Wednesday, May 20, 2009

He's Building a Spreadsheet! Hope is ALIVE!!

You may remember that a few months back, I went looking at model homes with my very, very good friend, Li'l Boss. Boy did that really set the ball rolling. I have since been obsessing over different builders and their online floor plans, desperate to find a new home for the Butler clan. Flash back to Easter, and we were on our way to some friends' house for dinner and I saw off the road a new developement going in that I hadn't heard of before. A few weeks later, I deliberately drove by the neighborhood again to see what it was called, and see if I could find out who the developer was. A few weeks after that, I again talked Li'l Boss into going with me to check out their model homes. Both their models were single stories, and I definately want a two story, so we asked at the front desk if they had some inventory homes available to see. Li'l Boss and I then ran around the neighborhood for over an hour with a key, letting ourselves into every inventory house they had. :-D House shopping is fun! Anyway, I found THE house!! With THE garage! In THE neighborhood! Two weeks ago, I managed to talk Hubby into driving through the neighborhood to see what he thought. This past weekend, he went with me to see three of the inventory homes (I wanted to see which one he liked best of my fave three) and he liked the same house as me!! :-) Being very familiar with the way my Hubby works, when we got home, I tried my best not to ask him what he thought or bug him about it at all. I lasted 12 whole hours!! ;-) Yesterday, I noticed that he had moved the pamphlet of information about the homes from the dining table to his desk in the study, so I had to ask him if he'd been looking at it. I got the best answer anyone married to Hubby could ask for!!! "I'm looking through the information and BUILDING A SPREADSHEET" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!! That is Round Two, folks!!! Hubby is very methodic about making decisions, which is good because I normally run around with my hair on fire making snap decisions. Over the years, he's rubbed off on me somewhat and I've applied a lot of his techniques to this house search. I actually have a spreadsheet myself of different developers and the features of the floorplans I like. I've done all the initial research and now it is up to Hubby to bring it home (literally). :-) And it looks like he's game!!!! :-) The neighborhood we're looking at is in our current town, but on the other side of the tracks, so to speak. It has more than twice the square footage of our current home and the builder is opening a new section of the developement in the next month or so, which will free up some big lots to build on. Hubby and I are looking into taxes, insurance, fees, etc and will hopefully be ready to put earnest money down on a lot when the builder opens the new section. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!! I will keep you posted on the house journey as it progresses. I can't believe this may really happen. :-D

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Still Alive

Yes, I am still alive. And more importantly, so is the garden!
Last weekend, Hubby and I harvested these MONSTER cabbage heads, some wax beans, green beans and tomatoes. We used two of the heads of cabbage to make sauerkraut. We've still got one head in the fridge to make MORE sauerkraut (cuz you know, we didn't just give away a quart size jar to the Petersons), and I made Polish Golabkis (pronounced Hah-lup-key) with the other one. What's a Golabki? It's a divine stuffed cabbage roll. I LOVED the meat filling that went into these. I'm planning to use it in lots of other recipes. :-) WHY Golabkis? Hubby's family has Hungarian roots and several of the foods he ate as a child (and considers comfort food now) are Eastern European, whether it be Hungarian or Polish. Since we had the cabbages, I figured "why not try something new?" Recipe at the bottom of the post...
This weekend, we got 9 more tomatoes (with tons more still ripening on the vine), more beans, a head of iceberg lettuce, quite a bit of green leaf lettuce, our very first strawberry EVER and all kinds of things flowering.
BEANS! I am an absolute green bean fanatic (and a new wax bean fanatic), so I can't tell you how ecstatic I am with the bean "crop" coming out of my backyard! I personally like to cook my beans with a little bit of garlic salt and beef bouillon. I know it sounds crazy, but the bouillon gives it that meaty flavor that southerners love without the bacon or ham hock.
Iceberg lettuce! It's kind of funny - I don't remember planting iceberg lettuce. :-) But that is definitely what this is. Maybe there was a rogue seed? Maybe I didn't keep good records? Either way, we'll eat it!!
Our very, very first ever, in six years of planting gardens, STRAWBERRY! I can't tell you how much money has been spent on strawberry plants that went down Abbey's hatch before they ever had a chance. I personally ate this berry yesterday and it was SOOOOOOOOOOOO good! Super sweet and juicy. Unfortunately, it might be our only berry this year. None of the other plants have any flowers on them and Hubby just recently informed me that strawberries are perennial. He said that we were unlikely to get any fruit this year, but the harvest next year would be pleasing. :-( I want berries NOW!!! :-( I will try to be patient and wait for next year. In the mean-time, if I see any more flowers on the plants this year, I am going to do the world's biggest happy dance. :-)
What? Did I take a picture of a Muppet?? NO! That's one of our corn plants! Hubby is currently calling them Dwarf Corns, cuz they're only about 3 1/2 ~ 4 feet tall and they already have tassels on the tops and silk forming. :-) After it's incredibly slow start, we might actually get corn this year! So far, of the 3 corns planted, two have "flowers" with silk. The other one is considerably smaller than the other two, so hopefully it'll catch up.
Our jalapeno plant is also doing well. There's probably about 12 peppers on it right now with 2 that are near picking stage. :-)
After the RIDICULOUSLY slow start that the snowpeas had this year, I was pretty sure we wouldn't get anything from them, but today I saw several of these flowers. I'll be cautiously optimistic for now. :-) I would LOVE to get some snow peas!
SO! That's your "Farm" report for today. In place of the cabbages we picked last week, we have only planted a Poblano pepper so far. I know! I'm disappointed in us too! I have some broccoli transplants that I might try to get in the ground tomorrow. I also need to start more seeds for beans (green and wax again), radishes, carrots and maybe some more cucumbers. I'll let you know!
And now...

1 small cabbage
olive oil for drizzling
1 jar spaghetti sauce
salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the filling:
1/2 c long grain rice
1/4 c chopped mushrooms
2 T butter
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
1/2 t freshly ground nutmeg
2 t chopped fresh parsley (yes, I used garden)

1) Cook rice according to package directions. Once the rice is cooked, drain and rinse under cold water to prevent it from cooking further or clumping.
2) Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and cook until golden brown.
3) Add the pork, beef, mushrooms and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the meat is browned all over, then removed from the heat and cool slightly.
4) Bring a stock pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the whole cabbage for 10-15 minutes, or until you can insert a knife into the center easily, but the leaves are not too soft (I found it was easier to cook the cabbage evenly to put the lid slightly ajar on the pot - it trapped in the steam. Took 20 mins.). Lift the cabbage out of the water and leave to cool slightly. (I'm not real patient, so I rinsed mine in cold water until I could handle it)
5) Preheat the oven to 375. Add the rice, egg, nutmeg and parsley to the meat mixture and stir to combine well.
6) When it is cool enough to handle, separate the cabbage into individual leaves. Use the tough outer leaves to line a 13 x 9 inch pan. Drizzle with olive oil.
7) Place a spoonful of the meat mixture in the center of each of the remaining leaves, folding over the edges and rolling to form a tight package.
8) Arrange the rolls in a single layer on the oiled cabbage leaves in the dish. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the top and dot the remaining tablespoon of butter on top. Cover the dish with foil.
9) Cook in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until the rolls are tender. Serve immediately with spoonfuls of spaghetti sauce on top.
The recipe initially called for a can of diced tomatoes. Hubby and I both thought they were somewhat lacking, so we heated up some spaghetti sauce and served that over them instead. YUMMY!!!! If you want to be "authentic," skip the spaghetti sauce in the above recipe and use a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes. Trust me though...spaghetti sauce...YUM....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Part 2 of 'Whirlwind Weekends "

This past weekend, Hubby and I were amazingly honored to be named Godparents for our little nephew, Peanut. I think it shows some truth faith from Hubby's sister cuz I don't know if I'd let me raise a kid. ;-) Seriously, we were incredibly honored and proud to hold Peanut in front of the whole family and promise to do our best by him. Peanut is my first nephew and Hubby's first niece OR nephew. Hubby is very, very smitten with the little guy and already talking about fishing trips when Peanut gets older and taking him to see the New York Yankees play baseball. Peanut is currently 6 months old, so I think we have a little while till then. :-)
I'm afraid I can't post any pics of the little guy right now. I totally forgot to ask my sis-in-law for permission to put her baby on the world wide web and I have a pretty strick rule with myself about such things. Take my word for it that he is adorable and has a great big "let me eat yer face" kind of smile. Totally cute and adorable!
My own nieces, Mirney and Carebear are going to be up in Peanut's neck of the woods pretty soon. They've spent the better part of a year trying to raise money to go to a dance-camp kind of thing in New York City with their drill-team squad. They're 15 and 14, so I'm sure they're just THRILLED with hitting the Big Apple next month. I still get a thrill every time I go into the city and I hope they love it as much as I do. While they're there, they'll be taking in all the sights, going to a Broadway musical and then...OMG how exciting...they get to do a dance workshop with the Rockettes!!! I wish I could go with them just to check that out. Hopefully they take lots of pics. :-)
Anywho! Back to our crazy, whirlwind weekend! Hubby and I flew into Philadelphia around noon on Friday and immediately went to the "best beer hall in Philly" - Monk's Cafe. Most of their beers were Belgium, which I can live without, but I did find a lovely little beer that I enjoyed immensley - Philadelphia Brewing Company's "Rowhouse Red" - a very nice little "bierre da mars" - which apparently translates to Farmhouse Ale. :-) After sipping our brew and enjoying some gourmet grub, we abandoned Philly for Allentown, the home of Hubby's youth. Hubby's folks called us on the way there and told us to pick up his two crazy-fun grandmothers and meet them at the local pub for dinner. I was so seriously not even remotely hungry, but I managed to choke down a Greek salad and an iced tea. Hubby devoured two beers and a Philly cheesesteak. :-) That's my man! After dinner with Mom, Dad, Mammy, Grandma and Aunt Janet, Hubby and I went over to Aunt Janet's house to meet her two new dogs. If you remember back to the start of this blog, we took our dogs over to Aunt Janet's house at Christmas to play with her two pooches Blanca (Toy Fox Terrier) and Mocha (Cock-a-poo). Aunt Janet recently welcomed the most adorable Jack Russel Terrier (Eddie) and Pug (Dexter) into her family. We stayed over there for quite a while getting a puppy breath fix. After Janet's house, Hubby and I finally made it to Mom and Dads' and called it a night.
The next morning, we woke up early, packed our bags again and we all headed for Montrose, PA (one stoplight folks!). We stopped on the way for donuts and coffee. Donuts were Mom's idea, coffee was mine! :-) When we rolled into Montrose, we met up with our brother-in-law (Peanut's Dad, Folly) and he took us out to a friend's property on the outskirts of town to do a little pond fishing. I've never touched a fishing pole in my life and I will not lie and say I was a natural. It took me a full 30 minutes to figure how to cast the bait without killing anyone around me. Hubby and Dad did pretty well. No one caught anything worth keeping, but they seemed to catch more fish than the rest of us combined. After fishing, we went back to Sis-and Bro-in-laws house for some pizza. Folly was having a busy weekend himself. His mom was being honored by the Montrose Chamber of Commerce as the Citizen of the Year that evening and Folly was supposed to sing at the event. We stayed at their house playing with Peanut until right before the dinner, then excused ourselves back to the hotel for a little siesta and then some dinner ourselves. By the way, if you should ever find yourself in Montrose, PA you need to do two things: you need to stay at the Rosemont Inn and you need to go to The Sweet Spot - FANTASTICALLY yummy chocolate! After dinner, Hubby and I met back up with Folly and Bozo (I did NOT give my sis-in-law this nickname and I only use it because I don't like using real names on this blog). We then proceeded to paint the town of Montrose red. We hit two of the three bars before crawling back to bed at 2 a.m. The next morning, we got up, made ourselves as presentable as possible and went to the church to become Godparents. Hubby and I had no idea what to expect, as neither of us is in any way Catholic. I'm pretty sure we both look terrified in the pics.. A reception at the in-laws house followed with a parade of people (I swear it was the whole town) coming through to see the newly baptized Peanut. After everyone had gone and cleanup was through, we were back in the car and back to Allentown. :-( I would've enjoyed spending a little more time with Bozo, Folly and Peanut, but hopefully Hubby and I can get back up there another time this year. Hate to think that we won't see Peanut again until he's walking. :-(
Monday was mostly busy helping Mom and Dad mulch their flowerbeds and then flying back home. Houston was having some pretty nasty weather that night, so our plane did some circling at 20,000 feet and then ended up setting down in San Antonio for a half hour while we waited for the storms to pass. Hubby and I made it back to H-town at ten; just in time to play with the Brats, take a shower, go to bed and get up again for another week of work.
After the last two crazy weekends, I can't tell you how glad I am that we have virtually nothing planned this weekend! The garden is in desperate need of attention, so we'll likely spend most of tomorrow in the backyard. Sunday, my pseudo-niece, Smiley, is turning three and I'm planning to go to her birthday party. I bought her this really annoying toy that dances and sings. Mwa ha ha ha ha! :-)