Las Vegas…. Not What You’d Think

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I have some good friends who live in Las Vegas. Most people are surprised that people actually live there. So I’ve been there about 6 times, and have spent most of that time in places that tourists to Las Vegas have probably never been.

Did you know there is more than one street in Las Vegas? The Strip is not the only street in town!

Did you also know that there are beautiful mountains, canyons, and wildlife?

I was surprised by the numbers of birds I saw. Everywhere I looked, I saw ravens, goldfinches, hummingbirds, grackles, sparrows, and more. Here’s a hummingbird I was able to snap a photo of.

I know I’ll go back to Vegas sometime, which makes me both glad and frustrated. It’s  troubling to me to spend time there. The gaudiness, tackiness, and wastefulness in the middle of the desert bothers me. The resources are so strained, water should be scarce at best, non-existent at worst, yet there are hundreds of thousands of people sucking up the resources, dumping money into machines, and taking in all the man-made, soulless sights and sounds. I prefer to stay away from that, which is sometimes difficult to remember because I must admit I enjoy blackjack. I advise anyone who goes, myself included, to get out of the casino and enjoy the outdoors.

Gnocchi and Kale. So Easy.

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As much as I enjoy cooking meals with lots of ingredients and new techniques, it’s not something I can do super often. Mostly because I don’t have time. So here’s a meal I made in about 20 minutes and it was just as tasty as some that have taken hours.

I bought packaged whole-wheat gnocchi, cooked it up and added a can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes (they are way better than any other canned tomatoes, in my opinion).

Then I chopped some kale and cooked it down with salt, curry powder, and balsamic vinegar.

So easy, so tasty, so quick. I could eat kale every day. It’s my new favorite vegetable.

Baby Hats

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It can be difficult to buy clothing for someone else. But it’s even more difficult to make clothing for someone else. I have enough trouble getting the things I make for myself to fit me (which is why I like to stick to scarves) let alone to fit someone else. And if they do fit in size, they may not fit in color or style.

The person I made these hats for, though, won’t be able to share his opinion for a few more years. He’ll probably never even really see what he looks like wearing them. He’s the baby of my good friends, Elizabeth and Jack, and he just turned 4 months old a few days ago. I get to meet him in about two weeks. I made two so he can have his pick in case he doesn’t like one of them.

I do know babies can be picky though. Other babies I’ve made hats for have tugged and pulled at them to get them off. I made these out of soft, non-itchy wool. The light blue one is made from baby alpaca yarn (the same wool as my owl sweater) and is very soft. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, this means neither hat is machine washable, but I don’t think hats get too dirty. It’s not like I made him a hand-wash only bib.

 

Colorful Birds’ Nests, Coming Soon to Chicago’s North Side

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Leave it to Lisa at Sifu Design Studio to come up with a fun way to recycle yarn scraps and beautify the neighborhood at the same time. Lisa has been giving out little cages meant to be used as suet bird  feeders, but instead of stuffing them with suet, she loaded them with leftover yarn scraps. Birds will still flock to these cages, but instead of a snack, they’ll get some colorful building material for their nests.

I think the cages look great just hanging around the neighborhood. Here’s the one I put up in front of my place.

But I especially can’t wait to catch glimpses of color popping up in the nests. If you live in Chicago and want to put up your own yarn scrap bird feeder, stop by Sifu and ask. Best part of all- they’re free!

My Husband; My Personal Baker

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It started with bread. Then it moved on to bagels. Now he wants to try pretzels as soon as we get some cream of tarter.

My mom got us the cookbook Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day last November. My husband skeptically decided to try it out. We haven’t bought bread since.

 

 

The thing is, it really is just about 5 minutes a day in active preparation. There is no kneading or anything. The rest of the time is letting it rise and bake. I don’t really understand how it works, but it does!

Why am I not as into it as he is? I’m not sure. I enjoy the process of measuring and mixing, and these recipes are so simple they lack that process. I also like baking sweets rather than breads. Baking bread doesn’t interest me as much as it does him, but I am hugely grateful that he took to it. Because eating delicious homemade bread interests me a lot.

Pasta with Extra Hidden Vegetables

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I don’t remember what cookbook I read it in, but a long time ago I found a recipe for “Fettuccine Alfonso.” This was a vegan version of Alfredo in which the sauce was made from pulverized corn, garlic, and soy milk. Maybe even some nutritional yeast, I’m not sure. I’ve made it a few times, and it’s decent. But this time I wanted a little more substance.

First, I sauteed onions, artichokes, and garlic, then added spinach. Separately, I put a bag of frozen corn (wish I would have let it defrost) into the food processor with some soy milk, salt, and pepper. Then, I heated that up once it was nearly liquified.

Then, I cooked some spinach rotini and combined everything. I topped it with grated Parmesan because I love using the rotary grater, but this could be made vegan without the cheese.

If I was to make it again, I would make the sauce a little thinner and use an extra container of artichokes. And more garlic. I’d always add more garlic.

Best Birthday Cake Ever

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One thing I wanted for my birthday was a cake so cool that when it was presented, everyone would clap and cheer, just like they do for the Cake Boss. Simple enough, right? So my friend Andrea decided that instead of paying a ton of money to get an awesome cake for me, she’d do it herself!

The only thing I knew about it was that it was going to be lavender/lemon flavored and that I was going to really like it. She totally exceeded my expectations, and when she presented the cake, everyone cheered and clapped. No joke!

She made the base round cake, covered it in fondant she also made herself, used a stamping tool to look like basket weave, and intertwined the rolled fondant edge. She (I think) scooped other baked pieces into 3 round spheres and covered them with fondant and fondant spaghetti shaped stuff made from like a play-doh press.

The final, though inedible, touch was the knitting needles she stuck in the top.

I can’t decide if it tasted better or looked better.

But thanks to the photos I get to have my cake, and I ate it too.

Andrea- care to comment on your work?