Sunday, June 20, 2010

Good bye Storybook house

So many memories...
The round door...reason #1 why I bought it!
Yeti's ball rolling to the kitchen sink, because the floor was sinking.
Students and neighborhood kids sledding off the hill.
The neighborhood kids sledding down Nelson street.
Late night talks with the housemate - about anything and everything!
Kiwi ripping up the awesome brick linoleum flooring in the kitchen.
Kristi and I deciding to rip out the carpet upstairs.
The mural that used to be in the master bedroom.
The baby blue wrought iron banister.
The kitchen lighting project, which turned into a 2 year adventure, including marriage.
Being roommates with Heather again.
Matt getting his head stuck in the ceiling.
Chad unclogging the kitchen drain.
Matt & Chad moments...I guess they didn't get enough footsy at the office.
Comments about hookers and strippers (while rewiring the entire house).
The bright green sunroom!
The drunk guy on Nelson street...and the EMTs who knew him by name.
Matt's early morning chats with neighbors, specifically one!
Walking to first friday.
Walking to Gus'.
The Riverwalk.

What's your favorite memory of the Storybook house?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One month down...I haven't melted yet

So I spent 3 hours Monday afternoon weed the hot Arkansas sun. It rained that morning, creating humidity, and it was nearly 90 degrees out. But, I survived! Surprising, really. Before leaving Indiana, I was warned countless times about the heat, humidity, and even man-eating mosquitoes that I'd find in Arkansas. But, with enough sunblock, water, and bug spray, it really isn't that bad. Plus, there are lakes, mountains (small ones), and great scenery to take in. I've never experienced starlit skys back in Indiana like I've seen here in Arkansas. Yes, it's only been a month, and the summer heat isn't here quite yet...but...Arkansas is really a great place! You should come and visit sometime!

I know, I know...what does weed eating have to do with my job? And why did it take 3 hours? The Soderquist Center has a property called Greystone Estate it's our Executive Development Center - a beautiful huge home, and it sits on nearly 100 acres overlooking Beaver Lake. We had a staff work day to help do some lawn maintenance, mulching, and more. And with that much property, weed eating is a never-ending task!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We grow things...

Swedish Ivy.
Wandering Jew.
Spider plant.
Bell peppers.
Green beans.

Last year Matt and I were members of Victory Acres in Upland - our local Community Supported Agriculture farm. We LOVED it!
Actually, I signed up, and sent the deposit in before we got married, because according to my rational, it was still MY money, and I didn't need to consult with Matt. On the first distribution weekend (late May), I picked up our small bag of produce, and then tried to explain to Matt why we owed MORE money, and why CSA was such a GREAT idea! It took several more weekend pickups - all of which continually grew in size, before he was convinced and then tried to recruit his parents for this year!

This winter the reality of not having fresh, organic, locally grown produce available to me was devastating (okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic). However, I was frustrated with myself for not taking advantage of the "you pick" extras at the farm, and canning/freezing/drying tomatoes, green beans, and herbs - to name a few. Around November, as I opened another can of store-bought tomatoes, I knew I had to take advantage of our membership this summer, and maybe try my hand at a garden. I've been pretty successful at keeping other plants alive - swedish ivy, wandering jew, and a spider plant (I grew all the live plant center pieces at our wedding reception - knowing it would save a TON of money!).

Somewhere in the rush of holiday shopping, Julie needed another idea for me, and Matt mentioned I wanted to start a garden this summer. Out of all the gardening books on the market, they happened to pick up a copy of "Square Foot Gardening" (SFG). I read it in 1 day over Christmas break, and was convinced that Mel Bartholomew is a GENIUS, and that I could grow things successfully in a garden.

One weekend in April, after we thought we would be sticking around for at least another year, Matt and I having acquired everything we needed for our SFG, started the process.

There's a few things I've learned in the process:
SFG is really SIMPLE!
When you start out, keep your SFG book handy - so you can make informed decisions about what and how many to plant!
Zucchini, broccoli, and potato plants are FAR TALLER than I imagined.
You should probably only plant ONE zucchini plant in ONE square.
It's far less overwhelming for potential house buyers (who probably aren't gardeners) to take on a 4x4 ft square of plants.
Broccoli heads turn to flowers if you don't harvest them fast enough.
When we finally made the cognitive decision to establish roots, EVERYTHING changed.
Moving companies don't move Square Foot Gardens.

Does anyone happen to know what zone NW Arkansas is in?
The good news is; based on my limited research, if I cover my SFG in Arkansas, it should keep enough heat in to actually continue to produce over the winter!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bumpity bump bump bump

28 weeks 3 days
supposably the size of a "small cabbage"

Soon to be ours...

Our new storybook house? We need a new name...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Strawberry Jam!!!

Things I should have done tonight:
Take pictures of things we still need to sell on campus news
Begin to pack
Continue to read about this phase of life that we are in called pregnancy (and probably start reading about "what to expect in the first year")
Register...uhm...actually research what you need in order to take care of a newborn so that you can register for it
Rework my resume for a possible part time position

Instead, I was distracted by one of my biggest weaknesses. Strawberries.

The past two summers I realized in late June, I completely missed strawberry season. Gone - just like that. But, you couldn't tell based on the produce section at your local grocery store. However, for some projects, when you need a LARGE quantity of fresh produce, I just can't bring myself to buy it at any superstore. (Thanks mom for always buying enormous flats of fresh fruit at the local produce market!) And somehow I managed to remember this year that it's strawberry season and to procure some locally, rather than, well - who knows where. My awareness of strawberry season is in part due to my small internal desire to avoid buying certain fruits and vegetables if I know for a fact that the season hasn't arrived yet. (i.e. corn on the cob - when i was growing up - we lived off corn on the cob in August, and ONLY August)

Because I like to procrastinate, I work better under pressure, and I would rather create something in the kitchen, tonight involved:
2 trips to meijer
2 phone calls - one to my mom and one to my sister - neither of who answered!
And some research on how to make strawberry freezer jam (note - none of these were on my previous list)

It's definitely a good thing that I went back to meijer to buy 12 1/2 pint jars. I had no idea how much jam 4 quarts of berries would make! And I can't wait to have it on homeade bread!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cooking Challenge

I have 9 lbs. of ground beef, a few roasts, and a few chicken breasts to use in the next 14 days.
The moving company won't move perishable items.
And, I'm struggling to find the motivation to cook because it's just me and baby. Matt's in Arkansas, and it's just not as fun to cook for yourself.
I'm trying to create things with just what I have in my kitchen currently, that are still remotely healthy, not bland, and simple.

Tonight's creation - a simple twist on the staple, "Chicken & Rice".
Actually, I wasn't aware that chicken and rice was a staple until Matt & I started dating. Chicken wasn't a common meat during my childhood - we were a roast and steak family. One advantage to bovine animals roaming in the barnyard.

Aside from that, the few times that I've had it, and the one time I made it, I was disappointed. Yes, it's simple and quick - and in my opinion for those two reasons you sacrifice flavor. It's bland, no matter how much cracked pepper you use. Well tonight when I assessed what I had in the refrigerator that needed to be used quickly, there was a HUGE amount of already made wild rice/bulgur/wheat berries.

Anyway - here's the original and then my creation:

The BASIC Chicken & Rice
2 cups instant rice
1 (5 ounce) can chicken chunks, drained (I always use chicken breasts)
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup

Lynette's Chicken & Rice
(Thanks to Adela's Poppyseed Chicken Recipe for inspiration)

1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 c. plan Yogurt (Stonyfield Plain, Cream on Top)
1 tsp. poppy seeds
Mix those together with a wisk

2 c. previously cooked wild rice/wheat bulgur/wheat berries (great use of leftover rice)
2-4 chicken breasts (uncooked)
1/4 c. butter, thin slices
2 handfuls of buttery crackers

In a casserole dish, pour 1/2 of the yogurt mixture over the rice and mix together.
Place chicken breasts on top. Cover with the remaining yogurt mixture. Evenly space the thin slices of butter on top. Crush the buttery crackers over the top.

Bake 60-90 minutes at 375.

It was tangy and creamy and very flavorful! And I would definitely make it again. The chicken juices also kept the rice from drying out.

I like to think I can call it healthy because it's good rice and good yogurt. Well, if it's not healthy those two at least balance out the cream of chicken soup.

On a side note, if you have any creative ideas for the 9 lbs. of ground beef - feel free to leave a comment. The fewer ingredients the better!!