Saturday, August 31, 2013

On Hiatus

We have a busy month coming up so I've decided to take a hiatus from the blog in September.  We'll be celebrating our anniversary (2 years!) and my birthday (33!).  We'll also be heading out on vacation to Montana for a bit and down to my grandfather's memorial service in Pennsylvania.  Have a good month everyone and I will see you back here in October.

P.S. I recently joined instagram (late to that party too I know).  I'll be posting real-time photos of our trip to Montana if there is service.  You can find me as Rowena Coughlin.  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tomato Cobbler

This is the time of year when tomatoes are overwhelming us.  (I need to remember this feeling of being overwhelmed in February when I'm really missing tomatoes. We've stopped buying tomatoes in the winter because the red orbs that resemble tomatoes you can buy then have no taste.  Especially compared to what you get right off the vines.)  The tomatoes we planted in the courtyard are going crazy right now, literally climbing the wall of our garage.

  One unique way to eat them is to make tomato cobbler.  It is inspired by the fruit dessert but savory.

I used cherry tomatoes cut in half, about three cloves of minced garlic and a generous amount of basil.  I put them all in to a baking dish and add salt and pepper.

Follow any old cobbler dough recipe (I used Joy of Cooking's) but reduce the amount of sugar to a teaspoon and increase the salt a bit.  Also add grated Parmesan cheese (about half a cup) and pepper (to taste) to the dough.  Dot the dough over the tomato mix:

Bake according to the cobbler recipes instructions and enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

DIY: Refinishing a Porch

One thing I've learned since buying our house in February is that I really don't like DIY projects all that much.  I thought I would, but considering I've only done one project so far, I don't think it is my thing.  I'll leave it to Kevin - who is quite good at them.

He recently refinished the carriage house porch.  It was in desperate need of refinishing:

We decided to try Rustoleum Restore.  Honestly, if it was our porch we may have stripped and stained it, but we are seeking a time/money balance for our rentals.  We'd like to keep them in tip-top shape but also they are an investment so we need to be efficient.  This product promised to be pretty quick (we Kevin just needed to lightly scrape and paint on the Restore).  It should protect the wood for at least 10 years.  So we decided to try it.

(I did help him scrape.)

Can you spot the naughty dog in this picture?

How about now?  He climbed up on the kitchen table so he could see us.

So after scraping and rolling it on like paint we ended up with this:

Not bad for a weekend project.    And a big improvement.

Friday, August 23, 2013


There has been a turkey in our freezer since last fall.  I think Kevin bought it for a work party game but I'm not sure. Regardless, it has been there, biding its time.  It even escaped the "eat everything so we don't have to move it" phase we went through last December/January before closing on our house.  However, with the local fruit/veggies we are putting up for the winter, freezer space started to become hot real estate.  And the turkey still sat there, all 14 pounds of it, taking up practically a whole shelf.  Something had to be done. So I decided to throw a Summer Thanksgiving with friends.

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is that it is truly a seasonal feast: pumpkin pie! cranberry sauce! brussel sprouts!  All things you generally only get in the fall. So I thought we'd do summer variations on the Thanksgiving foods.  We had the Thanksgiving staples of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing as well as roasted summer squash, zucchini bread, tomato cobbler, peach pie, and half a blueberry pie.  Don't ask me why only half a blueberry pie, ask this one:

 (This photo was taken months before the blueberry pie eating incident, but she still looks guilty doesn't she?)

Probably true to any first-time Thanksgiving hoster, I had a bit of a meltdown.  I may or may not have cried in the Wal-Mart parking lot after spending an hour and a half looking for a turkey fryer.  Lesson learned: Even if a website tells you something is in stock, it may not actually be -- and the people working at Wal-Mart are less than helpful.  Luckily Kevin talked me down, assured me we still had time to roast the bird if I came home right away.  I was skeptical, and debated buying some rotisserie chickens as a back-up but Kevin was right - we roasted the bird in plenty of time.  Second lesson learned: It is impossible to buy a turkey fryer in August. 

Overall, it was a first-time summersgiving success.

 Fresh salsa, the beginnings of tomato cobbler, and some summer vegetables pre-roasting.

 The peach and blueberry pies (pre-Molley). 

 Pippa made a new friend (I tried to catch them playing, but was too late).

The table set.

Not pictured is the Thanksgiving requisite of falling asleep on the couch after dinner.  One thing happened that rarely happens at the traditional Thanksgiving though...

 A fire outside.  Definitely made up for the lack of football on TV.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gardening 2013 Update

Our garden has not been a priority this year.  This summer has pretty much disappeared (I can't believe we're in the second half of August already).  We've been pretty busy working on the house, and have not done that much since the "before" pictures I posted in April.  There is always next year...

Weeds are overtaking the side yard.  Our initial plan was to extend the fence and have a bigger fenced in area but now I am thinking I'd like to put an additional parking spot there.  Parking is our limiting factor and an extra spot would be great.  I'm not sure the city would go for it though...

As for our vegetables:

The peas were a flop - they didn't climb the iron thing and there wasn't enough time between when I planted them and it got too hot.  So we didn't really get any peas.  The tomatoes and the peppers are doing well though:

The courtyard is pretty overgrown and wild but I kind of like it that way.  We'd still like to get a table and chairs out there as well. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Five Years - A Look Back

Today is our first-date anniversary.  Five years ago, it was a rare sunny day in Juneau, Alaska and Kevin called me last minute and asked if I had any plans.  I didn’t, so we agreed to go for a hike.  Neither of us started the evening thinking it was a date, but by the end we were both smitten. I’m sure that most of you know the story about how we met, but I love to reminisce so let me back up to the very beginning.

We both moved to Juneau, Alaska around the same time (summer 2008) and for the same reasons: a job and an adventure.  I got there first and started looking for an apartment for me and my cat, Lulu.  It turned out it was very difficult to find pet-friendly housing.  I initially was looking for a one-bedroom but quickly expanded my search when I realized how few landlords allowed cats.  I looked at a two-bedroom apartment that would take my cat but it was more than I could comfortably afford on my own.  So I posted an ad on craigslist looking for a roommate to sign the lease with me.

While a lot of people emailed me, only one person seemed like he had actually read my ad (everyone else was interested in “the apartment I had available”).  I emailed him back and we agreed to chat on the phone (he was not yet in Juneau).  That particular apartment wouldn’t take his dog (Roxy!) but after talking a bit (as well as scoping each other out on Facebook and calling each other’s references) we decided to team up and look for apartments together. 

To make a long(ish) story short(er), I ended up bailing on him shortly thereafter.  I found a house that was awesome and conveniently located to work, which would take my cat but not his dog so I emailed (such a coward) and said, “sorry, best of luck to you.”  I didn’t expect to hear from him again.

A couple of weeks later I went back to Vermont to study for the Alaska bar exam.  My family had rented a cabin on a lake for two weeks and I’d study in the mornings and play in the afternoons.  I didn’t get cell phone reception so would call to check my messages every few days.  One day there was a message from Kevin, inviting me out with some of his new co-workers.  I had already missed the outing so I sent him an email, saying I was out of town and would get in touch after I was done with the bar exam.

A couple of weeks after that I invited him out to go pick blueberries with a new friend of mine.  It ended up being a group of four (my soon to be best friends in Juneau) and we had milkshakes and hiked up a trail to pick wild blueberries.  It wasn't love at first sight for either of us, I think we both thought the other was nice enough.  I was actually most impressed with Roxy, since she figured out pretty quickly she could pick blueberries directly off the bushes herself (rather than waiting for us to give her one, like the other dog on the hike did).  

I think we hung out a few more times in groups before our first date - went for a run, went to a party, and played some wii.  But it was the hike on 8/15/2008 that sealed it for me.  We hiked up to the restaurant on Mount Roberts.  I wasn't in great shape at the time and was happy that Kevin seemed fine with me taking some breaks along the way.  We sat at the bar and had several beers and talked so long that we had to ride the tram down with the employees finishing their shifts.  We then had a late dinner and headed home.   There was no kiss that night (that happened two days later) but I knew something special had happened.  Sure enough, pretty soon we were spending all of our free time together.  We moved in together less than a year later and I followed him across the country soon after that. 

Some photos from our early days:

 (blueberries from the first time we met)

 (The view from Mt. Roberts on the 8/15 hike)

 (first camping trip)
 (another camping trip)

 (I would take Roxy hiking on the weekends Kevin worked)

 (a camping trip not long after we got Kinsey)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Protein and Iron for a Quasi-Vegetarian

The reduction in meat consumption has been going really well.  I consider myself a quasi-vegetarian - I don't eat a lot of meat but nothing is off limits. If I go to someone's house I'll happily eat whatever they have cooked for me.  If we go to a restaurant, I will order a vegetarian option or fish (in that order), but if there isn't anything but meat, I am not going to sweat it.  Kevin still cooks it and I won't waste what we already have. That said, I'm probably eating meat only once or twice a week (much less than before when it was daily or even every meal). Kevin is eating a bit more since he orders it when we go out and I leave our meat based leftovers for him, because I know he likes it more (besides, peanut butter and jelly is vegan).

It feels like a really good (and maintainable) balance.  And it has led to some really good meals with more variety than we were eating before.

Although now that days go by without eating meat, I need to pay more attention to protein, iron, and B vitamins.

B vitamins: I started taking a multivitamin that has 100% of the B vitamins I need. I also started taking a calcium + D to make sure I get enough for my bones.

Iron:   The types of foods that I am eating (beans, whole grains, vegetables) are all good sources of iron.  The issue is that they contain non-heme iron and are not as well absorbed as heme iron (the types found in meat).  So I started taking a separate iron vitamin.  The iron has "335%" of the iron I need in a day so I cut it in half - since you can only absorb so much at a time.  I take the vitamins 2x a day:

I now have a pill line up to match Roxy's. I don't need to wrap mine in cheese - although the gummy multivitamin is like a little treat all on its own.

Protein: While doing some research, I found No Meat Athlete, by a vegan blogger who runs ultramarathons.  He has some really good posts about what you need to eat to fuel your runs and how to make sure you are getting enough of what you need. Based on his advice, my weight and the fact that I am pretty active, I need about 62 grams of protein a day.  I haven't actually gone through and counted up what my protein intake is a day but I have started making sure that I have a protein source at every meal.  As well as grains and vegetables.

So it may be tofu, asapargus and risotto.

Or beans with rice and vegetables.
Or a veggie burger with grains and beans.

For lunches I usually do leftovers, peanut butter and jelly, or eggs on toast.  For breakfast I usually do cereal with milk or oatmeal (which actually has a lot of protein in and of itself).  Overall it is not hard at all to get enough protein.  I feel great and I don't have any of the symptoms of protein deficiency. It may just be my new way of life.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking: Quick Weeknight Meal

We usually eat dinner pretty late.  Most nights by the time we get home from work, walk and feed the dogs, and do everything else we need to do it is already 7 or later and I am pretty much starving.  Dinner needs to be fast.  Enter Trader Joe's.  TJ opened pretty recently here and we have been finding staples that we really like.  The latest find: Indian spiced veggie burgers:

Combined with some grilled veggies from our CSA

And some Indian spiced protein/grain mix:
 (this was actually the second time we tried the Harvest Grain medley and we like it a lot)

You get a healthy and complete vegetarian meal on the table in 20 minutes.
(can you spot the dog taking her clean up duties seriously and ready to tackle any mess?) 
Tasty too, the meat lover agrees!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cheap vs. Thrifty: Having a Fingers Crossed Car

This might just tip us over to the cheap side of the spectrum.... up until recently we had what I called a "fingers crossed car."  You know, I cross my fingers it will get us where we want to go without breaking down.  It was a hand-me-down from my dad - he gave it to me when my mom upgraded and he got her hand-me-down a couple of years ago.  We call him Diego, because at the time we got him we had a purple Ford Explorer (another hand-me-down) that I called Dora. 

Since I can walk to work we really only need one car.  Occasionally we do need two, and that is where Diego came in.  Unfortunately for him, we have decided not to put the money into getting him through the New York State inspection this year.  For the past two years he has stumped the mechanics and they can't figure out what is making the "check engine" light be on.  The mechanics ultimately give up and get it so it turned off long enough to pass inspection, but it came back on during the drive home.  It was an expensive process both times however, so we decided we'd rather put the money into a new car.  Or maybe we'll just drop down to one car for awhile and save the money. At various points we have had only one and we managed just fine.

Diego's future is the same as Dora's fate: auctioned off and the proceeds go to charity (we picked the U.S. Humane Society).   It was an easy process last time, USHS arranged everything and the auction company came and picked up Dora while we were at work.  A few weeks later we got a receipt for the tax purposes - USHS got 80% and 20% went to the auction company.  Now every time I see that model purple explorer I wonder if it is Dora.

Overall, Diego has been a reliable car.  He's only broken down on us once and although he might be ugly (and a bit smelly), he could still last a long time.  Hopefully he'll have a new life with someone else who really needs him.

Bye Bye Diego.