Friday, July 31, 2009

'cooking' in a heat wave

this week it has been HOT here in the pacific northwest. we have experienced record in 107 degrees...and since it's the great northwest, not many people have air conditioning. we sort of have air conditioning which has made the temperatures technically livable but let's face it, nothing compares to whole house a/c.

when the weather gets this hot, i usually don't like to cook. i really don't like to eat much either but definitely no heating up the kitchen. since we had already had salads and cold sandwiches earlier in the week, i decided to try an experiment with cooking in the microwave. of course i have made frozen dinners in the microwave but have never done anything else. some people don't like to use the microwave because of fears over radiation and nutritional loss. to this i say, sometimes it's about survival! :)

thursday night i made sloppy joes with a small side salad and it was great! i think i made up for the cheating methods of preparation by making my sauce from scratch. at least that's what i like to believe.
normally i would saute all of the ingredients for my sauce but this time i tried doing it in the microwave to great results. once my peppers and onions were 'sauteed' i warmed up the ground beef (this had been cooked earlier in the week when it was a cooler part of the day. time saving tip: if you know you are going to be using a product twice in one week, prepare it all at once then refrigerate the remainder. this beef for example was 2 lbs that had been browned, then 1 lb was seasoned for taco salad and the other left plain for sloppy joes.) then added the tomato products to the peppers and onions and heated it through. once that was all done i combined the two bowls and voila! sloppy joe sauce. also, to avoid heating my oven i popped the buns into the toaster to get them nice and crisp. take a look at the pics below, and i have included my 'recipe' for the sauce (a very rough recipe since i make it all up in my head as i go along!)

1/2 of a medium white onion, diced; 1/2 medium green bell pepper diced; about 2 T rice vinegar (you can also use apple cider vinegar for more sweetness); salt, pepper, garlic to taste; 2t chili powder; 1t mustard powder (you could use prepared mustard also, probably 1T); 2t cumin; 1T dried oregano, 2T olive oil. combine in glass bowl (don't use plastic if at all possible). cook on high for 1 1/2 minutes, stir, cook 1 1/2 minutes longer.

heat your ground beef for 3 minutes on high

6oz can tomato paste, 14.5 oz can stewed or crushed tomatoes, 3/4-1 cup ketchup, 2T brown sugar. combine ingredients in food processor and whirl till the tomatoes are smooth. combine with vegetables and meat. heat in microwave for about 3-5 minutes.

my spice arsenal

toasty buns!!

do you have any ideas for 'cooking' without heating up the house? i'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

mt hood railroad

there was homemade rootbeer at the pub we ate at. i looooove rootbeer!

i guess it's not THAT bad of a view to live with every day :)

a view of the dome car

glamor shots by katie

the day after sand in the city becky and i went to parksdale, oregon on the mt hood railroad western train robbery excursion. she had gotten free passes from a customer of hers, and invited me to go along. it was so nice! we rode in the dome car which was very nice. the seats were comfy (important for a 4 hour ride) and the a/c was nice too (also important for a 4 hour ride). the tracks went through forresty areas, pastures and fruit orchards finally making it's destination in parksdale. there was a great pub in town that we ate dinner in, even though we brought our own picnic lunch, and got delicious ice cream cones from a little parlor.

i highly recommend the mt hood railroad. if you take kids, definitely take some toys and coloring books cause it is a long ride. BUT it's not like being in a car because they can move around and walk down the isle and around the cars.
check out their website for more events!

sand in the city 2009

well, one of my summer of fun ideas was to go to the sand in the city event at pioneer courthouse square, and i went! becky had never been to the event so i dragged her along too :) we started off at the square, then headed over to the mall for lunch and window shopping. FYI there is a moonstruck chocolates kiosk at poineer square mall. consider yourself forewarned :)

bart simpson...cowabunga dude :)

this was a cute display. you may not notice the big sasquatch footprint in the sand where 'he' and the smart car are placed. this display was done by an energy conservation group, i think.

the two pics above were of my favorite display. it is called 'family game night' and was all different boardgames families can play. the pic directly above is of hungry hungry hippo :) i loved that game when i was little!! then notice the life car in the top picture too. :)

me and my boyfriend

yeah, becky tried to creep in, but ended up keeping her distance. good idea, girlie :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

a post of blogs

some of my friends have been asking me lately what blogs i stalk on a regular basis. these questions usually come around because i am quoting yet ANOTHER blog post i read, or raving about a new blog i found in the blogosphere. i am a bit nerdy now about finding interesting blogs and after a while these complete strangers start to become your 'friends'.
i wanted to dedicate a post to introducing my friends to some of the blogs i follow so they too can be nerdy blog stalkers :)

lindsay,the passionate homemaker
the mennonite ladies
toni,the happy housewife
kimi,the nourishing gourmet
kristen, the harried homemaker
carrie, at it's frugal being green
laura, the organizing junkie
rachel, at the high chair

at passionate homemaking you will find frugal, delicious meals that are healthy and natural. lindsay has great ideas for organizing, simplifying and maintaining your home; child care; gardening and natural, frugal living. she is a great christian woman whom i have had the pleasure of meeting recently (!) and provides really great insight on the high calling of womanhood.

i have just found mennonitegirlscancook! i love it! the recipes are mouthwatering and very down home. they remind me a lot of church potlucks :) and the kind of food i l-o-v-e to eat. i also really appreciate the occasional devotional post, as they are so encouraging!

toni is the happy housewife. please, before you start in on her posts, read her story! the Lord has transformed her heart, her marriage and subsequently her life and it makes her posts so much more meaningful, i think, knowing that she is so sincere in her striving to serve her family. she has great parenting tips, money management ideas, and as a long-time military wife lots of insight into base living. i really like her recipe posts also!

the nourishing gourmet is a site i found a couple of weeks ago while trolling for blogs that supported nourishing traditions methods. kimi has a great repertoire of healthful recipes and kitchen tips. i don't know about you, but i am ALWAYS looking for a new recipe to try :) she is also a strong christian and approaches her food and family care from a Biblical perspective.

the frugal antics of a harried homemaker is a great site. kristen gives advise and ideas that fall totally in line with the title of her site. dinners are quick and cheap, money and time saving tips, and need i say it :)

since i also like to visit sites that aren't food-based..haha..i follow the goings on of carrie at it's frugal being green. many frugal ideas are also green ones, because making your laundry detergent is cheap and earthfriendly for example. if you are new to the green scene i really suggest heading over to the blog site to get acquainted with natural, earthfriendly living.

laura is THE organizing junkie! she has great tips on organizing your house room by room, learning to purge, and doing 'life' organization too. her posts are very motivating, and if you read my post on the urge to purge, you will know where i got my inspiration! :)

last but not least is my friend rachel who maintains the high chair. i akin stalking rachels blog to being a fly on the walls of her house :) she's a gifted and funny writer who's stories will make you laugh hysterically :) rachel posts recipes, home organization tips, gardening ideas and parenting tips like cloth diapering. it helps that i know rachel personally and have met her husband and children, but i think you will connect with her posts as well!

so there you have it, my top blogs!! i hope you will check these ladies out and start stalking too :) if you have any sites you visit regularly, please leave a comment and let us know. i'm always up for more reading material!! :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

packrat reformed::urge to purge

i have been reading a lot lately on several blogs about simplifying the household in order to make it easier to live in/with and clean. simple is my friend. i love to have things organized, and in the last several years really worked on being able to determine 'must haves' from 'junk' in my personal belongings.
you must understand something about me though if you are really going to appreciate this facet of my life. i was raised a complete and total pack rat. both of my parents are pack rats. their parents are/were pack rats. it is a genetic trait, i think!! but see, men and women keep things for different reasons. my dad keeps things because 'i may be able to use that for something later' or 'i can turn that into something else and it will be great'. my mom keeps things because ' so and so made that 40 years ago' or 'i like it' (even though she may have forgotten she even had it). this is how i was, possessing BOTH of my parents traits until a few years ago. i started cutting the sentamental ties with things i never used/wanted, and realized that if i needed something in the future, i could just go to the store and buy the thing instead of hanging on to this piece of junk for 23 years.
all that to say, i have a deep appreciation for organization now and have reaped the benefits of de-cluttering my own household while i had one. now that i am living with my parents again, their clutter was getting on my nerves. i knew it was on their nerves too, but neither one of them was going to tackle it.

i did.

starting at about 9:30 friday night and continuing to about 11 this morning (nope, i didn't sleep!! i couldn't risk loosing my mojo) i cleaned out the cupboards in the kitchen and the linen closet in the hallway. unfortunately i wasn't thinking ahead and didn't take 'before' shots of the kitchen, but i did get afters, and b & a's of the hall closet.

three boxes of junk to take to goodwill. glasses, a toaster oven, baby bottles, sippy cups, mugs, bowls and lots of duplicate items (how many pie pans does one kitchen need? certainly not 5!)
there were also two garbage bags!!

then i cleared out the junk drawer. every house has one!

i cleaned up the cook books and loose recipes we had in the cupboard. also, i went through all of the medication in the medicine cabinet and threw out all the expired stuff. i HIGHLY recommend doing this! you would not believe how much expired medicine i threw away, and that stuff can be very dangerous! i organized our meds by person, and then the 'general' stuff went on the lazy susan.

i tackled the freezer too! anything that was unidentifyable because of lack of ID or freezer burn was tossed.
here's the newly organized small appliance cupboard...all of the casserole dishes were organized as well, so that everything can be found easily
this starts the 'before' pics of the hall linen closet. so much clutter!! so many towels that are not needed anymore, enough lightbulbs to light the eifel tower till Jesus comes again, candles, vhs tapes, medical supplies and junk.
and the after!!!! three boxes went to goodwill, and two garbage bags for the dump.
now, everything is nicely folded and stacked. smaller, like items were grouped together and placed in new storage bins. i also bought a labeler (a dream of mine for decades :) and identified the contents of the bins so that they will be easy to locate and keep organized. there is actually an entire shelf now that is empty, and the floor space!! we are looking forward to using that extra space for the big costco shopping of toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, etc.
it is so nice to be able to look around the kitchen and not see any clutter! and it's pretty tempting to open the linen closet every time i walk by just to admire it. mom and dad are very pleased with the outcome and are hoping this will help make their next move easier too!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

summer of fun schedule

the last few summers i have tried to mark down on my calendar what events are taking place in pdx and vanc during the summer months. i check out the city of vancouver website to see what is going on downtown (mainly at the fort and esther short park), clark county fairgrounds website, and the city of portland parks and recreation. the portland website lists all of the parks and major public areas so you can search by area to see what is taking place. i really like the events at pioneer courthouse square and the japanese and chinese gardens. another place to look is the website for the oregon convention center and portland expo center. the types of events held at these two venues are going to be more 'conventiony' than entertainment based, but are still worth looking into.

below are some of the events that i have on my calendar...i may make it to all of them, or none of them but the goal is to at least have no excuse for not having fun :)

Friday 10th-Flicks on the Bricks (FOTB), Pioneer Courthouse Square (PCS), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Take a blanket, low folding chair or bean bag and watch movies presented on a screen at the Square. Cost:It's free!
Friday 17th-Saturday 18th-Yoshida's Sand in the City, PCS This is a really fun event where they fill up the Square with sand and have sand-sculpture building contests. There are a lot of really interesting sculptures, and its so neat to see the teams working together. Cost: Free
Saturday 18th-1860's Baseball at the Ft. Vancouver Historical Reserve Parade Grounds. I haven't been able to make it to this event in the past couple of years, but I hear it's really neat to watch. The game is played just like it was in 1860 (apparently the rules and regulations were different then). Cost:Free!
Sunday 19th-Southwest Washington Humane Society Open House. The new east county facility is finished! Take a tour, learn about microchipping and spaying/neutering your pets, and get information on the services that the HS offers. Cost: Free
Friday 24th-FOTB at PCS, Dirty Dancing. This is probably gonna be a really fun one to be at! Tell me you don't think there will be sing along!!! :) Cost: Free
Friday 24th-25th-Camas Days in Downtown Camas, Wa. Lots of events for the whole family! Enjoy shopping in the cute boutiques, good food and music and other vendors. Cost: Free (except of course if you buy something)
Friday 31st-Tillamook Celebration at PCS. Tillamook will be sampling cheese and ice cream in celebration of their anniversary. Cost: Free. FREE CHEESE PEOPLE :)

Friday 7th-FOTB at PCS Jurassic Park. A good one to take the older kids to! I remember seeing this movie in the theater as an early teen (that dates me!) and it's just not the same on a TV screen. Might be your only chance to see it again in big projection! Cost: Free
Saturday 15th-Another installment of 1860's Baseball. Same details as above.
Sunday 16th-India Festival at PCS. Go experience Indian music, food and vendors at PCS. This would be a great learning opportunity for kids, and a perfect chance to teach them about different cultures and (if age appropriate) the persecuted church and human rights.Cost: Free
Friday 21st-FOTB at PCS Anchorman! Not one for the kids, but a fun one to take some of your friends to. Cost: Free
Friday 28th-Italian Festival at PCS. Need I say more than Italian food?? Nope. Cost: Free

there are a lot of other activities out there...please let me know if you know of anything interesting that i missed, or if you know of other sites to look at for local entertainment!!