Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Fall!

Sean and I had another great fall weekend. We had a cozy night in with friends on Friday night (that also involved a bacon lattice). Saturday, Sean reorganized "his kitchen." We moved some things around for a teensy bit more counter space, and moved some things to more practical spaces. Then on Saturday night, we had another fun night out for a birthday celebration where we took over the "house bar" at O'Shea's on Bardstown Road.

Fall foliage by Sean (from the passenger seat in the car)

And finally, on Sunday we had Huber's Farm Part Two: Campbell Sibs Edition. (There are photos of the first trip Sean and I took there last weekend here.) We took a wagon ride to pick some apples, then hit up the store for some pumpkins, and other fall treats to take home with us.

Look at all those fall treats!

Wagon ride to the apple orchard!
We rounded out the day by eating some delicious pizza at Boombozz. Andy, Heather, and Maggie had never been there! And then we came back to our apartment for some doughnuts, apple cider and The Walking Dead.

This week, on the agenda is figuring out our Halloween costumes for the weekend. I also hope to tackle some of the things on my 12 before 2012 list. What's everyone else doing to celebrate fall this year? What's everyone dressing up as for Halloween this year?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winter Is Coming: A Two-for-One Instructional Blog Post for the Autumn!

To begin with, I apologize for not posting in a while, I have been extremely busy. 
I hope to make it up to you internet readers with this autumn double-post of DIY goodness. 

    First Up: Create Your Own Compost System!


    This fits into our five-senses theme, because it will help us to grow food and flowers throughout the growing season. This simple method is good for any size dwelling, from apartment to mansion, and the finished product (rich nutritious soil) can be used to grow either delicious or beautiful plants (or plants that are both delicious and beautiful).
    You will need a 5-10 gallon plastic bucket. I found mine at a nearby home-improvement store for under $4.00 (including the lid, which is needed). Using either a drill with a medium sized bit or a hammer with a medium sized nail, make numerous holes in the bottom of the bucket. You will want them to be evenly-spaced so as to keep the moisture within the bucket at a uniform level. The bucket should be placed onto something that will let air circulate underneath it. I chose two lovely bricks, but spare pieces of lumber or stone work just as well. As the plant materials within the bucket decompose, there could be seepage of slimy mineral mud. So, I put an old dish drain mat underneath the bricks so as to prevent our deck from soaking up the goo (also, the 'goo' is actually good stuff for plants and should be saved if is drips out and put back into the bucket).


The final product!

    Any plant material from healthy plants, vegetable and fruit scraps, plain paper products (paper-towel, black-and-white newspaper, etc), coffee grounds, egg-shells, or yard waste can be put into the compost bucket. Each time you add green things (wet organic matter) be sure to add brown things (dry organic matter: dead leaves, grass clippings, or paper). Also, make sure to add a sprinkle of water to the mixture each time you add ingredients in order to keep the process going. The matter will not break down if it is dry! You should probably stay away from adding any bones, fatty wastes, meats, or dairy products because they take longer to decompose and also attract racoons, rats, flies, and other creepy-crawlies. Also, avoid using anything that has been treated with chemicals or contains chemicals, like glossy paper, because you will be eating it eventually (in a round-about way). Otherwise, your compost should be ready to spread in a one-inch layer over your topsoil in the garden in three to five months, which would bring you to the spring planting season if you start now like I did!

The first recycled ingredient: coffee grounds including the filter!

Next Up: Carrot-Top Pesto!

    As a first year gardener, I don't have anything planned to grow during the winter months. This means that my garden is winding down for the season, so it's time to make what I have left stretch through the cold winter months. The basil plants were starting to look pretty sad, so I decided to put them mostly out of their misery. I picked off almost all of the leaves that were left  to make pesto! The problem is, as a first year gardener I didn't plant enough basil plants, so every time I go to make pesto with all the available leaves, I don't have enough to make a large batch. To overcome this problem, I decided to add carrot greens in with the basil this time in order to stretch it. I chose carrot greens for two reasons. First, I am becoming a big fan of the bitter-carrot taste of the greens. Second, I still have a bunch left over from last weeks carrot soup! 

    To begin with, I washed and tore up the basil and greens and ended up with about two cups packed. I put that into the food processor along with four medium garlic cloves, a half-cup of freshly blanched almonds (these are a convenient substitute for pine nuts), a quarter-cup of olive oil, and a cup of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. I then processed the ingredients, making sure to get rid of any garlic or almond chunks. I promptly added a few dollops to the pasta and kale that I was cooking up. 
     BUT WAIT... THERE'S MORE! The whole point of this post was how to prepare for winter! In order to have home-made pesto throughout the winter months, I needed to freeze the rest of the batch I made. So as to make it easier to thaw out and separate portions out for a few different meals, I divided the remaining pesto up into a clean empty ice-cube tray. I then covered the remaining space in each spot in the tray with a little water. This will help when removing the cubes.  After the cubes freeze, I will remove them from the tray and put them into a freezer bag. Now, every time I want to add some delicious pesto to a meal, all I have to do is grab a few pesto-cubes and add them to the dish while it is cooking! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's about time for another fashion rant!

Now guys, I don't want to be too negative on here, but it's getting to be that time of year when I start seeing one of my BIGGEST pet peeves: Ugg boots and sweatpants! I saw the first pairing of the fall yesterday while we were out shopping. I knew this season would be quickly upon us when a couple of weeks ago, I had my first Ugg boots sighting; and they were red!

Now I want to be clear on this, I don't hate Ugg boots themselves (Hate is too strong of a word). I've just never seen a pair that's really excited me. I've never purchased a pair because they just aren't really my style, but if you love them that's fine (I will still be your friend, I guess ;). I know that people love them because they are comfortable and easy to throw on with any outfit.

What really just irks me is putting them on over your sweatpants! I mean are you trying to dress up your sweatpants or something? Because you're not... you're still wearing sweatpants! If you're going to put on a pair of boots at the very least you can put on a pair of jeans... you can find comfortable jeans people... c'mon, we even have jeggings now! (But please, no pajama jeans!) And if you want to wear sweatpants, go ahead, throw them on, but wear your gym shoes with them so at least it looks like you are heading to the gym. :)

Please, I'm begging all of you: the college girls running to class, the 20-somethings meeting your girlfriends for coffee, the "cool" moms shopping at the mall; STOP wearing Ugg boots and sweatpants together. We need to be a better example for the girls and 'tweens who are still trying to figure out their personal style... let's not confuse them anymore with this unacceptable combo!

***I was inspired do this post not only because of the aforementioned Ugg sightings, but also this morning I woke up to find this hilarious post by Garance, and I had to share this video as well. Enjoy!

Friday, October 14, 2011

twelve by 2012

So this morning when I checked out oh, hello friend, I found this wonderful project! Everyone always gets so busy these last few months of the year, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. It's already the middle of October and once the holiday season starts it's go-go-go. So along with a few other bloggers, I've decided to take part in the Twelve by 2012 project. Basically, it's just setting 12 goals for yourself to achieve by December 31, 2011. It's going to be tough, but now that I'm putting it out there for the world to see, I figure I'll have to be accountable and get them all done! (And if I don't finish ALL of them, I'll have a great place to start when coming up with New Year's Resolutions!)

1) Finish our photo wall in the living room: Sean and I have a large wall in our living room where we have a big frame with 2 wedding photos in it. Well, that frame looks awfully lonely up there, and we decided it needs some friends. At our recent visit to IKEA, we picked up a few things to add to the wall. Here is the before pic:

table full of frames; tape on the wall
This one is number 1 on the list for obvious reasons. Isn't that tape on the wall classy? And our dining table is covered in frames and therefore, out of commission.

2) Purchase a wedding album and print/assemble: We have been married for almost a year and a half and still don't have a wedding album! It hasn't happened yet because we each had different ideas about what we wanted, but I think we've reached an agreement now and can begin to move forward with it.

3) Make albums for our parents: We also need to make wedding albums for our parents... we apologize for neglecting this McPhillips and Campbell parents!

4) Blog more:  I would like us to start posting at least 3 times per week, whether it's just me or a combination of the two of us.

5) Clean and organize my closet: Since we've been living in our apartment (just over a year), I've let my closet get a little bit out of control. So I need to take a day and make a space for everything and keep it that way!

6) Take a camping trip: Sean has been wanting to go on a camping trip for a while now, and I would like to do that too! We need to take advantage of this beautiful fall weather!

7) Visit West Virginia: My college roommate Katy lives in Huntington and a visit with her is long overdue.

8) Start planning/saving for a vacation: I would like for Sean and I to travel somewhere fun in 2012!

9) Figure out a Christmas craft: My mom's side of the family always exchanges what they call "sussies" at Christmas. There are 8 of them, so it's just something small that they can afford to give to everyone. I would like to find something that Sean and I can make to give to our close friends and family this year.

10) Create holiday traditions: I would really love for Sean and I to start creating some of our own traditions for our "baby family." We are very busy during the holiday season with both of our extended families, and those traditions are important. But I think we need to take some time and create some of our own traditions and rituals to pass along.

11) Create our own Christmas cards:  Sean mentioned something about this the other day, and I think it's a great goal for us to have. We are both creative people and I think it would be fun to customize our cards that we send out this year.

12) Find a meaningful job and/or career path: I'm still in the midst of my job search, but I hope to find something soon that will get me back on track to my ultimate goal of finding a career that I'm passionate about.

So there it is... it's a pretty extensive list, but if I can accomplish or at least get on the path to accomplishing these things, I will be relieved and content. Now the blogosphere knows what my goals are for these last couple of months in 2011. Thanks for being my motivation guys!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Being domestic

So I know that I said Sean would be doing most of the cooking and I would stick to just eating, but I  baked a cake last week! I'm not a great cook, but I have always enjoyed baking. I pinned this Southern Style Strawberry Cake a couple of weeks ago because it looked sooo good. And I think it's the first thing that I've actually made on this board I created on Pinterest

The recipe for this cake (from Joy the Baker) is fairly simple. It calls for boxed white cake mix and strawberry jello mix. The recipe calls for self-rising flour (which I didn't have) but I just used all-purpose flour and added a generous pinch of baking powder and... there were NO disasters!

I also cut the amount of sugar used in half (I used only 2 teaspoons). I figured with the cake mix and jello it wouldn't hurt, and in the end it was fine. Although, I think I made up for it with the amount of powdered sugar I used in the icing... oh well!

cake batter
The recipe makes enough batter for 3 8-inch cake pans. We only have 2, so I had to make the first two layers and then re-use a pan to make the third. This was my first time ever making a 3-layer cake and I'm proud of how it turned out!

fresh from the oven
The cream cheese icing was a little tricky. I'm still learning to get the right consistency for homemade icing. I thought it was going to be too runny, so I added probably more powdered sugar than I needed. But I put it in the refrigerator before putting the cake together, and it turned out ok... it was a little sweet for me (but I'm not big on icing anyway... a little goes a long way).

check out my icing skills ;)
We didn't have any food coloring to add to the coconut on the top, but I still think it looks pretty!

the finished product!
In the end, I think everyone who had a piece enjoyed it, and it was a great recipe! Here's the link again if any of you feel like giving it a shot... I highly recommend it!