Tuesday, May 31, 2011

happy weekend + cucumber soup

Hope everyone had a great long Memorial Day weekend.  Aren't long weekends great?  What?  Oh, half of my weekends are normally 4 day weekends!  ha!  I have a 4 day a week work schedule so 3 days off wasn't long enough for me.  We enjoyed the time though.  Unfortunately our air conditioning was broken so we sweated through it while using any excuse to get out of the hot house.  Poor Cornelius just suffered through it.  His poor nose got so pink.  I finally got it back up and running Monday afternoon.  Sweet blissful A/C.

Here's some highlights from recent days:

excellent fun at a wedding photobooth



thanks for the wisdom yogi tea

nom nom nom
To start the happy weekend we ate at our favorite burger place.  OnlyBurger.  Its run by the same folks who did our wedding catering and we cannot sing their praises enough.  They are totally awesome!  OnlyBurger started as a food truck and is the coolest!  They (practically) won The Food Network's food truck contest and would have made it on season 2 of "The Great Food Truck Race".  They now also have a 'brick and mortar' shop which we love to go munch at.  This was a lapse in our vegetarian diet.  We'll do that for Durham Catering and OnlyBurger.

Since we were dying of no a/c-itis back at our place we Tony decided to whip up a batch of cool cucumber soup.  It was just the refreshing nutritious lunch we needed.

Cucumber Coconut soup

1can (~2cups) coconut milk
1cup chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup scallions, sliced

3 TBSP fish sauce (use soy sauce if you don’t like fish sauce)
2 TBSP rice vinegar
¼ tsp cayenne (or 1 small seeded and diced hot pepper if you like more heat)
1 tsp sugar
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced

1 cup cilantro- coarsely chopped

Combine coconut milk, stock and scallions, chill in fridge
~1 hour or so before you want to eat, mix fish sauce, vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Add cucumber slices and marinate in fridge for ~20 minutes. Then add to milk/stock mix. Refrigerate another 20 or so minutes to let flavors blend.  Add cilantro and serve.

(cool soup photo unavailable at this time - check back soon! here it is!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thai Sweet Potato Soup

We bought a bunch of ingredients for our soup at the farmers market this week.  Ingredients like sweet potatoes, onions, cilantro & fresh french bread.  Yay local, vegetarian & semi organic!  I like to think all farmers market food is semi organic.  This perhaps is not a summer soup (rather cold weather food) but whatever.  I have to disclose - the recipe is practically not re-creatable.  You'll see why.

Thai Sweet Potato Soup with Yogurt and Cilantro Pesto

thai sweet potato soup
4 peeled/cubed sweet potatoes
1 diced onion
3 chopped carrots
1 bell pepper or 1 cup of multi pepper strips (I used TJ's frozen strips)
2 cloves garlic
2 cups broth
1 cup of mixed leftover thai curry sauces from
Ginger Restaurant in Carytown, Richmond, VA.
(we used 3 different leftover sauces - red curry, thai soup & lemongrass)
salt & pepper

Toss diced onions & garlic into large pot w/EVOO.  Grill until translucent.  Add peeled, 1" cubed sweet potatoes, chopped carrots and bell pepper strips.  Cook on medium for 30 mins.  Don't forget to stir!  Add broth, thai curry sauces & s/p and simmer for 30 mins - 2 hours.  Obviously here you'll have to improvise.  Add some of your favorite curry flavors, perhaps a little coconut milk, some thai sauces etc.  Blend w/immursion blender or standard blender for smooth consistancy.

yogurt
umm... use plain yogurt - no flavorings or sweeteners
or just use sour cream

cilantro pesto
1/3 cup walnuts
1 huge bunch of fresh cilantro (probably 3 of the tiny store packaged ones)
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp lime juice (1/2 a lime)
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

Pulse walnuts in food processor until ground.  Cut off large stems from cilantro.  Add the rest of the ingredients to food processor except olive oil.  Blend all together until smooth.  Add 1 tbsp of olive oil at a time until you reach your desired consistency.  You may want more or less EVOO for runnier or thicker pesto.  Serving suggestion: mix with rice instead of pasta!  Works well in wraps, on sandwiches and of course soups!

Pour soup in bowl, dollop with yogurt and pesto!  Eat with fresh bread!


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oh I just had to add this because it's cute!  ducklings we saw on a walk

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My name is Robin and I coupon

I started couponing before TLC's Extreme Couponing show.  I follow a few couponing blogs that track sales and coupons that I shop at.  Krazy Coupon Lady & Southern Savers.  I'm not super into it (yet) but do love a good sale and anything that gets me good deals or free items! 

The other day I found an amazing deal!  I was shopping at Lowes Foods (not the home improvement store) and poking around in their back of the store discount bins.  Ya know the section?  Every grocery store usually has one.  The bins with the dented cans, holiday stuff from many seasons ago, single items originally packaged as 'not for individual sale' etc.  This week I found razors!  Perfectly good 2 packs of Venus marked down 50%.  Originally priced at $11.56 marked down to $5.78 is a good deal... but wait!  I had a $2 off coupon!  Making it $3.78! 

I wasn't sure if I could use that coupon on already discounted items but the manager typed it in for me.  Note 1: Lowes Foods is always so great about coupons - never any issues like other places.

note 2: who would pay $12 for 2 razors?  Insanity... or just someone desperate on a beach vacation who forgot theirs (we've all been there).  Regardless, I win.



This isn't the world's best coupon deal but it makes me happy!  My advise - start small.  Don't try to save 75% on your first couping adventure, anything is a start.  Like I've said, I'm not super into couponing but I like to try.  The best deals are when you match coupons with store sale items.  Bonus if you get double coupons or if there are deals like reward bucks or next time coupons that print.

Check out some sites online that make it easy for coupon beginners to learn the tricks.  They have the links to all the online couponing sites where you print from your home computer.  Good Luck!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Farmers Market Fun

This past weekend we had a ton of farmers market fun.  We hit up the Raleigh Farmers Market instead of our usual Durham one.  We got a TON of goodies!  Check out our haul.


The haul:
  • 1 sm bunch of asparagus
  • 1 huge long cucumber
  • 1 lg loaf of french bread
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 7 peaches
  • 1 pint of strawberries
  • 1 bunch of beets
  • 3 zucchini
  • 3 yellow squash
  • 1 huge bunch of cilantro
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 sm bunch of broccoli
  • 1 bouquet of flowers
  • (2 cans of {diet} dr. pepper b/c we we're dying!)
total price: $36

Not a bad price for it all considering it was all local (minus the pop soda).  We filled up both our bags that we bought.  Most of this food isn't USDA certified organic (some was) but I feel good about buying from local farmers who treat their land and produce well.  Most often if you talk to the actual farmers who grew those potatoes, lettuce etc they'll let you know what if any chemicals,  fertilizers etc go into their land.  Most of the time you'll find that despite not being certified organic - it's probably just as good (or better).  This is why farmers markets rock.  Also the food tastes amazing!

Things I love about farmers markets: the people, the babies, the old people, the free samples (whole strawberries as 'samples'? yes please!), the low prices of in-season produce, the discounted prices late in the day, the kids who run their parents cash registers, the pups (only at some markets), the first timers looking for things like bananas or lemons (gotta love their effort) & obvi the food.

What's on the menu for this week?  Cilantro pesto, sweet potato soup, fresh fruit parfaits, beet salads, sandwiches and more!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Decorating

Decorating before moving isn't the smartest thing to do but we made a few little changes and wanted to share.  We picked up some fabric for our DIY table runner and bought a couple patterns.  We were going for bold, bright colorful patterns that were geometric and/or with white.  I'd say we found the best they had to offer.  Twice while shopping people commented that the rolls of fabric I carried around prior to cutting were 'so pretty'!  Positive comments from strangers = success! 

We have so many extra frames lying around we decided to just frame a couple and hang them about the apt.  Two got casually placed on our bedroom dressers.  Remember when I painted it all white?




We hung the other 3 smaller 8"x10" frames vertically.  Note 1: that green fabric isn't framed in the same direction.  What that done purposefully?  I'd like to say it was... maybe.  Note 2: ignore dying plant on top of bookshelf. 


I really like how the fabric in the frame isn't stretched taunt.  It's just cut and placed casually and ads a little formal but rustic flare.  We still have so many frames lying around who knows what we'll frame next?  Most of them are black but I've been eyeing that white paint to change things up.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Richmond Status (again)

I have a new updated map!  I love maps. 


You can see I've added a new color to our moving map since the last update.  The colors represent areas where we do or do not want to live.  Richmond is a big place.  There's a decent sized downtown area as well as city living and tons of suburbs and surrounding areas.  Red is no, yellow maybe, green yes, blue still need to check, purple Trader Joes & shopping. 

It kinda looks like we're trying to comb the entire city before moving there!  HA!  What fun would that be?  Then we wouldn't have anything to explore once we got there!  We like surprises, but not that much surprise.  Like OH! ps. your backyard is a squatters nest or surprise! you don't want to walk outside after dark.  'Since we have to live there for at least two years we want to find something that'll be awesome and so we don't have to move once we get to know the place!  This is logistics at it's best people.  And we do our best on Logistics Sundays.  Lately they've been Fridays and Saturdays, but whatever. 

We scoped out the place a few weeks ago when we drove through to my brother's college graduation.  Both Jackson Ward and Manchester are OUT.  I wrote about these options here recently.
Right now we're going on research, intuition, hope & luck.  We hope for the best and are just trying our best.  It's difficult since I don't have a job yet so it's hard to plan a budget when you don't know how much your income is.  Another possibility could be that we find a really cool place but everyone else from Tony's program could live far away - which would be a bummer.  There are tons of constraints and things to plan.  We want a place large enough for all our stuff, have a personal washer/dryer, preferably dishwasher and porch with 2 parking spaces off street.  Is there a magic real estate rental God out there with some rental apartment/job offer pixie dust?

As we inch our way closer to June I'm a busy bee applying for jobs, keeping up the rental market research and saving our dollars so we can build up a big moving fund.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Organic Shampoos - Research

I've been gathering information on organic shampoos.  Remember To Do: Organic Shampoo?  I've snapped some photos of some of the selections in the past few weeks whenever I'm out at the grocery/pharmacy/etc.  While I say 'shampoo' I really mean 'shampoo and conditioner 2for'.  That's a technical term.  I of course am interested in shampoo AND conditioner - but not a combo, those suck. 

So price wise many of the ones I've found locally are not far off from each other.  They're more than Pantene Pro-V ($4) but less than Aveda ($21).  Around $7-9 seems standard for grocery/drug store/less than boutique like places.  I'm warming up to the idea of fancier shampoo.
















As you can see many shampoos just claim to be 'natural' rather than actually using all 100% organic ingredients.  What makes a shampoo organic/natural?  Good Question!  Some combination of the following:
  • paraben free
  • phenoxyethanol free
  • phthalate free
  • SLS free
  • PEG free
  • propylene glycol free
  • petroleum product free
  • no artifical colors
  • no artificial synthetic fragrances
  • sulfate free
  • sodium chloride free
These natural/organic shampoos can be 'Eco-Certified, Fair-trade compliant & Certified Organic Ingredients' or 'Certified Organic in accordance with the California Food Act of 1990. (3) Certified Organic by Quality Assurance International' and/or 'Sulfate Free & Paraben Free Formulas with Organic Active Ingredients'.

As you can see this is all very confusing. Honestly I'm overwhelmed with websites that score products and websites that discuss and compare organic shampoos with semi organic shampoos and regular (toxic?) shampoos. Some products claim to be USDA Certified, others just claim to be sulfate free. Other products are just in the 'organic/natural' section of the store and perhaps just cost more. Some products claim health benefits while others claim Mother Earth benefits.

I haven't pulled the trigger and bought anything yet. It's too confusing. Besides finding a product that looks and sounds good - what about smell, texture, what'll do to my hair?!?

Today's conclusion. I want something that is as chemically free as possibly, natural ingredients, environmentally friendly company and will make my hair look like Belle's. 


More info coming soon!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Meals for the week - May 16th

Since we've been travelling a lot this month as well as plans for the rest of the summer it feels great to be home this week!  We had a full evening of grocery shopping last night and I loved tossing every fresh and new item into our cart.  Can't wait for all the good food this week.  Travelling is awesome but sometimes it's just good to make it all in your own kitchen. 


new items spotted at Trader Joe's this week: Champagne salad dressing, caramelized onion dip & SPF 50 spray sunscreen. 

Organic menu items: spinach, stir fry veggies, basil, pasta sauce, black beans, TVP (?), artichoke hearts and lettuce.

Yep, some of our stuff is organic - we try to go by the dirty dozen cheat sheet.  We can't afford ALL organic and some organic stuff is just too hard to find since we don't shop at Whole Foods regularly.  Despite not buying 100% organic foods we try to stick to 'healthy' stuff like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and not-so-processed stuff.  We try not to eat high fructose corn syrup, MSG's & hydrogenated oils.  Confession - we'll buy Lean Cuisines if they're cheap.  Although only about 5 vegetarian varieties exist.

Happy Eating!  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Get rid of 100 things list

Anyone who's moved before (I assume that to be most people in first world countries) knows that moving can be a pain in the you-know-what.  You have to go through everything and organize stuff while packing it all up.  After, you get the joy of doing heavy lifting then settle into your new home-sweet-home with tons of boxes and unorganized stuff.

sourze
Despite all this - I somehow slightly enjoy moving.  I find it gives you a fresh start to life.  Maybe it comes from moving a bunch of times when I was a kid.  Our big moves: Virginia, Virginia, London (England yes!), Virginia, London, Virginia, North Carolina and now... Virginia.  Craziness!  None of that is a typo.  Really.  Anyway we'll be moving in a few months and I'm getting a jump start on the purging aspect of moving. 

We combined forces households when we got married and of course have lots of stuff.  Then got tons of wedding gifts and just overall have lots of stuff.  If we have to move into a smaller apartment in Richmond or house we'll be SOL.  I'm starting a list of stuff to donate/sell/trash/recycle before we move:
  • 1 pizza board
  • 1 broken camcorder
  • 2 bar chairs
  • 1 bar stool
  • 1 tan vase
  • 4 wine glasses
  • 4 pint glasses
  • 1 area rug
  • 3 shirts
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 toiletry bags
  • 1 dried wedding bouquet
  • 1 toothbrush holder
  • 1 trimmer kit
  • 1 red basket
  • 2 old license plates
  • 1 coffee table
  • 1 new radioshack cord
  • 6 candle jars
  • 1 fabric flower pin
  • 1 old DVD remote control
  • 1 ipod charger
  • 1 pair old headphones
  • ? photo frames
  • 6 mixing bowl lids
  • 1 too small frother cup
  • 1 lunch bag
  • 2 cookbooks
  • 4 DVDs sold on Amazon
  • 3 books sold on Amazon
  • 1 lampshade
  • 6 pantry items donated to food drive
So far the list is at 55 items.  I'd like to get rid of 100 things.  Why?  Well YHL did it as well as other blogosphere people.  100 items feels like we will have made a dent in stuff.  It feels like an accomplishment.  So far so good.  We've got way too many picture frames and have an entire bedroom #2 that is probably filled with useless goodies.  Plus it's not a bad idea to go through stuff like our spice cabinet, pantry, cleaning supplies and of course closets.  It feels refreshing to do some spring cleaning and simply our life by getting rid of unused stuff.

No doubt we'll find 45 more things to get rid of before August!  Check back soon.

{note: due to some server maintenance - I apologize for down time, lost comments or posts}

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Menu for the Week - May 9th

We've fallen behind on this week's menu.  Due to travels and a few meals out we've got an abbreviated menu that is a little hodge podged together of the meals we've eaten lately/about to eat.  Make any sense?  Okay enjoy our menu.  I'd like to thank the academy Trader Joes. 


There are no desserts mentioned since I normally only write out our dinners but they desserve honorable mentions.  Chocolate mouse and TJ's milk chocolate squares w/a big glass of vanilla almond milk are #winners.  No the almond milk isn't from TJ's - actually I hate their brand of almond milk - bleghh. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weekend wrap up

We had a glorious weekend.  Here's a wrap up of some photos - late.  Yes it's Tuesday.  Sometimes with my 4 day work schedule and T's hospital schedule we've got some crazy days off in a row going on. 

Cornelius fell asleep against the window... cutie.

We ate to-die-for lunch truffles at 'Parker and Otis' off our one year of fancy dining list.

I had a Easter themed bunny chocolate.  It was really good.  Definitely worth the $? price T paid while I wasn't looking.  These are our types of splurges!

I {GASP!} drank a latte.  With soy milk of course.  I didn't die of stomach pain.  Actually I didn't have any pain at all - that I recall.  Hmmm... the saga continues.

We've been cleaning with these amazing Trader Joe's kitchen cloth's.  They're kinda like a combination of sponges and paper towels.  They're big like paper towels but absorbent and reusable like sponges.  You can wash them and just let them air dry.  They help me feel more eco-friendly as I'm not sending tons of giant rolls of paper towels to the recylcling/dumpster gods.  I give them and A+. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Richmond Moving Status

What's going on with our big move lately?  A lot of something and a lot of nothing...

Basically everything is on schedule right now.  It's already May but I have yet to secure a job and we've yet to decide on a place to live.  Reminder: Tony's school begins mid August.  We'd like to be moved by August 1st at the latest, so we have a couple weeks to settle in - make a few trips to IKEA ya know etc.  Ideally I'd like my first day of work (in my imaginary dream job) would be around August too - or a little sooner to start making some extra bucks. 

As of now I've had 1 phone interview - not such a promising start.  I've applied to a bunch of jobs - maybe a dozen.  I find more every week.  I applied for one February 1st and they just called me this week - slow state government jobs!  jeez.  It's okay; I'll take slow if it means pushing my potential start date late into the summer and the prospect of high wages.  If I get that job they want me to start in May (not likely). 

We're planning on 4 mini scouting missions to look for houses and neighborhoods in the next month.  We're making 2 trips up to DC for my brother's college graduation and a friend's wedding in May.  We'll have to drive right through Richmond along the way on I-95.  We figure no better time to check Richmond out than when we're already there!  One mini scouting trip each direction - there and back.  We'll be looking specifically at The Fan, Church Hill, Jackson Ward, The Museum District and Old Town Manchester. 

I've been using craigslist and padmapper.com to keep and eye on the rental market in Richmond over the last few months.  My beloved google map real estate died remember?  I've had to improvise.  I've found a few property management companies that often don't list on craigslist can are potentially very good resources.  I keep seeing certain types of places in each of the areas mentioned and we just have to check them out.  Living 5 blocks from T's school sounds great - but I don't remember that neighborhood being the best.  Also street view is a life saver!!!! 

Story: I see something on a private leasing comanies' site.  It has great photos, amazing credentials (washer/dryer, dishwasher, off street parking, included utilities, hardwood floors, amazing windows yadda yaada) and under (our made up) budget.  I go to google maps and look at street view. 

umm... WHAT?

This is why you'll never be able to 100% get what you need out of apartment hunting from the Internet alone.  End of story.

Next up:
  • really get a job
  • make new budget with updated income/expenses
  • find a place to live that's safe
  • enjoy our last summer together with practically no responsibilities
  • pack all our stuff up/hiring a moving company

Monday, May 2, 2011

Amazon & Pinterest

Does anyone else LOVE Amazon's Wish List?

Okay maybe it's just me, but I cannot stop playing on that thing.  Basically it's like a wedding registry where you link things that you want, except it's for... life.  Except right now I just use it for {me} - not actually hoping I'll get any of those things as gifts.  Nobody knows about it.  For me it's like a fantasy registry where I can put anything I've ever thought about wanting or dreamt about.  Much of the stuff I put on there I don't really want and probably 90% of it I don't need.   What do I have on my fantasy registry?
 

I've tried to highlight the ridiculous things I've got on my fantasy wish list.

Yes these are the ridiculous things on my wish list - you can see I live dangerously... NOT.  I'm actually pretty boring.  The idea of long ice cream spoons, yet another lunch bag or a $300 starburst mirror is my idea of fun.  I mean who doesn't need a come in/go away (turn your head upside down to check it out) door mat or a muffin top baking tray?  Other wishes not shown: books, more kitchen gadgets, serving trays, clothes, xantham gum, make-up, & pillows.  I'm sure anyone else would probably have way cooler things than this.

Since Amazon  has pretty much everything in life you'll probably be able to add whatever you want to your wish list.  But if not - no worries!  Amazon now has a universal wish list button.  You install it on your browser then you can add any product from any website to your wish list.  I've got stuff from Banana Republic, Crate and Barrel and Etsy on mine. 

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In many ways it's very similar to Pinterest.  You pin things that you like as a inspiration board for yourself.  It helps you remember cool things and organizes them.  Like Amazon's wish list, you can share everything so others can re-pin your stuff (or buy you gifts).  It's a helpful way of keeping track of stuff online - so you can access it anywhere.  So long are the days of tacking notes on bulletin boards or hoarding lost jpegs on our desktop.  If you haven't checked out Pinterest get on it!  It's awesome! 

If you need an invite (and you're a follower and cool reader) - let me know.  I'll hook you up.  No waiting 2 weeks for you! *** drop me an email: oursemiorganiclife [at] gmail . com with your email and I'll send ya an invite! ***


What would be on your fantasy registry?

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