January 30, 2015

Tiny Houses

Have you seen the documentary Tiny on Netflix?

We first watched it well over a year ago but, when we had a friend visiting over Christmas break, Scott told him about it and we watched it again.

The idea is that we don't need STUFF.  Of course, many of us subscribe to this theory and we don't like excess stuff everywhere and purging old clothes, toys, and books feels good.  However, the point of this documentary is not only that we don't need excess stuff, we don't need excess space.  Imagine what you could do if you don't need to maintain, decorate, furnish, and pay the utilities for a 2,000 square foot house.  The documentary is about why we can become happier and more fulfilled if we focus on aspects of life other than having a big house, with lots of stuff, and the high-stress job that pays for it all.  

Now.  Scott would love to build a tiny house.  I would think it could be a fun experiment and would like to try a year of living that way.  We think the business model of, perhaps, manufacturing tiny houses could be pretty profitable.  Especially since we've lived in those crunchy states of Alaska and Colorado.  There's a market for it.  

This got me thinking about the comparison trap, why we insist on big houses, why we feel the need to fill them with stuff, etc.  

Bear with me.  This is a long post.  But I can't get these thoughts out of my head, so here we are. 

Our first house in Alaska was about 1300 square feet and that included the garage.  3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, open living-room/dining room/kitchen, and the garage was only one of those 1.5 car varieties.  It was pretty perfect when we first moved in, but as we amassed army gear and hunting stuff and some tools, we quickly ran out of space.  

House #2 (pictures taken from an old camera phone)

Like this space was kinda wasted, right?

Extra living room we NEVER used.

Let me explain why we had such a house. Pickings were slim in the rental market that winter, and I liked the layout and Scott liked the 3 car garage.  Because we moved to a new town, the house was the same rent price as the former much smaller one.  It wasn't really an adjustment in that sense.  We just could finally spread out.  Well, what happens when you have more space?  You get more stuff.  While we didn't buy new furniture, we did end up with more tools, hunting stuff, a snowmobile, a cataraft, etc.  
The house had an eat-in kitchen, dining room, two living rooms, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and a loft.  It was way too big for us.  It was also basic builder-grade, so there was nothing special or unique about it.  It fit our needs though and we were more or less happy there.  We totally were aware the entire time that it was ridiculously big.  We needed that garage though.  The driveway was a pain to shovel and yard annoying to mow, but hey.  It worked for 2+ years. 

We intentionally downsized when we moved to Missouri for these reasons.  We also rented there sight-unseen.  They weren't sure how many square feet it was (ugh, Realty Executives), but it was a ranch with a full-sized basement/foundation.  The basement was unfinished, but it was perfect for a storage area and workspace.  The upstairs was the perfect size for the two of us.  We had a guest room, a room for Scott's army stuff, and 2 bathrooms.  My biggest issue with that place was the white carpet.  Also, we didn't like the street we were on (a hill) and the smallish driveway.  The 2-car garage was quickly overrun because, again, we didn't have room to spread out.  The rent was cheaper than it was in Alaska, but that's to be expected.  It was Missouri. 

So.  Then it came time to buy a house.  This is where ideals clashed.  Scott wanted a house with good bones that he could improve upon and I was secretly craving "the American dream".  

However, I knew that a basic, builder-grade house wasn't something I really wanted.  We'd lived in that from 2011-2013 and it was annoyingly…basic.  Also, land. Owning land was a priority.  Here's the post on why we bought below our means.  It sums up things.

Sometimes I selfishly feel like this house is too small.  I mean, I don't have two living rooms anymore.  And then I look at sense:  We have 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms (one unfinished), a full basement with 12 foot ceilings, and who ever told me I needed to live in the kind of houses I see all over this town?  We've spent more time adding the finishes we want to this house and making it feel like our home, compared to worrying about how many square feet it is.  Let it be known that I only feel like this house is too small after I visit someone else's cavernous (well-decorated) home. I've been in some houses that are just big and new and not necessarily well-decorated or special in any way, and that makes me happy with what I have. (I'm tracking how vain and ridiculous this sounds.) 

This could be something we picked up in Alaska too.  Most people I knew there loved and appreciated their homes (bought or rented) and weren't concerned about having the biggest or the best.  People in Alaska were like that.  They were more into being outside and stuff.  Plus, houses there were expensive.  Prime locations in Anchorage were millions of dollars.  

I think the comparison trap told us we need big houses.  Why are people spending $350,000-400,000 on houses that are 22 feet away from their neighbors?  Why is that considered the ideal?  Why is that the American dream?  The American dream used to be known as manifest destiny.  Expanding over the land, not expanding our square footage.  Why is it that many people believe they've "made it" when they have a $2,000 a month mortgage and 2.5 kids and must work at jobs that run them ragged in order to afford it all?  

I don't know the answer to any of this, so I'm just throwing those questions out there.  Obviously, living  in a housing development isn't a bad thing.  I mean, I did it for 5 years.  (The housing developments around Colorado Springs are fascinating microcosms if you look at how they're set up though.  I'm never seen expensive houses so close together.) I'm asking why is the end game a giant house in a housing development? What tells us we, as a human being, need to accomplish that in order to be a grown-up?  Why can't we be happy in an apartment building? The author of The Happiness Project is.  Is it because House Hunters and My First Place tell us that we need to move "up" in the world by expanding our space into what we can barely afford? Again, I don't know the answers.  I'm asking the question.  

We've watched a lot of foreign t.v. shows lately and I'm always startled by how seemingly small and cramped their homes appear compared to ours.  It's all relative and we're just used to the American ideal, I suppose.  Look at the Home Alone house.  Those were rich people. Of course their house was big.  Why do we assume we all need one too?

Anywho.  As someone who has lived in, paid the rent for, and tried to decorate several houses over the last few years, I find myself pondering these things as I watched Tiny.  I highly recommend it if you have Netflix.  

January 29, 2015

Stuff and Things (in the Springs)

If I were the type of person to go out and do things instead of stay home and paint my kitchen on the weekends, I'd probably have a lot more stuff and things to say about the Springs.  However, Scott's family was here last week, so we did a couple of touristy things that I can tell you about.

+Overeasy.  A breakfast and lunch restaurant on Nevada Ave, right next to the new Trader Joe's and the University of Colorado campus.  I expected it to be absolutely packed on a Sunday morning.  We got there early, about 8am, and they had opened at 7am.  I was very happy that we got right in, had amazing service (Charlie was our waiter), and the food was fabulous.  However, the closer it got to 9am, the more we noticed the line of customers growing into a giant mob in the entryway and on the sidewalk.  As we were leaving, I heard that the wait was 45 minutes.  I definitely planned that out well.
How did I hear about the place?  We were at Trader Joe's last week and I thought, "Oh, hey, a breakfast place" and then we remembered it this past weekend.

Scott and I were immediately pulled in by the juice menu.  We split a carrot/ginger/honey/lemon.  Then, we ordered The Cure, a pineapple and coconut concoction.  I also had mint tea.

The neat thing about the juice is that you can add vodka and turn them into mixed drinks.  They also had a bloody mary bar and a full mimosa menu.

I had a spinach and swiss omelette with hash browns, bacon, and the best biscuit I'd ever tasted.  Scott had the crab omelette, which was really impressive.

This place reminded me SO much of Snow City Cafe in Anchorage.  From the homemade jam to the wait out the door.  It was a little pricey, but restaurant prices are pretty subjective to us; we were used to Alaska.  For what we got, it was delicious.  We'll definitely be going back.

+Mr. Tandoori Urban Bar and Grill.  Scott and I first stopped here back in July just because we were in  Pueblo and it had good reviews.  I mentioned back then how fabulous it was.  I'd never really eaten Indian food but it was very similar to all the foods Scott had loved so much in Afghanistan, so we gave it a try.  I was officially a fan after that.

After walking along the downtown Riverwalk in Pueblo, we went to Mr. Tandoori for lunch on Saturday.  The cucumber water they start you out with is probably one of our favorite parts because it's just so refreshing.  Everything on the buffet is excellent, but my favorite is the yellow rice, the vegetable korma, and the vegetable noodles.  Also, the fried eggplant was amazing.

If you live in this part of Colorado, it's definitely worth your time to make the trip to Pueblo.  It's about 30 minutes for us, but there's plenty of shops and sights downtown.  Make sure you go during the day so you can make it to the lunch buffet!

+Royal Gorge.  I'm slow…ly learning about Colorado's history and geography.  I'm more or less forced to because I have to teach Colorado history/geography.  After our stop in Pueblo on Saturday, we went on to Canon City, about another hour west.   Right on the other side of Canon City is Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.  I'd heard of it, but never knew much about it.  Then I googled it and realized that I'd probably heard of the one in California…

Anyway, there was a wildfire at the suspension-bridge-Royal-Gorge a year and a half ago.  You can still see the scorched land and trees on the winding drive up.

I pulled out the zoom lens.

The whole complex.  You can see there's lots of construction and rebuilding still going on.

It was $16/person to walk out on the bridge and they cleverly had all kinds of barriers set up so you couldn't get a good picture of the gorge without paying to go through.  However, we weren't interested in paying that much money to stand outside on a windy January day, so maybe next summer.   I settled for a magnet to add to our "refrigerator collection of travels".

I would like to go back in the summer.

January 27, 2015

January's Yoga Challenge and February's Cleaning Schedule

Back at the beginning of January, Sarah Beth of Sarah Beth Yoga had a 7-day yoga challenge.  I joined in and enjoyed it very much.  Then I pulled something in my side (from coughing, not from yoga) and movement of any kind became painful.  So I took a few days off, but I picked up with my good intentions soon after.

I'm happy to say that if I stay on track, I will have completed anywhere from 10-60 minutes of yoga on 27 out of 31 days in the month of January.  

This got me thinking about The Happiness Project.  I read it a few years ago (as most of us probably did) and I really admired Gretchen's goal-setting mentality.  Giving yourself something to work toward is important.  So I'm going to come up with a new goal each month and do my best to follow through.  This is in addition to my overriding goal of "new recipe each Monday" (that thing I still think I'm going to do, remember?).

Also, some of the goals can carry over from month to month.  There's no reason why I can't practice yoga every day in February too.  Honestly, it makes me feel so good that I'd be doing myself a disservice if I quit now.

So.  February's challenge will be to come up with a cleaning schedule, put it into practice and stick to it.  This may take some doing.  I'm generally an all or nothing type of person, and I'm having trouble with the logistics.  When you're remodeling, you're continuously cleaning and it can lead to Saturdays being absolutely exhausting.  By Sunday afternoon, I'm spent and don't even want to cook dinner, lest I dirty more dishes. 

Also, I have some concerns: So wash linens is Saturday, but what if I'm out of town?  Or if I write grocery shop for Saturday, what if I can't make it to the store until Sunday?  Dust on a Wednesday?  What if the only thing I want to do on Wednesday is drink moscato and watch reruns?  Actually, I'm more likely to have my act together by Wednesday, so I think Monday and Tuesday will have to be the "light" days on this schedule.

Any advice on where to start?  Do you use a cleaning schedule?

January 26, 2015

Company Chili

Recipe challenge, week four.

There's some things I just don't talk about on this blog.  Sometimes I feel like my whole world is out there for all to see, but I actually do keep a lot to myself. Bloggers, I think, need to draw a line somewhere because you never know who is reading.  Plus, we shape peoples' perception of who we are.  Putting it all out there isn't something I tend to do with this space.  In fact, sometimes I don't know what to write about because my thoughts aren't necessarily what I feel like putting on the internet.

This is kind of an example of that.  Last year, my aunt passed away at a relatively young age.  She was the first person to ever comment on this blog and she read it regularly.  She gave me this chili recipe when I got married because I was marrying into the military and, given her own experience, you needed to be able to cook for large groups of people.  With the recipe, came a giant stockpot, which she'd picked up in Spain.  It's called Company Chili because the blue stockpot (when full) would definitely make enough for an entire army company.

I've made chili with my aunt's secret ingredients several times and it never disappoints.  Scott loves it.  Last summer, my friend needed a recipe for a chili cook-off and I gave her this one.  Now, I don't know how many people were in this contest, but she did win Best American Chili, so it has to be kind of good, right?  My favorite way to eat it is baked in the oven with a spread of cream cheese and cheddar over the top, a la chili cheese dip.  I also freeze servings of it in Ziploc bags for busy days. It'd be perfect for a get-together, including any upcoming Superbowl parties.

The more I think about it, the reason I'm sharing this now is because I don't want you to not know about it.  Does that make sense?  I'm sharing this specifically because I want you to have my chili recipe.  

Company Chili

by Kristin Darhower
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: at least 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 can Bush's ChiliStarter beans
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet chili seasoning (like McCormick)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 small can tomato paste OR tomato sauce
  • 1 pound ground beef, turkey, or chicken
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
  • Handful semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Optional: Broth (chicken, beef, vegetable, etc)
Brown the meat in a pan with some olive oil and drain any excess fat. Over medium heat, add in the pepper and onion and cover for 5-10 minutes. Stir and add the beans, chili seasoning, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce/paste, smoked paprika, and nutmeg. Let it simmer together for about an hour. At this point, if you want your chili to be thinner, add some of the broth (I always end up with a different consistency). A few minutes before serving, stir in the chocolate chips and let them melt.
Serve with sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, etc.
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January 23, 2015

Style Challenge #2

Wear a bright color.

Bonus points for pattern mixing, right?  I'm aware that this probably isn't what "bright color" meant, but it is what it is.  I had crosswalk duty today and it was 14 degrees.  That's my excuse.

Side question:  Scott wants to buy a tablet…a very reasonably priced one…and he hates Apple.  Any suggestions?

January 22, 2015

Stuff and Things 1/22

+It is 3:06pm on Wednesday and I'm starting this post.

+I took today off of work a week ago, with the hopes of doing some tour-guiding and sight-seeing.

+Then, we got a snowstorm.

+So, it was a good day to stay home.  Scott said there were random pile-ups everywhere.  School was not canceled, delayed, or released early.  Fools.

+I spent the day cleaning and creating a Recipage (with the initial guidance, as always, from Angi).

+It's still a work in progress.  If you have advice, please feel free to let me know! My goal is to do this with all my 52 recipes in the recipe challenge I'm working on this year.

+I admired the coasters my sister-in-law crafted for us.

+I like this.  Have you seen this free Devotion app?  Just search devotion and it's one of the first that pop up.  Thanks Joey!

+It's 5:51pm and I'm out of stuff to say and I've procrastinated this task with a million other things so…

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January 20, 2015

Hunting Dogs

Scott regularly gets up at 2:30 in the morning to go sit in this thing (a hunting blind) in a corn field and wait for the geese to land.  He took the dogs with him this past weekend.

This is particularly funny because they are not duck/geese dogs. Brittanys are bird-dogs; pheasant, quail, etc (and there is the extent of my knowledge on the subject.)

So they don't actually do anything.  They just sit in the field and chew on things and sleep in the blind and whatnot.  But here they are, posing with their "kill".

Anyway, we have some relatives in town, so it'll be a sparse week of blogging.  Yesterday we went to the Denver Botanical Gardens and Beau Jo's Colorado Pizza (at the recommendation of Esther).  It was definitely tasty pizza, but the service was so-so.  I'm glad we tried it, as we are almost never in Denver.  

Then my alarm didn't go off this morning.  What a great way to start the week. 

January 19, 2015

30 Minute Potato Leek Soup

Recipe challenge, week three.

A few years ago, I made a leek and potato soup and it was surprisingly tasty.  I knew the recipe I used came from this crockpot blog, but I distinctly remember making it on the stove, not in the crockpot.  I started googling new leek soup recipes a few months ago because leeks are incredibly healthy and are often used in weight loss plans.  Much like cabbage. 

I wanted to experiment with leeks again because Scott is on a health kick.  He wanted to try pescatarianism for a bit (spellcheck is telling me that’s not a word; it has to be a word). Since I don’t really like fish, it’s been a compromise to say the least.  However, I also can get by on a mostly vegetarian diet.  I’ve been focusing on vegetable or whole-grain or quinoa-based meals, and then throwing in some kind of seafood for him.  Tilapia, salmon, etc.  I think I’ve made chicken once in the last month and a steak stir-fry one other time. 

The French have used leeks as a natural diet food for centuries.  While sipping leek broth might not be your cup of tea, this soup combines the creaminess of potatoes, the benefit of leeks, and the flavor of a few different seasonings.  If I were you, I would also add some ham or bacon.  It kind of has a smoky taste already and that would make it feel like a complete meal.

Don’t be scared of leeks.  Even if you’re picky about vegetables, give it one try.  The potatoes will help in that case.  In looking online for a leek soup recipe, I didn’t like any of the ones I came across.  They seemed too precise, too involved, too…something.  I mean, it’s soup.  Not molecular biology.  This is the version I came up with and it’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner.  With grilled cheese for Scott and a quesadilla for me.

30 Minute Leek and Potato Soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Keywords: Quick Cooking soup/stew low-carb vegetarian fall winter

Ingredients (Serves 4)
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 potatoes, washed and diced into very small pieces
  • ½ tsp. Creole seasoning (you can add more to taste)
  • ½ tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Diced ham, bacon, and/or cheese for toppings
In a medium pot (you don’t need a BIG pot), bring the broth to a boil. Add in the leeks and potatoes. Cover and turn it down to low heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness with a fork (the smaller they are, the faster they’ll cook). Add in the seasonings and stir to combine well.
I poured half the soup into a mixing bowl and pulsed it with the immersion blender, and then stirred it back into the pot. You don’t have to do that, but it probably did lend to the creaminess.
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January 17, 2015

Blogging for Books: The Expats

My second Blogging for Books book was The Expats by Chris Pavone.  This one arrived on time, and was a much more enjoyable read than The 13th Gift.  

Goodreads says…

First, I don't know if I really agree with that summary.  I think the book had much more to it than what it's marketing itself toward.

-There were elements of this book that reminded me of Homeland.  Kate is like a more stable Carrie.  Or maybe a Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

-This is one of those stories that does not tell you everything at once.

-I really liked learning about Kate's former life and what she did in D.C.  

-I liked that Kate was capable.  I didn't worry about her getting attacked by the agents that were on their tail.  I didn't worry about her not being able to handle the situations she could potentially get herself into.  She wasn't some "please rescue me" heroine.  She took care of herself.

-It was written with present-day flash-forwards interspersed every few chapters.  It could be tough to keep straight, but it did encourage me to pay attention.  Also, the font switched back and forth so that was helpful.

-Along the same lines, the chapters were short and broken up into 1, 2, or 3 page segments.  I liked that the action kept moving and I often wanted to keep reading just to get back to the previous scene.  It did float through different times over a 2 year period.  Once in awhile it would flashback to 4 or 5 years ago.  Again, I liked this but some people might not.  

-This book didn't get fantastic reviews on Goodreads, but I really enjoyed it, so I'm telling you that if you trust me and share my tastes, you should read it.  If you're a friend of Blogging for Books, snatch it up next.  

-I liked the ending.  I thought there was a good amount of twists and turns and draw-your-own-conclusion-before-I-tell-you writing.  I honestly don't want to tell you too much about it because it'll give away details that make a difference.

-I would give The Expats an A- on my scale and I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own.

January 16, 2015

Style Challenge #1

Wear a dress.

I'm all about challenges these days.  

A challenge is what I need to get any sort of motivation to do anything.  In fact, I do this weird thing where I'm running late for work every morning, because I challenge myself to make sure the house is all cleaned up before I go.  

Audrey at Putting Me Together is *challenging* us all to put some more thought into style.  I desperately need this.  I'm aware that outfit photos have all but disappeared from the blog.  Truthfully that's because I come home from school and within 27 seconds I look like this:

I'm too…something…(trying to avoid the word lazy) to take a picture.  And the weather is generally pretty yucky this time of year.  Yesterday, we lucked out with some sun for the first time in a week.

Dress: Express // Leggings: Lauren Conrad // Boots: old // Scarf: Target (via Michael in a swap!)

I've had this dress for over a year and I can't decide how I feel about it.  It's not particularly flattering and the sleeves are kind of bothersome.  But it's easy.  Leggings, dress, boots…it doesn't get any easier.

Wear a dress:  Challenge complete.
Next week is Wear a bright color and the week after is Copy an outfit you pinned.
Link ups are on Thursdays, so you should join in!

January 15, 2015

Stuff and Things 1/15

+The best part of my birthday was the fact that it was on a Saturday.  Ever since I started teaching, I've worked on my birthday.  I never minded.  I liked taking in cupcakes for the kids.  One year, we had s'mores.  This year, however, was a splendid year for January 10th to fall on a Saturday.  That was present enough.

+Also, is it completely lame that I didn't go all-out for my birthday?  I mean, how do you celebrate adult birthdays anyway?  Do you go out shopping in your Dillon Football sweatshirt?  Because that's what I did.

+My back/rib/side is feeling better, so I've been attempting yoga every day again.  I always hated yoga until I took my friend's yoga class in Missouri.  I went quite a few times over last summer at the gym and it's really the perfect workout to do at home.  You probably won't sweat, but it's good for you.  I feel like I'm investing in myself when I spend 20-30 minutes a day on it.

+I'm so happy the Broncos lost on Sunday. I work with several who deck themselves out in orange and blue every Friday...I'm a terrible person.

+Our dogs lead a good life.  Cozying up on a king-sized bed and all.  I truly treat them like children.  I've become one of those people and I don't mind.  Things I say to them include Do you know how much I love you?  If they were humans, they'd be embarrassed of the ridiculous nicknames I give them.  (Jett-Jett Snugglebunny)

I always have a million quilts on the bed.

+I started Downton Abbey from the beginning on Amazon Prime.  Simply because I miss Sybil.

+I finished The Husband's Secret.  I really did love it.  The characters and the storyline just fit and I truly enjoyed it.  A book I did not enjoy?  All the Light We Cannot See.  Hate might be a strong word, but hate might describe my feelings about it.  Did you read it?

+Oh, our Christmas tree is still up.  We like the lights.

+This was truly all over the place and that's exactly how Stuff and Things should be. Any stuff to talk about?

January 13, 2015


I probably could've written this post last night but somehow laying down with a book sounded better.  It was Monday night.  Motivation on Monday nights is an all-time low.  I cooked dinner and that was the extent of it.

However, this morning, I have a 2 hour delay.  Instead of sleeping in, I decided it's worth my time to just sit on the couch and watch Sunday's Downton Abbey.

In a perfect world, I'd have a kitchen renovation post put together for today because the kitchen is 99% done.  However, I haven't quite gotten around to all that.  Here's a preview…


My bookmark tab is filling up again.  Here's some articles I've come across lately that I've really enjoyed.

Differentiation doesn't work.  Word.  It just doesn't.  If you don't know what it is, it's putting 25-30 kids of varying ability levels into one teacher's care and telling the teacher to split them into homogenous groups and teach each group the same skill at a different level.  It is the number one method of educating in America today and I assure all you non-teachers that it doesn't work and this is why the U.S. has failing test scores compared to the rest of the world.

A vaccine study that scared us all into believing the worst of our doctors.  Working with the children of the general population, I think they all need to be vaccinated (a bold statement, I know). I read another article about how a pediatrician doesn't want anti-vac parents in his office (or their children as patients) because he knows they don't trust him as a doctor if they don't believe him when he says their child needs vaccines.  A nurse friend posted it on Facebook but now I can't find it.

And at the other end of the spectrum…Deep Thoughts on Leggings.

Oh, gym regulars.  I've been on every side of this.  I've been a regular and I've been a new person, but I've been a new person 5 times now and my status as such has never worn off (after 7 months) here. I think you have to show you are absolutely serious about your gym commitment in order to get "them" to accept you.  I probably never would've found acceptance at my beloved Alaska gym had I not vowed to show up everyday (because I had nothing else to do). I've also seen floods of people enter every January 2nd and I've witnessed the exodus each February 2nd.  As someone who is a natural introvert, being shunned because you're new at something, anywhere, is a terrible feeling.

Are we raising a generation of helpless kids?  Yes, yes we are.

Why half the nation's teachers are leaving the profession.  100% agreement. It is so much cheaper to keep employees you have rather than go through the process of recruitment/hiring.

Stop saying "military wife" is the toughest job in the military.  This infuriates me.  The army requires NOTHING of me.  Any volunteering or event-participation I've ever done is because of Scott and my loyalty to him.  It's looks bad when your wife never shows up, you know?  But other than that, the army is not my job.  The military will teach you patience for sure, but I don't have to live in a tent, eat MREs, or leave my family/home for months at a time. This "toughest job" thing is probably believed by the same people who carry ACU patterned purses…(that was mean…I apologize).

While we're talking about the military..OPSEC.  Operational Security.  Keeping things to yourself instead of posting them online for all to see.  Did you know that if you tweet/Facebook your spouse's coming home date, the whole mission can be delayed for days?  They won't come home on time because you couldn't stop telling people everything.  This, obviously, irritates me.
Now (also obviously) I tell people online and off that we're a military family, but I try not to give out specifics.  In fact, I actually scrubbed my Facebook page (which is private anyway) of any military photos and all employment information.  Identifying information can be dangerous…or maybe I'm just crazy.  A crazy person, concerned about OPSEC…with a blog.  I remember being cautioned by more experienced army wives once upon a time and now I feel like I'm mature enough to know exactly what they were talking about.

Have you read anything interesting online lately?

January 12, 2015

Mint Oreo Ice Cream Cake

Recipe challenge, week two.

I may be cheating with this because I've done a recipe like it before, almost 3 years ago.  However, my birthday was on Saturday and I made myself an ice cream cake.  I would prefer to share something ice cream/mint/cake-related on the Monday after my birthday.  Much more interesting than the soup I originally had scheduled for today.  Plus, it's Monday.  Ice cream might be necessary.

I did improve upon this recipe.  And I added cake.  Because there were a few of you up in arms over the idea that my Peppermint Oreo Ice Cream Cake did not, in fact, have cake in it.  That's just how we do ice cream "cake" in this house, guys.  You can put away your torches and pitchforks…this one has cake in it. Actually, it's a brownie.  But, it was easy to make and I'm not a cake person and I didn't want to use a boxed mix anyway.  You can use whatever kind of chocolate cake/brownie you want and just cut it or arrange it to fit your ice cream cake pan. I used this recipe, omitted any frosting, and added a teaspoon of peppermint extract.

Food on birthdays is really important to me.  I feel you should treat yourself all day long on your birthday. When I started thinking about a cake, I knew it needed to be the ultimate version of Kristin's Favorite Dessert.
My favorite dessert ever is the Mint Oreo Concrete Mixer from Culver's Frozen Custard.  I had one on New Year's Day and it was the best part of Christmas Break.  I swear.  If you haven't had mint Oreos mixed into artificially dyed mint ice cream, you haven't lived.  When I made this first version of the mint ice cream cake in 2012, my inspiration was Thin Mints and I was still living in Alaska so I'd never even tried a concrete mixer.  This time: real mint chocolate brownie, mint Oreos, and mint ice cream.  This was the perfect birthday cake.

Mint Oreo Ice Cream Cake

Prep Time: 1.5 hours
Cook Time: Freeze time: at least 2 hours

Ingredients (8x8 pan or 9x13 pan)
  • 1 package Mint Oreos
  • 1.5 quarts mint chip ice cream, softened
  • Brownies or chocolate cake
  • 2 T. butter, melted
Crush all the Oreos in a Ziploc bag. Mix half of them with the melted butter, and press those into the bottom of your pan. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. Spread half the ice cream over the Oreo crust and then press in the brownie/cake pieces. Freeze for another 15 minutes. Top with the rest of the crushed Oreos, cover, and freeze until ready to serve. I usually make it the day before. Take it out about 15 minutes before you're ready to cut the cake. You can also use Cool Whip as another layer if you'd like.
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This isn't a 30 minute dessert.  I baked the 8x8 brownie earlier in the week, but I put this all together while I was cooking dinner on Friday night.  It didn't take very much brain power or energy.  It's just a process.

January 9, 2015

Favorite Easy Dinners + a birthday giveaway

I was talking to a friend last week and she mentioned that her friend doesn't cook.  The friend is married with small children and just doesn't cook.  I asked what she did.  My friend was like They just eat out.  How is that possible?  Why is that possible?  It made me so sad.  I seriously can't stop thinking about it.  How can you just not cook?

Side note: As I'm writing this, I see that Masterchef is on t.v. and there are children cooking.  Pasta from scratch with homemade sauce.  If a 10 year old can do that, I would think that a 30 year old can cook dinner.

Maybe I'm being judgmental here…we all like eating out, right?  I just can't wrap my head around "I don't cook".  Aside from the obvious health-problem potential, think of the money.  I couldn't spend $40+ a day on food.  That is absolutely pointless in so many ways.  Alright, I'm being judgmental. I'll stop now. (You can tell me if I'm being judgmental.)

I absolutely had to teach myself to cook. You don't just become good at the process of it in an instant.  If you don't put effort into shopping, planning, and organizing you won't be good at it.  It's not even having some kind of magic touch or cooking gene; it's being willing to try.  Persevere, you know?  We've been in 4 different houses, in 3 different states, dealt with a complete kitchen overhaul while both working full-time, and I STILL found ways to cook.

The day we had no stove or no oven.

It's obviously very difficult to stockpile nonperishable food, have a supply of frozen soups/meats/stews/chilis for busy nights, and stick to a meal plan when you're unsettled.  At the 7 month mark of living in this house, I'm just now starting to get the hang of it again.  I never settled into that routine in Missouri, but I had it mastered in Alaska (if I could be so bold to use such a word).

I was looking through my Recipe Index and these are the recipes I would make if I needed an easy dinner.  They're not overly complicated, but they're all homemade.

Veggie Burritos/Enchiladas.  I just made these on Monday.  I didn't add sauce to the top, so they were more like burritos, but they are still incredibly tasty, healthy, and the leftovers are perfect for lunches.

Chicken Pot Pie.  This was the first dish I taught myself to make back in 2010.  I tried it at a friend's house and immediately started hunting down a recipe.  I can't even count how many times I've made chicken pot pie.  It was once a week for awhile there because I didn't know how to make other things.

Beef Lo Mein or Mongolian Beef.  This Mongolian beef is one of the best things I've ever eaten.  I've taken it to pot lucks.  It's definitely not my recipe, but I keep it bookmarked in case I need a meal to impress with.

Beef Stroganoff.  This is also one of those first things I learned how to cook.  It doesn't take too long and would even impress guests.

Pineapple Chicken (and a confession about how I do secretly love those one-bag-meals in the freezer section).  We ate this one a lot in Alaska.

Spaghetti Squash Stir-fry.  Scott loves this.  I've always been so-so about spaghetti squash but if I'm going to make it, this is the route I go.  Paleo-friendly!

Stove-top Mac and Cheese.  I like the boxed stuff too (Annie's, not Kraft), but this homemade version won't take more than 30 minutes.

These are just a few of the dinners I'd recommend if I could get in the kitchen of this person who doesn't cook…seriously, I'd love that.

Oh, and the giveaway.  Since tomorrow is my birthday, as is tradition here, I'll be giving away some Starbucks.  I have big plans for an ice cream cake, but I can't exactly invite you over for that. Lattes are the next best thing.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

January 8, 2015

Stuff and Things 1/8

+I mentioned long ago that I hadn't been in Wal-Mart in months.  On January 1, Scott needed to stop to get something when we were on our way back from Bass Pro in Denver.  So, at least I finished out 2014 without going into a Wal-Mart.  Meh.

+This Wal-mart is the trashiest, most poorly organized Wal-mart I've ever seen.  And I've seen a lot of Wal-Marts.  I lived in Wasilla, Alaska and middle-of-nowhere, Missouri.  Those ones weren't this bad.  Shame on you, Colorado Springs.

+Sometimes I think I'm keeping Amazon in business.  With the Kindle app, Prime membership, and Audible account.  But then, it's like I don't even care.  Amazon makes life SO much easier. I'm all for ease.

+Tell me this isn't the ugliest ceiling fan you've ever seen. It compares to the seafoam one that was in the master bedroom.

The white splotches are from us spray-painting the ceiling, but it was a pink/purple swirly color.  To match the ceiling and the walls, of course. 

+That's much better.

+We watched The Interview the other night.  It was really funny…Lizzy Caplan should be in these kinds of movies more often.  And James Franco is never a bad idea.  Parts of it were like Pineapple Express, but with purpose. You really should try to see it if you can…I'd watch it again.
I don't feel right blatantly posting the website Scott found it on, but I'll email you the link if you're interested.

+December's Challenge was to SIMPLIFY.

I think I fully accomplished this.  I said I wasn't going to go overboard on Christmas and I didn't.  I didn't bake all the cookies or buy all the appealing looking holiday things/gifts, etc.  I didn't cook a giant dinner.  Instead, we ate what we felt like and we relaxed for 2 weeks instead of running ourselves ragged.  Hopefully next year, family will come to Colorado to spend Christmas with us.  Hint, hint.

+January's Challenge is to COMPLETE and I'm trying to complete a fitness challenge…I thought I'm going to do yoga everyday.  I was going to use this youtube channel and it would all be well and good.  But a few weeks ago, I pulled something in my side.  Honestly, I think it was a coughing fit that did it and the pain was unbelievable.  Breathing deep, coughing, sneezing..all painful. Lying on my back on the floor was particularly uncomfortable. After a few days, it got better and that's when I started the yoga challenge.  Four days in, I must've pushed too hard because it got worse.  Therefore, the yoga thing stopped this past week.  I need to pick it up again soon, but I must say there's something humbling about stopping your goal progress the first week of January.  Just letting you know in advance why I'm going to fail.

+February's Challenge: Create.  When I read this title in December, I was inspired to create a new recipe every week to share here.  Maybe I'll do something else too.  We'll see what February looks like…I'm incapable of planning that far ahead right now.

+That's it for today.  I was going to do a giveaway tomorrow but this might be one of those weeks where I don't get a Friday post together until Saturday.  Talk about failing to complete a task…