Have a Good Weekend

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This weekend we are preparing our front lawn for buffalo grass. After several years of drought, losing a large tree, and choosing not to water our front lawn, we are left with stickers and thistles that seem to grow another foot taller each week.  Over the next few weeks we will be tilling, weeding, seeding, and watering. Our goal is a no-mow, no-water front lawn.  Here’s a little round up of what I’ve been reading/listening to this week:

How to add buffalo grass.

This fruit made me laugh.

Inspiration for the garden.

Making playlists for cows.

My favorite This American Life to date.

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The Down and Dirty on my Garbage

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This month I’ve been focusing on reducing waste in the kitchen as I read through Zero Waste Home. While I’ve made great strides, I’ve also hit several road blocks.

First, I can’t find a place to buy package-free bulk. Each week this month I’ve explored a new store with my mesh produce bags and my canvas bulk bags. After exhausting all of my options (small town, I know) the only bulk, package free products I can find are coffee and soap.  Although I’m disappointed, there is encouragement in this cool info-graphic that states that if Americans bought their coffee in bulk bins for one month, then 20,000,000 lbs. of foil packaging would be saved from landfills.

Second, the City of Abilene only accepts #1 and #2 plastics for recycling. Yikes! This creates a cycle of only being able to find packaged products, then not being able to recycle the packaging.  On a positive note, Ian loves getting “toys” out of the recycling bins.

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My solution for now is to do my very best to buy products sold in cardboard, glass, and biodegradable bags.  I’m also committing to cut out pre-prepared frozen veggies and fruits and freeze my own when they are in season (and on sale).  In addition, any #3-7 plastics that we cannot avoid will be saved and recycled when we travel to a city that has recycling in place.

Another road block comes in the form of composting. While we have a robust composting system, we also have a healthy team of rodents waiting at the ready for a midnight snack.  We have a closed composter and a ruthless cat, but composting meat scraps is not an option for us. When you’ve had an invasion of rats the size of opossums (plus a opossum invasion), you’ll do anything you can to not ever have one again!  In order to reduce kitchen waste that cannot be recycled, we are reducing the amount of meat we consume each week. Tasty composting scraps with a healthy side of dryer lint went into the bin today.

photo-7I’m open to learning about more resources in my area as I continue on this journey.   My number one resource for package-free food right now seems to be in my own backyard.

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Bringing the Barn Inside

Stephanie's Kitchen-0001

When we took down our barn things didn’t go as planned. The plans were to carefully salvage each weathered barn board for future projects (reclaimed lumber is so hot right now, am I right?) and use the original frame and roof and to rebuild with new siding.

Peeling the Roof Back

Between the roof, the siding, and the frame the only boards that didn’t crumble in our hands were four 3 foot long pieces from the interior stall door. Long story short: no new barn because of building expense.

No More Barn
I kept those boards for several years against my purging nature just in case the right project came along.  Now I’m so glad I did.

Stephanie's Kitchen-0007

After the rest of the kitchen was finished, the space next to the fridge looked empty. We added brass brackets and topped them off with three of the surviving boards (sanitized, of course).

The space has been great for housing our mugs and a bonus for cookbooks too (anyone else still obsessed with this book?).  It’s  amazing how three little boards can add so much history, character, and storage to our new kitchen.

Sources: White Mugs-West Elm, Floral Mugs-Anthropologie, Brass Hardware-Schoolhouse Electric, Brackets-West Elm

Kitchen Photo Credit: Kim Hawkins

Here We Goat Again!

I have a very special announcement to make: after years and years of me begging and pleading, I finally am able to share that we are expanding our family with a couple of kids. Goats, that is!  Stay tuned for the gender reveal later on this spring.

I’m already crazy about them and I don’t even know them yet. I have secret plans to let them snuggle with Rufus in the living room to watch Friends reruns when they’re sick like the goat in this touching story. Please don’t let Jeff know about this!

After all, we do have a history of taking in animals (literally).

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Here is a brief history of our ever growing family:

IMG_1981First there was Rufus, our gentle and devoted giant. Then one spring day I came home with six chickens, the Royal Family, when I was authorized for two.

image_1 After that George and Elaine joined our troops when their mom abandoned them.  We miss you terribly George.

IMG_1897And the cutest of all, this little dude joined us last May and has been bugging Rufus ever since.

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This weekend I will be baking wedding cakes for The Prickly Pear Bakery, but you can be sure I will be daydreaming about goats the whole time!  I hope your daydreams are as good as mine.

Putting Down the Plastic

Reusables in the KitchenI just started reading the Zero Waste Home book this month and realized I have a big problem: plastic dependency.  My head started swimming when I realized how much plastic I use and that when recycled, many plastics can only be reformed one time! Not only that but I read about the estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic that occupy each square mile of ocean. I love the ocean and I’ve been filling it with plastic.  Where have I been?  This is huge!IMG_4546In order to learn to cut out my plastic addiction, I’m reading Zero Waste Home one section at a time and using the friendly shopping guide and tips to help me along the way.  This month I’m focused on the kitchen, which includes grocery shopping and food storage.  Already I have a few good habits: I don’t buy plastic water bottles or use disposable plates and cups for parties, and I use reusable shopping bags.  Also, we have a composter and a recycling system that we could be better about actually using.  And of course there is the wonderful garden that gives us lots of waste-free organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs.IMG_3008_2However, here is a condensed list of things I am changing this month:

  • Kicking my K-Cup Habit and replacing the disposables with a stainless reusable K-Cup insert.
  • Saying goodbye to sandwich and freezer bags and replacing them with airtight glass containers for the pantry, freezer, fridge, and on the go.
  • Bulk buying from health food stores with reusable canvas bags. Everything from coffee to rice to flour goes in these nifty bags.
  • Taking mesh produce bags to the store instead of putting my produce in the plastic sacks provided.
  • Ramping up our composting and recycling action (although recycling more is not the goal of the Zero Waste Home, it is definitely a start).

There is so much more in the book to wrap my mind around and plastics are not the only culprit.  Already my trash can fills up more slowly, and maybe I can work towards not needing one at all.  image-19After all, taking responsibility for the products I use and their impact on the environment hopefully contributes to a better and cleaner ocean (and world) for this little guy.

Happy Friday

The past two weeks were filled with adventures of snow and ice. It’s been fun winter, but this weekend we are doing some spring planting. Kale, spinach, chives, chard, and onions are going in at least until the chickens pull them back out.

They’ve been using our deck as their personal resort (and bathroom).  At least someone is making use of the deck during these cold winter months.  Have a good weekend!

New Kitchen Reveal

of=50,590,442Before we moved into this house, the kitchen already had a lot of charm.  She was a retro-meets-the-farm kind of kitchen, and who wouldn’t love such an adorable blend?  The problem with retro is that when a kitchen is authentically vintage there is a lot of wear and tear that goes along with the “vibe” because kitchens are hard working ladies.  In order to afford a complete overhaul, we took it slow and over five years made the kitchen into what she is today.

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We kept the layout of the kitchen the same in order to not have to mess with re-plumbing gas and water lines.  However, the wall between the kitchen and living room pictured above was the first thing to go so we could maximize our living space.  The fridge swung over to where the garage door was on the right, next to the stove.

IMG_0029After we took the wall out, we saved our pennies and put travertine in the kitchen, living room, hallway, and front bedroom.  Our main plan was to salvage the original floors, but the wood floors under the carpet were not repairable and the kitchen had a sub-floor that didn’t match the rest of the house.  We also scraped and painted the kitchen cabinets, took off the upper doors, and added new hardware.  For a while we were finished with the kitchen and happy with it too.  We even hatched a little bakery in the space.

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As you can tell from the picture above, some serious pie baking happened in this space.  And wedding cakes, and Christmas cookies, and mini pies, and cute little bundt cakes, and on and on.  But time marches on, and the ceilings were saggy and the cabinets were chippy, and so we took the plunge to work with a great contractor and have our ceilings and kitchen refinished.

IMG_2283If you ever think your house needs airing out, this is the way to go.  Spring was in the air and our house smelled like dew covered meadows.  Our outdoor cat, George, found that he could hop the rafters from the garage into the house, and he liked it.  I was in my third trimester with baby Ian at the time and didn’t appreciate the outdoorsy feel along with the sixty-year-old dust, so we moved out for a while.  We ordered and assembled the cabinets and our contractor installed them.  He also did the ceilings, but we called Roger and my parents for help with the finishing touches including the tile back splash and open shelving.IMG_2999

Our kitchen was packed away for a total of six months for the renovation.  There were tons of breaks.  Wedding cakes were made, pregnant ladies were stuck in Ikea cabinet bases, parties were hosted, babies were born (just one, really cute babe), seasons of House of Cards were conquered.  I’m really embarrassed by the sheer number of visitors we had in our home after Ian was born who saw the kitchen “in-progress.”  I’m making a public vow not to undergo remodeling-while-pregnant again.  We’ll see if I can keep my own promise.  So here is our final five-years-in-the-making kitchen with lovely photos by Kim Hawkins (thanks Kim!).

View More: http://kimhawkinsphotography.pass.us/stephanies-kitchen

View More: http://kimhawkinsphotography.pass.us/stephanies-kitchen

View More: http://kimhawkinsphotography.pass.us/stephanies-kitchen

Stephanie's Kitchen-0001

Hardware and lighting Schoolhouse Electric.   Cabinets, farmhouse sink, faucet, and range hood Ikea.  Shelf brackets West Elm.