Archive | April, 2011

Spring Cleaning

30 Apr

Ask my mother, I’ve never been a particularly organized person.  My idea of cleaning usually involves piles that may or may not be categorized.  Lucky couples balance each other out; one might be a total neat freak, or someone who really enjoys cleaning the bathroom every day, or someone who doesn’t believe in material posessions.  Really lucky people find their match with some type of professional organizer.  I was not so lucky.  I went out and found someone with the same lazy organizational skills and attraction to clutter.

Since we started renting our first actual factual house, we made each other a promise.  We decided it was time to step up and make this home one to be proud of.  And we’ve done a really great job with that so far.  We keep everything clean, tidy, and everything has it’s place, so for the first time in my life I’m organized.  We’ve been here for six months now, so we decided it was time to go through the house and do some reorganizing.  It took us all afternoon on a beautiful day, but I’m happy to be done now, and everything looks great.  But the room I’m happiest about is my art room.

My art room is really a 3 season porch off the back of our carport, so during the winter it was out of commission.  This is also where we enter and exit the house, so it became a sort of catch-all for random stuff that didn’t have a place yet in the house; old knitting supplies, shoes, leaves I had been trying to sketch in the fall, broken pottery waiting to be thrown out, and another partial drum set that was rescued from the side of the road.  With winter officially behind us (I say NO MORE!) I had been meaning to clear the stacks of cast-off drawing attempts from my drafting table for a while so I could have my space back to become the next Picasso, so we tackled the art room first, and I’m so pleased with the results.

Even though my table is currently being occupied by the next generation of melons and squashes, they will soon be out the door and my space will truly be mine again.

All the old mail and half-finished drawings have been thrown out, the drumset is nestled safely in a closet, and the shoes are tucked neatly away.  From here I can look out at my garden and let it inspire me to (I hope) artistic greatness.  My supplies are all where I can find them easily.  Everything has a place, and now so do I.

CSA Season!

29 Apr

Yup, it’s here again, CSA season!  Just one of the many things about the summer months that excites me beyond words.  For those of you who don’t know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, if there is a farm in your area that functions as a CSA, you can buy a share, which means the farm uses your money to grow crops and you get to eat those crops.  If it’s a good year, you’ll have fresh produce coming out your ears, but it it’s a bad year, your share won’t be as big, because you share between many families.  So it’s like growing all your own crops, but you don’t have to work for it, and your money goes to support local farmers.  We are lucky enough to have a heritage farm in Grinnell.  A heritage farm is one that’s been in the same family for at least 150 years, so it’s kind of a big deal.  This farm actually has 2 CSAs running from it, and we’ve been fortunate to be a part of each.  This year we went with the Compass Plant CSA.  Our shares don’t officially start until May 10th, but as a thank-you they delivered a share to our door early.  In our early share was a bag of romaine lettuce, a smaller baggie of some sort of green, two bulbs of garlic, and a carton of farm fresh eggs.  Now, if you don’t know from personal experience, please visit your local Farmer’s Market ASAP, but I will tell you that fresh eggs are absolutely divine.  Also, they come in all sorts of fun colors depending on the type of chicken who laid them.  This particular CSA sells their eggs for a buck fifty for a carton, but I never dreamed we would get some for free.  It seems the season has begun with a bang, and promises to be a wonderful one.

So, in anticipation, and in celebration of these scrumptious treats we will be receiving every Tuesday, I am going to begin writing once a week about meals planned around our CSA share.  It’s local, it’s seasonal, and it’s fan-fucking-tastic.  To kick things off, I made a quiche out of the wonderful eggs we got this week.

Farm Fresh Quiche:

Saute in butter, oil, whatever you fancy:

1 bulb of hardneck garlic chopped

1/2 cup of greens (any green you have laying around will do)

1 10 oz package frozen spinach (if using fresh, use at least 1 C)

Whisk together:

5 eggs

1/4 C soy milk

1/4 C cheddar cheese

1/4 C gouda cheese

salt, pepper, and herbs (I used dried sage and frozen basil)

Place in the bottom of a greased pie pan:

1 pie crust (I use this one from SimplyRecipes, it makes enough for one pie and then an extra ball to freeze, or you could purchase one, I suppose)

Place the sauteed mixture in the crust, spread egg mixture on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the egg has set (If you stick a knife in and it comes out clean, you’re ready to eat!)

We enjoyed this quiche with a salad of the CSA romaine lettuce.

Guten Appetit!

The Gardenator

29 Apr

Yesterday and today I didn’t go to the gym.  Instead, I spent some serious time in our young garden.  If chopping up sod for 3 and a half hours doesn’t count as a workout, I don’t want to know what does.  That was yesterday.  Our landlord may live to rue the day he suggested we plant a garden and likewise when he gave us the go-ahead to use any part of one side yard as long as we didn’t go into the other yard.  I’m someone who follows the mantra “Go big, or go home.”  When it comes to my garden.  We’re ripping the whole thing up.

This is the fruit of yesterday’s labor.  One 2 foot by 20 foot strip is now planted with purple pole beans, shelling peas, yellow wax beans, sugar snap peas, green beans, and space for Nasturtiums at the right side.  I’m actually quite proud of the trellis system I came up with to pretty up what was once an unused and ugly clothes line.  All the sod in the foreground is where my tomato babies are going.  If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen much of them lately, it’s because they are not taking well to being hostages inside.  Most of them are SO ready to get out into the ground, and some are fading a bit.

Here we see Eric digging.  His method is a little less precise than mine, and doesn’t remove all the sod, but is quicker.  Pretend you are looking at the yard from this perspective:  If you turn to your left, you will see the view above of the peas and beans.  It’s hard work turning over a whole yard’s worth of sod, but it’s extremely satisfying.  Plus, I knew I could get away with another day away from the gym.  With a break for ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, we turned this patch near the house into this:

(From right to left) Two rows of spinach, radishes, romaine lettuce, butter head lettuce, green onions, and chamomile, dill and cilantro in squares at the end.  The next project in store for us is the 20 foot by 20 foot patch for the tomatoes, peppers, basil and possibly a few eggplant if I can jam them in.  I suspect we will combine forces as well as sod-busting styles in order to achieve this goal, since it is a big area.  But we have time, and my tomatoes need to be patient.  In the future these garden plots will be sod-free, but for now I expect to invest every spare moment in my garden, and don’t mind the prospect of having to weed it out, especially armed with my new mini-claw cultivator tool.  Now I’m looking into flower gardening as the next step.  We have a patch of lillies (I think) that I want to thin out and maybe add something else to, but I’m also looking into flowers or groundcovers that might do well underneath our maple tree.

What’s everyone else growing?  Any suggestions on flowers for me would be much appreciated since I’m pretty much only a vegetable gardener and a novice with flowers!

Silliness

28 Apr

So, I realized that I’ve been way too serious lately.  I don’t know if it’s the changes in the weather, the countdown to the Des Moines Farmer’s Market on my Facebook news feed, or the gradually unfurling magnolia tree in the park near our house, but I decided to celebrate the silly things in my life that make me happy.

1) I am 26 years old, and I’m still able to walk down the street listening to Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) on my iPod with a big smile on my face, bobbing my head and feeling like a total badass.  Also, when I’m at home and nobody is looking, I still do the dance.

2) When Eric farts next to me in yoga class after we’ve eaten chili for dinner, it’s all I can do to contain my laughter.

3) I think chicken nuggets and mac & cheese is a totally acceptable meal option.

4) Even though I’m quite happily married and way too old anyway, talking to the cute college boy who checks ID’s at the fitness center makes me feel like a giggly 16 year old again.

5) Def Leppard is still the best band ever.  And now I actually understand most of the lyrics.  “Make love like a man, I’m a man, that’s what I am.”  What’s up with that?  And why did my parents let me listen to that when I was a teenager?

6) I can make a Yer Mom joke about my own mom and it’s usually pretty damn hysterical.

7) 12 Inches of Snow

Photo Project: Colors of Spring

27 Apr

Every so often I like to pretend I’m a photographer.  This spring I noticed I have been looking at newly emerging plants with more than an admiring eye.  I wanted to capture the idea of the colors coming out all around me, and the life that had been keeping me company in our small town.  It was cloudy the day we went out with the camera, but I’ve discovered color correction and had fun playing with in order to achieve my ultimate goal. It was difficult to pick only four, but in the end it came down to my favorite plants as well as my best shots.

These are the colors of spring in Grinnell, Iowa

Yellow

Green

Red

Dusty Pink

Eli Hits the Road

26 Apr

We may not have kids yet in the conventional sense, but we still get high marks for being fussy parents.  Who are we parenting exactly?  Our cats of course.  This Easter weekend one of the little furballs got the special treatment.

When you’ve lived with any animal for a long period of time, you start to notice patterns in their behavior that make up their personalities.  In Eli’s case most of the time these are endearing traits of cuteness laced with evil intentions thinly disguised as squirreliness.  I spend most of my days at home with the cats, so I tend to notice when something is out of the ordinary, which is what happened Wednesday night.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Eli is a creature of habit.  If things aren’t just so in his little feline world, he get’s vocal about it.  He is fastidious to a fault, and will often drag objects such as paper, plastic bags, socks or my flip-flops over to the litter box to cover excess messes if it isn’t being cleaned out fast enough.  So when I noticed him squatting down in the bathroom sink right in front of me, I knew something was up.  First of all, the bathroom is Eli’s safe haven.  It’s where he goes when he gets overstimulated and starts biting everything in sight.  Usually mom and dad get tired of the nipping and give him a time-out, but sometimes he goes in there himself and has a little sit-down relax time on his pink rug.  I knew something was really off when he decided to take a squat on the rug almost immediately after he did a little business in the sink.

On our last visit to the vet for yearly boosters, I mentioned that our older cat, Thora doesn’t like to use the litter box in an attempt to gather some advice on what to do with her.  The vet told me about Feline Urinary Tract Infection as inappropriate urination is one of the symptoms.  It wasn’t what was wrong with Thora, but I kept the information tucked away just in case.  When Eli’s behavior hadn’t returned to normal last Thursday, I went on an info hunt to make sure I wasn’t just being paranoid.  I found that Eli had at least half of the symptoms listed on multiple sites and called our vet.  There wasn’t an appointment open that day, and we were scheduled to leave in the evening for the weekend, but the vet-tech I spoke with told me if I could bring in a urine sample, they could test it without an appointment.

This is where my story gets funny.  A URINE SAMPLE?  I was thinking.  How in the world was I going to get a urine sample from a cat?  Here I was, it was a little after 1pm on Thursday afternoon.  I had 4 loaves of bread proofing in the other room for the weekend, I still needed to go work out, I was due at the animal shelter at 5 for my volunteer work, and now I had to try to get a urine sample from my little baby boy who was sulking in the corner.  Luckily, Eric brought the car back to me after his afternoon meeting (I honestly think he was more worried about Eli than I was) just as I was able to get a tiny sample from Eli.  I called the vet again to see if this would be enough, and as luck would have it, an appointment had opened up.  Working out for the day got bumped off my to-do list and I was just able to finish my bread before heading to the vet with angry Eli in his crate.

The vet didn’t have anything really interesting to say.  Nothing came of the sample I brought in, so all we could do was watch and wait.  So, Eli came with us to Minnesota.  He’s a great rider as long as he isn’t stuffed in his box and doesn’t get carsick.  He spent both the trip up and back in my lap cuddling like crazy and hissing at passing trucks and rain.  Once we got to Eric’s parents house, we picked up some Purina Urinary tract health food and let him have an Easter feast of his own.

So, after a weekend of cuddling and relaxation away from Thora, Eli is back in the saddle, peeing like a champ, and I think we’re out of the woods for now.

As a worried feline mom, I will pass on a little bit of advice.  If you have a cat and don’t know the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, look into it now.  This can be very difficult to detect in your cat because as naturally solitary creatures, they tend to internalize their pain, and won’t give you a lot of cues that something is wrong.  Left untreated, this can lead to fatal infection.  There are a lot of good sites out there devoted to pet health and your vet probably has brochures in their office.  It’s not paranoia, just something to know about.  Ten minutes of your time could save your cats life.

Several Definitions of the Word “Pergola”

25 Apr

Wikipedia defines a pergola as “…a garden feature forming a shaded walk or passageway of pillars that support crossbeams and a sturdy open lattice, upon which woody vines are trained.”

My own home-grown foodie definition of a pergola is, “A structure on which to grow hops for the next generation of home brewers.”

The construction crew from left to right: Fawn, Gwen, Eric, Kevin, Dave (not pictured, Locke)

The Anderson Family (and extensions) defines building a pergola as, “An Easter weekend activity that is a whole lot of fun, involves lashing together bamboo poles, and somehow relates to beer.”