Monday, February 27, 2012

Preparing For Spring Part One

As we begin to wrap up the month of February, it seems about everyone is ready for Spring to bloom. That is, except me. March normally brings a mixture of emotions for me. While I'm ready to get outside & enjoy longer days, I normally have to spend the first few weeks of spring miserable and inside.

You see, tree pollen and I don't get along so well... in fact, we are mortal enemies. Every year, I dread the month of April because my days are full of sneezing, itchy eyes, and short breath. And it gets really awful some years. When I lived in college dorms with open windows, spring would get so hazy that I would have to go home during the weekends just so I could sleep.  In 2008, my allergies lead to a sinus infection that was so bad, it turned to pneumonia. But since I assumed it was just allergies, I let it get to a point where I was hospitalized for a few days. I'm thankful that I don't have allergies all year, but every spring is full of allegra, eye drops, inhalers & normally a dose of steroids for a week.

As I learn more about my allergies, it gets a little better every year, mostly because we know how to avoid it as best we can. Our windows & doors stay shut until May, I start on meds in February, and I try to be outside as little as possible. By no means is any of that fun, but it's better than the alternative.

So with all that being said, I never really "look forward" to Spring. Mostly because I know the next month or so will be agonizing. I also know I'm one of the very few people that feel this way. My coworkers give me glares every time I say anything in relation to my conditioned hatred toward spring blooming from winter.

But this year adds a new concern. Winter was really mild this year. In our little city, it only snowed three times all winter. An none of it stuck around for long. And while I enjoyed the warmer temperatures as much as the next person, it isn't right for winter to be so mild. Especially when this same area was hit by a dramatic ice storm just three years ago. Where we live, there's supposed to be a time for life to sleep then re-awaken. I'm truly afraid bugs & pollen will be a disaster this spring. And while I'm not a meteorologist, I'm interested to see what summer will be like this year.
I was so excited that it finally snowed at the end of November, I took a photo
But I'll get off my soap box and get back to the fun stuff. Spring does mean at least one, very fun thing: gardening. Each year the husband & I do more gardening than the year before. And last year was pretty fun. We grew tomatoes, lavender, onions, peppers, mint, oregano, rosemary, and some mutant basil. I documented a bit of our journey, including in uncharted territory.
Last year's garden on the first day. It all grew so fast
But this year will be even better. After reading into herbalism, I'm already planning the herbs I want in my garden. In fact, we just bought some seeds & a cell kit to start a few of our main herbs.
I'll finally have some calendula at my disposal
And while I'll have every herb from mint to oregano, we are also planning on some strawberries, peppers, tomatoes & maybe even a pumpkin. But my dreams of a big batch of chamomile, echinacea & calendula will have to wait for things to warm up more. And it will all depend on when we finish up closing on this home we want to buy. But that doesn't mean we can't all start preparing for a great growing season. Thanks to the cell system we bought, we already started on germinating seeds.

 So here's a few things you can start doing now.

- Like I did, make a list of what you want to grow this year.
- Take a look at your yard & map out the space. Be sure to include how much sun a certain spot is getting.
- If you plan on growing plants from seeds, go ahead and start them in your home.
-  You don't have to get a cell kit like we did. You can save money & use things like margarine tubs, tuperware or egg cartons.
- Slowly start purchasing what you'll need for your outside garden. A couple bags of soil here or there is a lot better then buying 20 when you need it.
- Don't forget to compost.

If you are ever looking for some gardening inspiration, I am constantly updating my secret garden board. There are so many cool things on there that I'm not really at liberty to post here.

Well, March is just a few days away, which means Women's History Month will begin. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I have a theme planned. Want to guess what it is? I'm sure you have an idea. See you then.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Show Some Modesty

Whadeya' know, I have an extra blog post for you this week. Well, it's really for me. It's a bit of a diary entry/explanation. It's a bit focused on Christianity as well. So if you really don't care about my own religious views, I'd go ahead and skip this post.

Sorry that this post is a bit delayed but, Happy Ash Wednesday. In case  you don't know, it's the beginning of Lent, a time where Christians attempt to make a sacrifice & give up a vice until Easter. At least that's what I was taught in Sunday school. Catholics normally throw in the whole "no red meat on Friday" thing, but we do not. But I applaud all who do & then go to my husband's work to have some fish instead. Be sure to leave him a good tip.

Anyway, we try to give this sacrifice as a way to symbolize Jesus' 40 days in the desert. He had no food or water & was tempted by Satan three times. But he came out on top... that is until he was betrayed then killed. But you all know the rest to that story.

With that being said, it took me pretty much until midnight last night to come up with a good thing to give up for Lent. I used to give up soda, but I've already done that for health reasons. I could give up alcohol but that would lead to a boring birthday since it's the day before Easter. While smoking was an option, the husband isn't going to quit until December 2012 (something about the Mayan calender, whatever that is) so that's just not doable. I can't give up Facebook since I have to use it for work every day. And there's no way I'm giving up chocolate during Girl Scout cookie season.

But then, my husband had a good idea: what about make up?

I thought for a second and realized he had a good idea for a few reasons. One, modesty is a key characteristic taught in our faith. It is through modesty that we can accept that we sin and are able to accept God's love & forgiveness. We're not perfect. And that's okay.

Some take modesty as a lesson to also tell your teen to not wear tube tops or over do the make up. And while I'm all for teens dressing appropriately, there needs to be a mixture between modesty & expression. For me, it's more about accepting your faults and allowing yourself to shine without embellishments.

As I mentioned with Finding A Balance, I am on a personal goal of accepting myself. My looks to be exact. And I'm not saying this to fish for compliments. After some "filling out" between college and our move to Kentucky, I became very self conscious about my appearance. And as I focus on living a healthier lifestyle & losing weight in my own way, I'm also working for a healthier mind. That includes me being at peace with being seen without make up. And that's saying something since I adore my eyeliner.

So here I am on day one of my lent sacrifice: no make up. And during this time, I hope to allow myself to stay modest in my actions and while finding beauty in my flaws. Since I have 40 days, I think I can make it.
A few days into no makeup

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wild Card: On The Farm Pasta

I have a special treat for you all in this month's wild card. I'm about to share one of my absolute favorite recipes: On The Farm Pasta. I called it that since it includes about everything you would find on a farm: whole grain, chicken, dairy, and veggies. It is easy. It is delicious. And it makes plenty for left overs.
Even Cricket wants some
This simplistic, delicious & nutritious recipe calls for... 
1 package of whole grain ziti 
6 oz organic baby spinach leaves, washed 
1 jar of pasta sauce 
1 package to cheese chicken sausage 
1 c ricotta cheese 
½ c grated mozzarella cheese 
½ c grated parmesan cheese 
½ t garlic powder 
¼ t ground black powder 
Save for topping: 
½ c mozzarella 
¼ c parmesan cheese

You will want to heat a big pot of water (with some olive oil) & cook your ziti as directed on the box. And I know it sounds crazy, but when there is one minute left for it to cook, throw your spinach in the pot. It will wilt the spinach & allow the pasta to absorb some flavor.

While the water & pasta are boiling, prepare your other ingredients. I normally put all three of the cheeses & spices into a bowl. Be sure to also cut up the chicken sausage as desired.

After your pasta/spinach is ready. Strain & pour back into the large pot. Then add the pasta sauce, chicken sausage, cheese & spices. Mix well. 
Looking yummy
When all that is said & done, pour mixture into a large baking pan. I normally forget to grease it & I found that it doesn't leave too much of a mess. After you get the mixture spread into the pan, sprinkle the mixed cheese topping. Then bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

And that's it. You now have one of our favorite meals on your dinner table. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. 
As we get closer to the end of February, I'm getting more excited for what's ahead: gardening prep! See how I'm planning for the upcoming spring while dreading it all at the same time next week.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Prelude to St. Valentine's Day

So, in case you didn't know, Valentines Day is tomorrow. While this maybe obvious, I feel I some people don't quite remember what day it is. Like the husband.
Note the day.
With that being said, I have to give him a lot of kudos. My husband is pretty awesome. The other day he surprised me by purchasing chamomile tea k-cups for me. That's real love right there. Without getting too sappy, I feel it's only appropriate to mention that I'm married to the perfect man for me. If you want to read more of why my valentine is so awesome, you can read here.

Anyway, Valentine's Day can either be a day you prepare for weeks in advance & give your partner the most romantic, creative, loverly day of their life... Or you can be like me, who already gave their love a gift two weeks ago and can't figure out what to do on February 14th. I mean, it's a Tuesday this year. The husband is going to be in class most of the night while I work most of the day. Plus we are drained emotionally (not to mention a bit  financially) thanks to starting the long process of buying a home (hopefully).

But fear not, that is where the joy of Pinterest comes in & offers ideas you didn't even know were possible. Since I have some secret plans for my hubby tomorrow, I thought I'd share just some of the many Valentine ideas that are out there. Maybe after I do this long enough, I can offer my own ideas. But until then, enjoy.

Valentine Pretzel Buttons (I normally do this with rolos, pecans & pretzels, but this is cute)

Oh and if any of these ideas aren't tickling your fancy, these are just my favorites, there are a lot more out there. I hope you have the sweetest of Valentine's Days life can offer you.

As an update on life: I've been able to keep a good two week record so far of what I'm eating. But there are a few "no lunch" days due work. And that normally results in take out/fast food. I think I'm starting to see the correlation, ha. I guess it takes a food diary to make you see how often that happens. But with that being said, after a weekend of diet-medicine conspiracy reading/documentaries, I'm going to be changing a few things in my kitchen. Stay tuned to find out.