Monthly Archives: November 2011

Do dating anniversaries still count after marriage?

Jeremy and I started dating Nov. 29, 2002. I was smitten with the unexpected hold this wild and goofy boy had on me. And, obviously, he loved all of my awesomeness as well. 😉

We adopted Alaska as a puppy four months later, held up a long-distance relationship for a year, worked hard, he supported me through school, I took him on his first plane trip (which happened to be clear across the country), we talked on the phone at least twice a day, held up another year of long distance, moved in together, I graduated from college and just like that, suddenly five years had passed.

Jeremy randomly proposed marriage to me all five years–while slow dancing as we waited in line at a Hallmark, while walking through a Wal-Mart parking lot, etc. It usually ended with me hitting him in the shoulder and telling him to shut up. I never wanted marriage. I was happy and secure in our relationship as it was.

Today in 2008, I was kissing him bye to go spend a day of beauty at a salon as my anniversary gift. After six hours of massage, manicure, pedicure, haircut and make-up (with no food or drink), I was anxious to get home and go out to dinner.

When I walked in the door, the house had been beautifully cleaned and there were candles lit. Jeremy greeted me with a smile and said he got me something special. As my heart pounded, he came around the corner with a Little Debbie Christmas tree zebra cake–my favorite holiday bad food and a signal of the season. He said we’d eat it after dinner and I laughed. Then I urged him out the door because I was starving!

He told me to hold on; there was one more thing and he wanted to take pictures of my “makeover.”

I played nice for a couple shots.

I wouldn’t let it go and kept pushing him toward the door impatiently, so he finally opened the Little Debbie box and handed me a cake to appease me.

Then, dropped to one knee and told me how much he loved me and how much I meant to him and how much he’d like for us to be together…as husband and wife. He held out a ring and asked if I would I marry him.

I dropped the cake on the floor and must have looked incredulous.

He smiled nervously and said, “Don’t hit me, I’m serious!”

I smiled back and said, “Sure.”

I know! How lame am I?! I had imagined bursting into happy tears and saying all kinds of mushy things, but it’s just not me. I didn’t feel like bursting into tears. I didn’t even feel like calling everyone I know. I just felt a pure rush of excitement and love. Like flying down a water slide and finally hitting the pool at the end–engulfed and disoriented but knowing something so fun just happened.

I completely forgot about dinner and we took a couple more pictures.

We did make it out to dinner though where we held hands and giggled as we called each other “fiancé” for everything all night long.

Candid at the end of the night.

The next morning, I had breakfast with my Mom and found out he had asked her permission, so she had a feeling it was coming. Although I’m sure it was still surprising and challenging (her little girl!), she was wonderfully supportive.

I later found out that he had bought the ring two years earlier. Two years! He hid it in his roadside emergency car kit because he knew that was one place I would never go. Oh, and apparently all my friends knew, too. Sneaky! The whole lot of them. 🙂

So today, we start our ninth year. I know dating anniversaries probably should be let go once you’re married, but we celebrated on Nov. 29 for six years…and it means so much to me that we accomplished and endured so much throughout that time, I can’t imagine not celebrating.

To my Mr., thank you for changing my mind on marriage (and many other things) while loving and supporting me in so many ways without trying to change me. I promise to work to continue to be your life teammate (and give you lots of kisses and keep sweet tea in the fridge at all times).

To everyone else, happy Tuesday! Feel free to eat a Little Debbie cake guilt-free today for me. And, tell me, do you still celebrate pre-marriage relationship milestones?

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Citrus tree troubeshooting and a great gardening resource

Thanks to one of my work programs, I found the best resource! It’s the Duval County’s Extension Office. And yep, every city has an extension office. They actually do a lot more than gardening. They offer “research-based education by trained professionals and volunteers in agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development.”

The homepage for Jacksonville's.

I am too old for 4-H and I don’t can food or put up jam. But, I am raising an orange tree and new garden. And I couldn’t ask for more knowledgeable, friendly and helpful professionals to help do exactly that.

They can tell you all about native plants so you know what will grow the best and the easiest in your area. Also, what they’re at-risk to and what you can do to improve their quality.

I went to a presentation from their master arborist hoping to learn, in particular, more about my two-year old Hamlin orange tree. He is too young to produce but I want to make sure we are giving him all right stuff to grow up and get strong so we can have tons o’ oranges as soon as possible.

Our Hamlin orange tree...aka, "Hamlin" or "Little Hammy"

The picture is from when we planted him a year ago. He is just a bit bigger now but is under constant attack from bugs. Ick!

But, thanks to a special citrus education session from the extension office, I was able to pull a couple leaves from Hamlin to not only identify what was going on but to get some solutions.

And am I glad I did! The top of Hamlin looks fine…

He is bright, healthy green, just a couple of chewed spots but nothing too bad.

 BUT, when you turn the leaves over to reveal the underside?

Here are two of his leaves.

Gahhhhh! So gross.

I learned that the larger leaf most likely shows “greasy spot.” A disease caused by a fungus that needs to be treated with horticulture oil. However, some of the symptoms and effects of greasy spot never happened with Hamlin, like yellow mottling on the leaves and premature leaf droppage. I’ll be taking the leaf into the nice people at the extension office for their professional opinion.

The smaller leaf fascinates me. Do you see the perfect winding trail? It’s a leafminer! A bug that actually lives between the layers of the leaf so you can’t see it from the top and can’t treat with a topical spray because they are protected. Smart little bugs.

Up close!

What I can’t figure out, is what in the heck those little circles in a cluster are. Most likely eggs, right? But from what? I was able to rule out leafminer, soooo who’s sharing the leaf? I’ll be taking this little guy to the extension office, too.

Oh! And, the Duval County Extension Office has a newsletter (called A New Leaf, how cute is that?) that features monthly to-dos, events and helpful information.

Do you have any citrus trees? Are you familiar with the extension office in your county? Or, just share your favorite gardening resource…Hamlin needs all the help I can get him. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

No blogging…it’s a family and friends affair and I’ll probably be too stuffed to roll to the computer later. 🙂 What did you do for this year’s Thanksgiving? Whether your plans are frozen TV dinner turkey and gravy by yourself, a large  family affair or anywhere in between, I hope you enjoy! I’m thankful you dropped by.

I’ve been lazy; yummy recipes to bribe you

The problem with giving yourself a break? It’s really hard to tell yourself to get back to work! 🙂

Last week was really busy but in a good way–lots accomplished. And, I got a promotion! Getting such a nice recognition at work was really a great compliment. I definitely have added it to my “thankful” list and will continue to work hard to remind them why they keep my around. 😉

I did use my blog-abandoning time wisely this weekend though. I cooked three big meals, made progress on my defeating the paper clutter monster and spent four hours shopping and planning a party with one of my best friends (Hi Beth!).

Four recipes in particular stood out so I thought I’d share them in case you were looking for some Thanksgiving additions…or just really good food for whenever.

Pumpkin syrup from Savvy Eats:

  • Although it looks boring in a little white ramekin, the taste is amazing.

Using two tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree, water, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, you can make your own syrup to add to tea, coffee or chai. Perfect for fall and winter. It’s so delicious, so easy and so cheap compared to the shelf-stable stuff or specialty coffee house stuff. Plus, it has no preservatives or artificial ingredients.

White bean and veggie stew from Palmetto Organics:

This week’s delivery included sweet potatoes and collard greens. I don’t like sweet potatoes and didn’t know a healthy way to make collards. Then the company e-mailed a recipe to use them both in one stew. And, it was fabulously delicious and healthy!

Look at all those veggies! And warm bread, mmmmmm.

White Bean and Everything else stew

1 pound collards, ribs and stems removed and cleaned

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped sweet potato
1 cup  chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup pureed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Coarsely chop collards. Heat olive oil over medium in a medium pot. Add carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic and saute for 15 minutes. Add wine (scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pot) and cook it until it reduced by three-fourths. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, a few pinches of salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add collards and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Add more broth if you’d like a thinner stew and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
You can ladle the stew over thick piece of toasted baguette that has been rubbed lightly with half a clove of garlic.

It looked like this in mere minutes.

Pear and pumpkin crumble from Real Simple:

It isn’t healthy and it takes an hour to make. But it is really sweet and really decadent and really perfect for an unexpected sweet treat.

I may have added some whipped cream on the side for this dessert.

Doughless pizza from Eat. Drink. Smile.

Cauliflower florets in the food processor to rice it.

Yep, it’s pizza crust made from a cauliflower and cheese mixture.

I was more than a little skeptical at the sight of this raw "dough."

But , I patted it into a circle and popped it in the oven anyway. What’s the worst that can happen, right?

Looks more like real crust!

Hooray for a plan coming together. I just topped it with cheese to play it safe and it was surprisingly good. I will warn you of a texture issue: it didn’t get crispy. It is more thin and spongy–like a omelet-ish feel. But it tastes wonderful and isn’t soggy or bad, just different than real pizza crust if you are a crust snob like my husband, lol.

Wow.

So, that’s what I was doing while I snuck away from the Internet. I hope you are having a happy week so far. Do you have any special Thanksgiving recipes? Let’s be thankful for deliciousness together!

Organic veggies, delivered

Sounds nice, right?

I have contemplated joining a CSA all year. But they were either an hour drive from my house, had pick-up hours in the middle of a work day, or were too expensive (for me).

So, when my friend (Hi Jen!) mentioned she was getting organic vegetables delivered to her house every week, I had to know more.

She had just signed up with a company called Palmetto Organics. It’s a family business in Jacksonville. They are a husband and wife team (Matt and Korrin Rogers) who deliver food all over the city and a bit beyond (if you know Jacksonville, you know that’s a huge task).

Their program offers multiple sizes and frequencies to best meet your produce needs. Jen said it was like Christmas every week, it only cost $25 and it forced her to try new things since the basket you get is what you eat. She had never had a parsnip and now knows she loves them. Sooooooo, surprise deliveries AND trying new things? You know I signed up. 🙂

I e-mailed them and signed on for the minimum three-month membership as a trial.  We opted for the basic basket (5 pounds) every other week to make sure the price was low in the beginning ($50 per month) and we didn’t waste any items.

Our first delivery was Nov. 1. It really was fun to set a cooler on the porch in the morning and then come home to it filled with food.

One full cooler.

Apparently everyone gets two of those silver cooler bags so each week they leave you one and you send the other back. After a long day at work, I was so excited.

Special delivery!

Today will be our second delivery. I thought I’d look back and share with you what we got, what we did with it and what’s next.

Here’s what we got Nov. 1:

  • 1 large kale bunch
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 large yellow squash
  • 2 Bosc pears
  • 3 kiwis
  • 3 Asian eggplants
  • 7 red potatoes
  • 25 cremini mushrooms

We dumped it on the counter to inspect the goods.

Here’s what we did with it:

  • The day we got it, I sautéed one of the squash and half the bag of mushrooms as a side dish to the turkey and grits meatloaf. So good!
  • The next morning, I made myself a smoothie with the kiwis and kale (I added strawberry and pineapple already on hand).

    I hate that green smoothies look so disgusting, but I promise it tasted delicious!

  • I also used a salad recipe from Matt to make the remaining kale and the eggplants. Just soy sauce and honey or maple syrup to make a dressing, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds for a finish. The taste was great! His tip was to steam the kale first to remove the bitterness and it totally worked! However, the textures were a problem. I didn’t like that the kale became ridiculous leather / hurt your jaw chewy (Jeremy really liked it). I must have done something too much or not enough. Jeremy didn’t like that the eggplant was mushy (I ate his and mine and loved it). We found out how to combat all the water in them for next time though with paper towels.
  • I stole ate both pears as an afternoon work snack. They were the best I’ve ever had–normally, I could take or leave pears. The second one I stuck in the microwave for 5 seconds and sprinkled cinnamon on. Mmmmmm.
  • I used the remaining squash and mushrooms in spaghetti sauce.
  • He cleaned and cut up the cauliflower and we ate half of it out of a bowl like popcorn while watching Monday night shows.
  • I still have the other half and want to make pizza out of it! [Thanks to Pinterest: Cauliflower Pizza Crust]
  • I also still have the red potatoes. I’m planning to cut up and cook one and pour chili over it because I could eat that for days.  The rest I want to use to make these rosemary and sage mashed potatoes with vegan gravy.

Here’s what’s waiting for me at home today:

Each weekend before the delivery, they send me an e-mail to announce what’s coming in all the baskets, which really helps with meal planning. It is also great because it includes recipes and general tips. Awesome!

  • Collard Greens
  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Red Radish
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet Potato
  • Honey Crisp and Jona Gold Apples
  • Anjou Pears

Not bad for $25, right? If you want to see what I’m getting, an awesome white bean stew recipe that uses everything listed and what other types of baskets they offer, click here.

So, now I can’t wait to get home today to see the goods…and put them away in their new home! 😉

Do you have a similar service in your area? Would you be excited to pay for vegetables that you don’t choose?

Great news for fridge hunters and deal lovers

I have a long house to-do list. The kitchen is definitely on it, but it is a few pegs down as there are one or two other things that we prioritized. Of course, one thing is a huge knock-down-an-entire-exterior-wall-and-build-a-large-deck kind of project that we stalled earlier this year. And when the most important project stalls, they all stall.

BUT, I provide that intro to then say, “I bought a new fridge!”

Meet our newest family member.

Gah, I know. I wasn’t shopping for it but when the home improvement stars align and an opportunity to light your motivation fire comes along, sometimes you just have to take it.

The kind of fridge I dreamed of was a brand-new, top-of-the-line, super trendy one. Probably with gadgets I don’t need or sleek touch screens that I don’t even know how to use.

Like this.

In reality, we didn’t even have an ice maker, so it was a serious stretch.

Enter, the Whirlpool Gold 25 Cubic Foot French Door Refrigerator.

Oooooo, ahhhhh

In my area, it was priced at $2,499.

On sale at Lowe’s for $1,299.

Plus, …

  • Financing with 18 months of no interest on our Lowe’s card
  • $25 promo card we received in the mail for Lowe’s members
  • $25 Energy Star credit from our electric provider
  • Free delivery and install from Lowe’s (normally $79)
  • Paid $119 for a five-year extended warranty
  • Posting our previous fridge on Craigslist for an additional way to offset the price if possible (plus, it works and I can’t stand the thought of wasting it)

Which all translates to… 54% savings!

We bought it Saturday around 3 p.m. and it showed up at our house Sunday at noon. Awesome.

Here she comes!

We used the opportunity to play with the kitchen layout by using a large blank wall for the fridge (with built-in plans) and doing some deep cleaning. It is still a huge purchase so we’re calling it our couple’s Christmas present but couldn’t be happier.I love the exciting tone it sets every time I walk past it for all the things we want to enjoy in our home.

Peeking around the corner.

I can’t believe how much it holds despite not being too much bigger than our old one (a white side-by-side that came with the house). It holds everything and still has empty shelves!

It also has super fun features like a lock for the ice and water dispensers for when little kids are over, a measured fill capability for the water, a temperature setting without having to open the fridge and many shelves that slide out to easily reach leftovers in the back.

Lowe’s is offering the sale until Nov. 28. So, if you are in the market, I hope it helps (and I know many stores match or beat prices if you like another place better, we just love our Lowe’s).

If you aren’t in the market but love a great deal, I offer this virtual high-five for your rockin’ness and a happy dance!

How’s your week going? Any great deals you’ve gotten?

A day of love and appreciation

Happy Nov. 11, 2011! It’s Veterans Day, AND my beautiful friend Cheryl is getting married today. I’ll be driving down to Disney World this afternoon to help her celebrate… but I can’t go without sharing a wonderful article from Chicago’s Daily Herald.

11 ways to thank a veteran on 11/11/11

By: Daily Herald staff report
 
1. Stand up at 11 a.m., put your hand over your heart and face the East for one minute.
2. Send a card or note to a hospitalized veteran or one living in a veterans home. Better yet, if it’s possible, take time to visit one.
3. Attend a Veterans Day ceremony in your community.
4. If you own a company, or make employment decisions, consider hiring a veteran.
5. Leave a message online thanking veterans for their sacrifice.
6. Research and donate time or money to a local charity that helps homeless veterans.
7. Donate to or assist an organization that helps wounded veterans, such as Disabled American Veterans, the Wounded Warriors Project or Soldiers Angels.
8. Learn about local, state and national issues affecting veterans then let your voice be heard.
9. Leave a public voice mail expressing gratitude to veterans. Canary Voice’s Library of Congress website.
10. Make sure your children understand the significance of Veterans Day and the sacrifice of those who have served.
11. Say “thank you” to a veteran today, be it a friend, family member, co-worker or just someone you see in the community. 

Have a great day friends, and I hope you celebrate the great loved ones in your lives as well as remember how different America would be without our military. Both my grandfathers were in the military and I have many friends and family in today–from a cousin who just completed boot camp to a coworker who is a retired but decorated pilot.

So, I say a heartfelt and enthusiastic, “thank you!” to all who have, are and plan to serve our country. Do it for the right reasons and with all your heart. We’ll fight for you here.
 
Make it a great weekend!