Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recipe Post: Simple Tacos Two Ways With Something Similar to Sofrito


 Okay, so maybe I like the letter S. Also tacos.


In any case, I'm kind of amused that my friend Kate at A Heart Full of Daisies ALSO did a recipe post this evening, although our two food ideas could not be more different. Kate is a friend from high school - we didn't know each other super well at the time, but then worked a summer job together after we had both graduated, cleaning apartments after college students moved out for the summer. Let me tell you, when you work together trying to get crunched-up potato chips out of miniscule cracks in the kitchen tile or plan lunch-break escapes to Dairy Queen because you just cannot scrub another bathtub without some ice cream... you get to know each other much better.


So you should head over to her blog and read her recipe for Herbed Flatbread, because it looks delicious and I am all for spreading around photos of delicious foods far and wide.


I myself am posting what we had for dinner tonight: I made tacos with sofrito. Well, kinda. It was a salsa, really? Only not really.


Sofrito is basically to Caribbean and Latin cooking what butter or salt is to American cooking. It shows up in Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic... all over the place, really. It's simple - aromatic ingredients, usually slow-simmered, mixed together as a condiment or a base for cooking. It's an essential ingredient - put in at the ground floor, it adds a serious pop of flavor.


It's pretty simple, although everybody's got their own pet recipe. The basic idea is that there are tomatoes, garlic, and onions. From there, the possibilities kind of expand endlessly. The kind I made today is more similar to Cuban sofrito than it is anything else.


Now, usually sofrito is cooked on low heat for a long time, and processed or blended until it's a liquid, kind of an amazing soup. I didn't really feel like turning our blender on and it seemed too hot to really get the stove going at first and so our version of sofrito is sort of a mix of sofrito and salsa.


So, uh, basically what I'm saying is don't hate me because my sofrito is inaccurate. I'm mostly calling it that because it's not salsa, it doesn't really taste like salsa, and I'm using it as a condiment... and the ingredients I used I culled from sofrito recipes.


--------------------------------------------


First: Mixing Sofrito
 Ingredients
3 small or medium tomatoes
6 cloves garlic (you can use less, but we are garlic people here)
 1 head cilantro
1 large onion or 2 small onions
1 Green Bell Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Vinegar (I used Jalapeno Vinegar from Palmetto Olive and basic Apple Cider Vinegar)
Cooking Sherry
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Oregano
Bay Leaf (or bay leaf bits)
Cumin

Creation:

Super easy: Just chop up the tomatoes, garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Toss together in a large mixing bowl. Feel free to add Cubanelle or small sweet peppers; this would be more in line with how sofrito is usually made. Add a splash of oil, the vinegars (or 2 splashes, if you're only using one), and cooking sherry. Add two tablespoons or lime juice or more, to taste. A dash of cayenne if you like things spicy, a couple shakes of cumin and oregano, and the bay leaf bits. Add a little salt and pepper. Chop the whole head of cilantro and mix into the bowl. I am not going to dictate the amount of spices you use, because spices are so much about trying and seeing how much you like. just add a dash or a shake, test, then add another.

To make this the authentic way, you would simmer the onions and bell pepper, let them sweat and get nice and translucent, then add everything over time (and remember, add the cilantro and lime juice last when there is ten minutes or less of cooking time left) and simmer for a long time to really let the flavors cook and meld. If you do it this way, add the bay leaf whole while cooking. Let it cool for basic use as a condiment, blend or stick on your food processor until smooth and the mix should keep for a few days in the fridge, no problem. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and pop a few out for your recipes.

With my version, since I didn't cook it, I just mixed everything all at once, stuck the bowl in the fridge, and let it sit for a couple of hours to blend.

This amount of sofrito is going to last Jason and I the next couple of days, so I would say it probably serves 8 - 10 if you used it at a single meal, depending on how heavy your use was.



Next Up: Taco, Yay!
Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef (I tend to get lean)
Flour tortillas 
Shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
 Cheese, sour cream, etc (optional)


Seriously, that's it.

Creation:

Now, just like with the sofrito, you can do this one of two ways. 

Way the First: This is if you don't simmer the sofrito but do what I did, which is just leave it all chopped and uncooked in the fridge. Here is all the directions there are: brown the ground beef with a little olive oil and some salt. Drain all liquid before serving. Layer a tortilla with ground beef, the sofrito, and your preferred additions - lettuce, sour cream, cheese, whatever. 

Eat.

Way the Second: if you simmered your sofrito and then let it cool in the fridge (or froze it), add it to the beef while it's browning, remembering the drain the liquid before serving. It will give the beef this incredible bright flavor and you really cannot go wrong with onions, beef, tomatoes, and green peppers in a taco. Layer on the tortilla, with your preferred additions, as before.

Eat.


Rejoice.

Or use corn tortillas! Their flavor is better than flour tortillas, but they do take the extra time and effort of needing to be cooked before their use. Of course, if you're my friend Sarah, you just create homemade tortillas because you don't just cook, you create food fit for the gods. And also if you were Sarah you would need to update your cooking blog more often. Hint, hint.

Warm corn tortillas are what they serve with your food in Paradise, so... you have to weigh your options there.
-----------------------------------------------------------
  Look, I know I'm not reinventing the wheel here. I'm not even trying to do any such thing. This is probably the simplest imaginable meal.


Quick, and easy, and frankly everything combined took maybe twenty minutes... the best kind of meal for those nights when you want something good to eat but don't want to work for it. The sofrito just saves so much time. Plus it's a pretty kid-friendly little meal, easy to let the little ones help with.


You could cook up chicken in the sofrito and it would also be delicious. It's in so many recipes, just head over to any big cooking website or recipe database and find them! I'm going to use the leftover beef and some sofrito to make the best scrambled eggs ever in the morning.


Sometimes you just want life to be simple, and if there is anything in life that is simple, it's tacos.


Tacos tacos tacos.








P.S. I put in our notice to vacate with our leasing office today! So... now we have two months to find, buy, and move into a house. Because one thing that's always good and giving yourself deadlines that make you very nervous. On the other hand... woo hoo we're gonna buy a house! Now I just have to figure out which one...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Frog (to be!) in the Bog

Do you see him?

Do you see the tadpole?

The... frankly kind of huge tadpole who may very well become the 50-Foot-Frog once he reaches adulthood?


There!

Tadpole!

Yay tadpole!

My coworker and I have been watching them go from tiny little things to HUGE almost-frogs that are clearly quickly overpopulating the little bog we have at work in our native plants garden. 

May the strongest and largest of the frogs survive!

I'd like to have a pet bullfrog at work. I would name him Godzilla.

This update is brought to you by "Tomorrow is Memorial Day and Jason and I have the day off. We both have jobs where real holidays exist for the first time, and we are going to make the most of this, so you're only gettin' a single photo of a tadpole out of me. Because we are totally going to see each other all day and enjoy it, darn it."

Or possibly by, "Sometimes I have too much free time."

Or our eternal sponsor,

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Everybody have a good Memorial Day!




P.S. I had the worst night of no-sleeping ever last night, so that may also explain why I think showing you a tadpole is a good use of our time. I am so sleep-deprived. This can only end well.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Warning Signs

I feel like telling a story today.

My parents were probably more than a little bit confused by me. I mean, you can really take that 'probably' out, since I know with the absolute certainty of death and taxes that my parents were confused by me. I know this because I got really, really used to getting looks of absolute bafflement from them after I would have what seemed like a really funny or clever thought and discovered that they are always funnier in your mind, and you should probably keep them there.

As the youngest of three (five years younger than my sister, seven years younger than my brother) I also had the advantage of surprise. My parents were not used to the bizarre logic of small children any longer. Their children were turning into what we now call 'tweens' when I was just learning what math was and deciding that I hated it.

Of course, we didn't call them 'tweens' then. They were just 'kids' or the age-old favorite, 'children'. The categorizing system seems to just be getting out of hand at this point. There's infants, babies, toddlers, pre-k, kids, tweens, teens, and 'adultolescents'. Which is my favorite not-a-word ever.

However, I keep an array of memories close to me that I like to affectionately call 'warning signs'. These include a series of anecdotes wherein the story can only be ended with '... and somehow I didn't get kidnapped', playing outside in the cold while home sick from school because geez, Mom, it's not like I didn't put my coat on, forgetting to put my shoes on one Halloween (which is totally someone else's fault somehow), the Bee Sting Nightmare Extravaganza (oh, we'll share that one later), every question I've ever asked that just ended with awkward silence in the car, and the following little story:

I am a smart person. I'm confident in this. I know I am smart because I use lots of big words and own many books, some of them even kind of leather-bound.

I don't actually think any of them are leather-bound, but that's not the point of this story.

The point is that I was that most dangerous of character combinations in children - I was both smart and completely lacking in common sense. This is where I think I surprised my parents, since my sister and brother are also exceedingly intelligent (way smarter than me), but my sister got most of the common sense in our family and my brother got what she didn't. There was simply none left for me. There wasn't any math leftover for me either. Or at least that's what I told my teachers.

Which means that my ideas seemed like they were always foolproof. I am usually that unfortunate person who sincerely thinks to herself, "There is no possible way this could go wrong!" before I decide to play with the cat (who has all her claws) by using my own fingers as the toys she needs to hunt. This made perfect sense at the time, because all her toy mice were in another room and I am lazy. So I start scritching on the floor like the sounds a mouse might make if a mouse were made of my fingers, zig-zagging my hand across the carpet, all but hanging a tiny sign that says 'FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL!' on my hand.

I was completely shocked when she dug her claws into my middle finger. Why would she claw me like that?! I love her! What did I do to deserve such abuse?!

I promise I was going to tell a story in here, somewhere. Although I suppose I just told you a story. I don't think it was a story that particularly convinces you that I'm smart, though.

Anyway, one day, when I was maybe eight or nine, I was thinking about cornbread. I was thinking about how I really liked cornbread, and I had read that it was something that pioneer people (whose lifestyle of course we should all aspire to; who doesn't want to wear calico dresses, ride the Oregon Trail, and possibly die of dysentery, am I right?) ate all the time. It is also something people eat all the time in the U.S., too. Or, you know, the Midwest and the South, since those are the only places in the U.S. I've ever actually lived in and I didn't exactly take this moment to research cornbread consumption patterns or anything.

It seemed very simple to me. I should make cornbread by mixing corn and flour and baking bread. I could add seasonings, too! It was all very exciting.

Now, it was summer, so the corn was standing tall and starting to dry out. I'm guessing this happened in later July, since I wasn't in school and the corn was starting to get dry. I was near my friend Rikki's house; her family lived right near a cornfield that literally was the border to one side of our town. Except some years it was a soybean field. Same idea, though.

Note: this was not a field my family worked. This was just some other innocent man's cornfield. My father could tell you who, but I can't remember.

So Rikki and I grabbed an ear of corn off the stalk. We went back to her house, where we found a nice big flat rock, and another, smaller rock. I feel it is important here that we were out in the yard and at no point did we enter her house, because when it comes to me I feel that kind of disclaimer is necessary. We were going to be just like Native Americans, you see - I had read that Native Americans ground their corn into flour with rocks!

So we started doing that.

And I could not figure out why my corn was just mush and not flour.

We decided it probably needed to dry and left our mush laying out in the sun. On a rock we had not washed. Corn we had been grinding with another rock that was not washed. Because the idea of grinding corn was just too exciting for me to think that through.

At which point someone (I don't remember who, except that it was someone older) asked what we were doing, we explained, and they asked us where we got the corn from. And then told us we were thieves and had stolen the nice man's corn and we should be ashamed.

We basically just put our metaphorical tails between our legs and went off to do something else, but the issue with the un-floured corn kept popping into my mind. Why hadn't it turned into flour? What had we done wrong?

I think it was maybe three hours later that it suddenly occurred to me that you had to dry corn before it could be ground! Brilliant! It was all coming together now!

Only now I knew I was a corn thief, and I was more than a little concerned that my parents would ground me for that. I'm not sure how, since there was no good way for them to know about it. Unless I told them. I did have a disconcerting habit of telling my parents everything I ever did, even things I didn't want them to know or they didn't even want to know, and especially things that would make them respond with prolonged, silent staring.

I feel that in this one particular story I have basically given you the condensed version of my entire childhood. It all basically consisted of the following:

1. Brilliant idea!
2. Try to implement brilliant, unresearched idea!
3. Wait. Something's not right here.
4. I know! I'm not hanging upside down/standing on one foot/eating cheese! I should try it that way!
5. Still not working. Hmph. I give up! Pout, throw fit, etc.
6. Someone tells me what I did wrong.
7. Too late, I already failed. I don't even want to do it anymore. It was a stupid idea and I hate it now!
8. Wait, I just had a completely unrelated brilliant idea!
9. Proceed to number 1, repeat list. Break for eating and sleeping.

And that, my friends, is one of my collection of stories I like to call "Warning Signs", or "Things they should have told Jason before he married me". Most of which they did tell him, and he married me anyway.  Now he gets to hear my brilliant, unresearched ideas.

I like to think of myself as free entertainment for my friends and family.

I'm charitable that way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So I don't forget - Wordless Wednesday


.

To go along with today's other entry, I thought I should make sure I put up my Wordless Wednesday...

although I suppose we are far past wordless at this point, if you count my earlier entry
and the text explaining this one.

Oh, well.

I'm bad at being wordless, anyway.

Cart and Horse - and all the Dogs

So, in my last long entry I was fairly descriptive about my husband and I's current search for a house. We are planning to meet up with the realtor again, to re-see the houses we were most attached to before as well as see if we can't go look at a few new ones. I've tried a different route to work that actually opens up a couple of parts of town to us that we had earlier discounted, so we're going to look more towards the West - Northwest parts of Greenville instead of just the North side.

So far, we're most attached to I think it was House 5, which has the hardwood floor in the living room and a lot of space.

There's a somewhat hilarious downside to my current house-hunting excitement, though.

Here's the thing - I want a dog. I have wanted a dog since I was old enough to be aware of what dogs are. My grandparents on the farm always had a dog that I remembered, starting with an old lady-dog, I think a Border Collie, who was mostly deaf and limped a little by the time I was really old enough to remember her.

She still tried, and occasionally succeeded, to herd me wherever she thought I should go. Now that I think about it, you'd think with my propensity for needing to be herded that my mother would have lookd into a Border Collie and just taught it to think of me as a sheep... only, you know, I had less common sense than most sheep do.

The plan has always been, for us, to get a dog once we had a yard and room for the dog to run around. We were never those people who could get a dog while apartment-dwelling. The breeds of dog we are most interested in need space and lots of exercise to begin with, and higher-energy dogs get destructive fast when stuck in tiny apartments with both of their owners at work all day.

Here's the problem, though:

I like to get an early start on things. This doesn't mean I like to accomplish things early.

Just to, you know, get started.

I may not have a home to put said dog in, but I've already begun scouring shelter pages to see what kind of dogs there are nearby. I think I've been through the Petfinder pages for every single shelter within 100 miles of Greenville.

So it's been very interesting to find just the most perfect dog ever only to realize that I don't even have more than 700 square feet to put it in.

So I suppose I'll just keep finding just the most perfect dog ever, over and over, until we have the house and the shelter people can come out and check up on us. I've already located two German Shorthaired Pointer mixes (the breed we like the most) that are just perfect, a set of Dachsund/Basset Hound littermates named Romulus and Remus who are some of the strangest, prettiest dogs I've ever seen (they looked a little like black, shaggy Corgis with kind of Hound-style heads), who I'm pretty sure would be just perfect even if they're smaller than we have in mind, and even a couple of Greyhounds that I think might be just perfect.

Not to mention getting my friend Sarah started daydreaming on Petfinder about Great Danes (she currently has a Weimaraner, and has been dreaming about adding a Great Dane to the mix, because you're not done until you own a dog your children can ride like a horse).

I'm kidding! She doesn't really think that.

Well, she hasn't actually said it that way, at least.

Clearly, when it comes to my current puppy searches, we need to have a discussion about putting the cart before the horse. Although in my case the cart is full of puppies and there isn't any horse.

All I have is a cat.

Who is, by the way, just going to be so excited when we get a house and then a dog to live in the house with us. She is just going to love that.

Except for the part where cats hate change, that is.

You should've seen the cat's response to us getting a new tv from a friend who was getting rid of his a year or so ago. She hid behind the couch from the TV-monster.

Oh well.

We're on somewhat of a countdown when it comes to buying a house, so I suppose I can just keep clicking through Petfinder and sighing heavily whenever I see just the perfect dog.

There are so many that are just perfect when you have been telling yourself "When I get a house, I'll get a dog" for as long as I have.

But then, Romulus and Remus get me thinking.

Maybe we need two dogs...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It Seemed Like That Sort of Day

Things that make me happy, sometimes:

1. The way the mountains are a half-circle around Greenville, sometimes standing out in stark relief against a clear sky, sometimes hazy behind clouds, sometimes so completely fogged they're invisible. They are the kind of mountains that make it very clear why mountains are sacred spaces all over the world. Imagine living before electricity, Google Maps, or even compasses, and knowing even on the days you could not see them, the mountains were there.

2. That my almost-daily drive up to Pickens to go to work involves, in a roundabout way, heading up into the true foothills of those mountains. When the drive is easy, like today, I have time to pay attention to the slow climb upwards I am making. If I didn't need to stop at my place of employment, I could make one turn, head out of Pickens going north, then make another... and just drive until I'm a part of that hazy blue height and the only restaurant in miles is Aunt Sue's Country Kitchen or the place connected to the Pumpkintown Opry (both of those places are real places, I promise you).

3. When I hear people discussing what a "small town" a certain place is and then describe the 5,000 or so inhabitants who live there, and I think about growing up in a town that had 800 or 900 people, maybe a thousand tops if you counted during the Fall Festival back when it used to be The Thing to Do.

4. When the coffee comes out just right and all I need is the tiniest sprinkle of sugar or hint of agave nectar and just enough milk to bring out the best parts of the taste.

5. When I order iced coffee somewhere and discover they have Irish Cream syrup and declare myself a happy slave to high fructose corn syrup, if only for this moment.

6. When the waitress informs me that the syrup they use doesn't have corn syrup in it, so I can rest easy.

7. That, no matter that I tried very hard, I never succeeded in ridding myself of my nerdy, squeaking version of laughter that comes when I am so hit by the hilarity of a moment that I can't make the laughter sound ladylike at all. I often laugh the way my late grandmother laughed, and while it embarrassed me as a teenager, it's a thrill to me now that I never lost that single piece of truth that reminds me that I've got her under my skin, too.

8. When I am in Illinois and the sky is empty and blue and might crash down on my head any second, because there are no hills or mountains to hold it up... when the corn is high and the beans are green and grown, just before the corn begins to yellow and dry out, and you stand under that overturned bowl of a sky and listen to the wind blow through the fields.

9. When I am reassured that I can connect to this land, too; I only traded one beautiful landscape for another, I didn't lose anything in the process.

10. When Jason tells me something about his blacksmithing Saturdays out at the mill and I ask him, "Doing this regularly again makes you really happy, doesn't it?" and he just smiles in return.

11. When we are house-hunting and Jason gestures to an empty extra room and talks about this being the kid's room.

12. That there is no kid yet, which lets me hold onto last-minute dinners, parties and movie plans... but there is the promise of kids to come, to look forward to.

13. When I am headed to work in the morning and get to remember that I don't work in a call center anymore, and I'm not working for minimum wage, either.

14. When I am in the bookstore and see the next book to add to my list. (It's this book, for anyone who is actually curious. I can't imagine there are many of you.)

15. That just as I begin to realize I have spent so little time with a friend of mine lately that I've begun to miss them, we get to hang out together and my friend mentions that they have missed seeing me lately. It makes my superstitious little heart glad to have coincidences like these - like when I say out loud that some people we are expecting may not be coming, and less than two seconds later I hear the doorknob turn as they come in. Or when I mention that I've got a weird headache, it's probably going to rain and then I hear a burst of thunder.

16. When the anxiety disorder crawls its ugly self into the back of my brain and I get to simply enjoy the idea that things are going really well right now, and it isn't followed up with a sudden rush of helpless lists of everything that might go wrong.

17. Having a smartphone and being able to check my e-mail anytime I want. So what if it's a petty happiness? It's my petty happiness. Also my phone is blue. That's nice, too.

18. That I go to sleep next to Jason and wake up with him, too.

19. That sometimes, I say something and then clap my hands over my mouth because I sound just like my mother - or, occasionally, my father. Sometimes my sister.

20. That I made it to twenty on this list, and I am aware that I could easily write out twenty, thirty, or forty more... and I'm only not doing it because I think you'd all find a way to throw a shoe through the internet is you tried to read me talk like this for that long.

Or, you know, you'd close out the screen and go about your daily lives.

I think to think you'd try to discover how to throw a shoe through the internet, though.

I guess that last thought would be number 21?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dispatches From Uncertain Adulthood, House Hunting Edition

So Jason and I went house-hunting yesterday. We've been dreaming about things we've seen online for months and months. Really, we've been dreaming about houses, looking at them from time and time, and talking about what we want in a house since we first moved here. Now things are heading towards semi-permanance - we had contacted loan companies and realtors. Yesterday, we met with a realtor and she showed us a few houses we had expressed interest in after seeing them listed online.

It was actually really interesting, although it is somewhat despairing to realize that I have become such an adult that I thoroughly enjoyed walking through houses and talking about kitchen appliances and color schemes. Next thing you know, I'm going to be driving around car dealerships on Sundays "just to look" while my teenage daughter gets all sullen and mutters to herself in the backseat.

Well, I don't know. I do still find cars singularly uninteresting, so that might not be something I have to worry about happening to me.

But still...

We went downtown for a late breakfast and to walk around. It was raining, off and on, which meant the humidity was sticky and thick enough to cut with a knife. It wasn't so bad, until the sun came out - I was glad I had gotten the largest size of iced coffee at that point. We saw a huge snapping turtle hanging out by the river.

Once it was afternoon time, it was time to go see some houses!

I would definitely recommend our realtor. Her name is Donna Cantrell, and she met us at a gas station in a common area, where there were lots of landmarks and recognizable things so we weren't just sort of driving listlessly around a neighborhood trying to find the first address. She was very friendly, and for this meeting (since it was the first one) she really just showed us houses we had expressed interest in. She was very companionable and would help talk us through the individual houses and really sympathized with our concerns and took them into account.

House 1 was one of our top three, right off the bat. It's an older (somewhere around 40?) brick single-level home. The kitchen had new stainless steel appliances that all come with the house, it comes with a washer and dryer (eeee!) and had a neat little wood-burning stove rather than a traditional fireplace. The kitchen actually had a good amount of space and good storage. It was three bedrooms, but only had one and a half baths. The only big downside to it was not much closet space, and it was thoroughly carpeted. Like, carpet in the bathroom. But we'd just take that out and put tile down, anyway. Also, while the living and dining rooms were open to one another (the owners had knocked down a wall for just this purpose), the space was sort of an odd Z shape, and we weren't sure how to set up a real living room. The yard, though! The yard was huge, and grassy, and there was a nice outbuilding for Jason and did I mention the yard was huge? Good deck for having people over, decent parking.

Note to northerners: people in the South tend to think garages are unnecessary and lean heavily towards carports, due to the relative lack of snow, ice, and rock salt they have to deal with in any given year. I always find this sort of odd, since it removes the 'useful for storage' aspect of garages, but it seems to work for them.

House 2 was a no the moment we saw the neighborhood it was in. It was a newer subdivision, all slab houses stuck so close to one another the concept of a 'yard' was seriously laughable. The house we went to see was only about six years old but it was deeply, sadly ill-used. The previous residents, who had according to the Appointment Center vacated the home, had left basically everything that was in the closets for us to discover - winter coats, hats, boxes of... something. There were plates and cutlery still left in the kitchen. The stove looked like it had been systematically rubbed with grease and grime to make it as dirty as possible. The carpets were grimy, stained, and worrisome. The "back yard" was a drainage area that was full of standing water. There was a homeowners' association, which I am not fond of, having grown up in a small town where your house belonged to you, not you + the thirty other families who live nearby so they get to decide what color your door can be. We left quickly.

House 3 was in a nice neighborhood. It was a house that had one story of 'living area', and a basement that was cement-floored and had a sort of workshop area. The deck was upstairs, and Jason was thinking about having his shop underneath it and connected to the basement workshop area. It had a good-sized yard. It was still being lived-in, so we were able to see what the current residents were using each room for. The current owner's dogs came escaped the room they were confined to and came out to see us, which caused a bit of a stir, but they were pretty friendly so we were able to coop them up in the basement. This was top three as well. It was kind of weird, though - The cement floor was covered in condensation, which could have just been a side effect of the downstairs door having been left open, but could be an issue. The front steps were sinking into the ground, pulling some of the walkway with them, cracking the concrete. It had the hardwoods, though, and a nice open living room space.

House 4 was from the 70's, and it looked it: the kitchen was all wood paneling, old appliances, thick older carpets, old light fixtures. The master bedroom had a bathroom with a standing shower, which I like, but it was avocado-colored tile, which I... have feelings about anything avocado-colored so far as decor is concerned. House 4 needed serious work. Insulation was drooping and the basement smelled hideously mildewy, some wiring would definitely need replacement, there was a structure that was probably once a greenhouse that would need to be torn down, the windows needed replaced... it was just a list. As first-time homeowners? Not prepared to take on the kind of serious work this house required.

House 5 was a top 3 house as well. It had yellow siding, which I'm not a huge fan of, and was a newer house. I tend to prefer older houses, since their basic structure tends to be more solid in my experience. Nonetheless - the rooms were big, open, and airy. The kitchen was probably the smallest kitchen, but had a nice-sized dining area. We'd need to replace kitchen appliances fairly quickly. The rooms were nice and airy, too, though carpeted. The yard was a big size, fenced, with an outbuilding wired for electricity. The deck was a good size and solid. It had two full baths, which is a big plus. We spent quite some time a House 5, kind of looking and thinking and talking about what we could do, where we would put things.

Another note to Northerners: Southerners have more fireplaces in their houses, let me tell you. I find this intriguing, and a definite plus to home-buying in the South.

House 6 was a newer house, and while it was very pretty, the outside was not at all what we wanted - the yard was sloped, so Jason couldn't easily build a shop. It was only fenced on two sides. The garage, while lovely and connected to the house, did not have a door into the house. The fixtures and appliances were nice, the space was good, but it was a house that just did not speak to us at all.

So that was our house-hunting adventure yesterday. By the time we were done, my brain was fried. This is not something that comes naturally to me, this sort of discussion of practical things, and it took some serious effort on my part. We grabbed gas and groceries, met a friend for dessert at Banes & Noble and wandered over to PetSmart with her to look at the kitties and dream about our eventual dog, and finally headed home to talk about houses some more before bed.

We've narrowed it down, for this particular trip, to House 1 and House 5.

And for any of my readers who are not interested in houses, this was probably the most boring thing you've ever read from me.

Well, maybe not.

I did subject you to more than one post that was mostly pictures of my cat.

If you stuck with me through that, I hope you'll stick with me through this.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wordless Thursday: Flowers Series 3


Yes, I know it's Thursday and I usually do these things on Wednesdays.

Sometimes I get distracted by all the books there are in the world, and I forget.

So...

have a flower.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursdays Are For the Birds

Look! Baby robins in a tree just outside where I work!
Look at their adorable little eyes!
and their ugly little faces!
Look at how you can't see their mama about to dive-bomb my head!


At this point, Thursdays are gorgeous by definition.

I don't have to go into work until noon - which even with my long drive, means I don't need to be walking out the door until 11. "Sleeping in" at this point mostly means sleeping until 7:15 - 7:30 am. This is usually because the cat, realizing that she and Jason are both awake, becomes concerned that I am not also awake and stands over my head meowing until I open my eyes. Then I smell whatever breakfast Jason made for himself, because our apartment is a shoebox and the kitchen is like ten feet from the bedroom. That wakes my stomach up instantly, and of course the rest of me follows wheresoever the stomach shall lead.

This morning, though, it wasn't his cooking. I woke up sneezing four times in a row at 6:45, and once you've had that sort of traumatic wakeup, there ain't no goin' back to sleep.

I will say the cat seemed a touch disappointed that she didn't get to be my annoying rooster-kitty this morning.

Because pet ownership is wonderful, except for the part where they are little furry alarm clocks and there isn't a snooze button.

I tell myself that having kids will be so much different.

For one thing, kids aren't furry except in very specific circumstances.

Also it takes them a whole lot longer to figure out how to jump on the bed.


These birds come and eat mulberries outside the gift shop window at work. 
This is the most in-focus photo I was able to get before they flew around.
 Notice how it's not focused on the bird at all? Exactly my point.
...
Stupid smart birds who didn't want their picture taken.


Book-wise, I both lied and did not lie about my next reading plans. I totally did read that book on Krakatoa, but not until after I read a book on Jim Jones and the horrors at Jonestown. Those books were both such heavy reads, though, in such different ways, that my brain feels about nonfiction'd out.

I'm ready to bury my head in magazines and breezy things for however long it takes to reset back to my usual "MUST LEARN ABOUT THE WORLD" brain-place.

Jason and I are a couple of weeks out from going into super-high-gear when it comes to house-hunting. We're sending out the serious preliminary e-mails now. We are both so ready to be homeowners. Our apartment complex has not been a bad place to live, but we have lived in apartments for years and it's just time to have a place where we can paint the walls and maybe not have carpet in every room but the kitchen. I am so done with beige carpet. I am just so done with beige.

As God as my witness, I will never have beige carpet again!

Seems like an appropriate subject to have Scarlett O'Hara levels of emotion about, right?

Ah, let's not kid ourselves. It's not like any of you are surprised I feel that strong about beige.

I have Scarlett O'Hara levels of emotion about literally everything.

Sometimes I care so much about how good my coffee is I tear up a little.

And sometimes I have pictures of baby birds that are so cute I post an entire rambling, silly blog post just to give myself an excuse to stick pictures of birds in there for you to see.


Look at their little beaks!
and their little feathers!
Look at how duck mamas don't dive-bomb you when you take pictures of their babies!
Okay, so you can't see that part. Just trust me. They don't.


Although, if you think about it, not a single part of the actual post that I expressly sat down to write so that I could put up those pictures of birds... not a word of it actually had anything at all to do with birds.

Just... ponder that for a while.

I'll leave you to it.