Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trader Joe's--contest and advice needed!

For almost ten years, I have lived in an area exploding with Trader Joe's stores, yet  I only ventured there recently to buy ingredients for turkey meatball subs. Amazed that I purchased seven dozen meatballs and four jars of sauce for only $28.37 (this was for a church event and I had volunteered to donate the main course), I am ready to give this store a try. Seven dozen meatballs at most other grocery stores would have cost me well over $50.

I'm intrigued by the Trader Joe's fever that seems to have taken over everyone I know, but I'm also intimidated by this store. I like to complete all of my grocery shopping at one store--an impossible feat at stores like Trader Joe's--so that's why I've shunned it in the past. But I've heard so many people rave about it that I'm ready to make an exception and make a special trip to try the store's specialties.

But I need help. I have know idea where to start!

What are your must-haves at Trader Joe's? What items are worth a special trip there?

Please comment with at least two suggestions of items you can't live without at Trader Joe's (please be specific), and I will enter your name to win a $25.00 Trader Joe's gift card. This contest runs through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, 2010. I'll select a winner using a random number generator.

Happy grocery shopping!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

lower deck

If nothing else, I am a girl who loves color. My house is like a rainbow with every room painted a different hue. My yard explodes with reds, pinks, and purples. Continuing with the gardening month(s) theme, I posted pictures below to show you what I've done with the lower deck.

I chose impatiens for the hanging baskets and the pot underneath the table (these flowers are great in full shade) and petunias and snapdragons--which require a little more sun--for the stationary planters and the baskets hanging from the deck railing.

I planted two large impatiens from New Guinea in my large planter.

Hanging baskets make me so happy. I can see them from my kitchen window.

Peeping flowers make me happy, too.:)

Monday, April 26, 2010

new shades

My new shades are finished and correct this time! They were installed early Friday afternoon, minutes before Brad's and my company arrived for a fun weekend visit.

Let me remind you what the old curtains looked like (left here by the previous owners--excuse the poor quality of the picture).

I initially thought I wanted curtains. But I was concerned about space and covering up the ornate moldings, so I chose Deco Fold Roman Shades instead--a modern twist on the traditional Roman shade.

I love them! The deep red hue adds much needed color to my neutral living room. The shades' many folds add flair to an ordinary piece of material. The shades are mounted inside and confined to the window frames, providing a neat, clean appearance. I'm glad I decided against curtains--mounds of fabric stuffed into tiny corners when the curtains were opened would have been a disaster.

Here's the before picture of the dining room.

And after.

I am in love with toile--I could decorate the entire house with it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

upper deck

I neglected our second-story deck last summer.

We rarely ventured out there. Why would we? It wasn't exactly a welcoming environment.

But what a difference colorful petunias make!

Don't you just love petunias? Not as perky as dahlias, but equally as happy.

I love working at the computer in our home office--the room that leads to the deck--and then turning around and seeing the flowers right outside the door. These little gems beckon me. They tempt me to ditch my task at hand.

But what I love even more is seeing the back of our house from a distance . . .

. . . and the petunias peeping over the railing at me. I love that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

dahlias, peonies, and mulch

The last three weekends have afforded beautiful weather to toil in the yard. Last year, I simply maintained the yard I inherited when Brad and I bought the house, and tried to keep it looking neat and clean. This year, I have vision, especially in the backyard. I declared March as art month; I hereby declare April and May as gardening months here on Dr. Blondie. I'm excited to show you what I've been up to.

I'll focus on the front yard today. My full vision will not be realized until I hire someone to cut down our maple tree, which I've finally decided MUST. BE. DONE. ASAP. Fern misses her sunshine. I long for ample natural light indoors. I am determined to plant flowers in the front yard that require sun. Until I get rid of the tree though, I'll have to make do with excessive shade, so I implemented a minimalist version of my grand vision. I refuse to spend any more money on landscaping the front yard until the tree is gone.

Here is the BEFORE picture of the front yard. Notice the old mulch, haphazardly placed bushes, and random daffodils by the fence.

Three feet of snow at once really wreaks havoc on bushes! The bush on the left looks like someone sat on it!

Below is the AFTER picture. You already know that I broke down and bought colorful pansies for my planters very early--too early--in the season. I uprooted both bushes, intending to throw them away. But then the guilt of already destroying one perfectly healthy living being (the tree) overwhelmed me and I decided to prune the bushes and replant them closer to the house. They look much better framing our basement window. I planted three peony bushes--two white and one red--in the front of the yard, with four shade-tolerant, red and yellow dahlias staggered in front of them. I planted four more dahlias along the sidewalk on the right side, near the fence. Then Brad and I covered the yard in fresh, black mulch. I adore black mulch.

Can you tell I like symmetry?

Here's a closer picture of the front of the yard. The peony bushes are small now, but they will grow much larger. Peonies remind me of childhood. I used to gather the fragrant, puffy white blooms into pretend wedding bouquets.

I discovered dahlias this spring. What bright, perky, happy little flowers! I smile every time I look at them. They make my yard pop.

Brad and I still have three main projects in the front of the house:
  • Remove the maple tree (hopefully in the next few months) and landscape the yard the way I want to (probably next spring)
  • Build a planting box for our postage stamp patch of land between the sidewalk and curb (hopefully in the next month or two)
  • Tear up our old, crumbly, cement sidewalk and replace it with a brick walk (probably 2011)
Happy gardening!

Friday, April 16, 2010

eviction notice temporarily canceled

Just when I was about to declare my experiment with Fern's stump a failure and evict it from its prime real estate, I find hope:

The green tips you see in the picture have shot up from the dirt, not off of the stump itself as I expected. Is this new growth from the root? Or did a random seed blow in from outside land in Fern's stump's pot? Either way, I see new life and I can't bear to give up now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

running with a joyful heart

Last Saturday, Brad and I enjoyed lunch with Mark, one of Brad's friends from college who visited for the weekend to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday. After we bemoaned our lack of training and confessed our temptation to ditch the race and sleep past the necessary 5 a.m. wake-up call, our conversation turned to a more serious topic: Mark's 37-year-old brother who was diagnosed with colon cancer last spring and is still alive today though the doctors gave him only two months to live.

Mark's brother, and several others who either have been or are currently in his situation, dominated my heart on Sunday as I ran the race. I thought about how I've known more people in their 30s and 40s suffer and die from cancer than I ever imagined I would. I thought about what it would feel like to run a beloved race one year and not be able to participate the following year because of physical limitations. I thought about a woman at church who overcame cancer a few years ago, ran our favorite local race last May, and just last Sunday pumped up Brad and me to run it again this year. She's taking this year off from the race--her cancer came back--but she's looking forward to running it in 2011. I pray she is able to.

I take these races and a gazillion other things in life for granted.

Despite my temptation, I know I never could bail on any race I register for. Being blacklisted from future lotteries is only a minor consequence. Today, the Lord has blessed me with the physical health to run ten miles or more with relatively little preparation, effort, or discomfort. My heart pumps my blood, my lungs bring me an abundance of air, my legs faithfully carry me mile after mile, and my drive pushes me forward to the finish line. I can do all of these things today, but who knows about tomorrow?

My preparation, or lack of it, no longer matters. Completion times--whether they are my best or worst--are just numbers. For now, I'll run each race because I physically and mentally can. And most importantly, I'll run for those who wish they could.

Monday, April 12, 2010

four years of races

Four years ago, Brad and I completed our first race: the 2006 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Last year, I achieved my personal best time for this race: 1:32:19 (9:13/mile pace). This year, I earned my personal worst time for this race: 1:40:09 (10:01/mile pace). What a difference--almost an eight minute difference--a little marathon training can make! I ran the 2009 San Diego Marathon (26.2. miles) almost as fast as I ran the 2010 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Blizzards, busyness, and most of all, laziness have gotten the best of me this spring. Embarrassingly far behind on my 2010 running goal, I'm tempted to register for a marathon this fall solely to get me back on track.

Brad only beat me by four minutes this time. He's more out of shape than I am--he's run fewer than ten times since January and didn't train for this race at all, but I still couldn't beat him. Maybe I'll train hard for the Army 10 Miler in October, and he won't, and I'll stand a slim chance of winning our race of two.

A girl has to dream!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

officially old

I bought the shoes you see in the picture on Tuesday, and I haven't taken them off since then. I am officially an old woman: they're Naturalizer--my very first pair.

Assuming this brand was best suited for old ladies, I never gave it a second glance when shopping, but I may need to change my attitude. Oh, the comfort! These shoes make walking pleasurable. They mold to and massage my feet. They have a nice, comfortable heel without turning me into a towering giant.

They're not too ugly, are they?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

one year at home

For more than six years, Brad and I took walks around Capitol Hill, admiring the historic homes, gazing longingly inside them, and dreaming about living in our beloved neighborhood forever. On those walks, I often said, "Speak up, little house! We know you're out there. We just need to know which one you are." 

Brad and I moved into our house one year ago today, which feels like just yesterday and years ago at the same time. Our little house was worth the wait. Even though we're still working on window treatments, art, furniture, rugs, landscaping, and minor repair projects, our house feels like home.

Happy anniversary, sweet little house! Thanks for speaking up!

Monday, April 5, 2010

color and herbs

I caved this weekend. I filled the front planters with pansies--I just couldn't look at the naked dirt in the planters for one more day.

What a difference a few flowers make!

I also succumbed to my temptation to plant my herb garden. I'm already enjoying the sage, parsley, thyme, and chives that survived the winter, and I found a few sprigs of spearmint and peppermint that look like they're going to make it (and hopefully multiply). After sowing basil, oregano, dill, rosemary, and cilantro seeds, I am crossing my fingers that planting on April 2nd is not too early, and that I'll see fruit from my efforts a month from now.

Assuming the weather is tolerable next weekend, Brad and I plan to tackle the yard with vengence. I'm so excited to bring color and life to the yard again!