26 October 2012

Top Five Friday: StumbleUpon and PunchFork - My New Muses

I eat merely to put food out of my mind. 
~ N.F. Simpson

omeone recently introduced me to StumbleUpon.com as a great tool for writing content and inspiration.  You click on the categories you’re interested in and Stumble whips through gazillions of web pages and randomly shows you ones that fit your chosen categories.  You can set up lists and save your favorite sites.  Every time you click on the “Stumble” button, a different web page from a different category pops up. 
I don’t know what magic mushroom algorithm they’re using that’s different from Google’s, but I’m officially addicted.  Gee, thanks a lot, person-I-can’t-remember-who-told-me-about-this-content-crack. 
To be honest, this is a gold-mine for a lazy writer like me.  As chock full of knowledge as my head is (“and still the wonder grew….”), there are days ~ more then I’m comfortable admitting ~ when I stare at the screen and wonder: “What the heck should I write about today?!” 
StumbleUpon is my new Muse.
And today’s top five list is from Punchfork ~ a website that I can only describe with two words: food p*rn.
Deb is a writer and cook after my own heart.  You gotta love a gal who says things like “Can you imagine how much people would revolt if they knew that I had baked these a whole five days ago and have kept them from you since? It could get ugly.” She also says “she is aghast that there are cooks who actually clean as they go, preferring to leave behind a bombed-out mess of dishes and a thin film of flour behind in her cooking wake.” 

Now that is a kindred spirit!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes – Two Peas and Their Pod
As you all know, I will eat anything pumpkin.  I saw the word pumpkin and drool-inducing picture on Punchfork, and had to this brunch star to my recipe collection.

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze – The Kitchen
This weekend I’m hosting three dear friends, one of whom is an avid lemon lover.  When I saw this, I knew I had to save it and make some for Friday midnight snack/Saturday breakfast.  Since we both avoid dairy, I will make a lemon honey glaze instead of the cream cheese. Tika, you’ll love it!
Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup – 101 Cookbooks
Heidi is already one of my go-to cooks.  But even I hadn’t seen this recipe until Punchfork showed it to me.  And it has my favorite autumn ingredient yet again: pumpkin.  What is not to love?
What?!  I really like pumpkin, okay?  And autumn only comes for a few weeks a year ~ especially here in Virginia where the past few days have been disgustingly warm and summer-ish.  Bring on the brisk cold wind already!

The name of this site is just awesome, as is the layout and look.  A writer/baker with design sense: love it!  Plus, I noticed two drool-worthy recipes on the sidebar: Pancakes ‘n’ Bacon Cookies, and Pumpkin Crème Brulee.

"Say no more, say no more!"

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Do you use StumbleUpon?  What have been some of your favorite finds?

24 October 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Same Dream, New Chapter

Don't smother each other.  No one can grow in the shade. 
~ Leo Buscaglia


hen I first planted my tommy toes, I overwatered them.  They drowned in my care, unable to breathe and become what they were born to be.  And my basil plants grew so large and beautiful, I hated to take too much.

But the purpose of a garden is to both enjoy beauty and to share it.  If you are blessed enough with a bountiful harvest, but you keep the fruit on the vine (as I did with my basil), it will wither and die and give joy to no one save the worms.  I had to step back and seemingly neglect my garden in order for it to grow.  Funny how a little dehydrataion can make them shoot up and reach for the sun.

Now in mid-October, there isn’t much left.  But despite the chillier nights, the tomatoes stubbornly keep producing, and the plants continue to creep over the edges of the garden onto the lawn.  I pick the tiny red and yellow fruit and wonder if they feel like I do.


In many ways, I have found myself either dying on the vine or being "overwatered" with family issues these last few months.  All of a sudden, the dreams I cherished last fall began to close around me, suffocating my creativity.  Some is due to a long commute; a lot is due to the constant rub of a critical spirit tearing me down more than I can build them up. 

In the end, I have become one very drained, unhappy, and under-productive plant.  

But these are my dreams, my story, my garden.  And so I have the power to change the plot line, the dialogue, the scenery, even the boundaries.  My actual garden isn’t going anywhere, and I do have plans to expand it next spring.  It's just that I may be traveling to it once or twice a week to tend it instead of walking out the back door.

And that decision makes me (and my creative spirit) breathe a little easier.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
The farm post is feeling a little metaphorical today!  What other meanings does your garden (and nature in general) hold for you?

19 October 2012

Out of Town - Back Next Week!

I am out of town and unplugged this weekend.

Come back next week for more on the perils of balancing a hobby farm, a writing pen, and real Debbie Downers!

Love ya!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

17 October 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Killer Tomatoes!

It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought. 
~ James Douglas

ave you ever harvested tomatoes by flashlight?  Me neither.  Until last night. 

Last weekend I was out of town enjoying organic food and much needed girlfriend time with my buddy Tika ~ who also is a firm believer in all things organic and non-GMO.
It heightened my resolve to eat as much organic, raw, and non-GMO as I possibly could. It just feels better for my body.

All that girl time meant that I wasn’t able to spend “green” time with my rapidly crawling garden.  Even by flashlight, I could see that my tomatoes plants had grown tired of living with the boundaries of the 2x6 boards and were reaching out to take over the lawn.  Now I understand the appeal of the B flick, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Tomatoes everywhere!

photo © Mikaela D’Eigh 2012

And that was certainly the case Monday night.  I thought for sure the chilly nights, with temperatures dropping into the low 30s that I would be looking at tomatoes sorbet.  Instead there were hundreds of tiny green and quickly ripening tomatoes bunched together.  Perhaps they were trying to keep each other warm!

And the sweetness is unrivaled by any hydroponic, genetically-modified monstrosity you find in a chain grocery store.

Now those are killer tomatoes!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Are you still harvesting produce from your garden?  What is still going strong?

12 October 2012

Top Five Friday: The Ideal Dinner Guest

If you surround yourself with the good and righteous, they can only raise you up.
If you surround yourself with the others, they will drag you down into the doldrums of mediocrity,
and they will keep you there, but only as long as you permit it.
~ Mark Glamack
hat television family would you want sititng around your table at Thanksgiving? That was the question post by the radio hosts the other morning.  Most of the callers had predictable answers: the Brady Bunch, the Waltons,  the Ingalls; and some were just odd and funny: the Simpsons, the Bunkers.
But it made me wonder, not which TV family I’d want around my dinner table (Thanksgiving or otherwise), but who would be the top five people ~ living, dead, or fictional ~ I wish I could host.

Jane Austen
Now be honest. . .you aren’t really surprise, right?  No one can write like she did and not have a great wit.  Although, I have heard there are introverted writers whose brilliance only shines on the page.  Fine.  I’d still like to have her over for tea.
Captain Wentworth
You thought I was going to say Mr. Darcy!  Gotcha!  I do love the man, but while brooding and silent can be sexy, it does not a witty dinner companion make.  Captain Wentworth on the other hand, is sexy (understatedly so) and an entertaining dinner guest.  I think he must have been intuitive ~ he was very quick on the double entendres.
Diana Krall
Beautiful, sharp-witted, and musically gifted.  A good hostess always invites at least one or two people with a performer’s personality.  Goes well with after dinner drinks and Captain Wentworth ~ see above.

Rupert Everett as Lord Goring
This one’s a a two-fer: Rupert Everett,  who is handsome and smart in his own right, but appearing as Lord Goring, who has verbal thrusts and parries down to a tantalizing art.

Guy Fieri
Funny, charming, and enthusiastic as all get out.  Jane might be trifle alarmed at his California ways, but I would love to have him enjoying the dinner and telling me that my cooking is “money!” 

The only dilemma: who is the guest of honor?!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Who would be on your ideal guest list?

10 October 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: The Ups and Downs

‎A farm is a manipulative creature. There is no such thing as finished. Work comes in a stream and has no end. There are only the things that must be done now and things that can be done later.
The threat the farm has got on you, the one that keeps you running from can until can't, is this:
do it now, or some living thing will wilt or suffer or die.
It’s blackmail, really.
~  Kristin Kimball

he upside to having a hobby farm? You have a steady full time job with a steady paycheck that allows you to buy organic seeds, plants, and compost.

The downside?  You have a steady full time job that takes up most of the daylight hours in which you could be planting said seeds and plants.

This has been one of my biggest challenges in my dream of setting up an organic farm on the family property: not having enough time.  So far, my small organic garden has thrived under my haphazard show of affection; heck, the tomatoes seem to do their best when I’m out-right neglecting them!  But I know that in the long run, this dream of mine will never be realized if I can’t find some way to spend more time in the garden and less time earning money to build it.


The immediate answer is sustainability.  You work with nature and not against her.  You plant crops that help each other and don’t need to be molly-coddled to grow strong and abundant.  You plant with the seasons and eat with the seasons.  You leave the hot house flowers and produce to others with more time and more staff.  You get to work earlier so you can make it home before dark.

You let go of what you can’t do, and revel in what you can.  And somehow, that’s enough for now. 

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Tommy Toes Update: they’re still producing like crazy and the wee ones are the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.  Maybe late transplants were a good idea after all!

05 October 2012

Top Five Friday: Dishes with a Southern Drawl

Southerners can't stand to eat alone.
If we're going to cook a mess of greens we want to eat them with a mess of people.
~ Julia Reed

n honor of my vacation in South Carolina this week, my top five list is my favorite southern dishes. 
Y’all eat up and come back!
Shrimp and Grits Cakes - Epicurious
This is a take on a classic Southern dish.  This article says to use USA farm-raised shrimp.  I say – wild caught is better than farm-raised and healthier.

Butter Roll – Southern Plate
Confession ~ I didn’t actually grow up with these, but dang!  These will butter y’all’s biscuit!

Sweet Potato Casserole – Food and Wine
Recently I’ve begun making savory dishes with my sweet potatoes, but nothing says Southern lovin’ like a pecan-topped sweet potato casserole.  I put marshmallows on mine of course.
You may remember I smoked some Boston butt and had a grand adventure doing so.  This is another great recipe.  Because honestly ~ what is better than a pulled pork sandwhich?
Why this cake is particularly Southern, I haven’t a clue.  But it is and honey, y’all are gonna love it!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What are your favorite Southern dishes?

03 October 2012

La Belle's Hobby Farm: A Pictorial Update

It pleases me to take amateur photographs of my garden,
and it pleases my garden to make my photographs look professional. 
~ Robert Brault

his week I am on vacation without a computer or internet access.


But there is respite for the weary reader of my blog.  For today’s Hobby Farm update, I have pics of everyone’s favorite Garden Villain: Duca, the Tobacco Worm – who finally got what was coming to him - and some ‘shrooms that popped up in the backyard that looked a lot like ones you can eat [no worries, I’m not writing this from the grave], and the last hydrangea bloom that is holding on for dear life.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Tia didn't have an appetite for Duca, but a Bracnoid wasp did and laid her larva on his back.

The last hydrangea!
I know I've seen these shrooms at the farmers' market before....

...but I'm not taking any chances!

01 October 2012

What I Did for Art: Poetry and Pain

A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings,
but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them,
they sound like beautiful music... and then people crowd about the poet and say to him: 
“Sing for us soon again;”
that is as much as to say, “May new sufferings torment your soul.”
~ Soren Kierkegaard

ach person we meet bears a secret pain.  Just because they don’t walk with a limp, or bear an ugly scar, or have blood dripping from some horrific gash, does not mean that all is well in Wonderland.

We blessed breed of writers, we get to live our pain twice: once, while it’s happening, and the second time, when we write it down.  Hopefully in the retelling, the sting of it is mellowed, and understanding blossoms in place of bitterness and agony.

This poem was written back in May when I was feeling particularly harassed by artist responsibilities.  And as I’m feeling that way again, only with even more pressure and angst this go ‘round, I dusted it off and present it to you for your reading and empathetic pleasure.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What I Did for Art
What does it mean
When you dream
That you have no pants
And the party is starting?

Unprepared for the future
Of tonight’s event
And what it heralds
For growth, prosperity –

I don’t want to grow up
I want to remain blissful,
Of marketing, SEO, and twitter feeds.

The artist craves silence,


And the space to create and just be.

She will starve if she doesn’t let others
Know of the beauty inside her;
But she will starve is she doesn’t tend
The fire alone when she needs to.

I walk along the edge of a dam 
Defying the falls of demand and domain,
Gazing into the quiet pools of creative contemplation
That keep the river fed.

How to walk between them
without slipping on pride and place
And drowning in exhaustion?

Although I’ve heard the artist
Is more valuable
Once she’s gone.

©May 2012 Mikaela D’Eigh