Saturday, May 26, 2018

Weekend Wardrobe: Adding More Colors to a Classic but Fun Navy and White Basic 4x4 Wardrobe

Are you getting tired of seeing this same wardrobe once again?  Don't worry, I only have one more post using this collection, and then I will move on to other ideas!  I thought it might be nice to add a couple more colors to this wardrobe, just in case the wearer gets a bit bored with so much blue and white all the time.  First, let's take a closer look at one of the tops:

If you look really closely, you will see that, against that navy background, there are a few more subtle hues in the geometric print:

The line patterns are done in turquoise blue, mint green, white, pale pink, and pale yellow.  I chose the pale yellow as my first color addition to this basic wardrobe.  Here are the pieces I selected:

Clockwise from top left: Sophia Webster Evie Butterfly Leather Shoulder Bag in Pale Lemon-Yellow; Land's End Women's Mid Rise Chino Crop Pants in Lemon Chill; Sperry Top-Sider Women's Drift Hale Boat Shoe in Yellow; Land's End Women's Pima Cotton Polo Shirt in Lemon Chill (available in tall only).

I put together a sample outfit combining some of the yellow apparel with a few of the navy pieces:

For a second color, I chose the olive green from the scarf shown below:

Here are the items in olive green I picked to add to the basic wardrobe:

Clockwise from top left: Land's End Women's Long Sleeve Denim Jacket in Smokey Olive; Land's End Women's Mid Rise Boyfriend Chino Pants in Smokey Olive (available in petite only); Land's End Women's Rib Trim V-Neck Tank in Smokey Olive; Land's End Women's Comfort Mary Jane Shoes in Fatigue Olive.

And this is the sample outfit I created by combining olive green with shades of navy and blue from the original basic collection:

Of course, pale yellow and olive also complement each other beautifully, as the outfit below exemplifies:


And so concludes the series of posts about my version of a classic but fun navy and white basic 4x4 wardrobe for warm weather!  Next week I may create a post describing my recent purchases for my summer wardrobe, or I may decide that topic is a bit premature and do something totally different - we shall see!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Foodie Fridays: 3-Ingredient Chocolate Banana Coconut Macaroons

I was looking for a recipe for a relatively healthy quick treat, and found the perfect one on the Nest and Glow website called 3-Ingredient Chocolate Banana Coconut Macaroons.  My version came out with much more banana flavor than I expect from a macaroon, but I still loved the taste.  The image for the original recipe does not show as much coconut texture as mine have, probably because the coconut I used was not as finely shredded.  I whirled my coconut in a food processor before using to give it a slightly finer texture so that they would hold together better, but I actually prefer macaroons with more texture so I was happy with the end result.  I happened to have some dipping chocolate in my pantry so I used it here, but you could make a more low-carb version of the chocolate dipping sauce if you follow the directions in the original recipe.

If you are really paying attention you will notice that my recipe also has more than three ingredients!  The bananas I used were very large so my batter was a little too wet to form into balls.  Coconut flour has amazing absorptive powers so I added a spoonful, resulting in a much more moldable batter.  Add coconut flour if you need a thickener, or a little water if your batter is too dry (if your batter is too dry the macaroons will be crumbly after baking, so do not thicken it too much).  These little treats are so easy to make and quite satisfying as a quick snack any time of day!

3-Ingredient Chocolate Banana Coconut Macaroons

2 medium-sized ripe bananas
1 1/4 C. finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 T. coconut flour, if needed
1 C. chocolate chips*

Mash the bananas thoroughly with a fork in a large bowl.  Stir in the coconut (use your hand if you like, but I used my fork).  Roll the batter into one-inch balls.  Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly if needed (mine needed very little flattening).  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Remove to a plate and line the cookie sheet with a new piece of parchment or waxed paper.

When the macaroons are cool, place the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds.  Remove from the microwave and stir.  Microwave again for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue this process if necessary until most of the chocolate chips are melted (mine needed an additional 15 seconds after the two 30-second bouts).  Do not allow the chocolate to burn!  Stir vigorously to melt the rest of the chocolate.  Dip each macaroon sideways into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.  Remove from the cookie sheet and store in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days.  These macaroons can also be frozen for up to three months and thawed at room temperature before serving.  Makes 12-16 macaroons.

*I used a product called Baker's Real Milk Chocolate Dipping Chocolate because I happened to have it in my pantry and it was convenient.  You will probably have leftover chocolate, which can be refrigerated and reheated later for dipping any other treat your heart desires (like strawberries!).

Thursday, May 24, 2018

This 'n That Thursdays: 2018 Garden Picks of the Year, Part 4b

From Balcony Garden Web

For my last 2018 garden picks of the year post, I present the six All-America Selections choices for National Edible-Vegetable Winners!  Like all AAS winners, they are new for the season, tested the previous season by volunteer horticulture professionals, and judged to be the superior performers in impartial trials.  Now let's get started:

Sweet American Dream Corn

Corn is not my favorite food, but when I do eat it I prefer sweet, tender bicolor corn.  If I had the perfect spot for a big vegetable garden I would definitely give AAS 2018 Edible-Vegetable National Winner Sweet American Dream Corn a try.  According to the trial judges, the flavor and performance of this variety topped that of their previous bicolor corn winner!  Excellent germination, slightly earlier maturation, and super sweet, tender kernels from vigorous, healthy plants that performed well in a variety of growing locations make this sweet corn variety an excellent choice for the home vegetable garden.

Pak Choi Asian Delight F1

The only Asian vegetable I have ever grown before is Japanese eggplant, but if I had a big garden plot for vegetables I would give Asian Delight F1 Pak Choi a try.  AAS trials found that this AAS 2018 Edible-Vegetable National Winner was significantly slower to bolt than any other pak choi (aka bok choy) variety, which means that it has the potential for much greater yield.  The small to mid-size heads have sweet, tender white ribs and dark green, textured leaves.

Red Ember F1 Cayenne Pepper

I am not a fan of hot peppers, but for those who are, AAS 2018 Edible-Vegetable National Winner Red Ember F1 Cayenne Pepper is a variety to try.  Vigorous plants produce abundant fruits that mature early, with a taste that is sweet and moderately spicy.  This hot pepper can be grown in the garden or in containers, and would be a versatile ingredient in many recipes.

Roulette F1 Habanero Pepper

The unique feature of AAS 2018 Edible-Vegetable National Winner Roulette F1 Habanero Pepper is its lack of spicy heat, which means that this is a pepper I would seriously consider growing.  Abundant ruits mature early, are relatively uniform in size, and have more of a citrusy rather than spicy flavor.  These peppers work well for garden plots or containers.  I will be on the lookout for this habanero pepper variety in my local garden supply stores!

Cocktail Red Racer F1 Tomato

If you are looking for a tomato variety that is neither too big nor too small, will grow in the garden or in a container, and produces early, uniformly-sized clusters of fruits that have good acid/sweet flavor balance, than look no further than the AAS 2018 Edible-Vegetable National Winner Cocktail Red Racer F1 Tomato.  Plants are compact and determinate (bush-type), and if you prefer to start your own seeds they are available in organic or conventional options.

Valentine F1 Tomato

The final AAS 2018 Edible-Vegetable National Winner selected is the Valentine F1 Tomato, a grape tomato variety with deep red coloring and very sweet flavor.  The heat-resistant vines are suitable for gardens or containers, but are indeterminate and must be staked.  Plants are vigorous and prolific.  The fruits mature early, and resist cracking and flavor loss.  Grape tomatoes are my favorite, so I would be happy to give this variety a try!

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In addition to the national Edible-Vegetable Winners, there are three regional winners in this category as well (Mexican Sunrise F1 Hungarian Pepper suitable for the Southeast and Mountain/ Southwest regions; Mexican Sunset F1 Hungarian Pepper suitable for the Southeast; and Chef's Choice Red F1 Tomato suitable for the Southeast and West/Northwest regions).  If you live in these areas you might want to check out the top picks chosen for your region.

I am busily planting what I can in my limited garden spaces, but we have been getting so much rain lately that I am afraid I will lose some of my new plants to rot!  I hope we get to see the sun again soon, but the weather forecast is not promising.  May you have more fortuitous gardening weather in your location, and if you need rain I will do my best to will some of ours in your direction!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wish List Wednesdays: Cactus Sippers Mason Jar Glasses

I found the cutest set of glassware at HomeGoods the other day for a phenomenal price, so they are not on my wish list, but for those who may be interested take a look at these green 15-ounce Cactus Sippers Mason Jar Glasses (set of four for $31.00 on Amazon).  I wish I had found them before Cinco de Mayo, but now you know what glassware I will be using for my table next year!  They will be perfect for serving lemonade or limeade.  I love the fact that they come with lids that have holes for straws.  I got mine for the bargain price of $7.99 for the set because the straws were missing, but I can supply my own straws!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Weekend Wardrobe: Accessories for Classic but Fun Navy and White Basic 4x4 Wardrobe

Last week's navy and white basic 4x4 wardrobe shown above is just begging for some fun accessories, so today I have added them (although it once again took me a while to track down the links for my reformatted images!).  Let's start with some lovely printed scarves in shades of blue and white featuring birds, boats, and bold geometric designs:

Clockwise from top left: Hermes Thalassa Silk Jersey Scarf in Navy; White Bird Print Scarf in Navy; Tory Burch Octagon Linen Oblong Scarf in Light Chambray; Pistil Mojave Scarf in Indigo.

I would happily pair that boat-themed scarf with the city scene navy skirt!

A few outer layers are next, for chilly mornings and evenings or frigid air-conditioned buildings:

Clockwise from top left: Banana Republic Soft Jersey Open Cardigan in Navy; Joules Golightly Waterproof Jacket in Navy Raining Dogs; Patagonia Women's Bajadas Hoody in Valley Flora: Classic Navy/Birch White; Boden Elizabeth Ponte Blazer in Navy.

A longer cardigan seemed like a good idea, plus a navy blazer for a more structured look (only the wearer need know that the lining has a fun cherry print!).  The short jacket with a botanical print echoes the floral theme of two of the blouses.  And how could I resist a raincoat with dogs as the print design?

Time to add some handbags, and a belt for the pants with belt loops:

Clockwise from top left: Michael Kors Striped Large East West Tote in Washed Denim; L.L. Bean Signature Women's Leather 3/4" Belt in Navy; Sea Bags Navy True North Wristlet; Talbots Pieced Pebbled Denim Crossbody Bag in Extra Dark/Dark/Light.

The tote and crossbody bags bring in more shades of blue, and I thought the compass design on the wristlet would pair well with the boat scarf.

Now for some shoes suitable for warm weather wear:

Clcokwise from top left: Talbots Sueded Denim Ryan Loafers in Dark Denim/Indigo Blue; Talbots Sadie Wave Slide Sandals in Indigo Blue; Talbots Denim Superga Sneakers in Navy; Talbots Burnished Leather Cassidy Loafers in India Ink; Center: Joules Wellibob Short Rain Boots in French Navy Chic Dogs.

I have a preference for simple and comfortable shoes, but of course anyone who loves heels could easily find suitable selections in white, navy, and/or other shades of blue, like some of these options from Talbots here.  As for the rain boots, they have a doggie print similar to that of the rain coat described earlier, so how could I resist?

Last but not least, let's add some jewelry to the accessories mix - I really had fun selecting these bold pieces!

Clockwise from top left: Voss & Kompani Navy Silver Mesh Cuff; Rue B Abstract Statement Necklace in Metallic Grey/Denim Blue/Navy; Chico's Reversible Blue Gem Pendant Necklace in Silver; Lema J 1.5" Navy Polished Pearl Cuff with Silver Liner; Chico's Blue Wood Bead Coil Bracelet in Smokey Blue; Baltic Domini Cyaneous Bubble Statement Necklace with Bird Pendant.


Even if you just stick to a blue and white color palette, the wardrobe possibilities are seemingly endless.  However, what if you want to expand your color choices?  For this wardrobe and accessories collection, a couple of the items have touches of other colors.  Next week I will add a few more apparel pieces in two other colors to show how easily this basic wardrobe can be expanded.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Curd Chia Seed Pudding with Blueberries

It has been a while since I last made a chia seed pudding for breakfast, but when I saw the recipe for Lemon Curd Chia Parfaits on the How Sweet Eats blog, I knew I had to try it.  I love lemon curd, so finding a new way to eat this sweet treat made me very happy!  Chia seed pudding is relatively healthy, and the addition of antioxidant-rich blueberries makes me feel less guilty about eating a dish that is very dessert-like for breakfast.  I would even serve smaller portions of this recipe as a dessert because it is that good!  The creamy crunch of the chia seed pudding is enhanced by the crunchy sweetness of the berries, but the sweet tartness of the lemon curd is what makes this recipe a winner for me.

You can vary the amount of lemon curd in the recipe according to your taste preferences - halve the amount if you want to decrease the amount of sugar, or go all-out decadent and add a little more if you are having this pudding for dessert.  Use any milk you like for the liquid.  My favorite at the moment is Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almondmilk, but any other plant or animal milk is fine.  If you want to add more crunch to this dish, top it with some chopped nuts or coconut.  You could even use a different fruit if you like (raspberries would work well).  The best aspect of a chia seed pudding is that it is infinitely adaptable to whatever flavors you want to try (check out the Nest and Glow post here for even more variations).

Lemon Curd Chia Seed Pudding with Blueberries

3 T. chia seeds
1 C. almond milk (or any preferred milk)
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 T. lemon curd (store-bought is fine, or make your own)
1/4-1/3 C. fresh blueberries

Combine the chia seeds, almond milk, and vanilla in a small bowl or large glass and stir with a fork.  Allow to sit for a minute, and then stir again.  Wait a few minutes more, stir thoroughly one more time, and then cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of lemon curd into the bottom of a large glass.  Top with half of the chia pudding.  Add 2 more teaspoons of lemon curd and top with half of the blueberries.  Spoon in the remaining chia pudding, followed by the last of the lemon curd and the rest of the berries.  Serves 1.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

This 'n That Thursdays: 2018 Garden Picks of the Year, Part 4a

AAS Display Garden (from All-America Selections)

Today's post is the first of a two-part series describing the 2018 garden picks of the year from All-America Selections (AAS).  Every year AAS, a non-profit North American plant trailing organization, tests brand new garden plant varieties and chooses the top performers as their AAS Winners.  Six flowering annuals were selected for 2018, so let's take a look, shall we?

Canna South Pacific Orange F1

Vivid orange flowers and bright green foliage characterize Canna South Pacific Orange F1, a 2018 AAS National Flower Winner, as does increased basal branching and a prolonged blooming period.  This tall upright annual prefers full sun, is attractive to pollinators, and can be grown as a container or landscape plant.

Cuphea Floriglory Diana

Cuphea Floriglory Diana is the 2018 AAS National Ornamental Vegetative Winner.  Commonly known as Mexican heather, this drought-tolerant mounded annual has dark green foliage and abundant intensely magenta flowers.  Compact in size, the plant prefers full sun and works well in mass plantings or in containers.

Gypsophila Gypsy White Improved

Gypsophila Gypsy White Improved is another 2018 AAS National Flower Winner.  Also known as baby's breath, this plant is the non-invasive species Gypsophila muralis (not the invasive Gypsophila paniculata).  More abundant large semi-double white flowers, better branching and growth habit, a prolonged blooming period, and better heat tolerance make this variety a big improvement over its predecessors.  With afternoon shade and sufficient watering during the hottest days, this mounding annual is perfect for containers or flower beds.

Marigold Super Hero Spry

Yet another 2018 AAS National Flower Winner is Marigold Super Hero Spry, a bushy, compact, mounded annual with vibrant bicolor flowers of maroon red and golden yellow.  This early-blooming French marigold does well in full sun, is drought tolerant, requires no deadheading, and can be grown in containers or the garden.

Ornamental Pepper Onyx Red

I think that Ornamental Pepper Onyx Red is my favorite of the 2018 AAS National Flower Winner selections!  Tiny black leaves and multitudes of round bright red fruits on a compact but well-branched plant make this ornamental pepper stand out in any garden setting.  Full sun and warmer temperatures are preferred by this drought-tolerant annual.  Growth is vigorous but the bushy and compact growth habit is maintained.  I will definitely be looking for this one at my local garden centers!

Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange

The final 2018 AAS National Flower Winner is Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange, and it is stunning.  Very large bicolor blooms in gradations of lime, yellow, peach, and salmon with a dark orange center characterize this zinnia variety.  The plant itself is a tall, upright, drought-tolerant annual which prefers full sun.  It is an outstanding choice for a cutting flower garden.


Now that you have seen the exciting new flowering annual picks from AAS, I'm sure all of the vegetable gardeners out there are looking forward to the new vegetable varieties selected for 2018, so stay tuned for next week's final 2018 garden picks of the year post!