Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

The Farm is back!  For those who were reading last year, you may remember that I promised to tell you about the great fresh veggies and post recipes for everything I got in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  Yeah...sorry about that.  Really though, recipes are abundant online, so I probably won't post those.  I may occasionally add a link if I find something super fantastic.

First, a little about CSA's, in case you ain't never heard of 'em:

This is becoming popular in the US as people become more cognizant of where their food comes from, and thankfully, people like Tom and Sarah at Flying Plow Farm have the entrepreneurial spirit to go out there and, well, farm.  The business model is that people pay in the fall or winter for a share of the farm's crops, to be delivered or picked up weekly during the summer.  This gives the farmers the capital needed to sow the fields, and it also gives them some assurance of their income for the year, regardless of how well their crops grow or sell.  The "investors" get a huge amount of fresh produce, usually picked the day of pick up, that is organic and locally grown.  It's win-win - because there is no major transport or packaging for the produce, there is less of an environmental impact, and the veggies taste better, are more nutritious, and help small local businessmen (aka "farmers") compete with the huge farm corporations.  The shares run a bit more than you might normally spend on produce, but not much.  I paid $450 for my half share, which is good for 2-3 people, and I have easily gotten $25 worth of produce each week until Thanksgiving.  It worked out to about $30 a week.  Most farmers are actually willing to negotiate on the price, I've heard.  So if you can't afford a CSA, talk to the farmer and see if you might be able to work in the fields a bit or pay in smaller increments.


As I was saying, the farm is back, and unlike last year, I hope to maintain the blog often enough to tell y'all more about it.  This week, I picked up red leaf lettuce, baby spinach, "yukina savoy" (a leafy green similar to spinach), kale, baby turnips (I am not a huge fan), bok choy (aka Chinese cabbage, and definitely a new favorite veggie), and strawberries.  Strawberries were a "you-pick" item, which means I have to pick them myself, but I can pick as many as I want.  Naturally, I picked only a sensible gallon.  Just kidding!! I picked two gallons.  Plus the quart I got as part of the normal share.

Let me just say: they are deeee-vine!  I can't get enough of them!  Each time I open the fridge, I pop a berry.  I have had them for breakfast, as a side for lunch, on salad at dinner, as snacks in between, and for dessert.  I thought of making a strawberry pie, but I really do not love strawberry pie.  I prefer them plain, or on top of something.  So I bought some ice cream today.  Can't wait!

What else, pray tell, did I make this week, what with all my green-leafed veggies?  Well, I learned last year, that the green leafies will be here for a few more weeks at least, and I learned quickly that leaf-centric meals are not generally crowd pleasers.  I cannot, for instance, serve up a bit of cooked greens, tossed in olive oil and gently sauteed with a few choice spices.  Even though this is a great way to serve greens, the man in my life will not even try it, and if he does, he will make "that face" which I reserve for strong rums, and look at me like, "See?  I told you."

I find this very annoying.

But, I have successfully made meals that we both like, and used my greens.  After a while, I realized you can just toss them in with whatever you were planning to cook.  Maybe not a lot at a time, but chop them up fine, and throw them in with your casserole, spaghetti sauce, or stir fry, even put them on your pizza.  If used correctly, your greens will silently add some nutrition to your man's diet, and he will only occasionally ask if you are trying to poison him.  To which you will reply, oh yes, it was my plan all along to string you along and get you to move in with me, and eat my food, only to poison you with nutrients that do not happen to be found in beer and pizza.

Has anyone noticed that men are like toddlers?

Just an observation.

Anyway, I made stir fry with some marinated chicken, onions, carrots, the turnips (finely chopped as I do not love them) and bok choy.  I made some pasta with kale and black beans, tossed with pesto I made last year and froze.  I made spinach salad with strawberries and mandarin oranges.  I plan to make salmon with a strawberry mango salsa, enchiladas with yukina savoy (basically a regular enchilada recipe with the greens tossed into the filling).  Bok choy soup for my lunches, and kale and eggs with a side of strawberries for breakfasts.  I also made some rice pudding for the first time, and it was so stinkin' easy!  I plan to top it with strawberries!

And the best news?!  I nearly smooshed a toad in the carport last night, and the strawberries in my own little patch have yielded two slug-free fruits!  Yay!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


We all have them - the dreaded "junk drawers".  In our house, the junk drawer was in the kitchen, next to the less junky stuff like pens and rubber bands.  Though this drawer had degenerated into junk in it's own right, the true junk drawer contained things that one would never ever seek to retrieve...but for some reason, no one wanted to throw away.

The years went by, and half hearted attempts to rid the house of "the junk drawer" did surface from time to time.  But what to do with these useless trinkets?  They didn't "belong" anywhere.  Or rather, if they did "belong" as in the case of small game pieces, it would take hours to locate all the games and deposit these pieces in their respective boxes.  Nor was it appropriate to toss a game piece.  Perhaps we would search out those pieces when we next played the game.  In the meantime...into the junk drawer it returned.

Now we are all grown up and the games, if still in the house, await grandchildren to play with them.  So my mother finally cleaned out the junk drawer.  And she found our memories - drawer sized.

She made "the junk collage" with nothing more than a shadowbox and some glue:

Can you find...
...the house key that was replaced when I got home before my parents in the first grade, and decided to "break in" with a screwdriver?
...the newspaper clipping announcing the results of the Ugly Duckling Swim Team, mentioning both my sister and me?
...the swimming medal from one such race, likely brought home with great pride and lots of celebration?
...the red button from a red corduroy coat my mother wore for several years?
....the Rainbow Bright hairtie worn by my sister and me around the same time?
...the matches from Conneaut Lake Park, where our family visited for a "Dream Picnic" each year?
...the business cards and nametags for my father for Khols Building Products, Allied Building Products, and Weidenhammer Systems?
...the "It's Rad to be Plaid" button I was forced to wear in junior high, promoting Catholic schools? (note, this is obviously unworn)
...the game pieces from "Connect 4", "Memory", "Bedbugs", "Gears", "Monopoly", and "Hi-Ho-Cherry-O"?
...the rabies vaccination tags for one of our childhood dogs?
...the GATX magnet, from the train manufacturing company that employed my grandfather?
...the US Air keychain, from the company that employed my cousin?
...the Montgomery County Head Start exhibitor name tag, where my mother worked?
...the caterpillar magnet made by my sister in nursery school?
...the candle holder, from the days when my mother was regularly attending cake decorating class?
...the two cloth diaper pins, from the days when my mother was busy with other things?
...the Crayola crayon box, belonging to my mother when she was only dreaming of a family?  (not sure how this came to be in the junk drawer...)
...the food stamp?
...the jack?
...the ballet slipper pin (mine from age 5), the I Heart Bears pin, the Strawberry Shortcake pin, and the Girl Scout pin?
...the Girl Scout Troop number patch?
...the Tulpehocken Soccer Club patch?
...Barbie's spoon and hair dryer, and a goblet she likely used, but was not likely "official Mattel craftsmanship"?
...the Cracker Jacks prize featuring a baseball player?
...the Transformer from a cereal box, likely given to my brother but probably stolen because it would not be likely he would be deemed worthy of the cereal box prize?
...the birthday candle, and the cake insert featuring 101 Dalmations' "Lucky the Dog"?
...the Little Wooden Boy that invokes no memory in me?
...the Smurfs shoestring I wore in kindergarten, or the beaded bracelet I made in junior high?
...the magnet indicating it was Tiff's Turn to do the dishes? - she was always hiding it and replacing it with "Nicole's Turn"!
...the Penn State keychain, and the "Penn State: We Call It Home" pin?
...the coin wrapper for quarters, left over from the days when my dad had us sort all his change and separate out the "special year" coins?
...the beer cap?
...the letter "A" magnet which hung in its heyday on the fridge with 25 other letters?
...the Easter egg dye kit "dipper"?
...the tickets for Cirque du Soleil, given to my mother for mothers day?
...the Strawberry Shortcake protractor?
...the seashell from one of our Florida vacations?
...the candle from Quaker Steak and Lube in Sharon, PA?
...Did I miss anything?

Saturday, May 21, 2011


My loyal Constant Readers may remember my angst when deciding to move to a house with bathroom tiles the color of Easter eggs.  For the rest of you, have a look at this:

It is my original purple bathroom, complete with a cushy toilet seat donning embroidered pink and purple butterflies.  This bathroom is also the size of a tiny closet, and has only a three inch deep medicine cabinet for storage.

Before moving in, I was consumed (obsessed) with this bathroom.  Ripping out the tile was not possible on our budget and level of expertise, so I had to settle for finding the perfect paint and the ideal accessories to modernize this hideous pastel.

I decided black was the best bet and I went a-searchin for a shower curtain.  I spent approximately seven hours one Saturday, going to K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, and all the home stores in the mall, including Macy's (they had a sale and were only charging a leg that day.)

Seven hours.

Let that just sink in for a minute.


OK, so I decided upon a so-so shower curtain, mostly black, but with some gray highlights.  I went home, slightly elated, but not overly happy with my purchase.

The next day, I began a search for The Perfect Curtains, and found The Perfect Shower Curtain at Khols in approximately 30 seconds.  Why was I even in the bathroom department?

Anyway, The Perfect Shower Curtain was white with yellow flowers.  The flowers had black stems, and the center of the flowers were pastel purple that actually matched my tile.  The curtain sold for $60, the matching towels and bath mat were equally overpriced, as were the trash can, soap dish, and toothbrush holder.  I had already hung the not so perfect shower curtain, so I would not be able to return it.  I called my brother, who was also moving to a new place, so see if he would take it.  Unfortunately, my other sister had already hooked him up with a coordinated yet manly ensemble of blues, greens, and browns.

I could not justify replacing the curtain I had owned for one day with The Perfect (but expensive) Shower Curtain.  I did purchase some towels and the bathmat.

I find myself in the bathroom aisles of stores every time I go.


I never found gray towels when searching specifically for them, and now they are everywhere.  Black, too.


I have found shower curtains and themed wastepaper baskets that would look great in each of my pastel bathrooms, numerous times over.


I finally broke down and bought a similar shower curtain to "The Perfect One" when I needed a new bath mat.  The mat with the flowers looked nice in the store but it looked disgusting when it was wet.  I would clean it with a vacuum, and even ran it through the washing machine, but it always looked gross.  I grew tired of stepping on it with my bare feet on a daily basis. 

I got a black bath mat, and a white shower curtain with black and gray swirls on it.  It's pretty.  I decided I would hang it when the current curtain became yucky, and tucked it away.  I hoped this would cure me.


Two weeks ago, I found the soap dispenser in the purple bathroom in the sink, with a hole where Adam had dropped it.  Yay!! Time to get a new one!  And a trash can to match!


The new can and soap holder were in place before he even got out of the shower.  I thanked him for breaking the old one and invited him to break as much bathroom stuff as he liked.*  (Next up - the toilet bowl brush holder...)


In the back of my mind, I knew I should have bit the bullet and bought The Perfect Curtain back on that fateful day.  Maybe this was the reason I was drawn to bathroom accessories  But shower curtain stock seems to rotate, and I never saw that curtain again.  Until....last weekend!  Yay!

Ahhhhh.  Much better.  (Though I wish I had put the mouthwash away before taking this.)

* I should probably mention here that Adam blames me for the soap dispenser breakage, claiming I placed it close to the edge of the sink.  I swear this was unintentional.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vacation Planning

I am not much for planning.  My "parties" tend to be spontaneous get-togethers in which most people do not come because they have already made plans.  My "vacations" tend to be taking the place of someone who was supposed to go with a group, or family outings planned entirely by others.  My "dinners with friends" tend to be suggested by friends at locations they want to go.  My "girls nights out" tend to be for movies or plays that others wish to see.

I am totally and completely cool with this.  You see, I am willing to go just about anywhere with just about anyone.  I love being around complete control-freak, type A persons with itineraries, lists, agendas, and penchants for exotic beers.  If I did not know these people, I would lead an extremely boring life and put very few miles on my car.

When I first met Adam, he seemed to be one of the types with ideas, plans, places to go, and people to see.  In the first two years we were together, we went to Las Vegas (his company trip), Niagara Falls (his idea), and California (we stayed with my uncle, but most of our trips were planned by him).  Then, he decided to save money for grad school, and these trips were no longer suggested.

Sadly, it is up to me.  Lord help us.  I have a hard time deciding on my favorite type of cake.  And there are so many freakin decisions to make with a vacation - where to go, when to go, how much to spend, what to do, where to stay, what travel arrangements are needed.  I guess this is why travel agents exist.

Flash forward....I have just visited many travel agent sites.  Travel?  Is freaking expensive!  The first few sites, I looked at the many zeros behind the dollar signs and thought, perhaps this is the price for a group of 2 or 4 people.  No!  It is for ONE person!!  And does not include airfare, food, or beer!

I am going to need some help here.  I want to go somewhere.  Sometime.  For some price that doesn't require a loan.  Generally, we like outdoorsey stuff - we loved Yosemite National Park in California...but the sky's the limit.  I think that's part of the problem...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thank you, fellow Blogger!

A long time ago, when I was a fourth year in college - it actually was a five year program.  Really. - I worked for a construction company.  I ran the office and marked the quantities of concrete poured for Interstate 99 round-about Bellefonte, PA.  This was probably one of the most boring jobs ever, but I did learn a few things.


They sent everyone a Christmas present and card, even lowly interns like me.  My gift was actually pretty nice - a utility knife with 15 razors stored inside a cartridge.  To change the blade, all you do is rotate the inner cartridge and slide the new blade up.  The knife came complete with the company logo on the side, a little sheath, and instructions.

For most of the last ten years (yikes!) since I owned this knife, it sat in a drawer and got very little use.  However, I took it with me when I went to help my parents with their New Room construction.  It proved very handy.  And then it disappeared.

I searched my parents house, but never found it.

Flash forward about two years to last month, when I was asked to go to our Lakeland, Florida office to look at some building cracks.  I packed as much as I could fit in my bag, including some three ring binders, a clip board, my camera, and my "Engineers Bag".  (Sort of like a doctor's bag, only mine contains a tape measure and various other tools useful for looking at structural issues.)

And that is where a nice man at Airport Security found my utility knife with its fifteen razor blades.  He really was nice about it.  He didn't confiscate the whole thing, but used my little "all-in-one" tool with a little screwdriver (also not allowed on plane) to loosen the screw, and then he pulled out each razor.

It was a tad ridiculous.

It turns out, the knife takes special blades, and I wasn't able to figure out what kind.  The company logo on the side presumably replaced the actual manufacturer logo, and those instructions were loooong gone.  Google search actually took a while and I was about to give up, when I found the answer on a Blog.


Thank you, fellow Blogger!  It turns out not all of us choose to ramble pointlessly!

A more poignant search revealed that I can buy replacement cartridges from a store in Minnesota, and apparently, no where else.  Also, shipping costs more than the actual item.  So I stocked up and bought the 7-pack.  If I use these are the same rate, I now have enough blades for the next 70 years.  (Or 7 plane trips.)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wanted: Toad Roommate

Last year, slugs ate every one of my strawberries, the greedy bastards.  Well, not this year!  I am told that toads will eat slugs, and they will willingly come to stay as long as you provide them a house.  A toad likes to live in a mini cave - basically a pile of rocks with an opening.  And so, as my little green strawberries are just beginning to form inside their flowers, I went outside today and constructed the sweetest toad residence on the block.  (I certainly hope toads are on the internet...who am I kidding?!  Every species is now on the internet!

So, first allow me to show some photos of the fabulous, crime free and certainly non-toad eating yard in which your dream house is situated:

First, you've got your flowers....

your trees....

 ...and your groundskeeper, Buddy (shown on his break).

 I mean, seriously, what Toad wouldn't want to live in this fabulous lap of luxury??

ALL THIS COULD BE YOURS!! (Free lodging and all-you-can eat slugs!)

I only hope I am not creating an "old lady who swallowed a fly" situation here...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I Expect When You're Expecting

Disclaimer for any random googler trying to find true medical advice:  All information below is based on hearsay, speculation, anecdotal evidence, and episodes of Friends.  I am not a medical professional, and, in fact, think that most things medical are  "icky".

This post is in honor of my many friends who are pregnant or who have had babies, most recently my friend Madeleine (healthy baby boy born Tuesday), and Maria (due this fall).

I have never been "preggers" but I have about a billion friends who have experienced the joy of pre-motherhood.  I find my knowledge has expanded exponentially as I learn something new from each mommy-to-be.  I do not plan on using this knowledge firsthand (sorry mom), so I figure I will pass it on to you, my Constant Readers.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How Did You Know I Was Preggers?
7.  You stopped trying to quit smoking, and you quit smoking.
6.  You said you had a headache and could not attend a beerfest, despite attending one the year before with a headcold.
5.  You refuse to eat soft cheese.  I am not sure why.
4.  You quit my volleyball/football/(insert sport here) team.
3.  You are suddenly nauseated by Chick-fil-A, Subway, pretty much all fast food places, grocery stores, and the gym.
2.  You stop going to the gym.
AND the number one way to tell you are Preggers:  You order a sprite when everyone else orders margaritas.

When Should I Tell Friends that I am Preggers?
Ummm....hello?  We already know.  So you might as well get it over with early.  You may keep us in the dark about the baby's name or sex (though you will not get very cute clothes for your baby should you choose this as all the cutest clothes are ridiculously gender-specific.)

What Should I Expect When I'm Expecting:
6.  Almost everyone is "high risk" so don't take it personally.  If you are over 35, having twins, have high blood pressure, have diabetes, blue eyes, or excellent insurance, you are "high risk."
5.  You may experience high blood pressure while you are pregnant even if you do not normally have issues.  This will make you high risk.
4.  You may get rashes, zits, swollen feet, and varicose veins.
3.  You may suddenly have an urge to eat a Slim Jim even if you have never had one before.
2.  You may have to go on "bedrest" which sounds awesome until you find yourself in a bed on your birthday playing Scrabble for the 20th time that day. 
1.  Expect the unexpected.  Some of the unexpected things can be joyous (I never had morning sickness!) or scary (my test results were abnormal so they had us do more tests and wait for weeks and then it was fine) or downright sad.  But you'll always have your friends to help you through.

Should I Have an Epidural?
Some people do and some people don't.  Do your research and make the choice that's right for you.  I'll support you either way.  This also goes for your child's name (even if it's Bear Baer), your child's diet, your child's circumcision or baptism or whatever else.  I solemnly promise to be ok with whatever and to not offer advice unless you ask for it.

I also solemnly swear to buy your baby toys that make obnoxious noises.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I've Got Blisters on Me Fingers!

I placed a few tarps in the barren expanse that is my backyard last fall, with the intention of killing the grass and planting a garden.  The tarps (purchased more for their affordable two-for-five-dollar price than for actual plan) turned out to be a bit small.  I figured that this would be okay, despite comments from multiple galleries of peanuts, because I know how hard gardening is.

One of my favorite books when I was a child was "The Secret Garden" which is a heartwarming tale about a spoiled rich girl whose parents are killed.  She is sent to live with a mysterious (and even richer) uncle and is pretty much neglected, as she has months and months to wander aimlessly over the grounds.  Anyway, she finds a garden and begins fixing it up since it has also been neglected (what a twist!) for years.  This book made gardening seem enjoyable, and easy.  It never mentioned that much gardening is, in fact, done outdoors.  With bugs.  And heat from a blaring mid-summer sun.  It also never mentioned that weeding requires kneeling on one's knees for hours, and how picking vegetables requires bending over - for hours.  This book never once warned readers that weeding is required daily, and that adorable woodland creatures will eat your plants and dig burrows in your garden.  Well, Constant Readers, thank goodness you have me.  Without me, you'd think gardening is all bluebirds and butterflies.  Sure.  But it is also mosquitoes, worms, and groundhogs.

So, the garden is small.  And untilled.  I called a tiller guy, and he wants five whole days without rain before he will come!  Five!  I don't think we've gone five days without rain since March, and then it was thirty degrees out.  So tonight, I decided to do it myself with a pitchfork.  I am not sure this is going to work, but since my only goal is to do better at gardening than last year, I will risk it.  (BTW, last year I got a few strawberries that were eaten by slugs, zero tomatoes, and no peppers.  If I successfully grow ONE edible thing this year, I will be tickled pink.)

New thing to add to unpleasantness of gardening: blisters.  Next time I will wear gloves. And oh yes, there will be a next time.  In two hours, I only managed a third of my itty bitty garden.

As I read this, I wonder what is driving me to garden at all.  Good question.  I guess it is this emptiness of yard.  I feel like SOMETHING should be done, and at least gardening is something I have experience with.  I also have plans for flowers, which for some reason I think will be relaxing and enjoyable.  You see, I read this book once....