Thursday, March 29, 2012

I am a master gardener

You might think the title of this post is a bit of a stretch.

But let me tell you a story. And then you'll be a believer.

There once was a pumpkin.

The ugly one with warts.

Poor pumpkin.  It wasn't worthy of a fairy tale like this French Peanut pumpkin below.

What a beauty.
But this green-warted pumpkin had an advantage.  It didn't taste good.  Squirrels devoured the French pumpkin instead. It was so delicious, they risked getting on our porch with us only a few feet away.  You could hear them murmuring yummy yummy yummy.  All those starches went straight to their hips, too.

So our ugly fruit was left alone for a long time until one day, a hungry squirrel ate half of it, and left it for dead next to our front steps.

The months rolled on. A little snow (seriously, only a pathetic amount this year).  A lot of wind.  Some rain.

Poor dried out pumpkin.

Behold! What is that green seedling next to the pumpkin?

It is a pumpkin plant!

And inside the pumpkin? More seedlings!  

So while Cinderella was consumed by obese squirrels, our ugly duckling pumpkin is here for another year in the form of her children.  

A real-life fairy tale.

We planted the pumpkin carcass last night in the back yard. We'll leave the other seedlings out front (I found more than one self-planted seed).  Who knows what pumpkin-squash creatures will emerge this year (it might've been a hybrid of some sort, so its babies will be a surprise at this point), but it'll be fun no matter what.  You are now welcome to acknowledge my supremely green thumb, since there is no way these seedlings would've emerged without my lazy ass leaving the pumpkin in the front yard.  Boo-ya!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kitchen Update

We have finally finished (for now) the freezer nook in the kitchen.  It required demolition and lots of patient painting. While I usually enjoy waxing poetic for paragraphs on end, I'll give your ears (eyes) a rest and give you some photos.

Apologies to our real estate agent--this photo is a true "before" because it
was taken during the inspection.

The most beautiful desk area known to man.
 Luckily, demolition was very easy.  I was worried the flooring wouldn't continue under the cabinetry, but I worried for no reason.  That old linoleum goes to the back wall.  I had asked Ryan to take photos of the in-between stage, but he didn't, so you'll have to imagine more paneling and more yellow floor.


We will be replacing the light fixture when funds become available.


Some might ask why we didn't paint the inner trim on the windows.  Honestly, I thought the two-toned trim looked kind of cool, especially after I saw all the wood in the Ballard Designs Catalog.  

Others might wonder why I've left the ancient window treatments.  Well, it's because they fit.  They're functional.  I'm not totally offended by them, and something better be downright awful for me to spend the money right now.  I'd rather put that cash toward our new range hood (on its way!).  I'll get to new shades later.

Paint Color: Peacock Blue by Glidden Duo.  We had two coats of Kilz, then at least two coats of the blue.  This paint worked really beautifully. I've painted saturated colors before and was forced to put on 4+ coats after having primed as well.  

We have oodles more to do in this room: fireplace, cabinets, beams.  But seeing that completed nook makes my heart sing a bit.  We're on our way!

I shared this post at Domestically Speaking's Power of Paint Party, No Minimalist Here, A Creative Princess, Very Merry Vintage Style, Saved By Suzy, and Savvy Southern Style.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kindle to the Kitchen

Long have Starr and I resisted the siren call of advancing technology for the sake of the advancement. Smart phones? Got rid of them. Netbook? Got one just as they're on the decline with the rise of the tablet. 

Tablet? Nope, the simple Kindle is a sufficient consumption device. Its limitation is its strength. Nothing else about the device distracts from what you're reading.

Now, Starr once lamented to me the fact that she had no easy way to get into the kitchen with these lovely recipes she'd find all over the internets, except by killing a tree with the printer or scribbling the recipe in shorthand on the back of a discarded envelope, which would necessitate repeat visits back to the computer to figure out what the heck she actually meant. 

The issue was forgotten for a while, then recently, I happened to be installing the Kindle Cloud app for Chrome so I could read the Hunger Games books (which Starr had already devoured) on my Netbook. Whilst searching, I spotted an app called Send to Kindle that was rated higher than the official Kindle app. 

Intrigued, I looked closer. Send to Kindle is a magnificently simple plug-in that lets you highlight text on any web page and shoot it to your Kindle instantly in a nicely-formatted document. I tested it out with Starr's Kindle account, and it worked so easily she actually started using it right away for recipes. Now, Starr hates things that are unnecessarily complicated, inelegant, or just plain sloppy, so the fact that she will use this is a testament to its excellence.

These dinner rolls are fantastic!
If you've got a Kindle and, like us, refuse to buy any actual computing device simpler than a laptop, or if you want to keep your $5mil iDevice away from grease splatters and wayward spices, here are some comprehensive instructions, courtesy of a technical writer I know who specializes in such things (UPDATED!):

  1. In Chrome, open a new tab and at the bottom of the page, click Apps.
  2. Click Chrome Web Store.
  3. Use the search box at the top left of the page to search for Kindle.
  4. In the list, find the application called Send to Kindle, then click the blue + ADD TO CHROME button (don't worry, it's free!). 
  5. Agree to all of the little dialog boxes that pop up, and a blue K icon will appear in the upper right corner of Chrome. 
  6. Right click on the blue K icon, and select Options.
    Disregard the instructions on this page --they're outdated and wrong. Read on
  7. In a new tab, log in to your Amazon account and go to your Kindle management page. 
  8. On the left side, find the section called Your Kindle Account. Click the link in that section called Personal Document Settings.
  9. At the end of the Personal Document Settings list, click the link called Add a new approved e-mail address, and add
    That's it for your account settings. 
  10. Make a note of your kindle's email address; you'll need it for the next step.
  11. Go back to the Send to Kindle Options tab, and in the email address section, type your kindle email address.
    Also, pay attention to all that stuff about 3G data charges if you have a 3G Kindle. Make sure you put in the right email domain.
  12. Ignore the other settings, unless any of them sound good to you. They're pretty self-explanatory, I think.
  13. Scroll down until you see SAVE, then click that.
You're all set! To send text to your Kindle:
  1. On any website, highlight the text you want to send. 
  2. Click the blue K icon. A message pops up to confirm you sent the text to your Kindle. As soon as you turn on wifi and let it sync, your Kindle will download the text.
Okay, so maybe that was a little complex to set up, but once you've got it done, it works brilliantly.

Brilliantly, I tell you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Building a Pantry - A Story of Reuse

You may recall from the Demolition! post that I removed -- with substantial help from a neighbor/friend, under the watchful eye of Starr -- a cabinet and chunk of counter top to make room for a new range. The cabinet was unceremoniously tossed into the garage to await its fate (when I decide what that should be -- ideas?), but I saved the doors to correct something that had nagged me for a while.

That infernal, unfinished, gaping hole above the oven. Like a festering boil on our increasingly-attractive kitchen, it steadfastly refused to present us with any option other than to destroy it completely, from orbit. With nukes, just to be sure.

The plan was to take those doors and make 'em fit over the hole. Some quick measuring told me the plan was effin' brilliant would work, so I made it so.

Source doors, destination location. This photo was taken before we even moved in.
Keep reading for an explanation as to why.
Now, like an aggressively manly scorpion covering that ill-advised tattoo of your high-school girlfriend's name on your left shoulder (you know who you are), the doors now cover the hole.

I also corrected the alignment of the doors above, so it all lines up nice-like.
Perfectly, I might add. Perfectly

Well, perfectly after I employed a bit of creative woodworking with a planer and a hacksaw. Like so many things, it looks best from the outside. It needs a bit of finishing and shelving before I won't cringe every time I open it, but at least now I don't cringe every time I glance in that direction.

I have an awful, AWFUL habit of failing to take before photos. Once assigned inspired,  I tend to flollop around like a puppy on meth until the job is finished. So, that's why the first photo is from almost a year ago. 
Speaking of finishing, did you happen to catch what was hiding at the back of the cabinet in that last photo? If not, here's a close-up for you.

There's a troll back there. Staring at you. Daring you to cover his peeping hole.
Yes. That appears to be a hole-within-the-hole, and it seems to have been "sealed" in the past with a cunning application of paper grocery bag and duct tape. I think I can do better with fiberglass tape and a tub of spackle. But that's a project for another day. Stay tuned. Or don't. I wouldn't, if you're only waiting for my next post, that is.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sweet! Local milk.

I think I've already told y'all we are lucky in Kansas City to have access to a local dairy: Shatto.  The milk comes in half-gallon (or smaller) glass jugs, and you have to pay a $2 deposit for each bottle.  But you get it back when you return the jug to the store.  I love that they re-use the bottles, and the milk is delicious.

Recently, they produced a special flavored milk.  Cotton Candy milk.  Limited edition.  To be honest, I wasn't that interested in that particular taste, but limited edition anything will catch my eye (Limited edition emu jerky?  I'm in.  Limited edition parachute pants with little gold ribbons?  Oh, yeah).  When I saw the Facebook post showcasing the milk's release a few weeks ago, I HAD TO HAVE IT.

I first went to the Hyvee in Mission, KS.  Nothing but an empty shelf.  I asked the manager when the milk would be delivered next, and he had to track down the dairy manager, who then said Thursday around lunch.  Sadly, I had other plans that Thursday and could not stalk the milk man.  This entire exchange took ten minutes.  I'm sure the manager thought I was a little nuts.  (Of course he's right about that)

I then went to the SunFresh in Kansas City, MO (cheaper food taxes anyway).  Not there either.  However, they did have Root Beer milk.  It was surprisingly delicious, and I don't like root beer at all.  The kids loved it, and Ryan enjoyed it with a splash of whiskey.  Or many splashes.

At this point, my quest was feeling kind of dumb.  I hate cotton candy, why should I try to find milk flavored like the world's worst fair food (speaking of, I could really use a corn dog right now, smothered with mustard, too hot to eat)? That didn't stop me from mentioning it to Ryan when he went to the store today.  And guess what?  He found it.

Yes, it's blue.  Yes, it coordinates well with the green freezer and blue walls.  And yes, it is the sweetest concoction you'll ever taste.

I think I'll stick with the root beer milk when I'm looking for a dairy treat, but I'm so glad Ryan found it. Otherwise, I'd be green (blue) with envy that others tried it without me.

And to those waiting on the kitchen, we are so close to finishing the walls.  The freezer has been moved in, filled with beef, and now we have some trim work to do.  (Just remember that painting jewel tones takes work.  Painting over dark trim also requires lots of coats.)  You'll either love it or hate it.  Personally, I'm ready to marry the kitchen walls because they're that awesome.  Sorry to keep my super-fans waiting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kitchen Art, Take One

Since we are nearing completion of the 1st half of our kitchen makeover (really, I'd say it's about 2/3 of it--we will only have the cabinets left to paint, but that feels like it's going to take a million years), I thought we needed to think about art for the walls.  So I headed to Target to buy a copy of that Sistine Chapel picture everyone has on their walls.  You know, the one with the two hands meeting in the heavens?  Or maybe I wanted a picture of Audrey Hepburn since that is sure to be unique.

And I died a little inside.

Seriously, folks, you can get great stuff on Etsy.  Some of it might not be worthy of an art museum, but remember what I said about primitive art?  It has character, lots more than some of the stuff you'll find at the big box stores.

A lot of it, though, is actually professional and gorgeous, so I snapped up a few pieces last week.  My first shipment arrived today.

I ordered the artichoke print from Laura Trevey's shop.  Laura's blog is quite lovely, so I knew her work would be pretty. It's affordable, too!  As a bonus, she included the crab print.  How fitting since I am a Cancer through and through.  Not *that* kind of cancer, you meanies!  But a born-in-July Cancer who loves my home, enjoys cooking for people, and also wants to be invited to everything even if I plan on enthusiastically declining.  Anywho, I'll find a place for both these babies in the kitchen after I've framed them.

I've got more on the way, too, from another artist. It you say...decidedly different.  Can't wait to share once it's arrived!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring is Here

Did you know there's a very depressing song by Rodgers and Hart called "Spring is Here"?  There's this one line, "Maybe it's because nobody loves me"...gets me every time.  Look it up if you love old show tunes.  This one's a keeper.

But talking about pity-party, woe-is-me music is not what I'm here to do today.  Instead, I gotta tell ya something.  We've been very busy.  Busy doing what?

Getting bitten by chiggers (I'll spare you photos).

Painting in preparation for the arrival of our 1/4 cow this upcoming weekend.

Willing the lettuce to grow (speaking of Broadway shows, why can't I be blessed like Daisy in On a Clear Day, You can See Forever?  I want to be able to read my plants Walter Lippmann and watch them come shooting through the soil.  I also wish I could sing like Barbra, but I was told by one choral director in high school that I have a small voice and could never be more than a church choir star.  Sigh. Truth hurts.).

So where was I?

Oh, yeah, working in the yard.

Post-fence-removal, pre-garden.

Just about ready for plants.

We're using a no-dig, no-till method of gardening.  We have quasi-raised beds that we filled in by following a method called sheet composting, or lasagna gardening.  It involves composting right in the garden bed, layering the green and brown goodies (kind of like building a lasagna!) right there rather than in a pile in the back of the yard.  You're supposed to start in the fall, but since we weren't ready then to do that, we augmented our first few layers of stuff with a top layer of garden soil.  

You can see our lovely wood walkways, constructed using scrap wood we had lying around.  We have a few more planks to tuck in so I can get to all the plants without stepping on the soil.

Disclaimer: I've never done this in the garden. Growing up, we mulched and sometimes poured fish poop in the garden, but otherwise, we just planted stuff and waited for it to grow. This year, I've gone kind of crazy trying to figure out the best method.  Our chances of success? I'll guess they're between 0% and 100%.  That's a goal I can believe in.

And remember my little lettuce?

The size of a whole Quarter!!

Despite our crappy, cracked dirt, lettuce is growing.  And since it's supposed to rain for three days starting this afternoon, it should be quite happy (lettuce loves water) as long as it doesn't get washed or blown away (a definite possibility). 

Readers, be ready for some more interesting updates soon.  We're finishing work in the kitchen soon.  Paint and more paint.

Sunday, March 11, 2012




Magical complete-process GIF!
Excuse the questionable quality, but hey, GIF!

Shared at Type A Decorating, A Bowl Full of Lemons.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cue the sappy music

This is a love story.  It involves longing looks, proclamations of everlasting devotion, drunken late-night phone calls with the inevitable voice messages filled with questions like "Why don't you ever call ME?"  and "What exactly ARE we?  Dating?  Talking?  Married with three kids?" and "Does this smart phone make me look fat?" and "I only said I love you because I really wanted one of the cookies you were baking.  I mean, I do love you, but you know, um, it's like-love, not love-love.  Unless you love me back.  And in that case, why haven't you proposed yet?".


I'm getting my story confused with someone else's.  Her name is Sky.  His name is Bryan. Oops.

I actually want to show you my favorite gardening tool.  Wait! Don't leave yet.  It's worth a look.  Or should I say They're worth a look.

My mom sent these gloves to me a few months ago.  They're the best I've ever owned.  That doesn't really mean much since I usually buy the 50 cent clearance gloves while I'm checking out at the garden store, and those last about 2 trips outside before disintegrating, but seriously, these new gloves are great.  They protect the wrist and part of your arms, which is great when you're dealing with the spiked vines from hell, sticks, logs, rocks, broken toilet lids (don't ask), rotten wood, compost, and even dirty diapers (just kidding).

The magic ingredient.

Anyway, we're already living together.  It's been a whirlwind romance.  Clear the month of June and expect your invitation soon.

P.S. A month ago, I threw some lettuce seeds in the ground because I read that even if it takes forever, lettuce will germinate at cold temps almost 100% of the time.  I also wanted to test our soil (which you can see ain't that great).  Well, here are a few tiny seedlings.

Damn, that soil needs work.  It's got more wrinkles than my face despite regular watering (which lettuce definitely requires).  Maybe the gloves will help it out. I'll allow it, although I might get jealous.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We've been awarded!

The blogging world can be quite generous, especially with things that don't cost anything.  Like blog awards.

I've been awarded a couple in the past six months--you haven't heard about them because they take work to accept.  You usually can't just say "Yes, I am that awesome, thank you very much."  Instead, the award must be passed along to another blogger or fifty.  That's where I've gotten hung up.  Most of the blogs I frequent are quite well recognized, and who the hell am I, anyway?  If I try to bestow an award on someone, would she just laugh at me, pat my head like a good dog, make disdainful remarks about my country fashions, and then turn back to her engaging conversation with Willoughby?

It's been too long, though, and I'm ready to return the love even if it means risking my social capital.  In the case of Ashley and the Versatile Blogger Award she gave me in...October...I've had this nagging feeling for months that I'm a rude ninny for not doing anything with it.

There are some rules to follow:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave the award to you. 
2. Share seven things about yourself. 
3. Send the award to three additional new/newer/newish blogs - someone who hasn't received the award before. 

7 Things About Me

1. I hate talking about myself. 
2. I always tell the truth (see #1).
3. I won a gold medal for the National Latin Exam in 8th grade.
4. I had three kids because I read somewhere that 3 was the new 2.  (see #2)
5. I think low fat mayonnaise and sour cream are abominations.  And don't get me started on fat-free cream cheese.
6. I willingly purchased a minivan two years ago.  I even kind of like it.
7. I almost named my eldest Valentine after the Man from Mars in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.  Yes, I adore science fiction.

Things about me that didn't make the cut:
1. I have a long lost cousin in Nigeria who has millions of dollars to send me and just needs me to cash this check (which is printed on cabbage, is that weird?) and send him the proceeds and then he'll give me his fortune. It's on my to-do list.
2. I am the top content contributor for
3. I do an awesome attitude lift at Jazzercise.  Seriously, I'm *that* good.
4. I once didn't pass along a chain letter (very similar to a blog award, I might add) and grew an extra finger.

Now I have to give this award to three new blogs who haven't been recognized before with this particular prize.  That means I can't just turn back around and tell Ashley she's versatile, too (she really is, though!  She's working on her bathroom AND tapping her maples for sap this week. How's that for versatility?).

The real problem, though, is that I've actually received another award recently!  Meg from Nutmeg Place has bestowed the Liebster Award on the Kiefer Cottage.  It's also for newish blogs that are diamonds in the rough (yes, me and Aladdin).  I'm supposed to share the love with five other blogs now.

I had a few in mind and then noticed that several have not posted in months.  Lots of people start blogs and don't keep up with them (::raises hand::), and I don't want to send you to a site with entries from November. I do have a pal, though, who just started one. She doesn't have any followers, per se, except on facebook.  So head on over to...

Balancing My Kitchen by my high school friend Melody.  She actually tries to make healthy food contrary to the indulgence you'll find over here.  Her blog is brand spanking new.  Anywho, happy Liebster Award to Melody!

We'll see what pops up over the next few weeks to see if I can spread more blog love.  But as I am but a bug in the wide world of the webs, I'm not sure anyone will be butthurt that I haven't recognized more greatness.  If you are, please accept my apologies. You're awesome.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Garden Challenge

In a recent KC Star article, a challenge was issued for people to live on their hypothetical food stamp allocation for a week.  The amount?  $4.50/person/day.  For our family, that'd be $157.50 for a week's worth of groceries.  The challenge also included a push to donate the remaining money left in your normal food budget to a local charity.

I wanted to participate. The big issue?  Our grocery budget is already that low.  We average $125/week.  Before you tell me that my little kids don't cost me that much because they weigh less than 35 lb a piece, let me remind you that they eat more than I do at some meals.  My son can pack down a chicken breast, a load of veggies, and some rice in one sitting, and he's only 14 months old.  Sure, they're not teenagers yet (thank goodness for that), but these kids eat a lot of food!

Anywho, since I couldn't participate in this particular challenge in a meaningful way,  I tried to come up with a fun spin for the Kiefer Cottage.  And it came to me last night after I had been talking to the broccoli seedlings in the basement.

We're going to grow as much food as we can on our little plot this summer.  Why not donate all the money we *don't* spend at the grocery store to a charity we believe in?

Ryan and I support Heifer International. For Christmas this year, we decided to take all of the money allocated toward gifts for the adults in our lives and give it to this charity. We spent the same we would have on gifts. And we'll give some more with this new gardening plan.

Why am I talking about this now instead of in the summer?  'Cause I'd like you to consider joining me!   And right now is the best time to start digging up beds, starting seeds, or least making a plan (for those in colder climates).


Clean out that unused space and get your compost pile started!

In progress.


Say Bye-bye to the invasive vines (damn morning glories!!).

In progress.

Dust off the gardening equipment and start digging, shifting, working, moving, rolling.

In progress.
Before anyone says it, I know that gardening is not necessarily cheap.  Getting started can be downright expensive, especially if you don't have *any tool* to begin with.  Use Craigslist, trashpiles, bartering with neighbors... do your best.

So you may not save a lot of money once you take all the start-up costs into consideration.  But we've decided that we're not counting our gardening expenses toward the grocery totals this summer.  Seems a little too nit picky, and while we're always pinching pennies, I'd prefer to fall on the more generous side of the line than worry about whether that tomato was actually "free" or cost me $40 in soil, tools, and water.

Ryan here. So where's the leaping cow charity come in to play? Every week, we'll have a look at what we saved on groceries because we pulled it out of our own garden, and we'll toss that money at the Heifers (we'll calculate based on a budget of $150/week for food). This is a risky plan as we've never gardened in this climate or soil before and there's a very real chance our gardens will produce nothing but weeds and pretty but inedible perennial flowers whose bulbs we failed to dig up.

The labor is only nearly back-breaking (if it truly broke our backs, where would we be, hmm?), and what fails to put us in the ground makes us more strapping, so my back is now carved from stone. So there's that benefit, too, apart from the smug satisfaction warm fuzzies we get from buying a baby goat for a family in Côte d'Ivoire.

Now, on to our invitation to join. You may notice a cool little gadget on the right hand pane toward the bottom. It's a direct link to donate to Heifer International, and you should use it (if you do not already participate in charitable giving). If you don't, we encourage you to support one of the other many worthwhile charities out there. It's quite easy to find one that fights whatever it is that makes you angry about the world. Heifer is a natural for the Kiefer-Aarons because we love food so very, very much (and if that's news to you, you must be new around here, so please say hi!). The thought of people going hungry in the world when we live in such relative abundance just breaks our hearts.

With that in mind, we commit to donating *at least* a goat ($120) to Heifer International by the end of August, even if our garden doesn't save us one penny.  I hope you'll join us in your own way.
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