{Happy Halloween!}

Happy Halloween, everyone! Be safe out there, and have a spooky good time!

Mandy's freehand pumpkin. Why do the eyes look like pants?

Side view of the hair? Ears? no clue...

Jean's Mummy Masterpiece!
The Finstad's pumpkins - Halloween 2010

{The Homestead Kitchen}

Is it just me, or is there something satisfying about being able to peek into others' lives by seeing what they have in their homes? I for one love to see inside houses and see what makes the inhabitants who they are. Neat? Messy? Readers? Criminals? Loners? Pet owners? So here for your viewing pleasure is a tour of what I think is one of the most telling rooms for a housewife and homesteader - the kitchen. Enjoy your voyeuristic peek into our kitchen, and our lives. You might just learn something new about The Finstads!

Let's picture a clock face, and start at 12 o'clock as you stand in our entry and face into the kitchen. I've always wanted a window over my kitchen sink. I could do without the difficult-to-clean black sink, though! Also note the dishwasher - we never use it. See those super-awesome, amazing, wonderful curtain valances? I made those.

Next, turn to your right to face 3 o'clock. Another window! Not too shabby for a basement apartment. You also get a glimpse of my 'pantry' here. More on that later...

Turn once again, now facing 6 o'clock (OK, our kitchen's small and this shot is at an angle, so it's really more like 5 o'clock). This is our weird stone wall, built using leftover stones from the outside of the house. In front is more storage - baking supplies in the two flank cabinets, and all of our pots, pans, and general cookware in the glass-fronted ones in the middle. On top is our bunch-of-grapes wine rack, ever-trusty KitchenAid mixer, and generally where all of the mail lands.

You can also see a little sliver of our insanely green front door. Don't panic! I assure you that our color choice was intentional! We had just returned from Ireland, and wanted to paint our door a crazy color like they do there, and we thought green would just be oh-so-appropriate. It almost glows.

One more time, with feeling! Turn once more, now facing 9 o'clock. See the other stone wall? Cool. Except when you scrape up against them. Or have to constantly vacuum dust off of them.

So, I hope you enjoyed your tour. Feel free to make a donation on your way out. Wait...what's that? See something you like? OK, here are a few close-ups of my favorite things, and just a few things that make us, us.

The refrigerator. It can say a lot about a person! Especially if I let you see inside. Here you can see our October menu, our running grocery list (another owl), photos, magnets, cards, 'meat maps' and our indoor/outdoor thermometer. Fun stuff, eh?

In this photo, you might see evidence of shows we've attended (note the Belfast DukeBox VIP wristband at the top of the right picture), weddings we have attended or plan to attend (our save-the-date front and center on the freezer and another invite on the fridge front), as well as various cards (including wedding wishes from Duke Special himself), Bible verses (Titus 2), magnets, and photos we love. We have a lot of photos of ourselves around. A little narcissistic, perhaps?

I heart aprons. That is all.

We have no 'formal' pantry, so we make due. Hey, it's what food hoarders in small apartments have to do! We also have a small set of shelves in another room, and two food-grade, gamma seal buckets in my closet. Yes, I said my closet.

I don't know why I like these jars so much. I think because they make me feel sophisticated, like a real adult with a real kitchen or something. Huh...go figure... Oh, the owl? That's Harvey. He's our buddy. So much for being an adult.

Lastly, our fruit basket. I remember the day I found this in Marshall's and yelled to Jean from a few aisles away - 'Oh my gosh! A fruit basket that is shaped like fruit!!!' Please don't judge me by my brown-nanas. I'm making banana bread today.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed your tour! What would I find if I came into YOUR kitchen today?

{To Michigan and Back}

We're back! Last Thursday us Finstads packed up Windy the Jeep and hit the road to Michigan for our friends Betsy and Ryan's wedding, in which Jean was a groomsman. Here's a little taste of what it's like to travel with Jean and I:

9:15 AM - We're off!
9:25 AM - 'Man, I could really use some Starbucks...'
9:30 AM - 'Ummm, I'll have a grande Pike Place original roast'
9:35 AM - 'OK, let's go! No more stops!'
10:15 AM - 'We need gas. And breakfast. Sheetz?'
10:45 AM - 'I'm never eating again...'
11:00 AM - (VeggieTales Silly Songs CD plays in the background)
2:00 PM - Stop at Sbarro for gross pizza
6:10 PM - 'So. This is Michigan?'
6:11 PM - 'What the heck is with the no left turns in this dumb state?!'
6:13 PM - 'What's a 'Coney'?'
6:15 PM - Yaaaay! Our hotel!

After checking in to the hotel we researched places to eat and decided on 'Nikolas', where the broasted chicken is mutant.
Seriously, the portions are so huge, and the prices so low, it's a compulsive eater's dream and us fat kids' nightmare. Have a gander at my APPETIZER plate of chicken wings, AFTER I had eaten my fill (I was able to eat a whopping FOUR wings). Maybe I shouldn't have filled up on gross Sbarro.

Friday we were able to meet up with our always-lovely NSA buddy Sarah D'Agostino for more Starbucks (what a treat!), though unfortunately the visit was cut a bit short due to sickie lil'uns. Friday night was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner where we finally got to see the bride and groom, as well as the rest of the wedding party.

On Saturday, we slept. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I slept that late. Sitting on our butts in the car finally caught up with us! Jean met up with the rest of the groomsmen to 'get ready' (whatever THAT means for guys) while I hung at the hotel. The beautiful ceremony was at 4:30, followed by the gorgeous reception at the Henry Ford Museum at 6:15. If you ever get the chance to visit the museum - DO EEET! SO much fun stuff to see and do. Look mom, I'm a hot dog at the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile Exhibit!

Sunday found us at the home of the bride's parents for a brunch, then back on the road! The trip back was...ahem...not quite as 'quick and easy' as the trip there. That's one LONG drive! We're were oh-so-thankful to see our wee apartment again, as well as our very own pillows.

Eee! That's us!

{Be Still My Heart...}

...and my eardrums!!

One of our favorite couples (thank you Akkermans!) sent a wedding gift this week.
Needless to say, Jean is still dancing around the house with joy :)

{Menu Plan Monday}

The cupboards are stocked, so what's for dinner this week?

Monday: Leftovers from Sunday's 'Skins game (chili dogs, potato skins, slaw)
Tuesday: Split pea soup & grilled cheese sandwiches
Wednesday: Beef stroganoff
Thursday: Chicken quesadillas
Friday: Calzones
Saturday: Thai noodles & turkey dumplings, broccoli
Sunday: Navy bean casserole ('Skins game @ 8:20)

{Lead Me...}

One of the shortest but most precious memories from our wedding was dancing together to the song 'Lead Me' by Sanctus Real. We listen to a lot of Contemporary Christian music both in the house and in the car, and this quickly became one of our favorites. Each time I hear this on the radio, I can't help but remember Jean singing along to me while we danced (thank God for memory burn!)

I invite you to take the few minutes to play the video below, listen to this beautiful song, and read along with the lyrics.

Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be...

{Wordless Wednesday}

Needs no words...

{Top Ten Tuesday}

I might typically choose a Top Ten more closely related to our homestead, but given recent events, I thought you might enjoy a wedding-related post (more pics than this are forthcoming, I promise!!). Enjoy!

Top Ten Favorite Moments From Our Wedding

10. The adorable (and delicious!) cake, copied from an 'Ace of Cakes' design
Chocolate mousse & carrot cake, covered in hazelnut buttercream

9. That stunner of a dress
Not-so-casual dress for our oh-so-casual nuptials :)

8. Dancing with my honey
First dance - 'French Fries and Gravy' by Justin Trawick

7. The touching toasts
Matron-of-Honor Laine Sime gives a heartfelt toast

6. Our day, our way (full of love & silliness!)
Cake cutting?

5. Family
Jean shares a special moment with his grandfather

4. Great music
Ken Francis Wenzel - Crosskentucky

3. Daisies, daisies everywhere!!
Mom and I spent hours collecting flowers, the florist provided even more daisies, and the giant wooden daisy that Jean made for me even made an appearance on the side of the barn.

2. THE video
Jean surprised me with the most touching video greeting of friend from the UK and Ireland who were unable to attend the wedding. I didn't want to 'ugly cry'. So much for that :)

1. Marrying my best friend!

{Menu Plan Monday}

Less than 8 hours until dinner time - do you know what you're having? You could! I get a lot of questions about the whys and hows of menu planning, so it's time to address them once and for all! Just last week I had a great conversation with friend Lindsay Silverstein (check out her photography - she's amazing!) about the benefits of planning out one's meal for a week, a month, or even more. We even made a plan to get together and cook (it's always more fun with a friend, no?) Even if 'freezer cooking' - making double meals and freezing half for a later date - is all you can handle, it's still a huge help with time, budget, and health. Some of the items that I will typically make ahead are quadruple batches of pizza crust dough, cookie dough, doubles of casseroles, extra pancakes, and many others.

Homemade stuffed-crust pizza at a fraction of the cost of delivery, and loads more flavor!

Once the basics of menu planning are under control, you will be able to tweak your methods to plan according to weekly grocery sales and seasonal produce. More items can be made from scratch. You will have fewer of those 'oh crap, I forgot to take the xxx out of the freezer' or the 'no idea what's for dinner, we should just eat out' moments, which is good for both our wallets, and our waistlines (but please, don't get me wrong, we still make the occasional run for the border!)

I've listed our weekly menu here (full month available on my Facebook notes page).

So what are YOU having for dinner this week?

Oct 4: Babysitting the nieces at John & Laine's
Oct 5: Baked chicken quarters (brussels sprouts, homemade breadsticks)
Oct 6: Turkey burger casserole (green salad)
Oct 7: Navy bean casserole (roasted asparagus)
Oct 8: Leftovers
Oct 9: Eat out
Oct 10: Turkey burgers (oven fries, green salad - Skins game @ 1pm)