The ABC's of Ashley

I saw this on another blog, so I thought I would share the ABC's of me!

a picture from our recent trip to KC
Animal:  some kind of bird (my maiden name is Byrd)
Book:  The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue (I reread it at least once a year!)
Color:  green and mustard yellow (lately), red (all-time)
Diet:  lots of grains, a little meat, more fruits and veggies, too many sweets
Exercise:  walking around the house
Food:  ice cream and pie
God:  saved my life through the power of prayer in December
Height:  5 feet and 7.5 inches
Indulgence:  trashy TV, white chocolate, Cheez-It's
Job:  Student Success Assistant and English Instructor
Kindred Spirit:  haven't met this person yet...
Love:  my husband Zach
Marriage:  September 19, 2009--the one year anniversary of when we met
Number:  24
Off-spring:  our two kitties ;)
Parent:  one in heaven, one on earth
Quirks:  sorting bath towels by color, drawing out the sound my mouth makes when I yawn, having a country accent when I talk to my family and having a Chicagoan accent when I get excited, hating the words "belly" and "belch"  *ewww*  (The last is especially bothersome because I have a digestive disease.)
Restaurant:  Flying Fish
Style: British post-colonial (house) and scholastic/collegiate (fashion)--I LOVE cardigans
Tunes: Kings of Leon, Patsy Cline, Kings of Convenience, Delta Spirit, The Decemberists
Uplifts: writing, cooking, spending time with my husby, traveling
Vacation: weekend trips to KC, study abroad trip in the British Isles, the trip we are planning to return to the UK next summer
Weight: 125ish (I've gained a lot back since I got sick last fall.)
X-factor: my silliness, my loyalty, my straight teeth and super long legs *ZING!*
Years:  a few months into my 28th...
Zodiac: Taurus

C is for CARROTS

Am I the only one who struggles to come up with healthy Mexican side dishes?  It seems like Mexican food is always served with some variation of the following:  rice, beans, pico de gallo/salsa, queso, and tortilla chips.  Often, Mexican food will come with lettuce, too, but I only eat that if I have ordered tacos or taco salad--something that uses lettuce.  Maybe it is just Mexican food in the South...

The short, stubby carrots are from the Farmers Market; they had amazing flavor.  :)

So I decided to do some research and came across a Mexican carrot recipe.  I honestly did not know carrots were part of Mexican food; I have never seen them in a Mexican restaurant that I can recall.  The reviews of this recipe were great, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Pickled Carrots
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
5 bay leaves (I will probably cut this down a bit next time)
4 peppercorns (The same goes for these)
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cups vinegar
3/4 cups water
as many pickled jalapeños as you want

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic.  Add the carrots and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add the vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the water and jalapeños and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Maybe this is where I went wrong because I didn't let these cool and refrigerate them overnight before serving.  Warm carrots just sound so much better than cold ones.  Perhaps refrigerating them would have cut down on the spice because these babies were HOT.  But I have a feeling it would have only amplified the flavor.  I liked them but could only handle a small amount on the side of my rice and bean burrito.  Zach did not like them--he said they were way too spicy.  (He kept apologizing for not liking them, and I had to draw out what he didn't like; I told him I needed to know so I wouldn't make another spicy pickled vegetable next time.)  I will have to make them will less bay leaves, peppercorns, and jalapeños next time because I think this recipe is a keeper!  (I figure my husby can try them one. more. time.  ;)  I know my mama would love these because we used to keep a jar of peppers and vinegar in the fridge to sprinkle on greens when I was growing up.

Happy eating, folks!


We like to fry our vegetables in the South.  I grew up eating fried potatoes, fried okra, fried squash.  I was a picky eater, but I loved fried veggies (probably because of the batter if I'm honest with you blogger folks).  I still like them every now and then because they are downright yummy when they are piping hot off the stovetop.  But I don't do this very often because I HATE frying things.  That's right:  I don't hate frying things because it's bad for me--I hate it because it's messy.  ;)  And, well, I guess it's easier to say, "No!" when I know how it's unhealthy and messy.

But every now and then won't kill us, right?  Fried food isn't arsenic, folks.  You would have to eat a lot for it to kill you immediately and a lot s-l-o-w-l-y for it to do you in eventually.  (I know fried food isn't healthy, but I don't think it's the food by itself that causes these problems--it's mainly our behaviors.  This is a huge problem in America of which, I think, we are already aware.  Now we have to do something!  We have to change our behaviors!  No Big Mac's for me!  And fried okra only with fried fish!  Eh, two fried foods together is probably bad?  Whoops...)

Seriously, though, I am trying to do better.  And even if I occasionally have a burger and fries or eat ice cream late at night, I know I am incorporating more vegetables and fruits into my diet.  And that makes me feel alright when, every now and then, I fry some squash because nothing says, "Southern Summer" like fried yellow squash.  :)

Fried Squash
Combine 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup flour, and 1/2 tsp. salt, beating until smooth as possible.  Wash and slice 1 summer squash (yes, only ONE!) into thin slices (the thinner, the crispier and the crispier, the better).  Discard the ends of the squash.  Heat enough oil in a skillet so that the bottom is covered.  Dip each squash slice into the batter and carefully drop into the hot oil.  Brown both sides, flipping often.  Serve piping hot!

grease heaven

I loved this batter!  Last year, I used Panko breadcrumbs instead of/with the flour.  Zach liked it (he had NEVER had fried squash before), but I didn't care for that batter.  It didn't taste enough like my aunt Grace's or my mama's.  I found this one this year, and I plan on using it for other things.

I promise to bring you a healthier squash recipe soon.  :)

Entertaining at The Owlery

Well, I sorta already showed my dining "room" on the SUYL--Kitchens from Kelly's Korner, but I will go ahead and share it again!  A few of those who viewed my pictures commented on my teapot collection, so I will share a bit more about that.  We actually just had a friend from work over with her boyfriend and son.  My kitchen area turned into a disaster:

BUT I think that is a sign that it was a successful meal!  (This picture was taken after they left, and I started cleaning up.)  Some of my favorite things to cook include chicken pot pie with lots of veggies; cobbler; French toast; roast beef; red, white, and black bean chili; and Cadbury chip brown sugar cookies.  For this dinner, I made baked chicken with McClard's seasoning, mashed potatoes from scratch, green beans with thyme, buttery corn, homemade cheddar bay biscuits (like the ones at Red Lobster!), and Nutella cookies with peanut butter.  Enjoy another look around the heart of our home!

This is how our kitchen usually looks.  This is looking into our dining "room" from the kitchen.

 looking into our dining area from the living room

 Our table is an antique Duncan Phyfe dining table!  A couple from Zach's parents' church gave it to us when we got married because they were switching from two residences to one. It needs to be refinished, but it is just beautiful.  It seats six, but we keep one chair in our bedroom for sitting.  I love imagining all of the different meals shared at this table and all of the different people who have sat down at it.  Zach's Momo made the lace tablecloth several years ago and gave it to me for my birthday.  The vase in center was made by Zach's mom who is very into pottery.  All of the birdy items were gifts from my birthday week that Zach's mom organized this year since I was recovering from surgery during that time, and the ironwork napkin holder was a wedding gift (I don't remember from whom.)  The rug, which you really can't see, was purchased with wedding gift money.  And I'm a new seamstress!  Zach got me this sewing machine for Christmas last year!

 the original needlework on the dining chairs
We wish we had the money to restore them to their former glory, but we can't right now.  We are planning to cover them with some fabric to protect the needlework and better match our decor at some point.

 I keep cookbooks, photo albums, yearbooks, photo boxes, picture frames, and scrapbook clutter on this shelf.  It needs to be better organized.  (That is one of my goals for this coming month!)  Our Willow Tree collection that we received from my mama, Grandma Byrd, and aunts on my dad's side are on top of the shelf along with a decanter that has been in my family forever.  The Alice in Wonderland bag was a birthday gift from my friend Katie; I used it in grad school, but now it holds fabric scraps.

 This china cabinet belonged to one of Zach's great aunts and was given to us by his parents to use since they weren't using it.  It holds my teapot collection, including our Alice in Wonderland collection.  (More on that in a second!)  The horse paintings were Zach's uncle's; he passed away before I met Zach.  :(  On top are some plants from my mom, a set of candleholders that were left in our first apartment, and the tiered serving dish that was a wedding gift from some ladies at Zach's parents' church.  Our kitties sleep on the ottoman to the right; we store coupons in the basket.
Oh, and our chandelier can be dimmed, so we have MOOD lighting!  But it makes for very bad lighting for pictures.  *lol*

This is a somewhat better look at my teapots.

 The top row has my Alice in Wonderland teapot (in the center) that Zach got me for Christmas when we were dating.  (It was the only Christmas we celebrated while dating because we got married exactly a year after we met on September 19!)  What is funny is that I got him a voucher for high tea at the Intercontinental on the Plaza when we were going to KC after New Year's (along with the dark blue tea cup you will see on the back of the second shelf--great minds think alike! :).  For my 24th birthday following that Christmas, he gave me several of the Alice pieces (plates and cups) during my birthday week, and his parents gave us the creamer pitcher the next Christmas.  My mama kept getting forgetting what fairy tale was behind our fairy tale...and gave me the Cinderella snow globe for Christmas after we were married.  *lol*  There's also a small white toy tea set I had when I was a little girl; I used it for my Samantha doll.

Left to right:  The rose teacup and saucer came from my best friend Monica (it was her Nan's; Nan passed away last year, and I loved her like a grandma, too); Zach's blue cup from our first Christmas together was mentioned above; this red housewarming teapot is from Brian and Whitney (they were our primary matchmakers); the burgundy and tan teapot that stacks on its cup was a birthday present from my roommate Rose; the Union Jack teapot was one of my souvenirs from my study abroad trip; the book teapot was a birthday gift from my sister-in-law; and the Japanese cup was bought on one of my many LR trips to Whole Foods.

Left to right:  The pastel polka doted teapot and cup was found at a flea market by my SIL; the plate commemorating Prince William and Catherine Middleton's wedding was a gift from my in-laws for my 26th birthday last year (my mother-in-law's best friend Fiona is Scottish and picked it up while she was visiting her family); the purple flowered teapot was a housewarming gift from my friend Katie when Monica and I got our apartment during grad school; and the simple flowered teapot was Zach's when he went away to college.

And there you have it!  Want to come over for a hot cuppa?


Have you ever had purple potatoes?  They really freaked Zach out, and if I am being honest, they freaked me out a bit, too.  ;)  It reminded me of the colored ketchup they used to have, or may have still; you just expect it to taste differently, and when it doesn't, it throws you off.  You would think you would be happy something tasted the way it was supposed to taste--like a potato that happens to be purple--but it's just...weird to eat a purple potato.

I did try to be the adult and insist to Zach, "There's nothing weird about a purple potato; they taste just like the red skinned and golden skinned potatoes."

But then I kept imagining purple mashed potatoes, and...ewww.

Anyway, it was fun to have multi-colored potatoes since they were so pretty together.  I really wish I had taken a picture of a cut purple potato because they are truly purple.  Really purple.  Weirdly purple?  *tehe*

Potatoes have a bad rap for offering far too many bad carbohydrates.  But I don't think potatoes are so bad when you eat them in moderation; we just happen to LOVE our potatoes here in a America.  You know, we have French fries (or freedom fries, if you are silly), baked potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, potato skins, scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin, hash browns, fried potatoes, etc.  In China, fast food items are served with corn, which isn't much better (FYI, it's a grain, not a vegetable), but we would probably consider this option to be better.  BUT potatoes are chock full of vitamin C (we must need LOTS of vitamin C since it's in everything healthy *lol*), potassium, and vitamin B6.  This last vitamin is essential in glucose and lipid (good fats and fat-soluble vitamins) metabolism, and it is needed for the skin and nerves and affects sleep patterns.

I really love roasted potatoes with some olive oil and herbs.  Basically, I scrub the potatoes before drizzling and tossing them in some olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) and sprinkle with my preferred spices (I looooove rosemary, which is what I used here), and bake at 325-350 for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the potatoes or potato slices.  You can peel the potatoes and slice them if you choose; I kept the skins on since most of the vitamins and minerals are in them, and I only halved a few of them because they were larger than the rest.  (These were bite-sized potatoes.)

I highly recommend making your potatoes with rosemary, but I think I am going to start mixing things up next time.  :)

Summer Pail List

During dinner one night last week, Zach and I came up with a Summer Pail List of things to do this season.  (We decided that the word "bucket" was too negative and morbid.  ;)  Here is what we came up with:

1)  Go to a Naturals game (We are going to try to go to one this week if there's a home game.)

2)  Watch a movie at Eureka Springs' Movie in the Park

3)  Watch a movie on First Friday at the Splash Pad
4)  Watch a movie at the drive-in theatre
5)  View the Hudson River exhibit at Crystal Bridges
6)  Take a picture with the new LOVE sign on the lawn at Crystal Bridges

7)  Have a fondue party (We have one planned for the 14th!)
8)  Explore the new Bentonville trails or ones we haven't
9)  Eat A LOT of snow cones and share a banana split

10)  Use our grill (We only used it once last year.  *lol*)
11)  Take a two-person scooter ride (once I get a helmet and jacket).
12)  Ride the trail from Springdale to Van Buren (This is planned for sometime next month--we bought a package deal!)
13)  Make basil gimlets (We are planning to serve these at the Fondue Is Fundoings party.  :)
14)  Ride around town with Zach wearing his horse mask

15)  Watch Moulin Rouge
16)  Have crepes from the Farmers Market

I think it's going to be a fun summer!
What do you have planned or are doing?

Sleeping at The Owlery

Hello friends from Kelly's Korner!  So these are seriously some of the worst photos I have ever taken.  I know I took them with my iPhone, but usually I can get by.  So...MY APOLOGIES!  Someday, my prince will come.  (By "prince," I mean "super nice camera."  I already got a kingly husband.  He's helping me save up for the "prince."  ;)

At The Owlery, you enter on the top floor, where the living room, kitchen/dining area, laundry area, and half bath are.  Then you descend the stairs to the bedrooms...

 Zach got the screen on a website; it cost $30-ish!!!  I love that vase from Target, but it doesn't match anything on the landing now.  I am hoping one day to have a little girl and use it in her room.  :)  In the frames are a sketch we picked up at a friend of friend's art show, a Pollock print, and some willow postcards from Cambridge University.

 Our cats are hoodlums.  It is also laundry day for unmentionables (i.e. mine and the husband's underoos) and t-shirts.  On the left is a photo I took inside Drumcliffe church in Ireland; it's where the poet Yeats is buried.  It's an eagle lectern with the words, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" behind it.  :)

 Zach's minifig(ure) collection "tastefully" displayed (his words)

 prints that used to match our old decor
I'm going to get some green mats to update the oval frames.
Also, a LEGO ship atop my LEGO Harry Potter shelf; Harry Potter LEGO sets are about the only ones I will build.  My husband is still pleased.

 Our bedroom needs work.  I can't figure out what to put over our bed.  And, yes, that is a full-sized bed.  We NEED a queen-sized one.  Please inform my husband.  :)  This room is very oddly shaped, and this is the only arrangement that will work.

 alternative view
The door leads out onto a small deck.  We bought the paper lanterns at World Market in KC.  It's a funny story about our dresser and chest of drawers.  They used to be Zach's Momo's.  She gave me the dresser when she found out I didn't have one.  Zach's parents moved it up, and when they got it into my bedroom, IT MATCHED MY BED!  Yeah, so most people wouldn't be surprised by matching bedroom furniture, BUT MY MAMA GOT MY HEADBOARD AT A YARD SALE.  It is fate that I was to be a Pharr.  After we got married and moved up her, she gave us the chest of drawers to match.

 bridal portrait, engagement photo with Alice in Wonderland quote that my cousin made, my bouquet and the pen we used for our guest book, wedding photo, Zach's valet, stuff I need for sleep, and a sock monkey
Did you spot my sweet tea?!

 hats, magazines, books, LEGO sets, stereo, boxed music sets (on the shelf), chair from our dining room

vanity, storage cabinets, closet entry
The door to Zach's bathroom is on the left (not pictured).

 photo following high tea the day after we got engaged in KC, photos from where Zach proposed, Alice in Wonderland quote
You can read our proposal story here; it won a prize from where we got engaged.  :)

messy vanity=typical girl
That tiny old photo on the right is of my great aunt Grace when she was younger.  She helped raise me when I was little.  I want to frame it along with older photos of my mom and grandmas and Zach's mom and grandmas all glammed up to hang here!

our closet
There are two more rods behind the door for hanging clothes as well as shelves.  It is the biggest closet I have ever had!  I rotate out the pictures in the frames on my mirror; I got that at Walmart when I was in college.

We have two other "bedrooms" at The Owlery.

 One is a library.  This where our books live along with some other fun things.

 Hobie cat and a medieval village

 That golden chair is so 1970s, but it's COMFY.  The print of Van Gogh's Starry Night above it glows in the dark.  We have lots of books; I was an English major, and Zach was a history major who minored in English.  His LEGO creations have also invaded this space.  (Fact:  There is only one room in our house that does not have any LEGO creations on display.  I still haven't covered three more rooms in these SUYL posts.  :)

 These are mostly textbooks and binders here along with my American Girl doll collection. (Can you see Samantha's ruffled hair on top of the shelf?)  I think if we have a little girl, I could easily put these dolls in her room.  :)  There is a LEGO mini-skyscraper, a Waterhouse print, and a teddy bear Zach got me for my birthday "magic box" (I got a present a day for a week--it's on top of the shelf by Samantha).  I took the bear with me to the British Isles and slept with it every night, which meant it got lost in the covers a lot because it is a small bear.  :)

 closer look at the LEGO medieval village

The last room was Zach's dream room when he was growing up; I made his dreams come true.  :)
 Zach's LEGO room
He has tons of organized LEGO bricks not to mention the sets stored in the closet to the left (not pictured).

 Zach's LEGO village, Old Styrene-by-the-Sea (Styrene is a type of plastic; LEGO bricks are made of plastic.  Now you know.  ;)  One of my favorite of his MOC's (that would be, my-own-creation) is a pub called the Lion.  He even decorated the inside with tables and mugs!

(Y'all, have learned A LOT about LEGO since I first met my husband.  For one, "LEGO" comes from the Danish phrase for "play well."  Secondly, the correct plural form is not Legos or LEGOS; "LEGO" can only be used as an adjective, but "LEGO" is often accepted as a plural form, and I tend to use it.  Thirdly, the price you pay should equal the number of pieces you get (30 pieces = $3; 300 pieces = $30), but character sets like Star Wars and DUPLO sets are more (as are discontinued ones), and Toys-R-Us are always overpriced.  They also cost more around the world; we are lucky in the U.S.  Finally, the Germans [ever so German-y] have a word for the sound that LEGO bricks make when they hit each other:  GRUSCHTELING.  I still make lots of mistakes when it comes to playing with bricks, but I am learning.)  We're saddened not to be at Chicago's Brickworld this week.  :(

When we were unemployed and living with Zach's folks, my sweet husby built me this house.  It's a Tudor mansion, and that's our limo.  We're waving "bye" to you folks from the car.  Hope you enjoyed the visit!

I made something! With my hands! And it's functional!

So my mama gave me these barstools when I got my first (off-campus) apartment; the cushions came with them.  I am fairly certain she bought them both at yard sales, maybe even at the same one.  I love the stools because they are real wood and heavy, but I did not love the cushions.
 They were too large, hanging off the edges and not tying properly to the chair.  I thought about getting new ones, but since these worked--they just weren't pretty--I didn't want to spend money.  However, once I got my sewing machine, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could make them over.  So I did!

ugly ties

 Sorry for the iPhone photos
You can see how these were hanging over the edges rather far.

 First, I used my seam ripper to take the cushions apart. I removed the stuffing before laundering the material.  After it was dry, I trimmed off fraying strings and ironed it.

 While my material was drying, I cut a template of the seat using newspaper.  I pinned it to the fabric to cut the appropriate shape.  The only thing I didn't do was take into consideration how thick I wanted to stuff it, so my pillows are higher and smaller than I thought they would be.

 After cutting one cushion (two pieces), I pinned them to the other fabric and cut the second cushion.

I picked up some grosgrain ribbon in green because I thought it was a good accent color, and I feel we need more green in our house.  I cut the ribbon longer than I planned to use (much longer) and pinned the ribbon after I decided how it should split, and then I ironed down the fold.

Then I pinned the ribbon ties where they should be, which is tricky because you are pinning them inside out, which means the ends should be inside between the two pieces of fabric.  I hope that makes sense.

I sewed one cushion, leaving an opening to stuff and backtracking (I can't remember if that is the appropriate seamstress term) when I started and when I ended so it wouldn't unravel.  Next, I placed the fabric in the seat to make sure the ties were in the correct place.  They weren't.  :(  Rather than ripping out everything, I just ripped out the thread before, over, and after the ties, repinned them, and resewed them.

Finally, I flipped the fabric right side up and began to stuff.  On one, I didn't make the opening quite large enough, so always make sure you leave an opening large enough.  It was tricky getting the fluffy stuff in there.

Once I stuffed them where I liked, I hand sewed them closed and tied them to the chairs:
They are a bit fluffier than I would like, but I think after we sit on them awhile, they will go down.  And I may sew some buttons through them to help flatten them as well.  But right now they work!

And they fit:
This shows how fluffy there are.  *lol*

Still, I think they look much better now:

I can't wait to do some more crafty projects in our house!


Do y'all eat your melons with salt?  I HAVE to have it with salt...unless we are out of it at work, and then I have a sad face.  :(

Like everything else, watermelon has a lot of Vitamin C.  Go figure, right??  This is how I pick out a watermelon:  look for the "yellowest belly" (that's what my friend Katie's mom taught me--her dad, Katie's grandad, used to grow them), then thump to see if it has a hollow sound, and finally check that it is dense.  Usually, if it has a yellow belly, then the rest should fall in place.  I haven't had the belly test--which shows it was allowed to ripen on the ground--fail me yet.  Happy eating!  And if you get the seeded ones, you should have a seed spitting contest.  :)  Gross, huh?  (I got the seedless, which still has seeds, but they are the white softer ones.)