Sunday, July 20, 2014

In My Garden

Our little garden is starting to produce produce, and it's pretty exciting!

From left: sugar snap peas, producer beans, romano beans,
pole beans, and some sort of czech tomatoes.

We're also growing radishes, more tomatoes, jalapeƱos, "king of the north" peppers, padron peppers, basil, dill, parsley (oh so much parsley), carrots, parsnips, red russian kale, and rainbow chard. And our lemon tree is looking good too.  

Our little corner of vegetable heaven.
Check out those pole beans! 
I love how the tomatoes start to ripen top-down. 
I can't take credit for the lemons, but they're going nuts! 
Poppies and our bushy lemon tree, and a straight-on view of
the path to the garden. Roses on the left that I can't take
credit for either.

I think that in another week or so, we're going to be drowning in beans and tomatoes and peppers and radishes! Someday, carrots and parsnips. We're already growing more parsley than we can eat or turn into pesto. It's choking the dill, so I think we may need to just start harvesting and giving it away! I don't know why parsley goes so crazy in our yard, but man.

I mean, look at that parsley.
You can hardly notice the radish greens or the bushy kale :)

...are you growing anything this year?


Friday, July 18, 2014

The Purge

No, not the probably-terrifying movie that's in theatres right now. I'm talking about one of July's #YoCP projects: The Shoe Purge. Our shoe situation was pretty out of hand -- my shoes were taking over Will's part of the closet, which meant his spilled out onto the floor. Plus, mine were such a mess that I could never get them to fit on the racks, so I just...didn't. Feast your eyes on this little before and after:


Major thanks to Sonja for being my partner in purge, helping me get rid of 4 grocery bags of shoes (and random clothes) and not judging me for the amount of dust that was under the pile. It feels good to actually be able to see every pair of shoes, and know that I'm not holding on to extraneous crap.

How are your July YoCP projects going? Did you launder/clean your shoes? (I didn't, but they didn't really need it) Do you have any other projects going on? My next project is framing and hanging the art we have collected in piles and rolls in the guest room. And I still have to take care of the last June project: polishing the headlights on the car (I did actually do all the other car-cleaning projects. The glovebox has never looked better).

Congratulations on making it through half the year!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Berkeley? So Very.

This weekend, I finally had one of those stereotypical Berkeley experiences. I can't believe it took me 8 years of living in this city to get around to it. Yes, folks, I walked to Berkeley Bowl and did my grocery shopping with a backpacking pack. For years, I've shopped there and had a hearty "oh, Berkeley" chuckle to myself watching people stroll up with their oversized packs, happily loading them up at the checkout, in their own endorphin-induced contentment. I never thought I would be one of them, but we've entered a new season of life, guys.
Anyway, my friend Sonja is one of those friends who brings out the best in you. When we're together, we always seem to have great ideas and end up eating well and getting housework done; she's a good influence on me. Basically, we're perfect sister wives. And our menfolk love each other, so all is well in the world when we're living in the same city. Which we currently are. So, Sonja's in town, which means that we get to get together randomly, like on Sunday, when I texted her asking if she wanted to help me purge my shoes (part of July's YoCP). Not long after, she was on my doorstep and we were crafting a plan for the day. Our grocery shopping trip involved 3.3 miles of walking (and I carried 20lbs for the second half!), great preparation for the 3-day backpacking trip Will and I are taking this weekend. We weeded the garden, did laundry, purged the shoes, dealt with some fruit flies, and did a little stretching. 

When Will came home from the driving range, the three of us went back to the garden to thin the carrots and do some more weeding...and we ended up picking radishes, sugar snap peas, and mint for our dinner, along with the tops of the carrots we thinned (which we later turned into pesto, along with the radish greens). The garden is looking pretty damn good after two months! We'll be picking tomatoes soon, and cucumbers and beans are growing well too. Hell yeah. Oh yeah, we planted a garden for my 30th ("dirty thirty" garden party). It's going well.
Anyway, we needed to make some dinner before Will's hockey game - it needed bread, and meat, and we wanted to use all the veggies we'd picked (along with some we'd bought at Berkeley Bowl). From the braintrust that is Kim and Sonja in the Kitchen, we came up with the following:

Mexican-Inspired Bread Nachos

Start with one sourdough baguette from La Farine.
Or any baguette. Or probably any similar bread.
Tear it up and put it in the bottom of a baking dish. 
Top with leftover meat (in this case, shredded Barbacoa beef
from Thursday's lunch at work).
Top with cheese (we used sharp white cheddar and pepper
jack), pickled jalapenos and salsa. Would've used more
salsa and jalapenos but I ran out.
Top with more cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes at 350F. When the
cheese is melty, switch to the broiler and broil until golden
brown and crisped up, another 5-10 min or so.
Marvel at the ooey gooey deliciousness you created.
Serve with a crispy, crunch salad full of veggies to make
yourself believe you're eating something healthy.
Have seconds.

This recipe is basically a variation of the Rachel Ray "lazy lasagna" model: bread + sauce + meat + cheese. It's a great way to get mileage out of stale bread, but I like it with fresh bread too...it just gets extra squishy. It's super forgiving, and very adaptable - I bet it would be great with veggies and a cream sauce, or with a pesto and some chicken, or with bacon and egg as a breakfast casserole...there are lots of options here, people. Have you ever made this type of bread hot dish meal? Have any good combination recommendations?

Monday, July 7, 2014

It's a Wrap!

For years, I've sought an ideal wrapping paper storage solution (see here and here, also here). And during Big Closet Month, I finally got my act together to create the gift wrap station of my dreams. Ever since moving to our new place (erm, 2.5 years ago), I knew what I wanted to create. After spying this setup on Pinterest and reading all about the Elfa over the door system, I knew that the back of our Big Closet door would be perfect. It's a huge closet with room for the system once the door's shut, and it's right next to the dining room table, which is where I do most of my wrapping. I was having a hard time justifying the purchase (the Elfa system runs about $100), but thanks to some freelancing work from Extra Space Storage, I splurged guilt-free.

After a terrible Stanley Cup Playoff game for the Penguins (at least I was among friends at Giordano Brothers in San Francisco), I engaged in some retail therapy. My friend Adele, a fellow Container Store lover, and I hit the Co-Sto, and about $100 later, I had all the ingredients for a glorious wrapping paper project.

Nice display, Co-Sto. I'm not using this for
pantry storage though (maybe someday...)
Adele is my Container Store soulmate.
Look at this adorable deviled egg travel
container! I mean, come on!
Go home, Container Store. You're drunk.

There were, of course, a few hiccups. Namely, that the standard wall rack/pole thing comes in a standard door size. And all of the doors in our house are the standard size...except the door on the Big Closet, which is for some reason, about 3/4" shy of standard. I walked around the house, trying to see if there was another door I could use, but no. I was determined to use this door, dammit. So back I went a week later, for a free pole-trimming. Protip, guys: the store in San Francisco has a parking lot underground with a free Container Store drop-off and pick-up zone. Pull in, drop off your shit. Come back later, pick it up. They even come to you, so you don't have to leave your car. And the trimming service is free. Such service.

Anyway, with my resized pole, I was ready for action. Except I couldn't figure out how to get the damn thing installed. The instructions were helpful, but it was a little tricky to install by myself. With two people, one to hold and one to tighten the screw, it would have taken much less time. But hey, I'm a badass. I can do things by myself. Other protip: Don't freak out when it looks like despite cutting the pole to the correct size, it's still not going to fit because the over-the-door hooks could not possibly align with the slots correctly. What happens is that as you tighten the screw, the whole thing kind of cinches up, squeezing itself into place on the door. It's like magic. And don't worry about not being able to close the door, because as it squeezes, it tightens enough that the door will close perfectly and you will wonder why you spent so much time fretting about your door that could not possibly close. Because it closes just fine. Better than fine, actually. And now...

Boom.
This is what it looks like inside the closet. This picture was hard to take. It's hard to take a picture of this door, because from the outside the lighting is kind of crap. And from the inside, the lighting is slightly better but it's pretty crowded. So anyway, this is the best picture I could get. But you can see how awesome the gift wrap storage situation is. It's so lovely. Commence jealousy.

Anyone else have long-awaited projects they've recently completed?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Breakfast Burrito Bonanza

I am in a major breakfast burrito phase. Hold on. I'm not sure I'm explaining this right. I want to eat breakfast burritos every day. Like, every day. I want nothing else. I'm obsessed. Put one in front of me, and I won't be able to resist. And because the spots near home and work sell delicious breakfast burritos, I have no shortage of $6-8 temptation. But because I'm Being Responsible, I don't get them every day. Because that would be Irresponsible. I won't want to go broke by way of burrito.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I could probably make my own, in big batches, and freeze them, resulting in a super-convenient grab-n-go breakfast burrito experience. There are lots of folks doing this and blogging about it, so I had a lot of guidance (see below). My first attempt was with whole wheat flax seed burrito-sized tortillas, bacon, eggs, and a bit of salsa. I warmed the tortillas over the gas burner, and they got a little crackly when I tried to wrap them - not ideal. Because I was eating them the next day, I didn't freeze them. They got a little mushy in the fridge overnight, but not prohibitively so, and I ended up eating them with a fork and knife. They were delicious and easy to transport, but not quite what I was going for. Batch number two: same ingredients, but I heated the tortillas in a pan. Same crackly problem; actually worse this time because the tortillas got a bit crispy. Same fridge situation, same knife and fork.

This time, I was using all leftover ingredients from work, so I was working with flour tortillas (taco-sized, not burrito-sized), shredded barbacoa beef, sour cream and salsa, along with eggs and cheese I had at home (cheddar and pepperjack) and parsley from our garden. I heated the tortillas in the microwave, putting the whole stack between two damp paper towels, which left them soft and just rubbery enough so that they didn't crack when I wrapped them. The tricky thing with this batch of burritos? The tortillas are so small that I could only use like, a teaspoon or tablespoon of each ingredient per burrito, but they came out so adorably that I don't think I mind having to eat 2-3 burritos to equal one serving size :)

Ingredients.
I have a hard time not overstuffing - everything ends up
splooging out everywhere. 
Towards the end, logic+internet taught me that I could spread the sour cream on the tortilla first instead of blobbing it on at the end. The burrito is easier to roll if you don't have a splooge of sour cream to deal with. Also, a side note on sour cream: I have no idea how it will freeze. The internet seemed to think it would be ok, so I decided to give it a go. Hopefully I don't end up 18 mini burritos with weird texture issues.

Pile in the back, row ready to be wrapped in the front.
So adorable. Like little blintzes.
For (blurry) scale.
They barely fit in a zip-top freezer bag. Can't wait to
microwave (1 min? 3 min? 2 min?) and eat!

Big thanks to the blogs I consulted for inspiration and tips:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dirty Thirty: Clean Water

It's been almost a month since my last post, and it's been over a month since my birthday. I turned 30 this year, and decided to raise money for charity:water to celebrate. Here's why (from my fundraising page).
I'm about to turn 30. And while birthday gifts are fun and great, I don't need more stuff. So this year, I'm asking friends, family, and anyone who wants to help out to make donations to charity: water as part of my "birthday campaign." 
I've been lucky to enjoy consistent access to clean water for my entire life, something that's easy to take for granted (even in drought-prone California). Nearly a billion people around the world don't have access to clean, safe drinking water; thousands of children die every day due to waterborne illnesses. There are simple solutions like drilled wells, spring protections and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world, and even small donations can make a difference.  
100% of every dollar you donate to my birthday campaign will be used to build clean water projects in developing countries. charity: water funds their operating costs separately through a group of private donors, so 100% of all public donations will go directly to people in need. And charity: water will show us exactly which projects (locations and names of communities) we funded once they've been fully completed (which takes about 18 months).  
My goal is to raise $1,000 - helping 50 people to get access to clean water. I'm asking for my age in dollars from everyone I know. That's 30 big ones. But you're welcome to donate more or less as you see fit. I hope you'll donate something, and help me make a small difference this year.

I'm just over halfway to my goal, and there are 8 days left. If you're reading this, and you're so inclined, please consider making a donation and helping me raise money for clean water.

Update: My campaign is over, and I raised a total of $580 - it's not quite as much as I'd hoped to raise, but you know what? It's something. Thank you Thank You THANK YOU to everyone who donated!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

YoCP: The Big Closet


It's May, and Jolie and the Dust Bunnies are on to purging winter clothes. My #YoCP May focus was on The Big Closet. See, we have this closet. It's big. Like, approximately 42 square feet. I don't mean to brag, but dang, it's a closet. And it has so much potential. But it had gotten a little bit out of control. There was too much being stored, and stored inefficiently, making it hard to find anything - including floorspace to walk on. But friends, oh friends. I have prevailed. I spent about 15 hours over the course of the weekend taking everything out and putting it all back in again. And getting rid of a giant black trash bag full of clothing and whatnot. And now...photos.

I think we have a coat-hoarding problem.
And enough hats to outfit a baseball team.
And enough jerseys to run a hockey league.
There was a lot of stuff in that closet, man.
The hockey gear corner (before). Holy mess. 
The hockey gear corner (after). Neat & Tidy.
I'm particularly impressed with my hockey
stick holder - a repurposed toilet paper holder.
Better view of the hockey stick holder, plus
the ironing situation and giant post-it boards.
The other wall - organized sporting gear,
scarf holder, and clutches. Also contains
the "future gifts" box (and our ski gear
duffel sits on top of it, not pictured).
View of the wall behind the coat rack - we
have a lot of bags. They hang on the wall.
Camping gear and my childhood dollhouse
now fit snugly in the corner under the stairs.
The plastic cart on the left is hardware/tools
and the right is all hats. Yep. Hats.
The closest I could get to a shot of the whole
closet. Sleeping bags and hiking backpacks
hang from a hook on the left there.
Out of the shot on the left side is the stuff
pictured above (hockey, camping, etc).

So yeah. This was A Project. And it's pretty much done. Last step is the wrapping paper...but that'll get its own blog post because because. I'm impressed with myself, and I really enjoyed taking a whole weekend to tackle something in the house. I needed to fix the scarf holder (one of the Command hooks holding it up just plain fell off the wall -- the hook was strong enough but the years-old paint wasn't!) and what would have seemed like an insurmountable task was super speedy. Because the hammer and nails were so easy to get to, the repair only took about 2 minutes. 

You may my excitement over such little things (Will certainly does), but having things organized and easily accessible makes me feel good. It's more efficient, and it looks nicer too. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Have you tackled any home projects lately? Anything in your house that's just driving you nuts?

YoCP April: bathroom and BBQ

It's the end of May, so what better time to write my April #YoCP post? I don't have any photos, so this will be a quickie.

April was "bathroom and BBQ" month - technically, it was "Create Your Dream Bathroom" month, but I knew we'd have to get the BBQ ready for summer so I threw it in the mix as well. So what was on the agenda to create my dream bathroom?

  • fix loose tiles on the bathroom floor (a task I'd set out to do nearly two years ago)
  • clean/purge the linen closet (time for that annual "what's expired? how many of these towels do we really need?" cleaning and re-organizing)
I fixed those loose tiles - turns out it's way easy! All it took was a little 2-in-1 grout/adhesive, and about 48 hours (about 10 minutes of hands-on) and the loose tiles that have been bugging me for years were fixed. The color's a little off in that section of the floor, since it's brand new, but after just a few weeks it's dirtying up to match the rest of the floor nicely :)  And sure, I could scrub and bleach the rest of the floor, but honestly the tile in the bathroom is so old I don't think I would make a dent on the 50+ year old grout, and well, we don't own it. So. Eh.

I haven't done the linen closet yet, but my mom's coming to visit in a few weeks, and she was bummed to have missed the big closet (where do you think I get my organization obsession?) so we'll knock that one out when she's here. And now of course I've noticed that the grout in the shower could use a good scrubbing, so that's gotta get done too, despite not being on the original list (oh god, no! self-imposed restrictions!). My dream bathroom certainly doesn't come with moldy grout.

The BBQ ended up taking several hours to clean - the morning of my birthday, we opened it up for the first time since last summer, and it was...well...a bit moldy. We took the whole thing apart and washed all the pieces, which was a much more involved process than I'd anticipated. This year, I think we'll be better about cleaning as we go. Somehow, we damaged the ignition button (it still lights with a match), but we grilled up a storm for my birthday.

So. That was April. Onward to May! Ahem.