2020 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Just birds...

Female Cardinal often feeds on fallen seeds under the birdfeeders

Male Cardinal watches from a distance.

Male Grosbeak and a male Cardinal hangin' out in the redbud tree

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - male

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - female

Red-winged Blackbird

Because you can't have too many pictures of a Pileated Woodpecker, can you?

Or too many of Baltimore Orioles?
Male Baltimore Oriole

Female Baltimore Oriole (I believe)

Can't wait to see who shows up next!

Friday, April 22, 2022

More spring...

The backside of April is upon us, and I'm feeling behinder and behinder.  Or maybe I'm just being impatient. I've been wanting to plant some seeds in the garden for weeks now.  

While the cool weather and spring rains are welcome, they have made it difficult to get outside much and take care of things.  The weeds are flourishing!  Maybe I'll make some serious progress on them this weekend as it's supposed to be sunny and in the 80's.  A little hot for my liking in April, but there's a promise of more cool weather next week, so I'm not going to complain.  Much.  

I've been busy and distracted the last couple of weeks, but most of it isn't really blog fodder. We did celebrate four birthdays earlier this month (for which I have no pictures - I get so little cooperation when I try, I've all but given up).  Our birthday celebrations anymore generally include eating out at a restaurant of the birthday kid's choice, followed by games at someone's home.  It was a couple of weeks ago already that we went to a Sushi Club for all-you-can-eat sushi, and then back to two sons' apartment to play the new-to-us game WAVELENGTH.  A fun game that gives lots of opportunity for making conversation.  

While it's more interesting than it may appear, here's a demo of WAVELENGTH in case anyone is curious:

And now I hope I don't bore you with more pictures of spring. Though I must warn you, this surely won't be the last such post.  This week we turned a corner into it being downright beautiful here.  While there are spots on this property that need some serious attention to landscaping, I'll share the areas that I'm taking special pleasure in right now.  

It was in the 60's and gorgeous on Wednesday.  Between doing some weeding and cleaning up most of the mulch from the raised strawberry bed above, and rain storms later in the evening, I visited my friends Jack and Ruth (Ruth, some will recall, is a woman I provided companion care for for several years.  She is in a nursing home now).  I don't think Ruth knows who I am anymore, but she is just as sweet and welcoming as ever.  Visits these days give me opportunity to get to know Jack more.  These two are a treasure.

But back to the strawberries.  Caring for a strawberry bed is a totally new experience for me.  

So far, it's not hard, and best of all -  they're surviving!  Looking forward to having some to share.

Our Asparagus patch is in the foreground above.   Notice some spears tall enough to harvest?  They'll show up again later.   The larger garden area is in the background.  I plan to remove those onions by sometime next week, and plant some vining things that (hopefully) will make use of the trellis.  I have plans to try pickling some cucumbers this summer.

My plant ID app tells me that irises are growing in this mess of weeds beside the detached garage above.  I started weeding this area late Wednesday afternoon, and now I have visions of some additional flowers planted in this bed.  Maybe some old fashioned zinnias or sunflowers.  Or both!

These rose bushes are in serious need of some trimming, I think.  They were beautiful when we moved in last November.  Figuring these out will be a new experience, too.   YouTube is getting me brave enough to start making some cuts soon.   

It's impossible for me to tire of watching the birds play in the Redbud tree in bloom just outside our den window. 

They all take turns flitting from the Redbud tree to the birdfeeders.

And this Japanese Quince Shrub came into glorious full bloom this week:
I don't know why my cell phone wants to turn it into something that looks like an impressionist painting, but it's all I have for now.  Hopefully, I can get some better pictures of the sweet flowers on this bush with my DSLR before they've finished their run.

And, I was almost giddy when my plant ID app identified two smallish dogwood trees flanking this Japanese Quince bush.  They are just beginning to bud out.  Pictures of those will follow in a week or two, I imagine.

My heart just swells with how pretty things are looking right now.  Even the weeds can't diminish the pleasure all these flowering trees and bushes are bringing this spring.


Continuing with the spirit of "New Things",  I must continue just a bit more discussing asparagus. 

I had my first harvest!  

And now I know mid-late April is when they are likely to make their appearance in our backyard.

There were only about eight or nine spears tall enough to harvest, but that was just enough to enjoy them one evening earlier this week.  They are definitely better than anything I've bought in the grocery.  Brighter tasting, very crisp.  I even ate one fresh, rinsed off, but without cooking.  I prefer them cooked a tad, but raw was totally edible.

Stirred in some olive or avocado oil (I don't remember), sprinkled with sea salt and roasted in the air fryer/toaster oven for just a few minutes, these were delish!  And now I can't wait for more to grow tall enough to cut.


I don't think I'm going to keep tallying all my New Things, but I'm still taking note of them.  And gratefully so. I'm finding that noting new things really is something of an act of gratitude.  Especially when all the new things are so lovely...

I hope you have a beautiful weekend!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Spring is full of new things at our new house...

While some of the trees are budding, aside from bunches of white blossoming trees in our yard (and it seems every other neighbor's), and the grass greening up, spring seems to be taking its sweet time to burst onto the scene here.  But in spite of up and down weather, and more "brown" than I care for, the signs of spring are here. 

A few days ago, just looking out a window, I spotted this bunny camouflaged against the mulch under a rose bush:

And look at what I found yesterday:

Look closer:

Standing at my full height, I almost didn't see them, but bending down and looking really close, I found scattered in a small (maybe 5x5 ft) square of bare dirt, five random spears of asparagus peeking through.  

I was over the moon excited that we (evidently) didn't neglect into oblivion our little asparagus patch.  And now I can't wait to harvest them - and experience how good newly picked asparagus tastes. I've read it's sweeter tasting the closer to home you obtain it.  Can't get any closer than this!

While doing a little clean up outside, it occurred to me that some of you might have some words of wisdom to share about this little crop of onions:

At least I think these are onions.   Ignore the wire cage - Hub just stuck it there last fall and left it.  I didn't even notice it until I saw the picture.

These plants were small things last autumn when we moved into our new place, but we left them alone (there were just too many other things to do) figuring they would die out in the winter.  But now it appears that even more have grown, and the tops are looking really vibrant.

When I dig up some, this is what they look like:

They look like onions, but I've never actually grown onions and have never seen onions with pink-ish stalks like this.  Do they look familiar to anyone?  Do you think they're okay to eat after sitting in the soil all winter?  I don't know why I feel hesitant to try them, but I have been.  Let me know if you know what kind of onion these are.  And go ahead and tell me if I'm just being weird not being sure I want to eat something I didn't plant myself, or watch grow (like the asparagus).

Then while digging up some weeds in the garden, I came upon this and I wondered if it's actually something edible:
I'm guessing it's a weed, but it didn't look like the other weeds I dug out, and it kind of looks like stuff I find in bagged salad.  Don't laugh.  Anyway, I thought I'd ask if anyone recognizes it (weed or not).

And while I'm waiting for some other spring flowers to bloom, I'm treated every time I look out the laundry room window to these soft yellow daffodils and a sweetly-pink flowering shrub of some sort:

It's coming on slowly, but spring is making itself known here in central Indiana!


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Ripple blanket finished and pan seared salmon...

I was successful at finishing the blanket I was crocheting for youngest son, and it has been handed over.  

What a relief it is to have that done.  I have a report that he is enjoying it, and loves that I made it extra long.  I forgot to measure its final length, but I know it was over 72 inches at one point.  Maybe its finished size is closer to 80 inches.  It's also a tad wider than normal.  My guys like big blankets.

I can't believe I'm toying with the idea of starting another blanket project.  I have so many to choose from in my pattern files.   Or maybe I should do something small.  Something that will provide a quick finish.  That would be super satisfying after not crocheting for so long.


Some might remember I was making it a goal of mine to get salmon cooking down to something approximating perfection.   Well, tonight was my second (or was it third?) chance, and while I probably cooked it a little too long still, I have discovered a way of cooking it that makes me very happy.

Pan searing.   And I used a newly acquired cast iron skillet. Hey!  That's a new thing!  Shoot.  Why didn't I take a picture of the salmon in the pan?!?   

Anyway...  the Pan Seared Salmon recipe is really this simple:

Allow filets to warm to room temperature (for more even cooking).  Generously salt and pepper salmon filets.  Don't be ridiculous, but don't be afraid of the salt.  And use fresh ground pepper if you can.

Heat olive or avocado oil in pan over med-high heat.  When hot, add salmon filets skin side down.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side.  ETA:  I've recently read to let the salmon cook until the sides are looking cooked and the top beginning to look less translucent.   This should make the filets about 90% cooked.  Then flip the fish and cook and turn off the heat.  Let the residual heat from the burner and hot pan finish cooking the salmon.  This may take another 3 minutes.  Squeeze the salmon filets and if they flake a bit, it done.  This makes a nice crispy crust - even if it's not obvious in the picture below.  Squeeze some lemon fresh lemon juice on top and serve with favorite sides.  The lemon juice is not a suggestion.  It's a must, in my opinion.

I made sauteed shredded brussels sprouts again, and asparagus.   If I could just get confident about not cooking salmon a minute or two too long, I think it might just be perfect - and I'd be really happy to serve this to company.  ETA:  I've recently learned that cooking salmon to medium rare is okay, and this will keep it from getting too dry.  

I'm getting there...

So...  my new things:  

I'm learning to cook with a cast iron skillet.  Getting comfortable with things like not washing it after every cooking.  I've had to scrub it a couple of times when I let something burn in it, but otherwise, I just scrap out any food, and wipe it down with a paper towel and once the oils have had some time to soak in, store 'till next time.

The grass is turning green, and lots of things are starting to grow outside.  Hopefully, soon it will be pretty enough to take some pictures.  Quite a few new to me plants I'll be able to count as new things I think.  

On that note, I'm hoping we didn't ruin an asparagus crop by cutting down the ferns in late fall, and not mulching it over the winter.  I keep checking and haven't seen any new growth yet.  We had a very mild winter (not much sustained bitter cold as I recall), so I'm hanging onto hope that we'll be seeing spears popping through the ground soon. I just have no idea when that's supposed to happen in central Indiana.  I just checked a last-frost date calculator, and I see our last frost date this year is estimated to be April 18th.    Hmmm...  that's my birthday.  The emergence of asparagus would make a nice birthday surprise!

That's all for now.  Later, Gators! 

10 new things in 2022

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Taking stock...

Life's been a bit distracting lately.  Nothing seriously wrong, but little things have been off-kilter for a couple of weeks.  Nothing I want to write in detail about, but it seems appropriate enough to at least be that honest, and share that not everything is "raindrops on roses" or "whiskers on kittens" all the time.  

It's also not bad.  In the positive column, the pain in my thumbs (yes, it's both now) has changed from too painful to open a jar, to just somewhat and sometimes annoying now.  I've concluded, after consulting with Dr. Google, that it's likely arthritis and the next time it flares up, I'll get myself to a hand doctor because it appears there's hope for that - arthritis of the thumbs, that is.  I didn't even realize that was a thing, but it's evidently a fairly common condition for women of my age.  If you're around my age and your thumbs work fine, count your blessings.  When my thumbs hurt the worst, I found myself watching people do things like use their cell phones, or pick up their purse, or take hold of piece of paper - with no obvious sign of discomfort, and I marveled at how we take such simple things for granted.  

Anyway, I'm not hurting like that at this point, and I'm happy to learn when I'm ready, and if I need it, treatments are a possibility. 

And the knee pain I developed right after we moved into our new place has subsided.  Has felt pretty normal for a few weeks now, in fact.  That is a relief.    

And robins have begun making their presence known here, and nothing says spring in Indiana like robins on the lawn.  Gauging by the number I've seen in the backyard, I'm expecting at least a few nests are under construction in the vicinity.  Their nesting season lasts from April to July.  And did you know that robins have up to three broods in a season?   I just learned that.  I had no idea.

Moving on... I've been able to just about finish crocheting a blanket that has languished for nearly a year and a half.  This was meant to be a birthday gift to youngest son in autumn of 2020.  I'm hoping to give it to him when I see him this week.  That's not so late, is it?  There were all kinds of reasons why it didn't get done until now, but we'll not focus on those.  

Once I get all the ends woven in, I'll try to take some glamor shots of the finished blanket.  If my thumbs continue to behave, maybe I'll be sharing more handcrafted items soon, as I've been wanting to get back to stitching and working with yarn. I need to start justifying moving all of those craft materials to our new home!

And, lastly...  as we all face empty shelves and high prices, I thought I'd share a little something that almost went unnoticed.  Last week when The Mister went shopping at Menards, I asked him to pick up some Era laundry detergent.  It's the brand I've preferred for decades now, and it's always been its best price at Menards.  He texted me that the price had gone up $2.00 per jug.  I wasn't completely surprised since it's actually been one of the more affordable laundry detergents - up until inflation started taking its toll on the price of everything.  

He brought home three large jugs.  As I was finding a place to store these large containers, when I picked one up, it seemed lighter than I expected it to be.   I grabbed an old bottle and put it next to the new bottle and they appeared to be the same -ish.  

FWIW, the pictures were not taken in the order of the story...

While it's more obvious in the above photo, in person it's difficult to immediately discern that one jug is slightly larger than the other.  The labels are nearly identical, and both labels claim that the contents will wash the same number of loads, both have 2X's the Cleaning Power - nevermind one says it's Ultra Concentrated and the other doesn't.  

Normally I lay these bottles down in the pedestal drawer under my washing machine and when I went to do that, I noticed that I could stand the bottle upright.  Wait a minute.  Is that right?  I tested an old bottle, and yep -  it was too tall to stand upright in the drawer.  Pulling them both out again, I put them side by side (still not able to see a difference in the sizes) and finally checked the amount that was each one.   

Sure enough...  while both claim to wash the same 96 loads of wash, the old bottle contains 150 ounces, while the new bottle only contains 138 ounces.  

I know this is nothing new; it's happened for decades.  I think it may feel more pronounced because the increases in price seem more significant right now than they have in years past.  The price increases used to sneak up on us, whereas now we are expecting it.   This little discovery just makes me wonder what else I've been buying in the last year or so that has not only gone up in price, but has decreased in size or possibly gone down in quality.  Probably everything.  I'm over it for the most part, but I'm still trying to figure out how both bottles wash the same number of loads...

The one good thing to come out of this is I can now easily store the larger jugs upright in the pedestal drawer under my washing machine - making that space better utilized.  So another check mark in the positive column.

Old habits die hard, but I'm wondering if I've run out of reasons to save those smaller jugs that for years I've transferred detergent into from the larger jugs. We'll see how clunky these slightly smaller larger jugs are to use, I guess.

Curious what prices are doing in your location.   The sale price of boneless skinless chicken breasts here has hung in there at $2.29/lb for a few months now - when it's in stock, which it usually isn't.  And I feel excited to find a dozen eggs at Meijer for $1.69.  The eggs look a little less inspected and perfect as the next least expensive eggs look (which are more than $2.50/dozen), but I can deal with that.  The price of regular ol' unleaded gas dances around $4.25/gal - going up or down a few cents daily, it seems.   

I know Indiana has historically had a better cost of living than say, states on the coasts, so maybe these prices are amazing compared to where you live.  What specific changes like this have you seen?  Has a favorite product of yours succumbed (probably again) to inflation?