Category Archives: life in general

Happy Halloween from Melody & Cypress!

BLACK ORGANZA BOAT NECKLINE SHORT BRIDESMAID DRESS UK WITH PENCIL SKIRT

Happy Halloween!
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I made a silly little witch hat for my bunny, Cypress, and thought I’d take some pictures to share with you on Halloween Day.  I made the hat from black card stock, a scrap of ribbon, and a vintage button.

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I left the hat open in the back so her ears would go through easily, so it’s not a full and enclosed cone on the top.  Doesn’t she look festive and funny?  Cypress was a pretty good sport about being photographed. What a “treat” from my bun bun.  :]

I’m dressing up as artist/painter Frida Kahlo for our Halloween celebration at work today.  I originally wore this costume back in 2006, but since I’m now in a new office/at a new company, I thought I’d reprise the costume because I love it so much.  Are you dressing up today?  What are you dressing up as?

Again, Happy Halloween!  I hope you all have a safe and fun holiday.

Warm regards,
Melody

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My Blog’s 3rd Birthday!

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Yep, it’s true.  My blog is now three years old! I launched my blog in August of 2010, and have been blogging away ever since.  I’ve really enjoyed creating art and craft projects to share with you.  I’ve also enjoyed baking up recipes to entice you with, and am happy to have shared some of my other interests and adventures with you as well.

From trips to hole-in-the-wall restaurants to far-flung locales like Peru and Ireland, I’ve posted some of my images and experiences getting out and about in the world.  What fun!

I’ve also posted about my furry baby bunnies, Cypress and Pinto, and have shared my goofy pet mom pictures of them taken at holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.

I’ve tried to make giveaways bountiful, because winning free things is so much fun!  Many of you have won goodies over the past three years, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

Now What?
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As I embark on my 4th year of blogging, I’d love to know: what would you like to see more of?

Fine art?  (Photography, collage, drawing, assemblage, etc.)
Crafts? (Card making, jewelry, gifts, tags, etc.)
Recipes? Do you prefer savory recipes, desserts, or both?
Giveaways? What are your favorite types? (Gift cards, books, art supplies, etc.)
Photo haikus?
Travel?
Ethnic markets?

I value your input, dear readers, and would appreciate you leaving a comment sharing some of the things you’d like to continue to see , and/or things you’d like me to consider adding or beefing up.

Onward!
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I’m looking forward to more shared creativity and fun. Thanks for following my blog!  I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. If you’d like to “give my blog a birthday gift”, please consider making a donation to my Art Supply Drive to benefit at-risk children.  Details here.  Thanks!  :]

Also posted in art, baking, books, cooking, crafts, ethnic markets, photography, poetry, recipes, travel | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Haiku: Imperfect Beauty

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Such gritty texture –
love the vintage wood and paint.
A sign from days past…

Are there any other fans of vintage out there?  Do you like things that are worn, chipped, rusted, or otherwise distressed, like I do?  I just think there’s something special about these worn looks – a story lingers in imperfect surfaces.  I feel that way about wrinkles and scars on bodies, too.  They tell part of our story…

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Scrumptious Salads

ILLUSION BOAT NECKLINE OPEN BACK SHORT KNEE LENGTH TULLE BRIDESMAID DRESS
Summer is nearly here, and that means “salad season” for some of us.  Salad is often seen as a healthy food, but depending on what is IN and ON your salad, that may not be the case.  For example, a salad of iceberg lettuce covered with pre-made dressing can be virtually worthless nutritionally.  Not only is iceberg low on the “nutrient Richter scale”, many dressings are loaded with bad fats and sugar.  Another pitfall?  Not getting full enough from a salad – particularly if you’re eating it as an entree.  And finally, there’s the humdrum factor.  Another salad?  Bor-ring.
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I’ve been eating a number of salads lately (as part of my Rebuilding – From the Inside Out) and have been pretty pleased with how nutritious, filling, and varied they’ve been.  I thought I’d share some salad tips, along with a few lunchtime snapshots – in case you’re interested in adding more salads to your diet or need to get out of a salad rut.*

Tips for Snappier Salads
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1. Include a variety of veggies.  I often start with packaged mixed greens, and then add to it.  I often use radishes, carrots, celery, cucumber, and green onions in my salads.
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salmon_salad
(Ingredients: mixed greens, carrots, radishes, celery, hardboiled egg, fresh cooked salmon, cucumber, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
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2. Forgo pre-made salad dressings and use oil and/or citrus juice for a healthier option.  I like using avocado oil or an olive oil/lemon juice dressing.  I also use orange juice to dress salads with fruit in them, and plain lemon or lime juice works well on a variety of salads. It takes a bit of getting used to, if you’re used to bottled dressing, but isn’t a big deal once you commit.
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3. Add some protein to your salad – this will help keep you full longer.  You can include nuts, fish (canned, wild-caught salmon is a great option), hardboiled eggs, cheese, and more!
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salmon_salad2
(Ingredients: mixed greens, radishes, canned salmon, grated parmesan, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
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4. Don’t be afraid to mix veggies and fruit in a salad.  For example, blueberries, strawberries, and clementine sections are great in salads.

strawberry_salad
(Ingredients: mixed greens, strawberries, white cheddar, walnuts, orange juice dressing)


5. Try new things!  
Changing things up will keep you from falling into a rut, and that is always a good thing.  I plan on working some almonds into salads soon, and will look for things that are in season at the farmers market for some added oomph. :]

Do you have favorite ingredients you like to use in your salads?  Do you make your own dressings?  Please share!  I’m interested in trying new things, and I’ll bet others here at my blog are, too.  Thanks!
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Warm regards,
Melody
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*Ingredients in salad at the very top: mixed greens, cucumber, celery, radishes, carrot, nitrate-free bacon, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
Also posted in food, recipes | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Haiku: Floral Beauty

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Tiny bloom beckons,
intricate and colorful.
A heavenly sight…

I hope you’re all having a great week thus far!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in art, haiku, inspiration, nature, photography, poetry, writing | Tagged | 6 Comments

The Gardener’s Apprentice: Braiding Daffodils

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I want a garden.  Bad.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in apartments virtually all of my life.  I just love the idea of helping things to grow, and at this point I’m seriously craving some land to grow fruits, veggies, and flowers on.  The problem?  The staggering real estate costs here in Southern California.  I’ve lived in California all my life, but can’t afford property here.  (sigh)  We currently live in an apartment and our small (third story) patio is the daytime play area for our rabbits.  What’s a girl wanting to work in a garden to do?  Borrow someone else’s!

I’ve dubbed myself the Gardener’s Apprentice
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I found a listing on Craigslist that is helping me get my garden fix without having property myself.  A nice woman who lives about 20 minutes away has a large front and back yard, planted with both flowers and edibles.  She even has a small flock of seven chickens – something else I hope to have some day.  For her privacy, I’ll refer to this nice gardening lady as C.

C was in search of someone to help her with her yard – what luck for us both!  In exchange for helping her out, I’ll get to learn from an experienced gardener and plant enthusiast.  I’ll also reap some tangible rewards – goodies of C’s choosing that will come from her yard and/or chickens.

Starting Out
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I met C for the first time last week, and we started with a tour of the property.  I got to meet her hubby, two darling doggies, and the chickens (no rooster).  We got to work that very day!  We worked in a small section on the front edge of her yard.  While many of the plants in that section are flourishing and blooming, some bulbs were spent – like the daffodils and freesias.

The daffodil leaves are still green, but they’re laying flat and were a bit of a mess. Rather than cut the leaves back now, like we did with the freesias, C had me braid the stems of the daffodils.  (See photo at top) This way the leaves are tidy and out of the way while the bulb stores a bit more of their plant-y goodness in preparation for next year’s bloom.  Once the greens are dried out the braids can be cut off quickly and easily.

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We also dug up several small freesia bulbs that had multiplied and were taking over.  They were crowding out mini roses and other plants, so C and I used a trowel to loosen the dirt before digging through with our gloved fingers.  Geez – there were dozens!  We also pulled out some grasses and weeds that didn’t belong, and when we stopped working the section looked much tidier.  C let me take some of the bulbs we pulled out for my father-in-law.  He has quite a green thumb.
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chickens

She also gave me some Aztec Lily bulbs and six fresh eggs her chickens had laid.  Lucky me!  The eggs were beautiful, in a range of colors and sizes.  The egg yolks are much bigger and are a much deeper golden yellow than store bought eggs – even when compared to cage-free eggs.  The eggs were scrumptious, and I’m definitely a fan of C’s flock.  :]

eggs

My Second Visit
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We focused on the front yard again during my second visit.  We started by trimming and thinning a thicket of wisteria that grows in a planter that divides C’s driveway from the property next door.  Sweet Pea vines also grow in the thicket, but we just wove those lovelies back into the mix.

The rest of our time was spent pulling the dried leaves off of bulb-based plants.  The plants in question surround two small trees that live in two earthen squares on their front sidewalk.  Day lilies reside in each of the four corners of the planters, and “Naked Ladies” fill in the rest.  These “Naked Lady” plants belonged to C’s grandmother back in the day, and have been transplanted onto her property.  I think that’s so sweet. I love the idea of plants being shared by multiple generations.  The plant blooms in July with no leaves on it – just the “naked” flower stem.  Thus the name…

bouquet

My special treat for helping C that day was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers that she cut fresh from her yard. The bouquet contains several types of roses (at least six different varieties), calla lilies, and Peruvian lilies. The photo below is a closeup of the bouquet taken a day after I brought it home.  The gorgeous red and white rose is known as a Betty Boop!

bouquet_detail

Thinking Outside of the Box
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I still want a garden and chickens of my own, but am so glad I’ve met C and get to spend some time learning and helping her.  My next “gardening appointment” is set for Thursday, and I’ll happily be putting on sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat, and some gardening gloves – ready to learn by doing.

I have no idea how long my “garden apprenticeship” last.  I do know that while this arrangement is just scratching the surface in terms of what I’d like to learn and do, it is a start.  I’m glad I thought outside of the box instead of just moping about what I don’t have.  Taking chances and trying something – anything – can lead you to something unexpectedly wonderful.  Like braiding daffodils…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Rebuilding – From the Inside Out

produce

This is a noteworthy year for me in many ways.  Not only will I be entering my fourth decade soon, I’ve recently published a book.  And, after having been laid off earlier this year, I’m looking for my next employment opportunity.  Suffice to say that much of my life has been turned on its head in one way or another.  And since I’m already upside down, so to speak, why not use this time to make some real, positive, and lasting change?

I’d been wanting to focus intently on improving my overall health for some time, and decided there was no time like the present.  So, to that end, I’m working on overhauling my health, nutrition, and exercise, and have made some headway.  I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to, in case you find it helpful.

A Lifelong Battle
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I’ve been fighting my weight for most of my life.  But before I go on, please know this is more about overall health than it is about weight and weight loss.  Yes, I’m heavier than the medical community says is healthy.  Yes, I’d like to trim down and be a bit less “squishy”.  However, what I’m most concerned with is fueling my body well.  With being strong, fit, and healthy.  I want to live an active life without limitations, and that includes good food and some treats.  If I can do all that at a size 14/16, so be it.  I know from years past that I’ll never be smaller than a size 10 anyway – that’s where I start looking too thin.  :]

Getting back to fighting my weight, it’s been peaks and valleys.  Gain weight, lose weight, gain weight, lose weight.  And though there might be years in between each gain and loss, it’s been ongoing since high school.  I’ve probably gained and lost a significant amount of weight at least six or seven times over the years, which is not only annoying – it’s not healthy.  Repeated weight gains and losses take a toll on one’s body.

Trying Something New
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Mark Twain said, “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”  Amen, Mr. Twain!  I’ve been using that quote as a bit of a guide, and have been trying to do things a bit different lately.  Rather than participating in a diet program, or guiding myself through a diet that focuses on low-fat and fewer calories, I’m starting at the very beginning: with nutrition.

I’ve been doing some reading, and it’s both confusing and eye-opening.  Confusing because there are hundreds of books on diet and nutrition, and many of them contradict each other.  Eye-opening because so much of what we’ve been told about nutrition is wrong.  For example, for decades folks were told that margarine was healthier than butter.  That liquid vegetable oils like corn oil are healthier than the animal fats people used to cook with.  It’s now coming to light that the opposite is true.  Certain oils are good (olive, avocado, coconut), but a lot of the oils used today are truly bad for us.  Much of the “food” in the grocery stores is manufactured by the food industry with the goal of making something that will last longer on the shelf and bring the manufacturer more money, rather than promote good health.  How do we know what to eat?  Who do we trust?

books

Doing Research & Taking Action
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Thus far I’ve read five different books on nutrition, whole food, and our agricultural system, and am going with areas of consensus amongst the authors, with my personal observations, and with my gut instinct.  First and foremost, I’m focusing on eating whole foods and eliminating processed foods as much as possible.

I’m also:

  • Eating more fruits and veggies
  • Eating a wider variety of vegetables – like spaghetti squash, a new squash for me
  • Shopping at the Farmers Market when I can
  • Avoiding the bad oils (vegetable, corn, safflower, etc)

(I’m only using butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil for meals at home)

  • Adding more meat, shellfish, and eggs to my diet
  • Cooking more meals at home
  • Reducing my refined sugar intake
  • Vastly reducing processed grains like wheat, corn, oats, etc. for toxicity reasons
  • Greatly reducing the amount of soda I drink (both regular & diet are bad for us)
  • Brewing batches of iced green tea sweetened with stevia to drink instead of soda
  • Reading the ingredients on any packaged food I buy
  • Taking supplements like Green Tea Extract and Vitamin D
  • Working with my doctor to get my thyroid regulated and my TSH number down
  • Exercising 4-5 times a week
  • Exercising before breakfast whenever I can, since this encourages fat burning

Here are some of the books I’ve been reading, in case you’d like to do some research of your own:

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo
The Perfect Health Diet by Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet & Paul Jaminet
The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen
Why Women Need Fat by Lassek & Gaulin

No Calorie Counting

Something I read in one (or two) of the books really resonated with me: it’s very possible to be both overfed and undernourished.  I was a good example of that.  I was eating too much of the wrong things and wasn’t providing my body the vitamins, minerals, and fuel it needed.  The healthy foundation wasn’t there, so my body kept asking for more food in search of what it really needed.

So, at this point I’m not counting calories. I’m simply focusing on eating healthy foods (with the occasional deviation) in reasonable portions.  I figure it’s most important to be eating the right kinds of foods since a typical Western diet – and dieting – haven’t worked for me.

supplements

Investing in Good Health
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Eating healthfully can be more expensive and more time consuming, but what costs you time and money now will likely save you time and money in the long run.  Nowadays we spend a smaller portion of our incomes on food than in decades and centuries past, but our healthcare costs are also higher because we’re sicker – so there’s not much of a savings.  Many of the illnesses that run rampant today are directly related to our broken food system, and that’s a shame.  I’ve embarked on this adventure to see if I can’t turn that tide in my life.

We’ll See What Happens…
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I don’t have all the answers, and still have plenty of questions.  I’m not exactly sure where this road will lead, but I know in my heart and in my head that eating mostly whole foods makes the most sense, so here I go.  I know I’m making better choices and am fueling my body better – whether or not that will be reflected on a scale remains to be seen. And though I’m dedicated to this new way of doing things, I’ll still indulge in some things that aren’t good for me from time to time.  Just not all of the time. :]

Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.  I’d be glad to hear from you and to respond…

Warm regards,
Melody

*Please note: I am not affiliated with or advertising any products listed in this post, am just sharing what I’ve been reading/using/eating.

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Haiku: Tiny Bloom

tiny_bloom

Such a tiny bloom
About the size of a dime.
Your beauty awes me…

Have you spied any tiny treasures in nature recently, dear readers?  Do tell!

Warm regards,
Melody

Also posted in art, haiku, nature, photography, poetry, writing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Orange Cranberry Muffins Recipe

ocmuffin1

I opted to make muffins for this month’s recipe, and these Orange Cranberry muffins are tangy, fresh and sweet!  Inspired by a muffin I really enjoyed at Panera some time ago, I found this recipe on foodnetwork.com.  I particularly like that the recipe calls for dried cranberries, as it can be difficult to find fresh or frozen cranberries if it’s not fall or winter.  These muffins are yummy on their own, but would also be tasty with butter or fresh whipped cream.

ocmuffins

Orange Cranberry Muffins Recipe
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for preparing the muffin tin
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus up to 1 tablespoon for topping the muffins, if desired
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the cranberries and orange juice in a small saucepan, and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove berries from the heat, and set aside to cool and plump.

Lightly brush a 12-muffin tin with butter. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with an electric hand-held mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter, orange zest, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Fold in the cranberries. Do not over mix. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool muffins in the pan on a rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins

ocmuffin_detail

Note: I liked the dried cranberries, but will probably try fresh cranberries next time.  Please keep in mind that you’ll want to increase the measurement of cranberries if they’re fresh, since fresh berries take up more room in the measuring cup than dried…

Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Joshua Tree National Park

jt_tree3
I recently took a trip out to Joshua Tree National Park for the day, and wow – what a sight! It was my first time there and I was gobsmacked.  My eyes and brain worked overtime to take it all in and process it.  I think I would describe it as a Salvador Dali-esque landscape because it looks kind of surreal.  What was so darn strange about it?  I mean it’s just a plain ol’ desert, right?  Wrong.  The trees and rocks are crazy!

The trees are (naturally) Joshua trees for the most part.  Twisted, “hairy”, and spiky, they were everywhere!  These crazy, odd-looking trees spread out across the landscape as far as my eye could see.  And while you might not think rock formations would boggle my mind, they did.  In direct contrast to the smooth, flowing rock formations I saw years ago in Zion National Park, these rocky wonders were spectacular in their own way.  Instead of a large formation comprised of a few larger pieces and some smaller pieces, many of the rocky formations looked as if thousands of rocks had been gathered and carelessly piled up.

jt_cactus

From macro shots of plant life to sweeping shots that drank in the horizon and the sky, I happily wandered, examined, and captured images.

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I’m generally not much of a desert girl – given that I wilt in the heat and burn after about 5 minutes in direct sunlight – but I loved my time at Joshua Tree National Park.  I hope to return, and will plan on staying longer next time.

Have you ever been to Joshua Tree National Park?  Are there any other National Parks you particularly love? I’d love to hear about your adventures and favorites…

Warm regards,
Melody

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