Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book Recommendation: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for my book club -- though we never did get around to having an official meeting. [Fail!]

If you have any interest in eating foods grown locally, this book is a must-read.

Barbara Kingsolver details how her family not only got by, but thrived only eating food from neighboring farms and their own backyard for an entire year.

While I don’t have the will power to survive off only locally grown foods – the book did influence my eating habits and inspired me to pay more attention to what I ingest.

I was already trying to eat organically whenever possible, but I learned from the book that all organically grown food isn’t necessarily labeled as such. Many small farmers meet and exceed organic standards, but simply can’t afford to get the organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Already a supporter of small, family businesses, I decided to buy as much produce as possible from farmers markets and local stores, as opposed to buying organic at the grocery store (or worse - processed, packaged food). As winter rapidly approaches, it’s getting harder, but not impossible. Just do a little Internet searching to find local farms in your area.

Another option is trying to grow your own vegetables. For the last two years, the fiancé and I grew as many crops as possible in any corner of a yard our parents would loan us. But now that we have our own house, we’re already planning to clear out some space for our own garden next spring.

For more information, recipes and stories of Kingsolver’s high and low points throughout the 356 days, definitely read the book!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Calling all Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is less than a week away. This year we’re breaking tradition and the whole family is headed to Florida for some much needed vitamin D!

Last week during one of our regular big fat Italian family dinners, we started talking about our upcoming trip. If you’ve ever sat in on an Italian family gathering, you know how it goes -- everybody speaks at once and the loudest person with the most extreme hang gestures gets noticed.

Winner: my mom (always). She and my aunt decided that since my cousin, sister and fiancé are all experts in the kitchen, the “kids” could handle preparing Thanksgiving dinner while they go to the beach.

“Wait a minute! I’m sitting right here! (arms fly into the air well above my head) AM I NOT CONSIDERED A KID ANYMORE!?”

(Truthfully I should have thought before I spoke – why would I want to be sentenced to the kitchen when I could have been laying on the beach. But another fact about Italians: we rarely think before each outburst.)

So my aunt took pity on me and decided that I can be in charge of something. She suggested maybe the salad or the corn. Clearly my family has little faith in my ability to cook and I don’t blame them. In this case, my reputation is unfortunately based on their real experiences.

But this year is going to be different. I’ve come to terms with my sacrificed beach hours and am now determined to make the best darn something this family has ever had on Thanksgiving.

Of course I need some help. Please share your best Thanksgiving recipes with me. I’ll give one or two a whirl and report back.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fail: Fiance’s Laundry

I was home one morning waiting for the cable guy to show up and install my cherished cable, DVR and wireless Internet. With no technology to entertain me, I decided to tackle our piles of laundry.

I should note – I showed my fiancé where I set up our communal laundry basket several times. Each time he said, “ok, thanks” but continued to throw his stuff in his own laundry basket. I just figured he must have a really short term memory. So on laundry day, I brought both baskets down to the laundry room and got to work.

I’m not big on separating colors. My method is simple: all nice clothes in cold water; towels, sheets, gym clothes, socks and undies in hot.

I was nearly finished (and quite proud of myself) when my phone rang.

Fiancé : Hey, what are you up to?
Me: (enthusiastically) Laundry!
Fiancé: Ohhh, ok… Well just leave mine upstairs. You don’t have to do it. I’ll get to it later this week.
Me: (still enthusiastic) Well I was going to surprise you, but I already did yours, too!
Fiancé: (pause) Oh. (pause) You did? You didn’t wash my t-shirts in hot water or dry them on high heat, did you?
Me: Um, no (LIE!), why?

Opps! Apparently men’s undershirts shrink easily in high heat and my fiancé isn’t a fan of too tight, belly baring t-shirts. Who can blame him?

I should have known he doesn’t actually have a short term memory at all. He knew exactly what he was doing when he kept his laundry separate. It was his way of keeping me from ruining his clothes without hurting my feelings.

Guess I missed the memo on that one!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Hey Friends fans, remember the “pivot” episode where Rachel and Chandler tried to help Ross take his new couch up the stairs?

Last weekend we played a round of long distance musical couches and I seriously felt like I was stuck in that episode of Friends – minus the couch cutting catastrophe.

It all started when another fabulous friend/coworker and her husband generously offered us a beautiful, barely used sectional couch and coffee table. All we had to do was drive 2ish hours to pick it up… and find a place for our previous (also nice, but way too small) couch.

Turns out, my mom was ready for a change and wanted our couch for her family room. Check! Now what to do with her previous sleep sofa?

We decided the sleep sofa would be a great addition to my fiance’s family cabin, where the more available sleeping space, the better.

So four houses, three couches, one truck and 250 miles later we completed our weekend of couch swapping. Thank goodness I now have a great new couch to relax on!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More on De-Cluttering

I didn’t want this link to get lost in my blog comments. If you’re thinking of getting organized at home – don’t skip the “delete” step. Here are a few steps to get you started.

Thanks for sharing!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, It’s Ours!

I’m officially a home owner! We closed on the house last Friday and then enlisted our family and friends to help us move on Saturday and Sunday.

We had furniture and belongings coming from my house, my fiancé’s house and a storage unit, so it was a lot to coordinate. Nevertheless, we decided movers weren’t necessary since we had access to large vehicles and a crew of helpers.

However, in order for us to pull off a move without movers, several stars had to align.
  1. We couldn’t have done it without the help of family and friends who were willing to contribute their cleaning, organizing & handy-man skills, time, muscle, and large trucks in order to make the move go smoothly.
  2. We also needed time. Since neither of us had to vacate our previous residencies on moving day, we were able to take the biggest and most important things over the weekend and pick up other items through the week.
  3. Finally, the move was local, so making several trips to all three locations where our belongings were stored wasn’t a problem.
Had this not been our situation, I’m not sure we could have managed the move on our own.

The benefit of forgoing professionals? Obviously it saved us a ton of money.

The down side? It’s time consuming and hard work. Every muscle in my body still aches from lifting heavy boxes and furniture.

The new house is perfect for us. It’s no mansion by any means, but we have a garage, a deck, a washing machine & dryer, plenty of closet space, and a bedroom big enough for our king-sized bed.

One of the best additions we’ve made to our house so far is a curved shower rod. We tasked my dad with installing it and I think the entire process took him 10-15 minutes. I highly recommend!

Second pic: Fiance and sister leaving the storage unit in the big truck.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quick Tip: Scale Back BEFORE Moving

Packing is an opportunity to purge (things, that is). Don’t just throw everything in boxes and think you’ll sort it later. Take the time to sort through your belongings and ask yourself questions like:
  • How often do I use or wear this?
  • What sentimental value does this actually have?
  • Can I live without this?
  • For what purpose am I saving this?

Make two piles: one for trash and one for Goodwill. Keep in mind Goodwill doesn’t need your garbage, but for clothing and household items in good condition or better, you can receive a tax deduction.

Also, you may want to consider a resale shop if you have any gently used clothing that still looks new (and is still in style). I’ve had some success there – especially with brand name items. It’s a good way to make a few extra bucks.