Cherry Blossoms in the Rain

cherry blossoms in the rain

“For I remember it is Easter morn,
and life and love and peace are all new born.”
~ Alice Freeman Palmer (1855-1902), the first female college president

My friend Janice sent me a two-word text message last night: “Magic hour.” She lives in the mountains and I knew the sun must be low in her sky, creating beautiful light for taking photographs.

Here in Denver it was overcast and drizzling, but her message inspired me to stop cooking and head outside with the camera. I’m so glad I did, because otherwise I would have missed the chance to see the cherry blossoms in the rain.

 

cherry blossoms

“I think of the garden after the rain;
and hope to my heart comes singing,
At morn the cherry-blooms will be white,
and the Easter bells be ringing!”
~ Edna Dean Proctor, Easter Bells

 

cherry tree in bloom

Wishing you a beautiful Easter—and perhaps, a quiet moment to pause and experience spring’s miraculous rebirth,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Thanks to my friend and photographer extraordinaire Povy Kendal Atchison, who first sent me the Alice Freeman Palmer quote.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of six books about home design and food. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Eliminate Weeds When They are Small, and Other Thoughts of Spring

Pulling dandelions

It’s the first week of April, and I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging but our front yard is mostly free of dandelions. You heard me right.

We had snow followed by warm temperatures this week, and the ground is nice and soft. So I spent a very pleasant hour in the sunshine, absorbing Vitamin D and pulling dandelions – many of them very small. Of course, dandelion season hasn’t really started and we don’t use chemicals so the battle has just begun. But still. Today, I feel good about myself.

What about the back yard, you ask?

The back yard?

Dandelions

The back yard is a topic for another day, my friends. Because as I was pulling up the small dandelions in front, I was thinking about parallels to my life. Do you do that when you garden—sometimes think deep thoughts? I find that I do.

Deep Thought

So today, as I was pulling up small dandelions I was thinking about the areas of life where I might figuratively “pull weeds” earlier, with positive benefits. Here are some of the ideas I had:

  • Paying off small debts before they accumulate into bigger debts and big problems.
  • Aside from an occasional splurge, not over-eating or drinking too much wine. Weighing myself every day, and making adjustments as necessary.
  • Staying in touch with people I care about, and not letting too much time go by before we connect.
  • Speaking up if something is bothering me, instead of keeping it inside and giving resentment a chance to grow.
  • Setting aside quiet time every day for rest and reflection, so my brain doesn’t get burned out.
  • Asking for forgiveness quickly, and being quicker to forgive others.

How about you? Do you have any figurative weed-pulling strategies? Heck, I’d love to hear your literal weed-pulling strategies, too, since I’ve got that back yard to think about…

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of six books about home design and food. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

The Tease of Spring Snow

Snow covered tree

It’s March, the month that promises spring while reminding us that winter is not yet done. Here in Colorado, the meteorologists are fond of asserting that March is typically our snowiest month. We actually wouldn’t mind if they didn’t repeat this fact every March, but they do. Then in April, they like to state for the record that April is typically Colorado’s second-snowiest month.

Spring snowstorm in Colorado

I opened the kitchen blinds yesterday morning and gasped at the beauty outside. Ever twig, every blade of grass and every branch had been frosted with snow, the sky was pure blue, and the morning sun was just hitting the trees.

Admittedly, I hadn’t been thrilled to see the snow start Tuesday night—but who could remain cranky about a spring snow that created such a gorgeous spectacle?

Spring snowstorm

By afternoon, the snow was gone. Today, the high temperature is supposed to be 65 degrees.

Spring snow

Tomorrow, though, the forecast calls for more snow.

Because—lest we forget—March is typically our snowiest month.

Happy March,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of six books about home design and food. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day 20 – Plan Your Garden

Grey Water Garden

Grey Water Garden | Photo: Jeremy Levine Design

Don’t you love daydreaming about planting the spring garden in January?  Now is the perfect time to begin making plans and sketching out some ideas for your ideal garden. Even if you have a small yard, you can grow a surprising amount of food if you choose seeds and plants that grow well in your climate. (Check out the book “Square Foot Gardening” for more ideas about maximizing your yield from a small space.) If you want to tour the ultimate urban homestead, check out the Dervaes family’s website ‘Path to Freedom.’ You won’t believe what they grow in their 1/10 acre yard in Pasadena.

I love perusing the new seed catalogs each year to see what new varieties have been introduced, and these are some of my favorite companies:

For additional ideas, MicroEcoFarming.com has tons of information and articles about growing your own food. WinterSown.org is a site dedicated to an easy, inexpensive method of direct-sowing seeds.  I especially enjoy the pictures on this site of sprouting plants in pop bottles and all manner of recycled containers.

Today’s Homework Assignment: Start planning your garden. Order some free catalogs or peruse them online, sketch out some ideas, make a list of all the new seed varieties you want to plant this year, or if you don’t have a garden, daydream about what you’d like to grow someday.

If you have favorite gardening sites and sources, we’d all love to know about them!

Happy planning,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of six books about home design and food. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Got Basil? Try This Easy Pesto Recipe

Fresh basil

Are you enjoying the harvest from your garden? We made a batch of pesto from a bunch of fresh basil recently, and I thought you might like the recipe. Instead of the traditional pine nuts, I use almonds in our pesto (more about this later) and I like to toast them in the oven to bring out their flavor. Here’s the easy recipe:

Basil Pesto Recipe

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast the almonds for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

toasted almonds

Artsy shot of toasted almonds

 

Cool to room temperature. Combine the almonds, basil leaves and garlic in a food processor.

 

pesto recipe

 

Process until the basil is finely chopped. Measure out the olive oil in a spouted measuring cup.

 

Measure out olive oil

 

Drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor running, until it is fully incorporated and the pesto is creamy. Add the Parmesan cheese and process briefly, just until combined. Scrape down the sides and process for a few seconds longer.

 

Easy homemade pesto recipe

 

Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

We freeze the pesto in smaller portions so it’s easy to add to creamy sauces, chicken and pasta. I prefer to freeze foods in parchment paper so they don’t absorb any chemicals from plastic. To freeze pesto, I fold a piece of parchment paper in half, and then fold in the sides to make a pocket:

 

Parchment to freeze food

 

Add the pesto sauce, flatten it out a bit for quicker thawing and tuck the packet in a freezer bag. (I reuse our freezer bags endlessly, for storage purposes only.) At this point, your pesto will look remarkably like a baggie of pot. Or am I just seeing it that way because I live in Colorado, land of soon-to-be-legal marijuana?

 

Freeze pesto in parchment

 

You can freeze the pesto for up to 6 months. To thaw it, just let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes or so while you’re preparing dinner. By freezing it in a thin, flat piece you can easily break off a chunk if you want to add a little bit to a soup or pasta sauce. You can also use pesto on pizza, grilled foods, stirred in mashed potatoes, in dips, over a steak,  spread on garlic bread, with scrambled eggs, and in dozens of other recipes. In the middle of winter, you’ll be so glad you preserved the summertime flavor of fresh basil.

By the way, if you have an abundance of mint in your garden you might enjoy this Mint Pesto recipe. On a different but related note, perhaps you’d like to read my wicked bad tale about the time I came down with a condition called Pine Mouth.

 

PineMouth

Pine Mouth is no fun!

 

It explains one more reason why I prefer almonds over pine nuts in my pesto. (The short version of my painful lesson learned:  always buy locally-grown pine nuts, never cheap imports.)

Have you been enjoying foods from your garden this month? I’d love to hear what you’re harvesting, cooking and preserving.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of six books about home design and food. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Free Book Giveaway – The Pocket Guide to Wild Mushrooms

Pocket guide to mushrooms at Happy Simple Living

I find the idea of foraging and cooking wild mushrooms quite intriguing, but I’ve always been scared to death to try. How about you?

Those stories of people being deathly poisoned by eating the wrong mushroom have always kept me away from even considering the idea of picking my own. However, authors Pelle Holmberg and Hans Marklund just might change my mind.

They’ve written a brilliant, well-illustrated guide to mushrooms which they’ve organized in the most sensible manner. The mushrooms documented in the pages of The Pocket Guide to Wild Mushrooms are each coded into four “risk zones” – 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on the variety. Mushrooms that are ranked “1″ are considered beginner mushrooms, those that can only be confused with other edible mushrooms. (Consider me firmly in the “1″ camp.) Those marked with a “4,” on the other hand, can be confused with dangerously poisonous mushrooms.

The authors take it one step further, and also tag those mushrooms that are edible but rare so that we can leave them undisturbed. Preparing and preserving tips for each variety are handy when you’re ready to take the plunge and have a bite. All in all, this is a most useful book that I look forward to using to identify the mushrooms that pop up in our yard.

The 126-page book retails for $12.95, and our friends at Skyhorse Publishing have donated a nice, brand new copy for one lucky Happy Simple Living reader residing in the U.S. or Canada. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and answer this question:

Have you ever tried eating a wild mushroom you picked yourself?

Feel free to share your fungi experiences, and remember, those wacky mushrooms you tried back in college don’t really count. Just kidding! The drawing will run through next Tuesday, July 30 at midnight MST, and the Rafflecopter box below has some additional ways you can enter. Good luck!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to April, winner of the book!

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of six books about home design and food. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.