Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween in the House!

I promised we would amp up our fall decorations before the 31st and I sure did! I had so much fun decorating and I spent exactly zero dollars. All I had to do was go on a little treasure hunt through our bookcase and pull out some black construction paper! I would also like to note that when the weather gets dreary and the days get shorter, something about glowing candles everywhere when we get home is so calming. Take a look:

Kinda spooky...
Really Spooky!

Creepy Cut Outs!

...and the last two pieces of an amazing batch of chocolate chip banana bread.
These won't last long...

Ghouls' Night!

My friend Jessica is as obsessed with entertaining as I am. In fact, while I was enjoying our beautiful wedding day, Jessica was behind the scenes making all the magic happen. We are constantly brainstorming themes and ideas together and maybe some day we'll set up shop and do what we do best... PARTY (plan)!

Anyways, on Saturday, Jessica threw a "Ghouls' Night" Halloween party for the ladies. It was adorable and super fun. I brought one of my mom's favorite recipes, Graveyard Cups and volunteered to be the photographer. Here are some pictures of Jessica's spooky soiree:

The Hostess!

And the ladies!

Monday, October 25, 2010

You Are What You Eat

Alright, brace yourself. Here comes the post where we say something that makes you think we are total tree huggers and you spend the rest of the day trying to reconcile your previous and current opinion of us. In fact. you wrestle with it at your desk all day at work. You pull on your hair during class until you're upset and disheveled looking. You head straight to the bar after your nine to five to look for clarity. You stew on it. Until you just can't take it anymore and you end up calling us tonight during one of our Bones marathons and screaming into the telephone, "Who do you think you are!?!?! I don't understand!"

Or maybe you just finish reading this post and say to yourself, "Alright dude. Thats cool."

Jake and I have spent a good part of the last two years studying and researching our planet and the impact humans have on it.

WE DO...
believe in global climate change (ask us about it some time). believe that the world is overpopulated and that many people just use too much. believe that as Christians and extremely fortunate human beings (that is to have been raised as happy middle class Americans with choices and the opportunity for education), it is our responsibility to care about the Earth God created and what we can do to live more respectfully within it. believe that "not knowing" is not a very good excuse.

like PETA, or people who harass or disrespect others about their own choices. live in the woods or go without toilet paper (shudder). like the cliche use of the word "green" (most of the earth is blue anyways... and brown is good too). think scaring people is a very good tactic for getting them to care. believe that the government can fix anything and everything, or that people should expect it too. like to support companies that don't use their power to do good (because that, my friends is the influence of the American citizen). expect our friends to make the same choices as we do (but if they want to, that's cool, we can help).

After everything, Jake and I really just believe in sustainability. We believe in living within our means as much as we possibly can. We believe in not consuming more than we need. We believe in knowing where our food and possessions come from and how they got to us. We believe in carefully considered choices about our lives.

Ok, stepping down off the soap box. The real purpose of this post is to talk about FOOD! You see, it turns out that what we eat is a much bigger deal than we grew up believing. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about because you can hardly even get through a magazine without reading that hamburgers are worse for you than ever before, french fries cause cancer and school lunches contribute to childhood obesity. So you make yourself a Cobb salad with egg and maybe some grilled chicken on the side. Then you turn on the news and see that the lettuce you used is infected with E. Coli and the eggs and chicken will give you Salmonella. You might have bought a Prius, but you find out that the food your eating means as much to your carbon footprint as the car you drive. What the heck is this world coming to!?

It all has to do with the fact that a lot of our food has been industrialized. We want it plumper, faster and cheaper and we need more of it than ever before. The family owned farms and ranches are being pushed under and the food monopolies are using and abusing hormones, conveyor belts and cheap labor to deliver. This is serious food for thought in the Curtis house (apartment). You see, we get a vote about all of this. In fact, we get a bunch of votes. Every time we go to the grocery store. Every item we allow past that scanner. Every piece of food we buy with our hard earned money.

So, we made some choices for ourselves...

We Eat Local & In Season
We are blessed to live in a (mostly) fertile state with a mild, Mediterranian climate. We are surrounded by family owned farms (even related to some) and we'd like to support them as much as possible. When our food comes from our very own part of the country, it's going save a lot of oil and emissions and be fresher, too.

We also know that EVERYTHING doesn't grow ALL THE TIME. Even California has seasons. If you buy an orange in October... that orange probably came from a different hemisphere. That orange was picked before it was ripe, shipped to the US and probably ripened with a chemical. We'd rather eat produce that's in season where we live. Whole Foods makes it easy to find great tasting fruit and veggies that are in season and grown locally without pesticides and it doesn't cost a huge amount more. We think its worth the investment.

We Eat Grass-fed Beef
Cattle raised on most industrial feedlots are fed corn, soy and other grains that are shipped to them (oil and emissions). Corn makes cattle fatter faster. The only problem is, cattle aren't made to eat corn, they're made to eat grass. When corn is fed to cattle, their stomachs form bacteria that are harmful to the cow and to people, such as E. Coli 0157:H7. Yeah, thats a bad one. I'll spare you the details on how the bacteria actually gets on the meat. It has to do with the conditions on feed lots like the one Jake lovingly refers to as Cow-schwitz (my apologies for the tasteless joke).

Feedlot Cattle

We buy and eat grass-fed beef as much as possible because it's safer and better for the environment. When cows are able to roam and eat grass, their stomachs are healthier and they aren't standing in their own infected waste. Grass-fed beef is also leaner, more nutritious and tastes great. Turns out, God got it right... duh.

Grass-fed Cattle

We Go Meatless (Sometimes)
No matter what kind of meat you eat, it has a higher carbon price tag than veggies. This means that it takes more energy to grow, raise and transport the same amount of food. Beef has the highest footprint by far, followed by pork and then chicken. We are CERTAINLY not vegetarians, but we try to eat our meat proportionally. We eat the most chicken, the least beef, and have meatless meals 2-3 times a week. We make that hamburger a special treat.

Four Cheese Ravioli with Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce

We Plan Our Meals
This is helpful no matter what your food goals are. When we plan out our meals for the upcoming week and make our shopping list, we save time and money. We are less likely to waste food and we spontaneously eat out less because we have a menu. I'm not saying we never get to a hard night where we say, "Screw it, we're going to In N Out!" (we're not perfect, after all) but we do it less when we plan out the week. That way we add dollars to our account and recipes to our book. This site has two great meal planners that are free to download. We use the one that only has dinners and eat leftovers for lunch.

Our Meal Planner and Shopping List

In the future, we would love to have a garden and grow some of our produce ourselves. We hope our kids will learn that not all food comes in plastic wrap.

If you want to learn more about what you're eating... we think Food Inc. is an inspiring place to start. You can rent the movie or visit their website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Weekend With The Curtises

Before we get started... a quick grammar lesson:
First off, let me direct your attention to the title of this post. Notice the part that says "Curtises". Yup, thats right.... Curtises. That is the correct plural formation of our last name. It's special because it ends with an "s" The funny part is, I have had a last name that ends with "s" my whole life (Richards before this) and I only just this minute got around to figuring out how to use it. I feel like a burden has been lifted!

A weekend with the Curtis's.
A weekend with the Curtis'.
A weekend with the Curtiss.
A weekend with the Curtises!

I won't even bore you with the possessive forms, but I'm very excited about this new discovery.

Moving on...
We had a fantastic weekend. The kind that was so wonderful and enjoyable that we want to relive it a little by sharing it with you.

Thursday Night:
In San Jose, the weekend starts on Thursday night. This last Thursday we got to go out to celebrate our good friend Carolyn's 22nd birthday. It was super fun because we saw a lot of friends we haven't in a while, like Megan and Sara (you can check out those babes here). Sara even camped out on our couch! A.k.a. Sara and I chatted late into the night, while Jake fell asleep.

Jake had to work on Friday, but I had a totally free day. Sara and Megan were still in town, so we made it our personal mission to have the best Friday ever. We accomplished this by staying in our sweats the whole day and following the following itenerary:

10:00am - wake up
10:30am - get bagels at House of Bagels
11:00am - begin Bones Marathon
12:00pm - get ice cream and candy at 7-Eleven, mix a batch of chocolate chip cookies
12:30pm - more episodes of Bones
1:30pm - take out lunch from Sa-By Thai
2:00pm - more episodes of Bones and napping

By 5:30 Jake was home from work and jealous of what a great day we had. No worries though, he got to get in on the fun when we went to hang out with some new friends for a game night. We played a game called Settlers of Catan. Super fun, but not easy for beginners or people who are easily distracted (like me). The game got pretty intense and we ended up playing until 1am!

Saturday morning was a great one for sleeping in and making a delicious pancake breakfast together. We ran some errands and attended the Saturday evening service at church, which focused on building memorials to God and his goodness in our lives. Afterwards, we made a couple dozen muffins for a group breakfast the next day and caught up on episodes of our favorite shows.

We got up early Sunday morning to meet with members of our church small group for a big breakfast before going to the Silicon Valley Walk for Aids together. The walk wound 5.2 miles through the Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose. It felt great to be supporting such an important cause, being involved in our community and getting some good exercise. It rained almost the whole day, but we enjoyed the cool fall weather. Afterwards, Jake and I broke off from the group and got a big lunch from Chipotle. We cuddled up on the couch to eat burritos and watch Dexter, but after all the walking, we ended up falling asleep.

That night we drove down to Watsonville (about an hour away) to have dinner with my grandmother who was in town. It was nice seeing her after a long time and a great wrap up to a busy weekend.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Our October Bucket List

I've already established that October is the best month. If you missed that, see the proof here. Since October is such a magical time, we don't like to dilly dally it away like any other run of the mill months. Oh no, October deserves so much more than that. So this year, we made an October bucket list. Oh, we are so going to rock this month.

1. Decorate the House (a little)
When I first mentioned this one, Jake almost ran for cover. After all, no one wants to live in a tiny apartment covered in cheesy plastic pumpkins and one of those creepy motion-censored ghouls that freaks you out when you get up to get a drink in the middle of the night. But thanks to my blogging research and my friends at Young House Love, I've learned a better way. See how they decorate for halloween and thanksgiving.

The idea of repurposing things we already have and making the decorations fit in with the style of our home sounded like a super fun challenge, especially since we don't have a ton of cash to spend on seasonal decorations and every inch of our space has to be as useable as it is festive.
This year, our decorations cost almost nothing and fit in organically with our style. I started off with a neutral fall look, but I'll make things a little more Halloween-y next week.

After Jake saw where I was going with everything, he wanted to decorate too. He even helped drink all these Pumpkin Ales so that I could use them for a project. How sweet, right?

One last comment on decorating. Big huge major props to our expat Aussie friends, Morgan and Alex for keeping the Halloween spirit alive down under. Loving their crafty skeletons!

2. Bake (a lot)
So far, I've made halloween cupcakes and a batch of classic chocolate chip cookies that our friends are quickly becoming obsessed with (from this awesome book). But this year, the big ticket items on my list are breads. I make a good banana bread (hence why I'm letting those bananas above go nice and brown) and I put way too many chocolate chips in it. I'm also going to be attempting my first pumpkin bread. I'm using this recipe. Wish me luck!

3. Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins!
We will not miss a trip to the pumpkin patch this year. Every time we drive past one I get giddy like a little kid. Lines and lines of pumpkins, carnival games and spinny rides that make you sick to your stomach. Heck yeah!

4. Costumes
There is nothing I love more than making Halloween costumes! No final decisions have been made yet, but we're considering being Ricky Bobby and his wife Carley from Talladega Nights (one of our favorite silly movies). I'm practicing my southern accent and trying to figure out how to make a race car driver's jump suit.

"If you're not first, you're last."

"I'm a driver's wife!"

Other Things To Do (if time and weather permit):
Puddle Jumping
Find a Halloween Party
Pass Out Candy to Kids
Blog Much More
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