Sunday, December 28, 2008

Here's Where You Realize What a Big Dork I Am

If you know me in person, you already know this. It will come as no surprise to you.

If you know me any other way, it might be a surprise. But I doubt it.

I'm purging and reorganizing dresser drawers today. I always like to look around online and see if there are any good ideas that I haven't yet discovered, and today I ran across this site.

One Minute Folding Videos by Linda Koopersmith, the Beverly Hills Organizer

I pretty much agree with all of her folding techniques, except I could teach Ms. Koopersmith a thing or two about folding pajamas. Linda, you fold sets together as one unit, not separately. That way, you have the pajama top and the pajama bottom all in one neat little package.

Hi, my name is Carla, and I'm known for my folding techniques.

And yes. I actually WAS googling "how to fold panties."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Which One of You Pissed Off Mother Nature?

Because I have a real bone to pick with you.

The weather around here has been terrible. It was only last week that we had a bad ice storm, fallen trees, and lost power. Then it turned cold. So cold that you couldn't catch a breath. Today, it is 60 degrees, but we have flooding, flash flood warnings, and tornado warnings.

Mother Nature's cycle is definitely screwed up. She may need some hormone therapy soon if it doesn't straighten out.

Speaking of therapy, I've been knitting. I know, big surprise there. But it's knitting for ME now. Me, me, me. After a couple of months of doing gift knitting, I'm back to having something on the needles that is just for me.

I picked up this yarn (Lion Brand Sock Ease) a month or so ago at Hobby Lobby when they opened. I love the cheery pink color. It's not super expensive sock yarn, but it has aloe in it and so far it is knitting up nicely, so it might be a good alternative to the gut wrenching feeling I get whenever I think about spending $40 on handpainted sock yarn. There are some nice colors and best of all, it only takes one skein for a pair of socks and it runs under $10.00 for a skein.

I'm making the Lacy Mock Cable Socks by ScarlettKnits and so far, I love the pattern. It's easy to memorize and is a nice break away from plain stockinette socks yet not too complicated.

And the best part? They are for me! Sorry, but it's the selfish, only child coming out. Sometimes I can't control her.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holy Hole

Remember how last year I said "you can never have too many stud walls for the holidays."

When I said it, I never imagined that one full year later, I'd be saying the same thing. Why yes, that IS another hole in our wall. No, we don't park the Jeep in the house - that actually IS our garage.

We had to move the door to the garage over by a few feet to accommodate our new bathroom, so the first step was to remove the old door.

NOW it feels like the holdays around here.

Ice Ice Baby

Last week Illinois got a nasty pre-Christmas present in the form of a lot of snow and a ton of ice.

We mainly got ice - and lots of it - where we live. Unfortunately, there was a massive amount of damage to the trees in our yard. There has been even more damage since the pictures were taken because the ice has remained and the wind has picked up. Limbs are snapping like crazy. We are going to have a months worth of work when the weather clears just trying to clean it all up.

We actually fared better than some of our neighbors whose yards look like a tornado went through. We saw a lot of fence damage and some car damage, but no roof damage.

We also lost our power for a day which was pretty scary in the freezing cold temperatures. My dad lost his power for almost three days but refused to get a hotel or let me pick him up and bring him to our house.

I love a good storm, but I'm not so fond of the ones that overstay their welcome. And this one definitely has.

The Stockings Were Hung By the Chimney With Care

At someone else's house. Because they sure aren't at ours.

I don't know what happened. Christmas snuck up on me this year. Came right up behind me and literally blindsided me.

Not only do I not have any Christmas cards done (last year they were done in October), but I don't even have our tree up. And it's not looking good for either one.

I would love to show you some of the presents that I have finished and wrapped. Except they aren't wrapped. Or finished.

If you are expecting a card or a present from me, I wouldn't suggest that you look for it before Christmas. June maybe. But not Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thai One On

You can lead a man to water, but you can't make him cook? Not true in this case. Vern has been getting into the swing of things in the kitchen. Or at least making an effort at it when I ask him to help.

We wanted to try something different. Vern has had Thai food before, but I never have. We found an easy recipe that seemed relatively healthy and easy, so we gave it a try.

Thai Chicken Salad Wrap - serves 4


  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
  • 2 green onions, cut into slivers
  • 1 small carrot, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped peanuts
  • 4 large (10-inch) flour tortillas

Peanut dressing:

  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Dash hot red pepper flakes (optional)

Cooking Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, simmer the chicken breasts in the chicken broth over low heat for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from broth and let cool completely. (If you're using leftover grilled or roasted chicken, skip this step.)
  2. When the chicken is cool, shred it, by hand, into long shreds — just pull the chicken apart along the grain of the meat. Place in a bowl. Add the cabbage, green onions, carrot and cilantro and toss to mix.
  3. In a blender or food processor, blend together all the ingredients for the peanut dressing until smooth and creamy. Pour this mixture into the chicken salad and toss to coat.
  4. Lay a tortilla on a plate and spoon 1/4 of the chicken mixture onto the middle of the tortilla. Sprinkle with some of the chopped peanuts, fold in the bottom and top, and then fold over the sides as tightly as possible. If you're eating immediately, cut the wrap diagonally in half and serve. If you're planning to eat it later, wrap securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.

The only change I would make to this recipe as it was originally written would be to warm the tortillas in the microwave or oven before filling.

This recipe was a definite keeper.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Laundry Room Blues

Hang on to your hats because the excitement just never ends here. To be honest, I have piles and piles of laundry on my laundry room floor to be washed and piles and piles to be folded or put away. And I'm willing to do anything to avoid it.

Enough about my desperation. Have you ever had a problem with your washer and dryer and couldn't find the manuals? Or couldn't remember the special washing and drying instructions for that delicate piece of clothing or those curtains in the bedroom? How about stain removal? Wondering what will take out blood or wine? Or blood AND wine if you really had a bad night.

That's where having a laundry room notebook comes in handy.

I have one that I keep in my laundry room. I even made a fancy pants cover for it. Like I said, I'll go to great lengths to actually avoid doing real work.

Inside my notebook, I keep my washer and dryer instructions. I have an electronic washer that thinks it is smarter than me (it may well be, who knows.) Occasionally, it will start flashing numbers and letters at me for some shortcoming that it thinks I have and I have to use my manual to figure out the specific transgression that I am guilty of this time.

I also keep stain removal guides in my notebook. I never really use them since there is nothing on this earth that is going to take out the stains from Vern's work clothes and I gave up trying years ago, but just in case I ever actually care about a stain, that information is waiting and ready. You know, in case the Internet doesn't work or something.

I also keep other laundry tidbits in there. Like folding instructions for fitted sheets. Yes, there really is a better method than wadding them up in a ball and shoving them in the drawer. I said "better," not faster.

I have a section for each room and put the washing instructions for rugs, curtains, bedspreads, etc. in that area. I usually never get around to washing those things, but if I need to, I'll know how. (Frankly, it's easier to replace them.) There's also a section like this for clothing. I don't really have that much stuff that has special washing instructions but I might get invited to an inauguration or something someday and have a special outfit that I refuse to get dry cleaned anyway even though the instructions tell me to.

Last but not least is the section for all those buttons and pieces of yarn that come with every piece of clothing that I buy. They come in their own little bags, so they must be important. Once again, sewing buttons on and making repairs isn't really high on my list of things to do, but it at least has a shot of getting done if I can find a button to sew on. I use business card protector pages for these to keep them all neat and tidy. That's important because you don't want messy buttons. You've already balled up your sheets without folding them, don't let the buttons get the best of you.

No reason to actually do laundry when you can organize it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Apologies

My apologies to my husband's coworkers. As part of his new diet, I sent him to work with pinto beans, hard boiled eggs, lots of vegetables, and bean soup. I didn't do this with malice or forethought, but in the end, it's better you than me.

Be warned, next week he wants broccoli too.

If it's good enough for our President, it's good enough for him.

This is Not a Cooking Blog

I feel compelled to remind you, and myself, that this is not a cooking blog. I have some good recipes that I share from time to time and I may or may not include a picture, but I don't do the fancy stuff that Pioneer Woman does or even some of my online buddies like Tanya, Kami, and Suzanne. (By all means, check out their blogs if you want great cooking blogs!)

That said, you may wonder why all of a sudden there are several recipes showing up here. Long story short, it's because I've been trying several new recipes lately and I'm going to be trying several more in the near future.

This is all a result of Vern's recent issues with his vision. We've spent the past week going from one doctor to another and having one test followed by more tests. It turns out that he has a blood clot blocking an artery in his retina. It's similar to a stroke, but in his eye. There is no real treatment for it. It may or may not resolve. He may or may not lose vision in that eye.

What is for sure is that it is most likely caused by the continuing problem with his blood pressure. I'll spare you the details, but it's been a recent discovery in the past year and one that we have been working on, although half heartedly.

However, that's all in the past. We have been instructed to bring his blood pressure down and to bring it down now. As a result, we are working on a huge change in diet around here - including more healthy foods, less meat, and more vegetables, beans, and fruit.

Which is the long way of saying, here are a couple new recipes I tried tonight that were definite winners.

The first recipe is for crunchy baked chicken. Trust me - you'll want to try this one. So easy and so incredibly good. I could have eaten a whole flock of crunchy baked chickens.

Crunchy Baked Chicken

Makes 3 servings

2 oz Cornflakes, crushed
3 tsp sesame seeds
1.5 tsp Paprika
Salt & pepper
3 - 3 ounce thin chicken breasts
3 Tbsp skim milk
3 tsp margarine or butter

Combine first four ingredients and set aside. Dip chicken in skim milk; coat with cereal mixture. Place on nonstick pan and dot each with 1 tsp butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.

(Note - I was actually out of Corn Flakes today and I used Special K cereal instead. It was wonderful!)

These potato wedges are so simple, it is almost embarrassing, but whatever.

Oven Fries

Makes 3 servings

3 - 5 ounce potatoes
4 tsp olive oil
Garlic powder
Salt & pepper

Cut potatoes into quarters lengthwise. Brush with olive oil; sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees or until done.

(when I cooked these two together, I baked the potato wedges for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then turned the oven down to 400 degrees and added the chicken and cooked for the remaining 15 minutes.)

Hot Tamales and Tofu

Remember my Hot Tamale socks? I finished them a few weeks ago (finally) and didn't get around to posting a picture of them (not unlike how we haven't gotten around to grouting the kitchen floor either, so please try to ignore that.)

They are nothing special, but at least they are done.

Which brings me to the tofu. (wasn't that a smooth transition to a new subject??!!)

I found a really good recipe for a Peanut Butter spread made with tofu. WAIT! Don't run away. Stay with me here - I promise, it's worth it.

Peanut butter is so yummy but it is so high in calories that it's a diet wrecker. But it's so yummy. It also has a ton of fat. Did I mention that it's yummy?

This recipe is a perfect one if you've never tried tofu before or think you don't like tofu. It's great to spread on apples and celery.

Peanut Butter Dip

1/2 cup silken tofu (1/3 container)
1/2 cup peanut butter

Puree peanut butter with a blender or in food processor until smooth. Blend in the peanut butter until mixed well.

Use for apple dip, celery, etc.

Servings: 8
Serving size: 2 Tbsp.
Keeps 5-7 days in refrigerator

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brown is My Favorite Color

Do you know what is even better than Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
Yes, it's UPS Tuesday!

Oh, how I love getting mail, especially the kind that comes in a brown cardboard box and is delivered by an elf all dressed in brown arriving in a brown sleigh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eye, Yi, Yi.

You have to love an emergency, pre-Thanksgiving trip to the eye doctor. Or two.

Believe it or not, it's not ME this time. Nope, even worse. It's Vern. He's had a sudden loss of central vision, so we are headed off to our normal eye doctor for a quick check in the morning and then to a retina specialist as soon after as possible.

Anything but vision. It could be anything but his vision. We're already working at half capacity in that area as it is.

Friday, November 21, 2008

You Can't Scare Me

Ask anyone. I thrive on blood and gore. I grew up on gunslingers, mass murder, and horror.

I was reading about the Boston Strangler and Charles Manson when my peers were reading The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

If the TV is on at our house, it's most likely a crime show of some sort or, better yet, a live trial.

I've never seen a movie that left me trembling. Jaws? Bring it tuna breath. The Exorcist? What a bunch of babies.

The joke in our house is that I could kill my husband and no one would ever suspect me or find his body. And I wouldn't even break a sweat or a nail doing it.

However, I've met my match. So much so, that I'm not even sure I can stand to have the cover of this movie on the blog. (If I abandon the blog, you'll know why).

Last night I watched "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."

How I missed this movie when it was first released, I don't know. Why I didn't pass it up this time around, I'll always regret.

Holy crap (no pun intended), this movie is S-C-A-R-Y. Not in a Stephen King boogie man kind of way and not in a psychological thriller kind of a way, but scary in a way that will make you afraid to look out the window or look at a clock in the middle of the night.

I honestly could not get this movie out of my house fast enough.

And if I wake up again tonight at 3:00 AM, I am seriously out of here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It Has Been One of Those Days

What has happened to customer service? To doing your job well? To actually getting things right?

It seems as though I have a full time job sometimes keeping up with the mistakes or issues that companies and service providers make. It is nothing new, but days like today really make me tear my hair out.

Today I had to bring out my inner "Bitch on Wheels." I not afraid to trot her out every once in a while.

Incident #1
You know all that crap that comes in the same envelope as your bill? That stuff that you just pitch in the trash when you pull out the bill for payment? Read it. Study it. Especially if it is in your credit card bill.

While this one could potentially be filed under "Buyer Beware," it really is one of those tricky things that companies pull hoping that the consumer won't notice. Fortunately, I just happened to notice the small print on my credit card bill that said "see enclosed notification for changes to your terms." Sure enough, when I fished it out from the bottom of the trash, there it was - a notice that our interest rate was going to more than double unless we "opted out" of the interest rate change. If you don't opt out - in writing - in the next two weeks, you are screwed.

It seems that credit cards are passing on their financial woes of extending credit to people who can't pay it back along to the people who can pay it back. Sure enough, when I called to find out WTF was going on, they advised me that it was "nothing personal" or even related to our account, which by the way we appreciate you paying so timely every month, but we are increasing rates for some of our customers.

I can, of course, opt out of it, but the second I use the card for any reason, then the rate automatically hops up close to 20%. No thanks.

In my mind, the credit card company loses on this one because not only do they now have to lock in my rate at the current low interest rate until I pay it off, but I also will no longer ever use the card again for any new charges.

Screw you AAA.

Incident #2
Remember my pretty new range top? The one that cost us a small fortune? The one that we have only had for a few months? It quit working.

I can live with that. We have a warranty on it. Things happen.

However, what I cannot live with is the fact that I have been waiting for 5 weeks to get it repaired. Not only that, when I called to find out WTF was going on, (are you seeing a pattern here?) it appears that my original service call and all resulting return calls were lost in space. No record of them at all. I paid $3,000 for a range top that worked for 6 months and they cannot even keep track of my phone calls? Now we start all over. Someone is coming out tomorrow to look at it, but I know that it is going to take a few more weeks to order parts, so I am back to square one.

Incident #3
I am convinced this is a case of "wait and see if they notice." We have had Verizon service for several years. One of the reasons we have had it is because we get a significant discount through Vern's employer.

I was straightening some files today and realized that somewhere around May our discount stopped. When I called to find out WTF was going on, it turns out that even though we are still entitled to the discount and it appears on our account, they just stopped applying it to our bills. No reason. Just stopped. It took several minutes to convince them that today was not the day that they wanted to tangle with me and that it would just be in their best interest to straighten it out and also give me a credit for the 5 months that they haven't been giving us the discount (which amounts to over one full month's bill). In the end, I got the credit and they increased our discount.

Seriously, this is not the week to screw with me. Vern is hiding in the shop all week. The dogs are begging him to take them with him. I suggest that if you see my name on your caller ID that you do not answer. Sometimes, I'm even sick of my own bitching.

Now, on to the next victim.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Someone Needs to Go on a Diet

I guess I've been lying to myself. Telling myself that he's not fat, he's just tall and muscular.

Unfortunately, our vet set me straight yesterday. Yes, that's right. My chocolate lab Jackson isn't fluffy. He's fat. He weighed in at a whopping 122 pounds. Now I should qualify that and say that he actually IS an extremely tall dog, but he still needs to lose about 10 pounds.

So, just in time for the holiday treats, Jackson is on a diet.

However, I'm not sure what the vet meant when she gently said "I know that when I have a few extra pounds, so does my dog."

Okay - I do know what she meant. I choose to ignore it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How About a Little Dirty Dancing?

Yesterday Vern surprised me by planning a day in Chicago from start to finish (with some help from Ashley).

We drove into Midway and then took the El train into Chicago. That was a nice relaxing way to go, because really - who wants to drive in downtown Chicago.

After arriving, we walked a couple of blocks to Macy's. They had already started to decorate for Christmas, so it was fun to see the Christmas window displays.

We had dinner at the famous Walnut Room at Macy's.

Macy's had already put up the "Great Tree," a 45 foot Christmas tree that is right in the center of the Walnut Room. I'm glad they have to decorate it and not me.

The food was good and the service was excellent. Vern had the famous potpie and I had lobster bisque and Asiago crusted chicken breast.
We had dessert too. Unfortunately, there wasn't time for photos of that!

After dinner, we walked to the Cadillac Palace and saw the stage presentation of Dirty Dancing. The show was fantastic and the cast and sets were amazing.

Having spent all of my summers at resorts, Dirty Dancing has always brought back fond memories. Although I didn't find Johnny Castle at any of them, I did find a guy one summer that I'm kind of fond of.

Even if he can't dance.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Morning Wood

Once or twice a year, it happens like clockwork.

We get an early morning delivery of wood for our fireplace. We use our fireplace 24/7 in the cooler months, so one cord won't be enough to get us through the winter, but it will be enough to get a good start on it.

Always helpful, Lincoln carries the first piece in for the fire.

Morning wood. It's what makes the cold mornings bearable.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Seasonal Switcharoo

It's time once again for the purging of our closets and the seasonal switcharoo. We have very small closets and neither of us require a large wardrobe (although if you count the 74 grey t-shirts in Vern's closet, you might think he has some sort of a fetish for the color grey.)

Vern's clothes are always on black hangers and my clothes are always on white hangers. At least once a year we pull everything from the closet and purge through it. Anything that hasn't been worn in the past few months gets donated or tossed with only a few exceptions. This is the time that I have to fight with Vern to keep the two pair of decent Dockers and button down shirts that he owns on the slim chance that we actually will go somewhere that requires something nicer than a pair of jeans and a grey t-shirt.

It's also the time that we switch out the hangers, temporarily hanging my clothes on the black hangers and Vern's on the white hangers. Then when the clothes are worn and laundered, they are hung on the "right" colors and it's easy to tell what hasn't been worn in the next few months and needs to find a new home.

Not that I'm anal or anything.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Guilt Trip for Halloween

We don't usually get a lot of trick or treaters, but I always like to give those that do come here a nice treat so they won't egg our house because I'm a nice person.

However, this year, we aren't going to be around for Halloween. I felt bad about it because I remember how disappointing it was to see a house where there was no porch light.

My guilt got the best of me Because I'm a nice person, I picked up several giant sized candy bars and made wrappers for them so that I could deliver them early to the neighborhood kids so they won't egg our house so they wouldn't waste a trip to our house.

The wrappers were easy to make - I just downloaded a couple of Halloween clip art images, added our names, printed them on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper, trimmed to the right size for the wrapper, and slipped them over the candy bar.

The hard part was not eating the candy before I delivered them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Just Don't Understand

I know it's pathetic, but unless you live somewhere where there is virtually no shopping, you don't know how exciting something like this can be.

That's right. Three new stores opened this week in our area. THREE! That's huge for this wasteland that I refer to as shopper's hell.

And even better than three new stores opening is that one of them is Hobby Lobby. But that's not the good part. The good part is that it is . . . . drumroll please . . . . right next to Menards.

I may never have to suffer through the plumbing department at Menards again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm a Design Star

Okay, so I'm not really a Design Star. I just faked it to get your attention. But I can pretend to be a Design Star in my own house.

We had a difficult wall in our family room. It was long and blank, but because of the narrow path leading to our sun room, it's not a wall that really can have furniture against it.

My original intention was to have a photo wall, but lately, I'm really hating that look. Okay, you caught me. That's another lie. I'm lazy and I don't want to dust all those freaking photo frames.

So the truth (really this time!) is that I stole an idea straight from last season's Design Star winner, Jennifer Bertrand, and decided to paint the wall with a graphic leaf design.

I first drew the design on the wall in chalk so that I could make any adjustments that I wanted before I started painting.

Then I painted the design in the next color down from our wall color so that it is somewhat monochromatic. I also plan on using this color (the color of the leaves) in another adjoining room, so this will tie it all in together.

I'm actually really happy with the way it turned out. It gives some interest to the wall, but doesn't take up any physical space.

And it doesn't have to be dusted.

Up on the Rooftop

No, it wasn't Santa Claus coming for an early trip down the chimney.

It was the chimney sweep.

That's not entirely true either. It was the "Chimney Sweep formerly known as my husband."

He didn't even have to use a level!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meet Sully

The labs have a new best friend. His name is Sully. He is a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix that lives in our area.

Sully is apparently quite the escape artist. He loves to run away from his home and come to play with the labs. He's really a great dog, and we don't mind him coming to play with the dogs at all.

I just wish they had checked with me before they taught him to use the dog door. I got quite the surprise when I got out of the shower and came face to face with Sully yesterday.

If I had pants on at the time, I'm sure I would have wet them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Double, Double, Toilet Trouble

Ah yes, it is once again Fall. That lovely season that brings crisp, cool weather, changing leaves, and trick or treaters. However, it appears that it also brings an October Surprise for us each year in the form of problems with our septic and well.

It has been one year almost to the day of "The Great Well Disaster of 2007."

What a crappy way to end an already crappy year.