mac and cheese doesn't always have that effect if it's homemade and not box-mix, sometimes other pasta does, and Monday I had two slices of toast off a loaf of homemade bread with locally-made jam, and a stomach ache all day.

So for a while (we'll see how long it lasts) I'm going to be avoiding wheat products and trying to remember to record both what I ate and how I'm feeling. If that doesn't work, I guess I start eliminating other foods. And of course I'm blogging it because I want to record everything (and be accountable).

Yesterday (Tuesday) was supposed to be my first day of wheat-free eating. I had a nice filling bowl of brown-sugared oatmeal for breakfast with earl grey tea, and packed a lunch with chicken and rice.  And then I ruined it by working later than planned and demolishing an entire pack of cheese sandwich crackers around 4:30. Didn't realize it until bedtime, either. Coincidentally, I'm writing this in bed. Good night!

So today is my official first day eating gluten free and it's off to a bad start because my husband made pizza last night and left it in the fridge. It's very tempting and I admit to nibbling a tiny chunk of crust left on the baking stone. I'm going to pretend I didn't - sshhh! I slept in really late because I was up so late after a 12-hour work day. Bad decision, I know. At least I have today off. Woke up with the mother of all sinus headaches (again). I swear any time I sleep in, I wake up with a headache. The good news is that it typically goes away once I'm up and active. The bad news is that my chronic sinus infection is resisting every attempt to kill it off and working in a big dusty warehouse is probably not helping.

Anyway, food! Breakfast is a sliced Gala apple with peanut butter, a cup of Lemon Zinger tea and strawberry Greek yogurt. Yum! Yogurt is supposed to be good for you, what with all those active bacterial cultures.

Lunch featured egg salad (egg, leftover chicken, shredded lettuce, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of garlic powder) wrapped in romaine leaves, with mom's zucchini pickles on the side and apple cider to drink. Felt good, did some work around the house, snacked on a chocolate bar.

Dinner made my stomach unhappy. Hmm. A small piece of breaded pork chop (leftovers), rice and a fresh tomato with salt, pepper and olive oil. Peppermint tea with honey.

Since this is the first day of trying to avoid wheat, it's too early to draw any conclusions - other than that I miss pizza already.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

An update?!

Today was rough.

But let me give you some background, for those who haven't been following my life since my last post. This is what happened over the summer (in brief):

I switched positions at work 3 times, ending in a promotion/shift to a new department. It isn't at all what I planned but it's another step up the corporate ladder. I've resigned myself to being in retail for a while... might as well work my way up!

Due to the position-switching and associated weird schedules and stress (I spent 6 weeks mid-summer working overnights), I stopped gardening, stopped blogging, and let my work days at the urban farm go to someone else. Having lost momentum sucks, because now I'm struggling to catch up and it's already past the fullest of the harvest season and into the long slow decline. Snow is coming in a few weeks...

I got married! Big news, yeah? It was a quick decision, but a long time coming. We had a small ceremony, nice and private. Just the way we wanted it. I now have a Husband to go with the house and the pets! Even though my name is changing and we're all legal now, nothing's really changed. We've had 9 years already - one day of being dressed up and promising our lives together in front of family has only made official what we knew all along.

BUT ANYWAY. My summer has been one of regular upheaval and although it's been good, it's also been stressful. I've been in my new position for about three weeks - long enough to have gotten the hang of everyday work, but not enough to have even finished my training, let alone answer some pretty routine questions.

So today was busy, and I met a lot of customers who had questions I couldn't answer, which meant I had to bother someone else (who had her own work to do). Then there were the customers who needed babysitting, and the ones who I caught ripping open boxes to answer questions that I could have answered if they had bothered to admit they wanted help when I asked. I also couldn't get away for lunch until 5.5 hours into my shift (AGAIN), rolled a very heavy cart over my foot (my toes are bruised but thankfully not broken), and had to deal with an order in which some computer miscommunication coupled with a persistent and frustrating glitch the other day had led to a very unhappy customer. I get to follow up with that one in the morning. Getting it done will be extremely satisfying.

I'm glad to be home. Tomorrow I work 7am-8pm because the front end conveniently failed to schedule anyone to work the closing cashier shift at one of the main registers. How that happened is anyone's guess, but they approved the overtime for me, so... I can't wait for 8pm tomorrow night. I have Monday off and it will feel SO good.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Home Improvement

I'm giving up on home-improvement websites and blogs. They all have this idea of "small space" that would be laughable if it weren't so frustrating. They seem to think that the kinds of people who have "small", outdated rooms and also read home improvement blogs (and magazines) are a single demographic: Upper-middle-class homeowners with a desire to make their kitchen/bathroom/master bedroom worthy of a buzzword salad. "Modern! Classic! Bright! Open! Fun!" shout the articles. "Oy vey!" I shout.

See, as the low-income owner of a relatively small house I like to look at pages like this and get excited. There are lots of projects! Possibilities! Storage ideas! Stuff I can rip off and make for myself at half the cost!

Go ahead, click on one of those pretty pictures. You'll find at least one of the following things:
1. The article expects you to be ok with tearing out walls, rearranging plumbing and electrical lines, and "making room" where the original floor plan didn't have room. The end result is very pretty but (as with this article on finishing an attic) there are all kinds of strings attached. Strengthen the foundation and raise the roof? If your wonderfully creative solution to small spaces is "Make them bigger!" you missed the point. I get that tearing out walls is A Thing in older houses because the floor plans aren't "open" enough, but not every homeowner wants to rip out their walls. If I wanted to rip out a kitchen wall here I'd have to re-plumb and re-wire the entire upstairs because it all runs through that particular wall. The articles never mention the cost and trouble of doing such a thing. I can only imagine that in media-land there are no houses where kitchen renovations require re-plumbing your bathroom before you can put in the cabinets.

2. $$$$$. You gotta spend, yo. Design firms are EVERYWHERE in small-space articles and space-saving gadgets and appliances often cost more than their full-size counterparts. "Check out these people who design kitchens for a living and re-did their tiny kitchen on a budget of only $75,000!" I wince at that because if I had $75,000 the first thing I'd be doing is paying off my student loans. My goal is to get the kitchen done for under $5000. (And I'd like to pay even less but let's be realistic - new cabinets alone regularly cost twice that, and we need to re-do the entire room floor to ceiling). We have 3-year-old regularly-sized appliances and aren't going to be changing them out any time soon. Smaller stuff might work better in my kitchen but if I can't afford it, why would I want to look at it? I'd like to see more tiny kitchen redesigns that work with the appliances the owner currently has. (Yeah, right!)

2b. Here's an actual quote from a small-kitchens slideshow: "...this kitchen is equipped with all the necessities of a professional chef's workspace. Two ranges, a large utility sink with an industrial-size pot washer, a pair of butcher-block islands on wheels, and wall-to-wall cabinets make prepping, cooking, and serving food easy as pie."

WHAT?? In what world is a kitchen with two full-size professional-grade stoves, an "industrial-size pot washer" (whatever that is) and a pair of islands even relevant to small-space design, let alone design on a budget and for older homes (you know they had to re-wire the entire kitchen to put two stoves in)? Which brings me to...

3. The ideas are clear, they're within a reasonable budget and the end result looks cozy and attractive... but the rooms just aren't that small to begin with! This drives me crazy. If I'm looking for ideas for a 10x10 kitchen I don't want to see your 10x20 kitchen. Rooms twice the size of my kitchen have space for things I don't, like huge bay windows "to open up the room", and islands "with prep sinks and built-in cutting boards!", and breakfast nooks or peninsulas "for family breakfasts!".

My kitchen remodel is probably not going to include any of these things, not least because the daunting task of pulling out all of the stuff in that wall would make removing said wall (and therefore opening up the floor plan) a lot more work than anyone around here wants to do. My kitchen is going to stay the way it is, basically. I just want to know what kinds of cabinets I can squeeze in to make it feel bigger without sacrificing storage, how to work around the weird brick chimney/vent in the corner, and what depth is too shallow for the base cabinets by the door. None of these "tearing down the walls" and "adding subway tile" ideas fit my house and only a few even fit my (ridiculously small) budget. Seriously, what am I even doing fixing up a house on this budget? I don't know, but the "home improvement" websites aren't helping.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Then and Now

Let's play a game! It's called Then... and Now!

It's kind of like "spot the difference". Ready?

My garden, then (in mid-June):

...and Now!

Can YOU see the progress? :D

I'm pretty psyched, and that's not even a recent "Now" shot. That was like, two weeks ago. I'm going out to take more real "Now" shots in a few minutes because in the last two weeks things have gone from 'yeah, that's a garden' to "it's a JUNGLE out there!". Gardening is awesome like that.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Sunburn and Seedlings

It's June 1, which means summer is right around the corner. I spent all afternoon out in the yard, enjoying a rare Saturday off and raking two years' worth of leaves off the hillside. My back is a beautiful red despite working in what I thought was deep shade under three mature maple trees,  but the rest of me is still a farmer's-tanned patchwork of mostly white skin. Gonna make it a goal this year to have a garden-glove tan line.

This evening I also stumbled across a new blog to follow: Outlaw Garden (link leads to "10 Rules for Growing Vegetables in the Front Yard", which everybody should read regardless of where you're gardening!)

Speaking of reading, I'm working on being mindful of how I spend my time - which is a challenge, because a lot of it is eaten up by garden-related activity lately. I've been spending every Monday morning at the Ballfield Farm with a handful of other women, composting and watering and caring for our new seedlings, which seem to multiply every time I turn my back. Harvesting greens is in full swing, and salads and pesto seem to be the recipes of the day for everything from pea greens to arugula. Work is crazy since I'm in the garden center cashier booth full time now and the weather has finally broken. And my own front-yard garden is pulling together nicely.

The radishes are growing, although the lettuce mixes I planted failed miserably again this year. I think I need a better watering can; mine drips and splashes and knocks those tiny lightweight seeds around horribly. My tomatoes got planted last week (or was it two weeks ago now?) and they've doubled in size already, except the runt that I 'rescued' to put in my topsy-turvy tomato planter. That one's a bit behind. I'm hoping it will make good on the planter's promise of bushels overflowing with tomatoes, though. The runt is a mystery variety from a mixed seed packet and I can't wait to see what kind of fruit I get!

The hubbard squash, Charentais melon and cucumber went in alongside the tomatoes. This week I planted two kinds of pole beans. Carrots were seeded two or three weeks ago but only just now came up... I kinda forgot about them and the watercress, and they didn't get adequate watering during our last dry/cold spell. The cress didn't make it. Oops. Guess I'll try again in the fall!

This week I'm also giving away the last of my extra seedlings. I grew way too many tomatoes and I never have the heart to cull a plant that I've worked so hard to grow, so the last leggy tomatoes and beetle-nibbled broccoli seedlings avoided the compost pile. It added a bit of stress trying to coordinate pick-ups and divvy up crops but the upside was meeting some more of the neighbors and getting to share the bounty with people in the area - there's nothing like handing somebody a beautiful little tomato seedling (ok, so some of mine were nibbled by flea beetles, but still!) to make you feel like an accomplished gardener.

I feel like the garden is finally moving toward a recognizable goalpost this year. It's more calming and less brick-like (the clay is almost workable in the side beds now!) and I've gotten some things done (like edging the beds with reclaimed brick) that I've been meaning to do for a long time.  What goals are you achieving with your garden this year?