Sunday, February 27, 2011

153/365 New sprouts

As promised, here's part two of the soaking and sprouting series of photos!

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you: these are different foods than were pictured in my last post. On the left are sprouting lentils, and on the right are sprouting wheat berries.

I was thrilled by how quickly the wheat berries sprouted. For one, these wheat berries have been sitting in the pantry for more than two years. Seriously. I wasn't sure they'd be good anymore, but voila! A day of soaking, a day on the counter, and evidence of life was unmistakable. See those little white "tails" on the grains?

Sadly to say, my experience cooking these two foods together wasn't as wildly successful -- my lentils turned into mush. Still edible, but they weren't nearly as good as the sampling I got in the actual class. But I forge on, undeterred, ready to tweak the approach and try it again!

Who knew whole grains could be so much fun?

Camera: Canon 40D with 60mm macro lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 640

Saturday, February 26, 2011

152/365 Newness: new cooking class

This post in the "newness" theme is the first of a two-parter that will give me the chance to share with you something new I've learned recently and am trying.

I took a cooking class last week from a group in Indy called Fermenti Artisan. I found them through the local blogosphere, stumbled upon their Facebook page, and signed up for the first class in their "Sprouting & Soaking 1 - Whole Seeds, Grains, Nuts & Legumes" series. I went with one of my girlfriends, and we ended up really being the only two people in the class. It was a little odd but gave us lots of time to ask questions (and take leftovers at the end of the night!).

The class focused on the benefits of and ways to go about soaking and/or sprouting your whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. By planning ahead a little, it's a way to 1) take the nutritional value of these foods to the next level and 2) make these foods more easily digestible. Sounds good to me!

We started with an informational 30 minutes (here's a link to the Wikipedia page on the subject, if you're curious), then dove into the kitchen and started cooking. Through the next 90 minutes, we watched the chef (and helped a little) make a series of five or six different recipes that used sprouted whole foods. We made everything from walnut milk and walnut butter, to oatmeal, sprouted salad, porridge, wheat-butter crackers, and fruit/nut snack bars.

Maybe it's partially the fact that I'm excited for spring to get here so I can put in my new garden, but I'm kind of fascinated by this. (It's a bit like gardening on my counter top.) Part of what's so great is this can be really inexpensive -- the supplies aren't expensive (and you can even get by with what you probably already have), and by buying dry beans or grains in bulk, it's an easy way to save money. I immediately borrowed some spare wide-mouthed glass jars from Mom's canning stash, filched some tulle fabric off her for straining screens, and got to work!

Pictured above are dry garbanzo beans starting to soak, pearled barley, and brown rice. I soaked all three for 24 hours. The beans expanded to about double their volume, then they started sprouting after about another 24-48 hours. The barley won't sprout, and I didn't take the rice to that point, but by having soaked them first, I cut down on their cooking time by about half. I made a salad out of the barley and rice, and I'm going to cook the beans and just use them in meals here and there over the next week.

This has opened my eyes to an entirely new world of cooking. If you're curious to give it a try yourself, the website I keep seeing recommended and trusted is They have starter kits, seeds to start, recipes, articles, instructions, you name it.

Have you ever tried this? 

My next post will show you some of the results of my sprouting experiments!

Camera: Canon 40D with 24mm wide-angle lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/2.8 at ISO 640

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

151/365 New theme: newness

Time for a new theme! This one is "newness."

Pictured here? Brand-new eyeshadows. Very girlie of me, isn't it? Getting new makeup is as much fun now as it was when I was a kid playing dress-up. I place it just about on the same level as getting new shoes or new clothing: when you wear it that first time, you feel fresh, special, and you go about your day wondering if anyone else will notice.

They rarely do, but it's still fun! 

What do you love to get and wear that first time? What gives you that special boost of confidence?

Camera: Canon 40D with 24mm wide-angle lens and 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 320

Sunday, February 20, 2011

150/365 Spirits

I took this photo in the liquor aisle at Target (classy), and honestly had to come back and look up "spirits" on Wikipedia to make sure it counted as part of my "spirit" theme! I wasn't totally sure if the alcoholic spirits had a more specific definition, but good news -- these count.

Does that say something about how regular my consumption of alcohol is?

I tend to be a beer girl, myself, who's molding her tastes into going for a glass of white wine more and more frequently. One of the great Groupon deals I snagged last year was a "language of wine" class at a winery in Carmel. For $10, we learned the basic vocabulary associated with wine, how to properly pour and hold a glass, and we finished off with a tasting. It was well worth the $10! Since then, I feel like I'm better able to appreciate different wines, and I'm more educated when I sample something new.

Maybe the next class will be "Bartending 101?"

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000

Monday, February 14, 2011

149/365 The spirit of Valentine's Day

Remember the exciting but awful time of year in grade school when the time came to decorate a "mailbox", hang it on your desk, and wait and see who gave you a Valentine? Would the girl/boy you liked acknowledge your love and like you back?

Is being a grown-up better or worse?

Most of the Valentine's Days in my life have been spent solo, but I've never really been one to feel down about it. Today was going to be pretty much like every other day. Or so I thought.

Our Cheer Committee at work announced on Friday that we would be having our very own mailbox-decorating contest. We all had until noon on Monday to decorate and display our white paper bags. People bought or made Valentines and distributed them throughout the day, filling everyone's bags with sweets and happy notes.

I walked around the office before the judging began to check out the competition. I'd love to think that I could be a contender in the contest, but I work with people who are designers and creative for a living. Competition was tough! Each person's was completely unique, and I was really impressed with how much everyone got into the spirit of the friendly competition.

Mine is the bag in the photo above. Below are a couple more samples, and you can see more (of the photos I took) on our company's Facebook page
Happy Valentine's Day! Hope your day was filled with lots of love.

Camera: Canon 40D with 24mm wide-angle lens, various exposures

Sunday, February 13, 2011

148/365 New theme: Spirit

What better way to start a new theme -- "Spirit" -- than with some school spirit?

I went to a Butler University basketball game on Saturday night with some fellow alumni (go dawgs!). I've attended a shamefully low number of BU games since my time in school there, and this was my first as an alumna. Oddly enough, I went to a Pacers game with some other friends the previous weekend -- that's more basketball games in eight days than I've been to in five years. By going to the two in such quick succession, I was really struck by how different the two games really were.

Even aside from my affiliation with the school as an alumna, which definitely makes me biased, the atmosphere of the Butler game was ten times more energizing and fun than the Pacers game. To start, the Pacers have struggled with fan attendance for the last several years, following the infamous brawl on the court in Detroit. They've had to resort to selling tickets for $0.75 recently to fill seats and draw fans to the games. I'll give the management credit for making changes to improve the team, but they have a long way to go before they regain a crowd's loyalty.

Now, when you go to a Pacers game at Conseco Fieldhouse, at least half the seats are empty. Most people seem to be there for the socializing aspects of game-going rather than for the game itself. The arena is pretty quiet.

Now, in contrast, your experience with the BU basketball game starts before you even walk in the door. Traffic lines the streets near Hinkle Fieldhouse. Parking is at a premium -- we paid some students $10 to park in their yard. And as you walk closer to the Fieldhouse, you can hear the pep band inside playing the school song.

Then, when you actually enter Hinkle, the atmosphere is absolutely electric. 80%+ of seats are occupied, and the crowd is wearing a sea of blue and white. Everyone is truly into the game: with every point, the crowd erupts in a loud cheer. With every ref's call against the home team, the crowd collectively boos in perfect unison. It's difficult to carry on a conversation with the person next to you because it's so loud -- not that you want to be talking, anyways, because the people there are actually there for the game.

And, of course, you have a solid student fan base. They don't hold back when it comes to supporting their team, even if it (oddly) means wearing a green suit to the game.

Fans know the players, their stats, their hometowns, and they're proud of the fact that Butler basketball players actually graduate from college.

The cherry on top? A youthful coach who exudes good-guy-ness and led the team to the NCAA Championship in 2010.

School spirit is not hard to come by. Who wouldn't want to root for these guys?

Camera: Canon 40D with 70-300mm IS lens, varying exposures at 1/160s

Thursday, February 10, 2011

147/365 Tired: cozy lap time

I love this little guy. So. Much.

Since he and I no longer live in the same house, I have to soak up every minute I get with him. I remember years (and years and years) ago, when I was preparing to go to college, one of the things I feared was that Buster would forget who I was. I feared that I'd come home to visit and he would greet me not as a family member but as a guest in the house. The thought almost brought me to tears.

I should have given him more credit, though. Every trip home was like no time had lapsed at all. What a relief!

Mom brings him to my house to visit about once every couple of weeks, which I always look forward to. I've loved watching him become more comfortable in my house, which means he'll leave Mom's side to come see what I'm doing in a different room.

But he always returns to her side, preferably in the big, comfy chair. Can't say I blame him!

Camera: Canon 40D with 430EX Speedlite, 1/80s, f/4 at ISO 800

Monday, February 7, 2011

146/365 Tired: make me sleepy

On nights when my brain is still too active to quickly fall asleep, I find that reading for just a few minutes helps me to totally relax and fall asleep faster. It usually just takes a page or two before my eyelids are getting heavy and I'm ready to call it a night.

For this reason, I know I can't be one of those people who reads in bed and can actually make serious progress on a book. It would take me half a year to finish a book if I only read at that time! These days, I do most of my reading at meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner. It seems like I don't give myself much opportunity at other times of the day anymore to just sit, relax, and enjoy reading.

When the weather warms up and Mom and Dad's screened porch is open for business again, I hope that will be an entirely different story!

What about you -- what's your favorite place to read?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 1250

Sunday, February 6, 2011

145/365 Tired: bedtime

Do you remember the day when your opinion of bedtime changed from a child's "I'm not tired! I don't want to go to bed!" to an adult's "God, I'm tired, when is it time to go to bed?" I don't remember that subconscious switch being flipped for me, but I'm sure it happened somewhere along the line!

As much as I would love to get eight hours of sleep every night, I can never seem to get to bed before 10:15 or 10:30 every night. I'm always busy doing something around the house, doing something online, doing something that I don't stop doing until 10:00.

At the end of last year, my office offered all of us the opportunity to try flex time. The caveat was that we had to choose our schedule by a certain date and then stick with it for the next year. The options for Tuesday through Friday were 7-4, 8-5, or 9-6. Starting work an hour later didn't appeal to me in the least. Starting earlier and heading home an hour earlier was more tempting. But honestly, the reason I chose to stick with the standard 8-5 schedule all week was sleep: I knew it was very unlikely that I'd be able to get to bed early enough (by 9:30) to be able to get up an hour earlier.

So 10:30 it is. Bedtime as usual.

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/20s, f/4 at ISO 1600

Friday, February 4, 2011

144/365 New theme: tired

Next theme on the list: Tired.

Let's get this one started with a twist. When I hear "tired," the first thoughts that pop into my head are ones of sleepiness, exhaustion, bedtime... but thinking of it in a more rubbery context takes this theme into an entirely different territory. And I love a good play on words!

These are the tires on one very rugged truck, Chase's Big Red Beauty. His tires are much knobbier (is that the right term?) than mine, so they're much more impressive. Those knobby tires definitely come in handy at this time of year in the Midwest!

What will come next in this new theme? Stay tuned...

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 200 at about 5:00 p.m.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

143/365 Breakfast: snack to follow it

We made it through the ice storm much more easily than predicted (thank goodness), and I didn't need to tap into any of my gallons of water I'd prepared. So, let's finish up this breakfast theme so we can move to something new!

I give myself a lot of time to wake up, eat breakfast, clean up and get dressed, finish gathering my lunch items, and get out the door for work every morning. I could do it faster, but I like the more laid-back pace of the morning; when I wake up and have to start rushing, I feel like it gets my day started on the wrong note.

Since I do get up so early (before 6:00 a.m.), that means lunch at noon is a long time away. Even with a good-sized breakfast with plenty of protein and fiber content, I'm hungry by 10:00. And trying to concentrate with a growling stomach for another two hours is torture. Pure agony.

Enter: the mid-morning snack.

I take an orange, an apple, a banana -- whatever fresh fruit I have on hand -- with me to work every day to curb that starvation and hold me over until lunch. It makes a huge difference (and it doesn't take much convincing to get me to eat fruit...yum!). Citrus is plentiful right now, so my desk has been seeing many oranges recently.

What's your favorite mid-morning snack?

Camera: Canon 40D, 1/60s, f/4.5 at ISO 1000 under fluorescent lighting

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

142/365 Ice storm, round 1

[This just in: we now bring you breaking news, interrupting the "breakfast" theme. Because this is more important. And timely. Regular programming will resume soon.]

So, did you hear that there's a winter storm happening? How could you miss it?

The forecast for central Indiana is calling for up to an inch and a half of accumulating ice. Ice. Yikes. You know I'm a fan of weather, and I'm generally fascinated by storms, but this has me downright nervous. I had to turn off the TV and switch to the radio, because coverage of the storm has been nearly nonstop and was only making things worse.

I made two decisions: 1) I'd stay home and ride it out, even though I don't have a fireplace if we lose power. My grandmother, when she lived in this house, rarely used the heat, so I know it won't get that cold. (I hope.) And 2) work from home today. My office ended up closing at noon, anyways, and I was able to be really productive with so few distractions. The kitchen table was my home today.

The first wave let up this morning, leaving nearly half an inch of ice on every surface. Last night, in preparation for the first wave of the storm, I filled bottles, and jugs, and buckets, and pitchers of water. Drinking water, hand- and face-washing water... I think I have enough drinking water to last me at least four days:
 And, let's not forget, buckets of water nearby for flushing the toilet!

I also made a big pot of soup (a new recipe, three-bean chili, and it was great!), so I should be set! Now I'm just crossing my fingers that nothing will happen because I'm prepared. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

Wherever you are, stay safe -- and stay tuned!

Camera: Canon 40D
First photo: With 60mm macro lens, 1/125s, f/4 at ISO 125 at about 1:00 p.m.
Second and third photos: With 430EX Speedlite, 1/125s and 1/250s, f/5.6 at ISO 100