Drainage Area – Yard Project

15673631626_b57eba3768_o

One of the first projects we attempted this summer was to make this drainage area.  The garden hose hangs next to the back door, but just off the porch.  During the summer we were watering our container garden every day.  This area beneath the hose didn’t have any grass and so it turned muddy every day.  This project was pretty easy, but it did require two people, mainly due to our choice of edging.  I chose this very thin edging because I didn’t want to take out a lot of the yard, but if I did it again, I think I’d choose something sturdier.  We had a lot of trouble trying to get it to stay in the ground.  We lined the bottom with landscape fabric.  Then we filled it with one bag of egg rock (this isn’t the brand we used).  I was going for a round river rock bed sort of feel.

As you can see, it turned out pretty ok.  We haven’t had any more problems with mud in that area, and I think it looks nicer than the little bit of grass we had there before.  This leads into a larger project that will post about soon.

Exercising your Right to Vote

So, in case it isn’t obvious, I live in the U.S.  On Tuesday, we’re having elections.  However, since it’s not a presidential election, it doesn’t tend to get the same amount of focus.  But these elections are just as important as the presidential ones.  Now, I’m not a political scientist or anything, but from my perspective, the members of congress have just as much power making laws as the president.  That’s kind of the point.  They are the voice of your state on the national level.

More important that, though, are the state and local elections.  Your state governor and state legislature have more say on your day-to-day life.  They’re the ones making the laws that directly affect you, from education funding to taxes.  And yet, so many people don’t participate in these elections.

So, I’d like to take one of my 30 days of posting to encourage you to go vote.  I also would like people to make informed votes.  Please don’t just fill in bubbles randomly and even if you’re part of a party, think about why you’re voting for someone!  Here’s some links to help you research:

  • Some states have electronic sample ballots online.  Check your county election board website to see if that’s the case.  These are typically available a couple weeks before the election.
  • I Side With – This website is a great way to get started.  You take a quiz on major issues, along with rating how important each issue is to you, and it will show you what candidates in the major races align with your results.
  • Politics1 – This website can be a little hard to navigate, but if you search for your state, they list the candidates, with links to their websites.
  • I also found googling your state, 2014, and the name of the race also helps find information.

After this, you should have very few excuses for not voting.  Depending on your state, you may have needed to be registered a couple weeks ago.  So, that’s a valid reason, I guess.  But you really should participate in your next election.  The point of democracy is for everyone to have a voice in our government and you should exercise it.  People don’t participate enough, especially in their local elections.

Rebooting in 3…2…1…

Wow, has it really been over a year since I last posted something to my blog?  Crazy!  So much has happened, and I’ve been wanting to get back to writing.  It’s taken me a little while to feel like I could get some regular content happening, rather than the sporadic bursts I previously did. Then I found out about National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo. It’s similar to National Novel Writing Month, but instead of writing a novel, you try to write a new post everyday. I don’t know if I’ll do every single day, but it seems like a good way to get back into the routine.

So, for my first post, we have some catching up to do. The biggest change in my life in the last year was that my husband and I bought a house!  With a backyard and everything.  It was a frightening and scary experience, and it may not be our forever home, but it’s more than comfortable for the two of us.  It’s been quite the learning experience as we adjust to the new place and the maintenance involved. I’ll have a post on a big project that we did out in the yard and in a few weeks we’re putting in some new trees.

I’ve also freshened some things up around here.  Obviously, the theme has been updated, but I want to customize it with my own photos.  The About page has also been updated with more details.

I’m very happy to get back to blogging.  Please look forward to more posts on my hobbies, goals, and, of course, food and recipes.

My Favorite Podcasts for the Background

When I’m at work, I concentrate better when I have some background noise. It helps the tedious tasks go faster, and I feel like having something to tune out helps me focus on what I’m looking at more. My work environment isn’t all that noisy, so I bring podcasts with me when I go to work. There are no commercials, like when listening to radio, and I can pick what programs to listen to based on my mood. My workplace also blocks online radio, so music-wise, I’m limited to what I can fit on my player, and that can get boring sometimes.

Here are some of the podcasts that help me get through the workday (in alphabetical order).  You’re best off googling the title to get the best source for whatever your podcast downloading program is, which is why I haven’t included links.

All Songs Considered: A song sampling podcast. Features lots of different artists, so I’ll always hear something new. They tend to pick non-top 40 artists, which is great for me, as I’ve felt like the charts have homogenized lately. Updates weekly.

American Radioworks: The name of this show is deceiving. It’s actually about education. I may not be in academia anymore, but I like to pay attention to it. This show isn’t always using the most recent news stories, just stories that are interesting and related to education. It covers K through college topics, so anything goes. Updates weekly.

Ask Me Another: A quiz show from NPR featuring puzzles and a bit of music. They have a guest every week. It’s very similar to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (below), but the puzzles could be about anything, not just the news. Also has more of a trivia aspect than the Sunday Puzzle (below). Updates weekly.

BBC World Update – Daily Commute: A morning news summary from the BBC. I love the BBC because compared to most American news sources, they are truly neutral about U.S. news. They have a bias, of course, but it’s a bias that is very easy to spot, and doesn’t bother me. They also tend to focus on international news more than American news sources. The show normally focuses on two to three stories, and reads headlines in between. Updates weekdays plus an extra on the weekend.

Fresh Air: This show feels like mostly a pop culture show; they interview authors, musicians, film-makers, etc. Most of the time the interview is just about their work, or their influences, or their history. Not a lot of opinions to be dramatic about. Tends to feature lots of clips or examples of the works. Updates weekdays with a “highlights” episode on the weekend.

JapanesePod101: I actually have a minor in Japanese. I haven’t used much Japanese since then, but I try to at least make sure I’m listening to a little bit of this. This podcast features a short (roughly 10-15 minutes) lesson, normally using a conversation. They include a translation in the lesson, and put a transcript in the lyrics of the mp3 file. There’s an associated website (which I haven’t used because it requires a subscription for serious use), and other languages. If I ever decide to learn Polish, I’ve decided that I’ll try this first. Updates weekdays with an extra “news” (i.e. advertisement) segment on Sundays.

NPR Story of the Day: It may seem like I listen to a lot of podcasts, but even I don’t like to have to juggle too many episodes. All Things Considered and Morning Edition are actually really interesting news programs, but to get them in podcast form would require downloading a lot of episodes each day. Updates daily.

NPR Sunday Puzzle: A quick game, normally a word based one since it’s hosted by the guy who makes the crossword puzzles for the New York Times. Not as fun as some of the other posted shows, but it at least gets the brain thinking in a different way. Updates weekly.

Snap Judgment: Stories on a theme, with added sound effects and music. Similar to This American Life (below), but with a little more rhythm. Also, doesn’t follow a three act formula; some of the stories are only a couple minutes long. Updates weekly.

Splendid Table: A show about people who like to talk about food and think about food. It’s almost like something that would be on Food Network, but on the radio. Relies on their website if you want to get recipes, but what cooking show doesn’t? Updates weekly.

Tell Me More: A mixed news show, with interviews and round tables on various topics. It often leans toward current events, especially politics, typically with a focus on issues related to diversity. Since it’s NPR, they have to present a neutral view, of course, but it’s one of the few U.S. news sources I can listen to without head-desking. Updates on weekdays.

This American Life: A show with stories on a theme. Normally done in 3 parts. Updates weekly.

Thistle and Shamrock: A collection of celtic music from NPR. I actually used to listen to this on my local NPR station back home, but the one here in Oklahoma doesn’t seem to carry it. Thankfully, there are podcasts. Unlike All Songs Considered (above), there is very little talking about the actual music. They tend to just let it play. Updates weekly.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me: A quiz show based on the news. Lots of repeating gags, and tends to include an interview. Humorous way to keep up with current events. For me, it’s heartening when I get all the questions right, because it makes me feel like I haven’t fallen out of touch, despite not having cable. Updates weekly.

You Bet Your Garden: A show about gardening. Full of lots of tips and tricks for fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. The format is that of a call-in style show, with an interview sometimes and a question of the week. It mostly focuses on in the ground gardens, which isn’t super applicable to me right now, but may be in the future. Updates weekly.

Recipe du Jour: Moroccan Stew

dsc01512

I love cuisines that make great use of spices. India or Middle Eastern, it doesn’t matter. There’s something about the warmth of spices that turns something into instant comfort food. Herbs tend to make something fresh and light, but spices make it earthy and filling. And this dish is no exception. While I’m sure it’s not really authentic (it comes from Rachel Ray, after all), it still invokes some good flavors

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (14 ½ ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ½ ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 (10 ounce) box couscous or equivalent bulk couscous

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; discard the fat in the pan. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil or butter and the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and 2/3 cup water to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat, stir in the beef and parsley and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous according to package directions. Serve the stew over the couscous.

Notes: I haven’t ever made this with lamb even though the original recipe calls for it, mainly because I’m not sure where I would purchase ground lamb. It’s much easier for me to get a hold of ground beef, and that makes it an easy weeknight solution for me. I don’t think the couscous is necessary; you could easily eat the stew over anything starchy, or in a pita, or just by itself.

2013 CSA Week 6

dsc01526

One thing about getting this much fresh food straight from the farm is that it doesn’t last as long as under-ripe supermarket produce.  It’s been a challenge to eat through it all.

This week’s haul:

  • Snow peas
  • Cabbage (again!  I’m running out of ideas!)
  • 2 little cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Beets
  • Green onions
  • Asparagus
  • Eggs
  • Lettuce

I see lots of salads in my future because we still have so much lettuce!