Frozen

…burritos.

So I bought a toaster oven for work so I could bring some things in and have a hot meal at lunch. I don’t use microwaves, I don’t feel like getting into a debate as to why, I just don’t.

Anyway, so the easiest thing to pop in is frozen burritos. Which will fall into one of two categories: arguably healthy and tasty but expensive as hell, or cheap and kinda gross and lacking even the redemption of a golden, flaky, deep-fried tortilla crust.

After a couple weeks I thought to myself: surely I can do better than this.

My favorite had been the Organic Southwest Chicken Burrito (brand withheld for fear of being sued)
Here’s a general breakdown of the nutrition:
Calories: 340, Fat: 9g, Sodium: 700mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein 17g

Not bad, makes for a filling lunch when paired with salad, and a good source of protein. But costs like 4-5 bucks.

Okay, so I bought a pack of organic tortillas ($3), can of organic black beans ($1.29), organic diced tomatoes ($1.29), organic onions (from my CSA), and organic cremini mushrooms (3-something a pound, I used maybe two ounces?). Add some Tabasco sauce for flavor/heat, or substitute salsa for the tomatoes.  Let’s say about 7-8 bucks worth of food.

Chopped the onions and mushrooms, mixed with one can black beans and half can of diced tomatoes, wrapped in a skillet softened tortilla, then wrapped in aluminum foil and put in the freezer. The above made 7 burritos, so that comes out to right around $1 each.

Here’s how mine stacks up against the store brand:

Bought: Calories: 340, Fat: 9g, Sodium: 700mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein 17g
Homemade: Calories: 230, Fat: 3g, Sodium: 350g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 10g.

So the store beats me on protein, but I come out on top in every other category: price, nutrition, and flavor! And vegetarian, even, so if that’s a consideration, you’re good!  Even visually, they look pretty much identical (so, mildly unappealing until you taste it).  The store-bought has a bit tighter folds, but that’s just because I over stuffed mine a tad.  Really, the hardest part of the whole process is stuffing the insides into the burrito without it escaping out the ends while folding it all up.

And I can certainly add chicken for more protein. In fact, when I run the numbers again assuming I’m adding a pound of chicken total to the recipe, which obviously a pound is then going to make more burritos, so assuming a final count of 10 instead of 7, that gives the following:

Calories: 258, Fat: 4.5g, Sodium: 375g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 18g.

So if I add half a serving of chicken to each burrito that’s only about 50 cents each.  And now I beat the store-bought on protein!  About 80 calories less, half the fat and sodium, same fiber, and still less than half the cost.  Pretty much the only thing this isn’t is gluten-free.  It’s so quick to make, so easy to take to work and pop in the toaster oven.  And I can make a whole week’s worth in about 15 minutes on the weekend.

What’s not to love about making frozen burritos at home!?   You know exactly every single ingredient that’s going into it, no mystery “flavors” or “preservatives”.  And if you have kids, you can totally trick them into thinking they’re getting not super healthy food. 😉  Or if you have sudden guests show up, you can whip out a batch of burritos from the freezer and pair with some rice and salad, some salsa and guacamole, and have a great meal on the table in the 45 minutes it takes to reheat the burrito.

And for the super recycling conscious people, the plastic wrapper from the store-bought burrito isn’t recyclable, but the aluminum foil from home made is 😀

Late Start on the Garden, and Other Ramblings

Very, very late start. As in, I just planted everything yesterday. So technically before June.  I did have some salad greens going in planters already, and the borage is just starting to break the surface, but yesterday my dad tilled up the old chicken pen and last night I planted golden and purple potatoes, lentils, kidney beans, multi-colored pop corn, golden beets, three kinds of carrots, and two kinds of radishes.

Late start, but  most of it is short season or cool-hearty so it’ll either be ready before winter, or won’t care if it isn’t.

Here’s the general layout of what I’ve planted, the whole plot is about 12′ x 20′ – ish… and then the half-barrel planters that I drew below are tucked in around my front door and the side of my house.

GARDEN

You know you read too many post-apocalyptic/societal collapse books if after you plant your garden, you begin planning how to defend it from your neighbors…

I’ve also spent a good deal of time this last week slashing blackberry brambles and scotch broom from the side of my hill.  It does make me a little sad, I think scotch broom is so pretty, but it’s considered an invasive weed here in Washington, and my neighbor on that side of the hill is very allergic to it’s pollen so I keep it down for her sake.

Finally bought myself a machete, though, which should make the whole endeavor much easier.  I had just been using my dad’s brush lops but that is a rather slow and clumsy method.  He couldn’t find his machete, and even the lops are getting very old and the stopper to keep you from smashing your fingers together when you cut something is gone, so for an early father’s day present (since I’ll be in Arizona over the actual father’s day) I got him a new set of loppers that won’t smash his fingers!

And yes, for the last two weeks of June I will be traveling in  Arizona with a dear friend of mine who attends the Sheep is Life celebration on Navajo nation.  (So I guess if you ever wanted to stalk me, you’ll know where I’m going to be for a whole 3 days).  We’re driving down from Oregon with a stock-trailer full of sheep and chickens.  Road Trip!

My sister had her gall bladder out last weekend, rather unexpectedly, and so I’ve been stopping by her place in the evenings to help with stuff she can’t manage, and really just hang out and be company since she’s bored.  It’s partly what sparked my sudden desire to go ahead and do a garden this year when I had been resigned to just keeping the barrels and that was it.  It’s funny when you go somewhere and get into a “let’s do stuff” mood and then you get home and you keep looking for more stuff to do!

Not that I have any lack of stuff to do.  I’ve gotten on a cleaning binge as well, and I have reclaimed my living room from the ravages of neglect, and gotten my kitchen back in shape, and mostly tidied up the dining room and guest rooms, but my own room is always the last thing I want to tackle, and as it happens it is the last thing left this time, also.  I will be doing a purge again as well, getting rid of stuff that has become clutter and taking it to Goodwill or Salvation Army as donations.

So that’s about it.  Oh yeah, and the now five short stories I’ve started but can’t seem to finish… I think my muse is just in other-mode right now, so I’ll keep jotting down the ideas as they come and trust that someday, the rotten little muse will come back and cooperate. 🙂

A simile is like a metaphor…

A simile is like a metaphor….

Wearing high heels is like drinking until you throw up.

There are many reasons you do it: peer pressure, an attempt to fit in, maybe you just think you like doing it… but it always ends the same, face down in the toilet swearing to yourself you’ll never, ever do this again.

And then a little bit of time passes… the headache goes away and the nausea subsides and you can eat normal food again.  And a bit more time passes and you sort of forget how bad it was.  And then you find yourself toying with the idea of doing it again.

Only to end up remembering – when it’s far too late – exactly why it is you promised yourself last time you were never going to do it again.

Wearing heels is like that.

There’s the pressure to be ‘fashionable’, or maybe to add height, or you just like the ‘click-clack’ sound of walking on linoleum flooring in them.

The day wears on, and you’re walking a little slower, a little more gingerly.  And soon you realize your little toe has that really painful blister forming on it, and you have to run hobble to the first aid kit to get a bandage.

By half-past lunch you’re cursing whoever made these shoes and wondering what possessed you put them on that morning, and why on earth didn’t you think to bring a simple pair of flats to change into after that big meeting?

And yet what happens?  You go home, and kick them off and oooohh it feels so good, and maybe you give yourself a foot bath and drink a glass of wine and even as you swear you’ll never wear them again, you find you’ve put those shoes back into your closet… where they’ll lie in wait, lurking for the next time you forget, and slip them on…

Tonight when I get home, these things are going in the ‘donate’ box for the local thrift store!

Daily Prompt: Dream Home

Sometimes The Daily Post offers up a prompt that is just too delicious not to take.  Especially for someone who pines for her lost architecture career and has recently been wanting – but too broke – to do more home renovations.

And then this comes along:

You win a contest to build your dream home. Draft the plans.

With a squeal of delight audible only to dogs, I opened AutoCAD and got to work to once again draft yet another set of plans for even more dream home ideas.

Because let’s face it, asking an architect to design their one dream home is kind of like asking a chef to make the one meal they’ll eat for the rest of their lives.

And my dream home will always depend on the exact circumstances of my life at the time, of course.  I have no kids, so guest rooms and craft/art rooms will replace the bedrooms.  This set of plans has a lower floor area of 1,289 square feet and an upper floor of 919 square feet for a total of 2,208.  Still within the manageable range for cleaning, a bit larger than my house now, and most importantly, more bathrooms!

Among the features that make this my dream house are the attached greenhouse, the library with reading nook (which is to say: a bed set into the shelves for good proper book cuddles with cats and tea during a thunderstorm), a nice walk-in pantry, mud room to hose down the people and animals when they come in from the mud, or to catch snowy boots.  I just realized I didn’t put the washer and dryer in the mud room but rest assured, they would be there in my dream house.

There is room in the entry way for a coat tree, a bench for shoes, and perhaps fresh flowers in spring in a little table beside the window.  I love the way the rooms flow into one another.  The kitchen has easy access to and from both the living room and dining room, who also access one another while maintaining a level of privacy as well.

Upstairs, all the bedrooms have walk in closets, and the (theoretical) kid’s rooms are separated by their closets to (hopefully) reduce the amount of annoyance one child can cause another.   But as I stated earlier, their actual use would far more likely be guest rooms or sewing and craft rooms.

The master bedroom has a private deck to watch the sunrise, and a nice big tiled shower.  The second bath separates the sink from the toilet and tub area to allow for multiple use at once.  Though they are on the same floor, the bedrooms are separated enough to allow for a measure of privacy.

The house would be laid out with east oriented up, so the green house would face full south, the kitchen would face east, and the library would be tucked up north, with the entrance on the west side.

Now all I need is about… oooh, $200,000 to build it.

So for today, this is my dream home.  I’ve drawn them before, I will continue to draw them in future, but just for today, this is my dream home.

mainfloor

Main Floor Plan
1,298 square feet
© Eliza Murdock 2013

upperfloor

Upper Floor Plan
919 square feet
© Eliza Murdock 2013

 

And just for the curious, other iterations of my dream home have included – but are not limited to – a library with just enough amenities to make it habitable, a hobbit hole to go in the side of my hill, a castle (on the smallish side), and a yurt.

The Purge, part 1

So I started this weekend with my ‘great purge’.  I’m also just a touch drunk at present since I was so sore from cleaning, arranging, and moving heavy furniture this weekend that I went to the brewery and had *two* beers (yes, I’m a total lightweight) to ease the muscle soreness, so forgive any missing, misspelled, or just nonsense words in this post.

For the first time ever I remembered to take ‘before’ photos BEFORE doing anything *gasp/shock* so you’ll be able to see what I started with to get to where I ended up.  I started on the downstairs guest room and failed office which ultimately required me to do the hallway as well because stuff from the hall had to go into the guest room and stuff from the guest room ended up in the hall.  It’ll make sense when you see it.

This is a good time to mention a quirk of my house.  (oh, by the way, I was wrong on the square footage, it’s only 1,600, not 1,800.)  The house was built in 1932 but was remodeled by one of the previous owners.  During this remodel which seems to have been confined mainly to the kitchen area, the hall that used to lead to the kitchen now leads to a wall.  That’s right, I’ve got a hall to nowhere…

This hall has generally been the repository for all the ‘stuff’ in the house.  It was the stuff hall even when my parents had the house.  I always thought the hall would make an awesome mini-library, put bookshelves against one side and viola!

So when I started on the guest room I knew I’d have to do both because the unassembled bookshelves I bought 5 months ago were still in their boxes in the room and the bed I was moving into the room was part of the stuff in the hall.

Here are the beginning pictures.  It had a queen spring mattress and airbed in it, with a little side table, a desk with a computer that works but can’t connect to the wireless network in the house so is useless for everything my uncle needs it for, a white cabinet with a sh*t-ton of my uncle’s books, and a closet so stuffed with stuff that it literally started to fall out when I opened the doors.  I am somewhat embarrassed to show the ‘before’ pictures, but here they are:

View from the doorway

View of the desk. Mostly buried under stuff and the boxes with the bookshelves.

The closet, with stuff literally falling out.

Hall (to nowhere) with twin mattresses, captains bed frame, and various other stuff.

Saturday I started at 8:00 AM and worked pretty much straight through till 5:00 PM, then today I started again at 8 and worked till 3.  I was pretty sore all over, especially legs, back and abs, but the beer helped.  The cats did not help, no matter what they tell you.

Dexter taking a break from all the hard work he wasn’t doing.

Okay, so… final result?

Hall with new bookshelves. The white cabinet that had been in the room got moved to the hall, the brown cabinet that had been in the hall will get put in the barn to hold various barn-y stuff. I can now get to the door that accesses under the stairs!

Twin bed replaces the queen air mattress

Desk cleaned off (and some of my painted ceramics put on the wall above)

Other side of the desk

And now the part I’m most proud of: the closet!

The upper shelf holds my camping gear: tent, cot, sleeping bag, and a collapsible camp chair.  The lower shelf has my folded up feather bed/comforter.  But the closet floor is clean!  No boxes, no stuff, no junk, just open closet to *gasp* hang clothes!  Which, actually, these will go into *my* closet when I get that cleaned, but for now they’ll stay down here.

As an aside, did you know you can put furniture in a closet?  Really!  If you’re short on floor space but always seem to have room in the closet (if you get rid of all the other ‘stuff’ you store there) you can put bookshelves, dressers, even armoires in the closet!  Especially if you tend to hang shorter clothes like shirts or folded slacks, you have a lot of space underneath you can use.

Back to my redecorating, here is the other side of the closet: the kids play stuff.

Which brings me to the second topic in today’s entry: making a play area for kids when you don’t have any.

Sadly, at 35, I’ve still not managed any of my own.  This really is not how I thought my life was going to turn out, but there you have it.  But I have several friends who have younger kids, and it seems like it’s only natural to have an area in my house they can go have fun when “the adults are talking” because we all remember how boring that is as a kid, right?

It is *absurdly* simple to accommodate younger kids.  Go to the dollar store, buy a box of crayons and a coloring book.  Buy a couple of toys.  Maybe a stuffed animal.  Put them in a box for when kids come over!   (or, you know, take your stuffed animals and Halo figurines out of their boxes… >.>)

First, I assembled a short set of book shelves.  I had an old toy train set that I put in a bin, then took a few toy figures I’d had ‘collected’ over the years from various places (Halo, Lord of the Rings, etc) and put them in there, too.  Add in some stuffed animals, a board game, some dress-up clothes, and an old globe.  Last, I added a blanket and little pillow to snuggle up with and some kid-friendly art pieces, and came up with the above play alcove tucked in half of the closet.

Because all the stuff is inexpensive, there’s no real worry if they break something.  Give them lots of things to get into to explore and play with, lots of ‘surprises’ to enjoy, and don’t worry if anything breaks, that’s the idea.  Just be sure you don’t add anything  you *don’t* want broken!

So there’s my weekend.  A newly arranged guest bedroom and kid’s play area!  And I’m beat!

Oh, two more things:

Here’s the pile of stuff ready for the dump and cardboard recycling.  (I added a bit more to the pile after this picture was taken, but this is the bulk of it.)

And here is (most) of what will be going to Goodwill.  Two large boxes of things.  Even some of what I had originally slated to keep ended up being tossed into these boxes eventually as I re-thought it and realized that no matter how much ‘potential’ or how ‘cool’ some things were, I just was never going to do it or wear it or use it and it was going to go back into the ‘stuff’ collection.

It was interesting to think the whole time I was doing this I was imagining how I could turn this tiny room into a fully functional apartment!  Put a shower and toilet in the closet area, put a mini kitchenette where the desk is, raise the bed and put a desk beneath, or put in a wallbed/desk combo!

It was a good day, all in all! 🙂

Losing Weight

This is not what you think it’s going to be about.

This weekend, I read an article about San Fransisco considering a drop in the minimum square footage for apartment units to 220.  No, not a drop *of* 220 square feet.  A drop *to* 220 square feet.

Now, most of you here have no idea that I had my blossoming architecture career smashed under the housing market crash.  Alas, I had to move on, but my love of house design never left me.  Going nostalgic for a moment, I knew I was in the right line of work when after an 8 hour day at the office drawing house plans, I’d come home and play Sims.  Only I wouldn’t actually play the Sims, I just designed neighborhoods of houses.  Yep, I’d design houses at work, then come home and design them for fun.  Some people called me sick, but I just liked to think of myself in my perfect career.

Okay so obviously I’m not getting paid for it anymore, but I still love designing houses!  (and ooh look, I have AutoCAD on my computer now. mwahaha!)

One thing I love about small house designs (or apartment, or whatever.  Small *living* space designs) is it requires so much more creative use of space.  The article shows a very narrow apartment with a wall bed that converts to the dining area when not being slept in.

It also makes me think about my mom who, to this day, insists she loves Japanese design.  Because it’s so uncluttered.  (Mom, it’s uncluttered because they have *less stuff* not because they were just *that good* at design.)  But it is interesting how much even house designs can vary between cultures, and what’s considered normal.

I saw another house design where the bedroom was really just an enclosed bed with a sliding door.  There wasn’t any ‘floor’ area, just the bed (looked to be on a platform but not what you’d consider a typical western bed frame).

Got me really thinking about small house plans and reduced floor spaces.  There have been many books written about small houses, lots of people blogging about small houses, much building of small houses, and now tiny apartments are the latest place we’re cutting space and living smaller here in the US.

My house is 1,800 square feet, if memory serves.  That means if we’re talking about apartments being 220 sf, I could fit just over 8 apartments in my house.  Since my house is 4 bedroom, and if you assume parents and three children, my house could (and has) uncomfortably fit 5 people (the discomfort chiefly caused by there being but a single bathroom).  Compare that with the same square footage could comfortably fit 8 people, even if in a very tiny space.

It also made me realize there was no way I could ever fit all my ‘stuff’ into 220 square feet.  I probably couldn’t fit it into 440 square feet.  I might have a hard time squeezing down into 900 square feet – half the size of my house.

Maybe this shouldn’t bug me, but it does.  Terribly.  Welcome to America: our people are fat, our houses are fat, our closets are fat, our heads are empty, and our wallets are dry.

Yes, I have my crafts and fabric and paints and the like, but really, even with hobbies, I shouldn’t be incapable of living at half my square footage if people can live in 1/8th of it.

So part of the weekend was spent on thinking about the fact I need to do a major ‘stuff’ purge in my life, both for my sanity and for the general tidiness of my house, but part of the weekend was also spent on designing very small houses.

220 sq. ft. single bedroom floor plan by Eliza Murdock

440 sq. ft. two bedroom floor plan by Eliza Murdock

I remember several  years ago sitting down to design 1,000 sq. ft. houses and thinking how difficult it was.  I don’t deny these plans offer very little in the way of indoor space, but that will hopefully help get people outdoors more often.

Now, if I was a college student or recent grad and was looking to move into my own place, I’d have been delighted with either of these options (especially since I’d have turned the second bedroom into an office or craft room).  However, being well established in my house, I think I’d find it very hard to squeeze back into such a small floor plan.

But I am going to embark onto an epic purge and get rid of all the stuff I haven’t seen for years, clothes I haven’t worn for years, furniture whose only use is to hold stuff I don’t use… it’s time to lose weight! – haul it to Goodwill, maybe hold a big garage sale, or throw stuff on ebay and see what happens.  Maybe I can purge my life and grow my wallet a tad?

Also, if anyone wants a very small house designed for them… 😉

Garden Vegetable Muffins

I went hunting for a zucchini bread recipe once, only to find that they were mostly sweet breads, dessert kind of things with lots of sugar and autumn spices. I didn’t want that, I wanted a nice savory bread filled with vegetables and flavor.  Zucchini bread seemed to be such a perfect way to absolutely stuff vegetables into my bread, and I was quite disappointed that it was so offset by sugar.

After a fruitless search, I decided that if I wanted this bread, I was just gonna have to make it myself, so starting from what seemed to be a very basic recipe I found, I concocted the following.  (I am still tweaking this recipe here and there.  I’ve cut the sugar 3 times and could probably cut more.)

The veggies are almost entirely up for juggling.  I didn’t have red pepper or leeks this time so I made do with onion and tomato instead.  Basically, if you like it, toss it in and see if it works!  Also, I say ‘finely chopped’.  What I mean is, I stuck them in the food processor until it was mostly not lumpy.   I also used the grating tool on my food processor to grate the zucchini.  I really like taking shortcuts when I can get out of chopping and grating, but only if it offsets the effort to clean the machine afterward.  I’m a very conscientious lazy.

Also… I suppose you can add nuts if you really wanted.  If you’re *that* kind of person.  /long-suffering sigh/

Garden Vegetable Muffins

* 3 cups whole wheat flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 cup flax seeds
* 2-3 teaspoons various herbs to taste. (I used fresh ground black pepper, basil and thyme)
* 3 eggs
* 3/4 cup olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups sugar (though I think the recipe could still easily use less)
* 2 cups grated zucchini, do not squeeze out the juice!
* 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
* 1 green onion, finely chopped
* 1″ chunk of leek, finely chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon finely grated jalapeno (more if you really like jalapeno)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. Stir flour, salt, baking powder, soda, herbs and flax seeds together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and vegetables until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. (I did one bread pan and one muffin pan.)
4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (Muffins bake for 20 to 25 minutes.) Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Makes between 18 and 24 muffins, depending on how deep you fill the pan.  Could also do 12 muffins and one bread pan.  Absolutely fabulous warm with a little butter.

Be careful if you’re making these for ‘later’.  You might find they disappear rather… rapidly.  (I polished off 4 muffins barely out of the oven.)