Monday, May 30, 2011

Grillin' Out

Many Americans equate Memorial Day with our household, we try to grill as much as possible regardless of what day it is.  It's hard to beat the smoky flavor and easy clean-up.

However, I do get tired of store-bought rubs (TOO salty) and it seems that you can only make a marinade several different ways.

Ohhhh, but the Pioneer Woman changed our lives!  lol...

I've never purchased one of her cookbooks but we recently became Facebook friends and she posted a recipe for "Hot and Spicy Pork Chops."

The rub is super simple...but almost so simple that I wasn't quite sure about it.  However, we had a tray of pork chops that needed a little something something before they went on the grill so we gave it a try.

They turned out UH-mazing.  When you first bite into the meat, you get a hint of sweetness but then the cayenne pepper kicks in.  We're fans of heat--and some people aren't.  The nice part of this recipe is that you could easily adjust the amount of cayenne that you use.  We added a bit more than the recipe called for :-)

Hot & Spicy Pork Chops
by Ree Drummond

■4 whole Thick Cut Pork Chops
■4 Tablespoons Canola Oil
■½ cups Brown Sugar
■2 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
■1 teaspoon Salt
■1 teaspoon Black Pepper

Brush pork chops with canola oil. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and then generously rub mixture onto both sides of the pork chops.

Set grill to medium-low heat and cook pork chops about 10 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Summer Top 10...In No Particular Order

Summer break is finally HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have so many plans for summer and I hope they all come to fruition!

1.  Finish staining the fence.  Who were we kidding when we thought it'd only take a few days...

2.  Paint the back stoop to match the front porch.

3.  Install shelving in the kitchen "cubby"...and maybe go ahead and paint the kitchen grey while my work schedule is slower

4.  See George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic in concert

5.  Roadtrip for a meal at Gate's (this is #1 on Justin's to-do list!)

6.  Clean out the basement and our closets...then have a garage sale!

7.  Read!  I already picked up one book that isn't very captivating, might be moving on to the second one fairly quickly.

8.  Learn to knit.  The class starts in July!

9.  Learn to can.  Last year so much of our produce went to waste because we couldn't eat it fast enough. 

10.  And finally, relax.

Number ten might be the hardest for me to achieve--I have a hard time sitting still.  However, I'm sure I can get used to not running around 24/7.  There are so many other "small" tasks I want to achieve this summer but it will be nice working only 20, rather than 60, hours a week.  Summer break always goes way too fast but I hope that this year I will be able to get a few things done!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Batter Up!

Last night was Justin's first softball game...ever.

A few months ago, Justin came home from work and announced that his company was forming a city-league softball team and he was signing up to play.

I stopped dead in my tracks and asked him, "Have you ever played baseball???"

His response, "Not really.  When we were little, we would find a dirt patch and hit tennis balls with big, long sticks."

My next question: "Do you even know how the game of baseball works?"

Justin: "You hit the ball and run around bases.  Can't be that hard."

Me:  "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Justin:  "Yup.  I can hit a ball, I can run and I can catch things.  I'm pretty sure I can do this, Briaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (when he drags out the "a" I can tell he's slightly annoyed with me)"

Me:  "If you say so.  But do they even make gloves big enough to fit your ginormous hands?"

Justin: "I already called Dick's in Topeka and they carry extra large sizes so I'm going there this weekend to get one."

Fast-forward to that following Saturday and sure enough, we found ourselves at Dick's Sporting Goods in Topeka.  As promised, they had extra large sizes in stock but even the biggest glove barely fit Justin's hand.  Something told me this could be interesting!

It was finally time for Justin's softball game to start last night.  His team was to take the field first--as Justin's running out of the dug-out to his position in outfield (hehe) I noticed he forgot his glove.  I tried to get his attention but it wasn't until the rest of his team yelled at him that he even noticed!  Ohhhhhh, man!
Justin is in the orange.  And yup, he has his back to everyone.  Does this remind you of those old pictures we all have of us digging in the grass or doing kartwheels while playing outfield?

Eventually, it was Justin's turn at bat.  He struck out his first time but then hit a short ball into the infield his second time at bat...It was pretty obvious he didn't even need to run to first base so he gently put his bat down on the plate and walked back to the dug out.  Oh, well!

Justin made sure to wear long pants so his legs "wouldn't get all roughed up" in case he had to do any sliding ;-)

At 14-4, the umpire called the game.  But hey, the guys survived five innings!

We got in the truck to leave and Justin was definately frustrated.  He was bored playing right field and wanted in on the action--maybe like at first base.  The ump had a terrible strike zone.  Their pitcher definately choked and the team needed more practice...yada yada yada.

After some further talking, Justin realized that maybe softball wasn't the sport for him. Heck, Michael Jordan tried crossing over into professional baseball and look at how that turned out!  But most importantly, the guys--and even Justin--did have fun and it was entertaining to watch them!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grinding My Gears

You know what really grinds my gears???

If you follow my Facebook, you may have remembered something about us getting a letter from Code Services about having our "holiday" lights up past 90 days.

I have to admit--we forgot to take the top lights down (the icicle lights were taken down back in January as we saw them everyday and they took 2 seconds to remove).  This winter was so cold and brutal that when it finally warmed up this Spring, we were no longer thinking about the top lights.

From what I could gather in the letter, having lights up 90 days after the holidays is deemed a fire hazard.  I'm also guessing the intent of the code has something to do with keeping the neighborhoods looking nice..

My issue with the code:
1) Our lights had been unplugged since Jan 7...can't really see a legitimate fire hazard here
2) Since when can the city determine which religious--or even cultural--holidays I celebrate with the hanging of lights?  Boy, can I see a lawsuit here if they messed with the right homeowner
3) If they want to be in the business of keeping up with appearances, why did they cite the most maintained property on the block?  What about the landlord across the street that has 6 nasty-@#$ trashcans with no lids sitting on the city sidewalks all year long?  The landlord was reported almost 4 weeks ago and the city has yet to take any action.  What about all the other properties around town with 3-foot tall grass, houses that look like they need to be razed, beer cans in the yard 5 days a week, etc?  I'm sure out-of-towners would be more put off by those sights than a house with lights still up.
4) You couldn't even see our stupid Christmas lights.  You really had to look to see them.  We hung clear bulbs along the top of the gutters.  But then you have the Griswold-style homes that everyone flocks to each Christmas and their tacky lights are still up.

But you know what REALLY grinds my gears???  I just noticed yesterday evening that downtown Manhattan still has their lights up.  Um, talk about visibility!  Their lights are placed on top of all the buildings, just like our lights.  I realize Downtown Manhattan Inc (the group responsible for hanging the lights) is a separate entity from the city, but really???  REALLY? 

It's pretty obvious that I'm annoyed by this.  I'm also annoyed that our new City Commission is repealing an ordinance that requires landlords to keep their properties maintained and up-to-code by conducting rental inspections.  What is more important?  Ensuring tenants have safe, clean housing or the city taking the time to make sure residents have removed their holiday lights within 90 days?  Man I tell ya--we love living in the Little Apple but there are some things that definately make ya shake your head.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Justin's Going Back to School!

As promised in my last blog, here I am filling you in on Justin's newest adventure.

When I met Justin, he had just finished playing ball overseas and decided to come back to K-State to finish up his degree.  At the time, he had no idea what he wanted to do with that piece of paper, other than just finish it up.

May 2008 rolled around and it was time for him to graduate.  He had recently found out that he only needed to take 3 graduate-level classes to acquire his "coaching certificate."  In order to coach at the collegiate level, it's required to have this certification.  3 years ago, Justin thought it would be neat to some day coach but the last thing he wanted to do was stay in school.  He was ready for a paycheck!

Once Justin graduated, he quit his job doing road construction (horrible, nasty hot work but it paid pretty good money as a student!) and started working for Asplundh Tree Experts.  Justin loves his job at Asplundh and the company also provides a pretty decent benefit package...but some jobs are just that--a job.  Not a career.

A few weeks ago, Justin randomly decided to call his old advisor about obtaining his coaching certificate.  TURNS OUT, he only needs one undergraduate class.  Not 3 grad classes!

His advisor pulled up the class schedule and they're offering "Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries" as a summer class.  It's 4 days a week, for 4 weeks during the month of July.

Talk about great news!

What does this mean for us?  I have no idea.  Justin has always dreamed of getting on with the railroad but that's proving easier said than done.  He's applied online for several positions and each time, he gets an automated response back within minutes stating he isn't qualified. 

My theory is that maybe the railroad isn't meant to be.   He has experience with operating and maintaining large equipment, he easily meets the physical requirements (and then some!), he has the required education and Supervisory experience.  But the stupid online application won't even open the door for an interview.

Justin's theory is that the coaching certificate will be his "back-up plan" or something he can do when he gets older.  His main concern is that as a coach you are never home with your family and at some point, we would like to have a few rugrats running around.

Personally, I think Justin is a natural fit for coaching and he has many contacts in the field that he can utilize when the time comes.  He would be excellent at his job and I think he needs to pursue it sooner rather than later.  However, it would be him doing the coaching, recruiting and traveling--not me--so I am trusting his call on this one.  Guess we'll just have to see what happens!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Floor is In!

After tearing up the laminate floor in the kitchen, this is what we had...

Two days later and our new floor has been installed...complete with quarter round :-)

The pictures do not do the floor looks 10x better than it did!  And the gaps are gone--no more losing small children in them ;-)

Next up, a new countertop, backsplash, paint color and built-in shelving under the awkward open space under the kitchen counter.

Our current countertop is matter how often or what type of glue we use on it.  And Justin's always hated it--makes it easier to talk him into a new one!  Thank god bungalows historically have small kitchens because it looks like we'll be able to afford the extra few dollars/square foot for granite :-)  That's about the only upside to having limited counterspace.

While I'm dogging on the countertop, let me mention that part of it was cut wrong on one end and the counter actually covers up the bottom part of the window over the sink, making it nearly impossible to open the window.  That said, a properly cut countertop will mess up the current ceramic tile so we will replace the backsplash while we are at it...we're going to do a miniature 2"x4" glass subway tile above the counter and behind the stove.  Hopefully the shape and color will lend itself to the era of our house while being modern enough for resale!

And the other thing Justin's always hated--the orange kitchen walls.  Whenever the kitchen gets painted, we will use "Antique Silver" on the walls--it's a grey with purple undertones.  I'm hoping to really make things pop with hints of yellow and plum pieces in the kitchen.

Here is a sneak peak of the samples.  When will we do these projects?  Um, not sure!  We had intended to order everything over Memorial Day Weekend...however, Justin has decided to go back to school this summer and there's no basketball scholarship or financial aid this time around--we'll be relying on my income to pay the bills.  That said, I'm not sure when this next project will be tackled...I do not want to go house broke, literally.  But stay tuned for more on Justin's new "adventure!"

Antique Silver paint chip, Mint Jubilee glass tile and Black Pearl granite

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Eating Rug

Growing up, we were never allowed to eat on the living room furniture...but how the heck is a kid supposed to eat junk food and watch tv at the same time if they can't sit on the couch?!

Mom's solution was putting down old worn-out quilts that we so lovingly called "The Eating Rug."

At the time it was super annoying...and I'm pretty sure we tried to "forget" to put it down as often as possible.  After all, it was just carpet and you could just grind any crumbs down into the fibers ;-)

Fast forward to adulthood and our child--aka Mitzi--has developed a super annoying habit.

I really didn't notice it until we had company in town for New Year's Eve...Erin pointed out that Mitzi would carry a mouthful of food from the mudroom to the dining room, drop it on the area rug and then start eating it.  Looking back, I assumed she was doing it for attention and/or she wanted everyone to know that she was eating her doggy food (and not people food for once).

I was wrong--Ever since Erin pointed it out, I have come to notice that she does it ALL the time.

We tore apart the kitchen & mudroom last night so we decided to move Mitzi's food bowl to the guest room for the time being.  And guess what?!

The picture is a bit busy but she was bringing mouthfuls of food from the bedroom into the dining room and eating it off of the area rug.  The funny part--I bought a little kitchen rug for her food bowl several months ago and I guess it's not the same as the area rug.  Who would have expected that all these years later I would have my own "Eating Rug" in the house!

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Planting Season" is Over!

By the end of the day yesterday, every last bit of our landscaping was in...all 115 new plants!  Now we just have to wait and see what survives and what doesn't survive.  The peonies that came with the house are starting to open and someday the orange daylilies will bloom...those plants have been around long enough that it would take a lot to kill them!

I had every intention of keeping the plant tags somewhere safe so I would know exactly what was planted and where.  Maybe like in an envelope in our office.  Then I decided to "streamline" the process and only put one marker of each plant in the ground.  Well....most of the tags have broken off and I'm already starting to forgot what some of the plants are!

That said, I decided to list the plants here--it's always fun to share ideas and come next year, I can look back at this blog post and recall what the plants are!

Dutchman's Pipe vine...planted them along the northside of the fence facing the alley
Red Switch Grass planted in the new flowerbed facing 5th Street.  Justin talks about "switches" from his childhood down South, but I think that's a different kind of grass.
Oakleaf Hydrangea...planted on the northeast corner of the porch and fence.  Hopefully it grows as big as it says it will!
Annabelle Hydrangea...planted 3 of these in the new flowerbed

And this...I have no idea what it is.  I have 3 in this color and 3 in it's "sister" color of deep burgundy.  It's card is broken and all I remember is that it starts with an E--I think--and it grows about 2' tall.  Any guesses???

My hostas!  I love them!  We put in 6 hostas last year and 5 more this year

A lime-green hosta to help brighten the shaded spots

Dark Beauty Toad Lily--planted 10 of these behind the hostas in the beds by the front porch

English Ivy...planted 23 containers of the groundcover by the hostas and Toad Lilies
Silver Fern of some kind...I was short 4 Toad Lilies and tracked them down at a nursery in Michigan.  The owner included a free fern in the order!  It looked like a ball of roots...we'll see if it grows!  Planted with the toad lilies and hostas
"Berry Smoothie" Heuchera planted by the Oakleaf Hydrangea...might have to incorporate more heuchera next year!

Burgundy Glow Ajuga...planted 40 containers of the groundcover in the flowerbed and along the cement stairs...then 3 gallons were planted back by the garage

Autumn Fire Sedum...3 plants when in the new flowerbed, another 3 went over by the garage

The Autumn Sedum when it's in bloom
Autumn Clematis vine from my cousin, Mary...planted to grow on the garage

Purple Clematis...not sure if it's proper name.  Mom gave me some pieces of her vine and I also planted it to grow in the garage

Climbing Black-Eyed Susan vine in Orange...the plant was given to me by my cousin, Pat.  It's planted to grow along the fence by the garage/seating area
Zebra grass...planted by the garage with the sedum & ajuga

An Adam's Crab Apple...our tree looks nothing like this, but hopefully it will next time it blooms!
Mom shared some of her daylilies with us...we had 2 patches of orange that came with the house, just waiting to see what color the new ones will be!

Double Red Knock-Out Roses...planted 3 bushes south of the porch just for Justin!

Some of the lirope aka "Monkey Grass" that we planted last year is coming back up!

Veronica...planted 5 of these around the bird bath for some color and dimension

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tearing Up the Floor

Our new kitchen floor is being installed this week!

As you may remember from a previous post, this is what our existing kitchen floor looks like...

I have nothing against blonde laminate flooring.  Except when it doesn't match the rest of the house...Or except when it's installed improperly, causing all sorts of gaps and funky edges in the floor.

To be cost effective, we initially wanted to refinish the original wood floor that was under the laminate.  Well....that turned out to be a disappointment.  The kitchen floor is pine rather than oak, the boards are much wider than those throughout the rest of the house and there's a weird metal cap in the floor.

I did some research on historically-accurate kitchen flooring for bungalows and found our options were either wood flooring or linoleum.  Stone or tile flooring would never have been put in bungalows as it was too expensive for the style of home--darn!

We decided to stick with a wood floor for the sake of continuity and the fact that linoleum can get ugly and taste-specific.  Additionally, you can see straight into the kitchen from the front door and as our house is not a mansion, solid flooring would help keep the space feeling as large as possible.

But the fun part?  Trying to find new wood that matches 75 year old flooring that has been well loved...and worn in spots.  We were unable to find any laminate that came even close to being in the correct color family.  I visited several different stores in town and we finally found an "Oak Saddle" that is the closest match we will ever get.  Amazingly enough, the cost-per-square-footage difference between laminate and real wood was very minimal so I was glad we could afford something that would match the rest of the house.


To be honest, we really didn't have too many options.  One store did have some samples I liked but they refused to place an order for me--turns out, they're not politically aligned with my father and my last name was a dead give away.  Guess there CAN be disadvantages to having a family member in office!

I've always been a firm believer in things happening for a reason and I think this flooring is just another example of that.  Carpet One has been great about coming by to look at the floor on numerous occassions, talking with us about the possibility of tearing out the pine flooring (yeah, we gave up that idea!) and they've been extremely professional thus far.  I just hope that by the end of the day on Thursday, I'll still be able to say that I am pleased with them and the floor installation!  Until then...