smoothie kick.

I've been on a smoothie kick lately. There's just something about summer that makes fresh fruit sound extra delicious. But who am I kidding? I'll eat a banana if it's not too ripe (or green), and though I like the taste, the texture of peaches kind of weirds me out. I'll eat spinach in a salad, but berries are just dessert toppings, right? So I've started making smoothies. A little bit of prep, and I've got smoothies to go. Here's how it works.

First, stock up on fresh fruit, spinach, and plain or vanilla yogurt. I got 5 bananas, a couple dozen strawberries, a nectarine, 3 peaches, pineapple, and frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries). Most of the fruit is cheaper fresh, I think, but I bought the berries frozen because a large bag of frozen berries was the same price as a tiny container of fresh. I also bought a large container of vanilla yogurt.

Second, cut it all up. Put a sheet of waxed paper on a baking sheet, lay the fruit out, and freeze for a few hours. Overnight works too. The idea is that if you freeze it a little first, it won't stick together in a big frozen cube in your baggies. You don't need to freeze the spinach. Also, scoop the yogurt into an ice cube tray and freeze. My large container of yogurt made a couple dozen cubes.

When everything is frozen, start assembling bags. I basically put a little of everything in each 1 qt. freezer bag, which makes about 2 smoothies each. I put in a generous handful of spinach, and just 1/4 cup raw oatmeal. I repeat: generous spinach, easy on the oatmeal. I don't think you can taste the spinach in the smoothie, but you can taste the oats and I haven't loved some that have been too "oatey." Also add all sorts of fruit, and two yogurt cubes.

I try to include banana in each bag because I think it sweetens up the smoothie, and from personal preference, I include berries in each bag and then use peaches/pineapple as mix-ins. I haven't made a smoothie yet that I didn't like, but I don't imagine I would like a plain spinach and pineapple smoothie.

I labeled some of my bags with an S, which indicates they contain raspberries or blackberries. Those have seeds, which Nate doesn't like. I don't mind them too much. You can label your bags based on ingredients, but these were all basically the same—a little bit of everything.

And there you have it. Keep these in the freezer, and when you need a quick snack or meal, dump the whole thing into the blender (I recommend spinach/oats in first so they blend up best). Just add liquid: OJ or milk or soy milk or even water and protein powder. My favorite is orange juice, though we got some leftover soy milk from Nate's fam this week and it's been good.

Tip: After you dump the ingredients into the blender, rinse out the freezer bag and use it again the next time you prep smoothies. I ran out of freezer bags last night and wished I had saved some.


family fun.

Enjoying popsicles at Las Paletas

Summer in Nashville is the best. I know I sometimes complain about the heat and mosquitoes, but it's not terrible enough to stop someone from having fun. Nate's fam got into town on Friday evening and we spent four days with them and it was awesome. Nate got a little toasty in the sun and we both got some mosquito bites, but it was worth it.

Friday evening, Nate was working. So we surprised him by showing up at the store. He took a dinner break, and we all walked over to Chipotle. It was late, so everyone headed over to their hotels and I went home.

Sarah (9) and Ellie (11) waiting for the other team to finish the photo scavenger hunt

Saturday we met up with Caitlin and Lisa at the Hyatt Place; the Banks were staying at the Gaylord Opryland hotel. Nate's uncle was in town for a conference, and the fam tagged along. We headed over to Opryland and walked around the hotel. For lunch, we drove into East Nashville and ate burgers at The Pharmacy. It rained. We went back to the hotel and played a photo scavenger hunt game. Then we went swimming until we had to get out of the pool. (Terd alert!) So we went to Opry Mills mall and saw the movie Monsters University. Funny movie. I'm more excited about Despicable Me 2; the previews are hilarious.

The group at Radnor Lake
Ahnie, Lisa, Ellie, Michael, Sarah, Nate, Caitlin, me

On Sunday, Caitlin and Lisa came to the early service at church with us, and then we met up with the group in Franklin. We went to Puckett's Boat House for lunch, toured Carnton Plantation, got some Sweet Cece's, walked around Radnor Lake where we saw two deer and one tiny fawn, went back to the hotel. The Banks had a dinner to go to Sunday night, so Nate, Caitlin, Lisa, and I went downtown for Thai food, and then we went to listen to some live bluegrass. It was getting late and I was getting cranky (Nate testifies I was very cranky, haha), so we went back to the hotel/back home.

Monday, I worked until 3. It was hot, so I drove home to change clothes and met up with everyone back downtown at Whisky Kitchen. Then we walked around The Gulch and browsed Two Old Hippies and The Turnip Truck. Nate had to get up early the next morning to open at Sbux, so we called it a night early.

I took Tuesday off from work. Nate worked early, and I slept in a couple hours and then finished some laundry and cleaning up the house a bit. The fam picked me up and we got some wings at Whitt's BBQ for lunch.

Waiting for our tour to start at Traveler's Rest

Then we went to Traveler's Rest. It's a Civil War site; I've driven by the signs before but had never been to it. It's an old house like Carnton or Belle Meade Plantation and has ties to the Civil War. It wasn't as great as Carnton or Belle Meade or The Hermitage (so if you're going to spend your money, I'd recommend going elsewhere). Oh, and our tour guide was pretty upfront about being a strong Confederate sympathizer. Our fam was the only group on the tour, so it was pretty awkward when he started saying the Civil War could have been avoided if Lincoln hadn't been so stubborn and had just let the South secede and become its own country.

Lobby of the Nashville Public Library downtown

Nate finished working and met up with us there. We lead the group to Las Paletas in 12 South and enjoyed some delicious gourmet popsicles. I had chocolate strawberry. So good. Then we went to the downtown Nashville Public Library. I hadn't been, but Nate had, and it's incredible. Very fancy and beautiful. We checked out their Civil Rights Room and the kids area and a display of puppets (more specifically, marionettes).

Caitlin and Lisa at SATCO

For dinner, we went to San Antonio Taco Company (SATCO). Very tasty. We sat outside on the patio. Then we went back to the hotel. I compared some family tree notes with Ahnie, then Nate and I said our goodbyes. The family left today (by plane to Colorado); Caitlin and Lisa drove back to St. Louis, and then Lisa will drive back to Wichita.

Whew! If you're tired just from reading that, imagine doing it all! We hit a ton of local Nashville hotspots and saw a lot of the city. I'll be catching up on rest this next weekend. :) Also this week, Nate and I booked two nights at a B&B in Gatlinburg, TN to celebrate our 2-year anniversary. Looking forward to seeing and exploring the Great Smoky Mountains!

For more photos, check out my Flickr page: flickr.com/mrsalyssajones



Here are some photos I got with Nate's Panasonic Lumix GH3. I'm learning to shoot with manual focus, and now auto drives me crazy. Nate's fam is in town and we took a lot more photos and video, but we haven't had time to upload them yet. See more pics at my Flickr page.

Otis and Nate. I told Nate, "Excellent camera, excellent cat photos!"

Black-eyed Susans

Blue buttons

Baby hoppas

Miles where he lives—looking out the windows

My husband of two years :)

The ladies love him! Nate's sister, aunt, cousins, and mom
We aren't really sure where Nate gets his height. ;)

Bedtime for Baby Otis

Regal Cinema at 100 Oaks in Nashville



Black-eyed Susans
Some of the flowers I bought last week when I traded in my dead ones at Home Depot. Taken with my iPhone 4S and edited in the Afterlight app. Nate got a new camera yesterday for shooting HD video. (An early graduation present … I told him he better graduate, haha.) It also shoots stills so I'll be sneaking it away every now and then. I don't know anything about photography/using a camera except in auto mode, but maybe I'll learn.

Swiss Army Knife

Last week I got a Swiss Army knife. Because I kept running into situations where I told Nate, "It'd be really handy if you had a pocket knife to open this." Instead I got myself a little (about 2¼ inches long) pocket knife with a knife, file, toothpick, tweezers, and itty bitty scissors. The scissors came in handy when I was cutting the background to decorate my door at work. I use it almost every day! And it's yellow … cute.

Last night we had dinner with Ben, Amy, and Hudson. So fun. After dinner, Ben showed Nate the ropes on using his camera while Amy and I watched a movie. They hooked us up with some Cardinals tickets, so we plan to head to STL next month for a Sunday game. Nate's fam gets in town today, so it will be a fun few days of adventure in Nashville.


grumpy cat door decorating.

We are having a door decorating contest at work, just for fun. Well, not just for fun. The winner gets a fabulous prize. I already own said prize, but I wouldn't mind a newer one … that's not what motivates me though. I'll participate without the urge of "I have to win!" So I was trying to come up with an idea for decorating my door. Meet …

Actual name is Tardar Sauce (aka "Tard") from the color of her fur. Became an Internet sensation last year because of her grumpy expression and won the 2012 Internet Meme of the Year award. The photos are funny; she's reportedly a very sweet cat, but she has feline dwarfism so she is extra small.

So this was my inspiration. The cartoon Grumpy Cat doesn't look the same as the actual, so I tried to use a photo for drawing/painting Grumpy Cat under and umbrella.

A very rough draft done on poster board. I was trying to figure out the best way to shade/blend the paint for the fur.

Then I painted on soft fabric. I double up the fabric, and when I was done, I hand-stitched on a felt nose, and then hand-stitched the doubled-up fabric to a poster board outline so I could easily attach it to my door. I only bought brown and white paint, so I used food color to make the blue paint for the eyes and pink paint for the paw. The paw was weird, because cats don't have opposable thumbs, so they can't really actually hold an umbrella.

Finished this up Sunday night. It took a long time! I cut the umbrella and handle out of scrapbook paper; the handle is reinforced with poster board. Then I stayed up extra late so I could finish folding the laundry.

Up on my door at work. My sister gave me the idea to hang hearts in front of the door which added a nice touch. I put heart-cutouts from photos of Miles and Otis on the strings. I originally had them mixed in on the door, but I didn't like how it looked.

Judging is at the end of July. I'm one of the first people to get my door decorated on our floor, so people are stopping by preparing to one-up me. Oh well. :)


how to fix* a leaky sink. (pt. 1)

Our kitchen sink has been leaking. I think it has had issues since I moved in three and a half years ago. It's a double sink, and if you use the right side (especially filling it with water), the pipes below seem to leak and everything under the sink gets wet. Nate cleaned up a wet mess today so I took photos of the pipes and went to Home Depot for replacement parts.

Can we talk about Home Depot for a second? OK, I want to know what percentage of customers walk in there knowing what they are looking for and what percent of those people are professional handypersons. Because my guess is that at least 75% of people in Home Depot go there because they need something specific. Maybe they don't know exactly which product, but they have a project in mind. And most of those people are probably DIY-ers. So I'm sure I've said this before, but I'll say it a hundred more times: Customers in Home Depot need help. Basically a personal assistant. They ought to have a team of employees lined up at the door to match up one-on-one with customers unless a customer says, "I don't need help." Because unless they say, "I don't need help," then they need help.

Trader Joe's has an interesting strategy; they actually have someone walking around the store carrying a tall pole with a big question mark on top so you know exactly whom to ask for help. In Home Depot, I'm lucky if I find the right aisle on my own, but once I've found the wall of plumbing parts, I really need help find the exact pieces I need. And I come prepared. I had photos on my phone of the PVC piece I wanted to replace. If only I didn't have to wander so long to find an employee to help me. They need call buttons at the end of each aisle that you can just push. Finally, I wandered and an employee quickly rushed by me, not even a "Are you finding everything ok?" So I quickly made eye contact and said, "I need help!"

So with less than $10 of parts in hand, I went home to fix the sink.

The old piece. Kind of gross. Water was running down and dripping off the horizontal pipe.
We assumed the problem was at one of the connectors. One had a pretty warped plastic washer.
New parts. Less than $10.

Took out the old pipe and cleaned up the remaining pieces.
Assembled the new parts and tightened them in place by hand.
Easy, no tools needed.
Finally, the TEST! I plugged the sink and filled it with water … and it leaked.
But now I've discovered the true source of the leak. And it is that top black and silver piece.

We need to replace the sink strainer. Doesn't look like it will be difficult; just another trip to Home Depot. And I saw them yesterday, so I actually know where to find them. That will be "How to Fix a Leaky Sink" (Pt. 2).

To be continued …

title note—*fix … unsuccessfully this time



The Glade girls softball team
Last night I joined Katy's softball team for the third week to fill in as a substitute. It's fun. I feel like I'm improving a bit in understanding where I should be and when and where to throw it. Considering I've had no batting practice, I do okay. Mostly because I can run fast enough to make it to first. Last night I hit the ball and took off and was super sore when I hit first. Left quad feels strained so I'm icing it.

The women on the team are fun. I play right-center field; I've played third and right field too. It was in the 90s when we started yesterday and muggy, but I like being outdoors and getting some exercise.

Touring the new building. It'll be cleaned up before we move in. 
Immanuel Nashville is moving! Our church is outgrowing the building we got married in (which we were leasing) so we got a sweet deal on renting a bigger building closer to downtown. Our attendance is about 500 and this sanctuary holds 1,000. So we can go back to one service and have room to grow. Move date is looking like end of summer/early fall. Lots to do before then. (Nate is an elder and they literally have a list of over a hundred tasks.) But we are excited. The Lord has been good to Immanuel.

Instagram magnets!
I've mentioned before that I faithfully read the blog Under the Sycamore daily. One of her posts showed some Instagram magnets from PicPack, and I decided to get some. They come from Germany and the price is around $20. (It's shown in Euros.) They turned out so great. I think it was worth $20.

What else? Nate has Saturday off which is rare so we are planning to go on an adventure. Not sure where yet. Maybe I can finally get him to go kayaking a river with me! We'll see. :) I finally made him an appt. at Vanderbilt for an esophageal motility study in July. After two endoscopies, the cause of his regurgitation issues is still a mystery.

We are having a door-decorating contest at work and there is a fabulous prize. I have what I think is a great idea for my door. There are really no guidelines; we have until the end of June to decorate. I won't give away my plan yet but I'll post about it when it's up!

Nate's family (sister, mom, aunt/uncle, cousins) are coming to Nashville next Friday. We are excited to spend some time with them.
© All rights reserved.