Squash, Tennis, and Homemade GF Cookies

Something tells me I will need to find an abundance of new squash recipes soon…and that something is that our zucchini and yellow squash are growing faster than the weeds surrounding them!  Yesterday we harvested (and ate) three, and we have three more that are ready to be picked today.

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Aren’t they beautiful? 😀  It is unbelievable how fast zucchini grow.  This particular one increased its size by almost 1/3 literally overnight.  We checked on it yesterday morning and thought, “Whoa!  Where did that come from?!”

For dinner, we kept the squash prep simple–sliced, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried thyme, and roasted in the oven.

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…Plus baked pork chops and brown rice noodles with garlic and basil.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t love squash, but this was actually very tasty!  Again, I am fairly certain food tastes better when it’s homegrown.  It’s not too late to buy a few vegetable plants! 😀  You can grow them in pots, and you wont regret it.

After dinner we went to a local public school to play tennis.  My quad is still giving me trouble from our softball game ten days ago–fifteen or twenty minutes into my runs, it starts feeling really tight and achy.  I was happy to do a non-running cardio workout!

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My husband has skills.

We played for just over an hour, and as we were driving home, Andrew reminded me of my promise to bake him something.  Wednesday afternoon I’d baked a few desserts for a meeting at church, and when Andrew got home the house smelled like cookies, but there was nothing he could eat, so I promised to bake him something gluten-free and delicious on Thursday.

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There’s a decent selection of gluten-free all-purpose flours and baking mixes these days, but the best stuff we have come across is Arrowhead Mills GF all-purpose flour.  The first few times I baked with it, I double checked the box to make sure the flour was GF after tasting how good the final product was.  More than once I did that!  We have even served GF baked goods made from this brand to our friends without them being able to tell they were GF.  That’s the true test. 🙂  Anyway, these chocolate chip cookies, made using Arrowhead Mills GF all-purpose flour, did not disappoint.  I’d need to do a side-by-side taste test, but I think I prefer these to regular chocolate chip cookies.  We may have eaten seven between the two of us (it’s okay… we eat our veggies too :-D)

Now, I’m off to pick some more squash before they grow too large to eat!

What’s your favorite squash recipe?  Do you have a gluten-free flour that you really love?

June Garden Update

We have veggies!

In the last few weeks, we have really seen the vegetable garden thrive.  (“Thriving” is a nice way of saying, “Everything is out of control!”)  Perhaps it’s the heat, the rain, or a combination of the two, but it seems as though some of the vegetables came out over night.  I will let the photos do most of the talking today:

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Then and now

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Green beans

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Heirloom & cherry tomatoes

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Hot peppers & tomatillos

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Zucchini & all the viney things gettin’ crazy

Fun gardening fact:  Did you know that there’s a difference between straw and hay?  We sure didn’t.  Apparently we wanted straw to use as mulch, but we bought hay.  The difference?  Hay is comprised of grasses that still have the seeds and grains attached, which means that when we covered our garden with it to prevent weeds, we actually planted tons of grass seed (you can see it in the zucchini picture above.)  It has really been a joy to pull the weeds that we planted out of the garden. 😉

Despite the weeds, we are so looking forward to harvesting (and eating) all this produce!  We have put in a lot of hard work in the garden, and finally seeing the fruit makes it all worth it.  In fact, after seeing those peppers for the first time a few nights ago, I think Andrew was on a gardening high:

Andrew:  “Is it bad that I want to turn the entire back yard into a vegetable garden??”

Catherine:  “It’s not bad to want that… as long as you know it isn’t going to happen.”

😀

First Softball Game

In anticipation of our softball game Tuesday night,  Andrew insisted that we visit the batting cages.  (Is he a little bit competitive?  What gave it away? ;-))  Earlier that day my dad reminded me that when I was a kid and we’d play in the cul de sac, I batted much better left handed than I did right (I am right handed.)  I decided to give both a try.  At the cages, I was able to hit the ball both ways, but felt stronger with the right, so I made the decision to bat righty that night.

We arrived at the field, met our teammates, and before long the game began.  We played two games, and the first was truly a practice game–we followed most rules, but for the sake of batting practice, everyone swung until they hit the ball.  Prior to this game, I thought that concept sounded fantastic.  Who doesn’t want to keep batting until they get a hit?  What if that fourth pitch is yours?  For my first at-bat, I chose a bat, walked to the plate, and positioned myself to hit the ball right handed.  The first ball was pitched, I swung and missed.  Then the second.  And the third.  No contact.  My face was burning.  Can I please sit down?  That was three.  Then the fourth (nothing,) fifth (nothing,) and sixth (nothing.)  I was mortified.  I decided to switch sides and give my left hand a try;  it couldn’t be any worse.

Amazingly, I hit that first pitch left handed!  For the rest of the game, I hit everything I swung at.  During the first game I played right field, and in the second game I played second base.  While I didn’t have any outstanding plays, I don’t think I made anything on the field worse.  That must count for something, right?  😀  At second base, I stopped more balls with my shins than my glove, but I stopped them!  And before you think that I am exaggerating and no balls came my way, please allow me to say that I now have two serious bruises on my left leg, one on my right, one on my left foot, and one on my right elbow.  I heard someone on the other team call me a “brick wall.”

bruisesLots of icing happened that night.

Bruises aside, I really enjoyed playing.  I still stand by my statement that, had I played softball as a kid, I could have been pretty good.  With a little practice, there might be hope for me yet (assuming I can learn to catch the ball with my glove rather than my legs. ;-))

 

Softball, Fresh Produce, and Unrealized Dreams

Tonight… I play softball.  I have never before played, with the exception of a few intramural games in college and, of course, gym class, but I have always suspected that had I played growing up, I could have been pretty good.  Just a hunch.  (A few years ago when I told Andrew about that hunch, he said, “I don’t know if you have the size necessary to be really good at any sport.” Dream crusher.)

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Yesterday my friend Evan from work asked if Andrew and I would be interested in playing on our church’s team.  In light of my unrealized dreams mentioned above, I gave him an immediate yes.  Our first game is tonight, so last night Andrew and I headed to a local high school field to play catch–or, as Andrew probably thought of it: give Catherine a crash course in fundamentals so she doesn’t embarrass me tomorrow. 😉

But first, dinner:

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Baked salmon with a Dijon mustard/soy sauce glaze, steamed broccoli, and brown rice.  Quick, simple, delicious… and eaten outside on our new deck furniture, which made it taste even better!

During dinner we spotted a rabbit munching on weeds around the garden.  We see them out there daily, and so far they haven’t touched anything in the garden;  we are hoping the weeds will be enough to satisfy them!

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Hey, bunny… get away from those tomatoes!

Speaking of tomatoes…

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Ours are growing like crazy!  In the photo above, the tomato plants make up the jungle on the left.  Most have flowers on them, and the cherry tomatoes are starting to come out!

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We also picked our second strawberry last night;  last week we put netting around the plants to keep the birds out, so hopefully we will be able to harvest more than one berry at a time now 🙂

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As we split the single berry in half I thought, “Vegetable gardening really does make you appreciate the work it takes to produce food.”  You may be wondering at this point, “Is she going to post a picture of each individual fruit or vegetable they pick?”  The answer is: possibly, leaning towards likely. 😉

After dinner and bunny-watching and strawberry-picking, we grabbed our gloves and a softball and worked on some fundamentals.  As I suspected, I wasn’t terrible:  I caught the ball far more than I missed it, I threw it fairly accurately, and I was only hit in the shin once by a close-range grounder… And once in the knee, at which point I immediately fell to the ground in pain.  I now have a lovely bruise and pain to the touch. 🙂

“If that happens tomorrow during the game, you have to throw the ball before you can think about the pain.”  -Andrew

Thanks, coach.

I am excited to play tonight and hope I don’t embarrass the team too badly 😀

Any last minute advice from you softball or baseball players out there?

 

Cape Charles (Memorial Day Weekend)

As we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Saturday morning, I thought about the popular get-to-know-you question:  Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?  Then I thought, God bless Virginia, because I don’t have to choose.  Mountains Friday, beach Saturday and Sunday.

Andrew’s dad and his girlfriend recently purchased a house at Cape Charles and have been working hard to renovate it before summer.  The house is finally live-able, and this weekend we helped them move furniture from Richmond.  Saturday afternoon, after moving all the large pieces into the house (plus lunch and a 2-hour nap…hah!), Andrew and I set off the explore the small town. Unfortunately, at 60 degrees with 20 mph winds, it was not a great beach day, but we were content to walk around in sweat shirts. 🙂

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Cape Charles definitely has a small-town feel.  There is only one street with stores–a few restaurants, a pharmacy with a lunch counter, a hardware store selling everything from paint to hula hoops to cleaning supplies that may have expired in 1987.  Outside most of the shops, locals sit in rocking chairs, greeting passerbys.   It was charming.

After dinner Saturday night, we caught a beautiful sunset over the bay:

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On Sunday morning, I went for a short, easy run; my primary motivation was to snap a few pictures before too many people were out and about.

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I saw an otter (that Andrew tells me is a muskrat…) swimming in a pond!  Walking closer to the water I thought, “Either this is an otter (muskrat,) and this is going to be awesome, or it’s the biggest snake I’ve ever seen, and I’m in big trouble.”  Thankfully, it wasn’t a snake. 😉

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For lunch, Andrew and I walked to the Cape Charles Coffee House (where I had also grabbed a coffee at the end of my run :-D.)    On Sundays they only serve breakfast, which suited both of us just fine!  Andrew ordered the egg platter, with scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit (including local strawberries!,) and I ordered the Belgian waffles, which came with fresh fruit, whipped cream, and sausage links.  The waffles were huge, and other than Andrew helping me with the sausage, I ate every bite.  I was pretty hungry, and it was so, so delicious!  I wish I’d taken a picture!

On the way to lunch we passed this pretty blue wall.  This is what happened when I asked Andrew to model in his red shirt:

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How did I get so lucky? 😉

After lunch we packed up our bikes and drove to the nearby National Wildlife Refuge, then Kiptopeke State Park.  The NWR had paved or fine gravel trails, but not many of them, and the state park had lots of trails, but most of them were grassy and tough to ride through.  Still, between the two, we spent about two hours on our bikes exploring.

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The marsh overlook at the National Wildlife Refuge

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The Bay Overlook at Kiptopeke State Park

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I’ve said this before, but I rarely notice our height difference until I look at pictures… and then I think it’s hilarious.  I look like a child on the bike.  😀

We ended the afternoon with some beach time at the park.

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By the end of the day, we were completely exhausted.  I think we were in bed by 9:30!  It was an awesome weekend, despite the cooler weather on Saturday.  We drove home early Monday and spent most of the day resting and watching Arrested Development on Netflix.

…And I continue to be thankful that I don’t have to choose between the beach and the mountains. 😀

What did you do for the Memorial Day weekend?  Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?

Dobie Mountain Hike + Peeing in the Woods

On Thursday afternoon Andrew and I made the somewhat last-minute decision to take the day off Friday and hike.  We already had a three day weekend for Memorial Day and figured, why not make it four?  Plus, we hadn’t been hiking since that bizarre warm day back in January, and we were itching for some mountain views.  After a bit of deliberation–we wanted to minimize driving distance and maximize views–we decided on Dobie Mountain.  The starting point of this hike shares a parking lot with one of our favorites, Humpback Rocks, and is less than ninety minutes from Richmond, but we had never done it before Friday.  As it turns out, we didn’t know what we were missing.

The weather forecast for Friday showed us that we’d have a cooler hike (about 55 degrees,) and we dressed appropriately for the temperature, but what we did not anticipate was the wind: 25-30 mph!  Thankfully, when we’d walked out our front door that morning it was raining, and even though I knew it wasn’t in the forecast for where we were hiking, I ran back inside to get my rain coat.  Just in case.  I definitely needed the extra (wind resistant) layer!

Aside from the wind, which wasn’t terrible once we entered the woods, the whole day was fantastic.  We took a picture of the map in parking lot to use as our trail map:

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Starting at the Humpback Rocks Parking Area, we went up the Albright Loop, onto the Appalachian Trail to the Glass Hollow Overlook, then back to finish the loop.  The first half of the hike is downhill with a lot of rocks and switchbacks, then the trail ascends to the overlook and back to the start.  It was a good workout, but not quite as strenuous as Humpback Rocks.

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Braving the wind.  My hair tells the story.

The views at the overlook were incredible:

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Because it was a weekday and we were on the less popular of two neighbor hikes, we didn’t see any other hikers once we left the parking lot.  Beautiful solitude… Together. 😉  We set up our ENO hammock and took a break for lunch.

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PBJ’s on gluten-free bread, apples, tortilla chips, carrots (Andrew,) trail mix (Catherine;  fine, I only ate the chocolate)

Also, despite using the restroom immediately before starting the hike and drinking less water than I probably should have, nature called.  Guys have it so easy when it comes to peeing in the woods.  Girls?  It’s a little tougher…and not something I have practiced often.  Here’s my advice: after finding a safe location (no poison ivy or people,) choose a tree, point your backside downhill, grab the tree for support, and squat as if you are water skiing with your butt very close to the water.  That advice and mental image are free.  You’re welcome 😉

Cool finds of the day: a log that looked like a dragon (I decided to ride it,) and… these green things:

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The whole day was a blast, and we were glad we made the trip.  Lots of quality time, beautiful views, and–one of my favorite parts of hiking–a workout that doesn’t seem like a workout.  Seriously, if I lived within 15 minutes of a mountain, I would hike every day.  Or at least a few times a week.

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Do you ever use hiking as a workout?  What’s your favorite hike/place to hike?

Garden Update + Homemade Organic Pesticide

Gardens require work, and for two people who are firmly against spraying any type of chemical on their plants, gardens require a lot of work.  We spend hours on our hands and knees pulling weeds.  We chase and yell at squirrels.  I’d like to share a less labor-intensive (and less your-neighbors-think-you’re-nuts) organic method we found for keeping bugs from eating our plants.  But first, a photo update:

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We spread hay last weekend as a mulch to hold in moisture and keep weeds from springing up.

 

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A row of broccoli + tomato plants

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Squash, beets, pumpkin, and strawberries

A couple of weeks ago I walked outside to check on the roses.  They had been looking healthy, and my primary motivation was to see if there were any buds yet.  When I looked at them, however, I saw that the caterpillars, aphids, and some other bugs were enjoying a rose buffet.  They were absolutely devouring the leaves and the new buds.

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I did some quick research and read in a few places that garlic-infused water is effective in getting rid of bugs when sprayed on plants.  I figured it was worth a shot!  Andrew and I crushed a bunch of garlic cloves, put them in a large bowl of water, and let them sit overnight.  The next day I removed as many garlic chunks from the water as possible (or what I thought was possible; apparently I could have done better…), found a spray nozzle, and doused the roses and bugs.

I did manage to break the nozzle, unfortunately.  A small chunk of garlic lodged itself permanently somewhere in the tube.  Andrew asked me if I strained the water.

“I did the best I could.  The internet said to strain it with a cheese cloth.  Who the heck has a cheese cloth sitting around??”

“What about a coffee filter?”

“I didn’t think about that.”

“It even has the word ‘filter’ in its name.”

😉

So, if you decide to try this method, definitely strain the water with a coffee filter.

I am happy to say that it worked!  The following day the bugs were completely gone, with the exception of one dead caterpillar that looked like it had been burned in half by the garlic.  (You’re welcome for that visual.)  While there are obviously still holes in the leaves and some of the buds, we haven’t seen any bugs in weeks.  Crushed garlic, for the win!

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The first rose of the season

We are looking forward to more bug-free roses throughout the summer as well as lots of fresh fruits and veggies!

Do you know any effective methods for controlling garden pests organically?  Have you tried garlic spray?

Squeaky Clean

Saturday night.  9:30 p.m.  I just started the washing machine on a hot water cycle, no clothes, lots of bleach.  Why?  Oh, friend, take a seat…

After a long day working in the garden, Andrew and I cleaned up to go out to dinner.  Around 7:15 p.m., right before leaving home, I remembered I desperately needed to start a load of laundry if I wanted to wear clean clothes to church in the morning.  I started the laundry.  We went to dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant.  Andrew kept his dish mild, while I requested the medium heat.  We talked about our day.  We talked about our friends.  We talked about tomorrow, and Andrew suggested that perhaps I was unnecessarily stressed this week.  On the way home, we stopped for sorbet.

But all this is irrelevant to the bleach in the washing machine.

When we returned home, I remembered that I needed to put my clothes in the dryer.  I began pulling the clothes out of the washing machine, a few pieces at a time, shaking them gently to avoid wrinkles.  As I neared the bottom of the washer–only a few socks (no matches) remained–I saw something at the bottom of the drum, partially hidden by the agitator (I just Googled, “washing machine diagram” to learn the technical names.)

Is that a…?  No.  No way.  Catherine, you are being neurotic.  It’s just a big wad of lint.  With a tail…

“Andrew…?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you please come here?”

“What’s wrong?”

“I think… there’s a mouse…a dead mouse…in the washing machine.”

Oh yes, indeed there was.  I considered not writing about this because it is So. Gross., but figured the story was worth it.  We have no idea how it got in the house, much less the washing machine.  The best guess we have is that it came in through the garage, which opens right by the door to the laundry room.  We had been keeping a double-bagged bag of bird seed in the laundry room because when we had it in the garage, a mouse broke into it. We checked the bag, and it had (recently) been chewed, so we think the mouse must have smelled it and sneaked in while we were working in the garden with the door open.  Gross, gross, gross.

So now, 10:08 p.m., I put my wet, took-a-bath-with-a-dead-mouse clothes back in the washing machine, shaking each item individually, intentionally–just in case.  Just in freaking case.

I will not wear dirty clothes to church tomorrow;  they will be squeaky clean.

(Squeaky clean??  I can’t believe I said that.  Great word play, horrifying mental image.  I’m so sorry.  I might wear dirty clothes tomorrow.)

“What is that smell?”

Catherine:  “Ew, what is that smell?  Is it the trash?”

Andrew looks guilty.

Catherine: “Did you fart?”

Andrew:  “No…”

Andrew’s gaze drops to something on the kitchen counter–a just-opened package of kimchi.

[Kimchi–a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented cabbage; Andrew’s impulse buy at our most recent trip to the grocery store.]

Catherine: “It’s the kimchi?

Andrew: “Do you want to try some?”

Catherine:  “My first two guesses were the trash and a fart.  No, I think I’ll pass.”

😉

Active Dates

The way I see it, working out with one’s significant other accomplishes two tasks at once:  1. strengthening the relationship and 2. staying physically fit.  You get all the benefits of exercise–lower risk of heart disease, better mood, lower stress, better sleep, etc.–plus the added benefit of spending quality time with the person you love and knowing they are reaping those benefits too.  While we certainly do not work out together every day (Andrew does not share my passion for running,) we try to squeeze a few “active dates” into our weekly routine.

Yesterday afternoon we pulled the bikes out of the garage for the first ride of 2013 (with the exception of riding my bike to the start of the 10k last weekend, but that was for transportation purposes.)  There is a great park a few miles from our house, so we biked there, cutting through neighborhoods to avoid the main roads.  This particular park has a paved path as well as some dirt and root filled trails on which to ride–it’s a pick-your-own adventure park. 🙂  We opted mostly for the trails.

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In some places the trail was so narrow and had so many roots that it was less of a ride and more of a “keep your hands on the brakes and your butt off the seat” controlled downhill. 🙂  To add to the adventure, it’s inchworm week!  Okay, I don’t think “inchworm week” is a thing, but right now there are tons of those little green guys hanging from trees.  As we rode through the park we’d have to lean one way or the other to avoid running into them, and we stopped periodically to pick them off ourselves.  Hah!  (And just in case you were wondering, our wedding occurred during inchworm week last year.  As my grandmother often reminds me, “It was a lovely day… even with all those green worms everywhere.”  Thanks, Grandma 😉 )

In just a couple of hours of biking yesterday, we accomplished great things for our hearts, marriage, and general well-being, which may not have occurred if we’d chosen to sit on the couch watching TV all afternoon.

Here are some other ideas for active dates that can easily be incorporated into your week (especially now that it’s warm outside!):

      -Taking a walk after dinner

      -Hiking on a Saturday

      -Throwing a frisbee in the yard

      -Kayaking

      -Taking a yoga class

      -Playing tennis

      -Swimming in the river/lake/ocean (whatever is nearby)

      -Rock climbing

      -Exploring downtown

So many great possibilities!  Whatever you like to do, just get out there and move with your sweet thang 🙂

Do you have any active dates planned for this week?