Thursday, June 30, 2011


so. once upon a time, a little over two years ago, i graduated from college. i packed up all my stuff into my little cavalier and set off on a little big trip. there was no plan, and no real destination, just a girl and her stuff (and a map! not even a GPS!) traveling wherever life took me. we hit Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wyoming. it was the life of a vagabond, and it was pretty sweet.

i kept the people who cared updated through my blog whenever i had internet connection. just little tidbits to let them know i was still alive and well. hardly ever any pictures due to the unfortunate misplacement of my camera cord for long periods of time.

this post was one of those updates. just words, no pictures, not even really all  that much interesting stuff to share. and yet, this is my most popular post of all time. it has 50 views in the past month, and 430 all time. that's over 300 more views than my second-most popular post from when i had to give my engagement ring back to get resized.

this makes no sense to me. is there someone out there with the answer? is there some secret reason that this post is interesting to people? was it the giveaway* that never really panned out? or perhaps someone out there has this particular page bookmarked as a way to find my blog? (and checks my blog with astounding frequency?) am i missing something here?

if you have the answer, please let me know. i promise i won't be mad or anything. i'm really just very curious.

* oh hey, do you still want those peeps Aunt Nancy? they're probably good and stale by now...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

spackle: tackled.

while Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was busy building a whole new house just up the road from my office this past week, in the realm of our smaller-scaled and longer-timeframed own home "makeover," we managed to find a little bit of time this weekend (in between graduation parties and church picnics) to squeeze in the next step in our seemingly perpetual fireplace room project.

Mark spent Friday evening putting all the extra screws into the wall, and he only called it a night when the box of screws was empty. also, he discovered that putting a different, larger bit (head? screwdriver-ish thingamabob?) into the drill gave him more power and saved him all the time he thought he was going to have to spend cranking down all the screws by hand. yay for a plot twist in this saga that ends in time saved instead of time wasted!

Saturday morning, Mark made a quick trip to the local hardware store to pick up some more screws and other supplies, including my very own mud tub and spackle blade! take note ladies, because i'm pretty sure that when your man buys you your very own tools so you can help him with projects, it means that he really loves you a lot and he trusts you enough to let you help. either that, or it means he just doesnt trust you being anywhere near HIS tools. but i am choosing to believe the former, and either way YAY i got to help!

 Mark put up the special joint mesh spackle tape and spackled all the joints. and do you see all those screws he put into the wall and ceiling? no? well that would be because they have all been spackled over by the spackle queen extraordinaire, yours truly. i only dropped just a little bit of spackle on the floor, only flung one blob halfway across the room, and only spackle bladed my finger enough to draw the tiniest amount of blood. i'd call that a major success.

we only had time to put the first coat of spackle up this weekend, since the grass also needed to be mowed and we had places to be because we're in such high demand, so we still have a couple more coats to put up, and then sand down, before we're ready for paint! and with a few weeknights of work and a three-day weekend coming up, i think there's a possiblilty that we could have this room done (or at least functionally complete) by the time we leave for vacation in 31 days!

also, i started two more little-er projects and almost finished one of them this weekend. here's a sneak peek:

Friday, June 24, 2011

recent kitchen happenings.

because i just know you have all been DYING to know what i've been eating lately. and i dont blame you. its pretty exciting stuff. and i havent told you in a while, whats up with that?

well, two weeks ago (as in not last week but the one before that) i failed at my goal to try a new recipe every week. yes, we spent the week back in the world of quick and easy pasta/pizza type meals. and i felt bad about it.

so that Sunday i threw together some breaded chicken and mashed potatoes. nothing groundbreaking, and not really a new recipe, but at least it required more steps than just boiling water or turning on the oven (in fact, it required both!) it turned out really well, but oh my word i made a LOT of mashed potatoes.

in an effort to have us not be eating mashed potatoes as a side with every.single.meal. last week, i came up with the idea of trying to make shepherd's pie to use them up. i kind of sort of followed this recipe, except i didnt have any onions, only some frozen soup veggies, and i forgot to add any sort of seasonings at all, and i think i had too many mashed potatoes and not enough meat. honestly, it was kind of a weird meal.

then, to make up for missing two weeks ago's new recipe, i made a strawberry cake. because i never said that my new recipes had to be a dinner or be healthy and because it just looked so good! i got to use my pie plate for the first time. (its 9.5 inches, not 10 like was suggested, but the cake did not overflow)  it mixed up really quickly, but took FOR-EV-ER to bake, and i didnt end up pulling it out of the oven until 10pm, but oh my word it was SO worth it. i ate it as dessert, and as an appetizer, and breakfast, and a snack, and i had to exercise a LOT of self-control to not just eat the whole thing, so i ended up sharing it with my bible study group to rave reviews.

last night for dinner, i made this recipe for broiled parmesan tilapia. honestly, i didnt really expect it to turn out well. i was almost certain that i would undercook the fish, burn the topping, and give us both some sort of fish-disease. especially because i wasn't giving dinner my 100% attention, mostly just urging the rice cooker to cook the rice justalittlefaster because i had some major cleaning to get done. (i might have even vaccuumed the floors while i was making dinner) so its pretty much amazing that dinner was edible, let alone the delicious-ness that it turned out to be!

mark claims it was restaurant quality. i think it was the parsley garnish that put it over the top.

do you have any good recipe ideas for me for next week? anyone else out there baking for summer? or are you (like my mom) just starting to take the summer off from being in the kitchen?

i originally had titled this post something different, but then i thought about it too long and somehow a few simple, innocent words had been morphed and twisted by the strange way my mind works into something that could possibly maybe somehow be construed as a little bit risque, and so i changed it. because even though it wasnt really risque at all, i dont want to risk anyone thinking that this is one of those blogs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

on tattoos.

about two years ago, i started seriously considering getting a tattoo. a matching tattoo with my BFITW. something small, simple, and meaningful between the two of us to commemorate our best-friendship. the words 'changed for good' between two little stars. we decided that our foot would be the most logical place to have it, as it would not be immediately obvious, it could be easily covered up if need be, and it would be a spot on our bodies that would age well. it seemed like a great plan, and we decided to get them to celebrate us getting our first real jobs.

fast-forward two years. we both have real jobs. between the two of us, we have moved 5 times and lived in 3 different states. i got engaged and bought a house and got married. and after all that craziness, we still don't have our tattoos.

so here we are, at a point in our lives where both of us are socially, financially, and emotionally responsible enough to just go out and get said tattoos. the design is well thought out. the placement, although it has changed slightly over the years from the inside to the top of the foot for practical purposes, is also well thought out. so why the extra delay?

the only hold-out issue is the morality of the whole thing. as two God-fearing women, would it be "right" to get tattoos? Leviticus 19:28 says, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put any tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD,"(NIV) which at first glance seems like pretty concrete disapproval from God. But, this command was given as a part of the old law, (which also condemned cotton-polyester blends and beard trimmers) the primary goal of which was to encourage the chosen nation of the Israelites to remain set apart from other pagan religions, and was overridden by Jesus' death on the cross and the new covenant in His blood.

the specific topic of tattoos is never reiterated in the new testament. it is made clear that under the new covenant, believers are no longer held under the old law. so the tattoo debate gets left as a personal choice between each individual and God, which in my opinion would be enough to say that my tattoo would be ok.

but then there is this thing that Paul says in Romans 14:13-15,
(for the sake of this discussion you can insert 'tattoo' for 'eat')
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died."(NIV)

which brings other people and their perception of tattoos into the equation. people like my husband, and the church ladies, and prospective employers, and any random stranger who has a preconcieved notion that anyone with a tattoo is a misguided rebellious biker thug vagrant who's favorite pasttimes are chain-smoking, alcoholism, and kicking puppies. these are people, some of whose opinions matter way more than others, that might see my (hypothetical, at this point) tattoo as something other than the cute statement of best-friendship that it is meant to be. BUT, even if it is their own misconception at work and not the actual subject matter of the tattoo, which in this case is neither overtly spiritual or un-spiritual, does the fact that a largely anonymous and widespread group of random people i will collectively refer to as 'they' are not comfortable with my tattoo mean that i should not get it?

and this is where i'm kind of stuck for now. somewhere between believing in my own heart that there is nothing wrong on any level with my desire for a cute little tatto on my foot, and being conflicted by how the morality of it would be percieved by others, and whether or not it will honor God (I Cor 6:19-20).

what say you? do you have a tattoo? how do you feel about christians with tattoos? are the only appropriate christian tattoos ones of crosses and fish?

these are entirely my own opinions and musings, however complicated and open-ended they may be. i read this, this, this, and this in an attempt to help me understand my own thoughts on the matter, and i'm not much closer to a conclusion as i was when i started this internal debate.

Monday, June 20, 2011

dear Dad.

i'm sorry i wasn't there this weekend to give you a big hug and wish you a Happy Father's Day. i'm sorry that i couldnt give you your present in person (but i hear that its coming in the mail today! yay for extended holidays!) i'm sorry that i interrupted your lunch yesterday when i called, even though you swore it wasnt really an interruption. i'm sorry that i have to wait another 39 days til i can see you again. its been WAY too long.

and i'm sorry if that paragraph made you cry.

but i wanted to tell you what i did this weekend in your honor: i cleaned out my car. i took out all the trash that had been riding around on the floor. i cleaned all the spare change out of the bottom of the cupholders. i took random things inside that don't need to live in my car. and i put them away. i took the floormats out and laid them on the driveway and vaccumed EVERYTHING. i wiped down the dashboard with Armorall wipes. i even windexed the windows.

and then i did the same thing to my husband's car. i even vacuumed out his trunk.

and i knew that you would be proud of me.

but then, the inside of the cars were too clean for their grubby exteriors. so i got a bucket, sponge, some soap, and the hose and washed the outside. and then i dried it with my brand new shammy. because that's just how its done, ya know?

i love my clean-like-new-again car. and i love you more for teaching me how to take care of it.
see you in 39 days!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

tour the grounds.

i just wanted to share some pictures of pretty things that are currently or at one point were growing around my house.

the rose bush in the front yard has been consistently pretty all spring.

at one point these flowers under the tree out front were all pretty and pink. they bloomed all at once, and appear to be done now.

i dont know what this is. but it had a flower, so i took a picture.

i am a little sad i dont have a better shot of these guys. they're all on their own in the front flowerbed.

Mark discovered these purple beauties while mowing the grass one day. you can really only fully see them if you stand in the far back corner of the yard and look back towards the house. they're kind of hidden by the hydrangea bush.

these marigolds are the only thing in my flowerbeds that i have planted. they were a gift from the hubs for no real reason other than that he thought i would like them. shortly after this picture was taken, i accidentally watered them with bleach water. no word yet on if any have actually managed to survive.

i have two lavender bushes. a rabbit lives in one. they both attract bees.

hydrangeas! i cant wait to cut some of these for a vase in the house.

here you can see one of the purple flowers fighting to be seen through the other hydrangea bush in the backyard.

there are a few scraggly looking rosebushes out back below our bedroom window that grow the most massive roses.

these purple cone-flowers came up right around where i planted my ill-fated love-marigolds.

and most recently, we planted some strawberries in a hanging planter! we're hoping that the birds dont just eat them all before we get a chance to cuz they're looking pretty yummy...

all in all, its a pretty lame tour, but its what i've got. mostly just whatever the previous homeowner had planted that managed to survive the winter, mixed with just a few things we've added cuz we couldnt resist! but we'll have to wait and see if they can survive my perpetually brown thumb...

Monday, June 13, 2011

project of the month(ish).

**Warning** this post details the most recent work that we've been doing on the house. it is LONG. but there are lots of pictures to help you follow along with the process that has taken the fireplace room, from looking something like this:

to the point at which it is now, which (SPOILER ALERT) is not yet finished.

May 10 - on a rare Tuesday night sans church league softball, Mark decides to finally start the next big project in the house. the fireplace room. plastic is taped up over the doorways into the front room and the kitchen to seal the room. baseboard is removed. trim is taken down around the doorways. the wood paneled wall comes DOWN.

studs and confusing wiring are revealed. wood and dust and nails litter the floor. it stays that way for oh, about the next three weeks.*

the next three weekends are filled with work and travel and youth group parties and weddings and grad parties and anything else imaginable that keeps us from thinking about the giant part of the house that is plasticked off. we use the front door exclusively, which is especially obnoxious when wanting to go from the kitchen to the backyard, which used to involve walking all of 5 feet to the sliding door and now requires walking through the kitchen, dining room, and front room, out the front door and the whole way around to the back of the house (71 steps, i counted), a path i now take with surprising frequency.

*in all fairness to the hubs, at some point in those three weeks he did manage to organize the mess into piles, (a tried and true method of cleaning) pick up the random nails, and vacuum up most of the dust with his new shop-vac, so it probably wasnt as bad as i made it out to be.

June 4-5 - Mark, armed only with a flashlight and (finally!) a free weekend, climbs into the impossibly tiny attic opening and crawls the length of the house along precariously placed boards in order to figure out the previously mentioned confusing wiring. good news! we now know what all the seemingly superfluous switches in that room do! (the secret is that TWO of them control ONE outlet) new switches and outlets are purchased and installed. all the old paneling and nails get taken to the dumpster. light fixtures are taken down to prepare for the next step: drywall.

June 11 - a month and a day after the initial steps were taken on this project, we have real, tangible progress to share! the ceiling went up! and oh, if only it were really that simple.

we first realized what kind of a day we were in for when, first thing in the morning, we discovered that the truck we were supposed to borrow forgot that we were borrowing it and went out of town for the day instead. so instead we rolled into the parking lot of our local big-box store in a big ol' van. because nothing says "we are serious about our home improvements" like a conversion van.

i'd like to extend a big thanks to the random man in the green shirt for taking pity on poor weak little me and helping the hubs get all 16 sheets of drywall onto our cart.

and i'd like to thank everybody in the parking lot for not stopping to point and laugh as the hubs and myself tried to figure out how exactly to fit said 16 sheets of drywall into said conversion van, a process that ultimately ended with the two of us hardly speaking to each other as i ran around the parking lot barefoot as we frantically tried to load everything up. and oh yeah, did i mention it started RAINING?

we thought our day was over right then and there. but fortunately for us, the rain didn't last long, we got over ourselves and were actually thankful that the van kept the drywall dry as we drove, and by the time we got home the sun was shining and we were ready to get going!

the only thing we had forgotten to pick up was a straight-line-snappy-chalk-box thing. so i volunteered to run to the local little hardware store to get one. i found one without even having to ask for help, and i headed home with my find. and then i went back 10 minutes later to get the CHALK for said chalk box. because apparently they dont sell the boxes with the chalk already in them. who knew?

another HUGE thanks goes out to Mark's little brother, who got drafted volunteered to help out with the heavy lifting. he made the whole process a lot smoother than if i were the one on that ladder.

or lets just be honest, there's no way i could have done that. we literally could not have done this without you, Dan.

unfortunately, we only had our heavy-lifting-help for a few hours, so we decided to sacrifice a little bit of quality in an effort to keep moving quickly, because as previously mentioned, the full pieces were not going up with me as the helper on the ladder. so instead of having staggered joints, we ended up with this one neat-looking long joint down the length of the room.

this, of course, led to another set of issues, as this joint was apparently set on the mystery vanishing joist of doom, which led to some extremely frustrating moments, a lot of wasted screws, and at least one spot that looked something like this:

but since we were determined to get to a good stopping point before we finally called it a day, we pressed on through phantom joists and mis-measurements, and FINALLY the last piece was up, and the last screw (for now) was put in.

we celebrated by going out for dinner because after putting 11 pieces of drywall onto the ceiling and dealing with all the little issues that kept cropping up throughout the day, we were both too mentally exhausted to make dinner. and also, we needed to go back to the store for more screws. so we could put up some MORE drywall the next day.

June 12 - the wall goes up! again, it sounds so simple when you say it that way. when you leave out the fact that we were already tired from the day before, we pre-gamed for this project by volunteering in the church nursery and mowing the grass,  and we had a whole 'nother slew of little issues to uncover as we went along.

the first piece went up with little to no issue:

but the rest just seemed to be one crooked line after mis-measurement after bad cut after another. these were each dealt with in turn with a sigh, and a popsicle break.

also, this happened:

(no groundhogs !in the wild! were actually harmed during the course of this project)

the most major frustration of the day came with the realization that we had not accounted for the fact that in replacing the 1/4" paneling with 1/2" drywall, we would actually be making the wall thicker, which would cause us issues when it came to the doorways. so we can just go ahead and add 'fix the doorways' to the to-do list for this project. 

so 5 pieces of drywall later, and the wall is covered now too! i'm pretty excited about the progress, even though i know that there is still a fairly long way to go between where we are now and the point at which we can tentatively declare this project to be finished.

still to do on this project:
- put in a LOT more screws in both the ceiling and wall.
- mud and sand all the joints and screw-holes.
- prime and paint the walls and ceiling.
- paint the fireplace doors.
- fix the doorways.
- put up the trim.
- move the furniture back in.

so you see why it wouldnt be possible to share the ENTIRE project in just one fireplace-room-project post. its just too big of a project with too many steps and too many things to share. but we're excited with the progress we've made, and given a few days to mentally recover from the more frustrating points of this weekend we'll probably have even more progress to share soon!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

friday night fun.

if i had to describe last night with just one word, it would be:

apparently the J-ville Lions club puts on a carnival for one week every summer, so we decided to go this year. and we invited friends! 

as soon as we pulled into the parking lot (also known as the field between the hardware store and the car dealership) we were struck by the fact that its kind of funny how these things dont change. there were the same rides, the same music, the same teenage girls dressed in skimpy clothes that have been at carnivals since the days of middle school. and somehow, thats all just part of the charm of the carnival.

the first thing we did was eat some dinner, carnie style: hot dogs, corn dogs, cheeseburgers, fries, soda, and a strawberry smoothie. it really doesn't get much better than that. absolutely scrumptious. the only disappointment was that there was no sign of funnel cakes anywhere. 

we rode some classic carnival rides until we were dizzy and nauseous and couldnt see straight. but luckily none of us had the misfortune of yakking on (or after) a ride.

we did save some tickets for the much calmer, more iconic ferris wheel. because a carnival just wouldnt be the carnival without one. and just to round out the whole experience, we even got spit on while waiting in line!

after all our ride tickets were gone, we got some ice cream for dessert. Mark claims that there is nothing better than a chocolate soft-serve cone, but i prefer mine twist-style, just like i used to get from the Ranger.

we stayed and people-watched until it got dark. i'm a little sad i didnt manage to get a picture of the guy with the live snake around his waist. at first i thought it was just a stuffed prize from one of the games! we're still not sure if he was actually working the carnival, or just a guy who saw a good opportunity for his pet snake to get a little taste of classic Americana.

we spent the rest of the evening in our backyard hanging out around a fire. it was the first fire we've had in the fire bowl that i got Mark for Christmas. and i must say it was a pretty darn good one.

if the past week of 90+ degree days wasn't enough to make us believe that summer is here to stay, it definately feels like it now. and we're really looking forward to lots of perfect summer evenings like this one full of good fun, food, and friends. 

Friday, June 10, 2011


that is to say, me and my little Sophie are a veritable magnet for idiot drivers. its like they are all in cahoots and come out in droves to surround us every time we go out: people who pass on the right, jerks who drive painfully slow in the left lane, people who are chronically unable to understand the concept of merging, and ESPECIALLY those who, while stuck in a line-up of cars waiting to merge onto the highway, worried only about their own desire to getwherethey'regoingrightnow! and without any regard for other people's need to get to their destinations, well, ALIVE, decide to jump out of line and speed around two cars in front of them who were just about to safely merge in front of a BIG truck but who now have to floor it to avoid being rear-ended by said GIANT truck and cause the carload of their companions behind them to fear for their lives and pray that the HUGE semi doesnt jack-knife and kill them all.

because apparently its EXTRA FUN for the idiot drivers to target me and poor little Sophie on the few occasions that i have other people in the car.
i guess you get extra points for mulitple deaths.

Dear Idiot Drivers:
perhaps you should consider playing just a little less Grand Theft Auto. 

Love Always,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


... happen every day.
... are when i (finally!) wake up for the day.
... go SO slowly.
... make me feel like my brain has turned to mush.
... are distracted.
... would be best spent outside.
... make me wonder what to make for dinner.
... are more exciting with fire drills.
... could use a nap.

Monday, June 6, 2011

vomit worthy.

(WARNING: extremely gross content ahead)

Dear self: clean your waterbottle more often.
Love always, Mando

inside the bite cap of my Camelbak... bleecch

Friday, June 3, 2011

eggplant parmesan.

this week's recipe* came as a suggestion from my sister-with-the-babies. she assured me it would be quick, simple, and delicious. also, an excuse to try a new vegetable: eggplant.

 eggplants: way easier to slice than rutabagas.**

the recipe i used called for 6 steps, which initially made me question my sister's claims of simplicity. they wanted me to:
1. sweat the eggplant 
2. shred the cheese
3. prepare the coating for breading
4. bread the eggplant
5. fry the eggplant
6. assemble and bake the eggplant parmesan

but that all seemed a bit excessive to me. so i salted the eggplant, but did not a) let it sit for a half an hour in a colander, b) press it between two heavy cutting boards, or c) dry it with a paper towel to "sweat" it. step one: all but eliminated.

i bought my cheese pre-shredded. BAM! another step bites the dust.

and i just have to say that i think it is ridiculous to make "bread the eggplant" into two steps. combine those suckers and cross one more step off the list.

so if you're counting, we're down to a way more manageable 3 steps now:
1. slice and bread the eggplant. - you could probably make your own breadcrumbs for this, but i used store-bought breadcrumbs this time instead.

 did you know that eggplants arent purple on the inside too? a little disappointing.

2. fry the eggplant.

just check out that awesome golden-brown action!

3. assemble and bake the eggplant.- i am told that you can also speed this up by broiling the eggplant on a cookie sheet, but i actually followed the directions on this one. i am also told that you could make your own sauce, but to that i say ppbbbtt... why bother when you have perfectly good jarsauce?
  and that's all there is to it! i think it turned out pretty well. dont you agree?

this is definately best when eaten fresh, but also reheats reasonably well. in hindsight i probably could have served it over pasta, but that slipped my mind in the heat of the moment. and did i mention that it's SO good? kind of like fried zuchinni crossed with chicken parm. and i have to assume that its at least a little bit good for you since its mostly just vegetables*** ...fried in oil... and topped with two types of cheese... mmmm... health food...

*just in case you were wondering, last week's recipe was a chicken-broccoli-pesto-pasta concoction from Men's Health magazine (thanks Dana!) that was simple, tasty, made a TON of leftovers. i think we actually just finished off the last of it today! also, apparently it was not overly photogenic, because i neglected to document the process.

**please ignore the packing tape in the background of the pictures. it did not contribute in any way to the preparation of this meal. i swear.

*** there is some debate on the internets as to whether or not eggplants and tomatoes are vegetables or fruits. i dont care what the crazy botanists say, they've always been veggies to me.