Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm a bad blogger

Not because I am a crappy writer or lack for topics ... No, I'm a bad blogger because I fail to photograph anything. I think the key to an interesting blog is pictures. And I don't take pictures of anything. Zip, zilch. Take this weekend for instance. I made lots of homemade food (soups especially) but I didn't take any pictures.

Friday: Mexican refrigerator soup & cheese quesadillas
Saturday: Iowa Corn Chowder
Sunday: Tomato Raviolli blah blah Soup
Sunday: Potato Leek Soup
Sunday: Refrigerator Pickles

All things were really tasty and now they are all gone too. I could have taken pictures and posted the recipes. Couda, shouda, wouda.

I spent most of yesterday holed up in our local coffee shop studying for my insurance exam. I had coffee at 5 pm and at 11:45 pm still couldn't sleep because of the caffeine buzz. I kept coming up with "q" words for bananagrams. Side note: totally fun game that is portable and good for small groups. Have you ever thought about the number of "q" words that also have the letter "u"?

Friday, August 28, 2009


I think that one of my spiritual gifts is the gift of hospitality. But this gift needs some fine tuning as I need to stop being annoyed when people show up unexpectedly. In fact, Lance does much better than I do in this respect. I think my problem comes because I like ensure that my houseguests have clean sheets & towels, some sort of baked good, and a decently clean bathroom. I really enjoy making a beautiful breakfast for my houseguests. Lance's brother and his girlfriend will be staying with us tonight. I would like to make cranberry orange scones for breakfast, but Lance is on a soft diet ... maybe strawberry soup? But then again, Andrew hates strawberries (not normal if you ask me!) Who knows what I'll make, I'm really not up for making individual breakfasts for everyone!

This just in: I'm also making supper tonight - soup anyone?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Three Question Thursday

1. Would you rather live in a place that’s always cloudy but warm, or always sunny but cold?
2. Are you a city, town or country person at heart?
3. Where were you born?

1. I would choose sunny but cold. Granted, this is coming at the end of the summer when I'm sick of the heat and ready for the respite of fall. I love the bright clearness of a sunny winter day.

2. I am a city girl. This reminds me of the third grade play I was in "The City and the Country Mouse." I played the city mouse. I'm still a city girl - I would hate to live more than 30 minutes to the nearest Target or mall. This is somewhat problematic as DH would prefer to live in the country.

3. Seoul, South Korea. I often have the question "where you from?" If someone asks me that I will tell them Sioux City, IA. This will elicit more "no, where you from?" (said in a very bad Asian accent, typically at a nail salon- ask me to do it for you sometime, it will crack you up). I will then repeat Sioux City. I feel no need to explain my entire childhood and life to a complete stranger. Mind your own business. I don't walk around asking African Americans if they're from Mozambique.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fantasy: Free Time

Sometimes I like to think about what I would do if I had extra time not devoted to school and higher education. I would ...
  • work on my conversational spanish "donde esta el bano?"
  • get my piano tuned
  • finish my sewing projects including: placemat purses, tailoring my clothes & coin pouches
  • make taco seasoning mix
  • start/finish my study abroad bum, wedding, honeymoon and Hawaii scrapbooks

But mostly I think about where I would have a part-time job so I could get a killer discount.

Like ... this headband from JCrew. It's $39. No one would pay $39 for a headband. But if I worked there and got a discount, well that would be a whole other story.

Or ... how about this rug from Pottery Barn? No doubt it's fantastic, but $349 fantastic?

Lastly ... isn't this citron Le Creset Dutch Oven precious? But $230? No, I don't think so. But with a discount? Maybe!

The moral of the story is this: I have no time in my life for a part-time job. But maybe I have time for friends who work at these stores and could get me a discount??? :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I cannot say no to travel coffee mugs. I have a couple of pink ones, a green Starbucks one, a blue one, 2 red ones, etc., etc. This is my most favorite travel coffee mug that I got this last summer for visting a church in Okoboji. Isn't it great?! My friend, Erika, had gotten one earlier in the summer and I lusted over it everytime I saw her with it at work. We spent a weekend at her in-law's lake house and Lance managed to snag one of these for me at the end of the service - I love it!

(sorry for the flash glare!)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Same Plant - Different Looks

These are two yellow crookneck squashes that were grown from the same plant. Can you believe it? The one on the left is decidely more orange and warty, while the one on the right is yellow (like it is supposed to be!) and much more smooth. Lance thought that it might have something to do with the lower temps we've been experiencing, but I'm not sure. They look so different from each other!

This is an entire box of cucumbers. We need to start giving some away. Clearly. I cannot eat cucumber sandwiches every single day like Lance. Last week I watched Lance eat half a cucumber in one sitting. Just in sandwiches! I told him that it can't be good for his digestive system, but I have no medical proof of this. Just my own "gut" instinct (I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Workplace State Fair Contest Pictures

Geeze louise, I took some lousy pictures.

This first pictures is the winning butter cow my neighbor, Jamie, made. It's a butter cow that is moon walking. This is in honor of all the controversy that went on about the Michael Jackson butter sculpture.

A close-up.

This is my entry: my weirdo yellow crookneck squash. It's orange and has warts. Not at all yellow. Second place finish to an enormous zucchini. I was a little disappointed, but I did get a ribbon and a prize.

Again with the blurry picture. I know I have a better one somewhere ...

There was also an entry for an ashtray cake. Disgusting, but entirely edible. Actually quite funny! No picture, I forgot to take one.

Also note, these pictures were taken right before I found the dead mouse. Gross, gross, gross!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Three Question Thursday

1. What’s one of your vices?
Lateness. Good gracious, I run late to everything. We have yet to make the opening song at church for the 8 am service. Usually I am running into the building I work at with two minutes to spare. I am not a morning person and it shows. Those who sit by me know that I do not converse until 10 am.
My second vice ... shopping. I cannot resist a good deal. If it's on sale, I can justify!

2. What’s one dish you ate growing up that you have fond memories of?
Stove top stuffing. I have distinct memories of my dad making a box of stuffing (and only a box of stuffing) for dinner while my mom was off doing other things. Not exactly a balanced meal, but I was as happy as a clam.

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Five years ... I will be 31 and one year away from getting my French bulldog (side note: Lance told me that I have to be 32 before we can get a dog). Perhaps there will be a child in my life and perhaps I will either have done something fabulous with this master's degree I am slaving away at or I'll be working part-time and staying home part-time with aforementioned child. Either possibility would be nice!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hickory Park

I <3 Hickory Park. It's a fab restaurant in Ames that I got to know and love during my ISU days. I was talking with a friend at work last week and I had made the discovery that it had been over a year since I had their food. What a travesty! So I asked our friends, Annalise and Alex, that live in Ankeny and asked if they wanted to join us and of course they did (please note: it was at their wedding when I last had Hickory Park).

It was a little after 7 pm when we got seated. I had forgotten this is about the time that parents are moving their college students back in - man, was there a crowd! But we had a short wait for a table, thank goodness. I ate enough food to make my belly hurt - a pizza burger, mashed potatoes and an Oreo shake. DELICIOUS. In my quest for food, I forgot a picture. Cardinal sin. If you are ever in the Ames or central Iowa area, check this place out. Fast bbq & burgers and fantastic ice cream and mashed potatoes. I can't wait until our next trip!

On a different note, check out Iowa Girl Eats for a yummie give away.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dead Mouse

Ughh ... I shudder at the thought of mice - alive or dead. They are disgusting. I don't care what way you put it, mice are nasty. Gross, gross, gross. Any bad dreams I have are about mice. Mice crawling up my pant leg. I usually wake up to find myself kicking and yelling out. And I found one today underneath my co-workers desk. Nightmare. I'm still grossed out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Iowa State Fair - Workplace Contests!

In honor of the wonderful, nationally-Martha Stewart acclaimed Iowa State Fair, my workplace is holding its own celebration. On Monday we are having a State Fair themed lunch:
pork tenderloins, corn on the cob, potato salad, cole slaw, watermelon, lemonade and a wide assortment of ice cream bars. (I was really hoping for a corn dog) Additionally, we are also holding the following contests:

A) Best two stick butter cow
B) Oddest shaped home grown garden item
C) Prettiest home grown flower
D) Ugliest cake

Being competitive, I want to enter all four contests. In reality, I'm only going to do one. I think I would have had a decent chance at winning two out of the four, but I have no idea of how I would manage a two stick butter cow and all of my flowers have died.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I've given up convincing myself that I will ever be a runner, or someone who even enjoys running. I've always thought it would be such a nice thing to say "yeah, I ran three miles today and it was great" or "I'm training for my half-marathon." But I've given this up because no matter how hard I try, I hate running. I really do. There's no way around it. I enjoy being tricked into exercising. I love dancing and group sports (wait - does beanbag toss count?). I'm a naturally competitve person so I'm always comparing myself to the other people in my class and trying to work harder than them. When we had our YMCA membership, I took numerous classes and really enjoyed them. My workplace provides an onsite fitness center that's pretty nice - there are treadmills, elliptical machines, weight machines, etc. In addition, we also have pilates twice a week over lunch. That's fun, but I only have 45 minute lunches. By the time class gets over and I finish changing and heating up my lunch ... I'm running like a maniac to get back to my desk.

So Rachael, if you read this post, I'm never going to run a half-marathon with you. Give it up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


We have no money, but I would love to go on vacation. (If Lance reads this post, his first reaction would be "what?!" because we just got back from Michigan and went to Hawaii in April. I suppose that any reasonable person would have this same reaction. But whoever said that I was reasonable?) If I was given the option of a destination, right here, right now, I would pick Orlando, FL. Lance and I went there on our honeymoon and did the whole Disney thing. If given the option, I would go to Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure right now. Lance was disappointed when we went to Disney because it was very family-friendly and less thrill orientated. But look at this ride, who wouldn't call that thrill orientated? Fun!!

There's lots of vacations that I have in my head that I would like to go on ... California wine trip ... Vegas ... Universal Studios ... combined with the trip I will make for school next year: Spokane/Seattle and perhaps ... South Korea! Again, all dreams because I want to make these trips before we have children. There's probably 5 years worth of vacations here and we don't plan on waiting 5 years before having children!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Garden Update

Mid year garden update ...

One of my zucchini plants is still living and producing well. I've put zucchini into pasta salads and done a lot of baking. Unfortunately, the plant is in the process of dying. Go figure.

Our cucumber plant is doing exceptionally well! Lance and I have never had a successful plant! We've had tons of cucumber sandwiches, which are great snacks. Lance's brother, Andrew, his girlfriend had never had a cucumber before. Strange. Do you also see that yellow crookneck squash? I'm still struggling with what to do with him. They're a little odd. And the roma tomatoes? They're dying. This is about the most I'll get out of three plants. Stupid blight.

But my cherry tomatoes are doing really well. One of my favorite things to do is have them with cottage cheese as a mid-afternoon snack. So yum!

As always, our green beans are doing spectacularly. A little too much. We could have green beans for every meal and not eat all the ones we have in the freezer from years past. We just froze our first batch on Sunday. I need to find more recipies that call for green beans.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zucchini Goodness

What do you do when you have giant zucchinis? I thought this one looked like a sea slug.

You make ... chocolate zuchinni cake!

First, wisk together all your dry ingredients - flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt.

Then cream your sugar, butter, and canola oil in your mixer.

I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer! My parents gave it to me for my 23rd birthday - best birthday present ever!

Next add your eggs one at a time to the mix - stir well!

Next start throwing in the flour mixture, alternating with the yogurt additions.

Remember that mondo zucchini? Grate that into 2 cups. With the size of my zucchini, it was about 1/4 of the vegetable.

Add in your chocolate chips - the cake batter should look pretty moist and gooey by this point.

Pour your batter into a prepared pan - flour and grease ahead of time and then pop it into your preheated 325 degree oven for 50 minutes.

It will emit a wonderful chocolately smell while it's baking ... so good .... even a husband who is concerned about vegetables in his baked goods will admit this is delicious!

And then when you still have a huge zucchini leftover, make zucchini bread!

Needless to say, yesterday was a baking day. I'm finally done with my ethics class and this is how I like to spend my free time - baking with garden fresh ingredients!

Here is the full recipe!
Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2005

2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 1/2 medium)
1 11-ounce package (about 2 1/4 cups) bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a 13×9x2 inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter and oil until they’re well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt (or buttermilk) in 3 additions each.
Mix in the grated zucchini, then the chocolate chips.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares.
Serves about 12-15, depending on the size of the squares you cut. Keeps well in an airtight container for at least 1 week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Three Question Thursday

Everyone, we have air conditioning! I was so happy to have air back in our house, I thought that I could hug our new system. That's right, I said NEW air conditioning and furnace. I'm very happy to have this, after a huge fiasco with the heating & cooling company we decided this would be the best use of our money. Unfortunately ... this means no new car for our family. But like I told Lance last night, you can't sleep and do laundry in your car. At least, I can't do any of these things without the comfort of temperate temperatures. This new system is just in time too, the Saturday temp is fore casted to be right at 96 degrees - yikes! Praise the Lord for air conditioning. I was not meant to be a pioneer. Or live in Arizona.

Onto Three Question Thursday

1. Are you a morning or night person?
2. Do you, or have you ever played an instrument?
3. What was your favorite part about going back to school when you were little?

1. I am most definitely not a morning person. If my job could started at 10:30 am, I would be a better employee. At my current job, I am required to be at work and ready at 8 am sharp. I cannot lie, this can be a struggle. I am much better suited to putting in long nights and sleeping in. This is one reason why I miss being a college student.
2. I have played several instruments. I took piano lessons for 9 years, played the trombone for 8 years, and played several drums in the band. I have not touched my trombone since I graduated from high school. We have a piano at our house, but it needs to be tuned and I am in need of some refresher lessons. Once I graduate next spring and have "free time" again, I am going to try and start playing again.
3. Oh school ... I loved school. I'm a social gal, I loved seeing all my friends and I loved seeing my favorite teachers again. But I also loved purchasing new folders, pens, binders. And planning my outfit for the first day of school. Thinking about all these things, I miss all of this just a little bit. I do not miss the blind panic of studying for tests and staying up to all hours of the night trying desperately to figure out my physics homework. I do not miss my physics teacher who also was my general science and chemistry teacher too. He was somewhat of a sadist.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I know I need to stop complaining about the heat in our house, but I can't take much more of this. In fact, one more evening of not being able to do laundry, cook, run the dishwasher, or clean the kitchen is going to put me over the edge. I can't even sit downstairs and concentrate enough to try and write my final ethics paper because the heat is so sweltering. Last night was by far the worst of the 9 days we've been without air conditioning. The humidity, heat and stillness of the house was so bad that we gave in at 9:54 pm and went over to a friend's house to sleep. It was 86 degrees at 10:24 pm. God bless our friends for generously loaning their guest room to us. When we returned home at 6:55 am this morning it was 81 degrees inside.

Mini-vacation: Holland

Holland as in the country?? No silly - Holland in Michigan! Not nearly as exciting, but just as much fun! Lance and I just returned from our trip to visit our dear friends Mandy & Aaron. I met Mandy as a sophomore at Northwestern and we've been good friends ever since. She was the maid of honor at our wedding 4 years ago. She and Aaron are so much fun, I wish that they lived closer. I didn't really know Aaron very well until they got married, but he is very similar to Lance in tastes and disposition. Again, I wish they lived closer! Last fall I mentioned that we might come and visit, which of course Mandy took to mean "we're coming to visit!"

We had a great time with them, touring Holland, sampling fun restaurants, shopping, mini-golfing, banana-grams and Wii games. All in all it was a blast and 4 days (with 8 hour travel days) is not enough. Now it's time for them to visit us!

Here are some photos from our adventures in sand dune buggy rides

Lance, Aaron, Mandy preparing for the sand dune buggy ride in Sagatuck, MI. It was wild - later that night I was still finding sand on my body!

This was the tone of the entire ride - very corny and silly. But fun!

The whole group mid-way through the ride!

Sunny day and sunglasses

The guide had suggested running down a sand dune. Granted the only way back up is hiking ... the boys were the only ones foolish enough to embark on this adventure. They did say that it was a lot harder coming up than going down!

View through the canopy of trees - very restful.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Every year I cease to be amazed by my garden. Usually my wonderment is at both ends of the spectrum's - at how well some plants do and how poorly other plants do. This year I'm busy being amazed by the ginormous amounts of cherry tomatoes I'm getting as well as the huge zucchinis and crookneck squashes. I love cherry tomatoes, I can eat them as a snack if allowed. Because my garden has allowed for it, I've been really into cucumber sandwiches lately - made with 1 block of cream cheese mixed with 1 packet of Good Seasons Italian dressing mix. I spread that on rye cocktail bread and top with a thinly sliced cucumber and a smattering of dried dill. Delish!

The crookneck squash I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with it. I think I'm going to slice it up and grill it.

I would make some zucchini bread but the air conditioning is still on the fritz. And it's 91 degrees outside and Lance does not allow the oven to be on even when the air conditioning does work. We've said several prayers in the last 24 hours that Lance would be able to repair the air conditioning. He took a half day off today to go home early to work on it some more. In Lance's exact words "It's supposed to be 91 degrees out. If I don't get the air fixed we will die." Let's continue to pray this is not the case when I get home at 5 pm!

UPDATE: It's 9:33 pm and there is no air in my house. At least today I haven't cried.

On a different note, excellent PURE bar give away taking place at Iowa Girl Eats - check it out!