Monthly Archives: November 2009

Update #1 on 101 + pictures of the house

I’m making some progress in the land of 101 things to accomplish! I’ve called my grandpa a few times, I bought a grilling plate and pie pan used instead of new, I’ve been gearing up to lose weight (though the traveling is really puttng a damper in things). But two big ones are about to be accomplished:

#13. Host a major holiday for the family
#53. Buy a house

We’re hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow for N’s parents and sister and my parents and brother, in our little apartment. And then on Monday… we close on our new house!!! Now, I’m not going to consider it done until it’s really done, but it is happening, that much is for sure. :)

Here are a few pictures of the place:

It’s a 3 bedroom, 1 bath Cape Cod style, built in 1926. There is a downstairs that is only partially finished, but we hope to finish the laundry/utility room and include a beer-brewing / canning area. The floors are all modern faux-wood laminate or new carpet. There is a built-on garage on the left side of the house that is falling apart; we plan to tear it down and build a bigger garage with the tax credit in the spring.

We are going to have a stainless-steel dishwasher installed next to the sink in December, and we also hope to upgrade to a gas stainless-steel oven and stovetop this winter. The cabinets with eventually be replaced, as these are the originals and are not in the best shape… we’re hoping for frosted-glass fronts and will likely use the existing brushed stainless hardware (very new).

The living room empty, and with their furniture in it. I want to buy a piano in the next year (probably an old, crappy upright!), and we also need a living room furniture set. For now, this room with probably be empty, with the exception of a big Christmas tree in front of the picture window!

 The dining room, as seen from the living room, empty and with their furnishings. Probably going to be set up very similarly to theirs, with a china cabinet on one side of the room and a bookcase on the other.

The one very small bathroom! I personally love the window in the shower. :-p Actually, there is a lot of storage space above the toilet and in cabinets above the bath/shower combo, and we like the colors and style. I’m happy getting ready in the bedroom in front of a vanity, so I don’t think we’ll be too badly off with only one small bathroom. :)

The walls of the basement family room are a mint green, which promptly getting painted over. The room is much larger than it seems from the picture- 12 feet wide by 30 feet long! Behind the photographer is a tiled area, where we would like to [eventually] build a bar. This room with be the home-theater / man cave, with N’s 42-inch HD flat screen on far wall (the tan couch in the picture). We’ll put his crappy plaid sofa and my thrift-store armchairs down there for now. Next to the family room is the utility room and laundry, with ample space for an old stove, fridge, and lots of storage shelves. We’d like to finish the floor and ceiling, add in a bathroom (there’s currently a stub for a toilet and shower), and use the workspace as a canning and beer-brewing room. Talk about living the dream! :)

 I’m not going to even post pictures of the bedrooms because 1) they’re not photogenic, 2) there’s nothing in them, and 3) they’re going to get painted and remodeled, so what’s the point? They currently have fugly wall color and curtains covering the closet doors. Ew.

The lot is quite large, and the backyard includes a wooden patio, fire pit, and large shed. The lot is fenced off, and there’s an additional fenced dog-kennel area. There’s lots of room for my garden, and stone planters in the front of the house for lots of flowers. I can’t wait to get a puppy and start planting this spring!

The finale- the hubs looking at something interesting :)

So, that’s the house! We’re so excited for our own place together: building equity, taking out a large amount of debt, a dozen home-improvement projects to be completed, and packing and moving all of our stuff in the dead of winter.  What else could two newlyweds ask for?!

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Hello from cooking purgatory

… and balmy Dallas! I am living out of a hotel room by night and working in a cubicle on the 20th floor of a downtown building by day. I don’t think there is any place with 20 floors in Eau Claire.

I’m doing my best to stay eat clean, but my switch from a nicer hotel in a bad part of town to a mediocre hotel within walking distance of everything has set me back. The first place had two burners and a full-sized fridge, along with multiple pots, pans, utensils, and a microwave steamer. This place has a mini fridge, a microwave, two coffee mugs, and two sets of plastic utensils per day.

Channeling Bart Simpson: Ay carumba.

I’ve had oatmeal with berries, cinnamon, raisins, and agave nectar in the morning, with a snack of light yogurt (compliments of the breakfast buffet). Lunch is usually out and healthy-ish– yesterday was grilled chicken and spinach on whole wheat toast from a hole-in-the-wall deli; today was blackened tuna with roasted veggies and rice at an upscale pub.

Snacks in the afternoon/evening consist of greek yogurt, carrots and hummus, cottage cheese, and various fruit yanked from the breakfast buffet. Supper has consistently been lentils, carrots, and peapods microwaved in a coffee cup, livened up (only slightly) with a healthy pinch of punjab curry powder and a pepper packet. All of these goods were acquired from Central Market, near downtown Dallas and just a few stops up the area train. BTW, Central Market is completely FANTASTIC! What I wouldn’t give to have one close to me in Wisconsin…

But regarding posts with recipes and photos? There should be updates during Thanksgiving week and again around Christmas as well. However… there won’t be much until I’m back home for good in the middle of February. I don’t plan to stay at this hotel again, and will hopefully find a happier kitchen situation in a nearby place!

Until I have something blog-worthy… hasta luego, muchachos.

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CE: Harvest Grains side-dish

I found a bag of Harvest Grains blend at Trader Joe’s last weekend and have been excited to try it out. Funny thing– the couscous and orzo are made from whole wheat flour, which  makes the red quinoa and  baby garbanzos the only whole grains in the blend. But still, this was fantastic! The spinach and red pepper orzo and yellow baby garbanzo beans added great color, and the garbanzos retained a crunchier texture than the couscous and orzo.

I prepared a slightly-upgraded version compared to the instructions on the bag, and was incredibly surprised when N loved it. He actually went back for seconds!   We served this with parmesan-baked fish (fresh walleye and bluegill) and baking powder biscuits with SF rhubarb strawberry syrup. Mmmmm. :)

tjs harvest grains1

Harvest Grains side

1/2 bag of Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend
1 1/2 c. chicken or veggie stock
1/4 c. water
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 clove garlic
1 T. olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
fresh parmesan to garnish

Combine the stock, pepper, paprika, and cayenne in a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Press the garlic, and add the garlic and olive oil to the pot along with the half bag of Harvest Grains blend. Bring back up to a boil; reduce heat and keep at a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, most of the liquid should have evaporated or been absorbed by the grains. Stir in the lemon juice and allow to continue to simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, and serve hot with freshly grated parmesan on top.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Pasta, Side dishes

101 in 1,001

Yes, I am succumbing to the 101 list of things to complete in 1001 days, and will try to occasionally blog about it.

I arranged the majority of the list into categories, and had great difficulty in pasting it into wordpress without structural problems, so there are no categories- just things. There are a few odd ones at the end that are random but good. Here we go.

Oh, and I don’t like a blog post without a picture, so here is a very close picture of a giraffe.


Or is it a picture of a very close giraffe?

Starting day is today, November 4th, 2009.
Ending day is… ummm… August 1st, 2012.

  1. Do a TTD photo shoot
  2. Carve a pumpkin every fall (1/3)
  3. Renew my passport
  4. Write 5 new “poems” (2/5)
  5. Stay up all night and then make breakfast
  6. Get a new digital camera (01-16-10)
  7. Watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire
  8. Get approved to stop taking meds and stop taking them (if possible)
  9. Lotion my legs, feet, and arms every day for a month
  10. Let a frazzled mom go in front of me at a store (it was actually a Dad! 2-21-10)
  11. Get boudoir shots taken
  12. Write a letter to 5 close friends + brother (0/6)
  13. Host a major holiday for the family (completed 11-26-09)
  14. Make and send Valentine’s Day Cookies
  15. Take N to the library and make him check out at least 1 book (completed 11-4-09)
  16. Call or visit my grandpa more (6/20)
  17. Float the river with friends
  18. Treat N to a fishing trip
  19. Watch Casablanca with N
  20. Have 4+ people over for a dinner party
  21. Send 3 care packages to far-away friends (1/3)
  22. Reach 150 lbs and stay there for at least 90 days
  23. Avoid all refined sugar for 1 week (includes alcohol!)
  24. Go 2 weeks straight eating only home-prepared food- Week #1 was June 23-June 30, 2010;
  25. Go canoeing or kayaking
  26. Workout every morning (before work) for a week
  27. Workout every afternoon (after work) for a week
  28. Take a pilates or yoga class
  29. Floss every day for one month
  30. Run 2 miles without stopping
  31. Increase flexibility so that I can do the splits again
  32. Develop a chocolate “splurge” recipe that is clean
  33. Get 5 new cookbooks (2/5)
    Betty Crocker Basics
    *Baking with Julia- with Dorie Greenspan
  34. Make at least 5 recipes from each new cookbook (4/25)– see post on 1/4/10 for details
  35. Try 5 new or previously-avoided foods (5/5): edamame, steamed zucchini, avocado, sprouts, beets – 6/24/10
  36. Make bagels
  37. Make homemade pasta
  38. Make tiramisu from scratch 02-25-10
  39. Make a batch of beer
  40. Plan a meal around a bottle of wine
  41. Perfect 3 recipes and write down detailed instructions (1/3)-  hamburger buns
  42. Plant/grow a garden
  43. Can tomatoes
  44. Can another vegetable and a fruit
  45. Create a compost pile 2010
  46. Buy 5 household items used instead of new (5/5)
  47. Bring my own bags to the grocery store 10 times (1/10)
  48. Gradually remove artificial household cleaners and make/use EF alternatives: dish soap, laundry soap, drain cleaner, bathroom/kitchen cleaner
  49. Deliberately seek out non-GMO food when it’s available (6/20)
  50. Deliberately buy milk that is hormone-free (6/20)
  51. Plant a tree
  52. Pay down N’s student loans by 50% (starting balance: ~$42,000)
  53. Buy a house– (11-30-09)
  54. Go 2 weeks without any “personal” shopping/purchases
  55. Contribute a total of $5000 to my Roth IRA accounts ($835 as of June 2010)
  56. Create a monthly or bi-weekly budget Started Feb. 2010
  57. Stick to above budget
  58. Save for a new laptop or motorcycle
  59. Save for a new digital camera (11-09 to 01-10)
  60. Buy used furniture for the new house
  61. Shop at Just Local Foods 5 times (3/5)
  62. Volunteer at or donate to a food shelter 6/24/2010
  63. Adopt a pet 02-06-10, Sierra
  64. Play in a local organization or musical ensemble (ECCO, March 2010)
  65. Attend a community arts event 6-12-10
  66. Attend an arts event at the university
  67. Attend a protest / rally / event for a cause I feel strongly about
  68. Register to vote in this county
  69. Complete an attempt at Guerilla Gardening
  70. Participate in or volunteer/support a community theater production
  71. Get my wedding dress cleaned (after TTD shoot)
  72. Get through a renovation project without threatening divorce :)
  73. Unpack EVERY box from moving!
  74. Clean out old cosmetics/products (11-29-09)
  75. Reduce clothes in storage to ONE container and donate (11-29-09)
  76. Digitally organize my recipe collection
  77. Learn how to ride a motorcycle
  78. Create a checklist for TTC
  79. Read 5 “self-help” books of any variety (2/5); Twenty-Something ManifestoAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle;
  80. Complete written answers to 50 Questions that will free your mind
  81. Read 10 new-to-me books off of the Modern Library Top 100 List or this list (3/10)
    *The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway (12-8-09)
    * Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck (12-19-09)
    *The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (spring ’10)
    *Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
  82. Take a canning / food preservation class or workshop
  83. Watch 3 documentaries (1/3) Food, Inc.;
  84. Watch 2 foreign films (0/2)
  85. Attend an educational lecture/speaker/debate
  86. Drive in Chicago (or similar major city) without getting hopelessly lost
  87. Save for and plan a honeymoon- Northwoods in September ’10
  88. Eat at Filomena in D.C. with N 02-01-10
  89. Visit Jordan in Chicago (completed 12-06-09)
  90. Treat my mom to an entire day out
  91. Treat Mary and Krista for no reason
  92. Send my mom flowers for no reason 02-03-10
  93. Fit into my washable wool The Limited size 8 suit again
  94. Wear my wedding dress briefly around the house on my wedding anniversary (0/2)
  95. Make some sort of memory book or scrapbook of our wedding
  96. Take pictures of N and I (4/30)
  97. Eat a pomegranate
  98. Dance in the rain
  99. “Make love” by candlelight, with a ridiculous amount of candles (like in movies)
  100. Discover a salad that N will actually eat (this may be impossible)
  101. Paint a room without getting paint on the carpet

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Cute sugar cookies

After much researching and debate amongst online food bloggers about THE perfect sugar cookie recipe, I’ve developed the perfect one for me. Behold:

6 T. butter, room temperature
2 T. butter-flavored Crisco
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
dash of salt
2 tsp baking soda
2-3/4 to 3 c. white all-purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cream together butter and shortening in electric mixer with paddle attachment. Mix in sugar and cream for 1-2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, salt, and almond, and mix to combine well.  Sprinkle  in 1 tsp of baking soda and one cup of flour; mix to combine. Repeat. With your mixer on a low speed, add in the remaining 3/4 or 1 cup of flour, being sure the bowl is very well scraped and you haven’t got egg, etc. on the bottom.

Transfer dough to a medium-sized bowl; cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes. Keep unused dough in the fridge while you’re rolling out cookies, and put the scrapes back in the bowl to chill before reusing. I roll out my dough to 1/4 to 1/3 inch, and I bake on professional half-sheets (no special brand needed) with parchment underneath, but before throwing in the oven, I put the entire sheet in the freezer for about 5 minutes. This can help the cookies keep their shape while they’re baking.

When the cookies are completely cool, I like to decorate with royal icing. I use the Joy of Baking Royal Icing with egg whites recipe. Mmmm. I will post some pictures of the cookies I just made for my hubby!

Source of inspiration for the recipe and spiderweb designs:

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