Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Peas--You Either Love 'Em or Hate 'Em

Green peas.  What can I say?  You either love 'em, or hate 'em.  Growing up, we loved peas.  In fact, my Grandma Marcene made the best peas EVER.  They were laden with margarine and salt--and let me tell ya, we couldn't get enough of her peas!

As an adult, I still love peas.  But to be  frankly honest, sometimes I get tired of them.  I haven't quite perfected my grandmother's salt-to-margarine-to-peas ratio, either.  So some nights, it's like "Seriously, why did I put peas on the menu?  I'm bored with peas!"

But lately, I've been running into a new issue.  It's so hot that I just don't want warm side dishes.  Luckily, I stumbled across a new way to prepare green peas (score!) and it is a refrigerated dish (double score!)...and you should have most of the ingredients on hand.  In fact, it blends the best of many worlds: bacon, ranch and cheese!

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen green peas
  • 1/3 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


1.  Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.

2.  Bring the water to a boil in a pot.  Boil the peas 1 minute, until just tender, and drain. Cool peas under cold running water.

3.  In a bowl, toss together bacon, peas, onion, Ranch and cheese.  Refrigerate 30 minute or until chilled before serving.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Life As a Realtor...Thus Far!

As most of you are aware, I gave notice to my two jobs this past Spring semester and announced that I was going into the world of Real Estate!

For the most part, I was totally convinced that I had lost my mind--and I think most people around me felt the same way, too!  However, I was getting sooooo tired of having grant-funded jobs, watching the grant money disappear, while left to wonder "Hmmmm, wonder how much longer I'll have this job????"  I've always been a very driven individual, but it's kinda hard to focus on a "career" when you don't even know if the money for your job will be there next year!

After a lot of reflecting and discussion, my husband and I decided we're young--we have tons of time ahead of us.  But, I didn't want to continue changing jobs every two years in hopes of more secure funding--or slightly better benefits.  If I was going to make a big change, it was going to happen NOW, while we still had nothing but time awaiting us!

That said, I gave notice at my jobs.  I had decided I would join our local Coldwell Banker agency but the funny (or, scary) part--I hadn't even taken my licensing test yet when I quit my jobs!  This made my husband EXTREMELY nervous but as I kept telling him, "I got this, babe--just trust me!" 

Here I am, a month and a half into my new life as a Realtor.  And I'm still saying, "I got this, babe--just trust me!"  I took my licensing exam in April and passed the first time around--which, was really the only "option" because it took about 4 weeks for my licensing application to be approved by the State board.  I didn't have time to retake the exam because as luck had it, I listed my first property just 2 days after my license was approved!  Talk about perfect timing :-)

During the first two weeks of June, I spent my days in one-on-one training with my Broker.  It was pretty intense and I was EXHAUSTED by the time I got home.  There was TONS of information for me to learn--but all the while, I was learning to the ropes to managing a listed property.  Regardless of how draining it was, I gave 110% of my energy to my broker because hey, he knows what he's talking about!  It's with his leadership and guidance that our agency has become the #1 agency in our area--and if I can have things my way, I will do what it takes to become one of the top producers in our office!

So, what HAVE I been doing?
I have been working my butt off.

Last Saturday was the first day in over a month that I did not go into the office.  BUT, I worked from home instead!  When we went to Dallas for the 4th of July, I worked.  As we like to say in the world of real estate, there is no such thing as a weekend/vacation/holiday.   Even though Realtors work for an agency, we're all technically self-employed.  We're set up on 1099's as Independent Contractors for the agency we go in with and yeah, your broker has basic expectations of what their agents will do.  But really, we set our own hours.  For example, this past Monday, I stepped out of the office for the afternoon to have a play date with this cutie:

But once Marci and her momma hit the road (and baby girl said her "good-byes" to the dog), it was back to the office to meet with clients for the evening.  There is no such thing as vacation or sick leave in my new world, but rather, you just have to learn how to balance everything!  And that's exactly why the husband and I are headed out of town tomorrow for a day trip, as just the two of us :-) 

For the most, everything is going very well.  Or, at least that's what everyone is telling me!  I honestly don't have a frame of reference for success so I'm just going along, doing what I need to do!  I have spent many a hours out in the hot, hot, heat showing houses and following up on any leads I receive...as a result, it's led to offers on various properties and to be completely honest, I only get paid when I sell a house.  Oh, yeah--you saw that right.  The only paycheck I will receive is after a house successfully closes at the bank.  There is no "salary" or "hourly wage."  Based on what I currently have under contract, my first paycheck will be here in September.  Now, can you see why my husband thought I was crazy?  Start a job in June and not get paid until September?! 

And some people would say I'm crazy for what I'm about to say.  Honestly, the last thing I care about is the paycheck. Hell, after years of being in social services, you know I'm not about the all-mighty dollar sign!  My focus is on helping people.  Whether that's helping someone find a home that will meet their needs--or, helping someone sell their home so they can start the next phase of their life.  I don't care if it takes me 6 months and driving all over God's green earth to find the right house for first-time homeowners.  I want to ensure that my clients are purchasing solid homes, that will not cause them any problems.  I want to make sure that my clients can truly afford the home they're purchasing.  The last thing I want is for my wallet to be full while former clients find themselves in a world of financial or structural problems because of a home I pushed them into.  After all, real estate is all about word-of-mouth referrals.  If you start looking out for nobody but yourself, you can kiss your business good bye.  And, in my opinion, you'll go to H-E-double hockey sticks while doing so!!!

Like I keep telling my husband, I do believe "I got this, babe--just trust me!"  My first listing has already gone under contract (so, now I'm ready to help someone else sell their house and move onto greener pastures!), I've written multiple offers for other houses, my clientele base is growing (even though I'd still be happy to work with additional buyers--wink, wink, referrals, please!) AND PEOPLE ARE LISTENING TO ME!  Like I told my broker, people have never listened to me before, even though I knew what I was talking about!  But people ask me for advice, I provide counsel, they make a decision that best suits their needs, and things work out!!!  I love it!  For once, people are taking me seriously.  As my broker says, he's convinced I've really been doing this real estate thing for years now, but guess it just goes to show, "I got this, babe!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Quinoa--Your Must-Have Pantry Staple and True "Super Food"

Last night, I made a comment on Facebook about a new quinoa salad that I made and how I thought it ROCKED! And without looking, I'm pretty sure "rocked" was in caps on Facebook, too!  I'm not kidding--it was amazing!  But by this morning, it dawned on me again that not everybody knows what quinoa is...and that's okay.  Not many people do!

We've been eating quinoa for several years now.  I have no clue how I came across it...I just did.  Maybe it was in some magazine article or online health forum???  Anyhow, I eventually found it at The Merc in Lawrence and ever since then, I've been hooked!  It's affordable, super healthy and super yummy--what's better than that?!

Most people have two very basic, and to-be expected, questions when they first hear about quinoa.

First--how do you pronounce it?

Two--what IS it???

To answer the first question, quinoa is pronounced "KEEN-wah."  Go through the checkout line of the natural food store pronouncing it, "Kwin-O-uh" and the clerk is guaranteed to look at you like an idiot.  Trust me :-)  If it takes some time to get the pronunciation down, that's okay--there's days where part of me still wants to slip back into the kwin-o-uh days and then I remember the embarrassing stare...

Secondly, quinoa is usually described as a grain.  I even catch myself describing it as a grain, when in all actuality, it's really a seed.  It looks a bit like couscous and is as versatile as rice (one reason why I love it so much!), but it has a richer, nuttier flavor than either of them.

Quinoa is a native of the Andes in South America and it was first cultivated by the Incans.  They ate quinoa to supplement their diet of corn and potatoes.  European immigrants to South America were slow to incorporate the seed into their cuisine and it has only recently been 'rediscovered.'  So, if this is your first time hearing about quinoa, don't feel bad ;-)

Because if its nutritional content, quinoa is touted as a "Super Food."  It happens to be a complete protein, and has all 9 essential amino acids so it is actually a great staple for vegetarian diets.  Like I mentioned above, quinoa can be exchanged for rice in recipes and in my opinion, it's even better than rice :-)  And for those of you interested in the nutritional value of quinoa versus rice, check this out:

CarbsQuinoa 63g, brown rice 72.8g, white rice 79g
Protein: Quinoa 13.1g, brown rice 7.5g, white rice 6.6g
Fiber: Quinoa 5.9g, brown rice has 3.4g, white rice 0
Fat: Quinoa 5.8g, brown rice 2.68g, white rice 0.58g (The two cereals have largely unsaturated fat which has nutritional and health benefits.)
Iron: Quinoa 9.25mg, brown rice 1.8mg and white rice 0.8mg

Apart from the health benefits already mentioned, quinoa happens to have a low glycemic index compared to other whole grains. The glycemic index – or GI – rates food based on how much they make your blood sugar rise. Keeping your blood sugar steady and balanced can help you to maintain weight and improve cholesterol – that’s why whole unprocessed foods that are low in sugar and high in fiber (like whole grains) are touted for their health benefits. Calorie-wise, quinoa also comes in about 50 calories less per serving compared to brown rice.

For the curious, this is what quinoa looks like as it's plant is grown...isn't it gorgeous?!  In fact, it kinda reminds this farm girl of milo!  My true-farmer brother would probably argue that comment down, but that's just my opinion :-)

When the plant and seeds are eventually harvested, this is what the quinoa looks like:

After you buy your quinoa at the store and prepare it at home, this is what the cooked version looks like:

Quinoa is generally sold in two different ways at the grocery store (that is, if your store carries it).  In the Little Apple, our bigger grocers provide both options.  Fortunately, our smaller grocers are starting to carry it but it's only available in the latter option. 

The larger stores will offer quinoa in their bulk section.  The price may vary based on the distributor, but you can expect somewhere around $3.49/lb (or $0.22/oz).

The other way is in a box.  Like I mentioned above, most stores will at least have the pre-packaged quinoa--but it comes at a premium.  Let's try an average of $6.99 for a 12oz box (or $0.58/oz) on for size!  The upside is that you can pick from a variety of colors when you buy the boxed quinoa.  A lot of times you have the traditional white, Incan red and even a black version to pick from.  But....we're cheap and we buy the traditional white from the bulk bins!

So, what do you do with quinoa???  Quinoa can be served on its own as a side dish, with a bit of butter or oil, salt and pepper, or other seasonings. It also makes a great breakfast dish mixed with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey. Paired with chili, stir-fries, beans or curries, quinoa is a healthy substitute for rice (it also makes a tasty pilaf). As a main course, use it to make meat-free burgers, mix it into stews or toss it into salads. Quinoa works as a baking grain aswell, and makes for delicious and nutritious breads and muffins.  Considering the nutritional benefits and versatility, you'd be silly NOT to make quinoa a staple in your pantry!

To make it even MORE tempting for you to give quinoa a try, here are some recipes worth trying!  Not only are the pictures incredibly appetizing, BUT the links are RIGHT THERE!  All it takes is just one click and you'll be captivated by a whole new world of super-food possibilities!  I have personally made most of the recipes below and I promise you, you won't be disappointed :-)

Quinoa, avocado, black beans corn & shrimp. yum!

(this is what I made last night!  We used chicken broth, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green onion, chickpeas and balsamic dressing and were in HEAVEN!!!)







Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dallas For the 4th of July

Happy One-Week-After-The-4th-of-July, y'all!  We got in late Saturday evening from our trip to Dallas and as always, Dallas on the 4th of July was full of surprises!

Last time Justin and I went to Dallas for the 4th, we got engaged...needless to say, I didn't see that one coming at all, so it definitely proved to be a surprise!

This year, we decided to head down South again--the plans were somewhat similar to last time.  We would go to a family barbecue hosted by Justin's cousins, stay with his best friend Isaac (aka the "Brother From a Different Mother"), celebrate the 4th, go out and just relax.  Isaac and Justin first met when they lived in the dorms at K-State--Justin was on the basketball team, Isaac was on the track team.  Once they got out of the dorms, they moved into a house with two other friends and they are all super close to this day!  Anytime Justin and Isaac are together, you know there's fun to be had! 

And for the most part, our plans went exactly like that.

BUT--before we left, I felt our house needed to be a bit patriotic...and of course, if we decorated for the 4th of July, maybe people wouldn't think we were gone!  I had given up on buying buntings for our front porch--they're not the cheapest thing in the world and with me working a commission-only job, I didn't feel that we could justify the expense.  Until...Walgreen's had them on sale on July 2nd and I scored four buntings for $10!!!  I couldn't turn down a bargain like that AND we could leave behind a patriotic front porch!

We left Manhattan at 3:00 am on Wednesday morning...and yes, we're crazy!  We wanted to get down there decent time BUT we were worried about hitting the road after we both spent long days at work on Tuesday.  So, after supper we took a nap and left in the dark instead :-)

We arrived in Dallas at 10:15 am!!!  That included stopping in Oklahoma City for gas and letting the dog out to run and play.  Oh--and as it turns out, Mitzi does VERY well riding in the car for long distances!  She just laid in her crate and looked out the front window or she slept.  Guess we didn't need the doggie tranquilizers after all :-) 

Once we got to Isaac's place, we loaded up and headed to Justin's cousins.  They had just moved to a different house 3 months ago but they already had their house put together...it seemed more like they'd been living there 3 YEARS.  Wish I could have said the same thing about us when we bought our place!  Anyhow, we were pretty impressed with the house--especially knowing what the new-construction houses go for in that development.  This house came with a covered back porch, granite counters and professional kitchen, study, theatre room, billards room, and I can't even remember how many bedrooms and bathrooms.  It was great getting to celebrate their new home with all the family!

After the barbecue with Justin's family, we met up with one of Isaac's clients to swim and shoot fireworks.  Isaac told us ahead of time that their house sits on 40-acres in the heart of Arlington and is "pretty sweet" but let me tell you, I had no idea what we were getting into!

We got to his client's house and the kids couldn't wait to get into the pool!  It was actually cooler in Dallas (96 degrees) than in Kansas (105 degrees) but it was still miserably hot...I don't blame the kids for wanting to swim!

This little blondie is Isaac's son, Tristin.   I hadn't seen him since our wedding nearly two years ago and ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, do I love this little boy or what?! As he continues to grow, he just gets cuter and cuter!  I like to call him my blonde Eskimo baby which, eh, probably isn't the most racially sensitive phrase.  Isaac was born and raised in Alaska but he's actually Tongan--which makes Tristin Tongan, not Eskimoan.  If that's even a word!  But anyhow, we feel blessed to call him our nephew!  He has the "Uncle Justin" part down VERY well but he's still working on "Aunt Bria"--but, what kid doesn't struggle with my name?! 

Okay, so the pool at this place was freakin' awesome...check it out!!!  That building behind the pool is literally the "pool house."  There's a small pool in the walkway that flows down into main pool--looked like something out of a movie!

That was the awesome pool...check out the backside of this house!  It's not the best picture, but I was trying to sneak a shot while "acting" like I was looking at something on my phone ;-)  The main level is where the white columns are; the walk-out basement is where the brick columns are AND the upper level is above the railing way up top.  On the far left side of this picture are the stairs that lead up to the balcony and kitchen.  This place was absolutely insane.  The bathroom by the pool was pure marble and I kid you not--the bathroom alone is probably worth more than our entire house!  The "main" kitchen was one of those professional kitchens with a $30,000 gas range that was used by their private chef.  The fridge was one of those built-in all-glass units and at first, Justin thought it was a freezer.  I kept saying, "No, honey--we're not in the freezer aisle of the grocery store!   The thing is really a fridge!" and finally he noticed the pickles, mayo, eggs, whatever and took my word for it ;-)  There were also two other kitchens in the house that I didn't see, and that's probably okay!

The house sat on 40 acres of wooded land in the heart of Arlington and came with its own 9-hole golf course! It had multiple guest houses that put any house where we live to shame...there were also 20-foot tall stone gazebos scattered throughout the property.  And they had their own outdoor living room complete with a built-in fireplace and retractable window covers!  Did I already mention this place was insane?!  lol...
Our friend Isaac, with his son Tristin (the blondie)--and Tristin's brother, Braden, by the outdoor living room

Again, not the best picture because I didn't want to look like a tourist (!!!), but the super bright green area in the far back was where the golf course started!

Now, if a house has such a dramatic back-side, what can the front look like??? 

Isn't the front freakin' insane?!  If you walked out of the basement, you would come out through the little wooden door in the middle.  The driveway was all brick and as you can see, it's fairly large--and that's just HALF of the front parking area.  The driveway also forked over to the garage and then curved up the hill to the gated entrance.  Plus, if you can see on the left edge of the picture, they had a fountain!  Why would I be surprised?  Of course, they'd have a huge fountain out front!  When I told my friend Angie that this place was a "mansion," I wasn't kidding!  When she pulled up to meet us, all the two of us could do was laugh!  I mean, seriously--two Kansas farm girls spending their 4th of July at a mansion?!  Who woulda thought!  Oh, and should I mention I was wearing a $15 sundress from Maurice's?!  Ha!

Behind Justin's right shoulder you can see the archway to the garage...the little windows are also part of the garage structure!

Eventually, it was time to call it a night and reflect back on the independence that our country takes for granted and celebrate the sacrifices our service men and women make every day.  Right now, we have a good friend on his fifth--yes, fifth--deployment to the Middle East...with having a good friend currently deployed overseas, you really start to realize that how easy we have it here in the United States.

Anyhow, enough sappiness.

The next day, Justin and Isaac went to Six Flags.  You couldn't pay me enough to go there so Angie and I decided to hit up some thrift stores in the Dallas proper area.  Most of the stores were pretty lame but then we found the Salvation Army near the University Park area and holy cow--this place was like it's own little mall!  It had showrooms of furniture, home decor, home appliances, a whole room dedicated just to Women's Clothing...it was uh-mazing!!!  And the stuff was in great shape--now wonder the parking lot was jam-packed when we got there!

Finally, we just kind of spent Friday hanging out and running errands.  I had some work to get done so we made a Starbuck's stop and then--out of nowhere--popped up a Whole Foods grocery store.  Hello, danger zone!

I told Justin he could sit in the car and fry or come inside with me...and since it was hotter than Hades in Texas (but still 10 degrees cooler than Kansas), he agreed to tag along with me.  And he was glad he did!  We stocked up on our usual non-perishables (ie $2.99 bottles of wine!) and then we tried some new salsa and homemade peanut butter cups (only because they had his name on them--literally!).  Turned out, Justin LOVED both the salsa and peanut butter cups.  In fact, before we hit the road on Saturday morning, Justin requested one last stop at Whole Foods!  And then when we got back home, he said "Man, I wish we had a Whole Foods here."   Guess I won't have to fight him on going to the crunchy, granola-y stores anymore :-)

While we were out and about Friday, we ate at some awful Barbecue joint . Looking back, I should have trusted my gut--barbecue joints in nice buildings usually suck. It's the holes-in-a-wall that crank out the best food!

Once the sun set, we headed to the Uptown District to have drinks with some friends.  I could act like I know all about the Uptown District, but honestly, I don't know much about it!  It's in the heart of downtown Dallas and it looked like it was once the original business district.  The place kind of reminded me of Aggieville, but on steriods and a bit less trashy.  That said, is it even still comparable to Aggieville?!  lol...anywho, they had some really neat bars, valet parking (for only $5!!!) and fans with misting hoses, too! 

All in all, it was a great trip!  We never feel like we see enough of our friends and it makes the long drives worth every minute.  In just a few short months, Justin and Isaac will be back together for their former roommate's wedding.  We're already counting down the days until we see each other again and hopefully, Tristin will join us too!  Happy Week-After-The-4th-of-July, y'all!