Roots Run Deep

Last weekend, the Huz and I took off for Western PA to enjoy some time with my grandma. The nickname, Grambo, was lovingly put into use by some of my cousins (she could do anything!), who have since dropped the usage. However, I have continued to refer to her as Grambo to this day and therefore she will be known as Grambo for the rest of this entry.

I have been going to Western PA for visits all my life. For most of said life I’ve lived in southwestern Ohio, so the trip is familiar and as comfortable as putting on pj bottoms when you get home from work.

So when we hopped in the car and it had already been raining, I decided it would be best for me to drive this regular route. On the Ohio side, the roads are great. We usually take 71 up to Columbus and shoot around the loop to catch 70 over through Wheeling. Once you get on the other side of Wheeling, though, the roads take a turn for the…well…for the Pennsylvania.

But let’s go back a few miles. We were somewhere between Columbus and Cambridge when I suddenly realized that I had left my jeans back at The House. We were halfway through our trek and couldn’t turn around now, so we began looking for the nearest Old Navy on our way. Yes, we were going to stop for some jeans. I can’t spend an entire weekend in my work khakis. Yuck!

We’ve always driven passed the Cabela’s exit so I had no idea what was up there. Wonderfully, there was an Old Navy, an Applebees, and had I lost my will-power, a Bath and Body Works. I stayed strong though and we continued on our way.

Pennsylvania roads are some of my favorites. They are wildly unpredictable in the twists and turns and the construction patterns. Also, the on and off ramps are crrrrazy short. The Huz was not amused by them in the least. Once we got there, all was well and we enjoyed the weekend of going to church, having lunch with Grambo and Uncle Bull at the new Chinese buffet (sadly, Super Panda is no longer in service), pizza for dinner and then a leisurely Monday morning before we had to start our trip back.

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Flowers coming up in Grambo’s garden!

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I asked Grambo if she had a hairdryer and this is what she gave me. I’m pretty sure that my mother used it when she still lived at home.

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Tracks

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Always have to stop by Mister Roger’s Park when in town.

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This morning I went back to visit the church I was attending before I got married and moved out of the area. There was a special baptism service for 11 people! Yeah! It was beautiful! A couple of them were kids that I had worked with in the children’s programs – very special to me. A few others were dear friends or the kids of dear friends. It was such a great service and after a whole winter of failed attempts to get back for a visit, it was much needed to see those faces that were such a big part of my life for so long.ย  I’m so glad that I don’t live TOO far away for the occasional visit.

Baptism is such a beautiful event. I was all teary-eyed while it was going on. I love watching people take that step of obedience and the picture of salvation it is – identifying fully with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection.

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Our crocuses are in full bloom!!!!ย  They are gorgeous! And a couple days ago, I saw a little fleck of yellow behind them and the mini-daffies are blooming now too. I’m just decided that they are mini’s because they are so much shorter than any other daffodils I’ve ever seen…it is better to say that they were meant to be that way and living up to their full potential than say that they are sorely understated.

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The mini-daffodils. No joke, I’m pretty sure the crocuses are taller than these babies.

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Crocuses are just about my favorite spring flower…they are the first to bloom and remind me that Winter never lasts forever.

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Yep, I rock a pink flamingo in my garden thanks to my nieces and nephew…it’s the only pink I’m willing to have. And there is a mate for it. ๐Ÿ˜€

I bought an axe a few weeks ago in preparation of trying to dig/whack out some stumps and roots from the garden beds. The Huz keeps telling me that it’s not long enough to be an axe, but I told him it’s all about proportions – it’s smaller because I’m smaller. Yeah!

I also bought some summer bulbs to add to the perennials I already have going. Last year, there ended up a crazy amount of pink and purple…it was too much. This year, I’m going for more…or less rather…or more…or something. I don’t really have a plan for the garden bed…plus I have these awful stumps that are strewn through the beds. They make me so frustrated that I want to just toss a bunch of seeds on the dirt and be done with it.

I did manage to pull myself together a bit to pull out one of the boxwoods and replace it with a forsythia. I might regret saying this in a few years, but I have no problem with it going all wild and crazy where I plopped it. At least that way, it will cover the stump that’s right in front of it. :/ You have no idea…

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Such a pretty little forsythia…so much potential, such a bright future!

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The boxwood that lost…

And all of this just proves to me the old adage that

Roots Run Deep.

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Semi-DIY Decor and Pumpkin Spinach Soup

This has been a week! The Huz has been on the awful second shift at work, so I’ve had my evenings free. Evenings to get into some mischief. Mischief which includes decorating The House and making soup from scratch.

Yep. My kind of mischief.

I drove over to Pier 1 the other day because we had a $25 gift card for there AND they had a 10% off coupon on their website. I went to look for a thin shelf or a small table for the end of the hallway, but ended up leaving with some amazing curtains and a pillow to match.

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Did you know that sometimes businesses will sell curtains one panel per pack???? I sure didn’t. Doesn’t seem logical.

The curtains I found ended up being one such pack. I figured that I could probably just order the other one online, but it turned out that I was accidentally more frugal than I thought and got a pattern that was on clearance. The closest one was about 2 hours away in Columbus, OH. I opted for the easy route.

We have pretty great blinds on our windows, so I was looking for the curtains for color and accent rather than usefulness. The single panel was wide enough that I could make two panels myself. Got out the scissors, sewing machine, and went to town.

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Oh, and that shelf I was talking about? Well, I grabbed a white one from Target (and that curtain rod) with some leftover gift cards from the wedding and spray painted it green. Nothing like a pop of color in an unexpected spot.

IMG_20131014_222131P.S. High Fives for awesome hubbies who will hang shelves and curtain rods on their mornings before they go to work. I love our teamwork.

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And now for the soup!

A man at church was giving out bags of spinach from his garden. It looked soooo good. I couldn’t say no. We had picked up some sugar pumpkins at a nearby dairy farm and I have been aching for an excuse to hack into them. I found this recipe online and I’m only posting it as a reference to my starting point. I did things differently, but included most of the same ingredients. The original recipe is more for a creamy soup, since it calls for turning all the veggies into a puree. Also, I added chicken to mine, because I can’t get away with giving something without meat to the Huz.

Pumpkin Spinach Soup

Ingredients

2.5 lbs chicken breast, cubed (smaller pieces are better)
1 sweet onion
3 cups of cubed pumpkin (can be varied sizes, this is intensive) It took half a sugar pumpkin for me, probably great for leftover pieces from carving. remove skin.
4 cups raw spinach
1 32 oz box of broth (chicken or vegetable is fine. I used chicken)
2 cups water
1 tbsp butter
2 medium-sized tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 can of pumpkin puree
1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

Prep the pumpkin by removing the seeds and stringy innards and cutting apart the sides. As stated before, this is intensive and can take quite some time. There are easy ways to remove the skin by using wet paper towel and sticking them in the microwave. I was short on time, so, I just cut away, dicing as I went and then cutting the skin off at the last. (Fun side project: as you pull out the seeds, toss them into a colander and rinse. Be sure to get all the gunk off of them, then set aside between paper towels to dry – recommended dry time is one day. Toast later!)

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Dice the onion and garlic. Saute them in butter in a large pot on the stove over medium heat until the onion turns translucent.

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In a pan, cook the diced chicken until white on all sides. Set aside while the soup is prepped.

Once the onion is cooked, add the pumpkin, diced tomatoes, broth, water, pumpkin puree, chicken, and spices. I cut back one some of the spices because I wasn’t using as much liquid, but feel free to go at it. My end result was a very mellow flavoring, but pleasant. The Huz can’t handle stuff that’s too spicy.ย  (If you’re still cooking the chicken or cutting tomatoes, just add as you have it ready. This part is pretty flexible.) Add more water as needed to cover all the ingredients. Stir then cover the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Cut up the spinach and toss into a pan to cook until it wilts. Check that the vegetables in the soup are tender. The pumpkin should have a potato-like consistency. In fact, the Huz thought they were potato until I told him it was pumpkin. Score! If the veggies are tender, stir the soup and add spinach.

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I apologize for the lack of times in this recipe. I was given none, and since I spent a lot of time cutting my pumpkin while the soup was already going, I can’t remember how long it actually took me. All I know is that this soup has all the feel of gourmet.ย  If I could do it all over, I would have chopped up more chicken and chopped it up smaller (I did not use the above listed 2.5 lbs.) You can also do this without any meat, but you would probably need to add more pumpkin chunks to compensate.

Anyway, I discovered that potentially the best thing about cooking (soup in particular) is that you can take a recipe and make it your own. You can’t really do that with baking. I love my rules and parameters a lot, but I liked being free to improvise a bit with this recipe.

This batch made enough for me to freeze half of it in a gallon freezer bag and still have servings for myself and my husband for probably three nights. I know what I’m packing for lunch!

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Side Notes:

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So this is happening right now, in our front garden. Those suckers were all supposed to be less than 3 feet tall. 4 absolute max. I’ll be harvesting those seeds once they keel over completely. But right now, they’re just so pretty and as it’s getting so much colder, they make me very happy.

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This verse humbles me. I feel like I can keep a close watch over my mouth for the most part. I can get complainy like the rest of us, but the mouth seems to be fairly easy to keep tabs on. The heart, however, that’s a horse of a different color. Lord, help me to monitor what my heart dwells on. Out of the heart flows life and I want mine to be a life of praise and joy…not bitterness and discontent.

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Pardon the poor handwriting, but I found this fabulous piece in my box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s like they know me.

Have a great weekend!!

 

Snap Shop Phoneography

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I am finishing up my second week of a three-week online course for phoneography. I had never heard of phoneography before signing up, but it’s simply taking pictures with your phone. I have a fairly nice camera, but I never seem to have it in easy reach anymore. Even when I’ve got it in my purse, it’s too cumbersome to pull it out, turn it on, and set the features for the pic I want. My phone, however, is sadly always within reach. I love taking pictures, as you can see by my blog, but I feel like they’ve been missing just something.

That’s what I’ve loved about this class! I’m learning tips and guidelines for great photo-taking, not just with my phone, but especially with my phone. I’ve been learning to recognize and define what it is that I’ve always liked about certain pictures and how to prepare myself for the shot that I want.

The course is taught by Ashley at Under the Sycamore. She is fabulous and a beautiful person inside and out. I’ve been following her blog for a while now and love pretty much everything she puts out there. Not only is it great content, but the photos that accompany her entries are gorgeous! She has a whole slew of ready-models too, with their five kids and yard full of chickens. Talk about blog-envy. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, if you are interested in an easy-peasy intro guide to good phoneography, you can sign up on her website. She also offers an online DSLR course for those with fancy shmancy cameras.

I think my favorite part of the course is the photo-sharing. This is done through Instagram. We use the hashtag #snapshopstudent and share the photos we are testing out and wanting some critique on. Not only does Ashley offer valuable advice, but the other students in the course do as well. Here are some of my photos for you (you can click on any of the images for a better look):

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Shots around our backyard and neighbor’s yard.

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impatiens after the rain and a late blooming sunflower

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I love my sunflowers! These are growing from the seeds we gave out at our wedding. I was very late in planting them.

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beautiful sky shots, caterpillar and our shed

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vintage sugar bowl, painted to fit in with our kitchen; windmill at a local park; niece’s soccer match.

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berries in the backyard and a blissful afternoon of 1 Peter and white chocolate pumpkin mocha from Cavu Cafe in West Chester.

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The Huz working on our rain barrel set-up and the wedding quilt his grandmother hand-stitched us.

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Yes, sunflowers again. ๐Ÿ™‚

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around The House; rain barrel, porch rocker and pavers.

You can find me on Instagram at xapatotheworld. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

Lately

There has been a lot going on of late. I would like to expound on each thing, but for now, I’ll just give you a quick overview.

I have started going to a chiropractor. I would venture that probably half of my church back home is going to this chiropractor. I went when I was a kid and Mom worked for one, but it has been a very long time. I had some discomfort in my left shoulder that gradually got more intense and into regular pain. So, I decided to hop on the bandwagon and check them out. I’m committed for a year (call me crazy!) and hopefully will see the good results my friends and church-family have been seeing. I’ll share more on this later, definitely. For now, you can just go check out their website.

Last Thursday (two Thursdays ago, I guess, since Sunday starts a new week), friends of mine gave offered us tickets to the Cincinnati Tennis event, ATP/WTA Western and Southern Open. I loooove professional tennis. It’s a lot of fun. Matt had never been to a game so that makes it even more fun for me. We were able to get tickets for Thursday night and watched Rafael Nadal play and then Serena Williams. They both won their matches. We even had box seats since the tickets were from someone who works with Rookwood Pottery – that’s an iconic Cincinnati pottery business and they make the trophies given out at the tournament. Very fun. This was our view for the evening:

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Nadal had a wedgie the entire tournament and Matt commented on it every time he picked at it…well, maybe not every time. It felt like every time because he picked out his wedgie just about every play. I’m not a huge Nadal fan anyway, so it was annoying. But he’s one of the best in tennis history, so it’s still a good watch…unless he’s picking his wedgie. Dude, get some different undies.

Last Sunday, a man at Matt’s church was giving away from homegrown veggies. I grabbed up a zucchini and then sat around trying to figure out what to do with it. I also have some apples sitting around. Nice, plump, juicy apples. I got the big idea to add some apple to a zucchini bread. Sounds yummy, huh? Oh it was! But a word of warning – it might be a better idea to dry out the apple bits before adding them to your zucchini bread recipe. As it was, my recipe made either 24 muffins or 2 loaves of bread. I just have one pan for each, so I made 12 muffins and 1 loaf. Everything took probably twice as long to bake. I was up very late. I am wondering if the muffin recipe I have just makes really dense breads. I have yet to figure out how to make nice, fluffy breads. I’m guessing it is just something to learn. Regardless, they WERE very yummy! It’s almost all gone between Matt and I. Very dense. I would share the recipe with you, but I’m not really sure it worked the way it was supposed to. So, you can go to http://allrecipes.com and look up “apple zucchini” recipes. There are a bunch of things on there. I’m so glad.

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Lastly, We were getting kind of low on our laundry detergent. I pinned more than a year ago this recipe for making your own. Claims to get 9 months of use out of $22+ of ingredients. That sounds fabulous! We haven’t had to buy detergent yet, so I thought it might be time to go ahead and make our own.

Here is the website with the original recipe:

It smelled so good while I was mixing it all together, and all the ingredients are supposed to be gentle for sensitive skin. I used it for my laundry last night and everything smells great! Only 1-2 tablespoons for each load. It’s just the two of us (as opposed to the blogger’s 5-member family) so I’m hoping it lasts us way longer than 9 months.

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Oh and all of our ingredients cost $22.10. Woot! Matt’s mother saw my pin and made this over a year ago. She has awful water to work with at their house and this is the only stuff that seems to work and actually get their clothes looking, feeling, smelling clean. When I posted pictures of the finished product, people came out of the woodwork on Facebook commenting about how they have been making their own and love it or asking questions about how to go about doing it themselves. As you can see, we have an HE washer, but it doesn’t seem to have any problem with the detergent. I put the date on some freezer tape and stuck it to the side of the box so I can see how long this batch lasts. I’m pretty pumped.

Have a great week everyone! Hopefully, I can check in with you before another week and a half rolls by.

Oh, and our sunflowers are kickin’ it!

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

I decided to finally plant my sunflower seeds!

For the reception, we gave out favors for the adults and the kids. Adults could pick out seed packets of either tall or short sunflower varieties. I had several packs leftover, but I couldn’t decide where to put them. I picked a spot right behind my tickseed to plant some of the short varieties. I only planted them on Saturday and look!

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Only 4 days old! Already at least half an inch tall. And I know these aren’t weeds. They’re looking good.

IMG_20130717_204838_808_1For the tall ones, I’m going to become a living parable of the sower. If you don’t know the parable, it’s found in Mark 4:3-20 in the Bible. It could also be called The Parable of the Seed or The Parable of the Soils, since it’s really about the same sower, same seed, but different types of soils. Anyway, with the tall sunflower seeds, I opted to let them run wild along the fencing between ours and our neighbor’s home. There are lots of weeds there, it can be very dry, but sunflowers were “wild” once and I’m sure can hold their own. Here’s hoping that we can get at least some flowers coming up and be braced along the fence…and that Matt doesn’t weed-whack them to oblivion.

And here are some other grand residents of our garden.

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I love the resilience of plants. Rose #1 has clearly been attacked by some sort of creature (and its several brothers, sisters and third cousins twice removed) but there is new growth! She is still kickin! I hammered a fertilizer spike near the plant We’ll see how that goes.

We’ve had a couple new visitors at our seed bag at the kitchen window. We’ve had a family of goldfinches that loooooove hanging around. They have got desensitized to Matt and I standing at the window and watching them. The new guests have not, but I was finally able to snap a photo of the pretty male house finch.

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Sorry they’re not more clear. My camera would not focus properly for me. But those guys are so handsome!

We also pulled in the one bookcase that’s all painted. Took a while, and there’s another matching one, but I’ve unloaded some books on to it. Ok, a lot of books. We’re talking about stringing up some Christmas lights around the inside of the sides/tops to add some light. I am very pleased with how it’s all looking. Love it!

I’m in a Bible Study/accountability group with some pretty great ladies. I have known each of them for a range of time and in a range of ways, but we all are newly married (within the last 6 years…I believe) with me being the newest married. We decided at our last meeting that we would take part in a 30 Day Challenge to read Scripture each day. The idea is that you can start a habit in 30 days and so we’ll each be challenged to set a specific time aside each day to read our Bibles. I have been across the globe working as a missionary and yet I feel like I am one of the most undisciplined people out there when it comes to Scripture reading. I tend to gravitate towards making something, playing Farmville (yes, I’m one of those), or reading a classic novel. Those aren’t bad in themselves, but they do take my attention from learning more.

I looked up 30 day reading plans and found a few that looked pretty good. I decided to make up a flash card for each day of the 30 and write the different reading plans on them. Here is what I have for Day 7. I’m only reading the top two plans of each day, but I am really enjoying it.

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If you would like to find a good reading plan, here are two great websites to check out.

23 Bible Reading Plans that will Satisfy Anyone

30 Days Through the New Testament

Toodles!

Star Trek, Ants, and Painting

Well, we decided to go see Star Trek last Saturday for my birthday. Rather, I decided and Matt said, “Sure…it’s your birthday!” But he laughed during all the appropriate parts…sometimes during inappropriate parts too. Like, when one character is dying, and there is intense grieving on-screen, he turned to me and said, “Spock says, ‘Whaaaa??'” I did tell him that Vulcan’s don’t have much emotional expression, but I neglected to tell him how Spock is part human and therefore, capable of expressing emotions. Moot point. I shrugged it off and went back to my tears.

We stopped at Red Robin for dinner. My first time. *First times!* I got the Chili Chili Cheeseburger. Can you say yum?

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All that was left. It was so tempting that I forgot to take a before photo.

We got a box of gift cards to restaurants and such at one of the wedding showers, so my birthday date night only cost us about $10 max and that was leftover cost of meal and tip. Very nice afternoon/evening.

I’ve been trying to make this place more homey and together. It’s been hard because there are still boxes about that need to be unpacked. I can’t do that until I paint the bookshelves and start getting things on the walls. It’s a mess.

But I did manage to pull out the tablecloth and napkins and iron them out. I’m just saying, tablecloths are my least favorite thing to iron.

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Sure looks pretty, but I’m still not sold that it was worth the effort. Not to mention, it’s a round tablecloth! Ugh. Anyway, those are the flowers from the Huz. We’ve actually had two meals at the table now, since I put it together. That’s nice.

I’ve even been cooking. I had bought some various kinds of meat and thrown them in the freezer until we got around to doing something with them. I’ve been eyeing the tilapia that’s been in there for a while now, but I’ve never made fish before…besides fish sticks as a kid, and I have long since thrown those out of my diet. So, I went to good old Allrecipes.com and searched, “Easy tilapia.” No joke.

Here’s what I got:

Healthier Easy Baked Tilapia

and here’s what my version of it looked like:

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Ok, the fish IS in there, and it tasted yummy. I forego most things with lemon, and I went ahead and increased the amount of melted butter. It was pretty wonderful. There was so much seasoning on the fish, that I didn’t put much more than salt and pepper in the mashed potatoes…which I made from scratch. Go me! ๐Ÿ™‚ You have no idea what an accomplishment this is for someone like me. I have never felt comfortable in a kitchen unless I was baking something, and then I’m right at home. Cooking is too ambiguous for me; there just aren’t enough rules. But I think I’ll keep trying at it. Matt certainly hopes that I will.

Speaking of kitchen, I walked into mine last night and found some tiny black ants crawling on one of the counters. Just in one little spot. You could tell they were just starting to explore. Ugh. I pulled everything off that section – they weren’t in anything yet, so it was a good catch. I stopped by Home Depot after work today and picked up some bait things and some spray.

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They caught on pretty quick. I went down for a nap and when I woke up 30 mins later, they were all over the trap. And then taking it home to their queen….to MURDER her! muahahaa! I let them go back and forth between the bait and their lair for a few hours and then sprayed the perimeter. The stuff must be pretty potent because there is little to no movement in that corridor now. Maybe I’ll leave the carcasses for Huz to clean up. ๐Ÿ™‚ That sounds great!

I mentioned that I have some bookshelves to paint before I can really start putting the house together. Well, here’s one!

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This used to be my dad’s…way back in his college days. I didn’t know that until a week or so ago. This isn’t its finished state. I am just getting started. But i think it’s going to be good. It’s a short one and then I have its two big brothers to paint after it. Wish me luck! I love painting. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Garden Update:

Not much to report, except that I was weeding the other day and came across these!

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Yipes! Those things were huge! I don’t know what I’m going to do with this garden bed. There’s no telling what will come out of it. Ugh. Good news, though, my Impatiens are doing beautifully and starting to really fill in! Yay! Off to finish painting!

Birthday and Recipe

So, Friday was my birthday! Yippee! Last year to be in my twenties and I’m starting it out right – married! Such a different way of life than I’m used to, but I’m loving every minute of it. Except when the Huz is working 3rds and I have to sleep by myself. That part isn’t so much fun.

But back to the birthday.

A day early, my dad stopped by my work to give me a gift from him and my step-mom. It was very appropriate for me. in fact, I believe I remember seeing a similar one elsewhere, perhaps at the Cox Arboretum gift shop.

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Sadly, I had to work most of the day Friday. But when Huz got home, he had brought flowers and my gifts in. They were pretty fab gifts. It’s like he knows me or something.

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Yep, that’s birdseed and a bat house. I absolutely cannot wait to get the bat house and the “Space available” sign up. I love bats so much. Now, don’t go thinking that I’m crazy or anything. Bats are incredibly helpful! One North American Brown Bat can eat a pound of mosquitoes EACH night! I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand mosquitoes. That automatically puts them up on the list. Although, spiders are good for mosquito catching…but spiders don’t have sweet little, almost puppy-like faces.

You cannot tell me that that face isn’t cute ๐Ÿ™‚

We have to find a good place for the house. They like high locations with easy access and in direct sunlight for most of the day (they like it hot in their homes…probably another reason why I like them some much). I think I’ll need to call the OSU Extension office here soon. Besides, I have to figure out what we’re going to do with our weeping cherry tree.

Saturday is a free day. Huz will be sleeping until about 3 and then we can run around and go see a movie, maybe buy me a new computer (we have leftover wedding money) – one with a number pad…and Microsoft Office. Sigh…that would be so nice. It’s my excuse for not putting together a house budget yet. Maybe I should postpone a little longer….hmm.

Oh, Thursday night, I decided I wanted to bake and make the house smell yummy. I picked up some strawberries and came home to get started. The plan was to make strawberry muffins, but that quickly changed into a strawberry loaf. Same concept, just wanted to break in the new Pampered Chef stone loaf pan we got as a gift. I’m so glad I did. It turned out super yummy. Because it was muffin batter, it was a little dense (think Amish friendship bread) but it was great and when lathered with a layer of cream cheese….yum!

I had some friends request the recipe I used, so here it goes. The “putting together” part is a little tricky, but I haven’t had a bad batch using this method. I’ll put the instructions for the muffins or the loaf.

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Strawberry (or other fruit) Muffins or Loaf

IngredientsIMG_20130614_214955

Wet
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)

1 cup chopped fruit

Dry
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 or 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional…but always recommended!)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400*F (205C) for muffins or 375*F (191C) for a loaf.
2. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. If making a loaf, grease the inside of the pan (stone pans don’t need to be greased unless they haven’t been used often).
3. In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients (oil, milk, egg, vanilla). Beat lightly.
4. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon).
5. Toss in fruit and coat with dry mixture.
6. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir together.
7. Spoon batter into cups or pour into loaf pan.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Tops should bounce back from touch. If making a loaf, bake for about 45-50 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if the center is finished baking.

Here are a couple of variations to consider:

* For a crunchy top, sprinkle sugar over batter before baking. It’s important you do it before you bake…it just doesn’t work if it’s after. Trust me. *facepalm*
* For a sweeter top, spread raw honey over the top of muffins after baked (still warm). I haven’t done this with the loaf, but I imagine that it would taste about the same. Love that raw honey!
* Chunky Monkey Muffins – I made these in Japan and they were sooooo good! Substitute the whole cup of fruit with this mixture: 1/2 cup chopped banana and another 1/2 cup of small marshmallows, nuts (I think I used crushed walnuts), and mini chocolate chips (you’ll have a total of 1 cup fruit+extras, not a 1/2 cup for each of those items).

Enjoy!

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I’ll leave you with a couple other shots.

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Isn’t she pretty? I still don’t have a name for her. I need a name people. Help a lady out here!

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I think the best thing about having silverware all different colors is that when I pull them out of the dishwasher, I can easily grab all of the same kind and put them away more quickly. And…it’s pretty to look at.

Have a great rest of your weekend and, oh yeah, Happy Father’s Day!