June 30, 2010

Goodbye june.

I was very fond of June this year, and I am sad to see it go. Aside from my birthday and the happy change in the weather, this month has marked a transition in my life that I am just now starting to experience. You cannot embrace something if you do not feel it, so I am relieved that graduation is finally starting to sink in. I am no longer a student, or an 'informational sponge,' as I liked to call myself, and I no longer feel the constant weight of stress. It's nice.

I used to dream about the days where I could stop absorbing facts and finally put everything I have ever learned to use. I spent a good majority of my procrastination time writing up gigantic - and probably unrealistic - summer to-do lists that I wanted to tackle the minute that finals ended, and I was determined to work down the line with a sense of urgency because free-time is precious and not to be wasted! I am glad that my frantic attitude has been replaced with ease and relaxation. While I find myself as determined as ever to conquer my goals, I am also very much inclined to take my time and enjoy myself with whatever I am doing. I'll leave the cramming and the stress to the college kids.

So this last weekend, while admittedly slow, has been full of fun little outdoor projects. My man brought out the cinder blocks that were once used as the building-blocks to a makeshift entertainment center, and placed them in a row for future container garden endeavors. I might squish them together a bit more for aesthetic purposes, but I am thinking they would do nicely for some herbs. Basil and cilantro, perhaps? Some thyme? I'm open to suggestions.

As for our tomatoes, they have been pruned and are growing quite well,
Tomatoes, tomatoes.

...but some of our peppers did not survive the rains, so they will be plucked and their planters replaced with something promising. In any case, we have decided not to start seeds at home anymore because our set-up does not accommodate sunlight. Because of this, our seedlings depend solely on fluorescent bulbs, and those that survive our black thumb tendencies turn out weak and spindly. Perhaps we will give it another go in the future when we reside elsewhere. For now, we have discovered that we can find all of the heirloom varieties that we want at the local farmer's market - all healthy and reasonably priced.

And do you see those boards laying in the background of the above photo? Our apartment manager replaced them with the very fence they are laying against and said that we might use them to build a garden box. The idea sounds intriguing, though I would liked to have known about this option months earlier so that we might have put it to use earlier in the season. As it stands, we must now decide whether or not we will be staying here long enough to make it worth our while. I think it could be good practice in building things, though I dislike nosy neighbors who are easily irritated by daylight hammering.

Making 'thank you' cards.

I also took my 'papering' outside to make some thank you cards for my soon-to-be in-laws for their generosity and support for my birthday/graduation. They are all so kind and warm to me, and I wish there was something more I could do for them to express my gratitude. I am finding, more and more, that family is not necessarily what you were born into, but the people around you who love, support, and accept you no matter what. They are the people who make you feel like their home is your home, and are those who will throw you a barbecue or a party because you are happy and you want to celebrate, and because you ask.

Goodbye June! You will be missed.

June 26, 2010

First barbecue of the season.

Now that the rains seem to have ceased, we Portlanders are out-and-about, enjoying the perfect 75°F weather. I finally pulled up my sleeves yesterday to scrub the caked dirt off our patio chairs, and I did my best with the algae on the terracotta pepper containers (they very well may be beyond all hope). In any case, the patio is on its way towards its summer-ready status. No longer must I eat my breakfast in the grass, though... to be honest, I never really minded.

It was after our first barbecue of the season that I realized how badly our little apartment patio needed a  makeover. I sometimes feel a bit sour about the fact that we do not yet have a house of our own with a yard large enough for a full-on vegetable garden, chickens, and a decked-out patio area surrounded by lush greenery that has taken years to perfect and mature. And then I come to my senses and remember that some people don't even have a ground-level patio, complete with its own little patch of grass to sink their feet into. Some people don't have enough space to grow tomatoes or peppers. I remember that you have to make the best out of what you've got, and so I get over myself.

Despite the disarray, our first barbecue was quite the experience. We purchased a dinky charcoal grill earlier in the month, and we were finally able to put it to the test with some veggie and chicken tikka kabobs.

Vegetable Kabobs

Chicken Tikka Kabobs

I have to say, it (and my man) performed quite nicely. I may try grilled pizza next.

Feline footnote: Berger is still loving his thrifty basket and asking about the blanket that I promised him.

June 22, 2010

Birthday festivities and thrifty inspiration.

This year's birthday festivities were really nice; full of friends and unexpected surprises that seemed to extend throughout the whole weekend so that I happily spent the day itself with only my man and the little guy. We originally had other plans, but I'm glad everything worked out the way it did.

We ran a few errands and then stopped by his folks' place to drop off a father's day gift: triple salted caramel cupcakes, one of my favorite cupcake recipes of all time.

Triple salted caramel cupcakes.

After that, he took me out for dinner. We've been eating out too much lately, of course, but it was my birthday. Like usual, I told the server that if she were to sing to me the song, I would die of some horrible rare disease. She seemed instantaneously relieved and happy to serve me my wine with the utmost discretion.

We ended the night with a little thrifting, wherein I purchased myself a few inspirational gifts. Mostly some yarn, a few bits of fabric, more mugs to add to the collection, and - of course - jars. I feel that if I surround myself with inspirational things, the stars will align and I will suddenly find myself doing something with all of it.

Yarn balls.

For instance, the more balls of yarn I collect, the more likely I am to teach myself to knit and crochet, which are both skills that need a little, uh... brushing up. Also, the more fabric I stockpile, the more likely I am to purchase myself a little sewing machine. If I have a sewing machine, I might be inclined to learn how it's used. You see where I'm going with this?

That basket that the yarn is sitting in has been claimed by the little guy, so one of my first projects might be to crochet him a nice basket-sized blanket or two. I think that would be good practice, don't you?

June 19, 2010

For father's day.

Father's Day Card

Father's Day Card

I papered this card. Father's day and my birthday are one in the same this year.

Homemade burger buns.

Homemade Burger Buns

I can't believe I forgot about these burger buns. I ran across the recipe last week while trying to think of food to make for a barbecue that we were having out at my friend's place because:
  1. I finally graduated, and it's almost my birthday.
  2. I have been craving a burger like no other, and since we don't eat fast food, making our own was the desirable option.
  3. It wasn't raining - finally!
They were so good. Totally hit the spot. And the company + backyard setting was awesome. Thanks guys, for everything.

Breakfast Burger and Quinoa Salad

The buns make a pretty good breakfast burger the next day. Or, if you're like me, you'll happily nibble straight-up.

June 18, 2010

Homemade laundry detergent.

I vowed to try my hand at homemade laundry detergent once our old box of powder from Trader Joe's was gone. That was... two weeks ago? Since then, the laundry has been piling high, waiting for me to fulfill my end of the bargain. I found the recipe here, but doubled the amounts because I didn't think 4.5 cups of detergent would last very long with 1/4 cup of the mixture needed per load. In retrospect, I might go ahead and stick to the proper amounts next time because I wasn't able to stir the ingredients hard or fast enough to avoid the dreaded lumps.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Ah well... it seems to be cleaning the laundry well enough, but I might try this recipe next time to compare/contrast.

After the rains.

Rain

The weeks and weeks of rain have finally ceased, and our poor container garden has somehow managed to survive. A discussion might have cropped up here and there about how maybe we should cover them with a tarp or perhaps we ought to shove them closer to the apartment for cover, but it was all talk and no action. Just the occasional visit outside to assess the damage, accompanied by mandatory looks of worry.

The Plants Survived the Rains

The Plants Survived the Rains

After all is said and done, I think they have managed well enough through the rains to grow and fruit all of the tomatoes and peppers our salsa-loving hearts could desire. Whew.

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