Friday, July 27, 2012

thanks y'all

I just wanted to say thanks to everybody who has given me reading recommendations. I've gotten suggestions here, on Facebook, from Goodreads, and via twitter. Y'all really know how to hook a girl up!

I just finished "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series, and I'm really looking forward to checking out all your favorite books. It's going to take a while to get to everything, but I'm so grateful for your guidance as I dip my toes back into the sea of literature.

This is most of what has been reccemended to me so far, and if you have something to add to the list let me know. I'm looking for a little bit of everything, the only requirement is a good story!
 The Game of Thrones series
  1. Cornelia Funke's Inkspell trilogy
  2. Anything by Maeve Binchy, especially "Circle of Friends," "Quentins," "Scarlet Feather," "Evening Class," "Heart and Soul," "Tara Road"
  3. The Bronze Horseman Trilogy
  4. Anything by Ron Rash (Clemson Author), especially  "Serena" or "The World Made Straight"
  5. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  6. Frank, Dorothea Benton, especially the Lowcountry Tales Series
  7. And here is a link to my "To Read" shelf on Goodreads.  These are books Goodreads has recommended, and books that caught my eye when I looked over my friend's shelves! 
Edited 7/27/12, 12:27: format & typo 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

(Re)Discover Chattanooga - LifeKraze

There are so many things that make me proud to be from Chattanooga.  Chattanooga is one of those cities where I feel like people take pride in what they do, and people make things happen.  Big things (think Fiber Internet, tourism, recycling) and small things (think farmers markets).  Lots of things are happening in Chattanooga, and one of my favorite things is LifeKraze.

LifeKraze is a social network (with both Chattanooga and Clemson connections) comprised of interesting people motivating each other to "Life Life Like It Counts" via a kick ass reward system.

OK, that was a long sentence with a lot of things to love in it, so let me break it down:
  • Social Network - LifeKraze is probably my favorite social network, and the only one where there is no one that I knew first "In Real Life."  I love social platforms, and LifeKraze does a great job of making introductions via Everyone and Rookie feeds in addition to your personal feed.  The network is also very active, people notice when you're not around (in a good way, not a creepy way).  I've met more inspiring people via LifeKraze than any other network, and they only have around 25,000 members.
  • Chattanooga Connection - I love all things Chattanooga, especially Chattanooga small business.  LifeKraze has their offices right here, and you can see them around town via their sidewalk #chaLK campaigns, and their involvement in all sorts of Chattanooga activities.
  • Clemson Connection - This is what first sealed the deal for me.  Before I knew how positive the community was, or if I knew if my lifestyle was 'active enough' to be included at the cool kids table, I saw that one of the co-founders, Michael Brooks, Jr went to Clemson.  We were in Clemson at the same time, and he played soccer for the university.  Clemson is a small town, and once we started talking, we realized that we hung both hung out at Backstreets - the bar still very near and dear to my heart.  He knew my stained glass, and I knew that I had to check out anything a Backstreets regular in Chattanooga was a part of.
  • Motivating Reward System - This is where LifeKraze is really brilliant, and sets themselves apart from other social networks.  They have monetized in such a way that you get free stuff, and they get paid, based on how active the members are in the community.  You get points when people reward your accomplishments (think status update) and when you reward other people's accomplishments.    This encourages growth in the community, while at the same time igniting competition, smart huh.  And the rewards are pretty sweet too.  So far I have been able to use my points to donate cash to a local classroom through, and I've gotten some swag too - a LifeKraze Pedometer, and a rocking neon green sweatband.  
Ben Wagner modeling the LK sweatband
  • Accomplishments - LifeKraze is all about encouraging an active lifestyle, but it's not just about all things outdoors. I follow some ridiculous trail runners and Olympians (#InspireLK - a VERY cool program...more in a minute) but also a cellist and a painter.  What's great is that all fitness and activity levels are welcome, and surrounding yourselves with people living active lifestyles really does inspire you to do more of whatever it is you love to do.  And believe it or not, I've never once lied about an accomplishment.  But I have thought about LifeKraze when I wanted to sleep in on a Saturday morning. (Yes I slept in, but not as late as I used to.)

Today is a big day for LifeKraze. Today, LifeKraze formally launched Mission: Inspire (#InspireLK).  12 Olympians from a variety of sports have joined LifeKraze, and are sharing their lives.  I'm a HUGE fan of the Olympics, and it really is cool to support these guys as they train, pack, and travel to London to compete in the 2012 Olympics.  I have gotten to interact with a few of these guys, and in a word it really is Inspiring.  I can't wait to cheer them on when the Olympic Games begin.

Today LifeKraze also launched it's iPhone App, and was featured with this article on TechCrunch.  The app still has a few bugs, but I really like the interface.  The layout is similiar to the new Facebook app, with the main menu sliding out on the left.  As far as I can tell, the app has the full functionality of the website in its first release, plus badges to go with a new stats feature.  This is awesome and makes complete sense.  The concept behind LifeKraze is living life to its fullest, and mobile integration fits with this mission.  LifeKraze really belongs with me and not on my computer.  I'm personally looking forward to being able to upload photos from my phone.  My feed is only going to get more inspiring with everyone's pictures.

I hope you check out LifeKraze, I really enjoy my time on that corner of the Interwebs. (If you're into social networks, free stuff, and/or active living, you won't be disappointed.)   I also wanted to give a shout out to Jonathan at LifeKraze. He was Johnny-On-The-Spot today sending me images to use in this post.  He was much quicker getting them to me, than I was doing layout.

Find ME on LifeKraze

Friday, July 20, 2012

(Re)Discover Chattanooga - Rembrandt's

Rembrandt's Coffee House was one of my favorite Chattanooga spots when I was in high school, and is near the top of my "I don't go there enough" list.  I decided that is was time to fix that when Chris from New Chattanooga asked me to meet him for a Coffee Connect recently.

When I was in high school, I was in a dance group, and I have fond memories of meeting dancers and teachers at Rembrandt's.  The hot chocolate, the chocolate dipped meringues, the hand made pottery mugs (made by Mary Lynn Porterra, my pottery teacher at the time), and the company were all superb.

In my 10 year absence from Chattanooga, Rembrandt's has maintained its position as one of Chattanooga's top coffee shops.  While the hand made mugs have long since walked off, the meringues still look amazing, and the hand dipped chocolates are at a level above what I remember.  They also have a selection of pastries and specialty cakes made daily in house.  They are 100 percent made for indulging with coffee on their garden terrace. 

The menu has grown to include even more amazing food.  The menu is light, fresh, and you can tell it is made with the same focus as their delicate chocolates. They also offer a gluten free menu, which is a testament to their dedication to customer satisfaction.

One of my favorite things about Rembrandt's (both now and in my memories) is the European style atmosphere.  The Bluff View Art District is gorgeous, and Rembrandt's is a place where you can stop and take it all in. 

You can sit outside and talk to your hearts content, or you can set up your laptop and get some work done without being disturbed.  Even when it is busy, and trust me it gets busy, I have never felt rushed at Rembrandt's.  And that is a wonderful feeling.

Note: Thanks to my sister for taking a moment away from her study time to take pictures for me!!

204 High Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403
423.265.5033 x3
Hours: Monday-Thursday 7am-10pm; Friday 7am-11:30pm; Saturday 8am-11:30pm, Sunday 8am-10pm
website | menu | directions
Rembrandt's Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

bored or decide

I can't tell whether I'm just bored, or being resourceful, but either way I have started canning. I borrowed my mom's canning equipment, and I'm starting to take advantage of all the awesomeness that the farmers markets and fruit stands in Chattanooga have to offer.  The good news is, that while I have started small, it's really not that hard.

I started off very safe, with a "I think this should work" recipe in small quantities, and it went well enough that I'm about to enter the 'go big or go home' phase.  I made just over 1.5 pints of strawberry/peach preserves, and did one pint size jar of pickled onions.  I really like having the onions around to put on salads, or toss in with green beans.

The preserves taste great.  I didn't add anything to help it gel up, so it's a little runny compared to traditional preserves, but I just couldn't add any more sugar.  I'd love to know if you 'can', and what your favorite recipes are.  Please let me know in the comments!

If you're interested, here are the recipes I started with:

Strawberry/Peach Preserves:
1 medium package of strawberries
1 large basket of peaches
1 lemon, juiced (or concentrate)
2 oranges juiced (or concentrate)
2 cups of sugar

Yield:1.75 pints

Dice your fruit and place in a saucepan with lemon and orange juice.  Bring to Boil over medium heat.  Drain, and set fruit aside.  Bring the liquid back to a boil and slowly add the sugar so it fully dissolved.  Reduce heat to a rolling boil.  Cook down the liquid for at least 20 minutes or until the foam has dissipated, stirring occasionally to prevent the sugar from burning.  When you are happy with the consistency, add the fruit, bring back to a boil, then fill your jars.

Pickled Onions

2 medium videlia onions, thinly sliced
* 3 parts vinegar, 1 part water mixture
3 gloves garlic, chopped
Yield: 1 Pint

Confession: since I was only making 1 jar I cheated on my measurements. I stuffed the onions in the jar, and then added the vinegar & water until the jar was completely full.  
In a saucepan, bring vinegar water mixture to a boil.  Add the onions and garlic, bring back to a boil.  Then fill your jar, leaving 1/2 an inch at the top.  I want my onions to stay crisp, so they don't have to boil long, just enough to kill any bacteria that was on the outside layer of the onion.

The principles behind canning are sterilize your jars and your lids, fill your jars with hot (boiling) contents leaving a little room at the top for the air to collect, then process in boiling water so the air escapes, and you create a vacuum seal as everything cools.

How exactly you process what you're canning varies based on what it is, and rather than go into the details I'm going to share this link from Ball.

Again, let me know if you're a canner, and what you preserve!

Monday, July 16, 2012

july bloom day 2012

I thought this post was going to be a complete bust, but rain this week has saved the day...sorta, kinda.  Technically Chattanooga, TN (zone 7) is not in the huge drought zone covering our country, but it has been a hot and dry summer so far.  We had a week in the 100's, and until this week no rain.  None of which has been good for my yard.  The only bright spot is that I've been wanting to get rid of the grass in favor of the natural moss.  The grass is dying off, while the moss is bright green.  A thought that used to get me strange looks suddenly makes a lot more sense to some people.

My veggies are doing fine thanks to a drip hose covered with 3 inches of mulch, but the rest of the yard is suffering.  It's not much, but here are the annuals, and what few blooms I can find in the yard!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

back to basics

When I was little, I was that kid who got in trouble for staying up past my bedtime reading.

Its funny what traits & activities weave in and out of our daily routines, and which activities fade away.  I've always considered myself reader, but for a million reasons, its been too long since I have really read.  I've read Twilight & Harry Potter, but nothing really significant or interesting.  I don't know the last time I actually sought out new material, or browsed a bookstore of any kind.

It has literally been a year since a friend lent me The Girl with A Dragon Tattoo series, but this weekend I finally picked up the first book....and promptly read straight through it.  Its not going to be my favorite book of all time, so nice to actually read

Which brings me to a question for you.  What are your favorite books?  What do you recommend?   

Twilight aside, I'm not typically into sappy love stories, but other than that I'm just looking for books and a good story.

Anything goes.  I appreciate the help, and can't wait to see what you suggest.  : )

Monday, July 9, 2012

tomato sandwich season!!

One of the best parts of summer for me right now is tomato season.  I've discovered heirloom tomatoes over the past few summers, and I look forward to the time of year that they're in season.  Never in a million years would I have thought I would eat a tomato sandwich, much less crave them, but now I do.

As part of the Garden to Table Challenge at the Greenish Thumb, here is my go to summer sandwich.  I eat it for lunch, dinner, or whenever I have a few good heirloom tomatoes around.  My favorite heirloom last year was a Yellow Brandywine, they're hard to find, but they're worth it when you get one. Yesterday I picked up some Glaciers and some Cherokee Purples at the Chattanooga Farmers Market to tide me over until mine start to come in...I'm thinking two more weeks : )

  • your favorite baguette or bread
  • olive oil
  • fresh mozzarella
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • fresh basil
I toast my bread first with a little olive oil, then add mozzarella, tomato, salt & pepper, and basil.  I put this back in the broiler for just a few minutes to soften up the tomatoes & melt the cheese.  If I'm feeling fancy I drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top, but it's good just the way it is.

Simple, easy, and tasty.  Pretty much sums up how I like to cook.

Friday, July 6, 2012

fun with pop rocks

I know that posting this on July 6th isn't much help for anyone, but these really made me happy, and I wanted to share...I mean come on, who doesn't love pop rocks.

This is a pretty easy recipe, it just takes some time.  The only thing I learned is that water and chocolate just don't mix...and that includes food coloring.  I always wondered what paste or gel food coloring is all about, and I learned the hard way that it's for chocolate.  The regular food coloring drops do not work with chocolate.

  • 1 package strawberries, rinsed & dried
  • 12 oz White Chocolate (10 oz white, 2 oz colored with blue paste food coloring)
  • Pop Rocks - My pop rocks came with 3 flavors packets, strawberry & watermelon (red) and tropical punch (blue-ish).  I found them on the candy isle at the Dollar store, and they were, in fact, a dollar.
  • Melt Chocolate in microwave safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds
  • Dip strawberries in white chocolate & then decorate with pop rocks.
  • Add any additional colored chocolate decoration
  • Chill for 10 minutes in freezer. 
File this one away under Next Year.
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