Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Update: Garden fresh meals

Dinner Saturday (while our power was out for going on 48 hours): Parmesan flatbread made from pizza dough thawed from the freezer-cum-plastic storage cupboard, paired with a huge salad of fresh lettuces from the garden topped with diced cucumber, chic peas, green olives, flax seeds, and gazebo room dressing. Delicious!

Yesterday's lunch: a wrap consisting of homemade hummus (Paul is such a pro at this now!), the rest of the diced cucumber from Saturday's dinner, more green olives, broccosprouts deli blend (I am so in love...haven't attempted growing my own sprouts yet though), and of course more baby greens from the garden!

Today's lunch: another wrap with the same hummus, half an avocado (they're way too expensive but I love them sooooooo much), sprouts, and another huge bunch of fresh lettuce picked this morning!

Witness the lettuce in all its glory:

I really love taking Juno out in the backyard in the morning and letting her run around for a bit while I pick lettuce. Although this morning she just came and sat near me (as long as I wasn't looking at her too much), so she must have still been tired from being out for a long time yesterday afternoon in the heat. But regardless, it's a great way to start the morning, and I hope I can keep it up all summer!

Juno enjoying the backyard while we garden:

I took a lot of garden pics yesterday, so now I'm all caught up with documentation of what's growing. All I still need to do (besides, you know, tend the garden on a daily basis) is get some more garden stakes to label the squash and tomato varieties. Soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Update: Food & more

I have now harvested Tah Tsai from my garden three times, and every time I go back there's more than there was before the last time I harvested! I've also picked a little bit of baby spinach, and I know there will be more of that soon, because everything is growing like crazy lately.

The Tah Tsai (plus a bit of spinach) I used in a pasta salad on Saturday, and again for lunch today! My lunch today was awesome. It didn't make a pretty picture, so you'll have to settle for a description: I covered the bottom of my medium glass pyrex with tah tsai leaves, spread a few big spoonfulls of Paul's homemade hummus on top of that, spread half of the remaining broccosprouts on top of that, followed by a layer of half a sliced avocado, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a tiny drizzle of EVOO and red wine vinegar (because the hummus is a few days old and getting a bit dry), and topped with a few more tah tsai leaves to keep my container lid from getting stuck to everything. When I opened it up for lunch, I took a knife to everything to make it easier to eat, which also mixed everything all up and made it look really ugly. But it was SO DELICIOUS. It was rich and filling, and I didn't even add any bread! Granted, it had plenty of fat, but it was all GOOD fat from plants! And protein, and lots of other plant-y goodness from dark green tah tsai leaves and sprouts! I feel really super about that meal, and I'm going to have it again tomorrow with the rest of the sprouts, other half of the avocado, and additionally freshly-harvested tah tsai.

The best part: I picked the tah tsai THIS MORNING while I had Juno out. Talk about fresh! Makes me happy.

It also makes me happy that I have now used my harvest to feed a houseguest, share a dish with a bunch of friends at a party, and feed myself lunch! All by mid-May, before the planting is even finished!

Speaking of planting: Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, we will be making our (probably final) trip to Noggle's to get tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, zucchini, butternut squash, herbs, and maybe one or two other veggies, all of which I will plant on Wednesday (my day off! I love saying that), at which point we will be finished with planting things for the season. Yay! Actually I will sprinkle some more lettuce seeds once the current batch is all harvested, but that hardly counts, since sprinkling them is really all there is to it. Tomatoes will go by the house under the bedroom window, all other veggies will go in the garden, and herbs will go in the window basket we got at Frey's in Lebanon with our Groupon. Then I will be able to harvest the herbs by opening up my dining room window! How awesome is that? And they will be totally safe from rabbits. So this year, my cilantro should survive the seedling stage.

One more progress update: I baked bread! Paul talked me through it, but I did all the work. I've made bread before, but never such a nice simple, basic recipe, and with the right materials, i.e. real bread flour. It makes such a difference. Bringing the dough together only takes a few minutes, and then kneading it by hand for about 10 minutes seems like a lot of work, but really? Spread over two days, the entire actual labor put into it is probably no more than 30-45 minutes. And there is a magical moment as you're kneading the dough when it changes from kind of lumpy to smooth and elastic, and you know it's ready to rise. It is really cool.

Next up in the bread department: add-ins, different flour, and having another go at maintaining a sourdough starter in the fridge.

I'll take some more garden pics tonight or tomorrow, and then again on Wednesday after all the remaining plants are in! Like I said, everything has been growing at really unbelievable rates, and I'll definitely have more tah tsai to harvest for lunch tomorrow, plus maybe even some baby lettuces and mustard greens (both of which probably need to be thinned out). The cabbages are all getting huge, except for one that for some reason is still kind of dinky by comparison, but hopefully that just means that the cabbage harvest will be nice and staggared. I don't know what I'd do with 4 heads all at once! Make a lot of asian slaw and fish tacos, I suppose. That's probably what I'll be doing regardless.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Wednesday Off

My first Wednesday off of work for my alternative work schedule was a total success.  The weather was gorgeous, so after sleeping in until 8:30, I made two over easy fried egg sandwiches for me and Paul, and then I spent the rest of the morning outside.

I planted the mini daffodils Sarah sent home with me after Jeneane's baby shower, and then filled up the big white pots they had been sitting in and planted the bok choi and kale seedlings I started from seed, along with the last two cabbage plants, because I think it will look really pretty all together until I eat it all!!  And I'm all about my veggies being ornamental and bringing beauty to my backyard until I eat them!  My hands were way too grubby to take pictures of the newly potted veg, but here's one I took earlier of a kholrabi looking fine:

Then I had my hair cut and styled, and went straight to PENNDOT to renew my driver's license.  As I hoped, this is my best DL photo ever.  Totally the way to do it.  Side note: how is the DMV that busy on a random Wednesday afternoon?  I thought I'd beat the crowds by going in the middle of a weekday.  It was still pretty quick and painless though.

Then I came home and went with Paul to finally move our safe deposit box from New Cumberland to a bank closer to our house, and on the way to open the new box we stopped at Starbucks for half-price Frappuccinos (3-5:30pm daily through May 15...Starbucks should probably be paying me).  Of course that was delightful.  I have been 100% disciplined and have not stopped at starbucks at all, even on my most crabby mornings when I am craving it, which is especially amazing since I drive right past it every day.  Most days I have to sit and wait at the traffic light and stare at Starbucks, often with the entrance just an easy swoop to the left instead of continuing to wait at the light.  I went for my free coffee on Earth Day, and haven't been back until today.  Totally worth it, and I enjoyed my frap even more since I haven't had one in so long!

We came home and put bacon in the oven for BLTs, and I even picked a few leaves of baby spinach from the garden to augment the lettuce!  Plus we were eating them on Paul's fabulous home baked bread.  Then Paul went with me to training class with Juno, because next week he's going to take her on his own so I can go to bell choir rehearsal.

So now we're home for the evening and since we've already eaten dinner (quite early for us), we are looking forward to a calm, lazy evening catching up on some Big Bang Theory and finishing off a pint of Hans Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard!  I am definitely going to enjoy this alternate work schedule all summer.  It turns out getting up at 6am is easy when you go to bed before 10pm and it's already starting to get light at 6.  Also?  I think I could be happy running a small farm for a living...anyone want to help me with the start-up capital?  If you do, you can have free veggies for life!  Just look at my handiwork thus far:

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ambitions NOT for this Summer

In addition to all the things I want to do this summer,  there are some much bigger projects on my wish-list that are going to have to wait, probably for years or longer; and my ideal wish for these spaces will probably never happen:

Re-do the bathroom:  At the very least, I'd like to remove the sliding door on the tub/shower, re-tile everything, and add storage above the toilet.  But since the half-bath off the master bedroom is right behind the main bathroom, the main bathroom doesn't have a window; in fact, some of the other ranches in the neighborhood that are otherwise identically laid out to ours have only one bathroom that is the size of both of I think it might be awesome to totally demo both bathrooms and the adjoining wall, and make it into one bigger bathroom.  It might even work to keep the door from the master bedroom as well as the door from the hallway, and furthermore might make room for a stall shower AND a bathtub/shower, plus 2 sink/vanities, so there would be plenty of room for a growing family.  But that would require hiring a contractor, whereas re-tiling we could do ourselves, so it's probably not in the cards.

Update the kitchen:  Our kitchen has plenty of floor space, and very high-quality hardwood, hand-made cabinets.  I'd prefer a less-reddish wood tone, but my Dad says that God will strike me down if I paint over the gorgeous oak, so they're staying as-is for now.  The countertop is pretty ugly laminant, so I really want to do something about that.  But aside from those possible updates, there isn't much counter space; there's an entire blank wall that could easy have base and wall cabinets for added storage; the oven and dishwasher are both half-sized; and there's a totally supurfluous wall creating a smaller opening between the kitchen and dining room.  So again, if I had the means, I'd love to update the cabinets, knock out the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and just kind of extend the kitchen to make it more seamless with the dining room, including adding more cabinets and counters.

Build a patio:  Our carport has a door out to the backyard, and the shed off the back of the carport has a garage door facing the backyard.  I would love to add a cobblestone patio that starts outside the shed's garage door and extends, with a gently curved edge, across about half the back of the house, with possibly some built-in benchs and a cuppola covered with vining plants for some light shade.  We might actually do this eventually; we'd really love to have an outdoor seating and eating area other than our carport, which is nice but still feels too dark and inside-ish.

Add direct access to the backyard:  I doubt this will ever happen, but if by some miracle we did update the kitchen as extensively as I'd love to with the knocking down of walls, I think it would be fabulous to add a sliding door to the backyard in place of the dining room windows.  But for this reason, if we ever do build that patio, I want it to extend to just beyond these windows so that if we ever have the means, we could put in this sliding door.

Some days, I just hate our main bathroom so much that I feel the urge to take a sledge hammer to it the first week Paul is away at camp, so that I have no choice but to re-tile the bathtub and remove the sliding doors.  A girl can dream...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Progress: Upholstery

I felt a flash of extra-overwhelmed-ness this morning, like "how will I get even one or two things from my Summer to-do list finished," until I realized that by the middle of June, I'll have no more external evening commitments - Juno's training class will be over, and so will choir rehearsals for the summer.  So the fact that I haven't had time or energy to even knit half a row of an unfinished project before turning off the light and going to sleep, or, say, do some more laundry, let alone make any small progress towards the many big things I want to do, is understandable.  It will all get better once other commitments drop away, and once Paul leaves for camp and I am free to go to sleep in a quiet house at 9:30 or 10:00pm.

To keep track of everything, I've created a new page on the blog (see it up there, below the header?  It's called Summer 2011 Projects) that has the same list as the previous post!  Also, I am making a vow to do at least one thing every day that moves me closer to some item on the list.  Even if it's a super-small thing, I will do something!

Today, I created a new Pinterest board to collect fabric samples and upholstry resources, since my list includes THREE (re)upholstry projects.  Here's the first fabric candidate I found:

So that counts as a small step towards my goal of reupholstering the old wooden chair in the living room!  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Summer Ambitions

I am getting REALLY excited for this summer!  My excitement is bubbling up today because I have made it official at work that I am going to work 9 hour days so that I can take off every other Wednesday, and I am using vacation days to take off most other Wednesdays through the first weekend in September.

I will be using many of my Wednesdays off to spend time at Camp Nawakwa, where my hubby will be spending his entire summer, but I have A LOT of other ambitions for my summer as well!  I decided that I'd be exponentially more likely to do certain things if I actually scheduled them on my calendar, especially the things that involve other people.  I just wrote a bit about this in an e-mail to my mom (as I scheduled a Summer Ambition with her!) and thought to myself, this should be in a blog post!

So here is what I have officially scheduled as of today:
  • Training classes with Juno, which started last Wednesday and run every Wednesday evening through June 8th
  • A road trip to visit my dear friend Rachel in Raleigh, North Carolina the second weekend in June
  • My first sewing lesson & quality time with my awesome Mom the first Wednesday after she's done with school, which also happens to be only a few days before she and my Dad leave on their summer vacation to South America.  Hopefully we will move on to a second and maybe even third sewing lesson.  I feel like I'm ready to take on sewing!  I have daydreams about handbags with perfectly placed pockets, linings and zippers for knitted items, and fresh pillow covers for my Ikea Tullsta chairs!
  • A trip to visit my dear friend Crystal in Alexandria, Virginia the second weekend in July
There are tons of other things I'm hoping to do this summer, including:
  • Gardening.  Duh.  This should probably go in the "already scheduled" list, since the garden is already planted and I will definitely need to care for it almost daily, but since it's something that I can't officially schedule and will require discipline to keep up with, I'm putting it in this list.
  • Eating meals & packing lunches that use whatever's growing in my garden to the fullest.  This will mean planning ahead, making some creative salads to pack over several days, eating more veggies than I would choose to eat if I relied entirely on my carb cravings to make my decisions, and a lot more discipline.
  • Bake bread instead of buying it, and use it for copious sandwiches (see previous bullet).  Paul was on a bread-making kick for a while, so hopefully sometime in May we can make bread together so he can pass on his knowledge to me.  I'd love to get a sourdough starter going in my fridge, but I'm not going to hold myself to that, so let's just focus on making some plain ol' white bread for now.
  • Finish cleaning out and organizing the basement, and in tandem with that, reorganize the office/3rd bedroom, in pursuit of my goal to own less stuff
  • Paint the second bedroom and hallway, including trim, and finally paint the trim in our bedroom
  • Paint the nightstand and bookcase in the second bedroom, something that coordinates with the rest of the room, and possibly painting the vanity-turned-changing-table too?  But that is up for debate.
  • Hang curtains in the second bedroom
  • Paint the fugly fugly vanity in the second bathroom
  • Paint, fill, and hang all picture frames, mainly on the entry wall in the living room and in the dining room
  • Mount the huge antique-style world map I got for Paul for his birthday last October on the wall above our low dresser in our bedroom (once I confirm that it will fit on that wall...I think it will).
  • Revamp the orange wood-framed armchair we got from Poppy - I LOVE this chair, but it needs new fabric that isn't cracked and plasticy, and I think once I have removed the current covering I will take the opportunity to sand down the frame and re-stain it too, like almost black to go with the couch but not painted so the wood grain can still show through.  Then maybe I can find a fabric that has some brown tones like the Tullsta chairs and ottomans, and then it will help tie all the furniture together!
  • Reupholster the seats of the dining room chairs, and possibly the back as well (but I'm not at all sure about the backs yet).  Doing the seats will be easy, though.  Possibly using the same fabric as for the chair in the previous bullet.
  • I almost forgot to include a project close to the top of my list, even with the other mentions of reupholstering things!  I am going to make an upholstered headboard for our bed.  Hopefully with some button tufting and everything!  And if it goes well, I might even make a second one for the second bedroom.
Wow.  It is going to be a busy summer, and I can't wait to get started!  Well, I can't wait to keep going, since I have already started a few things.  Can I do it??  Probably not everything, but most of it?