Monday, March 31, 2014

Products I am obsessed with...

With the new year came many promises and resolutions to be healthier and more active. One resolution I had in particular was try push myself to use natural products whenever possible, and so far I have been pleasantly surprised. Here are a few of my favorites- let's take a looksee (and excuse my background photos...must keep my family pictures nearby, you know):

1) Bungalow360 bags:

I can't say enough about these faboosh bags. They're cute, inexpensive (but not cheap!), and incredibly well-made. These clever packs take a beating, friends. Made from strong canvas and water-based dyes, they are completely vegan and earth friendly. I bought the walrus print pocket tote from Amazon for around $45.00.They make a great gift as an everyday bag or a diaper bag. Love.

2) Zum Mist by Indigo Wild:

Talk about a punch in a bottle. This stuff is great as a body mist, a room spray, and to get out general stank. I keep this in my purse to spray on myself when I need a pick-me-up. It's great for freshening spaces too- especially if you drive a small car and have a large dog that gets funky in any sort of heat. They make at least 20 different scents, all with natural essential oils. Great price at $7.99, and the best part? No animal testing.

3) EOS lip balm and lotions:

A word of warning- this stuff is not your run-of-the-mill cheapie lip balm. You will start to guard this stuff with your life. When you live in Kansas, you become obsessed with lip balm because the wind is so bad. Both the lotions and the balms come in cute, round shaped containers. The products are organic and have fantastic flavors and scents (balms have flavors, lotions have scents...don't sue me for eating lotion, people). My only gripe? The purse sized lotions are a little small, so either go for the big bottle or use carefully. Again, no animal testing and its organic, so you're not cramming tons of chemicals into your body. It's a win-win.

4) Tazo "Zen" tea:

This tea has become more popular over the years thanks to Starbucks- its a great product with a fresh, springy taste. Honestly, you don't need a sweetener with this one folks- the herbs mask the "bitter" factor that some green teas have. Crisp, clear, and clean, this is a great tea for mornings or afternoons- both hot and iced.

All products are Johnson houseguest approved:

A stray named Max we found and kept for the night before we found his family in the morning. Toki was not thrilled.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

We're Coming Down to the End!

After a long month, we're getting close to the time my husband is due home. When your spouse leaves for a block of time, a few things will happen to you. You eat cereal for dinner a lot. You quit caring where dog hair ends up (including on your person). You spend a lot at the grocery store and end up with too much food that you have zero motivation to cook. In a sense, you revert back to the state you were in back in your college days.

However, my neighbors and friends have been supportive. My party ended up going VERY well- lots of people showed up, and a fun time was had by all.

However, there was one bump in the road- we couldn't get the fire going. If you have ever lived in the Midwest, the wind is a literal constant. On this night in particular, we were expected to get thundersnow and winds in excess of 40 mph (this is a normal thing...). The thundersnow never happened, but the wind sure did. After twenty minutes of failed attempts to get the fire going with dryer lint, different lighters, and newspapers, we decided it needed some kindling.

Being the brave Viking woman I am, I grabbed my husbands axe out of the garage. I took it to the backyard, completely prepared to decimate the first pitiful tree I could find. I lifted the axe, bright it down strongly on a tree branch, and it promptly ricocheted backwards, flying out of my hands.

I looked like Pauletta Bunyan.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this situation. 1) Don't try to have a bonfire in the spring in the Midwest; 2) Good friends will not judge you when you throw weaponry around your yard; and 3) sometimes its better to quit while you're ahead. Board games are often better than fires.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Struggle City

Hello all! This month has brought about a slew of adventures and challenges while my husband is away. The Army sent his unit on a training exercise, so I have about a month here by myself. No big deal- other deployments have been WAY longer, so i'm thankful. It's just me and Toki until the end of March, and the first week has already proven to be eventful. Some highlights:

1) Toki's busted paw led to a vet visit involving many booster shots and blood work. Three people were needed to hold him down and a muzzle was involved. To be fair, the vet did these procedures as fast as she could, and he needed them for his overall well-being. Have you ever heard a large dog cry? It's sad to say the least. Pilling him with antibiotics daily has been a breeze (lie)!

2) My beloved Honda decided that since my husband is away, its time to start flashing the check-engine light! Fearing I would be late for work, I jumped in my husbands truck instead, only to find that it had NO gasoline in it. Never fear! AAA is here!

3) I have become a vegetarian! It has been a fantastic experience so far. I feel amazing and my mood (and stomach) have definitely improved. It is confusing for local friends, though- they don't understand why vegetarians exist in the BBQ capital of the world. I explain that BBQ sauce is easily usable on broccoli, and they look as if they are ready to notify the local authorities.

4) I am being a faboosh neighbor and throwing a party (complete with bonfire) this weekend! Toki has a fancy new shirt to wear for it that will probably be shredded in two minutes. He tore through a busy bone in half an hour yesterday.

The busy bone that has left him not-so-busy.

5) If you pack a vacuum cleaner with dog hair, it may burst into flame.

6) Every spooky noise you hear at night will convince you that Patrick Bateman is about to jump out of your hamper.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Betty Crocker Moments

One of my greatest pleasures in life comes from taking care of my small family.

I remember when I was first married, I felt small pangs of "guilt" for enjoying my new housewife role. I am a college-educated woman! Am I betraying feminists everywhere by spending my weekend doing laundry? Am I causing the early suffragettes to spin in their graves because I actually LIKE making dinner for my husband?!

No. I have made peace with the fact that modern women do not have to choose between being educated and enjoying domestic duties. As women we need to stop shaming one another about the roles we choose. Frankly, I don't care if you are a stay-at-home mom or a corporate attorney or a mom balancing a career- if you love what you do and put your whole heart into it, you don't owe anyone an explanation.

Real talk people: I love to clean my little house. I'm proud of what my husband and I have earned. We may not have a mansion and a Mercedes, but that house, truck, and car were earned by hard work and dedication. I love the fact that I can take a few ingredients and make a wholesome meal for the people I love. This doesn't betray my education or my role as a strong female- it means I enjoy my multiple roles in life, and I am confident in who I am.

That being said, here is an amazing recipe I use for homemade bread. I love baking at home because I know exactly whats in it. You can tweak this recipe to make it a "sweeter" bread by eliminating the herbs and decreasing the salt. A word of warning tough, don't eliminate the salt completely- it leaves the bread with a very bland flavor.
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp or 2 pkg. (1/2 oz.) active dry yeast
  • 1-3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 tbsp Italian herbs
  • 1 Tbsp soft butter or margarine
  • 5 cups bread or high gluten flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp cold water
  1. In large bowl, stir together sugar, salt, cheese, herbs, yeast, and water. Stir in soft butter. Mix in enough flour to make a soft dough that can be kneaded by hand. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is soft and not sticky. Place dough in greased medium bowl and flip dough over so that the top is also lightly greased. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let set for 30 minutes in a warm, draft-free place.
  1. Grease large baking sheet. Sprinkle baking sheet with coarse cornmeal, if desired. Remove dough from bowl onto lightly floured table and divide into 2 equal parts. Roll each dough half into a 15 X 9-inch rectangle. Tightly roll dough along the 15-inch side. Pinch seams and taper the ends of each loaf. Place loaves on baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place for only 20 minutes.
  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees F. Make 3 deep diagonal slashes on each loaf. Bake bread for 20 minutes. Lightly beat egg white and cold water in small bowl. Remove loaves from oven, brush with watered egg, and return to oven for another 5 minutes. Serve bread warm or cold.
Yields 2 loaves. I freeze the extras in ziplock freezer bags, then microwave for about a minute to thaw. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sick, but happy

Hello everyone!

Apologies for not posting lately- I have been quite ill with a nasty respiratory virus. To compensate, here is my neighbors' pet crab wearing a starfish for a hat:

I'm too sexy for this fish tank...

Photo provided by my awesome neighbor Tashina Bennett whose aquarium ownership I live vicariously through!

Anywho, this illness has taught me a few things:

1) Bigelow's "Constant Comment" tea is like (better tasting...its mold, people) penicillin in a cup. This stuff will make you feel better no matter what you've got.
2) Women never stop working. Even when I was sick I still continued to cook and clean. Why do we do this to ourselves ladies? The laundry and cleaning will always be there, and our families won't starve (hopefully).
3) Short term sicknesses are a blessing in disguise. Be thankful for your body's amazing ability to fight off infection. Some people aren't so lucky.
4) Pets and husbands will cheer you up when you are down.

Happy Monday, friends!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weekend recipe! Crockpot chicken and rice

Hi everyone!
This weekend our horrible washing machine finally died. It was a long and arduous saga that included a junkyard that looked like the set of "Sanford & Son". Seriously- I was waiting for harmonicas to kick up.

Assuming that we would have a crew of soldiers helping us to move the old washer out, I made an easy crock pot meal that feeds a group of 4 or more. Tweak the ingredients if you have a larger group to feed. I also add a packet of dry ranch to give it an extra flavor.

  • 4 to 6 boneless chicken breast halves, without skin
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup converted rice, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 to 2 cups frozen green beans, thawed (broccoli works well too)
  • 1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
Put chicken breasts in the Crock Pot. Add cream of mushroom soup and 1/2 cup water. Add 3/4 cup of rice and the chicken broth. Add green beans. Add ranch packet. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours, or until chicken is cooked and rice is tender. Serves about 4.

The crock pot...inside you will find riches untold...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Toki Wartooth: Portrait of a Dog

I felt that my dog Toki warranted a post. He is an enigma.

Grape Man and I always wanted a dog. Our initial breed of choice was a bulldog, but after researching breeders, we learned that a bulldog puppy has the same going rate of establishing a small mutual fund. No thank you. Insert argument-against-buying-versus-adopting-here. Let me be clear that I don't label myself some sort of animal rights champion because we adopted a dog. This dog was $40.00, and frankly, very cute.

After a few months we found a shelter about 2 hours away from our home. Things in Kansas are VERY spread apart...i'm looking at you, Pittsburgh friends. We decided to make the trip. At this particular shelter, they put you in a small enclosed are where you can "test out" a dog (Test a dog? Interview doesn't seem applicable).
The first dog BEGGED to leave the room we were in. He cried and whined and looked out the glass door helplessly until a shelter employee suspiciously took him from us.
The second dog had enormously large dog breasts. I can't live in a house with a dog who has bigger breasts than I. Chafing on a walk was a major concern.
More dogs were brought forth. More awkward encounters.

Finally the shelter employees let us walk around the kennels to see if any of the dogs appealed to us. We saw about thirty dogs, and a big yellow head popped out of one kennel. This was a cute dog. He was also HUGE. We asked an employee if we could take him out.

"You want HIM?" she asked, "I have to warn you, he is a high-energy dog..."
"GOOD THING I AM TOUGH AS NAILS, MADAME!" I said this in my head. Not aloud.

Shortly thereafter, we were heading home with a 80+ pound sock-eating, owl-hating, stinky mystery of evolution. A vet trip informed us that he was half German Shepherd, half Anatolian Shepherd. "This dog could hold his own in a fight!" the vet exclaimed. Only in Kansas will your vet merit your dog by his toughness factor.

I am a big tough man! Just like Daddy...

His quirks include tearing down the curtains, eating (only pink) socks, staring at cows, and sneaking up next to your ear while you're sleeping and barking because he hears an owl outside. Toki, not my husband.

"I'm gonna get you, sucka..."