Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan

Okay! After surveying our vegetable delivery for this week, and perusing the fridge, freezer and pantry, I am FINALLY done with the menu plan for this week.

(my apologies for the bad iPhone pic)
This is my Arganica delivery this week: spinach, baby spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, ramps, strawberries (we have already eaten these!) asparagus, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and apples.

Sloppy Joes with beef, onions and green peppers
Spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts with honey

Tostadas with refried beans and roasted green peppers, tomatoes and avocado
Corn on the cob

Tuesday: (has to be a quick meal because we have small group)
Chicken mushroom stroganoff with whole grain penne pasta
Spinach salad with roasted red peppers

Grilled tuna steaks with teriyaki sauce
Garlic bread

Grilled chicken shish kabobs with green peppers, red onion, pineapple and cherry tomatoes
Served over brown rice
Roasted mushrooms with spinach
Ice cream

Grilled steaks
Mashed maple sweet potatoes
Garden salad with cucumbers and tomatoes

Pulled pork sandwiches
Baked beans
Steamed broccoli

How Arganica Works

Last year, I decided we need to make more of an effort to eat healthier and more responsibly. 
Then, I fell off the wagon, because the frugal voice in my head spoke louder than the "eat healthy" voice in my head.

I'm back on the responsible eating/organic bandwagon.

Last week, I ordered a crate from Arganica.  Arganica is a farm club that brings local and organic produce and other items right to your doorstep.  They serve the DC area, and other parts of Virginia, I think.  If you don't live in Virginia, do a google search for local CSAs, and you might be able to find something similar in your area. You sign up for a membership ($20 a month) and then, as often as you want, you can order a crate to be delivered to your door.  Depending on where you live, the delivery will either be on Thursday or Sunday.  For us, it's Sunday mornings.

It pretty much feels like Christmas morning when you open your door first thing on Sunday morning and see this on your doorstep.

Note: When you order, you pay a deposit for the box, the liners that keep your items refrigerated, and if you order milk, the glass bottle.  You simply put them back in the box and set it out the next Saturday night, and when they are returned, Arganica will credit the deposits back to your account.

Last week was the first time I ordered milk.
The milk is from Homestead Creamery.  This is particularly exciting for me, because I used to live not that far from the creamery, and I remember my roommate's school kids (she was a teacher) going on a field trip there, and doing stories about the creamery at the local news station where I worked.

Who doesn't love milk in a glass bottle?  I do! I also love it, because it takes me back to one of my favorite old family pictures of all time.
That's me looking into my cup.  And that is my "little" brother with the awesome belly and leg rolls. This is seriously my favorite picture of him EVER.  It ALWAYS makes me laugh so hard!

Anyway. Back on topic.  Here's the contents of my crate last week.
I ordered the "Local only" crate, which is $40.00, plus the milk, which was $3.99 for half a gallon.  With my deposits, my order was about $50.00.

Remember - this is ALL LOCAL, ALL ORGANIC.  So, when you're comparing prices to your local supermarket, compare fairly!

I got a bag of white mushrooms, a big bag of spring mix lettuce, roma tomatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, pink lady apples, broccoli, a cucumber, a bunch of collard greens, ramps (which I thought were green onions on steroids, ha!) a large yellow onion, and those white things (can anyone tell me what they are? radishes?) Plus, the milk.

A week later, all that's left is the tomatoes (which I will make pico de gallo with today) some ramps, the cauliflower (which I will make cheesy mash with today), and the white things.

There are some great things about getting a delivery like this each week.
1.  It's just plain fun getting a boxed surprise on your doorstep!
2.  It forces you to eat more veggies, so that they don't go bad.  You comply, because you paid for it, and because you know it came straight from the farm, so you want to eat it, to honor the land and the farmers who worked hard to get you this food.
3. It forces you to learn how to cook new dishes.  Because you would ordinarily never buy some things like ramps, or white things. 
4.  You feel satisfied knowing that you are eating organically, which frees your body from nasty pesticides, and also means you are being responsible and promoting farming that is healthier for the land and the people who work the land.

So, as you can guess, I highly recommend it!
I want to do a weekly post about my Arganica delivery, and the menu I build each week off of it.  Let me know if that would be something you think is interesting, or if it's boring.  

Sometimes I feel like this blog is so random, and doesn't have ONE KEY focus.  But, such is life, right?  I mean, we all balance a lot of things.  

Sure, I'm a wife to a guy in a wheelchair.  But, I'm also a Christian, a TV news producer, a dog lover, a home cook, and a person who is trying to eat organically.  So, I guess you get to hear about all of that. Lucky you! Haha.

Becky and Brian

They did it! Becky married Brian yesterday, and it was a beautiful, heart felt wedding.  What a joy to see my friend, surrounded my friends and family who love her so much, seal the deal!

I tried to sneak some pictures with my little camera during the ceremony, but I didn't have the best shot.  But, they walked out, and walked right past us and Brian looked right at my camera as I snapped this quick (although blurry) shot.

Not long after they walked by us, they high-fived.  Love that!  Cheers to Becky and Brian! So happy for you guys!!

It was so much fun seeing an old friend/co-worker, Lee Ann!  So nice to catch up, 10 years or so after working together.  Life moves crazy fast.  Side note: Can you see how beautiful Becky's dress is? And I LOVED her necklace!  And her hair. So pretty.

It's so crazy how small the world is.  Lee Ann, Becky and I never actually worked together. Becky knew Lee Ann.  Then I did.  Then like 7 years later, I met Becky.  Now, here we are.  What a fun thing to bump into each other at such a joyous occasion! And don't even get me started on how grown up Lee Ann's daughters are.  Children grow when you're not looking, you know.  And they can really make you feel old when you haven't seen them in a while, no matter how many Christmas cards have been involved.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Morning Post

It's going to be a beautiful day today. Today is my good friend Becky's wedding day. I'm SO EXCITED to see her walk down the aisle and I wish her and Brian all the happiness in the world.

I think this is the first wedding I've been to since my own.  I remember seeing Becky at my own wedding.  What a doll. So thankful for a hilarious, smart, beautiful friend who loves the Lord, her family and her friends so much.

I'm only 2 and 1/2 years into this marriage business, but I can tell you this. Nothing will make you grow faster than marriage.  I am so happy, and I love my husband so much more today than I even did that day I walked down the aisle on the beach, and met him under the gazebo. I wish Becky and Brian years and years of health, happiness and prosperity!


Brokaw woke me up at 6:26 this morning. Not cool. I couldn't fall back asleep. Sometimes I can, but I couldn't this morning. Now, B is sitting next to me on the couch. Not fair.

Last night, I did my monthly marathon grocery shopping trip.  Pardon the bad picture. But a bad picture is better than no picture at all, right?

I went to Harris Teeter (Super Double coupons this week!) where I got an awesome deal on some Starbucks coffee.

Less than $3.00 a pound.  Factor in the $1.50 or so I will not spend when I turn my empty bags in at Starbucks to get a free coffee, and that's like $1.50 a pound for coffee that is usually about $8.00 a pound.

Note: Those bags are not all full of coffee.

I also went to Aldi.  That ended up being a little sketchy because by the time I finished up there, it was after 8:00pm and well, it's kind of in the hood.

But, I survived.

Now, thanks to my marathon trip last night (4 hours including massive amounts of sitting in traffic), and our weekly deliveries from Arganica, I shouldn't have to go shopping again (big shopping) until after we get back from vacation in May!

I love waking up to a clean house and a well stocked fridge, freezer and pantry.
Happy Saturday, y'all. Make it count.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Wounded Warrior and a Broken Heart

This morning, I got a free Venti latte at Starbucks.
Then, a co-worker brought in donuts.
And, I’m wearing new black shoes and they have a small wedge and they make me feel 10 pounds lighter.  Which, considering the latte and the donut, is a wonderful thing.

Today marks what I consider my anniversary in the news business. 13 years ago I was a college kid telling a main anchor that I had dreams of covering the White House.  I was there yesterday, at the White House.  I brought home a pair of flip flops and a scarf of mine that had been there for months. I had flip flops and a scarf, just sitting in the White House.  Little me.

I was planning this really sweet, reflective post about having my professional dreams come true.


Instead you’re going to get this.

Because sometimes you get bad news at 8:30am on a random Friday.  It’s not fair. It doesn’t make any sense.

I read through a Facebook post from a friend this morning that Jonathan Bartlett died. 

Photo Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, HBO

A little back story now.
As journalists, we write stories every day.  Of course, we are trained and we try as best we can to remain objective.  We’re especially on guard when we write about legal cases or politics.

But, we are human.
And every now and then a “story” becomes more than a story, even to us.  Some things break through the crusty, cynical, hard nosed reporters and force us to connect on a very human level.

Jonathan Bartlett did that for me.  I was producing a local newscast in Hampton Roads, Virginia at the time.  Happily cruising along my dream job path working at WAVY-TV, the station I watched growing up.  Never before, and never since, have I felt so connected to a local community, probably because it was my own town.  Anyway, my newscast often featured reports filed by our military reporter, Patty Culhane.

It was right in the middle of the Iraq War.  2004.  19 year old Jonathan Bartlett lost both of his legs because of an IED in Fallujah.  Patty interviewed his family.  We did stories on his recovery at Walter Reed and his homecoming.

But, there was more than that.  Like I said, it was one of those stories that wasn’t just a story.  The community pulled together for Jon.  Several of us from the TV station worked with other people in the community to modify Jon’s parents’ house for his wheelchair.  I will never forget it. I still have the bracelet I got from a fundraiser for him.

I come from a long line of Army guys.  Both grandfathers, my dad, my brother (who hadn’t jet joined the Army at that time).  I was brought up in a patriotic family.  I learned at an early age that you honor the military, that no matter your views on whatever conflict our country is currently involved in, you must still love the warrior.

I loved every single report Patty and our team did on Jonathan Bartlett. I was proud of him.  I’ve continued to follow his story and pull for him from afar.

Over the last year, I’ve gotten to know a handful of Wounded Warrior families at Walter Reed.  It’s close to where I live now, and when I can, I like to cook for the warriors and their families, and deliver meals and just hang out with them and talk.  I want them to know that I love them.  Each and every single one of them.  I’m thankful for them.  I’m thankful for their service and their sacrifice.  And I don’t care what they say or think, they will always be heroes to me.

This morning, when I read about Jonathan Bartlett taking his own life, I broke down and cried. Right there at my desk at work.  This is so upsetting.  This cost of war is so raw, so real, and so not fair.

I don’t understand why I got to grow up, work hard, and have my dreams come true and Jonathan grew up, worked hard, did his dream and got blown up and ended up this desperate.  It may never make any sense.

I pray for his family today with a broken heart.  I pray for his friends, for my friends who grew really close to him.

And I am reminded how important it is to pray for all of our Wounded Warriors, not only while they are in the hospital, or just out – completely focused on their recovery – but for years, forever, as they move on with their lives.  Pray for their friends. And their families.  Pray for all of our veterans. Forever.

I pray for my little brother, who just got home from Afghanistan a few months ago.  He also served in Iraq.  I can’t even bear to let my mind wander and think of any struggles he may face.  I can’t even go there.  I pray for my dad, who served in Vietnam.

I am so incredibly thankful for these men and women. Every single one of them.  May we NOT EVER let them down.

Suddenly, the fact that I have a seat in the White House Briefing room ceases to even matter.  This stuff matters.

Love one another.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Paralysis Tip#1: Find a Good Sports Bottle

We often run into obstacles with paralysis. One of mine is getting enough water. Paralysis affects the body's circulatory system and the function of the bladder and bowels. Recommended water intake is higher than average for most paralyzed folks. This is a challenge when it's difficult to pick up a cup in the first place or sit up in bed.

I used to have a sport bottle with a long, flexible straw. We got the bottle from somebody at Miami General Hospital when I was recovering. It served me for almost 15 years! Unfortunately, it didn't have a handle and leaked if turned sideways.

Dana bought two Camelbak sport bottles just before we got married that fit the bill. These bottles have a thumb-sized plastic loop on top that is easy to grab. Their fold-down nozzle seals the bottle when closed and have a rubber cap that opens when squeezed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

The other day, as we were sitting in front of the TV (don't judge, it was cold outside!), I got a craving.  Good ol' Chicken Casserole.  You know, the one with noodles, cheese and broccoli.  I had some chicken breasts thawing anyway.  I looked through my freezer and pantry, and thanked myself, once again, for being a food hoarder.  Because I had everything I needed on hand to satisfy my craving.  Love it when a last minute plan comes together!

I thought I'd share this. It's a potluck favorite, and super easy!

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

What you need:

1 lb. chicken breast
1 bag, frozen broccoli
1/2 bag, egg noodles
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can, cream of chicken soup
1 can worth of milk

What you do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Boil a pot of water with a little bit of salt for your pasta.
Cook pasta.

In a separate pot, boil your chicken breasts with a little bit of pepper.
Shred with two forks.

Microwave your bag of frozen broccoli.
Open the bag, and let it cool somewhat.

Pour the can of cream of chicken soup, plus one soup can of milk in a bowl, and wisk together.

Grease the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan with canola oil spray or butter or whatever you usually grease your pans with.

Pour in your cooked egg noodles.
Pour soup/milk mixture over that.
Top with chicken, and stir everything together.
Top with broccoli.
Top with cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Being Outdoorsy

I am not very outdoorsy by nature.  I don't go camping.  I don't shop at R.E.I., and I wore running shoes and yoga pants on a hike yesterday.

That said, when I see something breathtaking in nature, it makes me worship my God, my Creator.  And when I do that - at my core - it reminds me that my God is big, I am small, and I should just listen to Him, follow Him, and stop trying to run this show myself.
Yesterday, we drove to Great Falls Park, which is only about a 1/2 hour drive from where we live.  I've seen pictures of this place before, but we had never been, so I was excited.  Michael didn't really know what he was in for, but as usual, he's up for anything, and along for the ride.

This little guy also came along.  I read on the website that pets are welcome, as long as they are leashed.  I told Brokaw he was going to come with us to the park, and he started barking really loud, and jumping up and down.  He doesn't go to the park as much as he used to. (When I lived in Pittsburgh, I lived right down the street from a great park, and we went almost every week day.)
Look at that smile out in the sunshine.  Michael is much more of a Nature Boy than I am.  He was taking his time! I thought maybe the gravel trail was too much for him, or that it was going to damage his super high-tech wheelchair, but no.... he was just taking it all in.  Add that to the list of ways we are polar opposites!  I mean, it's not that I'm not taking it all in, I'm just not stopping in order to do so.  We walked about a mile and a half on the Canal Trail, right along the Potomac River.

Brokaw getting his paws wet.  He had one of the best days of his life, I'm pretty sure.
 As far as accessibility goes, I'd give this trail a B.  It's not a paved trail, but I mean c'mon.  Paved trails just aren't as natural.  If you were in a power chair, I think this trail would be absolutely no big deal.  But the ground is soft in some areas (sandy) and it's gravel, so I know Michael got a workout!  He only got stuck a couple of times, though, and with just a little nudge from me, he was on his way again.  There are two wheelchair accessible overlooks that have amazing views of the river!  Those get an A!
See? I mean, seriously. I almost can't believe this is only 20 miles from our apartment!  I wish you could hear it.  Oh, the power! So awesome.  This is the Potomac.  So much history right along here, too!

This is the obligatory find-someone-who-looks-like-they-speak-English and ask them to take your picture, picture. 
I think all three of us felt this way by the end of the day.  But, for the record, Brokaw is the only one who just laid down right there at the overlook.
How fun to do something together outside, something that is physical.  A great workout.  A great picnic lunch by a babbling brook.  And all of this for... FREE!! The National Parks have a program called the Access Pass for people with disabilities that lets you into the National Parks for free.  I guess it's just one of the perks.  When we got Michael's access pass, we bought something in the gift shop, so we were still making a contribution.

We love the National Parks and want to go to as many as possible!

I know a lot of people who read this blog are either in a wheelchair, or have someone really close to them who is in a wheelchair.  I hope this inspires you guys to get outside, and get active!  Just make sure you check the park's website for accessibility, and you'll be good to go.  Did we see the whole park, no.  Did we put our toes in the water? No.  BUT, we enjoyed walking on the trail, a picnic lunch, and looking at the awesome falls from the overlooks.  Totally worth it, and great memory made together.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Morning Post

Good morning and Happy Saturday!
You want to know what my first Google search of the day was?
"Rage in dreams"

Sometimes I have the craziest rage-filled dreams.  I seriously get mean in my dreams!
One time, I dreamed I was so mad, I threw two red ceramic coffee mugs across the kitchen, and the smashed up against the wall in the laundry room.  Last night, I dreamed I was so mad that I pulled the wall between our bedroom and our living room down.

What in the world?  What am I so mad at? It's so strange, because in real life, when I'm mad, I usually just get quiet, or cry.  I am not violent. But in my dreams, you better watch out!

*update: I learned from my Google search that it could mean I have control issues. Ya think?

I woke up kind of tired since I demolished part of the structure of this apartment last night.

It's going to be a beautiful day!  My softball team is practicing today, but my hands are all flared up (I have a skin condition on my hands - not contagious - triggered by stress), so I don't really want to get ball field dirt in my hands, so I'm not going.

I feel like one time I heard about an accessible hiking trail in Great Falls? I'm going to Google that in a sec, and maybe we will have to do that today. I feel like being outside.

And/or... I want to go to the garden/nursery store and use my Groupon.  Construction is finally finished on the exterior of our apartment building - so we can have our porch back! I can't wait to plant flowers and herbs and get back to grilling out!

Oh, and after an extensive two day search that ALMOST led me to hate my body, I have finally decided on a dress for this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner.
I chose to go with the black one.  I took a poll on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and it was really fun hearing from my friends on their input.  In the end, though, I went with my mom's suggestion.  Because she is never wrong. I really like both dresses, though. And if I had the money, I would get them both.  Not sure yet if I need two formal dresses this year, or not.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Help Erica Get Some New Wheels

I have introduced you guys to my friend Erica before.  She really is an incredible woman who is rocking this whole move-on-with-your-life-after-a-spinal-cord-injury thing like it's nobody's business.

She has an amazing opportunity this month.  A chance at winning an accessible van that she can DRIVE HERSELF.

As someone who physically lifts my husband in and out of our SUV every time we go anywhere, I can see the value in this.  I *can't wait* until the day Michael is driving me around! Haha.

Watch Erica's video:

And go to vote here. Use the promo code 831.  You can vote once a day! Please share this around, and let's all pull together to get Erica some new wheels!  Maybe if she wins, she will road trip it out to DC and come see us!

Movie Recommendation: Blue Like Jazz

This Friday Blue Like Jazz comes to theaters. Dana and I saw the preview a couple of weekends ago. Don Miller wrote a book called Blue Like Jazz about ten years ago about his exploits coming to age as an evangelical Christian. The movie is a nice boy-meets-girl story that takes some interesting twists.

If you've read the book --and I recommend you do so-- you'll recognize the stories. Some things in the movie might seem out of place without the book. They go hand in hand.

Go to the website. Go to the movie. It isn't your Kirk Cameron version of Christianity. There's cursing, drinking, lesbians, and all other kinds of stuff in the real world. But it's just that: REAL. I was refreshed watching the movie take a middle-of-the-road approach to my faith.

Monday, April 9, 2012

When You Can't See Your Need Yourself

How long does it take to adjust to the routine of having a home health aide come to your house for 15 hours a week to take care of your husband?

Well, if you're me, about 4 months.

I didn't want to do it at first, but I knew it was a good thing.  I knew if I was a friend, or a sister giving me advice, I would tell me to let that person in, to let go, to take some time for myself.

I didn't want to do it because I felt like it was like admitting defeat.  Admitting that my husband needs the help.  Admitting that I need the help.

I felt guilty. Guilty that someone else was doing work that I could do. Sure, it meant getting up way earlier, not going to the gym, working through an aching back, doing things that are not particularly enjoyable, but it wasn't impossible to do it.

My husband loves me.  He pushed me to accept this help because he knows better than I do what is good for me.

Today, four months after that first time we let someone else in on a regular basis to help Michael with his personal care, I sit at Starbucks around the corner (I still do NOT want to be there when someone else is there), sipping my coffee, and blogging, and finding myself profoundly grateful for this time.

My time.
Thank you, Michael, for pushing me.  I am loving this time to do my own thing.  I couldn't see that I needed it so much.  I love you, but I don't miss doing the dirty work.  Of course, if and when you need me, I'm here.  And I'm sure I could jump right back in and rock it out better than anyone else, still. :)

To everyone else - if there is someone who loves you - listen to them.  Sometimes they can see what you need more clearly than you can see yourself.  This is just one of the things I'm learning on this journey.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday Morning Post

Good morning and happy Saturday, y'all!  After some time on the road for work, I'm home again.  I celebrated by sitting on the couch and watching about 15 episodes of Army Wives.

Have you seen this show? I admit, it's Lifetimey, it's Soap Operaey, but I like it.  I couldn't watch it when my brother was in Afghanistan, but over the last 5 weeks, I've blown through about 5 seasons.

Did I mention I love Netflix and I don't miss cable?

This morning Brokaw is barking way too much.  I kind of want to open the door to the porch and let him out.  But, he's kind of the center of my world, so maybe I won't do that.  Maybe he'll go back into the bedroom with M, curl up, and go back to sleep.  I hope.

I just might make a Lemon cake today!  I saw it in a cooking magazine I got at Wal-Mart yesterday, and it's been a while since I've had time to try something new in the kitchen.  So, I just might do that.  But, I'll probably need to go buy some lemon extract.  Which could de-rail the entire project because my desire to a) leave the house today and b) wear anything but black yoga pants is seriously deficient.

I had a banana/nutella toast sandwich this morning.  Diet killer alert.  Oops! I'm pretty sure it was worth it.  I would love to swim in Nutella.

Of course.  Now it's 9:00am, time for me to go get M up and dressed... and NOW Brokaw is going to sleep on the basket of clean laundry.

Wonder if I will ever really be ready for a kid? I like sleep and quiet a whole lot.  Day three of my 5 day weekend.... yippee!! I'll let you know what happens with that lemon cake.

Happy Saturday!