Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, last week. I didn't make a big stink of my birthday this year. I don't really know why, but I think I have two reasons that might be raining on my birthday parade. First, I think that after the age of 25 years young, I kind of feel a little guilty about people buying me gifts. I have a job and I am as frugal as they come, so the thought of others spending their hard earned money on me makes me a little guiltful. My thought process is: if I won't spend the money on myself, then you shouldn't either.

Second, I might be waiting for the big hupla of turning 30 years young. When I turn 30, I might be more open and comfortable about everyone going a little crazy for me. The ages between 25 years and 30 years are just kind of blah. There's always someone else having a milestone moment so let's focus on them this year...okay?

I also think that my excitement for my birthday was somewhat non-existent due to my excitement for my vacation that is creeping up very very soon. I am saving my hard earned dollars and I wanted to be sure that Sparky was too.

But, in the end, I have great friends and family and Sparky that for some reason or another love me and want to shower me with uber happiness. That is all that matters. Now I won't brag about my super uber birthday gifts this year, but I will say that the meanings and thoughts behind them mean more to me than anything tangible you can put in my hands. When you're given something and you know and feel that the gift giver has really paid attention to you and really knows how you operate...that's the best gift of all.

Additionally, I have a tradition every year of buying myself something for my birthday since I don't have the expectation of anyone else to fulfill this duty. Normally I save up and buy myself a little something nice and out of the ordinary purchase pattern of mine...which is for lack of a better term, normally something cheap. (FYI...I also have this "Buy something nice for myself" mentality at Christmas) But this year since I am saving my dollars and pennies for my vacation that is creeping up very very soon, I took adavantage of a 20% off coupon for Barnes & Noble and a few book recommendations from a great friend of mine and purchased some great new reads. (One day after the purchase, I received a handy dandy B&N gift card. Go figure. But thanks, sis! More books for me!) I needed a few new books to read anyway just because I always do and because of my vacation that is creeping up very very soon. (Have you picked up on my excitement yet about my vacation that is creeping up very very soon?)


These are the books I've recently purchased:

MOLOKA'I by Alan Brennert

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death. Such is the warmth, humor, and compassion of this novel that "few readers will remain unchanged by Rachel's story" (

Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert (Author of Eat, Prey, Love)

In 2000, Elizabeth Gilbert's Stern Men debuted to phenomenal critical attention. Now, Penguin is publishing a new edition of Gilbert's wise and charming novel for the millions of readers who devoured Eat, Pray, Love and remain hungry for more. Off the coast of Maine, Ruth Thomas is born into a feud fought for generations by two groups of local lobstermen over fishing rights for the waters that lie between their respective islands. At eighteen, she has returned from boarding school—smart as a whip, feisty, and irredeemably unromantic—determined to throw over her education and join the "stern men"working the lobster boats. Gilbert utterly captures the American spirit through an unforgettable heroine who is destined for greatness—and love—despite herself. Copied from he Barnes and Noble website.

This is the book I'm currently reading and absolutely enjoying so far.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
Copied from the Barnes and Noble website.

So, the next time your birthday rolls around, remember to buy yourself a little something or do something nice for yourself...even if it's finding the simple enjoyment of a few good stories. And of course, always be grateful of the people in your life that bring you super uber enjoyment also.

Keep on Keepin on.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Identity Crisis

Babalou is having a blog identity crisis. I can't decide on a background, colors, or a topic for focus. I am all over the place in the idea department and I'm exhausted.

So for now, excuse the changes that occur randomly. I think my goal is mainly to simplify. I love simplicity, beauty, and anything natural. I also love small splashes of color, humor, quirkiness, food, books, health, family, my photos, my dogs, organization and the list actually really could go on and on. I also want to continue my Organizing Guru blog and incorporate it here also.

I would love your suggestions, your thoughts, your ideas. Please share with me!

Keep on Keepin on.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Backyard Vegetable Market

Sparky and I love us some local Farmers Markets. Luckily, there happens to be a new little Farmers Market open during the week on Thursday evenings. Every once in awhile, Sparky and I enjoy a little leisurely bike ride down to this Farmers Market after work for a little gander at the local produce.

Tonight, there was a random hail storm in the area during rush hour. Afterward, the weather was so nice and cooled down. I wasn't up for a bike ride this evening so we decided to drive to the Farmers Market this time. To our disappointment, the storm that had past a couple of hours prior had detoured the farmers from their marketing.

I was sad...

...Until we got home and realized we had some decent vegetables on the vine that we could pick! Sparky planted some vegetables before the Summer and we've had a meager supply of large tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, banana peppers, bell peppers, jalapenos, and squash.

So, tonight we were our own little Farmers Market and that is just grand in my opinion.

I love our simple life. I just do.

Our fig tree in the backyard. We have yet to delight in one of these little gems, but the time is coming soon. I can sense it. Plus, there is one little fig that is starting to change color. It's kind of obvious.

Our squash planted in hay bales. Yes. I said hay bales. Sparky actually planted watermelon and cucumber in the dang-o hay bales, but the squash is the only veggie that seemed to get along with the hay. Although some fresh cucumber would have been UBER swell, the squash is pretty darn awesome.

Everything else planted in pots. We picked everything and then I thought to take a pic. Sorry. But before this photo, there were tomatoes and banana peppers.

Our veggies for the evening.

Do you want to know what we are making with these tonight for dinner? Yes? No? Don't really care? Well, I'll tell you anyway. We are making veggie sushi!!!! YUM-O! We haven't done it yet, but pics will soon be in the making. I will share them with you soon!

Of oourse I have rice. As if I would ever let it run low.

Keep on Keepin on.

Monday, July 06, 2009

What Do You Mean He Don't Eat No Meat?!

That is the question I normally hear when I let someone know that Sparky is a Vegetarian. The second question that soon follows is, "So, what does he eat?" or "So, what you guys eat?"


Anything, but meat.

Ok. That's the smarty pants sassy answer. I actually don't say that because it is slightly more complicated than that; yet still pretty simple...again, I am a walking contradiction most times. Anyway, Sparky and I find a lot to eat especially since I have never seen someone eat as much as Sparky can and wants to eat...and no, he is no where near fat.

So, since it seems that people are curious as to what Sparky and I eat, I am going to try to post some of my recipe adventures. I know. Scary. Everyone here should know that my cooking skills are quite lacking and I am sure my mother and father are laughing in their recliners right now. But, lately, it seems that the pots and pans are on my side. And more surprisingly, the picky vegetarian seems to really love my cooking. I know there must be something wrong with him.

This little concoction was made a few weeks ago and it turned out super dee-lish. We ate it for a few days and I normally do not eat leftovers. Ew.

But, this Vegetarian Lasagna came about from a shopping mistake. Don't you just love those? I loves me some mistakes gone great. Sparky and I purchased some cottage cheese and were trying something new. Long story short, Sparky and I read every label when we grocery shop. Our strategy: The fewer ingredients the better; if you can't read it then you probably shouldn't eat it; Organic is always great; local is so much cooler; and you can't beat wheat. I know. I'm so cheezy. Anyway, this new all natural cottage cheese only had 3 ingredients and was from a small farm even though it was in Nebraska or something like that. Yay! So we were willing to give it a shot. Low and behold, through all our reading and analyzing, we failed to see that it said, "Dry Curd"...can you say EWWWWW? We may like some natural and organic food, but we still like stuff that taste good too...and dry curd cottage cheese is not in that category for us.

So, we already bought the dry curd and had it at home before we realized what we had done. The thought did cross my mind to try to return it because I just might be that frugal...but instead I figured out I could swap it out with Ricotta Cheese. So, Vegetarian Lasagna is what we got.

All the ingredients. Aren't they pretty?

1 batch of fresh spinach or a bag of spinach
12 oz. dry curd cottage cheese (or 1 lb. ricotta cheese)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
lemon zest
1 jar tomato or marinara sauce of your choice
9 lasagna noodles (or more if you prefer)
1 lb grated mozzarella

Clean your spinach.

Wilt the spinach. And don't be ashamed if you need to google "wilt spinach"...not cause I had to or anything like that to figure out exactly how to go about doing the wilting...

The Dry Curd Culprit that started it all.

Dry Curd Culprit out of the tub. I know. It so does not look appetizing at this point. Trust me and keep reading.

Boil your you can't beat wheat lasagna pasta noodles...unless you get the fancy No-Boil Noodles.

Chop up the onions and garlic and go cry in a corner about how stinky your fingers are while you let the two simmer in a skillet.

Mix together in a bowl the wilted and cooled spinach, the dry curd culprit, and nutmeg. Then beat in the eggs.

Mix your sauce in with the garlic and onion and let it simmer together. Add the lemon zest.

I didn't really know what to do with the noodles after they were boiled and before I was ready to start layering. So I ended up just letting them dry and cool on foil. I am pretty sure you might know something better to do at this stage. Go for it. But this worked too.

Line your noodles in your dish. I would spray a non-stick spray or oil on the dish first...just in case. I actually forgot to do this and panicked while it was cooking.

Layer the sauce mixture on top of the noodles.

Layer the Spinach-Dry Curd Culprit-Egg mixture on top of the sauce and sprinkle (save most of it for the very top) your choice of additional cheese. I'm using Mozzarella. Then start over with the noodles and repeat the layering process a couple more times. I think I got total of three layers in this dish.

Layer the remaining cheese on the very top and bake in the oven at 375F for about 15-20 min or until cheese it nice and melty.

Voila! Super Uber Vegetarian Yummy-Ness!

His and Hers Veggie Lasagna

And if you are like Sparky and enjoy Ranch dressing on just about everything, go ahead and drizzle a little on the top of this little veggie lasagna.

So, this is one meal for this vegetarian household although I'm not vegetarian. I just like healhier versions of everything and this version was a winner.

Please note that I did not add Ranch dressing to mine and it was still dee-lish.

Keep on Keepin on.