Tuesday, May 1, 2012


We've made a lot of investments over the years.  We come from a generation where the simplest thing often yielded great results and I think that a lot of people in our age range came to expect that everything they touched would turn to gold.  I mean really, try explaining Beanie Babies as an investment to someone who didn't live through it.

Our parents bought homes for less than we pay for used cars, and we bought homes for what one year of college might cost our children.  Homes were investments that we almost always could count on to be good.

And then there are emotional investments.  Those were always a little more shaky.  We've all had relationships that have gone bad or gotten emotionally invested in something that didn't work out the way we hoped, but we've survived those and there were probably lessons to be learned along the way.

We're also physically invested in a lot of things, whether it's our health or a competitive sport or even just working hard at a job that we love.  Physical investments almost always pay off since we alone determine our success and, quite frankly, we just abandon those physical investments that aren't working out.

Getting our home ready for sale has been a gut-wrenching trip down a trail of poor investments.

We're certainly not alone these days when it comes to watching our home go from good investment to bad.  It could be worse - our home is worth about the same as what we purchased it for nine years ago, not including the improvements we put into it. And we are fortunately in a position where we at least know we won't have to put money on the table to walk away from this home. We will be able to sell it and have some change jingling around in our pockets as we walk away.  For that, we are grateful.  And the reality is, it has been our shelter for the past 9 years and investment aside, that same shelter would have easily cost more than $100,000 if we had rented.  So really, we're way ahead of the game if you think of it that way.

Emotionally, we haven't been invested in this home for a long time.  Maybe really never.  For reasons that I can't really put into words because I'm not sure of what those words would be, we just never connected with this area.  Or this house.  We've done a lot to try to make it our own, but it always retained the stigma of the former owners (for whom we have some very inappropriate and definitely not family friendly names). 

Physically, we've put a lot into this house.  And continue to do so as we are preparing to move forward and onward to something else.  That's probably the hardest investment to ignore.  We've come to terms with losing what we would normally expect from a financial investment and we've come to believe that our emotional investment will never pay dividends here, but the physical investment that we have put into this home is a bitter pill to swallow.  We could have done so many other things with that energy, and we could have earned those sore muscles and bumps and bruises in a much more rewarding manner.  Even worse is that it's an investment that has to continue - even harder than before - so that we can cut our losses on both the financial and emotional investments we have.  The unfinished projects have to be finished - and finished quickly - if we hope to list the home for sale in the narrow window of time that will bring us the most buyers.  And the return on that physical investment will literally be handed over to the new owners.

We hope.  Please let there be new owners.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lab Tested and Approved

Labrador retrievers, for the uninitiated, aren't known for being picky eaters.  In fact, mine have eaten everything from ropes to glass.  Jackson has a real fondness for lip balm, especially the rather expensive Burt's Bees.  I would estimate that he has eaten at least half his weight in lip balm.  He weighs over 100 pounds. Burt's Bees owes me big time.

Unfortunately, rope, glass, and lip balm (sorry Jackson) aren't especially good for meeting the nutritional needs of large breed dogs so I try to limit those special treats.  Instead, I've discovered a homemade treat that not only tastes great but is good for them too.  It also doesn't hurt that from the moment I walk out of the pantry with a can of pumpkin and a jar of peanut butter in my hands, my dogs think that I'm the cat's meow.

Today was baking day.   Jackson doesn't leave the vicinity of the oven the entire time that I'm mixing them up and baking them.  (ignore the big box of garage sale crap in the background - we can talk about that later)

My labs have given these treats the Labrador seal of approval, so I'm sharing the recipe here.   It's one of my favorites because it doesn't require any special ingredients and I almost always have everything on hand.

Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Treats

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (although I've also used all purpose flour)
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

(Note: A regular can of pumpkin is about 1 cup, so I usually make a double batch at a time, but break it down and mix it 1/2 at a time unless you have a really heavy duty mixer)

Mix all of the ingredients until mixture is well mixed but dry and stiff.  I have found that when I use organic pumpkin I need to add significantly more flour as I'm mixing.  Organic pumpkin tends to be much thinner.  (Hey, don't judge.  My dogs like to eat healthy too.)

 Either roll out the dough and cut with a cookie cutter or roll into a roll and cut off 1/2 pieces.  I may feed my dogs organic pumpkin treats, but I tend to be lazy when it comes to actually forming the cookies, so I just tear off little ballish shapes about the size of a tablespoon.  I don't even try to smooth them into balls.  My dogs seems to like all the crunchy bits and I think it's great for their teeth.  Plus, at this point in the process, I'm seriously questioning my sanity, so I justify the fact that I'm actually baking my dogs organic pumpkin and peanut butter treats by cutting a corner or two.  But don't tell the labs - they think they are supposed to be that way.


 Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.  They should be absolutely cooked dry so they are hard and crunchy.

This recipe doubled makes about 11 dozen tablespoon sized treats. 

Just call me Martha freaking Stewart.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Aren't they fetching?

I often talk about my Labrador retrievers, Lincoln and Jackson, but I've never really posted a video of them in action. Of course, that's partially because Jackson, our chocolate lab, is rarely IN action. He was a lazy puppy that would rather have you carry him than walk, and he remains a lazy senior citizen.

Both dogs are 9 years old now, which is getting up there in age for a large breed but a good rousing game of fetch can usually stir Jackson into a few minutes of playtime before he goes to find a warm spot to sun himself in.

They were really young puppies when we moved to Uno Acres and one of the main attractions was the large yard (just a portion on the side of Vern's shop is shown in the video, but they like to play over there because they aren't usually allowed in that part of the yard and it's a special treat for them). I wonder how they are going to adjust to moving to a much warmer climate with a much smaller yard and possibly living in an apartment for a few months.

Jackson will be fine as long as there is sunshine. Lincoln, however, is pretty much going to demand a swimming pool.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


So I thought about just sneaking back into blogging and not even mentioning that it's been almost two years since I last posted an entry. After all, I wrote one every day. In my head. While in the shower. They just never actually made it all the way to the blog. I'm sorry you missed them though - they were hilarious. Truly. Some of my best writing. I solved every single one of my problems and at least half of yours. Oh well, better luck next time.

The truth of the matter is that I think the last two years went by in kind of a blur. I'm not really sure where they went or what we did although I could probably make a few good guesses. Maybe some of those blog entries will actually make it to the tips of my fingers and I can capture for posterity some of the last two years.

Nevertheless, there have been some changes at Uno Acres.

Most visible is that it's apparently been so long since I blogged, that I actually have gone gray.

Which is sort of a lie because I've been gray for the past 30 years. The reasons are many and it was a decision that was both difficult and easy and one that I'm still processing my feelings about. I won't bore you with the "why" of it, but I will give you one very strong "why not." This is not about letting myself go. I haven't given up on myself or my appearance. I'm okay with who I am. And I'm asking that you be okay with that too.

Lot of other changes around here too - We've bought some stuff, sold some stuff, lost some stuff, and gained some stuff. We've been places and done things. We've made some decisions and decided not to make other decisions. We've walked towards some things and away from others. Nothing particularly earth shattering and yet every stone that is cast sends out ripples that are far reaching.

And while I'm sorry that you have missed all of my witty and insightful blog posts over the past two years, what you haven't missed is the completion of our renovation. We've made some progress in a few areas and even finished a project or two. We've probably started a project or two in that time also. But the good news for me is that I will have plenty of material to blog about in the next few weeks because this house will be finished - come hell or high water - in the next couple of months.

Because we are selling it.

See - I told you - changes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed

There's always a way to fix it.

We're still working on the dining room and we've made some huge steps forward.  One of those was to finally get the tile in our entry foyer grouted.  Unfortunately, once again, things didn't turn out quite as advertised.

We picked a nice charcoal grout color.  Let me be honest here - I have two Labrador Retrievers.  It doesn't matter WHAT color grout we use, it will be dirt color eventually.  I barely have the time to brush my dogs' teeth. I most certainly don't have the time or desire to use a toothbrush on my grout to keep it white.

Anyway, back to the charcoal grout.  As you can see, the color we picked and the color we got are vastly different.

Now there's a good possibility that it was user error, but nevertheless, if I wanted cement between my tiles, I would have asked for cement.

So we set out to find some options to correct it.  They do make grout dyes, but not only did that seem sort of drastic, but a quick check of all the flooring stores in our area revealed that if you live in a 20 mile range of our house, the only color you can "dye" your grout is white or almond.  

However, one of the stores had some tile enhancer and it said that it would slightly change the color of natural tile and grout to the color that it appears when it is wet (in other words, it's not going to change white grout to black, but there's a good chance that it would change my cement grout to charcoal.)  We didn't have to worry about it changing the tile itself since it's ceramic and wouldn't absorb it.  

And just in case anyone wants to enhance their tile or grout, this is the product - TEC Ensealant.

It was easy to apply with a paintbrush

And then 10 minutes later, I wiped it off and like magic . . . 

. . . we have the charcoal grout we were supposed to have.

I love magic.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We May Wobble But We Won't Fall Down

Most people use a matchbook or a piece of cardboard when their table wobbles.

Not us.

We use a level.

Work is progressing nicely on the dining room and home office.  I said nicely, not quickly.  The ceiling is done, wiring is done and the fan and light are installed.

The new walls have been drywalled, primed, and painted, some trim has been installed, and the flooring has been put in.  The cabinets in the office are have also been installed, but we are waiting to hear from the installer for the desktop.

There's still a good amount of work to do, but we should be able to complete it in the next couple of weeks.

But one thing is sure - our dining room table is not going to wobble.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There's an App for That

I got my new iPad.  It's awesome. 

Its awesomeness is increased tenfold in that I used it in the kitchen to make a recipe that not only was healthy and incredibly delicious, but also used some of that darn mystery phyllo dough that I found in my freezer.

I can't even tell you how good this recipe tasted.

 So instead, I'll just share the recipe with you.

Phyllo Chicken Potpie

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh pearl onions (I used a jar of cocktail onions)
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (ick, no one in my house likes mushrooms but add them if you must)
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons sherry or additional reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 10 sheets phyllo dough (14 inches x 9 inches)
  • Refrigerated butter-flavored spray

  • In a Dutch oven, bring water to a boil. Add pearl onions; boil for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water; peel and set aside. (Note: if you use a jar of cocktail onions, you can skip this step entirely)
  • In a large skillet, cook chicken in 1 tablespoon oil over medium no longer pink; remove and keep warm. In the same pan, saute potatoes in remaining oil for 5 minutes. Add onions and mushrooms; saute 3 minutes longer. Add the broth, asparagus and sherry or additional broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  • Combine cornstarch and milk until smooth; stir into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Drain chicken; add to onion mixture. Stir in the thyme, salt and pepper. Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  • Stack all 10 phyllo sheets. Roll up, starting at a long side; cut into 1/2-in. strips. Place in a large bowl and toss to separate strips. Spritz with butter-flavored spray. Arrange over chicken mixture; spritz again.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 6 servings.

Makes 6 servings

Nutritional Analysis: 1 serving equals 325 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 63 mg cholesterol, 542 mg sodium, 33 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 29 g protein.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh My Aching Back

That's what Vern is saying right now.

We started with a couple of coats of primer on both the new drywall and over the existing walls.

(Awww, doesn't it just make you sick?)

Then we moved onto the beadboard ceiling we installed.  We primed all of the boards before we put them up.  Each and every little board.  All 7,657 of them.  Seriously.  But it was totally worth it - no more sparkly popcorn ceiling.

Then we cracked open the paint color we selected with our super scientific method called "Spin the Paint Wheel."  I'm not kidding.  After months of trying to select a color and painting 15 different colors on the wall before dismissing them all, we decided to just throw caution to the wind and the paint cards in the air.  The lucky winner (in other words, the one that landed face up) was Sherwin Williams Relaxed Khaki. 

We still have to paint another coat, paint and install baseboard and crown moulding, install the lighting and the office cabinets, finish the tile work, and install the laminate flooring. 

Oh, and I really should do something about my super fancy curtains. 

I know, you're almost as jealous of those as you are my fabulous photography skills.  Don't be a hater.

At least we are making progress.  Aching back be damned.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Project, Project on the Wall

Who is the most urgent of them all?

One of the things that I struggle with is keeping track of projects that I've either started or want to do.

I created an inspiration/project board in my craft room and divided it into sections for various types of projects.

For my purposes, I created a section for knitting/crochet, a section for sewing, and a section for other things that don't fall into one of those categories. (Although now that I look at it, it appears some of the projects have wandered out of their categories.  Bad projects.)

I also have room for clippings from magazines or drawings that I want to use for inspiration as well as a place to temporarily put receipts for craft projects in case I need to calculate the cost of a project, make a return, or contact a store about inventory.

It's easy to move the cards around in any order you want and once the project is completed, just remove the card permanently.

Unfortunately, I've been adding more cards than I've been removing lately.  I see a few things on my board that need some time and attention.

Now I no longer forget about projects I want to do.  But I do apparently still ignore them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Well hallelujah, my iPad finally shipped.


It's about damn time.

My House is a Little Dusty

Drywall dust, that is.

This is the reality that we call home.

It's also the reality of doing all the work of a major remodel by yourself.  What you can't see behind those walls are the hours and hours of electrical and HVAC work that Vern had to do.  

This is the room that was originally the formal living room.  There was a solid wall separating the very small kitchen and the living room.  We opened up that wall (which was a support wall, so we had to add a laminate beam for support), enlarged the kitchen into part of the area, and are going to use the space as a dining room, a small home office, and a small entryway.  

Fortunately, there's progress and we are going to begin putting on primer today.  If luck is with us, we might even start to paint tomorrow. 

And no, that's not the paint color we choose either.  We're going to at least attempt to be a little more subtle than that.

Color Picking Time

I love color.  It's one of the things that I'm almost obsessive compulsive about.  Walking into a fabric store and seeing the wall of fabrics arranged by color just makes me want to run my fingers over them.   When I was little, my crayon box had to be arranged in a very particular order (boy colors separated from girl colors, but we won't delve into the psychology of that just now).

My love of organized colors is one of the reasons that I think I own more paint decks than a non-painting professional should reasonably own.  But I love thumbing through them and seeing the organized explosion of color.  Peter Walsh will have to pry my paint decks out of my cold dead hands.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand, the cabinets for the home office should be arriving in the next week or so, and the office and dining room are close to the point where we can start to paint.  I'll be the first to admit that we've made some poor color choices in the past (electric aqua blue bathroom I'm looking at YOU.).  I have spent hours pouring over these paint decks, lots of money purchasing quarts of paint so I can paint samples on the wall, and nearly sleepless nights worrying about the ramifications of another poor paint color choice.  Overly dramatic?  I think not.  YOU walk into that blue bathroom day after day and then see how you feel. 

We have decided to go with a tighter color scheme for our home rather than trying to make some sort of a statement in each room.  We narrowed our choices down to about five colors and decided to sleep on it.

So what did we decide in the light of the morning and after a good cup of coffee?

None of the above.  

Back to the drawing board.  Or the coloring board as the case may be.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life's Great Mysteries - The Refrigerator Edition

It's trash day at Uno Acres and while Vern is out in his shop trying to prove to me that he is not a hoarder (I can throw this away, really I can . . . ), I decided it was a good time to empty out our refrigerator and freezer and give it a good spring cleaning.

Life has many great mysteries.  You can find them everywhere.  Today I found them in my refrigerator.

Mystery 1:  I found out that I have three boxes of phyllo dough.  Count them - one, two, three.  And yet I've never used phyllo dough in my entire life.  In fact, not only did I find massive quantities of phyllo dough, but I also found a box of frozen puff pastry, yet another thing I've never used.

Mystery 2: Along the same lines as Mystery 1, I found a brand new jar of Smuckers cherry preserves.  No one in our house likes cherry preserves.  An internet search provides lots of ways to MAKE cherry preserves, but not one damn way to use them.

Mystery 3: Despite the fact that I know for certain that I've cleaned my refrigerator since 2007 (we didn't even HAVE this refrigerator then), I found several items that expired in 2007.  Three YEARS ago.  This happens every single time I clean out the refrigerator.  It's as if the Expiration Fairy blesses me with a visit every month or two and adds a few special treats just to see if I'm paying attention.

Mystery 4, 5, and 6: Mystery meat, mystery broth, and mystery leftovers.  Enough said.

Mystery 7: Someone is hiding their candy in the freezer.

Come to think of it, that's more of a perk than a mystery.  I say finders keepers, and while Vern is in the shop proving he is not a hoarder, I'm going to be eating a candy bar and proving that housework really DOES make you fat.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Frogging the Baby Alpaca


Nope, just frogging the baby alpaca.

For my non-knitting friends and readers, frogging is a knitting term that refers to ripping apart knitting that has already been done. Sometimes it's just a row or two and sometimes it's an entire garment.

Why is it called frogging?  Because of the sound a frog makes - ribbit, ribbit.  Get it?  Ribbit, ribbit.  Rip it, rip it.

I know - we knitters are a clever group.

Unfortunately, not always clever enough to get it right the first time.

Even more unfortunately, this

was supposed to become a Dream Shrug, but instead it became this:

Sometimes, despite careful gauging and careful knitting, good yarn goes bad.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'm Questioning Einstein's Genius

The Einstein Coat, that is. 

Truthfully, I should be questioning my own genius.  Why I decided to knit a heavy wool jacket in May, when the temperature is just beginning to rise is a mystery.  The only answer I can come up with is that 1200 yards of bulky yarn is taking up too much space in my yarn stash so I need to make it into something so it can move to another closet.  It would be far easier to just drape the yarn over a hanger and hang it in the coat closet.

But knit it I am.  And knit and knit and knit and knit and knit.  

Miles of knitting in fact.  

So much knitting in fact, that I'm convinced that there is errata to the pattern somewhere that says "knit until the fingers on your left hand fall off."  And then in a sadistic tone it goes on to say "turn work and knit until the fingers on your right hand fall off."

Einstein makes me want to 

Friday, April 30, 2010

If I Took A Self-Portrait

This is what it would look like.

Sometimes Mother Nature blows. Literally.

So, how's the weather in your neck of the woods?  Maybe I'll fly by and check it out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Today was Earth Day and next week (April 30) is Arbor Day, so it was the perfect time the plant a tree in our yard.

One of our maple trees (I'm not sure if it's a Red Maple or a Crimson King Maple) throws off an incredible amount of seedlings all over our yard and normally they either die off or they get mowed over before they even have a chance to grow.  However, last year being the year that we paid absolutely no attention whatsoever to our yard, a couple of the seedlings not only took root, but flourished.  The largest grew over five feet and had established a nice straight trunk.

We have a couple of trees that have died and will need to come down, so we decided to take Mother Maple's gift to us and try to nurture those trees into adulthood.  

And just because there's nothing better than drinking water straight out of the hose, I'll share this too.

Give Yourself a Swirly

A Swirly Scarf, that is.

If you are under the age of 16, a swirly probably has a completely different meaning.  As a matter of fact, if you are under the age of 16, you probably shouldn't be here. This blog isn't entirely appropriate for children.

In this case, however, if you are an adult and more importantly a knitter, then you can give yourself - or someone you love - a Swirly and I promise that you will like it.


This is my version of the popular ruffled scarf, sometimes called a potato chip scarf.  I'm not sure why it has that name, but it may have to do with not being able to stop at one.

This one is a little different than most patterns because you are only working with 20 stitches at most rather than miles and miles of stitches.

You can make it from almost any weight and with any size needles.  I think it looks especially lovely when it is made from a yarn with a long color repeat, but it's also beautiful with a solid or even a yarn with short color repeats.

The pictured scarf is made with Crazy Zauberball by Schoppel-Wolle.  I used the purple and blue colorway, but I'm making another one in gray and red.

The pattern is easy.  If you have knit short rows before, then it will make total sense to you.  If you haven't knit short rows, just trust the pattern.  When it says "knit 8" then just knit 8 and turn your work and proceed to the next row.  You are only going all the way across every 7th row.  

Swirly Scarf

Set up:
Cast on 20 stitches
Knit 1 row

Work the following:
Row 1: K8, turn
Row 2: K8, turn
Row 3: K6, turn
Row 4: K6, turn
Row 5: K4, turn
Row 6: K4 turn
Row 7: K20

Repeat Rows 1 through 7 until the scarf is the desired length and then bind off.

You can use pretty much any weight of yarn and any size needles.  I used a size 4 with the fingering/sock weight yarn.  I'm currently working on another scarf that will be more of an outwear weight made with a thick worsted and I am using a size 11 needle.

Don't worry when it doesn't start to curl right away - it takes several inches before it starts to swirl and twirl.

I loved knitting this because you are never working with more than 20 stitches, usually no more than 8, it's all knitting, and it makes a very dramatic piece that starts a lot of conversations if you are KIP (knitting in public).

So give yourself a Swirly.  Give your best friend a Swirly.  

You could even give your childrens' teachers a Swirly.  But if you get a detention, don't blame me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In the Dark

The remodeling project has resumed.  Thank God.

Unfortunately, the next part of the project is rewiring and fixing some of the outdated completely fucked up wiring we currently deal with.  Also unfortunately, it's a slow process of going in and out of the attic, pulling wires, and doing all the other stuff that I don't understand but thankfully Vern does.

What it means to me is that we've been without power and lights in about half our house for the past couple of days.  The bedrooms are no big deal, although I do have to say that suddenly every single project that requires either electricity or lights has become the project that I want to work on.  

The bigger problem is that there was no power or lights in the bathroom.  It's a little too much like camping for my taste to have to use the toilet holding a flashlight between your teeth.

I'm happy to report that as of right now I am being told we are "back to where we started" and that it's "pretty much" permanently fixed.  Whatever that means.  

I do know it means that I don't have to hold a flashlight in my mouth anymore.

I was, however, warned . . . and I quote . . . "don't be getting used to this fancy stuff like electricity and indoor plumbing."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fiber Fest Part II

The fiber fest was a success.

What I did come home with: A bunch of yarn and fun gadgets.

What I didn't come home with: Anything that poops.

Oh, but I was tempted by this. . . 

an angora rabbit.  Have you ever seen anything so cute?  

I was not tempted by this  . . . 

Not even a little bit.  I do hope Peaches and Pear went to the same home though.  It seems wrong to separate them.

Here's some of the non-pooping stuff I came home with (you can click on the pics for a closer look).

I pretty much know what I'll be doing for the next year or so.