I’m not surprised.

R and I went to Topeka last weekend for our friend’s housewarming party. This photo encapsulates what my friends have to put up with.
  • New hairstyle = awkward conversations regarding everything about me except my hair. I try my hand at self-deprecation, but end up liking to watch them writhe in pain as they look me over.
  • The refusal to change out of a shirt soaked by a water balloon, thus making it seem to all new-comers to the party that I have been sweating profusely.
  • The underarm stain confirming that I sweat profusely.
  • In an attempt to reduce extra inches on my upper arm, hold in a way that enlarges my elbow to twice the size of my head. And I’ve got a big head, my friends.
  • When given the task of making queso, somehow drop dangling jewelry into it. When someone almost chokes on it later in the evening, I mutter “Who made that dip? What a loser” and then look at someone accusingly.
All in all a good weekend. More to come.

Tortillas – check!

I’m enjoying finding foods that I can make at home to cut down on those weird sounding ingredients found on the package while also saving some serious money. This time it was tortillas. Three ingredients were used total and all from items I already had in the kitchen, plus that’s one more item I don’t have to put on my grocery list. I’m no longer afraid of bread. If it doesn’t come out perfect, I can now isolate what may have gone wrong and tweak it the next time.  

For instance, these were a wee bit thick for my liking. Which is awesome, b/c the batch already made 12 anyway. That means more tortillas next time around. Joy!

I own you.

Have you ever spent all morning craving a food, are bound and determined to make it at home and then are thrilled with the results? It almost never happens. That last criteria is always the clincher. But not this time. I made about 40 crab rangoons and R & I positively devoured them. It was wonderful.

I feel sick now.


Stove-top popcorn. Such a simple change and one that is hardly noticeable. I’m trying to make things from scratch and although this isn’t necessarily a “new” recipe, it still cuts down on all of the packaging from microwave popcorn. And the price is literally cut in half. I bought two bags of popcorn kernels for maybe at most $2 and store them in a storage container. And to my surprise, only had to cover the bottom layer of the dutch oven to get a few days worth of snacking. I just keep the lid covered over the pot and found that the popcorn kept as well as those Christmas tins you buy. 

I know I’m late in the game on popcorn, but when I start to notice these small changes, it really opens my eyes to the other major things I can do to live simply, cheaply, and with less waste. Keeps me motivated.

March Madness Kick-Off

My sister L and her family came up to kick off March Madness. It’s about a four hour hike from where they live and because Mizzou was playing on Friday afternoon, I left my key under the mat so they could come in as they please. Little did they know, they’d have to watch the game on a 19″ computer screen (thank you CBS.com!) Papa J said that he placed his son W in front of the screen and then made W yell out what was going on. Apparently the screen was not big enough.

When we arrived home after work, it took zero minutes for J & R to make a beer run and then set up a mini ESPN-Zone. Three computers going, with different games on at once.

While this was taking place, we set up a TV that J brought and introduced our nieces and nephew to an oldie but goodie. Super Mario Bros 3. That’s right. Old school.
The next day, we took the little trio to a local state park (Devil’s Den State Park). We zig-zagged down the side of an Ozark mountain to reach the park, which gave us ample opportunities to find purple and white trees. At one point, we looked out the window and the side of the mountain went straight down. E politely asked R to not tumble the car down. She had read my mind apparently, but asked it in a much sweeter voice than I would. A park ranger was hosting a “Sensory Game”. Afterwards, there was a supposed to be a guided hike to the caves, but the weather had taken a turn for the worse and was sooooo cold. None of the kids complained though. I think I did though.
During the game, R paired up with W and I joined E. It involved sticking your hands into various pillow cases to feel items and listening to animal sounds. You had to guess what each thing/sound was. Oh yeah, you also had to smell something too. This was #8. I handed it over to E to guess what it was (vanilla essence). She looked me dead in the eye and said, “It’s permanent marker”. I laughed pretty hard and of course had to tell everyone around me.
Here’s me getting a kick out of E. She’s seriously witty. It’s scary. There’s W in the background sticking his hand into a pillowcase. They got almost everyone right (nerds alert!). E & I were the comedy relief.
Afterwards, we huddled up and ate a quick lunch outside. Watched K chase a duck around and made a pit stop at the waterfall to take family pictures. I forced them to sign a contract in blood stating they would come back when the weather was nicer and camp out with us. This park is so neat.

On the way home, we kidnapped W into our car and spent the ride back picking out chocolate morsels from the trail mix while gazing out the window. Well, some of us ate the trail mix. E konked out….
So W ate her share.
We divided the evening up between watching basketball and watching cookies bake.
The next morning, K and I were trying to enjoy our daily cup o’ joe, when we heard a dance party going on inside.

I think E won. All in all, a very fun weekend. Even though the weather was cold, the guys got a game of golf in and the girls (and W) watched Pee-Wee Herman’s Big Adventure. Neither L nor I had seen that movie in the longest time and laughed so hard during it. Too good!

Don’t forget about our camping trip guys. I will use force to bring you back down!

Step Right Down…

…. You’re the next contestant to get starry eyed by jazz hands and a “grrrrreat price!” For the record everyone, R and I are no longer allowed into Sams anymore. We just haven’t built up the appropriate resistant to “deal, deal, deals!!”.

As we were walking down the aisles, struggling to focus on the list we painstakingly wrote out the night before, we heard on the loudspeaker “Anyone who would like a free paring knife, please meet in front of the deli.” R and I looked at each other, and like any other freebie-grubbing American, …vrrrroooom – off we went. We stood sardine-like in a crowd of about 30 and watched the smoothest smooth-talker give a schpeal on the latest set of knives that “he is about to run out of, so hurry folks, get them while you can!!”


You only need to use the urgency scare-tactic on me and I’m done. I looked back at R and begged him with my eyes to tell me how dumb this purchase was. He started off strong, although I could see he was starting to break a sweat with the resistance. I turned back to the speaker and that’s when he brought out the grand prize. A food chopper — free!. I felt a hand squeeze my shoulder and knew that R had broken down. We were gonners.

…but man, will we be able to slice a tomato now!!

We were almost to the check-out line, when I think the upside down patio garden was strategically planted (no pun intended) in front of me. Somehow I managed to convince R that because he had not stayed strong during the knife presentation, I deserve this piece of plastic that will probably not last a season. I topped it off with the ole “but what tomatoes are you going to cut up with your knives??” line. It will only take about 300 tomato harvests to make up the price, but we were on cloud nine in the parking lot. We’ll see in a month if we regret it.

You’re a Jerky.

After we left Sedalia in the a.m., we met up with R’s brother N for lunch. We don’t get to see him much (even though we’re going to Topeka tomorrow and will again), but we had an appointment to talk shop. And talk shop we did…. over a nice greasy hamburger, which was much needed after a night of board games.

We figured up a three-year financial plan to coincide with his graduation. Down to the point that we now have a shared google document in order to keep each other accountable. And by the end of it? Well, hopefully we’ll be living closer together, yet faraway from everyone else… if that makes any sense. But as my mom always says… If you wanna make God laugh, (say it with me) just tell Him your plans. So with that in the back of our thoughts, we forge ahead anyway.
N, R, and I are also going to embark on a year long project which we haven’t nailed down just yet. By the end of this weekend we should have it. More details to come.

Food! Nom..nom..nom!
Afterwards, we jumped into the car for our trek home. On the way we stopped to pick up something R found on Craigslist…. a dehydrator. N gave us a recipe for very good (and low sodium) beef jerky and R was biting at the bit to try it. But first we had to drive through some nice countryside. I decided I like the dead grass. It made the scenery look like an old photograph.

And of course, I can’t get enough of white farm houses.

As soon as we got home, R tried out the machine and, my goodness, our house reeked. I had the day off, which I thought beforehand was fortunate…but after smelling that for hours on end, I started to envy Mr. R. The end result was worth it though. I can’t wait to try out other things in it…. Like tomato powder…. You can turn it into sauce, paste, soup, so many things. Can’t wait!

Once-a-year Dinner

Really. Only once a year. And I think we completely skipped over 2008. Weird how time is flying by.

After driving for 4 hours through a wonderful Missouri landscape, letting R sleep, and me soaking in the scenery, we arrived in Sedalia to our friends, L & T’s, house. We showed up shortly after the other caravan, and as we walked up to the door, a pile of kids came sauntering outside. I weaved my way through the tiny group and eventually made it to the front door. L laughed that, after we saw all the kids, she was afraid we would turn right around and drive home. The roomful of children was sticker shock, for sure, …but more like a scratch-n-sniff sticker rather than a deer-in-the-headlights shock. Times have changed, my friends, and that’s just fine. If the new times include dancing with dolls to the Oldies and listening to stories being read in all corners of the house, I’m happy with it thank you very much.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take me awhile to fit in with the younger crowd, though. I wandered around the house for a bit and caught some wary looks from a few of the peanuts. They weren’t too sure of me and my fears were confirmed when a boy started crying after I laughed. Apparently, times have not changed, my friends, and I guess that’s fine too.

At one point, I looked around to find R playing with the magnetic letters on the fridge. I guess he can easily fit in with any crowd, old or young.

Not too long afterwards, we made R grow up by about 25 years and help the carve the turkey (yes — turkey!!). We started off with cheese & crackers and then went straight for the gusto. If this didn’t make up for 2008, I don’t know what would. All of the classic Thanksgiving trimmings without the “I have to get into a swimsuit soon” guilt. I was in heaven, and that was unfortunate for everyone involved. Just read the “About Me” section of the blog to get the full idea of how my portion of the night went.

After dinner (and after the kids went to sleep), we all headed downstairs to play some board games. Cranium was the game of choice and it wasn’t how well someone did that everyone got a kick out of, it was how badly skilled we were that was the clincher.

S showed off her rendition (left) of a scarecrow, next to R’s drawing of the same clue. By the end, no matter who was supposed to draw, we all ended up just looking at R’s paper to try and guess. I found my ‘moose’ masterpiece stabbed through the heart later on as well. Our lack of skills really brought the passion out in people. R spent the ride home giving me tips on how to draw. Really. He had the gall to say “You know, the clue with the fly-swatter. Where you went wrong was the fly itself. You should stick to drawing a heart and then adding a little dot at the tip.” Oh, okay. I’ll remember that R. (Whatever. I like my mini seagulls.)

All in all, a good night. I can always count on L’s small baskets of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel along with reading material within arms-reach of my bed. The next day we had to leave early for two detours en route to Arkansas. Both were enjoyable in their own ways. More to come.

Taking it easy.

We’re hitting the road this weekend and so we’ve got to rest up. R wasn’t feeling too hot last night, so I decided tonight to fall back on a classic. Soup & grilled cheese. I hardly ever crave soup unless I’ve got a cold or someone else does. Sympathy pains, I guess. I tried my hand at a new recipe: cream of mushroom. As you can tell, it’s more mushroomy than creamy probably because it calls for a hand-blender which I don’t have. About 7 years ago, my sisters got one for Christmas and I got a cabbage patch doll or something, I can’t remember — but I was in my twenties. I do remember the blenders, though, and I had my eye on those puppies. Trying to somehow blame the fact that this soup did not come out creamy because of that Christmas morning is working. In the end, the soup didn’t turn out so bad.. and the bits of mushroom were a tasty bite. I’d still like to try it again creamy.

The broccoli was a last-minute addition since I can’t stand not having color on my plate.
Right after dinner, we got a knock on our door. It was our craigslist guy delivering a very special item. My dresser! Can you believe we have been living out of plastic bags for the past 4 months? It made the room never quite feel “moved in”, so we were excited to head into that direction furniture-wise.

It also gave R an excuse to accuse me of being a 72 yr-old in a 28 yr-old body, so yes, he was excited. The age of the dresser is unknown, however there is a tag on the back indicating it’s a Basset dresser made in Massachussettes. “Chest #615” is stamped on the back which makes me wonder if that might mean it was the 615th chest made? I’m liking this little guy because of just that. It’s small…. smaller than what I used to have. Why do I like that, you ask? Because it will force me to chuck clothes I no longer wear. One more step in the simplification of Carolyn. The ornate detail should help make up for that. R, on the other hand wants to buy a dresser that takes up an entire wall. So, unless I’m careful, all of the clothes I can’t fit into mine will migrate into his. And there the cycle would begin again.

After I put my clothes away, we watched an episode of Lost and then R spent some time trying to get in contact with his friends from Australia. He studied there in college and the fires have spread all around where he used to live. From the stories I’ve read, it is just heart-wrenching how quickly the fires spread and how many people have already lost their lives to it. We’re quiet in our thoughts tonight, hoping his friends and their loved ones are safe.

Carb-Loaded Sunday

Yesterday was a busy day for me in the kitchen. I attacked a bread recipe like my life depended on it. Determined not to be intimidated…and it worked. These were the first two loaves that I really enjoyed. R agreed. He said they were the best thing since sliced bread.

I know you’re sick of seeing my bread, but I don’t care.
Then I tried out a recipe for homemade granola from another blog that I read: Beauty that Moves. It turned out so yummy that even though it makes 20 cups, we’ve still managed to eat most of it. Here’s the recipe if any of you are interested: Homemade Granola.
Lastly, one of my favorite dinners, pizza: made with whatever I could find in the refrigerator. The weather was nice, we kept the windows open all day, and I was producing good food. Nothing beats it.

Baby Steps

We’ve decided to no longer buy bread from the store. No biscuits, no sandwich or french bread, no pizza dough. I, Carolyn, will be the sole bread winner. And it makes me naseous. But I’ve noticed that even though I have this desire to learn how to make ‘from-scratch’ food, when we’re in a time crunch, I immediately go to the store and replenish what we are out of. I have to learn how to plan and become disciplined. I can plan well, but the execution is lacking. Now that we’ve removed the grocery store option, I will either sink or swim in the flour industry. I’ll probably sink quite a few times before I swim, but I’m taking this seriously.

I bought a bread bin from the 1930s, which was a Maid-of-Honor gift. I know this because on the back, it states “Maid of Honor”. I thought that was a nice touch.

The bread came out alright. And I’m only using the word alright because I need to stay positive. I think it might be the type of flour I used, or maybe I didn’t knead it enough…I don’t know. But I wasn’t pleased. There will be a next time, that I know.

The Evolution of a Cookie

Get in there, you.
First, start off with a hungry husband. Then, add a reason to use the new ebay find. That’s all you need, really.

R decided to make a batch himself and so I guided him by the small of his back to the pantry. At this station, we reviewed the different ingredients needed. I described the softness of flour and let him feel the grainy texture of sugar. With a nod of my head, I brought R to the sink to show him how to crack eggs. The recipe called for egg yolks only. What ensued was the worst case of egg-slaughtering since the “Tee-Peeing Incident of 1989”.

I explained the process and turned my back. Splatter. Then another splatter, and another. It was a disaster.

I caught this egg’s demise at the last second.
And so I stood over R like the micro-manager that I am to make sure everything was going correctly. In the end, I had to take over and do the yolks myself.

R took a wrong turn at the ‘rolling-the-dough-into-a-ball’ demonstration and made his own variation: the biscuit-cookie. Which would really be calling it a cookie-cookie if we were anywhere else in the world.

At the end of the night, we gave a moment of silence to the poor little eggs that fell in battle at R’s hands.

today was a good day

1. Slept in until 9am, despite wanting to hit up some garage sales.
2. Made bacon & eggs
3. Finally found a recycling center and cleared out half our pantry. Bought a Brita instead of drinking from plastic bottles due to distance of recycling center.
4. Loaded up on groceries. I’ve finally learned the art of buying for two. I used to buy as if I had three hungry teenagers waiting for me at home. However, there’s nothing like the feeling of opening the door to a full fridge.
5. R made chili with fritos for lunch. Because I have T minus 60 days before I will be in a swimsuit, I actually counted out one serving: 32 chips.

6. Cut up a chicken and found the wishbone. R’s end was the longest. Spent the rest of the day wondering if his wish had been fulfilled.
7. Found a honey pot made of green glass on ebay. Garage sales can wait until spring now.
8. R and I read our respective books until we both fell asleep for an hour long nap.
9. Drove to Blockbuster in a toasty warm car.
10. Runaway Train came on the radio and I sang.
11. Baked butter cookies because it’s the one dessert R will continually eat throughout the week. You saw how the brownie went down… undercover sniper attacks on the kitchen late at night with my glass of milk. I justified it by telling myself it’s the only way I’ll get my calcium in. I think R had two bites of of the whole pan.
12. Layered on blankets and watched the movie while sipping on cinnamon tea. Perfect nightcap for a cold, cold, very good day.

We are using our printer box as an end table.
I cannot wait until our furniture is delivered.

So does this mean I can’t surf Ebay all day now?

I accepted a position in town. I’m pretty excited.

Hi. I make money now.
I treated my newly-employed self to a walk through the woods. If a day like today could be served up all year round, I’d be one happy lady. It was 60 degrees with a slight breeze. You can just feel any frustrations or worries blown away with it. And what you’re left with is clarity and appreciation. You can’t have one without the other.

A leaf tunnel on the trail.

I stopped at a log by the lake to eat my lunch. It was a simple, clean lunch. BLT on my official third homemade loaf, a gala apple (not too sweet, not too sour… just the right bite), and some fresh NYC tap water. Or isn’t that the myth of bottled water? If it’s packaged right, I’ll believe it. My marketing sisters would be happy to hear that.

The loaf in question. I can’t separate ‘loaf’ from meatloaf.
It makes me want to squirt ketchup on the picture.

Bun in the Oven

Stop right there. I’m not pregnant. But my oven was. I decided to use the extra time on my hands [read: unemployment] to make bread. I don’t know why mixing flour and water frightens me so much, but it does and I’ll be honest about it. The image I have in my head is an apron-clad, thick waisted old woman pounding at dough all day, hair matted to her sweaty forehead and then finally throwing it into a wood oven where she has to keep watch on it, never able to leave the kitchen.

I want to leave the kitchen. Is that so much to ask?

So I dove into a no-knead recipe, aptly named “No-Knead Bread”. I just bought a new mixer, so hopefully that will help me in the future with “Knead Bread” recipes, but I was too eager to wait.

These are the only ingredients I used. I was afraid to use any other type of flour, even though I have whole-wheat flour, for fear of messing up the recipe and getting discouraged*.

So I let set it out overnight and when I turned in for bed, I noticed that it did rise a bit. The next day it had gone back down again. Normal? The recipe tells you to use more flour and play around with the dough. The end result ended up looking like a large pancake. The recipe asked for a ball. Hmmm… Not to mention the kitchen looked like it survived the Dust Bowl.

So I pop it into the oven and quickly jumped from the tiles onto the carpet into the living room…to I guess prove that I wouldn’t be stuck in the kitchen all day. Don’t ask.

On the top, the end result looked nice. But if you can’t tell from the photo, it didn’t rise very much. I decided to read one of my favorite blog’s tutorial and found it very useful. I’m not discouraged at all, even though I know it didn’t come out right. (Yes, it didn’t stop me from breaking off a piece and dunking it in olive oil) I’m determined to make this a thoughtless process, if only for the health benefits (and to get out of the kitchen).
*Update: R came home, tried a piece and almost broke his tooth. Discouraged.

Old School

Good news, we’ve got internet. Bad news, now I have to start looking for a job.

Here’s a rundown of our first few days in Arkansas:
1. We furnished our apartment a la college style.

2. We got a flat on the highway and I had to stare at this optimistic sign for 20 minutes while the tire was changed.

3. Ryan tested the fire alarm and it passed. Who knew a single serving size of popcorn could produce so much smoke.