Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good For The Earth, Good For Your Wallet, Good For You!

As a young teenager, I would occasionally have the duty of mowing our large lawn with a gas powered push mower. I would put on my bathing suit, go outside (barefoot!), and fire up the mower. By the time I was done, I had a deeper tan, and numb hands from the mower vibrations. And when my mother found out that I mowed the lawn barefoot, I also had a lecture on mower safety. Today, I think a lecture on skin cancer might also be included. Then I left home for college, and for the last number of years I've lived in places where the landscaping duties belonged to someone else.
This spring, my husband and I moved into a neighborhood where we have a tiny backyard and the delightful duty of taking care of our own lawn. For the first time in our lives, we had to contemplate buying a mower.

This is the mower we chose. It's a reel mower, you know, the "old-fashioned" kind of mower. My mother used a mower like this when she was a child. I called her before we bought this mower to ask her how hard it was to mow the lawn without the assistance of electricity or gas.

Our lawn was super long as we started to mow (a lot of rain + a low-lying lawn = well watered grass that takes a while to dry out). Getting started was a little difficult, but once we got going, our little lawn didn't take too long to finish. Now that we have the first mow of the season in, I'm sure it will be easier to upkeep our lawn with this mower.
This reel mower has so many great advantages. It uses the ultimate in renewable energy for propulsion, it is the most economical option of all mowers, it offers a good way to get some excercise, and my favorite, it's quiet and it doesn't vibrate like crazy under your hands!
I recommend that anyone who is shopping for a new lawnmower consider buying a reel mower. Even if you only use it to supplement your electric or gas mower, you can't go wrong!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Pillows, New Pictures!

I'm testing out possibilities for new picture taking spots. The new place is filled with natural light, but I'm not sure if it is quite enough for good pics. I certainly would love to be able to take my pictures inside so I don't have to lug all my stuff in and out of the house every time I feel a photo session coming on. What do you think of what I have so far?

I love these new throw pillow covers, too. They are very neutral in color, but have so much interest in texture and pattern.

I love playing with these vintage textiles!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eating Chili, Yum!

I just had to throw these last two pictures of my chili making/picture taking adventure in. I always throw a little more chili powder into my serving before I eat it because I like to add just a little bit more heat. Some shredded cheese on top is great, too.
And I love this cup. It's so pretty, and it's from the dollar store. The boxes in the background will find a home eventually. That reminds me, I should do a little more unpacking.

How I Made Chili Last Tuesday, Part 2

Ok, I better get crack-a-lackin' and finish this post on chili. Writing this is taking way longer than actually making the chili.
While my meat was searing, I chopped up a medium onion and took the skins off of three cloves of garlic. Thank you Food Network for helping me with my technique!
Ooh, and I got to use my garlic press, a lovely Christmas present from my friend Nichole and really the only way to get a decent minced garlic, at least for me. I hate trying to mince garlic with a knife!

The onions and garlic went into the hot pot and picked up all the lovely seasonings and flavor from the bottom of the pot, yum! I didn't spend too much time sauteing the aromatics, I got them a little softer and released some of the smell, but I was mostly interested in heating them slightly and combing them with all the flavor on the bottom of the pot.
Aren't sauteed onions pretty? Or is it just me? I hope it's not just me.

Then it was time to add all the cans of tomatoes and beans. Normally I use stewed tomatoes only. I LOVE stewed tomatoes. They good warmed up over pasta or chicken for a simple and quick meal, and they're equally great in chili. The tomatoes have a great texture and really great tomato flavor. I decided to throw this can of fire roasted diced tomatoes in this pot of chili to try to get my husband to maybe eat a bowl. No such luck so far. The fire roasted tomatoes were a delicious addition though, so I might use them again.
The diced tomatoes came in a great pop top can, too. I love it, even though I had to bust out the can opener for the other four cans. Yea, I don't have a fancy electric can opener, it's manual all the way here.

After all the tomatoes and beans were in the pot, the meat went back in and it's time for the long simmer. Well, I did give into my the strong impulse of my youth and I used a small amount of water to rinse out each of the cans of tomatoes and beans and poured that water into the chili. It would be a shame to let any stray tomato piece or bean go to waste, you know. And the water will cook off during the simmering process. Yep, I am a frugal beast at heart.

After an hour with the chili simmering on medium heat, I knew that I would be giving in to that great smell and eating a bowl of chili before long. I had been intending to make the chili and letting it sit for a day before eating it, but I should know better. I can never resist the smell of chili in the air. Oh, by the way, this entire huge pot of chili cost less than $10 to make. Tons of good for very little dough. Awesome.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Playing With The Camera, Or How I Made Chili on Tuesday, Part 1

Yay, I found the camera and all parts necessary for charging the camera and uploading my pictures! Now it's time to find my photography groove in the new place. I took a few jewelry pics at the same time I took these food pics, but they were immediately deleted.
I've been doing a lot of cooking lately, and I decided to photograph my latest foray into chili making for you and me.

I never make chili the same way twice. I change up the type of meat, the amount of the tomatoes, I just make whatever I'm feeling at the time. It's a fun way to cook. I recommend that anyone who is tied to a cookbook and their measuring spoons take one meal and cook without using either item. Nothing terrible is going to happen, I promise.
I'll list my ingredients if you really want to try to replicate my amazingly easy (and pretty cheap) chili, though.
I used two cans each of stewed tomatoes and chili beans, one can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, a medium onion, three cloves of garlic, some chili powder, a sprinkle of cayenne, some olive oil, and salt and pepper.
For the meat, I used a pound of stew meat. I had intended to use ground beef, but I had thrown the stew meat into my cart at the grocery store without a real purpose for the meat. I like to avoid ground meats most of the time, mostly because I'm not a fan of the texture. I love to use venison for chili, but if you or someone you love is a hunter, I highly recommend using some of those really gamey meats in a chili of your own. They elevate chili into something really delicious.
Okay, I had to take the rest of these pictures near the stove, where the lighting isn't all that great, and I'm taking most of the pictures with one shaky hand. I'll bust out the tripod next time, but please bear with me. Here's where I seasoned the stew meat with salt and pepper, a little cayenne, and a lot of chili powder. This is really the only place I usually introduce chili powder, because I'm so ingrained by years of making chili for sissies, er people who like their food "less spicy". Those same people would freak at the mere mention of cayenne, so I'm getting bolder.

After I thoroughly coated the stew meat in seasoning, I seared it in a big pot that had already been heated on medium high heat. I threw some olive oil in there before searing, too. Stew meat is usually quite lean, and I didn't want to deal with it sticking to the bottom of the pot.
You will also notice that my pot looks pretty rough, too. That's 'cause I use it to cook a lot. That is the look of love. My cooking isn't always pretty, but it's usually pretty honest.

After all the meat is seared on all sides, but not cooked all the way through, I remove it from the pot. Now the pot is ready for step 2. I'll put up step 2 tomorrow. Blame the wait on my limited computer skills. Meanwhile, I think I'm going to check out Goodwill today and scope out other area thrift stores. Yay thrift stores!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Oh, the insanity that is moving. A cross-country move, while exhilarating, is also frustrating. We are in our new house, though, and my goal is to have all the boxes unpacked and organized (with some things repacked to donate/go into storage) by the end of the month.
The downstairs has a kitchen that needs some curtains hung and a counter with things to put away, but is mostly done. The living room has full bookshelves and the extra books are boxed up and mostly stowed away. There are stray boxes and things on the floor, but I have high hopes. The utility room is partially organized and awaiting the delivery of our washer and dryer (tomorrow!). The garage is full of boxes, both empty and unopened.
Upstairs has my craft room/the guest room. The furniture is in there, and I've organized my piggy collection, but otherwise it is a holding spot for boxes. The upstairs bathroom is completely organized (woohoo!). The master bedroom holds a massive collection of boxes, all open, none of which I have even looked into. I'm still living out of my suitcase.
The house is nice. It is full of light and bare walls and I'd post some pictures but I have NO IDEA where the camera is. I bet Ricky knows though. I'll ask him when he comes home from work.
I'm hoping to establish a normal pattern soon. I'm also going to be looking for a part-time job come next month. Wish me luck!