Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blog Housekeeping

I need to take a minute to address some things and answer some questions:

1. A few people asked me why I don't buy organic foods.  The answer is pretty lengthy, but here I go:


a. If I were to buy organic food, it would only be organic produce.  Once produce is plucked from it's tree/ground/plant/etc, it starts to lose all it's good stuff (I think that "nutrients" is the correct term).  There aren't many organic farms, so most organic food is shipped over hundreds (if not thousands) of miles...thus, losing a lot of it's good stuff.   When I can, I buy local.  Right now, the local stand that I frequent doesn't have good stuff.  In the winter, I usually get my produce from the supermarket.  Even then, I know that my bananas and avocados aren't grown anywhere even close to me, but I get them anyways.  Gosh, I love them both!

A good example of this is organic milk.  Have you noticed that organic milk doesn't expire for almost a month or longer?  That's because there are just a few organic milk manufacturers.  The milk has to be pasteurized twice to make it easy to travel long distances.  If it is ultra-pasteurized, then it's got hardly any of the good stuff left.  What's the point of drinking it then?  

b. If something is USDA approved organic, then that means the food has past the government's test to be organic.  I don't know what their test is.  So far, the government hasn't done a great job when it comes to food regulations.  When I see processed foods that are organic, I read their labels, and don't know the ingredients,  I have to wonder if I trust the government's definition of organic.

c. Have you seen the price of organic foods?


Ideally, I would love to grow all my own produce, have my own milk cow and a few chickens, but that would be crazy.  All my time would be dedicated to food and I'm not willing to do that right now.  I've got Survivor to watch, Burl to play with, and friends to meet for lunch.

For now, I'll get as close to that ideal as I can without going insane.  Last year John grew tomatoes and they weren't government-certified organic, but they were incredible!  (My neighbor even wanted to pay us for them-I gave them a competitive rate.)  I don't know the science behind it, but I think picking my own tomato is better for me than buying an organic one.  Now that I think about it, that was the same time that I developed a stutter, my hair turned green and I grew a long tail...oh well.


Before I step off my soapbox, I would like to say that it's just what John and I feel is good for our family.  We try to eat the least amount of processed food that we can, but still leave room for life.  Today, we grabbed oreos and chips from the grocery store, a Subway sandwich, and hit the park with Burl.  I ate my weight in processed food and now I feel gross.  Veggies for dinner!!!

..................................

2.  Thank you for all of your advice on how to respond to comments.  I have learned that if a commenter leaves an email address when they comment, then I can respond.  Or, I could leave my own comment in the comment section, but I'm not sure that people recheck their comments that they left on other blogs.  I don't.


I was frustrated and thought about switching to WordPress.  I love how WordPress does comments!  The main complaint is that WordPress doesn't allow for widgets to be added into the HTML code, and I have me a wholelotta widgets added to my blog.  

I think that I am going to do what Paige told me to do. 


Paige said...
I use www.disqus.com for my comments. If you go to the site, it is easy to register a new account and they even have a quick app to install it on blogger. I like it because I can respond via email and the responses go under the initial comment. You can also sync it with Blogger and import all your old comments into it so if you ever decided to remove Disqus, blogger will have all the comments. I think it is better at filtering out spam posts too.
There is my answer and my advice on that.  I hope that I haven't lost too many people.   If by reading this, you think that I'm techy, well you're wrong.  My husband does all that stuff.  I just take him to a blog a like, tell him the thingy that I want, and he figures out how to do it.

..................................



3. Thank you to everyone who reads my little blog.  Some friends read this and comment, email or text me about it and I really appreciate it.  I started it as something fun to do, and it is fun to do it.  It makes it a lot of fun to get encouraging feedback.

Pics from HERE

This Week's Menu

Every Sunday, I post my menu for the week.  Nothing special, nothing fancy.  Just a way to keep myself accountable. 

This week, I'm trying the Chicken Quesadilla Pie that I've seen under Real Simple's "favorites" list for a while.  I'm sure that I'll love it-it comes with a side of avocado.  I love me some avocado!


Ham and Pea Pasta...my current fav!
Roasted Chicken, Brown Rice, Broccoli
Chicken Quesadilla Pie 
Veggie Night...sweet or regular potatoes, black-eyed peas, carrots, something green
Cream of Asparagus Soup and Salad.  Yum.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bloggin'

I've declared this week Needy Week.  I'm in need of some blog help.

Let me first start out by saying how much fun it is to be a part of the blog world.  My blog doesn't focus on one thing, but it has a sort-of them: stuff that I like.  I try really hard to let the posts come naturally-meaning, I try not to force anything, use a formula, or copy people.


Instead, I try to learn from blogs I enjoy.  I try to blog about things that interest me.  I try to write like I talk.  (Sometimes, I've written a post, read it, hated it, deleted it, and started all over, picturing a friend talking to me, and write from there.)  That's my game plan.  I'm not sure that I succeed, or even more, that's how it's suppose to be, but for me, that's how it goes.

One of the things I enjoy is the comments part of blogging.  The only problem is that I can't respond.  A couple of weeks ago, I set it up so that I was emailed every time someone commented.  Then, I RESPONDED to every comment, almost.  This week I realized that those oh so many emails I sent were all going to "noreply@blogger."  Bummer.  Can someone please help me out here?

How can I respond to comments???
 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Has Anyone Noticed...

...that spring is starting to show its face?  Every year I wait and wonder, when will spring get here? To quote my (recently engaged, yay!) friend, Keri, I "wait with baited breath."


This morning I decided that we're getting very close.  It's getting darker later in the day, it's definitely warmer, and I heard oh so many birds chirping this morning.  Oh so many.

I made it through another winter, another cold few months, and I couldn't be happier that spring is almost here.  It's that warm weather that makes me feel energized, alive, and so excited about everything.

Whole Foods, My Version

Someone recently asked me, "What do you consider whole foods?"  Here is my story:

For a couple of years, my husband and I babysat for a really cool family once a week.  The girls were always in bed, so we watched TV or whatever documentary they had.  It put us in another family's house regularly, which gave us a picture into their lives.  We started to learn some stuff.


The food stuff:  They didn't have a lot of snacks.  I used to think it was because they were always low on food, but now I'm learning that they ate whole foods.  There was nothing to grab and all their foods had to be prepared.

That family and a book that we read (In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan) really changed how we looked at food.  


That book has some great "rules" in the back.  Things like, 

don't get your food where you get your fuel
don't eat anything that your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food
avoid food that makes health claims
eat at a table 
don't eat anything that has more than 5 ingredients that I don't know
shop on the exterior walls of the grocery store

There are ton more GREAT things.  Get the book, it's very approachable.



So, we started to change.  Now, I try hard to make most of things that I make are from scratch. (I'm learning that "from scratch" can be defined different ways.  Instead of getting into how "scratch" I may or may not be,) I'll give a list of our new habits:

I use spices instead of packets.
I buy raw oats instead of instant oatmeal packets-no cereal.
I make all my own broths.
I use real butter, whole milk (just switched).
I read labels.read labels.and read labels.  I want to see protein, fiber, and NO corn syrup.
I get local eggs.
I don't buy organic.
I put half and half (full fat) in my coffee.*
I try not to eat a lot of meat.
I'm picky about my meat.
Raw Vegetables over canned (unless I know the person who canned them).
Frozen veggies if needed.
Whole grains over whole wheat.
My husband only takes leftovers to work.


*I used to drink my coffee with two big spoons of sugar and loads of flavored cream.  Then, I got it down to flavored cream.  Then, the dad that we babysat for pointed out that flavored cream doesn't have any dairy.  I switched to one spoon of sugar and half n half.  Now, I'm down to just half n half.  That is HUGE for me.

I don't know how this sounds to everyone out there.  It may sound crazy or it may sound normal.  For us, it sounds great!  Our old habits had us gaining 5-10 pounds a year.  Now, my husband is in total shape and I'm on my way there.   

If you came to my house, there wouldn't be a lot of food.  Most of the things that I buy go bad quickly, so I can't stock up.  Dairy, meat, produce, and cheeses don't have a long shelf life.

  If you looked in my cabinet of food, then you would see boxes of pastas, oats, bread flours, and legumes.  There aren't a lot of boxed meals, cans of food, packaged foods, or other things that take little to not time to prepare. 

There it is.  My story of food change.  Now, if I could only start making jelly.   

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stuff For The Walls

How hard is it to find cute pictures, prints, paintings and other art to put on your walls?

For me, it's hard.  I'm not afraid of actually PUTTING things on the wall.  (If I need to change things, nail holes are easy to fill (for John).)  For me, the hard part is CHOOSING what to put on my walls.

I have four default things that I use:
1. Big mirrors.
2. My favorite pictures, enlarged, matted and framed.
3. Empty picture frames.
4. Old windows.

I'm stuck in a rut.  A rut of being creative.  I'm stuck in the space between

waiting.for.the.right.thing.at.the.right.price. AND
 just.get.anything.ANYTHING.to.fill.the.space.

It's not a good place to be.  Sometimes the outcome is ugly.  I buy something from a big box decorating store that is cute, but not me.  Or, I leave it blank for a long time.

So, I need help.  Here are some rules:

Rules that I've heard:
1. No personal pictures in the main living room. Broke that rule.
2. Leave at least one wall blank. Broke that rule.

Rules for me:
1. Cheap
2. Unique
3. Cute
4. "me"  
5. No metal scroll-things.
6. I don't want it to look like "just stuff for the walls"



(All the pictures are pictures of spaces that I'm looking to change.)

Please, send me links.  Give me advice.  Tell me what rules to follow and what rules to break.  Please.  Any and all help is appreciated!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

This Week's Menu

It's that time again for my weekly menu post.  Nothing fancy, nothing special.  Just a record and a way to keep myself moving forward in the world of "what's for dinner?"


{Credits}

BBQ Sandwiches, Collards, Creamed Corn (from the in-laws garden)
Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice (my favorite soup in all the land)
Chili Mac (made with left over chili)
Lasagna

Friday, February 18, 2011

Burl's First Haircut

Burl's hair is Long, Thick, and Straight.  It gets in his eyes and is able to store a lot of food and stickiness.  

We went to a friend's house who cuts hair.  She's got a little room set up where she does her magic.  Armed with his favorite things, we went for it.


(He had no idea what was about to happen.)



Shoveling 864375 puffs in his mouth, we kept him somewhat calm.  I also let him chew on our Wii remote.  Sometimes, he ate puffs off of the Wii remote.  


We got through it.  Success.  

He still looks like a little baby, just without all the stringy, long hair falling in his face.  


The "during" pictures were great.  However, the only "after" picture that I got was pretty blurry.  If you want to see him rocking his new look, scroll down the the yogurt pictures.  

He loves it.  There's a little strut to his crawl now, and I think he dominated the nursery the next day.

Yogurt Time

During breakfast, Burl wanted his spoon.  In a major way.  
Since we had the time for a long breakfast, I gave it to him.


What fun is a spoon without something to, well, spoon?


Enter: his bowl of yogurt.


For 10 minutes, he sat there and played with his spoon and his yogurt.  He didn't make much noise.   

It was just a lot of concentration and heavy breathing.  Totally worth the mess.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Burl's First Picnic


With the weather this nice, there is no better way to eat lunch than outside on a picnic blanket.  By the river.  With John and Burl.  No shoes.  Blue Skies-and I mean blue.


The conditions were just perfect for a picnic.  Our city has done a great job developing the river front for gals like me to enjoy.  With John's work just a couple miles from a great park, things worked out perfectly for an hour of fun.


I think this was Burl's first time at a picnic.  The real kind.  Where we lay down a blanket outside and expect him to focus on food.  


With his meals always at the table, Burl was confused when we tried to feed him while he was playing.  


Water bottles.  Pedestrians passing by.  Grass.  Mom and Dad.  Not much time for eating.

 

To be honest, I could care less about what or how he was eating.  He was so fun to watch (and to photograph).  



One of my favorite pictures. Ever.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Kitchen Motivation

Have you ever seen someone else's house and it's just awesome.  We're talking WAY COOL.  What does it do for you and your home goals?  


For me, it's usually paralyzing.  I can get caught in a comparison game.  Look what they have that I will never have.  Wonder how much money they have that I don't have?  It really gets very sick and gross and I'm like a pig wallowing in the mud.  Pig. Mud. Wallow. Me.  Get the picture?  

Instead of figuring out why I do that, I'm trying to figure out how to move past that.


Let's take my kitchen for example.  It's a good kitchen, but I have some plans for it.  Long term plans.  Short term plans.  Right now plans.


My right now plans have been on my to-do list since we bought this house over 4 years ago.

It looks a little something like this:
lay board the cabinets and the floors 
fill holes left from the previous handles
replace fake gold hinges
repaint cabinets back to white.

When I told John about how I hate (yes, hate) my kitchen and I just wish I could repaint the cabinets, he fixed my problem.  I love that guys like to fix problems.  He said ok, and got started on the project right then.  


We started painting.  I painted just as much as he did.  He did the other stuff.    

This is what happened:

I feel in love with my kitchen.  The changes were small, but to me they were huge.  The improvements were just enough for me to feel free to cook and clean and be in there without the guilt of a project undone.

I also realized that I don't want to have to let all that hate well up inside until is dumps onto John.  That is NEVER a good idea in any life circumstance.
  

That was all the motivation that I needed.  Now, I know what if feels like to get stuff done, work towards the goal, and feel good that we're getting there.  Wherever "there" is. 

For now, I hope that I will remember to quit feeling overwhelmed or not cool enough or not rich enough to make changes.  As long as I'm doing something, I can enjoy my home.  It is and always a work in progress.  Always.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Warm Weathered Playground

The weather here is great right now.  I mean Great.  Like, change my attitude, light up the world, start the pedicures, things are feeling nice.



Guess what else gets better with warmer weather?  Playing with Burl.  John and I took him to the local playground and had a blast.  A fair amount of time was spent on the slides.



Guess what else we did?  I'll give you a hint.  We said this 3874 times, "Not for your mouth."  


Then, we got wise to his game: Remove him from all the temptation.  Let the boy climb.  Climb he did.


Life is good.  He has the proof written all over his face.  See it there?  Look past the smile and the four teeth.  Ok, now do you see it?  All that dirt?  


He likes to play.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Let's all do a v-day post on how we got to where we are today.  Sounds fun, right?

We went to the same college.  We had the same friends.  I was the wild one.  John was the quiet one.  I thought he was cool.  I tried to get my friends to date him.  None of them came.  It was just me and him.  We talked.  I felt comfortable and natural in our talks.  


He started bringing me treats.  He started walking me to my car.  He told me I was pretty.  He told me he wanted to date me.  I said yes.  Then, I freaked out.  He calmed me down.
Nothing has changed.  


Except I have a minivan, an old home, a baby Burl, and a whole lot of fun.  

Happy V.Day everyone!

This Week's Menu

Groceries. Dishes. Cooking.  All things that I love.  Coming up with a fun menu-the hardest part.

To keep me accountable, to help me remember, and to keep a record, I post my menus each week.  The Vintage Vine asked where I got my recipes.  Recently, I received a Emeril cookbook.  I also use foodtv.com and realsimple.com.  

My biggest source of recipes and inspiration is my dna.  (That sounds cheesy.) Both of my parents are great cooks.  My mom is the precise kind of cook.  My dad is a professional chef.  Caterer, butcher, restaurant owner, kitchen chef.  He cooks by taste, and so do I.  I've been getting ideas from them forever.  Now, my brothers ask me for cooking tips.  It truly is a family affair.  


This Week's Menu:
Burgers and Mustard Potatoes
Cream of Asparagus and Orange Walnut Salad
Turkey Pitas with Minted Yogurt and Salad
Rotini with Tomato Clam Sauce

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Just Happened?

"Did he just...? What just happened?  Was that his first step?  Did he just take a step?  Did you see that?  Yes?  That was a step right?"  


-that was the conversation that happened yesterday afternoon in my dining room with my friend while we were talking and Burl was playing at the window.


"Where's your camera," she said, "let's see if he'll do it again!"


She grabbed my camera, we set things like before, he got stuck on his sock, I yanked it off, he wanted to get it, I stuck in the drawer as bate, and he did it again.  



It was a very small, solo step.  Nonetheless, it was his first step.  Big deal.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Living Room Sprucing

Yesterday I mentioned that I had a little living room redo that I wanted to share.  Redo might be too strong of a word.  Let's call it The Living Room Sprucing.  I liked my LR before, but there were things that just felt a little off to me.  


Here's what I mean: When I first got married, I would take anything free.  I would get anything on sale.  My house felt a little college-ish to me.  Not that decorating on the cheap is bad, but I wasn't doing it right.  Here is how I spruced up my living room slowly, overtime, without any major costs:


Here is what I did:
1. Since I learned to sew this summer, I was able to make my own pillows.  Two regular pillows, and a very saucy ruffle/flower pillow.
2. I got matching end tables.  The ones before were functional, but the honey color wasn't working, they were too low, and oh yeah, one side wasn't actually a table, just some wooden boxes stacked on each other.  I made the burlap tablecloths for $12.  More on the tables later.
3. I replaced the big coffee table with a bench (that my dad made for me a while back).  I don't LOVE this as the coffee table, but for now it works because I can easily move it when there are kids over to play.
4. With some birthday money, I bought two glass lamps from Ikea.  This was the biggest purchase, but much needed.  I love good lamps, read more about that HERE.  
5. I turned out that one chair.  I originally did this for the shower, but decided to keep it this way after seeing how it made the room feel more open and a bit bigger.
6. I think that I need a bigger rug, but that's going to be a bit down the road seeing that rugs ain't cheap.

  
The mantel/window:


1. I moved the green side table into another room and moved the coffee table in front of the window.  This again was for the shower.  I loved that it let more light in the room and Burl loves standing at it, so I'm keeping the swap for now. (I love how hosting parties turns into home sprucing.)
2. I'm not a huge mantel girl.  I know that some people love to decorate a good mantel, and I used to love to do it, but now I'm not into it.  I'm so afraid that it is going to look cluttery and random, so I just give up.  But, the shower was happening, my friend was there, and I needed to do something.  I added some color and natural elements.  (that little brown thing by the vase is an actual bird's nest that John found for me.  There were still some eggs in it that hadn't hatched, so he set them in a warm-looking spot on the ground and brought me the nest.  Isn't that so sweet and considerate of him?  Kidding.  Don't call Peta...it was long vacant when he got it.)


I love a table filled with pictures:  I love to go to other people's houses and see them and I love them displayed in my house.


1. I added some larger frames, which made the scale of this table a bit larger.  Larger is always better and I think it looks less random and more intentional.  We all love intentional.
2. I added some greenery, a jade plant to be specific.  If there is one thing that I've noticed about myself, then it's this: I always gravitate towards homes with greenery.  Even though I'm learning what looks cute and how to keep things alive, I know that I always feel better if there is a little classy mother nature sitting in my home.  


The entry table:

This is a very narrow table that is really just for looks and a little extra storage.  I'm not sure if it crowds the room or helps it, but I know one thing:
1. It helped me love it a bit more when I cleared it off and fought the urge to space out my stuff so that it covered the entire surface.  Less is more, am I right ladies?

My neighbor came over yesterday.  She doesn't come over much (because she's a mother to 10 children!), but when she walked in she wanted to know what I had done in that room.  She said that it looked bigger, brighter, and I think that she said another word, but I can't remember.  I think she's right.  The little changes made the LR something that I liked into something that I loved.


Even though I didn't do much to the room, didn't spend a lot of money, or change the layout much, I still think it's a much better room.  I love to go in there and sit and read or play with Burl.  If you see any little changes that could make a big difference, then please let me know!
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