Some of My Favorite Bookmarked Sites

www.NOAA.gov    I am a little bit weather obsessed, and this site caters to that.  You type in the name of your city and state, and it gives the seven-day forecast, as well as any special updates. In our neck of the woods, the summer forecast consists of slight variations on the theme of hot and sunny.  Nevertheless, I probably check it almost daily (because frankly, you just can’t be too careful).  In the winter I’m checking it at least once a day.  Okay, so maybe I’m more than a little bit weather obsessed….

www.astrologyzone.com  What can I say?  I love reading my horoscope–it feels like I’m reading all about me me me (and trust me–in real life it’s never all about me me me).  On the first day of the month, AstrologyZone does a huge prediction for every sign, and it’s just a lot of fun.

www.makeupalley.com  I usually resist, kicking and screaming, any time I have to register for a site just to browse it.  But I’ve never got any spam from them or apparently because of them, so I guess I don’t have a problem with it.  Makeup Alley’s best feature is the product reviews, written by the site’s users, which include drugstore makeup, department store makeup, shampoo, fragrance, hair color…everything beauty related.

www. hookedonhouses.net  Addictive.  You look at MLS listings gone awry,  information about houses in movies and on TV, before and afters, celebrity homes (Jennifer Aniston‘s house–too museumy and cold.  Sally Field‘s house–I loved it)….  I have to literally make myself turn off the computer–I can’t stop!

www.whatshouldireadnext.com    You enter the title of a book you enjoyed, and it gives you suggestions for similar books.  Sometimes the recommendations are a bit out of left field, but most of the time it’s pretty good.

Naturally I didn’t mention Amazon or Zappos or things like that–everybody knows about those.  But I’m sure I’ll think of a whole bunch more sites as soon as I post this….


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Quick, Summery Hors d’Ouevre

Well all right, yes, it is just bruschetta.  But I’m usually disappointed in most bruschetta I try.  The tomatoes are too wet or the bread is soggy or the garlic is too assertive or there is too much basil or not enough salt.  So this has become my go-to hors d’ouevre this summer.  If you come to my house for drinks and snacks, act surprised. 

VH Bruschetta

1 skinny baguette

softened butter

3 or 4 medium tomatoes (doesn’t matter what kind, just that they are nice and ripe)

3 or 4 medium leaves of basil

garlic powder, salt, pepper

Preheat the broiler.  Slice the bread into 1/2″ thick slices.  Very lightly butter the bread, being sure to get the entire sliced surface covered with a skim coating of butter, on both sides.  Place buttered slices on baking sheet. Broil bread, watching very carefully, until toasted.  Remove baking sheet from oven, flip pieces over, return to oven and broil the other side until toasted as well.  Let slices cool.  Toasts (or excuse me–crostini) can be made a day or two ahead, if you let them cool completely then store them airtight.  Deglop and quite finely chop the tomatoes and place in a bowl.  Stack the basil leaves, then roll them up lengthwise so you kind of have a basil cigar.  Very finely slice the leaves crosswise,  into a chiffonade.  You can chop them up even more finely if you want.  Add the basil to the tomatoes. Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with garlic powder.  Add about 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper (no, it doesn’t have to be sea salt or freshly ground–whatever you have on hand is fine!) and gently fold everything together.  Get a spoon and taste the concoction.  Enough basil? salt? garlic powder? pepper?  When you’re happy with your product, spoon it into a serving bowl and serve with the sliced baguette.   And by the way, I’m very pleased with my bread serving vehicle–it’s an old enamel tray for developing photographs!

A Few Things I Love (not in any order)

First and foremost, any book by D. E. Stevenson.  Her books are characterized as “romance,” which dismays me.  While, yes, there is romance, there is no bodice ripping, no Fabio on the cover, no heaving bosoms.  These books take place in England and Scotland and they are gently funny and truly uplifting.  Lots of talk about redoing houses,  stopping for tea, and economizing.  But even in light of all that, they are not sappy in the least.  Beautifully written (after all, Robert Louis Stevenson was her father’s cousin), they take place any time from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Oh please read one! My favorites are all the “Mrs. Tim” books, Bel Lamington and its sequel, Fletchers End, Amberwell, and…well, I love them all, really.

Brawny Pick-a-Size Paper Towel.   Annoying at first, because whenever I wanted a big piece I invariably got a small piece, or vice versa.  Now I’ve got my yank velocity down, and I easily get the size I need.  It’s so handy!

Always Infinity Pads.  Let’s just say, if you remember Stayfree pads from the 1970s, these are nothing short of a miracle.  I am totally serious.  Life changing.  Light colored pants all month long is no longer a pipe dream. And it has to be the Infinity kind, not just the regular ones.

Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s inexpensive and very tasty.  There is even a hint of effervescence.  It’s absolutely acceptable for guests, but cheap enough that you don’t feel guilty drinking it out of a plastic cup while floating in the pool.

Lancome Virtuose Mascara.  I like my eyelashes to look thick and feathery, not spiky.  This mascara delivers. It has a curved brush, which I think is instrumental in making the lashes fringey, not spidery.  Not cheap, but worth it.

Nature’s Gate Tea Tree Body Lotion.  I have sensitive, easily irritated skin.  This is the only lotion I can use on my legs.  It’s got the usual pungent smell of tea tree oil, but the scent dissipates very quickly. I even use a teeny bit on my face if I have dry patches.  The tea tree seems to calm any skin irritations I have.  Very inexpensive.

Smashbox Photo Finish.  Sometimes I am willing to work a bit harder than usual to look put together.  When I want my makeup to look particularly good, I break out the Smashbox Photo Finish.  It’s great.  It’s like gap-filling paint that smooths out my pores and wrinkles, leaving my skin looking much smoother than usual when I apply my foundation on top.

Okay, well, that’s enough for now.

Community Supported Agriculture

I’ve subscribed to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. It’s called Eatwell Farm, and it’s in Dixon.  I love it!  While it’s not particularly cheap, the quality is well worth the cost, and I do get very fresh, locally grown produce.  I mean, look at this picture!  I just quickly unpacked the box (note the messy paper towel), and it’s like something out of a Dutch master still life!  I’ve been using a lot more vegetables, and I know we’re eating better.  Eatwell Farm drops off here in town, so I pick up a crate of fruits and vegetables at a Vacaville business every other week.  I could do every week, but I know me and I’d get stressed out trying to use all those veggies in a week.  So the every other week plan works well for us.  The picture above is of my first box, and I was very impressed.  Yesterday I resubscribed for four more weeks, and this time I’m going to try out  farm-fresh eggs with my weekly box order.

I find I get a little more creative in order to work these veggies into our diet.  Two nights ago, after I picked up the crate,   I threw together this salad for dinner, and it was delicious.  The box had arugula and mixed lettuces, which I washed, dried, tore up, and put in  a salad bowl.  There was also a nice, tight little head of cabbage, about half of which I shredded and added to the bowl. There were also little Tokyo turnips, which I had no idea you could eat raw.  The turnips I peeled, very thinly sliced, and tossed in the bowl.  I also had some leftover grilled chicken thighs, some blue cheese, and heaven knows I’ve got lots of apricots.  I cut up the chicken, the cheese, and the apricots and they all went into the salad too.   Finally, I made Martha Stewart‘s Shallot Vinaigrette (substituting olive oil for grapeseed oil, and omitting the walnut oil and increasing the olive oil to compensate) and tossed everything together.  It was very tasty and took all of about 20 minutes to put together.  So healthy, and totally satisfying because it was so flavorful.  I guess you can call me a convert to the local food movement.

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