Spring Cleaning – A Mother’s Day Gift!

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Day 78

For our Mother’s Day gift this year, my mom asked us to come help clean out the back room in our basement. So, we spent yesterday afternoon inhaling dust until our noses ran while we all made giant donate piles to Good Will, discovered forgotten childhood toys and more nineties/early two thousand clothes than you could shake a hanger at. Like most basements, it was full of junk and hidden treasures – a giant box of photos, favorite picture books, kindergarten art projects, and a few jackets with shoulder pads in them.

Although this sounds like a crummy afternoon, it was a lot of fun sorting through old stuff. There was a lot of “I can’t believe I wore this!” to “Amanda! I still have your baby arm cast! And look! Your tiny sneakers! Oh! Melissa! Here’s your baby footprints! Here, take one, I have tons still.” (They are now up on our fridge in the apartment.) Basically, it was my favorite kind of Mother’s Day – hanging out and talking about the funny things we’ve done as a family. Afterwards, Dad made us all pasta carbonara and we took the rest of the evening off and watched A Long Kiss Goodnight – one of mom’s favorite action movies – while Winston slept on my feet.

As much fun as yesterday was, this afternoon was exhausting. The three boxes I hauled home were full of stuff from college – papers, notes, exams, posters, books, postcards – you name it, it was probably in that box. I sat on the floor of our apartment for a good three hours listening to podcast after podcast while tossing, keeping and sorting. It was grueling – not as grueling as actually writing all of those papers – and I feel better after recycling about a half ton of paper. Next weekend or the weekend after, I’ll be bringing back a couple more tubs to go through and then it will be on to my parent’s garage! Dun dun duhhhhhh.

On the less grueling side, we also discovered some plates, christmas tree decorations, a teapot, dish towels and a pepper grinder that I bought and put away before I moved out to Massachusetts! Thankfully, I still like the dishes and I’m hoping Josh will like them too.

Sometimes, happiness is complicated; other times, it’s as simple as cleaning out a basement.

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Friends, Books and the Bookstore Bar!

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Day 60

Today was a drizzly cold spring day but we’re nearing the end of April (hurrah!) so it’s still light out at 7:30 which somehow makes getting through damp days easier.

Tonight Josh had a coworker send-off at Sazarac (where we saw the football players in late January) while I met up with a friend at the Bookstore Bar downtown. I’ve wanted to visit this bar for years but have never managed to see what it was about. I finally went when Josh and I stopped in on our way to the Sounders game in late March. And now, after only two visits, it’s well on the way to being my favorite place in Seattle.

It’s shelves are full of antique books and it has a beautiful wood and marble bar lit by old fashioned, glass-shaded library lamps. Basically, the perfect place for having a glass of wine, reading a book – which I did while waiting for my friend to arrive – or sitting and visiting with people. Tonight, a friend and I shared a wedge of baked brie with honey, raspberry jam and crackers while we caught up on what the other was up to this week. I wish I had a picture of the brie, but it was so good that we were snacking away before I even thought to take one.

Either way, the company was amazing, the food was tasty and it was the perfect way to finish off my Wednesday.

 

Saturday!

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Day 49

In case you don’t live where I live, that is a chicken/hen house made out of chocolate with a chicken in the doorway and a rooster on the roof. It’s showcased at our local bakery down the street. This morning, I managed to snap a picture while I was in a line twenty-five people deep – waiting for a coffee and a croissant before I met up with a good friend (which was totally worth it, FYI!)

Either way, today was pretty crazy busy for us. As a result, I’m updating this much later than I would like but I promise to have a full post tomorrow (Sunday.) I hope everyone has a good night!

April Showers Bring…April Birthdays

Day 42

Unfortunately, tonight will be a short post but for a happy reason. We are down visiting a set of my parents and their friend for a giant April birthday celebration. We are actually at a restaurant in downtown Tacoma at the moment waiting for a table. To tide everyone over until tomorrow, here are a few pictures from this afternoon:

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To be fair, this pic is a little older than this afternoon… But I’m not saying how old.

My Love of Cheese is Pretty Infinite.

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Day 40

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and cheese was always there for me. No, seriously; cheese goes with any occasion. Celebrating a friend’s new job? Grab some cheddar. Having friends over for a fancy dinner party? Eat some brie and water crackers. Having a lazy Thursday night in? Forget making a meal, just go to Trader Joe’s and buy a smorgasbord of meats and cheeses. I can’t exactly pinpoint when cheese became my go-to comfort food in life, second only to mashed potatoes, but I can remember the first time I had goat cheese rolled in chives and I can tell you I was a convert from then on.

Either way, with my technology ban on (and failing slightly at that) and the rain, it’s been a solidly grey day. After fighting the blahs with an almost three mile run, I’m turning to my other favorite blah-fighting weapon, mac and cheese. There’s just something about the ooey-gooey deliciousness of pasta and cheese that’s unbeatable. Luckily, now that I’m a grown up I don’t have to wait for my mom to decide to bring out the holiday mac and cheese and I can make my own quick version. It may not be quite as tasty – because who can honestly beat their mom or dad’s homemade meals – but it satisfies my desire for cheese.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I originally found this recipe, but I’ll post the steps and ingredients here instead of linking. If it’s still cold and rainy where you are, try this out before summer – it’s definitely delicious!

Mac and Cheese  (takes about 20 -30 min.)

1/2 lb bag of pasta – any shape you’d like
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
4 tbs flour
3/4 cup milk or half & half
1 tsp crushed garlic, or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Bread crumbs (optional)
You can also add whatever vegetables you’d like here. Normally, we add peas and onions or mushrooms and green peppers.

First, fill a pot with water and set it to boil. Next, mix the flour, mustard, garlic or garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the milk or half & half and stir until it forms a smooth paste. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 cup milk/ half & half on medium low. Add the pasta to the boiling water and reduce heat (so the pot doesn’t boil over like it did for me!).

Grate roughly 2 cups cheddar cheese; the finer the better because it will melt quicker and make fewer lumps in the sauce. Add the paste to the warm milk on the stove and then gradually stir in the cheese with a whisk. Make sure you’ve grated all the cheese you need because you need to keep whisking. Once you’ve added all the cheddar, gradually stir in the parmesan. If the sauce doesn’t seem thick enough, keep stirring. After about ten minutes it should be thick enough, but if it isn’t, add a tiny dusting of flour and stir in. Only add a little at a time because you don’t want to end up with lumps. If the sauce is too thick, add a tiny bit of half & half (tiny = same reason as the flour.)

Once the pasta is done, drain it and top it with the cheese sauce. Stir to coat. If you’d like, you can stop here or take it one step further and put it in an oven safe dish, add the veggies and cover in a thin layer of bread crumbs with a little salt and pepper on top. Set the oven to broil and when the breadcrumbs start to brown, take it out and enjoy!

Itty, Tiny Seedlings!

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Day 39

I’ve talked a lot about urban gardening this past month and finally started my seed project this afternoon! Growing from seeds was always something I thought was for primary school science projects or grass seed; that gross green blue papery stuff my dad always told us to steer clear of when we were kids playing in the yard. Some years, he’d even go so far as to place miniature stakes and string marking off the bald patch and for a few weeks, it’d be this off shade of green in comparison with the real grass. After awhile, though, a few bits of young grass would poke through and then we really weren’t allowed to touch it, let alone trample on it on our way up the tree. But, growing seeds isn’t just for children or lawn grooming – surprise! It’s actually pretty satisfying and relatively (my fingers are crossed) easy to do.

For a long time, I just assumed when the end product mattered, gardening – like the ability to grow an edible carrot – it was for people that knew what they were doing. Well, if my seeds grow in my tiny greenhouses, it’ll turn out that ANYONE can do it! So, we’ll see where the seeds are in a few weeks – hopefully on their way outside to be hardened up before being planted.

If you’re interested in doing this on your own, I would suggest doing some online reading, book reading or checking in with your local plant nursery if you don’t already have a first-hand resource to go to. In any case, these are the steps I took.

Step One
Choose your seeds! I had a lot of fun picking which herbs I wanted. In a true process of elimination, I went with the ones I found myself returning to the grocery store for again and again. Rosemary, cilantro and dill. I also picked up some lavender, chamomile and chives. Once we figure out the planter situation for the back porch, I’ll move on to things like tomatoes, tomatillos, strawberries, sweet peas, peppers, jalapeños and flowers.

Step Two
Buy some supplies. I didn’t need anything fancy, just some seedling pots and a small bag of seedling soil (I honestly don’t even know if I needed to be especially picky here, but I wanted to make sure I got something that didn’t have Miracle Grow in it, since we’re going to be eating these, not looking at them). Oh, and a spray bottle. We didn’t have one laying around the house, so I spent a whopping $2 and purchased one.

With the seedling pots, I made sure I got the kind that are biodegradable and can be taken and planted straight into the final container. I figured this was the simplest route because I won’t have to pry the plant loose later on.

Step Three
Get our kitchen table dirty!

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For about thirty seconds, I tried to contain the mess and then just decided I didn’t care enough. Going by a combination of directions from the back of the seed packet and consulting the urban homesteading book, I used a pencil to plant the seeds at about the right depth (I hope.)

Step Four
Spoon a little more dirt over the top and press down loosely, like you’re tucking something in bed. No need to pound it down. Then, spoon a little more dirt on top.

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Step Five
Wet the little dirt patches thoroughly with some tepid water from the spray bottle. To avoid making our table even more suitable for mud pies, I did this part over the sink. I’d have taken an action shot with the spray bottle in there, but I only have so many hands.

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Step Six
Next, arrange/finagle these little seed homes into some kind of plastic bag. I used gallon sized ziplocks and labeled them accordingly so I wouldn’t forget which was which.

Step Seven
Squish them together on a windowsill and hope something grows!

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Horrible, No Good, Very Bad etc.

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Day 28 

So tonight, we are having a few friends over for dinner and I decided it would be a great chance to cross off making ravioli. I spent all day making the dough, rolling out the dough, cutting out tiny ravioli squares, making the sweet potato ricotta filling….Basically, I did everything but harvest the wheat and grow the sweet potatoes. This morning, Josh went on a fifty mile bike ride and came back to help me fill all the tiny squares. We were racing against the clock and as we finally finished, we had two hours to spare for actually cooking the ravioli, sauce-making and getting ourselves semi-presentable. The ravioli were a little odd looking, but I decided the taste would probably make up for it. 

We started to pick them up off the kitchen table and realized they were basically glued to the table top from the water and flour. Eighty ravioli stuck to the kitchen table. In case that doesn’t seem like a huge number, eighty ravioli was the better part of a five pound bag of flour and a carton of eggs. I won’t lie, I cried. I cursed the kitchen-gods and was getting ready to scrape them up and  throw them away when Josh, very sensibly, unilaterally decided to save them for our lunch tomorrow. We managed to pry them off the table (I think my salt-tears helped) and threw them in tupperware. He then ran to the store to buy some pasta while I cleaned up the disaster-zone our kitchen area had become. 

I was in a foul mood, Josh was in a foul mood – my entire arms hurt from spending an entire morning and afternoon rolling out pasta dough and I was upset I hadn’t been able to post on my blog yet. Then, as I was throwing dishes in the dishwasher I managed to squirt my only clean shirt with dish soap. I cursed again. Josh took over dishes while I rinsed the soap out. Now, this is the best part of the story. 

We own a Nutribullet – it’s a machine with very sharp blades that helps you make smoothies. Josh drinks one every morning as part of his breakfast and sometimes leaves them half-finished, with the lid on, in the sink. Well, this one had been in the sink for a few days because I couldn’t get the top off and I finally decided it was Josh’s dish and he could wash it. 

So, he got around to washing it just after I changed my shirt. He twisted the cap off and BANG! semi-fermented shake went everywhere. 

“Are you ok?!” yelled Josh.

“I think so… ugh, now it smells like vinegar and gross vegetables in here! My shirt took a hit!” 

“I should have known it could have caused an explosion! That was so cool! I think I have tinnitus.” 

We then spent the next five minutes laughing. Sometimes, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If I’m lucky, the straw makes me laugh.  

Birthday Dinner!

Day 27

Today, I spent the afternoon getting supplies together for dinner – hamburgers from the butcher, chocolate chocolate chip sea salt cookies and more jam. The burgers I made were a little too tiny for the buns but still delicious. I would have a longer post but unfortunately, my mom’s computer is on the fritz so I’m typing this from my phone. Therefore, this will be a picture update.

Here are a few pictures from the evening!

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We all had a great time and I will write a better post once I have a working computer!