Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thankful Thursday--June 30

Hi Friends!  (Family?  Random strangers?)

I meant to pre-write this post, then I meant to write it this morning, then later this morning, and well, time is short this week, so it's just now going up.  I hope you'll understand!

While time is short this week, opportunities for thankfulness are numerous.  DAR week is always about time well-spent with friends (some of whom almost always turn out to be family if you dig deep enough!).  Many of my closer Paging friends aged out this year and did not make the trip.  Though I miss the time spent with these "old" friends, I've been afforded the opportunity to spend time with others who I hadn't gotten to know as well, and even to make new friends.  What a blessing that is!  (Stop me before I launch into the Girl Scout song "Make New Friends"...)

I'm thankful, too, for the Opening Night program last night.  In twelve years of coming to Continental Congress (at least half of which I've actually paid close attention during), I've not been so moved by an evening's program.  We had six speakers, who each offered their own experience on, or as a result of, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on our country.  We heard from the past director of the White House Situation Room who was with President Bush on the day of the attacks,  a General with the NY National Guard, a Pentagon fire-fighter, two men whose brothers were killed in the attacks--one in the Pentagon and one on Flight 93, and the Director of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which will open at Ground Zero.  While it is not uncommon to find yourself in a "where were you on 9/11?" conversation, I'd never been afforded the opportunity to hear so many different, but equally involved, perspectives.  It was simply amazing.

Finally this week, I'm thankful for my family.  For J, who is holding down the fort at home.  For my mom, for doing the necessary research for me to belong to this organization (and for putting up with me as her roommate!), and for my ancestors who gave so much of themselves to start this awe-inspiring experiment we call the United States!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Puppy Love

This June, we celebrated ten years since Zeppelin joined our family (well, we were a little family of two for quite a while, but it has been ten years, regardless).  Zep's birthday is actually in April, but I didn't meet the little ball of fur until after he had been weaned.  He is definitely getting older (and boy is he turning into a grumpy old man!), but Zep still loves to go for a w-a-l-k.  Here is a picture I took of him last week on the walking trail behind our house:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

To Ewe, with (conditional) love

I think I've managed to touch on a few of our hobbies that we're not exactly talented at (golf, gardening among others), so I figured I would add another.  Last August I took up knitting.  Now, having been a knitter for almost a year now, I think I've settled into my knitting routine, which is to say I knit when I'm attending DAR meetings or conferences that require someone else drive and/or run the meeting.  These don't happen often, so it probably goes without saying that I haven't accomplished much.  Well, to be completely honest, I've made two scarves.  That's it.  So much for my plan to give them away as Christmas gifts last Christmas.  And probably for the back up plan to give them as gifts this Christmas...

Anyhow, as I mentioned in Sunday's post, I left Monday for DAR Continental Congress.  Fitting all the criterua (DAR meeting, no driving, no running the meeting), I grabbed my needles and yarn.  While I spent most of the time on the bus visiting with friends or reading, I did manage to get a new scarf started.  Here is where it stands now.  With luck (and dedication) I migh get this one half-finished before I get home!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ding, dong!

I mentioned in this post that I was tired of the brass doorbell that clashed completely with our new door hardware.  Well, while at Home Depot last week (on a completely unrelated wild goose chase of a mission), I decided to drop by the doorbell aisle to see what I could do about it.  In general, there were very few brushed nickel doorbell plates, and I disliked most of them.  That said, I really disliked the rusting brass piece we already had more, so I bit the bullet and picked one.  Now, the funny part (not actually funny in the "haha" sense...more in the "what was I thinking" sense) is that I actually purchased a doorbell converter set because it has the plate I disliked the least. 

Replacing a doorbell faceplate is actually pretty easy.  You'll need a screwdriver or two (depends on the type of screws holding your existing faceplate, as well as the screws on the doorbell itself), as well as a pair of needlenose pliers.  First, remove the existing faceplate and pull the doorbell away from the wall.  Remove the bell from the wires (either unscrew the screws that hold each of the wires to the button mechanism or just pull firmly) and slide the faceplate off the back of the mechanism.  Then, slide the new faceplate on and reattach the wires.  This is when I needed the needlenose plies to curl the ends of the wires.  This helped hold them in place while I tightened the screws.  Then, slide the whole unit back into the wall and screw the new faceplate into the wall. 

Now, this only works if the hole in the old and new faceplates are the same.  If not, you'll have to replace the entire button mechanism.  Having figured out the process as easily as I did, I think I could have replaced the button mechanism as well, but again, I was being pretty picky.  The unit I bought was beyond my comprehension, so I was stuck with the simple faceplate replacement.  While I'm not entirely pleased with the final product, it is SO much better than the brass we started with!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


J mentioned in Saturday's post that I'm heading to Washington this week for DAR.  I think I've talked before about paging (Pages are DAR members under 40 who sort of keep things running smoothly behind the scenes during our meetings).  This week I'll be paging for the Guest Hospitality Committee.  This is my third year working with this committee at Continental Congress, and I really enjoy it.  Basically, our committee welcomes guests to Constitution Hall prior to business and evening sessions.  The evening sessions are particularly busy since that is when most of our award recipients come. 

Anyhow, today's sermon really spoke to me in light of my paging assignment this week.  The scripture reading for the day was Matthew 10:40-42.  The part that our priest focused on was in verse 40--"Jesus said, 'Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.'"   His sermon then talked about the difference between being hospitable and being welcoming.  See, being hospitable is (for me, at least) generally easy.  To make sure that your guest has whatever he or she needs.  You pass them on to the next person or place.  You move on to the next person.  To be welcoming though, you generally have to give something of yourself.  It's like how we often ask others how they are when we don't really intend to stop and listen to the answer.  It's the hospitable thing to ask.  It's the welcoming thing to actually listen to the answer and respond accordingly.

So this week, while serving in the Guest Hospitality role, I'm going to try awfully hard to be more than hospitable to our guests at DAR.  I'm going to try to listen to the whisper that reminds me to be welcoming, too. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Smells Like . . . Low-Carb Pizza Take 2

Hello all, J here. JE is at a funeral (a former state regent) and has to pack for national DAR conference. As such, she was able to convince me that I could stop playing my new Batman video game long enough to write a blog post about our second attempt at low carb pizza.

As I said in the last post, the two hardest things for me in being on Atkins is: (a) the absence of Chik-fil-a; and (b) the lack of pizza. I've solved the first one, as Chick-fil-a's website proudly states that you can get a "protein" version of their sandwiches (i.e. no bun, but with large lettuce leaves) for between 3 carbs (grilled) and 12 carbs (classic breaded). So every now and then, I indulge in a bit of Chick-fil-a.

As for the second one, the cauliflower pizza from last time is okay, but it's just heavy and I can't get the crust right. Enter Dr. and Mrs. Hiter. JE's parents have been doing this Atkins thing off and on for a while, so when JE went home for a bit, she picked their brains. Turns out, Kroger and other major chains often carry high fiber flat breads (sometimes with added flaxseed) that can be used for mini-pizzas! Now, this doesn't work on induction, or when you're trying to keep the carb count extremely low, but if you're at the maintenance stage, or you need a bit of a treat, these things are awesome.

To make the low-carb version I'm talking about you'll need:

a low carb flat bread from your local grocery (often in the bakery section) (We used "Flat-out," pictured below)

You'll also need one can of tomato sauce, one can of tomato paste, seasonings for your sauce (I use minced garlic, fresh basil and oregano and one packet of Truvia, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes) and whatever pizza toppings you want (I had mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and ground beef). Mix the tomato sauce, paste and seasonings in a bowl (taste often). Then spread the mixture on the flat bread as you like (thick coat or thin) and put the toppings on top. Place the pizza on a silpat on a cooking sheet and put in a 400 degree oven for around ten minutes. Also, you can put the pizza directly onto the oven grate for even crispier crust.

The final product is much better than the cauliflower pizza. Still, the cauliflower pizza does well for induction, and this version should only be used as a treat until you reach your maintenance weight.

Later. I'm off to play more Batman Arkam Asylum.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sick Day

So I had an awesome Thursday night. J watched the NBA draft (yay for the four Wildcats drafted!), and I spent the evening curled up with him on the couch with a book. While the thought that I ought to write a blog post crossed my mind, the urge to stay on re couh with my book was stronger. "I'll write it in the morning," I told myself. Famous last words, right?

I woke up just in time to head to work, feeling not so great. The feeling continued to worsen until the girl with the shift after mine came in a little early. I headed for home and dropped into bed for several hours. Isn't it amazing how much your body can heal itself with sleep? I woke up late in the day feeling much better, though I'm sill a little wiped out. Sadly, that means it's after nine at night and I'm just now thinking about the post. Oops. I'm hopeful that after a good night's sleep I'll wake up feeling more like myself. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guess I'll go eat worms (aka Thankful Thursday--June 23)

Do you remember that song "Nobody likes me; everybody hates me; guess I'll go eat worms"?  I'm totally feeling that this week.  I think that the preparation for being out of town for the next couple of weeks (DAR in DC next week and Stella & Dot in San Francisco the week after) has me a little stressed out.  Together with trying to get work done on the house, meet deadlines that will come up in the next few weeks, etc. I'm just a little moody.  While being grumpy makes it hard to think about the things for which I am thankful, I know that taking a moment to count my blessings would probably be helpful, too.  So here goes:

This week, I'm thankful  Okay, so I'm thankful for our house and for the endless opportunities it provides for us to learn new skills and practice patience.   I'm thankful for jobs, whether full- or part-time, especially when so many people still cannot find one that provides for them.  And I'm thankful for our little garden.  For our two growing jalapeno peppers, for the two little pepper nubbins we found on the jalapeno plant last night, and for the blossoms on Rutgers, our heirloom tomato.

What are you thankful for this week?  And do you get grumpy when you're a little over-anxious?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If only this were smell-o-vision

I wish you could smell this picture!  J made spaghetti sqash marinara for supper Tuesday night.  When I walked in the door from a meeting, the yummy smell of roasting spaghetti squash was wafting through the house.  Shortly after, he made the marinara sauce using herbs from our container garden!  Here's a shot of the sauce--delicious!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A trio of talents

With J being out of town working on his own talent (talent might be too strong of a word, but golf is definitely a hobby...) this weekend, I had plenty of time to work on my own.  Unfortunately, I totally wasted most of that time on Glee, and watching Netflix is hardly a talent. 

I did, though, work two extended shifts at W-S and with Father's Day on Sunday (not to mention that we're in the midst of wedding season), there were a ton of packaged to be giftwrapped.  Y'all know I was in heaven!  I also had the opportunity to provide some gift wrap training to a new employee.  Watching her try to wrap reminded me that giftwrapping really is a talent, and one that not everyone has.  On the other hand, she is a wonderful cook and has me beat in that part of the store any day!  I can't wait until the holidays when I can move back to the giftwrap desk full-time!

I also spent a little time making chocolate buttercream frosting.  When I first started decorating cakes, I was unhappy with my attempts at chocolate buttercream (not nearly chocolate-y enough).  I think I've created a pretty good version using Hershey's Cocoa powder, and I've learned which type of cocoa powder should yield even better results. 

Finally, I worked on the serving tray bulletin board.  The first layer of cork is currently under a ton of books (maybe a half-ton, but still...).  I used a thicker, but smaller sized cork for the first layer, and then I plan to cover it with a layer of thin rolled cork for a seemless look.  With luck, that will be ready for next week's Tuesday's Talent post.

Monday, June 20, 2011

MP Photo Updates

I decided that you might appreciate a few pictures to see what is going on at the MP this week!
First up, this is the bathroom, as viewed from our bedroom.  I so love to look up from our bed to see the new bathroom, particularly how the darker blue of the bathroom plays with the lighter blue of our bedroom walls.  Also, in the picture you can see the artwork we had framed and hung above the toilet.  It took me forever to settle on the matting, but I ended up going with a greenish color that perfectly coordinates with the glass sink.  This picture also reminds me that we need to put in a piece of trimwork between the hallway floor and the new marble tile in the bathroom...

Next, I have to gush for a moment about our container garden.  This is a picture of Container Two, which is proving to be the more fruitful of our two containers (The Cilantro in Container One is completely dead and one of the Better Boy tomatoes appears to be close behind...).  The exciting part is located in the lower right part of the garden--we have baby jalapenos!!  Two of the blooms that were on the plant when I bought it have turned into little peppers and we have at least a dozen more buds and blooms on the plant, too.  I have a feeling that the jalapeno corer we purchased at Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago is going to get used a lot this summer!

Finally, I mentioned our new barritser bookcases last Thursday, but I wanted to show you a picture of how and where they will be placed!  First the how--

There are four seperate cases here.  The gentleman we got them from had a total of twelve stacked three high and four wide.  Unfortunately, he'd already promised 8 of them by the time I get the message, so I took the four remaining.  I tried them in two configurations:  four high X one wide and two X two.  Now (to answer where), for the past few years we have had two bookcases in our library.  Interestingly (to me, at least), each roughly matched each of the possible configurations for the barrister bookcases.  Of course, neither of the existing bookcases matched the rest of the library furniture or the new bookcases. Now, the new bookcases don't really match the oak cabinets or desk either, but I think they look better together.  So I emptied and removed both of the old bookcases and will replace the long, low bookcase with the two X two configuration pictured above.

Now, because the library has flooded before (though only once as compared to the half dozen or so times the adjoining laundry and family rooms have flooded), I'm hesitant to place these directly on the floor.  Any suggestions as to how to build a platform to set them on that would raise them a few inches would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

J and I were both blessed with awesome dads, granddads and men who stepped into both roles as needed throughout our lives.  Today, we say thank you to all of those wonderful men!

Happy Father's Day to all of you!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday smells like...lunch meat and cheese

Odd title, right?  Unfortunately, this is the food most smelled around the MP in the last week.  Before he left J was working a lot to prep for being out of town and I was either in meetings or on my own.  Also, we were out of town last weekend, which is really what prompted the meat and cheese-fest around here. 

Used to we would stop in Bardstown or E'town on our way west (or south) to grab a sandwich at Subway.  Last Friday, with bread off the menu (for J, at least), we stopped at the Bardstown Wal-Mart to hit up the deli.  Then Sunday, on our way back, we did the same thing at the Madisonville Kroger.  It was there that I re-kindled my old love affair with sharp cheddar.  Back in grad school, I spent one summer eating little else but cheddar sandwiches.  You have to get it from the deli so that you can get sharp (or better yet, super sharp) cheddar, and so that you can get it sliced extra thick.  A slab of cheddar, a slice of fresh summer onion and a bit of ketchup is far and away my favorite summer sandwich! 

Other favorites this week?  Baby Swiss and thick sliced roast beef--together with some gourmet mustard (with barely smashed mustard seeds)--yum!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Feeling flighty

I don't generally struggle with insomnia (I leave that to J), but I've had a terrible time getting to sleep during J's trip this year.  I vaguely recall similar struggles with sleeping in the past when he's been gone, but this year is definitely worse.  Maybe it's the instant access to Glee?  I'm up to Episode 15 of Season One, by the way.  Regardless, the too few hours of sleep the last couple of nights and the too many hours at work left my head all over the place with no real topic for today's post.  Definitely a flighty Friday at the MP!

Hope you have great plans for your weekend!  I have a couple projects around the house to tackle (hopefully I'll have pics to share Monday), and eight more episodes of Season One to watch, as well as more work and a DAR meeting.  And probably a couple more sleepless nights.  See you tomorrow!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thankful Thursday--June 16

This week, I'm thankful for friends, specifically J's friends from childhood, with whom he takes an annual golf trip.  Now, I'm not particularly looking forward to an empty house this weekend (obviously Zep is with me, but he's not much for chit chat), but I am so glad that J can have a long weekend with guys who set aside their own lives to help make my husband's a little better.

I'm thankful, too, for the older gentleman at our church who put insanely low asking prices on some of his household items as he prepares to move across the country to be closer to his family.  J and I are the new owners of some lovely barrister bookcases, as well as a complete set of the Great Books of the Western World (first edition, since the second edition came out in 1990 and contained 60 volumes--ours only has the original 54).

Finally, I'm thankful for Netflix.  J and I have had Netflix for several years now, and I've always taken advantage of the more traditional way of using it (receive a DVD, watch it, send it back, receive another).  In the last couple of weeks, though, I've started using the Instant Watch option to discover TV shows that I've otherwise missed.  Doc Martin, which is currently running on KET, is a particular new favorite that we both enjoy, but I'm also using J's absence this weekend to introduce myself to Glee.  It may have taken a while (years, I know), but I'm totally hooked!  In the past, I'd have had to pay huge amounts of money to purchase or even rent a season of either show.  Now, considering that our monthly subscription to Netflix is basically a sunk cost, it's kind of like watching them for free.  Pretty awesome.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bit by bit...

I was doing something in the bathroom today (re-hanging a towel bar to be specific),  and I looked around at all of the changes we've made in the last several months.  While we've undertaken several smaller projects, the bathroom reno is by far our biggest effort.  Are there things I'd do differently?  Probably.  We've learned a lot.  But when I look at the picture below, of the hole that started the hole project (particularly the little divot on the side of the hole, which is at the top in the picture below), I'm actually rather grateful.  That hole prompted us to undertake an awesome learning experience and we have a beautiful bathroom now!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Green Thumb

I can't think of a talent more appropriate for Tuesday's Talent than gardening, where being talented has it's own name--having a Green Thumb.  Unfortunately, I don't think J and I have one.  Now, I can keep a ponsettia plant alive after Christmas, but beyond that I think we've proven ourselves better at cutting plants down around here (Examples A and B, respectively).  I talked last week about our new container garden, and thought I would share pics of the plants in the containers, as well as the legend I made for us to keep up with what is where.

Container One
Container Two

Here's the legend:

Now, the pictures of the garden above were taken just after I planted everything.  I'm a bit concerned that today, one week post-planting, our tomatoes are yellowing and the herbs don't seem to be producing new herbs.  The cilantro, which I purchased recently trimmed looks practically dead.  Any suggestions? 

Monday, June 13, 2011


Remember last week, when I gave you my list of summer projects?  Well, I kind of left some things out.  Namely, the front of our house!  We never painted the shutters last summer/fall.  When the front door was a natural wood color and the shrubs covered most of the house, no one really noticed that the shutters were green. 

Before:  Mostly hidden green shutters that at least kind of match the oak door

Now that the front door is black and there are no shrubs, the green stands out like a sore thumb!  Also, the brass doorbell next to the brushed nickel storm door handle drives me nuts every time I walk in the front door. 

After:  Pretty black door, no overgrown shrubs, and eek!  Scary green shutters!!

So, add these to the list:
  • Paint/Replace shutters
  • Replace doorbell
And maybe, just maybe:
  • Address brass porch light (replace or paint black)
  • Buy/build black trellis for roses
  • Build pretty new mailbox post
The bathroom edges toward completion, but I've still got a light fixture to order.  I'll post a picture when we pick one!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Road trippin'

One of my favorite things to do with J is take a road trip.  Since we live about four hours from our families, you'd think this would happen frequently, but sadly it really doesn't.  Particularly this spring, since I've worked most Sundays there just hasn't been time for a weekend trip to western KY.  This weekend, though, I cleared the whole weekend so we could go celebrate this little cutie:

You might remember I made a cake to celebrate her birth last June (pictured here), but this weekend was just about basking in her precious presence.  Isn't she adorable??  That's about as messy as her cake got, by the way.  She barely touched it until her parents went after her spoon, and even then she just used it to scrape off frosting.  Cute!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday smells like... Shirataki Noodle Alfredo

We're trying not to overwhelm y'all with Atkins-friendly meals here at the MP, but since that is J's life right now, and he's the house chef, we have a lot of Atkins-friendly recipes.

I shared here about using Spaghetti Squash in a spaghetti marinara.  I loved the vegetable-ness that the squash added to the veggie-marinara, but when you use an alfredo sauce it just loses something.  J solved the problem when he came across Shirataki Noodles.  Shirataki Noodles are also called Yam Noodles.  You can learn more about them here, or just google either name.  Basically, they are made from a vegetable root and are very popular in Asia.  What makes them popular here is that they are naturally low in carbohydrates.  The noodles are a little rubbery, but they are much more like pasta in that respect than spaghetti squash.

Shirataki Noodles come packaged in liquid and smell a little fishy.  If you rinse them in very hot water, it removes the smell and makes them a little less rubbery, too.  For this dish, we grilled a chicken breast, sliced it and tossed it in a cheesy alfredo sauce that J found at Aldi.   Then, we added the prepared noodles and stir them all together.  There is enough for three to four servings, so plan to have leftovers if you're serving two people!

I took a picture, but honestly this isn't the most appetizing looking dish.  I suppose we could have served the noodles first and added the sauce later, then garnished with an herb of some sort to make it prettier, but we didn't.  Next time, perhaps...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fiction Friday--June 10

Edit:  I thought I scheduled this to post Friday morning, but apparently it didn't.  Sorry about that.

When I was a kid I loved to read. I preferred fiction, but would read magazines, comic books, my mother's etiquette book, anything I could get my hands on.  Generally, but especially during the summer, my parents enforced a good book/bad book rule, which is to say that for every book of decent literary value I could read a bookor two of no intellectual value whatsoever.  Think Jane Eyre in exchange for Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High.  I loved the classics and poured through our copies at home, but often found myself borrowing books from friends and the local library, too. 

My recent 'rediscovery' of the local public library has lead me a rediscovery of how much I enjoy reading.  I'm sure my parents will be crushed to discover that I've not exactly left the chick-lit section of the library yet, but I promise to reinstitute the good book/bad book rule soon.

But not tonight.  Tonight J stopped on his way home and picked up Sweet Valley Confidential--a brand new book that checks in on Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield "Ten Years Later".  I loved the Wakefield twins as a kid, from the time I discovered Sweet Valley Twins in third grade until I finally gave up on the series in high school--I didn't really get into the SVU series that came out around then.  Because it is in such high demand (I was on a waitlist to check it out), this book has a fourteen day check out limit.  I told J to give me fourteen hours.

Did you have favorite books or series when you were younger?  Do you read as an adult?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thankful Thursday--June 9

This is one of those weeks where I am so thankful that I don't have a full-time job!  I've had the opportunity to fill a wide open week with volunteer work, time spent with friends, time to clean my house (the big stuff, but the little detailed areas that usually get overlooked, too!), and time to be crafty (yes, I consider building the EarthTainer "crafty").  It's awesome, and I'm incredibly thankful that my lifestyle allows for weeks like this.

I'm thankful, too, for an incredibly sweet little girl who turned one on Tuesday.  J and I will be heading to western KY this weekend to celebrate the first year of her life with my best friend from college and her husband (also an old friend of mine).  The best part (for which I am extra thankful) is that S married a farmer who lives just a few miles from J's dad.  So while I get quality girl time, he gets quality family time.  Win-win!

Finally, I'm thankful for Steve at Hartland Computer Services.  While my laptop could not be saved, Steve was able to recover all of the important pictures and files I had failed to back up.  I'm also thankful that we live in a house with an overabundance of computers so we can hold off on replacing my laptop with minimal problems.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Great EarthTainer

So I'm totally cheating, since I promised to add this picture to yesterday's post, but it makes more sense to use it for a Wordless Wednesday post.  Here is our first EarthTainer before plants:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Old McDonald had a farm...

...and now, so does the Melton Point!  Last year, some friends gave us a couple extra tomato plants (they were "volunteers" that grew in the wrong part of their garden to save, so they potted them and shared with us).  The two plants combined yielded three tomatoes.  That's right.  Three.  Everyone else talked about how many blooms/tomatoes they had.  We didn't.

Then, a few months ago, J found an article online that talked about how irregular watering could lead to pour production.  The article talked about a device called the "EarthTainer" that would eliminate this problem.  You can read more about the EarthTainer, as well as find instructions to make your own, here.  If you'd prefer to read the short version of the story, here you go--

The EarthTainer is made of two large Rubbermaid totes that, when put together in the right way, hold water in a lower resevoir and plants in an upper resevoir.  A wicking system between the two pulls water to the roots of the plants as needed.  As long as there is water in the lower resevoir, plants are neither over-watered or under-watered.  This system is advertised as very easy and inexpensive to build, and has been used on six continents to provide fresh vegetables where they couldn't otherwise thrive.

Given our lack of success with tomatoes last year, J was taken with the idea of the EarthTainer.  I wasn't quite so taken with the idea, but since he was enthused, I didn't want to stand in the way.  We went off to Lowes to purchase our supplies and he got started.  The website says you can purchase the materials for the base container for $20-$23 at Lowes or a similar big box hardware store.  You can't.  I've no idea what Lowes he shopped at, but you cannot buy the two Rubbermaid totes for that cost, not to mention the hardware (nuts/bolts/washers) and landscape fabric.  On top of the costs to build the base, you also need to purchase the ProMix (like soil, but you can't use potting soil) and additives.  We had to go to a hydroponics store to find most of those pieces.  Then, once you've done that, you still have to buy plants.  We might try to start our own plants from seed next year, but this year we're just trying to produce a vegetable, and I'm happy to use plants that are halfway there for us.

The first EarthTainer took several hours to put together, but the second one was put together in about two hours and filled and prepped in about an hour.  Most of the materials to build and fill the EarthTainer come in larger quantities, so the cost per EarthTainer definitely dropped from the first one to the second.  By having two of them, we have room for plenty of tomato plants, as well as a couple pepper plants and several herbs.  J is confident that these will pay for themselves this summer.  I wouldn't say I'm confident, but I'm definitely hopeful!

I'll update with pics after we get our plants in the containers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Schedule

Back in the early Spring, I shared our house goals for the MP, gave a hint as to our Summer plans.  As always with our house, the goals didn't go exactly as planned and the plans have shifted to wishes.

First, with regard to the Spring Goals:  we successfully put our family room back together, we've almost finished our bathroom remodel (only need to find a light fixture and re-grout the tile floor), and we made no progress in the library.  Obviously, we'll keep after the bathroom until we finish it, and the library has been booted a bit down the line.

On to Summer goals:  We mentioned a new deck.  Our savings for the deck (at least, a portion of the deck money) is going instead to new gutters.  We're currently waiting for the last quotes on replacing our front gutters, a job that will also include replacing much of the fascia, some of the soffit, and may also include adding attic venting.  Even I'm not crazy enough to think we could DIY this job. 

When the gutters are done, we'll see how much is left to address our deck.  Actually, before we actually tackle the deck (that project I am crazy enough to think we can DIY), we need to move our storage shed.  I hope that J and I can find a weekend to empty the shed, move it to its new location in our back yard, and put everything back inside in some sort of order.

If there is money left over, we plan to strip the deck of the current decking and railings and replace them with composite decking.  We think we can re-use the existing substructure, but we'll find out for sure when we tear off the current boards.  That's why we need to be sure we're financially ready for whatever the PO's have left for us.  Sometime down the road (like next summer) we'd like to add a patio off the deck.  I just don't see that happening this year.

Then, we'll head back to the library, in hopes of finishing that project before Autumn.  Oh, and I'm using the meteorlogical seasons here, so Summer (for me, at least) is June 1 through September 1.  I'll keep you posted on our progress!

What summer projects have you planned?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dude, you got a...

Do you remember those Dell commercials?  I think they came after the Gateway "cow-box" commercials, and before the Blue Man Group told us about the latest pentium chips.  Anyhow, I was thrilled to get a Dell laptop several years ago (my first laptop!) and crushed when the screen died two years ago, relegating the Dell to 'desktop' status.  I replaced the Dell with a Toshiba that we found on sale at Office Depot.  It was cheap, readily available, and pretty functional.  Until Friday.  When it wasn't.  I'm still waiting to hear from the computer guy I took it to (who told me he really doesn't like to give bad news, so just wouldn't call me if it was really gone for, but I need you all to cross your fingers for good news tomorrow.  I'm terrible at backing up my files, and stand to lose a lot in the way of memories and materials (picture and document files...) if they cannot be saved.

It's been an interesting weekend.  I woke up Saturday feeling incredibly apprehensive and nervous, both worried that the files cannot be saved and blaming myself for not backing up the files as I should have.  Finally, mid-morning or so, I realized (with J's help) that worrying about it didn't help anyone.  I've given it to the expert.  He'll do what he can.  I'll work with whatever I get back (or don't).

All of this reminded me of a story that someone shared with me at a meeting a few weeks ago.  She was reading a Mitch Albom book about faith.  One story in the book talks about a farm-hand whose reference observed that he would sleep in a storm.  Now, initially, this doesn't necessarily sound like a good think, but at the end of the story you learn that the farmhand can sleep through a storm because he has taken care of his tasks so well, he doesn't need to be concerned when bad times come.  A good reminder for me, I would think, and one that I will remember regardless of the result on Monday.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Saturday Smells Like . . . Beaten chicken dish of some sort

Hello all, J. here. JE has tired herself by driving back from Marshall County. So it falls to me, your humble narrator (yes, that is a reference to A Clockwork Orange) to tell the tale of the beaten chicken dish of some sort. The beaten chicken dish of some sort was born from the desire to meet simultaneously the following goals: (a) use a thawed chicken breast for dinner; (b) do something slightly different with said chicken breast; and (c) use only ingredients on hand. I'm fairly certain that the same goals drove Dr. Frankenstein, substituting only "dead body parts" with "chicken breast," but it's been awhile since I read the book. (I wanted to say that our experiment turned out differently from Dr. Frankenstein's, but then I realized that the book never discussed how the monster tasted and that JE and I ate the finished dish too quickly for me to say definitively that the chicken breast did not return to life. So, the jury's still out there.)

For ingredients, we have: (1) one thawed boneless chicken breast; (2) some cream cheese (enough to put a layer on the flattened chicken breast); (3) four slices of hard salami; (4) shrimp scampi seasoning; (5) three rashers of bacon; and (6) salt and pepper to taste.

The first step is to use a blunt object to flatten the chicken breast to around 1/8th inch thickness. Remember to use a slight sideways swing when flattening with your blunt object of choice, as otherwise, you will not make consistent progress. After you have salted and peppered each side of the chicken, brush it with a bit of oil (I used grapeseed) and quickly (no more than 30 seconds a side) sear both sides in a frying pan over medium heat. Set aside the chicken breast to cool until you can handle it without burning yourself.

In a bowl, mix the scampi seasoning and the cream cheese, taking a taste to see if you need to add more seasoning or more cream cheese. (You can also add a bit of granulated garlic for a bit more kick.) Then spread the interior side of the chicken breast with the cream cheese mixture and place the hard salami slices to cover the interior side of the chicken.

Next, roll the chicken breast tightly, and, once rolled, use toothpicks to bind the end of the roll, like one would use a toothpick to keep a sandwich together, leaving about one-quarter inch of the end of the toothpick protruding. Then, take one rasher of bacon, stick the end of the rasher on the end of the first toothpick, and wrap the rasher around the chicken breast until you come to its other end, poking the subsequent toothpick ends into the rasher as you wind around. Do the same with the other rashers until the exterior of the chicken breast is encased in bacon. Next, pepper the bacon to taste, and bake the chicken breast on a silpat in an oven set at 350 degrees for around thirty-five minutes.

The result is a creamier Chicken-Kiev type entree that blends the sharpness of the scampi seasoning, the smokiness of the salami, and the saltiness of the bacon with the creamy texture of the cheese. All in all, not a bad dish for fifteen minutes of prep work and improvisation.

Framing Friday--June 3

Welcome to the unveiling of the new Friday theme, which manages to encompass all of the suggestions, ideas, and hair-brained thoughts (the last were my own!).  ::drumroll::

Finicky Friday!!

Yes, I'm going to pick and choose to write about whatever my picky little heart desires.  The thread that connects Finicky Friday posts will be alliteration.  If I can't make it sound like Friday, it will go somewhere else (like Free-Style Sundays).  First up, a post about learning to frame a wall, hence the post title:  Framing Friday.  Furnishing Friday will still make an occasional appearance, as will some of my favorite suggestions--Fun Friday, Fiscal Friday, and Physio Friday.

Now, on with the post:

I had a few days off this week, so I decided to make a quick trip home to visit my parents (my mom kindly pointed out that I hadn't been down in several months...).  Mom and Dad have many hobbies (feel free to read about them over at their blog), but house-building seems to be chief among them.  They started building their house in 1990, but the drawing of plans and making of models started decades earlier.  I think this may be where I picked up my own habit of doodling floor plans.  Now, many people say their built their own house when what they mean is that they paid someone else to build a house for them.  This is perfectly fair, and I think I would probably say the same thing, but it just isn't the case with Mom and Dad.  They actually built their house.  Someone else poured the foundation for the main part of the house, and they had much of the drywall installed by professionals, but they learned all about framing, electrical, plumbing, and roofing (and everything in between) from books and tackled the job themselves.  Every time it seems they are finished, they start making plans for another addition (decks and porches and actual wings).  Last summer/fall, they put in the support structure and subfloor for the most recent addition.  Then winter/spring hit.  This week, they got started again by framing the walls.

This is where I come in!  I was too young when they built the main part of the house to actually participate (much less be helpful), and I was in college when they built the second part (so, not available).  This week, I had my first experience with framing, raising, and installing exterior walls!  The best part of the process (I think)?  The compressed air nailer.  The last time I was involved in any way with building at their house, my parents still used old fashioned framing hammers.  I don't care how many times I've been told how to hammer a nail, I'm just not terribly good at it.  With the nailer, you simply put it where you want the nail, depress the safety, and pull the trigger (oh, and squeeze your eyes and turn your head...if you're me).

Now, because a picture is worth a thousand words (and I've rambled on entirely too much already), here is what we did--

Me--Demonstrating the wince and squeeze method of nailing
Dad--doing it the right way

Nailing plywood to the outside of the wall we framed

Nailing the wall to the sub-structure

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thankful Thursday--June 2

With temps hovering around 90 this week, I'm trying awfully hard to be thankful for the spring we had, even if it was very short and very wet!  If autumn is my favorite season (it is), then spring comes in second, simply because it (like autumn) is neither too hot nor too cold.  I love that in between weather that encourages one to get outside and enjoy it.  So, while short, there were a few lovely spring days, and I am thankful for them.

I'm thankful, too, for a work schedule that allowed me to get out of town for a few days.  I've not been home to see my parents since that quick visit on my way to/from Texas back in January, and it is nice to actually stay for more than one night!

Finally this week, I am thankful for birth mothers, specifically the one who made my friend Becky's family complete.  Baby E. became "official" yesterday as a member of her family.  While J and I loved their family of three, we love Baby E. and their new family of four as much or more.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Finished Vanity

Someone said something the other day, either here or over on facebook about not having seen the finished vanity.  I couldn't recall if I'd posted a picture of it or not, but I figured it would be an easy Wordless Wednesday post!  Enjoy--