Saturday favorites

I’ve been collecting a few suggestions…in the spirit of paying it forward these are some things I’d recommend to everyone! ūüôā

Getting ready to do some baking. I never get tired of playing in the kitchen! That’s why I hauled my Kitchen Aid mixer to this little apartment, along with a few other essentials. Here are a mix of my current favorites, both savory and sweet, tools and foods.

  • Parchment paper – what a difference this makes in baking. Easy clean up. I particularly love using parchment paper for baking brownies…leave a generous margin of paper hanging over the sides of the brownie pan and just lift out the brownies when baked. Easier to cut brownies out of the pan. When I first tried parchment paper, I was frugal, using it only for certain things. ¬†Now it comes out almost any time I turn on the oven.
  • Silicone baking pans – I’m only beginning to use these, but what I’ve used so far I like. The added bonus: you can shape all sorts of stuff in these…handmade soap or other crafts. Multi-purpose!
  • Cauliflower “mashed potatoes”¬†– I’ll admit when I make this version of the traditional mash I add a little butter and sometimes sour cream to the mix…the flavor is so good I hardly notice the substitution of cauliflower for potato. Best tip: if you want a little more body to your “mash,” add a small potato or two to the head of cauliflower. You’ll still have a lower carb dish, but it will be a little sturdier…maybe a good step down from the all-potato mash.
  • Big wide shreds of parmesan…I can sometimes find this wide shred in the grocery, usually in the specialty cheese section, but if you can’t find it, buy a gorgeous big hunk of parm and use a vegetable peeler to make your own wide, luxurious shreds to top pasta bakes, salads, or whatever needs a little more cheesy goodness.
  • A new favorite, I’ve only recently been roasting garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas. Delicious and simple. Start with two cans of garbanzo beans, drain and rinse. Spread the beans on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, or any seasoning that strikes your fancy. Bake/roast at 400¬į for approximately 30 minutes. I say “approximately” because you may want them to be more or less crunchy. My advice is to check the beans after the first 30 minutes and decide if they’re done to your taste. They’re like popcorn, only better. Good for snacking, and making salads more interesting.
  • Seattle Bakery Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread…if you can find this brand, buy it! The sourdough flavor comes through with the crunchy nuttiness of the cracked wheat…delicious toasted with jam, or use for the perfect grilled cheese. This bread comes in a big round loaf. Beautiful.
  • Burrata cheese:¬†If you haven’t tried this, you must do so, asap! It’s wonderful, that’s all.
  • My new favorite way to prepare salmon: searing. I used to bake salmon, if I wasn’t grilling, thinking it was the best way to keep it healthy. But I always have trouble with the timing. It seems like I pull it out too fast, or just past the perfect done-ness. I tried pan searing the fresh salmon we caught last weekend, and it was perfect. Just put a little olive oil or butter (ok, I always choose butter) in your pan, and when the pan is hot, place the salmon and season. I turned the fillet once, and got it just right. Not overdone, and the texture was perfect. Outside got a little color, and the inside was medium rare. Never baking salmon again!
  • Homemade Magic Shell: (this is just fun!)
    • 8 ounces of chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
    • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

    Place coconut oil in double boiler over low heat and melt. Add chocolate chips to double boiler with the oil. Gently blend chocolate into coconut oil until smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes and then drizzle on your favorite anything. Perfect for dipping fruit. Bananas, strawberries, and grapes are my favorites. Made some frozen dipped bananas recently and can verify: highly edible! Also perfect for ice cream.

In the digital world, check these out…well worth exploring.

  • PicMonkey – a fun and easy photo editor…there’s a free version and a paid version, both are great. Good for creating printables or almost anything.¬†Look here.
  • Best way to sell online…I call it a digital garage sale. Check out your local Facebook sale site. The one for Ketchikan is called Ketchikan SaleCycle, it’s a closed group for local residents…an amazing resource if you need something, or if you’re selling. I sold most of my furniture in the move last fall, and a lot of miscellaneous household items…made over $13,000 in just a few weeks. Of course, eventually I’ll have to replace some of those things, but it was a fantastic way to sell without doing a huge one day event that might or might not have gone well. And it’s fun too…actually sort of addicting once you get going. I like it better than Craigslist. I think most communities have a local Facebook sales group. Find the digital garage sales in your area and get ready to clean out!

And finally, some random suggestions:

  • A new favorite exercise…the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro…It really works!
  • Looking to be inspired to say “No!” more often? I can’t say enough about Greg McKeown’s book¬†Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.¬†I read it a few months ago, and I’m still drawing on it as I consider choices. ¬† ¬†I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to say “no.” Recognizing that saying “no” actually honors the real priorities of my life helps me to be strong in the face of my built-in need to please. Not always easy for this Southern girl/woman to do, but I’m trying to be more thoughtful and deliberate about my answers.
  • RSVP Endurance kitchen products: I love these tools. You can find them on Amazon or in specialty kitchen stores. They’re not too pricey, but all the ones I’ve tried are good. Very good. This is a brand like Oxo…great value for the money, and whatever they make is quality. The tools are a pleasure to use.

And finally, a smile for the day:

Organic Donuts

Enjoy your weekend!   ~ Sheila

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Why I blog

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” ~Gene Fowler

It’s been a quiet Saturday in Metlakatla. That is to say, Rob is on call, and I’m online. I’m contemplating creating another site for business use, and I’m feeling drawn to the WordPress.org side of the universe for the new venture. As much as I love the ease of WordPress.com, (this blog will stay on the .com side) there’s no doubt that the .org option provides more flexibility. You can use plugins that aren’t available for the .com. I’m learning about a whole new world that exists, if I’m willing to do a little more of the set up myself.

Sometimes when I find I’ve spent pretty much my whole Saturday poking around online, following this link and that link, I begin to wonder…is it worth it? Am I neglecting real life for a fake digital version? The answer could be yes, if you look at a specific day or period of time. I tend to dive in and stay in the depths for long stretches, until I have to come up for air, food, bathroom or bed. Other days I don’t live there at all…my digital forays are confined to sites I’m viewing for work, or for life needs…travel or orders or the like.

The reality is that blogging started as a distraction for me. It was a good way for me to learn some new skills and take my mind off things that I couldn’t face at the moment. Some of that has changed in the past couple of years. It’s no longer an escape. It has become a joy, and a pleasure, and it keeps me on a learning curve with no end in sight. I didn’t foresee the connections I would find, or the sense of kindred spirit that I feel when I read someone else’s blog and feel an instant bond. Because I’m out there too, in the digital world, sharing my voice, my thoughts, my days. Not life-changing, not prize-winning…but connected, in the fragile way that on-line connections are formed.

Sometimes I’m intimidated. There are a lot of smart people out there with amazing sites; blogs with humor that seems to pour out of every syllable; writers with insight, calling, passion…you name it. I recognize, with honesty, humility, and just a touch of envy, I’ll never measure up to a lot of what I see. And yet, part of the fun is in the variety, the challenge to improve, learn, grow. Sometimes I feel like I have a tiger by the tail. Keeping up with technology…no, I’m not keeping up, I’m just barely on the cusp of using what’s available…sometimes I think the biggest hurdle is I don’t even know what I don’t know. Sometimes the challenge is making time for a self-imposed chore that isn’t even generating income. But I don’t really see blogging like that. It isn’t a chore…more like my own little baby that is nurtured with my time and attention. As to income…well, not all payments are in the form of money. Maybe I have three tigers in hand. Or maybe it’s just one tiger with three tails…I don’t know. But I do know that though there’s nothing demanding that I blog, I’ll keep doing it. It stretches me…lures me into technology I would never learn about without this impetus; makes me think about new possibilities…surely not a bad thing for my early 50s?

Sometimes I think all this is leading me somewhere. Some day I’ll look back and connect the dots. Or not. Maybe this is nothing more than self-expression, and a little engine for vanity and fulfillment. Except that doesn’t feel quite right either. While I don’t kid myself that I’m speaking to anyone else in particular, I don’t think I’m just writing to see my own words. Well, at least I have the angst that goes with writing…and the questions. Is anybody out there? And if so, is my writing worth reading? Or just empty words?

One thing I’ve learned from reading other blogs…a lot of the things that I wonder, others wonder. My questions and feelings are rarely unique. I suppose there’s value in recognizing that a) I’m not alone and b) I’m not often original and c) there’s a wonderful feeling of camaraderie that comes over me when I read something that I could have written. Or maybe just wrote…the funny thing is, sometimes that happens, no plagiarism involved or intended. I think there are so many writers putting out content online…it seems inevitable that some of us are ¬†thinking and writing similar things.

There’s a quote ¬†(of course, a quote!) I like that resonates with me. From the movie, You’ve Got Mail, the character, Kathleen Kelly says:

¬†Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void.

See you out there!

Hide and Seek

I’m in gathering mode. I’m learning. What a challenge it is to reinvent yourself! I have a stack of books by my bed, I have more downloaded on my Kindle, and I’m finding new resources online through blogs and websites. Information overload! All this reading makes it hard to produce. One of the cardinal rules of writing is to write. Stay with it. Once again, I find that my blog has been on the back burner.

I like to think I’m a multi-tasker extraordinaire, but maybe I’m not…I tend to get a bit sidetracked by what I’m reading, get lost in the maze of discovery. I’m researching the process of writing a book here and here; reading about life mapping here and creating passion in life here; learning more about blogging and the digital world, here; and looking for mentors and events to broaden my horizon here. I’ve also picked up a couple of books that are (deceptively) simple “how tos” for increasing happiness here and getting along with others, here. More about these later.

I’m learning new programs, taking my conversion to Apple to the next level by working through the Pages and Numbers programs.

And I’m working relief for PeaceHealth clinics and taking on some project work on a contract basis for another organization. I feel a bit like I’m back in college, having a day job, and coming home to start a mental second shift. I’ve been ramping up to this for a while, but transitioning away from a full-time position in January has upped the stakes. I have a bit more freedom to concentrate on my own projects, but also more risk. I have to admit, I miss the regular check already, although I love not having to think about my leave balance when I make plans to travel.

All this makes me wonder…what’s really next? I committed to this path last summer…well, at least I committed to leaving full-time work at the new year. Hard to know where all of this will lead. I get conflicting messages. There’s the belief that if you don’t script out your life (life mapping) you’re in danger of wandering aimlessly without focus or clearly defined purpose. Some believe that your passion and your career work should be intertwined. Some believe that your passion does not necessarily reflect your skills…that your skills and your gift are not the same. I read something a few days ago that said that we don’t have to search for our passions, they find us. Just like we don’t have to work to know if we like a certain color or taste or music. We just know. That seems right, and yet, I don’t know. What I’ve learned is that the thing I’ve had the most passion for in my life, mothering, is now largely completed, at least in a day-to-day, hands on way. So while I’ll always be a mom, and I’ll continue to find joy and fulfillment in my evolving role as a mother, that is not going to be my life’s work at this stage.

Then the questions begin. I’ve always loved to bake. Maybe I have the seeds of a restaurateur in me. Or maybe I’m destined to help others find their own path, as soon as I’ve figured out the formula for myself. Or maybe I’ll find a way to become a writer and get paid for it. That’s the really sticky part. I’m looking for something I love, something I feel passion to do. And I need it to feed me…emotionally, professionally, economically. Sounds like a tall order. And yet, these stories are everywhere: people magically falling into something they love to do every day, and getting paid to do it.

Well, I’m sure this will continue to be a theme for a while. So far I have more questions than answers, and the gathering phase is only beginning. I think of all the clich√©s: if it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for; it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it; never, never, never, never, never give up.

So off to work, then home to do some more work. Reading. Searching. Reinventing. Really, how can we expect kids just out of high school to know what they want to be? It’s a challenge at any age, unless you happen to be one of those blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) individuals who are so defined by their particular talent that they are compelled to be a painter, musician, author. I need a new category. Guess I’ll have to invent it myself, I’m not finding my particular passion in the standard line up.

Love that Kindle!

If you haven’t checked out Amazon’s free Kindle books, you’re missing out on real treasure…everything from classic novels and non-fiction to obscure how-to guides; from essays on religions and myths of ancient civilizations to philosophy and poetry; from naturalists’ and historians’ guides to children’s literature. There’s something for everyone, instantly down-loadable, free, and accessible through pretty much any digital device you can think of. Amazon offers free Kindle applications for PCs, Macs, phones, tablets, and of course, you can purchase the Kindle device if you prefer that route. Best of all, whatever you download will appear on any of your Kindle apps. Purchases update wirelessly, so no connecting of everything. It’s like magic.

Another fun thing I stumbled across, accessible through links on Kindle, is Open Library and other resources for free downloads, or for free lending services. See here. (Scroll down to see all the links.)

If books aren’t enough, this link offers access to archived internet pages.
Learn more.
Also here. Found this by following a digital path from Amazon. I love that this company shares this kind of information, and it’s just one of the many reasons I’m a huge Amazon fan.

I’ll never completely give up buying “real” books, because sometimes there is a book so beautiful, or so meaningful, that I have to have an actual printed version in hand. But with all the availability of digital downloads, and the wealth of free material, I can fill a lot of reading time catching up on classics I never got around to in school, or exploring obscure works that catch my interest.

Summer reading lists? In addition to the best sellers, you might want to see what you’ve been missing that is just slightly more dated…Amazon offers almost 16,000 free titles here and if that isn’t enough to keep you busy, there are lending library options that offer free access to books for a limited time before you “return” the book, all done digitally…don’t ask me how, I just follow the links and click.

Enjoy the exploration! It’s entertaining to browse the lists and links, and to accumulate a personal library that’s on hand any time you find yourself waiting in a line, vacationing at the beach, or having a restless night. With all the options, a good read is as easy to find as your laptop or phone. And all those titles you always meant to read? Well, what are you waiting for?!

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