Saturday, March 22, 2008

Third verse, same as the first

Still snowing. How disgusting. The landscape hasn't changed, so I'm not bothering to take any more pictures of it. Here, have one of yesterday's set.

We actually had a pretty fun day despite being stuck inside on our last day of Spring Break. We watched TV, read, played some games, painted some watercolors, wrote a few stories...We also did up some more seeds for our winter sowing experiment. (I didn't ask them to decorate the milk jugs-cum-greenhouses. They did that all on their own.)

The snow's so deep that you'd never know by looking at it, but there are another 5 greenhouses buried behind the batch we did up yesterday. The girls are really into this, so much so that they've decided this is going to be their Science Fair project. Will it work? Will seeds that have been frozen and thawed and frozen and thawed over and over again actually sprout? Tune in April 24th at the Science Fair...

Dinner last night was something wonderfully colorful. I'd like to say that I planned it this way because we're all in desperate need of some color, but no. I just happened to have some green onions that I need to use up and a bag of baby spinach in the 'frig, some frozen chicken breasts, and canned diced tomatoes. Plop a bunch of spinach into a baking dish, slap the chicken breasts on top, toss on some tomatoes and green onions, make up some curried rice while it's baking, and voila. 35 minutes later, one very pretty -- and tasty! -- dinner is the result.

The girls and I also made PB&J cookies from a recipe I found over at Blissfully Domestic.

In a word: YUM.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Abigail Taylor died yesterday.

I don't know this little girl or her family, but her story has bothered me from the first. Maybe it's because once upon a time I was a lifeguard and, I kid you not, I left work every day thankful that nothing major had gone wrong on my shift. (When I was 9, I witnessed a fairly horrific accident when another kid fell off the high diving board and landed on the cement instead of in the water. It's not an exaggeration to say that I thought of that accident every day when I went to work.) Maybe it's because my kids and I pretty much live at the pool in the summer, and I could too easily imagine this happening to one of them. Or maybe it's just because this was an absolutely horrific accident and you'd have to be awfully cold to not feel something for the poor kid. Whatever the reason, when the news broke last summer I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.

I really wanted this to somehow be OK, even though it probably wasn't going to be. When they announced the transplant, I was cheering for her. She had a long, hard road ahead of her and the odds weren't great, but she'd already survived more than a lot of other people might have. Maybe she was actually going to be all right.

When I read about the cancer a few Sunday papers ago, I looked at Pete and said, blankly, "She's not going to make it, is she."

I am so, so sorry to be right.

Second verse, same as the first

The weather forecast did not lie. For the second time this week we woke up to this:

and it's still coming down.

The good news is that it should melt fast. And at least the people driving the snowplows are making money.

Like probably everybody else around here, I'm tired of greys and whites and browns. I want some color -- and flowers! But the only things blooming are my baskets o' spring bulbs inside.

The girls and I were going to go to the Zoo today. I think we'll stay home and play games in front of the fire instead.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Spring!

So what's in the forecast for today?

Snow, of course. You expected something else?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring? Ha!

This is what we woke up to this morning.

It's pretty, I'll give it that.

I hope it melts away soon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Genius at work?

I was going through some old files, trying to free up some space on the hard drive, when I came across this gem of Pete and Joel whomping up some homebrew back in October, 2006:

I wonder if that batch turned out...

Spring Break

It's snowing. They're predicting up to 8 inches for some parts of the state. Drat. Snow was cool and fun back in November. But now it's almost officially spring, and so it is no longer cool and most decidedly Not Fun.

My garden frogs were just starting to emerge from the snow, too. :-(

Dear Snow,
Plz 2 be gone now,'k thnx bai.
No love,

The girls and I biked to the library yesterday. Along the way, we got lots of amused looks and waves from people driving by. It was a mite chilly -- 'bout 34F -- so they were wearing stocking caps under their pink (E.) and purple (M.) bike helmets, along with their winter jackets and gloves. Combine that with their purple sparkle-y bikes with the little flower baskets on the front, and yes, they do look awfully cute as they pedal along. Drivers are lots nicer to cute little girls on bikes than they are to not-so cute great big grownups on bikes, I've discovered. Pete often gets treated horribly by drivers doing things like cutting him off and whacking him with baseball bats*, but people routinely stop for the girls and wave them through intersections. And not only do cars wait and sometimes even give up the right of way for us to cross, but the drivers smile at us and seem completely charmed when the girls grin back and wave their thanks. Maybe the girls should start escorting Pete to work.

The girls are on spring break this week. Last year for spring break we went to Texas and spent the week with the Texas-now-Pennsylvania Crew (we miss you guys and can't wait to see you in June!). This year we're helping an orthodontist buy a lake home (isn't that nice of us), and so we're staying here. I have many things planned to keep us all occupied and un-bored. I'd originally planned that today we'd go to the Zoo, but since it's snowing we'll stay home and make doggy biscuits and start some seeds a'winter-sowing instead. Tomorrow we shall visit the new niece/cousin in the morning and go to the Waterpark in the afternoon. Wednesday we'll come back back from the Waterpark -- and go to swimming lessons, and then collapse into sodden heaps and probably sleep for 19 hours. Thursday will be the Zoo, weather permitting. Friday we'll arts and crafts ourselves silly, Saturday we'll deliver the last of the Girl Scout cookies and color Easter eggs, and Sunday of course is Easter. And then on Monday we're back to school and work, and I'll wonder how the week went by so fast.

*Rapid City, SD, 1994. Two guys pulled up alongside him and literally whacked him across the back with a baseball bat. And people wondered why we moved away.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

On meat and groceries

A month or so ago, I realized that we had an awful lot of meat* and veggies in the freezers. This is not a bad thing. After all, the whole point of having a freezer in addition to the refrigerator freezer is so that we can buy bulk and/or stock up on sale items, freeze summer vegetables and fruits**, etc. But I didn't even know what some of it was (note to self: label the freezer bags!), let alone how long some of it had been in the freezers (note to self: and date the freezer bags too!). Oops. Time to start eating out the freezers.

A month later, the veggies stash is much reduced (and all the summer tomatoes are gone, sniffle) but we still have an awful lot of meat left. This is because we only eat meat twice a week, sometimes thrice a week if we're entertaining or have excessive leftovers -- and one of those meals is often a big batch of stew or soup that I portion out and freeze to have on hand for busy, no-time-to-cook nights. Or I'll do something like, if we have a whole roasted chicken one night, I'll make, say, chicken pot pie or fajitas from the leftovers a few nights later, and then there's often leftovers from that, so there's a third meal...So although we eat meat twice a week or so, there are often weeks when I only cook meat one night and we have a freezer or leftovers meal for the other night(s). At this rate it will take a while to clean out the freezer. Yet I am (perhaps stupidly) surprised and a little dismayed at how much meat we still have on hand:

1 15-lb turkey (yikes) (I did not buy this! My former employer gave Thanksgiving turkeys to all its employees. Which means it's probably from 2003 or 2004, because after the first year or two I opted to donate my turkey to a local food bank/homeless shelter. Oh, yikes, again.)
1 4-lb chicken
2 3-lb bags of chicken breasts
1 3-lb bag of chicken tenders
3 lbs of pepperoni
1 half-bag fish sticks
1 chuck roast
2 packages salmon
1 package sausage
1 half-package bacon
a couple of beef patties
and a few Mystery Meats (note to self: label and date the freezer bags!).

Oh my. That's enough for another month or two worth of meals, at least.

This has done wonders for our grocery bill. It's been hard, but I've passed on all meat-for-sale items. (Do I have a problem? Or am I channeling Grandma D. with this must-keep-freezer-stocked-at-all-times/can't-pass-on-a-bargain behavior?) Our weekly grocery bill average so far has been $60.36 for our family of four. Most of that is going for milk, yogurt, eggs, fresh fruits (nothing exotic, just apples, bananas, oranges -- which, I have to say, I'm getting awfully tired of; I can't wait for strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and all the other summer fruits!), stock veggies like carrots, celery, and potatoes, and pantry/baking items like flours, oatmeal, raisins, etc. Pete likes to make fun of me for buying things like organic milk from a local dairy*** and organics in general whenever possible, but clearly, we can afford it!

I'm starting to think that instead of stocking up on for-sale meats, maybe every three or four months -- or whenever the freezer's close to empty -- I should go the Von Hansons route and buy bundles or variety packs , or take a drive out to Cedar Summit Farm or the like. Does anyone know where Von Hansons gets their meats? Has anyone bought directly from Cedar Summit or a similar farm?

And would anyone like to come over for a turkey dinner?

*I'm including poultry and fish under the general category of "Meat."

**Alas, the summer fruits always go fast. A few weeks ago I pulled out my last package of August blueberries. It was very sad.

***Yes, at $8.38 per gallon it IS expensive, and yes, the jury is still out on the long-term effects of things like pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones on the human population. But hey, I've got two growing little people I'm feeding here. As long as we can afford it, I'm going to err on the side of caution with this stuff. Also, I like to support small, local farms as much as possible. Those big feedlots and dairy corporations, they scare me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

In which I bore you with a LOT of pictures and entirely too much detail

By now you'd think I'd know never to say "I'll have pictures up tomorrow!" because it almost never happens. Sometimes it's because I take the pictures and just don't get around to processing* and posting them in a timely fashion, or it's because I get really busy with something and don't have a chance to even take pictures, let alone process and post them...I don't have those excuses this time. I was plumb tuckered out after 24 days of fighting RL's River Rock, and I crashed hard for about a week after declaring the project done. Seriously. I had the energy of a slug, if that. Then my mother and I happened upon one of those once-in-a-lifetime sales that other people always seem to find but I've never come across until now: an Ethan Allen store was closing and doing a ridiculously discounted buy-and-carry sale to get rid of its inventory. And my goodness me, there were even things there that would work really well in my newly painted living room. Oooh. So I got some things, and have been having a lot of fun getting the place in order.

I've also been starting to paint both the ceiling and walls of our little entryway, which should be a simple, quick project (ha ha, you know what's coming, don't you)...Well, it's not. I was stupid and in a moment of weakness bought a gallon of cheap -- like, $9.99!! -- ceiling paint instead of going with something more expensive yet better quality. It looked great going on, but when it dried a bunch of cracks appeared and one little section even started peeling off! So now I'm stymied, because yes, I am just tight enough that wasting money on a poor quality gallon of paint is really irksome. So do I patch and try to put on another layer or 3 or 5 of the cheap paint, or do I suck up my loss and take the rest of the cheap paint to the paint-disposal place, go get the more expensive, better quality paint that I should have got in the first place, and then patch and paint...



A few Before and During shots, because I always do Before and During shots. Click the image if you'd like to see the larger size:

Shall I tell you the obvious, that this is a fireplace...

Buh-bye, beige.

These corners are different and neat and a real pain to paint around. Note the beige roller-hit-the-ceiling splotches the previous owners left for us. I knew there were a few beige splotches here and there throughout the house, but I'd never realized how many and how bad they were until I started de-beiging.

There's one other During shoot that shows the excessive streaking I was fighting throughout this project, but I took that with the point-and-shoot, which is mostly Pete's camera. I don't know 1) where the camera is, or 2) if he's already uploaded it, where he might have uploaded that image to. I'll post that one "tomorrow." Ha ha ha ha ha.

And now the After:

F is for Fireplace. Wow, does that green ever bring out the color of the stones! The beige sucked the color out before, but this...I love it!

This corner really needed a chair. Fortunately, a chair was one of my buy-and-carry finds.

So was the pillow.

Chair detail. I cannot tell you how much I love this little chair...

I've learned that photographing my living room is sort of difficult. It's a long, rectangular room with a ridiculous amount of corners, and the fireplace in the middle of the room, and big windows and sliding glass doors to the east and west, and a dining alcove which we've never used for dining right off from the living room, and the entryway comes right into the living room (very en vogue in 1951 when our house was built), and we've got two doorways-without-doors (what are those called?) leading off from the living room into a hallway and the kitchen...So, that little chair's in a southeast corner, stage right from the fireplace . In a southwest corner and stage left from the fireplace is this chair (sorry for the glare -- and I just realized from looking at this that I haven't got all of the hardware put back on the blinds! *laugh*):

which is part of a sofa and love seat grouping (I took this standing in the dining alcove). The little chair is stage left from the love seat, and the sofa is angled to face the fireplace...Are you totally confused now?

Without a wide angle lens, there's just no good way to take a picture of this grouping. But I tried, I really did. By this point the dog was quite concerned about my behavior. Please excuse the missing outlet covers; I'm painting them to match the walls.

Some of my other finds included that red lamp above (alas! its more-golden shade was broken, but they gave me an extra one, which will work quite well while I look for another), an area rug

and pillows. Lots and lots of pillows. These are details from a few that I especially love.

I also picked up some "wall decor," as Ethan Allen calls it:

The piano is now in the area formerly known as the dining alcove. At some point I will work up the nerve to pick up a hammer and start pounding nails into my freshly-painted walls and hang the wall decor, but for now I'm just fine with propping it on pianos and mantels and chairs.

I love how the color on the walls shifts with the light and where you're at in the room. Sometimes it seems really green, and at other times/angles it's a soft grey, and still other times it's somewhere in between...

And now even I'm bored with this. If you made it to the end of this enormous post, thanks for reading, and please feel free to come visit us and our "new" living room! Just watch out for bits of peeling ceiling paint on your way in.

*I almost always shoot in RAW, process, and then convert the images to JPG. Obviously, it's more time consuming that just shooting in JPG, but being able to adjust the shot settings post-shoot is very worth it.