Saturday, July 31

Week Two (And Nearly Three) of Going Veggie...

The Internet hasn't been my friend this week. We lost power for about 10 hours during a strong thunderstorm on Tuesday, and ever since, the Internet connection has been shaky at best. My veganism continues to be an adventure. This week I had several lunch meetings, and I learned quite a bit from them: -Houston's has a great black bean burger. With a plain baked potato as my side, I was in heaven. I didn't get to eat the bun though, because they slathered it in mayonnaise. I'll remember to ask them to hold the mayo next time! -Republic Coffee has several great vegan options. I got the Gandhi wrap, which has mushrooms, carrots, spinach, peanuts and hummus in it. With a side of fruit, this was also a great lunch. - Eating Mexican food proved to be quite a challenge. Everything comes with meat and cheese. I used to get beans instead of chicken or beef, but I'm sure even the beans were cooked in lard. At first I was afraid I'd be doomed to a lunch of "white" (iceberg) lettuce and frozen tomato slices, but I finally settled on the vegetarian fajitas with pico and rice. It was one of the most expensive things on the menu, but I left with a full tummy, so I didn't mind too much. I think eating at Swanky's will be my main Mexican option from now on. You can assemble your meal there, so it's very vegan friendly. - Felicia Suzanne's, although it's local and fabulous, is not designed for vegans. I actually missed this lunch meeting, and it was a good thing - the options were chicken or shrimp dishes. I would have been so bummed if I'd had to eat meat after all my hard work to avoid it! On the home cooking front, we visited the Cooper Young Community Farmer's Market last Saturday, and loved it so much that we decided to make it our only stop this Saturday. Although the big Memphis Farmer's Market is great, the CYCFM is closer to us, in a neighborhood we love and it has everything we need. Plus we can take our time and actually talk to the vendors because it isn't so busy. This week we got cherry tomatoes, large tomatoes, bell peppers, a zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, peaches, nectarines, apples and blueberries. We also got the best chips and guacamole I've tasted outside of the state of California. They're from Las Delicias, a local Mexican restaurant. Jonathan and I have been making our own homemade veggie fajitas with these chips and guacamole as our side items. Yummy! In addition to our veggie fajitas (which feature a variety of farmer market veggies including squash, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and hot peppers), we've also been experimenting with other foods. This week, I tried vegan cheese and cream cheese. The cheese is a bit weird, but it works. The cream cheese, which is made by Tofutti, is really good. I don't eat cream cheese that often, but it's good on half a pita as a snack. I also picked up walnuts (high in Omega 3's), sunflower seeds, low fat granola, and refried bean mix from Whole Foods' bulk foods. Jonathan and I love their bulk foods because you can buy a little or a lot of something, and 99% of the time it's organic. I'm also really enjoying a little rice milk in my herbal tea at night. To me, it's so much better than cow's milk - it's really light and sweet (although it's not sweetened). I can't believe it's been three weeks since the last time I ate dairy or meat. This has been a great experience so far, and I can honestly say I haven't missed cheese or meat at all. This new way of life has focused me to consider everything I eat to ensure I'm getting enough protein, fiber, Omega-3's, calcium, etc, and I feel really good too. What's even better is that Jonathan is getting into it as well, so we're really doing this as a team. That really makes it fun, because we're learning and growing together.

Wednesday, July 21

It's Awfully Hot To Work In My Garden...

The crape myrtles don't seem to mind the heat.
Neither do the heat-loving lantanas. My verbena, marigolds and zinnas aren't quite as heat tolerant. The roses seem okay, but they aren't growing as quickly as they usually do.
They're also starting to get some shade from the crape myrtles.
In their case, that's not a good thing. Roses love the sun.
The crape myrtles are so lovely though!
I even brought a few crape myrtle clippings in the house. They're just too pretty.

The house is where I've been hiding lately. It is way too hot to be in the garden more than an hour at a time. I hope we get some relief soon. We've had 90 to 100 degree days for a month now, and it's wearing us (and the flowers) out.

Monday, July 19

One Week of Veganism

So I just finished week one of my vegan experiment. Here's a summary of my week: 1. Being vegan really isn't that hard for me. To be fair, I wasn't eating much meat before last Tuesday, and I don't really like milk that much. I'm really only missing cheese and the occasional bite of something with eggs and white sugar (read: cookies!). 2. I'm experimenting in the kitchen. During week one we've eaten Cuban sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta with pesto sauce, chili rellenos, lots of salads and tons of veggies, beans, grains and fruits. 3. We spent an hour in Whole Foods on Sunday and enjoyed every second of it. We left with lots of new foods, and most of them were organic and healthy. Score! 4. We shopped at the Memphis Farmer's Market and the new Trolley Stop Market. I love the TSM. We'll be going there for local veggies and fruit when we can't get to the Memphis Farmers Market. 5. We ate at a Japanese restaurant, and I ate veggie sushi and veggie teriyaki. I didn't miss the chicken or tempura-fried shrimp. I am going to learn how to make vegan tempura though! I asked - the restaurant's tempura had eggs in it. Boo. 6. There are a lot of cheese and milk alternatives that aren't dairy or soy based. I bought rice milk this week. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll let you know if it's any good. 7. I feel good. Since I began this experiment, I've been less grumpy. I've also been very excited about trying new things and going to the gym. Jonathan is also getting on board with (some) of my vegan habits, and he's feeling better as well. Also, after eight months of exercise, I FINALLY lost a few pounds (4). This isn't about weight loss, but it certainly doesn't hurt! Bring on week two!

English Cottage Style in Memphis

It's not every day when one of your favorite neighborhood cottages goes on the market. On Sunday, we got that lucky when we drove by the prettiest cottage in East Memphis and noticed a "For Sale" sign and another sign for an open house. Score! Because we've been admiring this sweet cottage for two and a half years, we decided to be nosy and check it out. As we walked three blocks to the cottage, we discussed how much we thought the house was worth. It turns out that we guessed $200,000 less than what the house is actually worth. Yikes. I guess that's why it's called a dream cottage!
I was pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of my dream cottage. It was really roomy for a house built in 1940. I was a little disappointed by the addition, but in my opinion, most additions are disappointing. The house itself has great bones, but it hasn't been touched since the 1960s, and it needs to be lovingly restored. I wish I had an endless supply of money so I could fix up old houses. It, like so many others in our neighborhood, has the potential to be so quaint and lovely. It even has a name - Holly Hodge! My English roots were rejoicing.
The garden was just wonderful as I imagined, and it lived up to its English roots. Huge (this house sits on a whole acre) and slightly overgrown with antique furniture and pots scattered throughout, it too had serious potential. Jonathan and I think it was built by someone who loved the English cottage style. Too bad there aren't more of them around this town!

The front of my Memphis dream cottage.

The screened-in back porch was also amazing. The brick floor was a really cool feature, and the whole space was really airy and bright. Ignore the scary ceiling fan, and focus on the bead board... The garden...
The back view of the house and the pretty pergola.
The side garden filled with wild flowers...
Jonathan and I love our home and will most certainly never be able to afford a house like this, but we left the open house buzzing with thoughts and ideas. I love to take the best parts of a place and incorporate them into our own home. Maybe we'll be able to make our own backyard more like an English garden. Maybe one day we'll have a screened-in porch like this. Maybe one day we'll restore a home to its glory days. The possibilities are endless.
Don't you love to dream?
Right now, my family and I are coming to terms with the fact that after seven years, it is time to sell my grandmother's home in Los Angeles. I know it's just a house and that my grandmother has been gone for seven years, but when I go there, I feel like I'm closer to her. I've been going to that house since I was 3 months old, and thousands of my memories are there. Along with my paternal grandmother's home in Italy, it is the only childhood home that I have left. To say I'm devastated is an understatement.
This is why I have to dream. When I consider that part of my reality, I feel very, very sad inside.
I'm currently trying to figure out how to root plants so I can bring them home to Memphis.
Yes, I may be crazy.

Wednesday, July 14

Contemplating Veggie

For a while now, I've considered making the leap to full-time vegetarian. It wouldn't be the first time I've been a vegetarian. Growing up in England, we swore off most meat because of raging mad-cow disease. I got used to a life without hamburgers, although we did continue to eat a little chicken and fish.
I'm currently in the process of reading Alicia Silverstone's A Kind Diet. Veganism is something that I never considered, because I love cheese. A LOT.
In reading Alicia's book, I've begun to realize why I love cheese. It's highly addictive, and to me, that's just plain gross. I can deal with so many things, but addiction is something that not only grosses me out but just plain frightens me.
So can I go Vegan? I'm considering it on some scale. Alicia is on a hard-core Macrobiotic diet (meaning she eats a full-time plant-based diet, locally grown food, and very little processed food). I don't think I could ever be that way, but I am interested in seeing where a stricter plant-based diet takes me.
I know how I feel when I eat BBQ after a week of salads, grains and fruit. That feeling isn't a good one. Apparently if you eliminate dairy and white sugar from your diet, you can feel even better.
I'm interested in giving it a try. I'm not some crazy New-Age follower, just someone who wants to feel their very best each and every day. I want to be able to run faster and think more clearly. If my diet is keeping me from my full potential, then I want to make some adjustments.
I've been 90 percent vegetarian for my entire life, so this isn't a big leap for me. However, it will require some extra effort, and it will mean making some sacrifices.
On a positive note, it'll also mean I can try new recipes, and I'm always game for that.
Remember my Julie and Julia blog post? I still plan to try some of those dishes, but I want to make them healthier. According to Alicia, she loves French food. It's just about finding the meat and dairy-free options. For me, that also means avoiding too much soy, since I'm slightly allergic.
I'm going to try a Vegan diet for a few weeks to see where it takes me. At the end of my self-imposed deadline, I will reevaluate my diet. Something tells me I won't ever give up dairy entirely, but I am trying to keep an open mind. This is all part of the journey, right?
I will keep you posted.
For more about The Kind Diet, you can visit Alicia's web site here.

Sunday, July 11

Well Styled Movie: Julie and Julia

Julia's yummy copper pots, wooden pastry table and beautiful tiled kitchen in France.
Julie's pretty rooftop party. I will have twinkle lights around our deck before the summer is over! Julia in cooking school.
Julie becoming a cooking pearls, of course!
Julia's kitchen in Olso. I love the Pyrex bowl. :)
Julie is inspired by Julia in every way. I love the cushions and the lamp in the background.
Shopping for cookbooks!
Julia was so in love with her husband. Their relationship seemed truly magical.
Julia joking on a shopping outing in Paris.
Julie saying goodbye to the lobster.
I love cooking, the 1950s, blogging, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, so I expected to like Julie and Julia. By the end of the movie, I was inspired to purchase The Joy of Cooking (which I have been eyeing at one of my favorite antique stores for months now) and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I won't give away the plot, but I will tell you that much of the movie takes place in France in the early 1950s, and it immediately made me want to go out and buy lots of copper pots and other fun cooking utensils from Williams Sonoma. As you can see from the movie stills, this movie is a true visual feast, and it was a great way to end the weekend.
P.S. I think it has inspired us to do a little French be continued!
FYI - Nora Ephron directed and co-wrote this movie. She is one of my favorites - she also wrote You've Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally. :)

Wednesday, July 7

Happy Birthday... the sweetest man I know. It's hard for me to believe that this is the sixth birthday we've shared together. It doesn't seem possible.
Still, I consider myself so lucky that I get to share birthdays - and every day - with you.
I love you, my husband.

Summer 2006. This was one of my first attempts at cake-making. I'm sad to say things haven't improved much, but I'm still trying. :)

Monday, July 5

A Good Day For Vintage Hunting...For Me and My Sister.

Sometimes you just need a free day off in the middle of the summer. Boy, this one couldn't have come at a better time. Jonathan and I both needed it really badly, especially after our three-day painting project earlier this week. When he asked me what I wanted to do today, it only took me a second to respond. We hadn't been to the Bartlett Antique Mall in about six months, and I've been dying to go for a few weeks. Today was the day. I was so excited. Fortunately, my excitement paid off, and I found lots of cool, cheap goodies. When I do have time to go antiquing, I rarely come home without a book. Today I came home with two of them. I added to my vintage Betty Crocker cookbook collection, and Jonathan found the other book for me. California Cottage Style? Yes, please!

I've been dreaming of berry tarts for the last few days, and these tiny pastry molds will be perfect for them.

I also couldn't pass up this cherry tablecloth. It's perfect for lunches on our deck. :) These were my finds of the day. I also found some beautiful Pyrex for my sister. I started her vintage Pyrex collection about a month ago, and I couldn't pass up these beauties.
Aren't they the prettiest blue? They look lovely on the shelf between our living room and sun room....
It's very tempting to keep them, but nope, I bought them as a gift. :)
I also bought this AMAZING casserole dish for her. It was $9. I couldn't pass it up. I saw one online months ago, and I've been on the hunt for one ever since. This one is for Lauren though.
Man, I'm a good sister.... :)

Sunday, July 4

Summer is...

Well, the weekend painting project is complete! Our guest bedroom is completely refreshed and perfect for summer.
Here's a little peek...more photos to come!
In addition to the painting project, which took up Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday, we made time to go to our local Farmers Market. These peaches were one of our buys.
We also bought these yummy blackberries that I have been eating straight from the box. Zucchini, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and sweet potatoes were our other buys. We love the farmers market.
To go with our summery foods, here are a few shots of the roses. Right now, only this bush is covered in blooms. It happens to be one of my favorites.
It smells as good as it looks.
Our herbs also smell wonderful!
Don't you love summer?
Happy Fourth of July!