Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week Update: Spring and other things


Definitely the highlight of this week was sharing a couple of days with my sister. (See my last Sister-City post). But there have been other good things as well, such as watching spring slowly come to Kansas.

Now that I realize I really shouldn't plant the rest of what I want to plant (with the exception of a couple of onion rows) until May, I have created some space to sit back and enjoy watching Kansas in the springtime. It is really quite lovely. The weather has been warmish, but not too warm. I am perfectly happy with the weather fluxing between 75 and 60. Keep it up, Kansas, keep it up.

I have not been living at this small little house (aka The Woods' Cottage) for a year yet. So I have not experience spring here. It's very interesting to see what kind of things spring up and where they decide to burst from the earth. (A little girl used to live in this house and apparently she (and her mom) planted a ton of random seeds everywhere. Since this house is heavily shaded, only a couple things are coming up and in super crazy spots). I can already see my hosta transplants starting to pop their little heads up. I wish them all the luck.
With all this warmer weather means that I am starting to open up the house. And Scout loves it… a little too much. Yesterday, when I was in the shower, she decided to make a break for it via bursting through the screen on the backdoor. It was probably a half hour before I realized she wasn't napping in any of her normal places. I basically freaked out. (Scout doesn't have a rabies shot yet nor does she have a collar. I also am terrified of her getting fleas because of a life scaring experience in South Africa where our gross kitten gave my teammate and I fleas for days). Thankfully, right after I texted Levent (of course), she came sneaking around the garage. But now she has outdoor fever so bad and I have bad anxiety about my cat running away. It's going to be an interesting spring/summer/fall.
 I go through food phases where all I want to eat is a particular food. (It is often potatoes). However, ever since I ate a crazed-sprinkled donut at my brother's house in Illinois, I could not wait until fate brought me another one. (And by that I mean I finally used my donut coupon that my financial advisor at Everence had sent me for my birthday last year). I am dreaming of getting a cake donut pan and of hundreds and thousands (of sprinkles) everywhere.
These past couple days (since Leah left) have been kind of stressful. Back in college when I would get really stressed, I would start to spill a ton of things. (It was always the joke with my roommate and me. I would spill things and she would start accidentally smashing her fingers in things). This week, I have managed to spill my entire 16oz cup of water on my lap at work as well as almost an entire can of chicken broth on to my very carpeted kitchen floor. What is going on?

Let me tell you. It's my OCD tendencies combined with budget things. I was talking with my friend Jill about our crazy schedules this summer all due to weddings very far from where we live. Oh man. It has been a real source of freak out in my life these couple of days. And I know something will work out, but in this moment, it does not feel that way.

All this to say, I am very grateful that I was able to go out with my co-workers to The Hill Bar and Grill in ICT on Friday night for "girls night." Moreover, Jill and I went and had coffee outside in the glorious weather at Mojo's Coffee Bar on Saturday afternoon. (I have a crazy necklace burn/tan line). My time with Jill especially helped curb my OCD/stress about travel plans as we joked that we wished those Southwest commercials were true. (There is one that features people who have to travel a lot for wedding season. Yes, that's us). We also talked about insurance for a long time. And then would make comments about how adult we were since we were sitting around talking about insurance. But the whole afternoon was definitely a week highlight.
Finally, I am happy to report that I tried another successful new recipe. Last night we had lamb burgers for dinner complete with a veggie relish (from onions, tomatoes and cucumbers) and a creamy feta spread. They were pretty good. And it was the first time I've ever tried cooking with lamb (after weeks of watching the meat section at Dillon's to see if the ground lamb would ever go on sale. It finally did!) The only critique we had is that we wanted to put more condiments on it, but we weren't sure what else to add. But it has already gone on the "keep" pile of recipe.
Anyway, here is yet another collection of random ramblings.

Here's to hoping that this week will be a good one and that my ODC won't get the most of me (especially as I think about going to Guatemala on the 9th). Here is to hoping that I can continue making space for myself to relax and watch spring fully show her colors.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sister-City 2015: Wichita


My sister and I have started this lose tradition of celebrating her birthday/using her Spring Break as a reason to do something awesome. It started 2 years ago when we went to Kansas City for her birthday. For whatever reason, we started referring it it as "Sister City." Now, that's just what it is. Last year, we were in Raleigh and to celebrate the 3rd annual Sister City, we headed to Wichita.

Compared to Kansas City and Raleigh, Wichita might seems pretty anti-climatic, and sure, it kind of is (especially since I live in this area). However, it made way more sense for Leah to come out to Kansas for her spring break . After all, the whole point of Sister City time is to be together. Why no Wichita? And we did somethings there that we had never done before, like to go a Spa and get makeup lessons. (Yes, that does sound like we are 8th grade but it was actually really fun). See. It totally counts. We also went shopping and went out to eat, first at our old favorite haunt, Tanya's Soup Kitchen, and a new place that our friend, Julie, raves about called Taste and See.
The "Before" picture
The "After" picture (and way better lighting)
Other Sister City highlights included watching episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix while eating the angel food cake I made from scratch (what up!) and having brunch with her friends on Thursday morning.
Thanks Joy the Baker for teaching me your ways
I wish every week was Sister City time.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Madness

March Madness.

Yep. It's that time of year is finally here. It's great, since I love the NCAA March Madness tournament so much. However, if we are talking about mental health, March Madness certain seems appropriate as well. It's been a rough weekend.

The thing is, this weekend had no reason to be a challenge one. My anxiety and OCD levels were just high and I was struggling to deal with it.

In hindsight, all the things that trigger my anxiety and what I get OCD about are beyond ridiculous. Case and point: yesterday, I made a ton of food in preparation for my sister coming. In all of my kitchen flurry, I managed to make a bad batch of raspberry cream cheese brownies. It completely ruined my entire day. (And poor Levent has to deal with my irrational obsessions). I could not get over it or stop thinking about it.

Example number two, I have a very weird/nervous relationship with gardening. It's supposed to be something I enjoy doing, right? Yes. But why then does it cause me such anxiety? I become obsessive about it. I literally have to give myself constant pep talks throughout the day, telling myself I am only going to do garden activity 1 and garden activity 2 today - and that's it. And that's fine. But I keep obsessing, thinking I need to be doing the whole thing RIGHT NOW. It's sunny outside and I put so much pressure on my to constantly be outside, even if what I really want to be doing is being inside baking or reading my book while sipping iced coffee. It's an endless cycle.

I feel like I failed yesterday. Not because of my kitchen blunders or my lack of planting, but because I let my anxiety get the best of me. I didn't do my breathing exercises; I just shoved my anxiety down and then it eventually came bursting out of me in the evening, driving me to my medication.

I really hate feeling crazy.

I am doing better today, for the most part. I decided bad brownies aren't the end of the world. (We can just scrap off the bad part. Besides, 1/2 priced milkshakes have started at Sonic after 8pm. Hooray summer). I also decided that I am not going to plant potatoes this year. If my garden is going to drive me to madness, I need to seriously cut back.

After I accepted these things today, my obsessions don't feel, well quite like obsessions. I even decided to go and get the rest of the dirt needed for my garden box and plant some lettuce and onions. Not because I felt an insane need to do so, but because I wanted to be outside and I wanted to move some dirt around for a couple of minute.

Next weekend, I will focus on my plot at the community garden, but wait until Good Friday (which I have off from work) to do any major gardening projects over there. I don't want to spend this entire spring being crazy and thus being miserable. This is my plan and I am sticking to it.

My sister once told me to "live in the moment" just like their dog Scooter. It is my hope that my garden can eventually become something that teaches me to do just that, instead of driving me to madness.

Here's to hoping.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Groceries and budgets

Lunch break
If you were to travel back to 1992 and ask 5 year old Anna (with a hair cut that is almost similar to that of a young Amish boy) what she wanted to do when she grew up, she would tell you that it was to work at a grocery store. The glory of the people who get to scan cans of beans and pack produce away into paper or plastic bags. That was the dream, I tell you. (And my poor Uncle can attest to how many times I made him play grocery store with me).

On some level, I still have that dream but now my destiny is conveniently fulfilled through the self-check out line. Thankfully, I can keep my salaried, day job. And generally speaking, I do like grocery stores, especially nice fancy ones (that I don't live by in rural Kansas). I've spent many happy moments grocery shopping with my sister.

But let me tell you, there is now a big part of me that now HATES grocery shopping. (Shhh.. Don't tell 5 year old Anna).

No matter how hard I try, I seem to be terrible at it. I plan ahead. I make lists. I check them twice. I stick to my list (more or less) and I still manager to forget a key ingredient and have to go back for it two days later. It's an endless cycle of being at Dillons. (I wonder at what point employees will start to recognize me).

What is even more frustrating is that no matter how hard I try each week, I have a problem keeping my grocery budget low. It's a tricky situation, since I want to live simply (and thus eat simply), but I also want to eat fresh foods (like fruit, which are pricey) and I love cooking new things. Things add up really quick, especially at Dillon's (which is my closest grocery option. It's also pretty pricey compared to some of the other chains out there). This isn't anything new, just the constant struggle.

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis (Mom), you may know that I've started mentioned thektichn.com as the latest website on my blog-radar. The other day, I stumbled upon an article on the site: How a Food Budget Got Us Out of Debt (and Four Steps to Help you Create Your Own Budget. There are a lot of things on here that are pretty common sense as far as budgeting does (i.e. don't eat out, something I try to do only one time a week, which, to be fair, is super hard, especially as a single person). Everything on the list is pretty obtainable but has been pretty hard for me to maintain consistently.

What I found most fascinating about this article was the section that linked to what the USDA has found to be the national average. It's been interesting to compare my food budget with that document, (although challenging since I am a single female but I plan about 6-7 meals with my boyfriend each week).

The nice thing about being a member of a single household is that my food budget isn't completely ridged. Still, this year I've been trying really hard to dive into my budget, be consistent with it and know where I am every week in a month. Really, my food budget flux isn't going to make a ton of headway in my college loan debt, but every little bit helps. And if I can cultivate good (and healthy) food habits now, it will be easier when there are more in my household than just me and one grey cat with some serious spirit.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Week Update: Aunt-side in Illinois

This week's update comes not from the week, but from last weekend. I spent Friday through Monday hanging out in Illinois with my brother's family (and my mom) so I could meet my new little baby nephews, Abram and Luke, and help out a little bit.

I am not always the most maternal person. So when I met these brave little guys (who are just now 5lbs) I was too nervous to touch them. (Janice, my sister-in-law, had to instruct me how to pick them up out of their car sheet). They are so little! (And technically speaking, still have not yet hit their due date).

But, I found the aunt-side of me and the courage to pick them up, rock them, feed them, burp them, all that jazz. While this weekend highlighted that I am glad that I am not a mother, it was really great to meet these little humans and to hang out with family.

Besides the twins, other highlights included helping my niece Makaela with her "space suit" school project and watching my nephew play in his indoor soccer league.

I can't wait to see them all again when I am back in Illinois at the end of June.

Fruit and Veggies update


I am writing this blog on Friday (although you won't see it until Saturday, just for the sake of spacing out my posts a little bit). As I type, I am sipping on a second cup of coffee today, a luxury I try and save only for Fridays. Every other day, is just a one cup of coffee day only. I often slip up though this week, I've done well. (Mainly due to my allergies and my inhibited taste buds).

Part of "depriving" myself of more than one cup of coffee/day is just another factor in my daily quest for healthier living. If I was just drinking black coffee, then I probably would allow myself to have coffee whenever my little heart felt like it. But, for me, coffee can practically be dessert in a mug. (I love mixing in steamed almond milk and my homemade chai powder). Sugar, sugar, sugar. I can't get away from it, though I am trying to put less and less sugar in my coffee. (It is not going well. Let's face it. Black coffee is so nasty).

In one of my most recent posts, I mentioned this article I recently read from thekitchn.com on what a full days serving of fruits and vegetables looks like. Since reading it, I find that I think about this article every day. I now have a stockpile of apples and oranges in the fridge (both at home and at work). And I must say, it is much easier for me to convince myself to eat fruit when I am in the office. I like having an apple and peanut butter as a way to end my lunch. (The sugar from the peanut butter keeps me from snatching up a piece (or two... or three) of chocolate at the front desk). But still, reminding myself to eat fruit and vegetables is a daily struggle.

I've also found that, on the days I pay really close attention to my fruit and veggie servings, it is easier for fulfill just one of these two categories each day. One day I will eat what I believe (according to those pictures in that article) to be the daily amount of fruit, but fall short on the vegetable side of life. The next day, it will be the other day around.

Actually, keeping track of my fruit intake is much easier than vegetable, since I typically eat fruit whole and by themselves. My vegetable servings are often mixed into other things. For example, I made a zucchini chowder the other day for supper (and have been having the leftovers for lunch the rest of this week). There is a good amount of vegetables in that soup, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, But how much of that soup would I need to eat to get a couple of vegetables? I am not even sure. (Also, as I type "onions" just now, I realized I have no idea how much nutritional value onions even have. It's those tricky white root vegetables that are a serious gray area for me. But I did just learn through the internet that onions are rich in vitamin C. Who knew?)

Focusing on today, I have at least made it on the fruit and vegetable score board, but I don't know if I will make it to the finish line today. (Especially since we have pizza plans with friends for supper tonight). So far today, I've had 1 apple (1 serving of fruit) and a bowl of zucchini chowder (so maybe a 1/2 cup of veggies?) (Don't worry. I did have breakfast but it was just oatmeal).

Again, I find myself motivated to dig back into my fruit stock and grab another apple.

I am glad that I have suddenly found motivation to pay attention to this need in my life. Since finding and trying new recipes is one of my favorite parts about being a human, paying attention for new ways to ease into a high vegetable and fruit diet should not too difficult. That's the hope anyway. I am currently not the best at it, but now that I am acknowledging it, I am increasing my efforts, if only an apple at a time.

I think that counts for something.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Green things, Spring and Allergies


I'm mad. And let me tell you, this is not okay. I am mad at Kansas for giving me the worst round of allergies I've ever had, and in the spring no less.

What a jerk.

One sick day, a doctor visit, two active prescription, a scratchy voice and three work days later I am kind of feeling better. Kind of. I never want to eat another cough drop as long as I live. (Though, probably I will have to pop a few of those tonight).

I am mad at Kansas because Springtime here is my favorite time of year in the prairie. Suddenly, it's in the 70s and sunny. The winter wheat is popping up all over the place, giving the earth a jolt of green in a very brown place. Since I've been dealing with crazy-intense allergies, I've barely enjoyed any of the lovely weather.

It's a good thing I have this blog to complain about the weather in Kansas, hey?

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will stay in the 60-75 degree range for awhile and that my allergies will let up soon because I do want to celebrate spring. Good things happen in spring, like getting all excited about my upcoming garden. Every year at this time, I am determined to make my garden even better than the year before, hopefully making fewer mistakes (like not over watering my tomatoes. Who knew?)

And it is time to divert this blog back to recording my gardening habits (which is one of the main reason why it exists). So I am happy to declare (in my scratchy voice) that I officially started gardening as of yesterday. I added what composted material I could to my cold frame box and planted spinach. Here's to hoping it does okay. My Dad built that cold frame for me 2 summers ago, but I have never gotten the soil to a point where the spinach does well in there. Maybe this year is the year. I really hope so. A couple of springs ago, when I was still had garden boxes at the Bakers, I had boxes of greens. It was beyond dreamy.

Moreover, I started the beginning stages of getting a raised bed (also built by Sanford) set up. Yesterday, I dragged it out of the garage, positioned it, laid cardboard on the bottom and covered that with wet leaves left over from fall. I am hoping to plant onions in this box. (Since I cook with onions practically every day, having it near the house will be a definite bonus). But first I need to get some dirt, which is always tricky. I hate spending money on dirt and manure. It feels so silly, but is quite necessary. According to the Farmer's Almanac online, I can plant onions outside near the end of the month. We'll see if I am organized enough by that time to make that happen.

In other gardening news, I am continuing my plot in the community garden. So now it is just a waiting game for whenever Ryan, who orchestrates the whole thing, can till the garden and mark off the various plots.

The point of my garden is to not let it stress me out, which it inevitably does. I am going to Guatemala for 10 days in April. Hopefully I can work my garden plans quite easily, on-time, and stress free around that time.

Who knows.

Happy new garden season.

Now, Kansas, stop trying to murder me.