2014 Review

2014 started out with a lot of frustration. Our living situation wasn’t ideal and jobs and money were lacking.

Now, as the year ends, I can only think about all of the blessings and support we have received from all sorts of people.

Henry joined our animal hoard in March.  Due to our the previously listed situations, I was not convinced that getting a dog was a great idea, but we have absolutely loved having him. He’s adorable and funny and tiny. He likes to play with big dogs, loves going on rides in the car, hates water, and is like an annoying little brother to the cats.

As for the music side of our lives, we were both thrilled to be a part of Mid-Columbia Musical Theater’s production of Les Miserables.  Aside from the regular symphony season, we did three shows with MCMT, West Side story for a high school, and the Nutcracker.  We also played with the Washington Idaho Symphony for their summer concert in Moscow, ID.  Mahler 5 with 8 horns definitely a highlight for me.

After a few months of waiting, my teaching career finally took off.  My certificate showed up in March and I subbed until the end of school in June.  I was very excited to get started and really wanted to quit my job at the hospital, but then I thought about what I would do in the summer and realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea quite yet.  Early in August, I got a message from Sylvan, a local tutoring center.  I had turned in an application 8 months earlier and they needed teachers.  Finally, after three and a half years, I said goodbye to Kadlec Regional Medical Center and customer service jobs. After they trained me as a tutor, I got hired as a 4th and 5th grade teacher.  I’m sure you will hear plenty in the future about that.  That’s pretty much my portion of the year…besides the two foolish self inflicted injuries.

In April we moved into a duplex in Richland that happens to be right around the corner from my school so my commute consists of bundling up (for now) for a three minute walk which leaves the car available for Ronnie.  We spent our summer doing housework and gardening.  The floors were replaced by the owner, but we cleaned out the front garden, painted four different rooms, made a garden, as well as many other miscellaneous projects.

As for traveling, we took one trip across the mountains and managed to fit everything in.  Of course we would have loved to take more trips…perhaps in 2015.

Ronnie also had an exciting year.  His symphony involvement increased quite a bit.  Something I don’t believe that I’ve blogged about is that he was a driving force in getting a youth symphony started.  From getting the approval from the board, to holding auditions, to being the contact in town, he’s been involved in every step.  The first rehearsals are set to start this month.  While he’s not one to show many emotions, I believe he’s pretty excited to see this succeed.  He also started teaching private clarinet and oboe lessons.  Other miscellaneous things he’s done are work at a local bakery and house/pet sit.

So far in 2015, we went to the park to run with a group of people to start off the new year right!  It was a total of 23 degrees, but Henry, Ronnie, and I all bundled up and took a stab at a 5k.

We’ve been having fun with my family over break, but I think I’ll save that for a different post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


(I thought this picture was pretty good for wrangling three animals and getting a timer set up)

Check out my instagram. I’m still working on my 100 days.

More plants

Here’s what the Gowen garden looks like. The front part is all strawberries and raspberries.



At our house we have this little collection of plants.



Pumpkins in the bed.


Bachelor buttons, basil, cilantro, oregano, mint, and geraniums are in the pots.


We also purchased a cute little Japanese maple tree for the front bed from the best garden store, Rite Aid.



Now for a few gardening experiments that actually worked.  This sweet potato sat in water for a long time.  It grew some roots at first, but the shoots took a long time to appear.  _DSC0041

We planted the shoots in a pot, but I believe that you don’t actually get more sweet potatoes until next year. _DSC0031

Experiment number two: stick a store bought head of romaine lettuce in some water.  It actually works!  Someone Ronnie is turning into a rabbit and keeps nibbling on the ends. I’m not sure if roots will appear to plant in the ground, but it’s still pretty cool.



Surrogate garden

Let me introduce you to our surrogate garden.  A friend who lives about 5 minutes away asked if we wanted to share a garden.  It’s a very nice garden with plenty of room for all the things we wanted to grow.

One of three pepper plants.


The peas are just starting to produce!



The raspberries are also starting



Ronnie swears he planted the Brussels sprouts here, but this sure looks like cauliflower to me…










Zucchini or pumpkin, we kinda lost track






Henry likes to come help, but he gets too hot and has to sit under a tomato plant.


I’ll have to get a pictures of the whole thing sometime.  There are also some herbs, kale, rhubarb, strawberries, and cauliflower at this garden.  At home we have more herbs, a pumpkin patch, and some flowers.  Perhaps I’ll post more later.

I’ll have you know that I weeded for a good hour before taking these pictures so it looked at least somewhat decent.  There’s still a lot of weeding to do though.

Other random news….

Samson took a trip to the vet on Monday because we got home on Sunday and there was blood and pus running down his neck.  Gross.  The doctor cleaned him up, gave him an antibiotic shot, and sent us home.  He said that Samson probably got into a fight outside.  He isn’t allowed out much anymore and there aren’t any cats around here…who knows.  Maybe he really pissed of Sophie and it got infected outside.  Anyway the good news is that we torture love Samson enough that he was tolerant of being shaved and cleaned without anesthesia.  The doctor said he was the calmest cat he’s seen in a long time.

Yesterday we tore apart the bathroom.  It was pretty fun.  Now we have to sand, patch, and paint before we put it back together.  I’m hoping this will go quickly.  Stay tuned….We’re quite good at taking things apart, but putting them back together is a different story.




Fix it!

Things are slowly getting fixed and updated in our new home.  I dug out a space to put my sewing machine so I can start on curtains, couch cover, etc. soon.  I believe the fence has finally been “Henry-proofed” so he doesn’t have to be tied up when we leave.  An ugly, half-painted shed has been moved off of the patio.  A doghouse is half built.  The front entryway is finally clear of overgrown bush and weeds.  With a little more work, we’ll have a nice flower garden to fill up;  It’s still full of grass.  I bet you’re thinking, Wow, this all sounds like they’re getting things done, but I’d sure like to see pictures.  I do have pictures of the work we’ve done in the front, but that’s about it.

2014-04-29 14.18.59 2014-04-29 15.32.20

We’ve torn out a lot of wallpaper in the kitchen and discovered why they covered it up (why they used 8 different wallpapers is still a mystery).  That’ll be our first painting project.

Ready for the floor story?  Here goes…

Our floors started out carpeted.


The carpet had been cleaned a few days before we moved in.  After the move, we were walking around without shoes and noticed that our socks were getting wet.  Almost a week later and the carpets were still wet.  The carpet guys said we had to keep the house at 80 degrees to “dry the carpet”.  Sounded like a good way to create a moldy house to me, but we tried it.  Turns out a lot of houses can’t keep the temperature that high because the furnace shuts off to protect it from blowing up.  After many calls to the landlady, carpet guys, HVAC guys, and a lot of noisy fans, we took the carpet out and uncovered a wood floor.

2014-04-13 23.40.00

The plan was to have the floor refinished since it was stained and had many paint drips.  But then we had to wait for the wood floor to dry so it didn’t warp.  A week and two more fans later, they decided that the floor was too old to refinish anyway; by the time they sanded away all the water stains, there would be no floor left.  So then we ordered new, laminate wood flooring.  Today, a whole three and a half weeks later, they are finally finished!!

2014-04-27 16.54.25

Hooray!!  We have been working on small projects here and there, but now that the floor is done, we can paint the walls and move in for reals. Hopefully I will remember to take before and after pictures in the future.

In order to catch you up…

I must write a floog (food blog for any newbies).

I don’t know what it is about moving, but whenever I do I feel like I have to break in the kitchen right away. In the last two weeks, we’ve made breakfast pizza, spaghetti sauce, black forest cheesecake, fish tacos, and steak. So here we go. Get your recipe books out!

Breakfast pizza. This one is easy. I copied it from another blog so I’ll give credit to BS in the kitchen. A great name for a blog in my opinion because who really knows what they’re doing? I didn’t have any green onion or potatoes (who doesn’t have potatoes?!) so we did without. It said to cook for 5-10 minutes which seems like a large difference to me. But after 5 minutes the eggs cracked on top were still veeeeery runny. 10 minutes was a bit long, but one of the eggs was a bit juicy for my husband who refuses to eat completely cooked egg yolk. Here’s my picture.  It’s funny how he doesn’t like cooked yolk, but when I asked if he wanted to crack an egg he broke it and said, “that one’s yours”.



Next we have spaghetti sauce.  For those of you who are on Facebook, you might remember my desperate plea for help with my spaghetti sauce.  You see, my mother always had us help in the kitchen, so we know how to cook.  When we started going away to college, my sisters typed up a Word document of our favorite recipes.  Mom’s spaghetti sauce was among them.  I’ve made it a few times over the years and it has been ok, just not quite the same.  However, when I made it a few weeks ago, it was awful!  It only tasted like tomatoes and just would not work out no matter how many spices I put in it.  So after several conversations with various people, I decided to ditch her recipe (sorry mom) and try something else.  I found several recipes to refer to mainly for amounts, and created my own.  I must say, it was delicious.  Feel fry to try it and critique it.

Because it is summer and because we live in the Tri-Cities, we have acquired quite a bit of fresh produce.  By quite a bit I mean bags and bags of fresh tomatoes.  We rarely eat tomatoes, and they were going bad, so we ended up in a full on tomato processing mode last night.  We peeled and cut all of the large ones, and peeled and froze the smaller ones.  Some of the cooked chunks were frozen and the rest ended up in the spaghetti sauce.

Now that I’m done with all of my back-stories, here’s the recipe we ended up with.  The entire process went something like this, “here, put some of this in.  It’ll make it taste better.”  By the time we were finished we realize, we should probably write this down if we even want to make it again. 

Vance Spaghetti 

4 c. Or two cans of stewed tomatoes

2 c. Or 15 oz. tomato sauce

2 6 oz. cans tomato paste

1/2 large sweet onion diced

1 zucchini diced

1 small green pepper

8 oz. fresh mushrooms

3 cloves of garlic

3 beef bouillon cubes

3 bay leaves

1 Tbs. thyme

1 1/2 Tbs. oregano

1 1/2 tsp. basil

1 tsp. celery seed

Salt and Black pepper to taste

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 c. Red wine

2 lbs. Italian sausage

Cool it all for a while.

Now obviously there aren’t many directions, but for those of you who have the slightest idea of how to make spaghetti, you brown and drain the meat before adding it to the sauce.  I’m proud of that recipe.

My husband made the Black forest Cheesecake.  It is so delicious and came from a small cheesecake cookbook we picked up from some bookstore.  It has an amaretto, maraschino cherry flavored cake with chocolate sour cream frosting and he also added amaretto flavored whipped cream on the top.  Wonderful!  Let’s see if I can find a picture.  

Fish tacos.  Sounds weird right?  I found this recipe when we were making a meal for some gluten/dairy free friends.  The fish is good by itself, but this time Ronnie made avocado cream sauce, and I made cilantro, lime rice and fresh pico de gallo (remember all that produce?) to go with our tacos.   Mmmm delicious.  This is a recipe I found on Pinterest.  Usually these recipes I read, maybe make once, and promptly forget about it.   Not this one.  It’s super easy and super delicious.  Try it!

Steaks.  I had to add this in here just to brag about my husband.  I love to eat steak, but I don’t know how to cook them.  Ronnie has been perfecting his technique and has been doing a great job.  I like different seasonings on mine, but it is still good.

One more story, then I’ll be done…When I was little the thought of any pink in my steak completely grossed me out.  So my loving parents cooked the steak until it was dead.  Really really dead.  Most people would call it burnt.  Then one day I was invited over to Ronnie’s house for dinner.  They were having steak.  They asked me how I wanted it cooked, followed immediately by, “please do not say ‘well done'”.  So I timidly said, “As well done as you’re willing to make it.”  It was pink.  Maybe even a bit red.  And you know what?  I didn’t die!  It was actually really good.  I will now eat my steak done medium.

March is here

February has quickly slipped by. Where did it go?
Here’s what’s new. We are planning a trip to the Netherlands. We don’t have any details yet but we’re going prolly next year. I still think it’s extremely unfair that the rest of my family has been to Europe except me. I’ll fix it myself.

I’m set up to do my student teaching in September. That’s extremely terrifying and exciting! I have to keep working hard on all of my tasks to stay “approved” with the system. There are a few more deadlines I have to meet to show them I’m still on track.

Kindergarten has been super fun. There are moms that come and help out the teachers. So I’ve been asked many times, “Whose mom are you?”. One of the kids even asked if I was Mrs. Lipp’s mom. It’s hard to explain to a kindergartner that I don’t have any kids and I’m just there to learn how to teach since I can’t just say I’m there for my practicum experience. Last Friday, I taught a phonics lesson to some 1st graders. I found them much easier to teach. Hopefully I’ll experience 2nd and 3rd grades in the next few weeks as well.

Last Saturday I woke up sick. I went through two things of Airborne tablets during the week and was feeling better. Today I woke up sickER. I guess I was talking too much about how I hadn’t gotten sick yet. There’s been some nasty stuff going around that lasts for a long time. I hope this doesn’t last long.
My one plant that has survived is blooming! That reminds me that it’s almost time to plant my garden again. I think I want to try some zucchini this year.




The cat doesn’t enjoy his lessons much.



Here’s 2012 in a nutshell…most of these have blogs of their own, so if you want details, you’ll have to go find them.


We were involved in 4 symphony performances, 2 musicals, and I played for the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers in the fall as well. We are both now officially seated members of the symphony. I think the most exciting performance was the Titanic. It was a relatively big production (for the Tri-Cities) with all of the professional singers, ballet, and musicians. Ronnie purchased a new oboe and sold the old one. Now if he would only get pieces that asked for an oboe instead of an english horn…

With 6 piano students, I decided I could pull off setting up a recital, so in early December, we had a recital with about 15 total performers.


I started pursuing a teaching certificate through Western Governors University in June. It is definitely different doing school online. Not my favorite, but it works for our situation at the time. This year, I’ll be in a kindergarten classroom watching and teaching a little. January 2014 I’ll be doing student teaching and the following summer I should be finished.


Ronnie’s still working for a sub-contractor for Charter. He hasn’t had to stay anywhere for more than 4 days this year, but he goes to Walla Walla every other Saturday. He did go to La Grande for a few days and to the Dalles overnight as well.

I finished up the school year of Coram Deo and ECHO in May, and started teaching piano lessons again this summer. In September, I signed up to teach two Spanish classes with Coram Deo. I’m still working at the hospital as well. At the end of December, I was trained to be a meal service rep. so I get to deliver meals to the patients instead of making coffee. It’s nice to change it up without having to find a new job.


We started out the year by adding a new kitty to our family. Samson has made our household twice as exciting and twice as annoying. I’m sure you’ve all heard way to much about him already.

We celebrated our first anniversary.

We purchased a much newer car.

Two of our grandparents passed away.


We took several mini-vacations. On the fourth of July, we took an overnight trip to Moses Lake. Just for fun. Later during the summer, we went on an adventure to the beach. We ended up in a different location than we planned, but it was still a lot of fun. In October, we took a trip to San Diego for a wedding. It was our first plane ride together to somewhere out of state.


I grew a garden! It was more successful than last year, but still kinda pathetic. We enjoyed homegrown peas, tomatoes, oregano, basil, and peppers. I haven’t posted much about food, but we definitely continue to eat like royalty.

That’s all that I can think of right now. While each year has it’s own unique challenges, 2012 was a good year and we are excited to start this year.