Come in, look around. Let me know what you think! Comments are always welcome and encouraged.

Monday, February 28, 2011

mushroom madness

There was a sale at Meijer over the weekend. Buy 10 items for 1.00 each and get the 11th free. Organic baby bella mushrooms happened to be one of those items. Organic baby bella mushrooms are usually around three dollars a package. Organic. Baby Bella Mushrooms. One dollar. Don't you know how wonderful that is. I thought about getting 11 packages of mushrooms (because I love them) but knew there was no way Greg and I could eat that many before they would go bad in the fridge.  This morning, in the shower (because that is where the best ideas come from) I realized I could buy my 11 packages for ten bucks and dehydrate the ones we couldn't use in a weeks time. Genius!

After work tonight I went back to the store to load my cart. I was so excited about the idea of going home, slicing mounds and mounds of yummy mushrooms (some in thin slices, some diced, some quartered for variety of course) more excited than any normal person would admit to be.  And getting the chance to use my dehydrator, which I don't have the opportunity to do very often was just as exciting. I was going to write up a great little blog post about my money saving, mushroom dehydrating adventure. I was even thinking about listing all the wonderful recipes in which you could use dehydrated organic baby bella mushrooms.

When I got to the mushroom isle there wasn't a baby bella in sight. I am guessing a hundred other people had the same idea and beat me to the punch. My heart deflated like a wrinkled old puffball. My hopes and dreams went up in a cloud of spores. Sorry, couldn't help myself.

I got home and you know what I found? a baby shitake mushroom sprouting on our little mushroom patch!
the mushroom fairies have blessed this household

Friday, February 25, 2011

today is grouchy day

photo from I don't want to get sued.
Some days I'm just grouchy. Some days I don't have reasons in particular to be grouchy, I just want to be. On those days I think up reasons to be pissed off. I realize this is a bit ridiculous but I think these days are important for our emotional well-being. The great thing about being human is that we can feel and express countless emotions. Being grumpy is an important part of this humanly need to able to experience and express this wonderfully wide range of emotions. Its mentally healthy and fantastically therapeutic. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

As I  mentioned above, I don't think I need specific incidents to make me feel grumpy although rarely something "terrible" does happens. But usually I can't just wake up and feel like being grumpy because it makes me feel guilty. I know that some people's version of "terrible" is way worse than mine. So on days where I want to be grumpy for my mental wellness and I don't have something "terrible" actually happen, I have to think of reasons why I need to be grumpy so the pissiness, sensitivity, short-temperedness and cynicism can spring forth and cleanse my soul.

Today is one of those days. I need to feel grumpy today. I woke up this morning knowing this fact. Honestly, I might have known this sometime between 7:14 p.m eastern time and 9:48 p.m eastern time last evening but that's no matter. So, since I occasionally need to come up with excuses to be grumpy, my day went a little like this:

Wake up due to Kitty attacking feet. Usually be amused by this kitty cuteness but not today. Today I want this to be ANNOYING, as I am still tired and not ready to get up yet. Today is GROUCHY day. Wonder why is cat harassing me this early in the morning? WORRY that she's sick and about to vomit on the floor, which i will ultimately step in as I stumble around the dark to find it. Maybe she wants tuna? Feed cat tuna and go back to bed. Kitty resumes feet harassment (biting, pouncing and scratching) and then proceeds to walk all over my attempting- to- get- back- to- sleep body all the while allowing Greg to sleep in peace. Be PERTURBED that he is blissfully unaware of this kitty cat drama taking place right next to him.

Alarm goes off eventually. Greg gets out of comfy warm  bed. COLD now. Ugh. Get up, look out window. See snow and wind in large quantities.(this is an exciting thing for me on most days, today its not because its GROUCHY day)  Put on teapot. Remember we are out of the good coffee. Will have to make the other  not as good stuff.  Life sucks. Turn on tv and watch a billion schools and businesses scroll under "closed" section of ticker.Be JEALOUS of these bratty kids and their snow days. See Wood County under level 2 snow emergency. Don't see county government closed for the day. Not fair. MAD. Be ANGRY because on most days I could call off work but today I can't because I'm filling in for another employee who is on vacation. Roar! JEALOUS! Remember that this "filling in" is not what I got hired to do. ANGRY. 

Also be UPSET that Greg has one of those "have to be there" jobs and will also be potentially risking his life for nothing as well.  Be WORRIED about him getting to work okay. Be mad at myself for not being very nice to him and realizing its too late to apologize now because he's already gone, but be happy that I got a kiss that tasted like Tom's toothpaste. Be FLUSTERED by this kiss and try to think of something to be BITTER about again. Be POUTY that I will not be drinking the good coffee today. Be JEALOUS that Kitty is now sleeping soundly on the couch and I'm still awake. Get ready for work. Be CONFUSED as to why I can never find matching socks. Check facebook, update status as "today sucks. hope I survive." even though I typically don't like when people complain via status update. Be PISSED that I'm being a hypocrite and be IRRITATED that I missed all the good farmville posts. Be ANNOYED that I even like farmville because its a huge waste of time, yet still be IRRITATED that I didn't get the new caramel apple tree for my fake farm. Caramel apple tree? That's not even real. 

Be UPSET that I have to finish getting ready for work and drive in in this CRAP. Be FRUSTRATED that no one has called me yet to say I don't have to come in today. Finish getting ready for work while being GROUCHY and TIRED and good coffeeless.  Go to the office, get blown across the parking lot by the wind. Be somewhat IMPRESSED with Mother Nature's prowess. Remember that I need to be GROUCHY today, not impressed.  Find out that the locks on the company vehicle are frozen so can't get in. SO MAD NOW. Go inside. Sit at office and wait for co-worker to come in so she can give me keyless entry device for company vehicle. While waiting, try to think of something to be IRATE at her about, conclude that I can't think of a damn thing. She's too nice. Be MAD that she's a better person than me.

Be LIVID toward my other co-worker because she's late per usual. Do following rambling math in head: 250ish physical work days per year x 5 minutes (at least) of late time per day equals 2.6 days of extra vacation that she gets and I don't get because I show up on time. Be EMBARRASSED that I'm not better at math and that my calculations could be wrong. Be FURIOUS with myself that I will never have the nerve to say that to her out loud. Be MAD that I won't even care about this tomorrow but I do today since I'm GROUCHY.

Get keyless entry device and proceed drive to temporary work site while being nervous the whole way because the roads are pretty bad and being  NERVOUS makes me feel like I need to pee. Be CONFUSED as to why feel like I gotta pee every time I get NERVOUS.  Get to my temporary work site and seesurprised look on co-workers face. Be asked why I showed up. Be asked why I didn't keep my ass at home. Don't I know its a level two outside? Don't I know what that means? Come to the conclusion that they are giving me a hard time because they must be sexist and think that because I am female and blond so I must also not know how to drive in the snow. Be OFFENDED by this even though any other day I would be touched by their concern for my safety. Be asked about the bees and be reminded that they did not survive the winter. Be DEPRESSED about that.

Be BORED. Be MAD that I'm bored. Be UPSET that I'm not home taking a nap. Continue to STEW and sit there for 6.5 hours and only 5 customers show up. Realize that I forgot my lunch at home and will have to go without today. Be HOPELESS and HUNGRY. Receive the following text message: " Know that I am praying for a great day for you and that I got your back and I'm pretty scary, so don't worry about 'nothin :)" from my beautiful friend Whitney and then proceed to be THANKFUL for having a GOOD friend who went out of her way in order to help me turn my day around.

SMILE. HAPPY, WARM feelings. Think more happy, warm thoughts because naturally, this is what happens when I suddenly find myself in a GOOD mood. As day goes by come up with less and less to be MAD about and eventually give up on GROUCHY day.  It is the weekend, after all, and it takes a lot more energy to be MAD than it does to be HAPPY. Come to the conclusion that I am a very lucky girl to actually need excuses to be grumpy. I have a good life, I really do and for that I am indescribably grateful.

*Insert deep, joyful sigh.*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

seeds and snow

Even though I am sitting here waiting on another snowstorm, spring fever has hit me like a ton of bricks. I
may be getting a little ahead of myself but today I ordered seeds. I told myself not to get too carried away. I mean, I don't even have a patio let alone a yard with a garden. The plan was to order some eggplants and maybe some heirloom tomatoes that I could tuck into an empty corner here or there in either my parents or my grandparents garden.  But I went and got carried away thanks to a place called High Mowing Seeds.

I guess the thought process was that if it was only a few bucks per pack why not throw in a few other interesting seeds? There were so many lovely organic and heirloom seeds and the website boasted such wonderful business practices.  The reason I went to their website in the first place was because I was impressed with their catalog which happened to be printed on recycled paper...with soy ink.  I was already paying flat rate shipping.  Well, a few others turned several others and I got completely carried away. I only hope that my family will be understanding and happily nurture my green thumb. I promise I'll share the bounty.

Here's what I bought:
Beets: Touchstone Gold (like red beets only orangy-gold)
Broccolini: De Cisso (broccoli raab)
Popcorn: Tom Thumb (popcorn duh)
Eggplant: Listada di Gandia (purple and cream color zebra stripes)
Radish: Valentine's mix (red, pink, white and finger shaped)
Squash: Yellow scallopini (pattypan)
Squash: Ronde di Nice (small round and light green)
Tomato: San Marzano (roma/paste type)
Tomato: Black Cherry (chocolate color)

I already have the following left over from last year:
Beets: detroit dark red
Carrot: danvers
Peas: sugar snap
Lettuce: black seeded
Spinach: idk what kind

So yeah, that's a lot of plants for someone who has to own any land. I only hope my family is understanding. Its in my blood. My grandpa is a local celebrity when it comes to tomatoes and my mom and aunt grow the most beautiful flowers. So in my defense, I just can't help it. I'm out of sunny window space at home but I've been so desperate to sprout something that I have a few things started at work already. I may or may not be researching what kind of watermelon will do well in hanging flower pots.
spinach of the office windowsill variety

pea ready to burst forth at any moment!
 And I am not the only one who are successful at gardening on plots that don't belong to them.  Check out the Guerrilla Gardeners' movement here. At least I ask for permission.....

Anyone out there getting seeds started already? What are you planning on growing this year?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Going a Little Greener: Handmade Body Lotion

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe for beexwax body lotion. It had been in the back of my mind as something to try for a long time but every time I started to research it on the internet, I found that the ingredients seemed be hard to find items or the directions were complicated and labor intensive. (There is a science behind the emulsification process; getting oil and water to blend. Its just one of the miraculous properties of beeswax but for the sake of your time I won't go into it in this post. You're welcome.) This recipe seemed really easy. Simple ingredients that I actually already had and simple instructions. My sister was on board to be my assistant and with her help, it turned perfect. The first time! Having said that, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Greg for letting me use his blender for my little experiment that, given my clumsiness and my knack for not reading directions thoroughly, could have turned out disastrous. But it didn't.

See how happily surprised Leeanna looks? She can't believe that it actually worked.

This pic is a little out of focus but its more like body butter than lotion

Instead of re-writing all the ingredients and directions on my blog I thought it would be easier to just paste the link right here. If you'd like to try this recipe, all of the ingredients can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs, an award winning company that has great quality organic products, low prices and practice what they preach.

It took maybe 10 minutes total. I added a little bit of sweet orange oil for fragrance and mixed with the heavenly-sweet scent the beeswax already had, it came out smelling like citrus and honey.  It came out thick and smooth and there was enough of it to fill two 8 oz jars. I've already used almost half of it. It works amazingly, specially in this weather. This is something I look forward to making again soon.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

my best frenemy

I have a love-hate relationship with my elliptical machine. I hate the act of exercising. All the sweating, heavy breathing, aching muscles and I hate the way time seems to slow to a crawl as I am pedaling myself to pure exhaustion. But I do love the extra wiggle room I now have in my jeans.

The elliptical machine was an anti-gift to myself for Christmas. I am embarrassed to amit that in the past couple years I've managed to gain about 20 lbs and 1-1/2 pant sizes. The problem with gaining weight is that it happens so slowly that you almost don't notice it. The realization came when I was having a hard time finding clothes that fit me. Its sad that I was in denial and told myself that the reason I couldn't find stuff to wear was because I needed new clothes. I went out and bought several new items and when I went to hang them up I found that I was out of hangers. Sot then I began cleaning the clothes I don't wear anymore out of my closet. As I was doing this I realized that the items that I was preparing to donate were great clothes but just too snug to wear comfortably. I didn't need new clothes at all. What I needed was a new body. I could blame the gain on a combination of Greg's delicious cooking, cold winters, an underactive thyroid and a hundred other things but really, its my fault and its my responsibility to get healthier.

So with the help of my best frienemy, weightwatchers and stock piles of lean cuisines, I've managed to lose ten pounds in 5 weeks. Half-way to my goal. I feel better, sleep better and now I don't think I will be making that large clothing donation to goodwill just yet....
But maybe the term "frenemy" isn't exactly appropriate because it actually means this.
Maybe the appropriate term for my elliptical is my "enefriend"?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A few months ago I saw a special on TLC about "extreme couponers". They spend hours and hours scouring the internet, and newspapers for amazing deals and coupons. They would to to the grocery store armed with stacks and stacks of coupons and they managed to buy several hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for less than ten bucks; or better yet, free! Although I don't buy a lot of the stuff that these people were buying (a lot of pre-processed, non-organic, not tasty) and I don't have the space to stock-pile, I thought I'd see what the whole coupon craze was about. I haven't mastered the art to the point of the grocery store paying me to shop at their stores, but I've managed to save about 14 dollars in the past few weeks. I don't get a newspaper so I don't get coupons from them, although I've thought about heading over to the recycling center to see if I could find the sunday ads. All the coupons I've used so far i've found on the internet. I've been saving like crazy and slowly, very slowly paying off my college debt. Every dollar counts.

Most people appreciate and use coupons so I thought I'd share what I've found. Get the printer warmed up.  -kind of obvious
redplum- same as the coupons in the papers only online $1.00 and $0.50 off horizon organic milk products
stoneyfield -yogurt
yoplait-i like yogurt okay? I've been obsessed with the boston cream pie flavor. Eat at least one every day.
Meijer Grocery Store- register and get digital coupons that you can redeem at checkout. They sometimes send you promotional coupons that take dollar amounts off any purchase.  I've gotten 2 and 5 dollars off but you have to be careful as there are limits to how many coupons you can use.

If anyone knows of any good coupon tips or sites that I have not listed please feel free to post them on the comments section!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

a good weekend

First, I am excited to announce that Greg got me a new camera for Valentines day.  Here is the very first picture I took with it.     

Not a good start.....He was a little annoyed with me but took me to the zoo yesterday to get some practice.

Siku the year old polar bear cub. Isn't he adorable?

he's 400 lbs and his paw is bigger than my head
mandarin duck
in the greenhouse
a hawk that landed in a tree right in front of us on our way out

Its a really good camera and now that I have the hang of it, its almost hard not to take good pictures.

Its officially been two weeks since we bottled our beer and first thing this morning Greg put a bottle in the fridge so it would be ice cold when it came time to try it. We took a walk to Grounds for Thought, bought this week's supply of coffee, some mocha and lemonade (I ended up drinking both) and a apple fritter.  Tonight we had some delicious vegetable soup made with my grandma's home-grown/canned tomato juice and then got grocieries. I saved us $3.55 by using coupons. Yea me. We came home, heated up some homemade vegetable soup and I then had the honor of popping the top off our first bottle of homebrew. 

Its good! I give it a 9 out of 10 and Greg gave it a 6 out of 10. It has a very slightly sweet nutty taste, not at all bitter like what I expected. Greg likes the bitter hoppy taste of IPAs so its not surprising that our brew didn't blow him away. Overall, we are proud and pleasantly suprised. I don't think this beer will sit around for too long. We plan on throwing a little tasting party in the next few weeks.  Most likely, there will be another batch of Bruielly brew in the near future. Success!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

whats going on

Grandpa, handsome as ever
 As of today our shitake patch is "dormant". The shrooms never came so I contacted the manufacturer and they said we needed to "hit the reset button", meaning let it dry out for two weeks, refrigerate it for 3-4 days and then soak it in ice cold water for 24 hrs. Then we can try to grow mushrooms again. I don't know why it didn't work the first time-Hope something happens this time around. Its currently in the dry-out stage. If there was some kind of dance I could do for the mushroom gods to ensure a good harvest I'd be doing it right now.

We will get to crack open our beer this Sunday. Expect a post.

The vanilla extract is still brewing. Its gotten a nice dark amber color but is still a little weak. It still smells more like alcohol than vanilla. I am going to let it set for another couple weeks-might even throw in another vanilla bean or two. Its on the right track though.

On Monday evening, my sister and I made a beautiful batch of homemade beeswax body lotion. It turned out way better than I had expected and I've been slopping it on constantly. I'm OBSESSED.  I will get a post up and a link to the directions this soon. I hope to look for a good recipe for homemade deodorant this weekend as well. I've been having allergic reactions to the one I'm using now and I'm tired of shopping around and having half a dozen different brands in my medicine cabinet. A family member has also been making her own laundry detergent and I am intrigued. She gave me some good tips. (Thanks Melanie!)

Two things have been on my mind practically non stop the last few weeks. The first is the bees. Greg and I have decided that we will be adding two more hives to our little apiary this spring. One will go on my parent's property with the other two hives and the other will be placed at my grandparents. My grandpa (now 90) was a beekeeper in the old days and I think he will get a kick out of having a hive back on his land. He's not in the shape to keep up with a hive these days but he happily agreed to letting me. It will be interesting to see how they do. My grandpa puts in an extensive garden (much too big for him to keep up with himself) so i think the bees shouldn't have a problem finding food. I am hoping that since I will be driving out there once a week anyway, I will have time to help with garden chores as well. I might even ask him to let me put out a few of my own veggies. I would love to grow some eggplants and broccoli and have a packet of heirloom carrots that I got last summer stashed in a drawer. Every time I open that drawer I hear the seeds calling, "plant us please!" Its torture to have a green thumb and and none of your own soil. "renting" family members' land to grow your food is less than ideal but I will have to make due for now. I still haven't found a willing person to let me raise chickens in their backyard and free ranging apartment chickens are frowned upon here in BG. Codes Shmodes.

My lease for my apartment is up at the end of April. It would be awesome if I could find a little place outside of town to rent fairly cheap. Anybody know of anything or anybody know anybody who knows sombody?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Going a Little Greener: Laundry Drying Rack

my 11 dollar walmart laundry drying rack
The great thing about living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is that you usually find yourself saving money too. Since I live in an apartment, I do not have the luxury of an in-home washer and dryer. When I need to do laundry I have to pay 2 bucks a load to wash and "dry" my clothes. Because I live in a college town, my apartment managers have this "don'e expect me to actually do my job" attitude. The sidewalks don't get shoveled or salted in the wintertime, light bulbs in hallways don't get replaced in a timely manner if at all and the clothes dryers in the basement laundry are, well, crap. I've gotten really tired of paying for the dryer to beat up my clothes and not dry them at the same time. When clothes come out of the dryer they are supposed to be dry. When I did the math, I figured I was tossing about 4 dollars worth of quarters every two weeks for the damn driers not to dry my clothes. So this weekend I bought a laundry drying rack. I figure I'd let mother nature dry my clothes for me. Its definitely as cheap as you can get, it actually gets your clothes dry (even if you have to be a little more patient) and is a lot gentler on your fabrics, making them last longer. Think about all the times you've had to clean out the lint trap. All that lint is bits of fabric getting rubbed off your clothes as the dryer spins the life out of them-literally!

I've been thinking about getting a laundry drying rack for some time but I had no idea how much they cost and how much space one would take up in my tiny apartment. But I found this one at wal-mart for 11 dollars and thought it was worth a try. I got it home and took it out and found it to be made of cheap pine and the dowels were a bit too large to fit perfectly in their assigned holes. Did I mention that it didn't come with assembly instructions?  After I threw a mini temper tantrum and tossed a few parts across the room, Greg took 10 minutes out of his precious superbowl watching time to put this laundry drying rack together for me. Lets just say he is much better at assembly and troubleshooting than I and I hope he knows how wonderful I think he is :) It doesn't take up a whole lot of room and it collapsible but its not the best quality. If I had the extra cash to spend I would have saved up and bought a nicer one here.

using every possible hangable surface in my apartment to dry my laundry
I tried it out Monday night and am pretty happy with it. Most of the stuff I hung up at around 8pm last night were dry yesterday morning with the exception of a few heavier t-shirts. I found that not large enough to dry two loads so I will have to remember to stagger my laundry loads instead of trying to get all my laundry done in one day. As I write this I have towels hanging all over the apartment because I wasn't smart enough to realize I can't dry more than one load at a time on the rack. Work clothes have to be wrinkle free and the first thing I found out about the drying rack is that although it gets most things dry overnight, it doesn't magically press them over night for you. It doesn't matter if some of the t-shirts, socks and underwear have a few wrinkles in them but we probably shouldn't walk into work looking like we slept under a bridge the night before. I am already paraniod enough with my natural deodorant experiements and all.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


We got quite a bit of snow this week. I know the snow makes for a lot of extra work but it is so pretty! I am of the opinion that if its going to be cold outside, it might as well be snowing. It's nice to watch and there are lots of fun things you can do in the snow. Skiing, sledding, snow fort making, etc. Yesterday, Greg and I went hiking in Oak Openings during a little snow storm. We were one of the only people there because the snow was coming down so quickly making the roads  a bit sketchy. After our walk (including several successful tackles into snow banks by both parties) we went into the lodge where they had a "window on wildlife". We sat there watching birds for a long time. It was so peaceful and relaxing. I now understand why those crazy bird watching people do what they do.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

OMG hot chocolate

A month or two ago I accidentally discovered a wonderful recipe for hot chocolate. Greg and I just got in from a winter walk and were craving hot chocolate. We didn't have any mix or Hershey's syrup so I decided to wing it and it turned out fantastic. I took one sip and thought to myself, "OMG this is good". Its pretty simple, takes about 10 minutes and requires just few ingredients. Only problem with it is that it is not easy on the waistline. Its made with whole milk and half and half-oh and don't forget the chocolate. I am currently under a pretty strict health regimen at the moment but this stuff is so good, I only drink half a mug and I'm satisfied.

Ingredients (serves two)
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup (heaping) Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 vanilla bean sliced lengthwise (optional)
pinch of salt

First I have to stress the importance of using Ghirardelli chocolate. It is a higher quality chocolate and a bit more expensive but you should find it at most grocery stores. I've tried making the same hot chocolate with Nestle chips and it did not turn out nearly as delicious. Place liquids in sauce pan and slowly warm it on the stove top on low heat until it is steaming, not boiling. I found out the hard way that if you let your mixture boil, it gets lumpy and slimy so try not to do that.Once its steaming add the chips. If you don't have a vanilla bean on hand, its okay but if you do, cut it in half and reserve half for another time. Take the other half, slice it lengthwise and scrape out the inside into the mix and drop in the scraped out parts too.  Add chocolate chips and whisk until it is completely melted and mixed together with the milk. Add the salt, stir and allow mixture to warm over the stove for 5 more minutes then its done. Try it and add more milk if you think its too strong or more chocolate if its too weak. Pour into mugs and enjoy. You can pour the vanilla bean into the mugs because it will continue to infuse your cocoa with vanilla goodness as you drink but don't forget its in there. I cannot be held responsible if you accidentally swallow it and choke....

This recipe also turns out pretty good if you don't have half and half on hand and just use whole milk but I think its creamier with the half and half. If you try this recipe let me know how it turns out for you!