Category Archives: Home Improvement

Foodie Wanna Be

There is something incredible about a well prepared meal- not just the taste but the color, aroma, and mystery of a well crafted dish. But, it’s even more than that. Food can invoke a memory and even help change a mood which is a big part of the reason restaurants are so popular—that and there are no dishes to wash afterwards.

I like to cook, but would not call myself an accomplished chef or anything like that. But, I like to play around. Part of this last year’s adventure for me (living in a partially finished apartment) has been learning to create appealing meals without an oven or stove. Tricky? yes, but for Christmas my younger brother bought me an amazing free standing electric skillet. It has become my favorite cooking buddy, and last week my dad finished putting in the apartment’s counter top which has been wonderful. No more balancing three plates on unstable surfaces. Yes, there have been some casualties. I still miss my snowman mug. All the electrical outlets are now in as well  which means no more blowing the breaker by using the microwave and toaster at the same time. I am still hoping for a stove, but I can see it in the near future.

But, in celebration of surviving an interesting year of learning to cook with limited resources (and a tight budget) here are some of my more successful experiments.

Basil Chicken- a quick and tasty dish. I love rice, and chicken breast are so easy to thaw in the microwave and cook in my trusty little skillet. The secret to this dish is butter and some dried basil. Simple, but it smells amazing when it is cooking and tastes pretty good too.

I love Saturday morning breakfast. I like to scramble up some eggs and then add tomatoes, spinach, and cheese. The best part though is homemade chai, but I drink that everyday and usually a couple times a day on the weekends. Special thanks to my Kenyan friends who keep me well supplied with tea leaves. I am not an addict or am I? I just know that chai makes every day just a little bit better.

A quick snack- salsa, spinach, and cheese. Microwave and then top with some sour cream because sour cream improves everything. I like to cut mine into pizza slices, but it’s good rolled up too.

Indoor picnic- Bratwursts, corn, and tomatoes. I like to fry the frozen corn up with the bratwursts after they have cooked for a while. It gives the corn a nice roasted taste.

The best take to work lunch. Slice up left over bratwursts with cooked bow tie paste, mayo, spinach, and tomatoes. Don’t forget the best part, lots of parmesan cheese.

On the go breakfast- Avocado on pumpernickel toast. Salt the avocado, and it makes a delicious spread.

What are your favorite quirky meals?

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Do I Really Want to Grow Up?

Do I want to grow up?

I realized the other day that I’m getting old. I know 25 isn’t really that old, but what I mean is I’ve had a shift in the way I think, what I talk about with my friends, and how I spend my free time. A couple weeks ago, I was genuinely excited about having an entire Saturday off so that I could paint my kitchen. I think that’s when it hit me that I’m more of an adult now than I am a kid. I also get excited over certain birthday presents (like say a vacuum), enjoy taking a good nap once in awhile (something I said as a kid that I would never enjoy) and intentionally add spinach and other grown up foods to my dishes. Weird, I know who would have thought.

Change is a funny thing when it happens so slowly that you don’t even realize it is happening. I’ve been blessed/cursed with the fact that I look much younger than I am. People tell me all the time that I look 16 which most would think is a good thing, but it gets annoying when people treat you like you’re sixteen long after high school is starting to become a fading memory.

About a year ago, I was out shopping with a friend of mine, who also looks much younger than she is, and the young guy behind the counter started bending over backwards to help me. “He was so flirting with you,” my friend told me after we left. “I know, I told her. “Maybe after he finishes high school and then college we can talk.”

I felt old over Labor Day weekend when we stopped to pick up my sister from the college she is attending. It was about eleven at night and there were kids everywhere laughing, screaming, jumping off walls, and just being goofy. I couldn’t wait to pick up my sister and head away from the mayhem. Then I got to thinking it wasn’t too long ago that I would have felt right at home on that very same campus. What happened?

Honestly, I wouldn’t want to go back. I’m done with all-nighters, loud dorms, and freshman drama. I loved college while I was there, but each stage of life is fun in its own way. Not all parts of growing up are fun. I was reminded of that fact on Wednesday when a short visit to the clinic cost me 93 dollars and 60 cents, yuck. While it’s not fun paying rent every month and doing your own laundry, I love cooking my own meals, having the freedom to pick unusual paint colors for my walls, and not having to be home by 10 p.m. I guess, growing up has its perks.

It’s easy to want to live in the past thinking “yesteryears” were so much better than what is here today, but part of that is because when looking back, it is easy to forget the challenges and only remember the good memories. Today is here. It’s not always perfect, but it’s not all bad either. I love growing up, growing older, getting to see new things, and having new responsibilities. Each new day brings an adventure, and I don’t want to miss the good times that I can have now by wishing that things would go back to how they were.

What made you realize you were growing up?

What do you like most about your current stage in life?

Is growing up overrated?

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Filed under Contemplations, Home Improvement, Humor

Weaving Through the Chaos

I came home to find my kitchen had been moved into my living room: dishes, stove, refrigerator, the works. I suppose one of the drawbacks of having your dad as your landlord is that you don’t get a lot of warning when major construction is about to take place. On the up side, my dad and brother installed a beautiful new floor in the kitchen, and having all the appliances moved provided the ideal time for me to paint. Now just the ceiling is left to do before the refrigerator and stove can return to their happy home, and I can hopefully go back to having a little more order in my life.

Mornings have never been my thing so trying to make breakfast in the middle of a maze of extra appliances has been interesting to say the least. I set my coffee mug on top of what I thought was a stable shelf. It spilled and while I was cleaning up that mess, I managed to dump the sugar canister over as well. What can I say, I’m just talented like that. Thankfully, I had room to maneuver the vacuum cleaner and didn’t manage to spill anything else before making it out the door for the day.

Life can be chaotic. Sometimes it’s little things sometimes bigger things. Sometimes it’s a domino effect that threatens to mess with your sanity. But as the saying goes, things often get worse before they get better just like with my kitchen which now has a fresh coat of paint and a brand new floor. But, it’s not a fun place to be in the middle of all the construction juggling tools and trying to scrub all the paint off at the end of the day. It’s messy and frustrating but then again so are people some days.

It’s work living in the in-between whether that be living in the middle of a construction project or waiting to see where a relationship goes or living in-between two jobs. Uncertainty can throw a person off causing frustration and even anxiety, but it’s a stage, a phase, a little segment of a much bigger picture. Sometimes you just have to hang in a little bit longer and pray you survive.

It will be nice having this remodeling job finished. I’m looking forward to returning to semi-normal life. Although, the whole experience of living in an unfinished apartment is one thing that started this blog see Bucket Head and Camping Without the Stars.

I’m not a neat freak, but I do like being able to find my dishes and make a cup of chai in the morning without having to vacuum half a cup of sugar off the floor. But, after having to live this way for awhile, I’m sure my living room will feel huge once all of the appliances are put back where they belong.

Life and its stages can be quite the adventure but as C. S. Lewis said in his book The Voyager of the Dawn Treader, “Adventures are never fun while you are having them.” While this maybe true, how boring would life be without a little adventure? As long as you survive the adventures, they make for some great stories later on and act as a measure for future challenges that come along. Survive it, and you’ll be ready for the next “fun” challenge that comes your way.

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Cardboard Shelves

I finally have a little reading corner set up in my apartment. Even though I’ve lived here for six months now the place is still under construction, so I am not ready for any permanent shelving. But, I’ve really missed my books. Just seeing them out again helps me feel more settled. For my beloved books’ temporary home, I created some cardboard box shelves (covered in newspaper for a more finished look) and unpacked and dusted off some pictures to put on top.

Now my little corner, which is actually more like a section of the wall, is cozy with some color sprinkled in. I’m slowly starting to feel slightly more attached to this place. I’m not sure when I’ll have time to actually sit down and pick up a book, but I just feel better knowing that I can if I want to. Now maybe with my French books out in the open I’ll be more motivated to pick up them up once in awhile too.

I love reading corners, porch swings, and hammocks because they represent a place of rest, not sleeping per say, but a relaxed state of peace. Those moments can be hard to find in the midst of life’s demanding schedule, but they’re there. Eventually the clock reaches quitting time, chores and errands are finished, and it’s time to relax. My favorite part of the day is night time. Everything that had to be done is done and if not it will keep till tomorrow. I love the feeling when everyone else is asleep, the TV is off, and it’s just me and my thoughts. I hate going to bed because I want to hang on to that feeling as long as possible. I know it can’t last forever, but it is so satisfying while it does. The longer I linger the closer morning gets, so I finally let go—almost ready to face another day. At least I know it won’t last forever, and when it’s over my reading corner will be there.

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Camping without the Stars

I’ve chipped most of the drywall mud off my fingers. Now I just have to wash off the tools and put my bedroom back together. That shouldn’t be too hard seeing as my bed consists of an air mattress, a sleeping bag, and a quilt. Living in a partially finished building is kind of like indoor camping.

I have moved past the eating off paper birthday plates stage, but my breakable dishes are still safely wrapped in newspaper and sitting in boxes stacked around the kitchen. Since I’m such a chai connoisseur, I did unpack a good portion of my mug collection. Right now they are sitting safely in my refrigerator so that they don’t break when I shuffle furniture around to mud. So far I’ve only had one causality. Sadly, it was my snowman mug.

It’s amazing how many meals can be made using a rice cooker, electric griddle, microwave, and pizza oven. I know the pizza oven is a bit of a luxury, but once you start using one it’s hard to go back. Only being able to have two appliances plugged in at once is a bit of a challenge but, like with camping, the food tastes better when you really have to work for it.

Having to slow down has been good for me. I’ve been so use to throwing dishes in the dishwasher and cooking fast meals that spending a lot of time on meal prep and clean up can be annoying. But, it’s a satisfying feeling when the pancakes are cooked and when it turns out that a Gatorade bottle works fairly well for mixing up orange juice from concentrate. I have a new respect for pioneer women and can understand why a good portion of their day was spent cooking and cleaning. For the moment it’s an enjoyable adventure cooking on what’s available, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to having a real oven again. For now, I’ll just have to adapt to living with everything, but the kitchen sink.

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Bucket Head

I washed my hair in a bucket tonight. The funny thing is I’m not living in a third world country right now but in America’s heartland. It’s a long story. I’ll spare you the long drawn out details. The heart of the story is: my lease ran out last month, I’d arranged to move into an apartment that my dad has been renovating, plans changed so he had to stop working on the apartment and switch to a higher priority project which will take him about another month. My stuff and I had very limited options. I lived at my parents house for a week, but that didn’t work out very well for a variety of reasons, so I decided to just move into the apartment ready or not.

The apartment is on the second floor of a hundred year old building. After you climb 23 steps, it’s on the left. Three eight foot windows over look main street and face the railroad tracks. The first night I slept here I found that, yes, the train does go by at three in the morning.

But, back to the bucket experience. I’m determined to meet the challenges of  living in a half finished building. It’s an odd combination high speed internet: check (shared by the three surrounding  buildings) electricity: partially—a string of temporary lights running on an electrical cord which comes out of the floor, plumbing: partially—a bucket flush toilet and a tub but no running water. So, I got a half filled bucket of water, a mug, my shampoo, and set to work. The water was very cold. I got conditioner in my eyes, and the hardest part was making sure my hair was fully rinsed. Once I was done, I realized my towels are still packed in a box, but fortunately I had my hair cut fairly short recently, so my extra wash cloth worked pretty well.

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