CSA Delivery #1: We’re In Love!

March 10, 2010 at 8:23 PM (Food, Gardening, Healthy Living, Saving Money, Simplifying Life)

Ben and I recently joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group.  We paid to join over a month ago and have been eagerly anticipating the first pick-up.  If you’d like to read more about CSAs, you should start here. You can even search for one using your zip code.  CSAs provide a means to support local farmers and eat fresh, local produce.

We chose to join Farmers Fresh CSA. Each week, we will go to a local pick-up site and get our bounty. It truly is like Christmas!!  I could barely wait to open our box when we got home.  I grabbed my camera and didn’t hesitate to rip into the box.  Keep in mind that this week’s delivery included our member welcome kit so it is probably more adundant than usual.  Inside was a plethora of beautiful items including the following:

  • Raw honey
  • Butternut squash
  • Lettuces (Hydroponic red and green)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Oyster mushrooms
  • Salad sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Grits
  • Cornmeal
  • Rice
  • Mini bread loaf
  • Gourmet seasoned nut mix
  • Carrots
  • Fresh herbs and tea bag kit
  • Coffee
  • Pancake mix
  • Fabric tote bag
  • Hardcover recipe binder
  • Welcome letter
  • I immediately ate two carrots as I was unpacking everything.  I also sampled the gourmet nuts (delicious) and the oyster mushrooms which I’ve never had before.  I’m truly blown away and can’t wait to see what next week brings.  Check out your local CSA today!

    – Stephanie


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    Top 10: Pros and Cons of Owning a Home

    May 5, 2009 at 8:19 PM (Gardening, Home Improvement, Humor, Top 10 Lists)

    Buy a house, have some kids, live the American dream.

    Pro #1:  You can paint the rooms in your house any color you like.

    We chose some fairly bright colors in an effort to help our house feel more “alive” and fun to be in.  We’re really happy with them and enjoy the fact that they aren’t the neutral beige-ish color that they were when we moved in.  We saved a lot of money doing it ourselves, too.  It felt cool to learn some of the tricks of the trade, if you will, as we went along.  I’m definitely proud of what we did.  We feel as if we’ve put a personal touch on the house and it feels very much like it is ours, despite the fact that we owe Bank of America a small fortune.

    Con #1:  You can paint the rooms in your house any color you like.

    This works as long as you understand that there will be trim that is going to have colors that you did not originally intend it to have.  Carpet?  Forget it.  You’ll never be able to cover the carpet as well as a professional painter and there is no way to avoid having at least one drip of color in every room.  More if you let Stephanie help you (sorry, I couldn’t help myself 🙂 ).  There are going to be runs, too, and you won’t even notice them until they have long since been dry.  Thought it was no big deal to paint close to those outlets since you were going to replace them and the covers anyway, right?  That’s a great idea until you go to remove them and they peel off a big chunk of paint as you pull them from the wall.  You’ll be doing “touch-ups” for the first year.

    Pro #2:  You’ll have a lot of fun doing things to make your home more to your liking.

    Some shelves here, replacing a light fixture there.  We had a large pool table light (long, rectangular, green stained glass) in our basement when we moved in.  No doubt, it was a cool light, but we certainly weren’t going to have a pool table in there.  We ended up replacing it with a nice dome-shaped light with brushed nickel trim.  It was much more to our liking.

    Con #2:  You’ll have a lot of fun doing things to make your home more to your liking.

    Until you realize that it can’t be done correctly by anyone but a professional at quite a price.  One of our rooms, hereby designated The Living Room, has no built-in overhead lighting.  There is just an outlet that is tied in to a switch on one side of the room.  What we would really like, though, is to have that switch control a light fixture that is not yet in the ceiling.  Until we found out what would go into that project, anyway.  Well, since there is no crawl space over that portion of the ceiling, I can’t just fish some wire down the inside of the wall and drag it over to where the fixture would be mounted.  To make matters worse, the joists in the ceiling are oriented the wrong way; i.e. a hole would have to be drilled through each one in order to get the wire from the switch to the target spot in the ceiling.  That means that there would be a hole in the ceiling that would require patching for each joist that needed a hole.  Oh boy.

    Pro #3:  You will really get to know your way around Lowe’s and Home Depot.

    These stores are absolutely gigantic!  And they have everything!  Fortunately, the projects that come with owning a home mean that you’ll be learning every single aisle.  On top of that, you’ll find things that you didn’t know existed and will make projects you have to work on even easier.  For instance, I was replacing some outlets and needed some spacers to get my new outlets nice and even with the drywall.  Did you know that they make spacers specifically for that purpose?  I mean, specifically for outlets?  I didn’t, and I’m glad I know it now.

    Con #3:  You will really get to know your way around Lowe’s and Home Depot.

    And you’ll also get to know the people that work in the different departments really well.  So well that there is a good chance they will run and hide when they see you coming.  Why would they do that when it’s only your fourth trip back to the store with questions because they made the project you’re working on sound really easy and filled you with false confidence while describing it to you?  Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

    Pro #4:  You’ll learn a lot about being a handyman.

    Learning new things is pretty fun.  It’s cool that I know how to patch drywall now.  It’s a useful skill.  I’m glad that I know how to paint and keep the paint where I want it for the most part.  I learned how to identify the “travelers” easily when swapping out a three pole switch.  I know how to properly position a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.  I know how to re-engage my garage door opener after using the pull string to open it manually.  All good pieces of knowledge that I think every homeowner should be familiar with.

    Con #4:  You’ll learn a lot about being a handyman.

    But not until you’ve screwed some stuff up first, usually at significant cost to yourself.  When the light fixture in our laundry room died, I thought it would be no big deal.  Little did I know the horror that was awaiting me.  There wasn’t just a regular box up there.  Oh no, it was a junction box.  Eight wires came into that box.  You know something is up when you pull duct tape off of the old fixture as you’re removing it.  And the switch labeled “laundry room” in the switchbox should turn it off, right?  You don’t find out that one is a fallacy until you’re already up on the aluminum ladder shocking the crap out of yourself.  Surprise!  The box is actually sitting 3 inches above the level of the ceiling drywall.  And it’s crooked!  Go to Lowe’s to get screws that are longer because the ones that came with your replacement fixture definitely won’t do the job.  Go back to Lowe’s again to get screws that are longer than the ones you got the first time, despite the fact that you are sure you measured it correctly.  Head to Lowe’s one more time to get screws that are in between the lengths of the 2 sets of screws that you already bought.  Realize that the chance of mis-threading these long-as-hell screws is high since you’re screwing them into a place you can’t see and are screwing them in at a non-standard angle.  Spend 2 hours getting it right while you feel your arms and shoulders turning into jelly.  Put the screws that you needlessly bought into the bottom of the toolbox on the off chance that they may come in handy for some unknown future project.  Cry yourself to sleep.

    Pro #5:  You finally have a yard of your very own.

    When we were looking at houses, having a sizable yard was really important to us.  We didn’t want to live in one of those cookie cutter neighborhoods where you could stand between two houses and touch both of them just by stretching out your arms.  We have dogs, too.  We needed some space.  We ended up with a 3/4 acre corner lot that fit what we were imagining pretty well.  We have daffodils around our mailbox and recently placed some perennial pots at the entrances of the stairs in the front and back.  It’s really starting to come together and look pretty nice.

    Con #5:  You finally have a yard of your very own.

    And the mutant grass growing in your yard must be cut every week.  And those nice shade trees drop a metric ton of leaves every fall.  You know this because you have to rake and bag all of the bastards.  Have pine trees instead of big leafy trees?  You probably think you’re fine because they are evergreens.  Wrong!  You now have to either pick up all the pine cones before you cut the grass or simply deal with having to get the blades on your mower sharpened every season because you dulled them running over the damn pine cones.  In case you were wondering, when your mower shoots a large pine cone fragment at your shins at 1000 mph, it hurts.  Oh, and your yard will never look as good as your neighbors’ yards.  And congratulations on that corner lot, because all of your lawn deficiencies are even more visible and pronounced since you have 2 sides from which to be publicly evaluated.  And trust me, the evaluation is harsh indeed.  Neighbors take leisurely strolls around the development, using exercise as an excuse.  Don’t trust them.  They just want to make sure they don’t have to step up their lawn care game because you have so much catching up to do.

    Pro #6:  You can correct mistakes that the previous homeowners made and really take advantage of your home’s strong points.

    Our house was initially a dark, dark, dark brown color.  Really dark.  There were a ton of trees around the house, and they made it even darker.  In the tiny pictures you see of homes online when you’re browsing listings, you couldn’t even tell there was a house in there.  So one of the things we had the previous owners do before we bought it was paint the house a brighter color, specifically a color called “Simply Beige” by Sherwin Williams.  We figured we would remove a few trees and really brighten things up, and seeing as it was a corner lot the results would be awesome.

    Con #6:  You can correct mistakes that the previous homeowners made and really take advantage of your home’s strong points.

    We failed to note that the house needed to be stained, not painted, because it has cedar siding.  We had no idea.  So the effect of putting a very light stain on top of a very dark stain was not exactly as we imagined it to be.  Well, the trees ended up actually needing to be taken down due to various non-cosmetic reasons like fungus and beetle infestations, so that part of the plan really didn’t change too much.  Now that the trees are gone, the sun shines nicely on the house, and you can see how good the mistake we made with the choice of stain doesn’t look.  Correcting mistakes, indeed.

    Pro #7:  You are no longer mindlessly throwing money away paying rent.

    Now  your money is going towards your home, something that you will own and will eventually belong to just you and no one else.  Your money is becoming home equity and isn’t just disappearing in a rent check.  Your home is a place that will allow you to express your creativity.  It is a place that you can decorate and organize to fit your specific needs.  Not counting building codes and zoning restrictions, there really are no rules and no limits to what you can do if you really want to.

    Con #7:  You are no longer mindlessly throwing money away paying rent.

    In addition to your mortgage though, you now have homeowners’ insurance to pay too.  Two more words: property taxes!  And I can tell you right now that the 875 sq. ft. apartment you were in was a whole lot cheaper to heat and cool than the 3000+ sq. ft. house you just bought.  Like all those rooms you have?  That’s good, because you’ve got to buy that many more light bulbs.  Your house is probably wooden; termite treatments aren’t cheap.  Did your water heater just go up?  There’s no building maintenance folks to help you now.  If you get bored, ask me to tell you the story about our $1200 laundry room wall.

    Pro #8:  Buying a home is a sign of stability.

    You can become a part of your community.  When you buy a house, it says to folks, “I’m not going anywhere for a while.”  If you’re single, it probably makes a statement about your level of responsibility and readiness for commitment (I just heard that somewhere, I don’t know if it is true).  In many circles, it is just the smart thing to do.

    Con #8:  Buying a home is a sign of stability.

    It tells an employer that you’re there for the long haul.  Telling a prospective employer that you’re buying a house in the area means that the employer doesn’t have to worry about you jumping ship immediately for your dream job on the other side of the country.  Additionally, they know they will have you by the balls because most folks will do anything to keep their jobs and not miss a mortgage payment, especially in today’s economy.  Sucker!

    Pro #9:  You can have parties at your house.

    Chances are your house is bigger than the single room or apartment you used to have, so it will hold a larger number of guests.  You can have music, laugh, and generally have a good time without the grouch who lives below you complaining by pounding his broom on his ceiling.  Even better, you now probably have a room that is suitable for that 52″ LCD HDTV, since the tiny place you were in before made watching it not unlike sitting in the front row of a movie theater.  Time for some football!

    Con #9:  You can have parties at your house.

    Unfortunately, now that you’re paying for all of this, you’re going to get paranoid.  Stephanie and I were really glad to finally be able to entertain more than 2 people at a time, but the carpet is sometimes a concern.  We had a wine tasting as part of our wedding shower this past weekend and when you have over a dozen people who are inebriated drinking something that is the stereotypical Destroyer of Carpet Worlds, some accidents are going to happen.  Also, ever had a small gathering and had a problem with the toilet in the bathroom halfway through?  We have three toilets, so that’s 3 times as many things that can go wrong.  And we’re only talking about bathrooms at this point.  I’ll stop here, before I make myself cry.

    Pro #10:  Now that you and your wife/girlfriend/fiance/partner own a home, you can work together to really make it a statement of your relationship together.

    When looking at homes to buy, it was easy for Stephanie and I to see the rooms and imagine/plan them together.  A couch would go well on that side of the room.  The television over there.  The dining room screams for an eight-person table.  Our bedroom furniture can be oriented just so!  It’s a lot of fun when you have a vision that you can build with one another.

    Con #10:  Now that you and your wife/girlfriend/fiance/partner own a home, you can work together to really make it a statement of your relationship together.

    The placement of the couch was just the easy part of the decision making process.  Pillow back or single piece?  That television is going to need a stand.  Wooden?  Metal?  Glass or no glass?  Doors or no doors?  Wait, where are we going to store my DVD collection?  Not over there, that’s an eyesore.  But it’s the most logical place.  Too bad, I want a picture on that part of the wall.  A picture; you never mentioned a picture.  Yes, and you better get thoughts of dogs playing poker out of your head right now, mister!  But dogs playing poker is cool!  No they aren’t; I have an impressionist print that I got in France that is going to be ideal.  Impressionist piece?!  Yes, I wouldn’t really expect you to know fine art when you see it, anyways.  A 3-year old could have painted that thing!  It is fine art and that is final!  No it’s not!  Yes it is!  No it’s not!  Yes it is!


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    Spring Fever and Container Gardening

    April 13, 2009 at 6:06 PM (Gardening, Home Improvement, Saving Money, Simplifying Life)

    Ben and I had a great weekend.  Ben worked half a day on Friday and I got off work an hour early.  We lounged around the house and enjoyed our Friday together.

    We stayed super busy on Saturday and Sunday.  We have wanted to add a little something to our entry way and to the outside of the yard in general.  We aren’t financially or logistically ready to tackle any major landscaping projects so we thought we would just make a couple of container gardens.

    On Saturday we shopped around for a couple of matching red planters for the entry way deck.  Our friend Talissa had previously told me about a greenhouse / nursery near my work called Kelli Green Greenhouse and Nursery.  We headed there with our new planters.  We had the most amazing experience.  The owner, Elaine, helped us design a beautiful container full of plants based on our plant location and maintenance criteria.  We rushed home and immediately assembled our 2 matching container gardens.  We also filled 2 smaller pots (that we had already owned) with plants that we purchased.  We were absolutely thrilled with the results.  In fact, we were so thrilled that we did the same exact thing on Sunday!  We bought 2 more planters, spent lots of time with Elaine (1.5 hours), and assembled 2 more container gardens–this time for the back patio.  The back patio containers contain a couple of edible plants (chives and purple sage) which I’m excited about.

    Check out all of the photos below!  Spring is in the air and I love it!

    – Stephanie

    We already owned this pot and decided to finally plant something in it.

    We already owned this pot and decided to finally plant something in it.

    Another pot that we already owned that now has a nice plant.

    Another pot that we already owned that now has a nice plant.

    Our new red container gardens.

    Our new red container gardens.

    New red container gardens up close and personal.

    New red container gardens up close and personal.

    Ben chatting with Elaine, owner of Kelli Green (she's awesome!).

    Ben chatting with Elaine, owner of Kelli Green (she's awesome!).

    Ben unloading our new plants.

    Ben unloading our new plants.

    Let the assembly begin!

    Let the assembly begin!

    Our new blue container gardens.

    Our new blue container gardens.

    New blue container garden up close and personal.

    New blue container garden up close and personal.

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