Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free Noodles!

No, sorry – I'm not giving away a coupon for a free lunch here...

What I wanted to share was that last night I used my new (free) membership to our local FreeCycle group to score some free pool “noodles”!

(Our noodles, however, did not come with a little boy as pictured here. 
Thank god, because I have no idea where I'd store one of those.)

FreeCycle is like Craigslist but it’s only for giving away completely free stuff. No bartering, no strings attached – just straight up FREE. It’s not first-come, first-served because that causes people to waste time and gas by traveling somewhere to pick up an item that may no longer still be there. After joining your local FreeCycle group, you either place ads for stuff that you want to get rid of (for free) or respond to ads that others have posted.

From the FreeCycle website: “By giving freely with no strings attached, members of The Freecycle Network help instill a sense of generosity of spirit as they strengthen local community ties and promote environmental sustainability and reuse.”

So in the spirit of keeping things out of landfills and saving money at the same time, I responded to someone’s ad for pool noodles and some small boogie boards. He put them out on his porch for me and I picked them up last night.

I have to say that it was a bit strange to just pull into someone’s driveway, walk up to their house, take stuff off of their porch and then drive away! But kind of awesome!

And the benefit to being part of a FreeCycle group that’s specific to my section of town is that I'll never have to drive very far to pick up my free goodies. (Maybe not quite so true in the more rural areas of the country, but here in the DC area there are tons of neighborhood-specific FreeCycle groups.)

Want to find one near you? Go to FreeCycle.org and search for one where you live!

Monday, April 19, 2010


It has been almost 8 long months since we signed the paperwork to get a pool put in our backyard...and today, the pool was FINALLY finished.


We awoke at 7 am to find the crew on our property, preparing the pool for its plaster finish. The guys were super nice, seemed very knowledgeable and did an excellent job. Five hours later, the pool was complete! (Well, minus the water. We're working on that part as we speak....er, write.)

And with that, I leave you....our pool.

See more images in the sidebar where the album of pool construction photos are!

Friday, April 16, 2010

W-E-E-K-E-N-D, it's weekend!

This week Eric continued to work outside in the yard every evening after work, with me pitching where I could be of use. In digging out the ZGW (Zen Garden Walkway) he ended up with lots of displaced dirt, which he piled up next to the pool deck so that there isn't such a terrible drop-off any more. The one large area has been turned into our wildflower patch. Although it doesn't look like much now, we hope that it will look AWESOME a month or two from now. (Fingers crossed!)

Last night I built a low stone wall in front of the landscaping that leads up to the shed. Building those are my specialty around our yard! Just as with laying the stones down in the ZGW, it's like a game of Tetris to me. Then I laid down some grass seed in front the shed and put up some "fencing" to keep Tater out of there. (See the terrible shape the shed is in? Tater looooves peeing on it.) That's a project for another day. Or year at this point.

On Wednesday night I used our leftover rice from the Chinese food we'd ordered the night before to make a curry rice with carrots, peas, raisins, and almond slivers, plus tofu and onion that we'd purchased from Arganica. We used to buy garlic naan (Indian bread) from Trader Joe's, but I decided to try the recipe in my bread book for curry naan with raisins in it and it was fantastic. (Sara - you and I are going to have an Indian dinner some night and we're going to make this! Yummmm!)

Tonight while Eric was outside working on the ZGW, I looked up a recipe for brownies from scratch - which unbelievably, I had never made before - and whipped some up for our dessert! A half recipe, 10 servings, contained 1 cup of sugar and 2 sticks of butter, amongst other things. Sweet baby Jebus. But who knows what the hell is in the boxed mixes in the store...so I'd rather be reminded that what I'm eating is not exactly healthy so that I can (try to) stop myself from finishing off the entire pan in one sitting. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Breaking Ground on the ZGW

Screw spring! Here in Northern Virginia, we're apparently fast-forwarding right to summer. Yesterday it got to 90 degrees (that's 31 degrees Celsius for my European readers!) and today and tomorrow the forecast is in the mid-80's again. After a long streak in the 70s, it really does feel like summer!

Of course, at the end of this week, it's supposed to dip back down to normal (in the 60s)...just in time for them to FINALLY come do some work on our pool.


Or so they say. But I have been led to believe that by the end of next week, we may have a completed pool. Holy crap! Pictures will be posted, trust me.

I've been making lots of new things from scratch recently: ravioli, baguettes, gnocchi, and danishes. (My kitchen is heaven for carb lovers!) I didn't manage to get a photo of the gnocchi but you'll just have to trust me: they look like gnocchi. Here are some photos of the ravioli and one of the baguettes, which I made with two of my lovely friends, Sara and Eliza:

 The wine is from a Virginia winery, too! So yummy.

And here are the apple and golden raisin danishes that I made for my friend Amber's Easter brunch:

Nooooo, absolutely no butter was used to make these at all. None.

I had made the dough for the danishes a week ago and froze it, so on Sunday I "only" had to roll it out, shape the danishes, let them rise, make the filling, fill them and bake them. But other than that, recently cooking has taken a back seat to working outside the house.

I took Friday off of work and between Friday morning and Sunday night we:
  • planted the dormant plants we had purchased at Meadows Farms
  • had something like 4 tons of rock and rock dust delivered to our driveway for the walkway I designed for the back yard
  • started the aforementioned walkway, which we have named the ZGW (Zen Garden Walkway)
  • stained the entire deck (two coats = ugggghhhhhh torture).
The entire time, I could only think about two things:
  1. How I'm wearing my crappy Working Outside Clothes while covered in dirt/paint/sweat all weekend while other people are enjoying the lovely weather doing lovely things like riding bikes along the lovely W & OD trail path or sipping refreshing drinks while sitting on lovely patios; and
  2. This had all better be worth it.

But really - life is good. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to create this little bit o' back yard paradise and I'm really excited to see how it all turns out! It's a lot of hard work but it's rewarding when we see the progress we're making.

Check out the photos in the side bar to see what we've done so far...