October 13, 2019

So much to share; so little time

I am failing woefully at posting consistently...hence the title.

Last weekend we took the kids (Man-Child and Bonus-Girl {The Husband's daughter}) to Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia for their birthdays.  At this point, it is just easier to give memories rather than actual "gifts."

Originally, this was The Husband's trip but, at that last minute, I decided to join them.  I had a doctor's appointment early that Friday morning - knowing this, I now know I should have packed the night before....

In my defense, we couldn't get into the VRBO until 2:00 pm, so I figured I'd have plenty of time after the appointment.  And I *did* have enough time, but I also neglected to make a list and to take the weather forecast seriously.

Usually, I pack according to a list so nothing gets forgotten.

Turns out, I forgot my pajamas, robe and slippers.  Fortunately, I remembered that BEFORE we actually got to the house.  If you know anything about Smith Mountain Lake it is in the middle of nowhere.  We ended up stopping at the only option in town - the Dollar General - to cobble together some pajamas and socks.  It was reminiscent of the last time we visited my mother-in-law - same scenario, middle of nowhere PA - and The Husband had forgotten to pack HIS pajamas - Dollar General to the rescue.  

Also before making it to the house we stopped at Food Lion and picked up a few supplies to get us through the weekend, including some baking supplies as I planned on making Man-Child's and Bonus-Girl's favorites - Praline Cake and Key Lime Pie.

I did have the presence of mind while packing to include ingredients I had on hand, so that meant I only had to buy a handful of ingredients when we got there.

As usual, I snagged VERY few pictures of the house or the people *sigh*.  But I fell in love with kitchen island - which isn't "staged" you'll notice - as all of our stuff is all over it.


The owners have renovated extensively, and are apparently still "in progress" with the kitchen as they haven't changed the white cabinets yet.  And yes, that island is as long and wide as it appears; I absolutely adore everything about it.

I was apprehensive about baking in someone else's kitchen with their equipment which didn't include a stand mixer...and I will admit, it was a little stressful, but I pulled it off somehow.  And the kids were both very happy with the results.



The Husband was happy as he was able to do lots of fishing on the dock in the back of the house.  This house overlooks the lake - kind of - there were a LOT of trees between the house and the lake.


I was happy to spend a lot of time out on the back/side porch all weekend.  But remember how I mentioned that I neglected to take the forecast seriously?  When we arrived Friday afternoon, the temperature was hovering in the 90's and was super humid.  But when Saturday dawned, the temperatures had plunged dramatically.


And guess what else I forgot to pack?  If you guessed a jacket or, at the very least, a shirt with long sleeves, you get a gold star.  Luckily, the Boy Scout The Husband had packed a couple of jackets, so I confiscated one and looked like a poor, little urchin for the remainder of the trip.

There was one hiccup to the trip, on Saturday afternoon we stopped at this boutique that was holding some kind of - I don't even know what to call it - there were other vendors set up outside, there was a band (that left before we got there), a catering truck, etc. in this giant field in front of the store.  After Bonus-Girl and I crawled all over the store we met up with the guys who had wandered outside while we shopped.  We decided it was time to head back to the house and as we were walking back to the car, Bonus-Girl tripped over a half of a cinder block that was randomly sitting at the edge of the field and went down HARD onto the gravel drive.  Needless to say, we had to pick gravel out of her palms and her legs will be host to some pretty large and colorful bruises for a while.  Turns out, that lone piece of cinder block had been placed there by the band to hold down their extension cords - and they neglected to remove it.

But, for the most part, the birthday trip was a big success.

Oh, and about that door that I was so hopeful about?  We are back to square one.  I nearly had a seizure when I saw the estimate.  I had one number in my head that I think is a very reasonable number.  The number the company had in their head - that I think is COMPLETELY unreasonable - which was easily triple (or more) of the number in my head.  

Yes, I was disappointed.  But I will forge on.  Eventually, I'll get that darn door...hopefully before I die.

October 1, 2019

A play and the door saga continues...

This past Sunday, my friend two doors down and I attended a play that the local community theater staged.  As you know, I ADORE our local community theater.  We went to see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee.

Based on the theater's description, I was expecting a funny play - apparently, I missed the last line in the description...

Come to the party, but don’t play the drinking games. The lights are on late at George and Martha’s, as two couples in a quiet college town turn a nightcap into an all-out, all-night fight. Peek through their windows and uncover the devastating truth behind the illusions.

Truly, I knew absolutely NOTHING about this play going in and it was funny and, unexpectedly, also INTENSE.  We enjoyed it immensely but both agreed it was INTENSE.

Here's a link that gives a bit more info about the play - but be warned, if you read the entire article there are spoilers, as in it basically tells you the entire play including the ending, so skip it if this sounds like a show you might like to see.  You can comfortably read the overview though.

And yes, even though it was INTENSE, I would recommend that you see it if your local theater group is planning to stage it.  Especially if your theater group is as good as ours.

A bonus - looking ahead into the season, there are at least two more plays that we would love to see - including It's a Wonderful Life.  Sadly, those tickets are mostly gone even though it starts a good two months from now...apparently, the Christmas shows get snapped up at the beginning of the season.

***

The door saga continues - (the beginning and part two) BUT we may be coming to an end on that particular year and a half old drama.

The Husband mentioned that he had heard about a company that would do the door.  Needless to say, I was skeptical because all of the inquiries we have made have been pretty much ignored.  I get it.  A door is not a big money maker for most general contractors.  I sent the company a message and they actually called the same day.

Of course, I did not answer the call because I don't answer numbers I don't know.  I had meant to enter The Husband's cell phone but, of course, entered mine by mistake.  Once I retrieved the voicemail, I handed the number over to The Husband.  And here is where the miracle occurred.

He called them yesterday morning.  And they actually showed up at my house yesterday afternoon (THE SAME DAY!) to discuss the door!  I was FLOORED when The Husband shared this with me.  They left a book of doors they offer - that happens to have the door I want - and told him that we need to fill out a form online and they will give us an estimate ASAP.

So, fingers crossed that I may have a new door before the two year mark of this ridiculousness comes to pass.

September 14, 2019

A weepy, hot mess...

The title sums up my day yesterday perfectly.

I knew going in that it was going to be a weepy day as one of my friends (a "legacy" employee from the company prior [and, I've just realized that post never really explained the whole story - which may never be told here to anyone's satisfaction] through to the transition) was retiring yesterday.  That in itself wouldn't be too bad (I thought) but yesterday was also my other friend's birthday...you know, the one that isn't here on this earth anymore.

What never occurred to me was that these two events culminating on the same day would turn me into someone who found herself sobbing in the bathroom several times in one day.  And yet - here we are.

Although my friend died almost a year and a half ago, there is not one day that goes by that I don't think of her.  My sweet friend two doors down is the same and this morning texted me because she knew I would be hurting today, just as she was.

I know that the ache in my heart will possibly fade with time; but will never go away entirely.  I miss her so very much.

The other night, the "legacy" employee's wife threw a retirement party for him.  Which looked like a family reunion to us other "legacy" employees as people from the old company - current and retired, mixed with a few of the new company employees, all came together.  At one point, my friend was prompted to make a speech.  He said many things, including how much he loved (most) of us and how much he would miss the people and then he said (forgive me as I quote him), "The one thing I won't miss is FUCKING xxxxx!"  This was proclaimed as his new boss (not a legacy employee) stood in front of him.  Not that there was anything he could do about it at this point.

Here's the thing, the new company isn't so bad - it's just different.  But I think the problem most legacy employees have is that everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - about the old company is verboten.  Even things that worked - but that is a post for another day, perhaps.  It also appears that the parent company can't just leave us to get the job done - they want to micro-manage everything to death, which is one of the many reasons my friend decided to retire early.

I think what was so hard about losing this particular employee - besides the fact that he is a friend - is that is just another little piece of our "family" fading away.  And that's what the new company and the new co-workers just don't get; and probably never will.

We were a family, of sorts.  That legacy employee that retired?  He'd been with the company for over thirty years, I've worked; and socialized, with him for eighteen years.  He literally watched Man-Child grow up since first grade.

On our floor, we only have a handful of the "legacy newbies" (those of us with fifteen to twenty years under our belts) left - and, I suppose, it's safe to say - we aren't the newbies anymore.

September 6, 2019

I Know Everything ...a book review

Are you looking for a fast-paced, intense read?  If so, I Know Everything by Matthew Farrell is the book for you!

A small excerpt from Amazon's description...

"A psychiatrist grapples with his own sanity as murder evidence mounts against him."

A renowned psychiatrist's wife dies in what appears to be a car accident.  But after a series of findings it turns out, it wasn't an accident.  It was murder.  The question remains, who did it?

This is a page turner.  The twists are many and unexpected.

At 329 pages, it shouldn't be considered a "short" read but I enjoyed it so much, I finished it in two days.

A few blurbs about the book:

"I Know Everything takes off like a shot, with a shot, and the pulse-pounding pace never lets up.  Fans of John Sandford and Lawrence Block will flock to Matthew Farrell!? - Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times best selling author.

"Dark and constantly surprising, this is a must-read for fans of twisted, intelligent thrillers." - Mark Edwards, best selling author of The Magpies.

"A page-turner from beginning to end.  Take a deep breath, and hang on - this relentless thriller will keep you guessing until the very last masterful twist." - Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts.

None of these blurbs are wrong.  I don't think I've ever read anything by Matthew Farrell before (I really should start keeping a list of what I've already read!) and I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by him.

August 31, 2019

The "I'm Just Winging It" Gardener's Use of Cardboard.

I have to admit, I was kind of surprised about the questions raised from my last post.  But then I realized, to the uninitiated it could be confusing.

You need to realize that any knowledge I might have is through trial and error over the years, thus the "I'm Just Winging It" in the title.  And throughout those years, I've learned that I despise weeds/weeding and invasive plants - both of which are trying to take over my yard and flower beds.  And that I have many flower beds; including a GIANT one in the back of the house.

So slowly, but surely, I am using cardboard to help cut down on the weeds and prevent the invasive plants from returning after I have tried to eradicate them (this method does NOT help when the invasive plants just pop up in the middle of the yard, which The Husband deals with by running them over with the lawn mower).  Not all of the beds have been done - mainly because I'm still in the process of removing/thinning plants and trying to get the beds exactly the way I want them.

A lot of people use landscape fabric/paper in their beds - I used to do it all the time.  If you choose to use it, I am not vilifying you, but earthworms aerate the soil and the landscape fabric/paper prevents that from happening.  Also, cardboard (plain brown; not printed or shiny, minus packing tape) will eventually break down.  See this article for more information.  In my experience it seems like the landscape fabric just hangs around forever (a slight exaggeration on my part) just getting rattier and rattier.  From what I understand, you can also use thick sections of newspaper - but it seems to me that this method would break down far quicker than cardboard meaning you would have to re-do it more often.  No, I do not know if that is factually accurate - but it makes sense to me.

Generally, I will cut the cardboard boxes flat and then lay the cardboard around the existing plants, covering all bare areas and then cover the whole thing with dark mulch (my preference - you could also use pine needles/straw or a different colored mulch, why you would want to do that is beyond me though, but it's your yard).  This will deter any weeds, etc. from growing.  Eventually, you will need to re-apply the cardboard and cover with mulch, etc.

This really does help cut down on your weeding time.  Especially, if you also utilize Preen, which prevents weeds from germinating in the first place, which they will when birds or whatever drops the seeds on top of the mulch and cardboard.

So there you go...start hoarding those Amazon boxes.

In other yard news - we lost three ornamental plum trees to Black Knot fungus.  It is such a shame because they were so pretty in the Spring.  By the time we noticed the fungus, it was too late.  I think our wet winter contributed to the problem.  Yesterday, the tree guys came by and cut them down.  It was actually kind of amazing because of the technology they utilized.  They were in and out in about 30 minutes - and that included chipping the trees and clean up.

Today, the stump grinding guy showed up.  And that was really amazing because he had this very large machine that he directed via remote control.  And again, he was in and out in about 30 minutes, including clean up.

After some discussion, The Husband and I have decided not to replace the trees for a couple of reasons.  Two of the trees obscured the front of the house and hid most of the front landscaping, including the Japanese maple.  The other one, on the other side of the driveway never even registered with us that it was ours.  Also, The Husband pointed out that their removal would make his job of mowing that much easier.

August 25, 2019

A Place at the Table; a book review (and, today was the day!)

I have literally just finished A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White and ran to the computer to tell you about it.

I absolutely inhaled this book.  Well, to be honest, I sat on it for a bit.  I picked it up when Man-Child and I were at the beach a few weeks ago, but was busy with two other books.  I finally started reading this one a few days ago and have enjoyed every minute of it.

Author of The Help (which I also love), Katherine Stockett's blurb had this to say "Susan Rebecca White is a wonderful writer."  And she's not wrong.

The basic premise of this book is that "three outcasts longing for home come together at Manhattan's Cafe Audrex, a chic gathering place for New York's cultural illuminati."

From the back of the book, "In her most accomplished novel yet, Susan Rebecca White braids together the stories of these three unforgettable characters who must learn that when you embrace the thing that makes you different, you become whole."

I'm actually kind of surprised that I haven't stumbled over this author before now.  But now that I have, I know I will be reading more of her work.

In other news, before I sat down determined to finish this book today; I noticed that The Husband's voodoo seemed to be wearing off.  Hoping to strike before the rain came back, we headed outside bright and early and tackled the area near the front porch.  Of course, we had to stop in the middle to make a trip to the garden center, where I was vindicated when the helpful lady there informed my husband that she also uses cardboard to help cut down on the weeds (he's been telling me that I am crazy).  She also informed him that it was good for the worms.  Now, I don't know about that - but there you go.  And also, of course, I had to make another trip back since we didn't buy enough pine needles.  You will be pleased to note that I refrained from telling The Husband, "I told you so" in regards to the pine needles.  I did, however, tell him that in regards to the cardboard.

Currently, I have yet another batch of bread (hopefully) baking as I type.  I used bread flour and a different brand of yeast, this time around.  It seemed less sticky this time but I expected more of a rise, so we shall see.  Fingers crossed....

August 24, 2019

Maybe tomorrow?

Earlier this week, I was over the moon to see that our temperatures were supposed to drop into the high 70's this weekend.  I announced that this weekend would be a "work" weekend - which The Husband correctly deduced that I meant to rope him in and make him help me with a few projects that would definitely be easier to do in cooler temperatures.  Projects that he knew I couldn't do alone.  These are the times when he misses renting...because a homeowner's work is never done.

The options were endless...

We could clear out the unsightly area near the front porch.  We have a beautiful Japanese Maple that should be the star of that particular show; but, of course, someone (the last owners, perhaps) couldn't bear the sight of any empty space around it - so they threw in a couple of rose bushes, another random plant and some more morning glory. (sigh)

We could work on building the border around the side bed.  I've been itching to do this project ever since my last visit home where my friend's husband was working on a beautiful border wall; that has since been completed and is perfect!

Or we could, once again, tackle the garage.  We only made it so far since our last attempt.  Since then, while we haven't added to the mess, we certainly haven't made any forward motion.

Or, we could tackle those trees in the back...as I said, the list is endless.

This morning dawned nice and cool.  And full of rain.  It has rained practically non-stop all day.  Although he denied it, I'm absolutely convinced The Husband pulled some kind of voodoo to conjure up this rain.

I am holding out hope for tomorrow but not much.

Since my plans were rained out, I decided to take another swipe at making bread.  Yes, I had attempted to make some last week.  While the cake and the crumble were both an all around success; the bread failed horribly.  I could only surmise that I had too much going on and must have missed something.

Today I was completely focused.  And I still failed.  And I have no idea why.  I did everything exactly the way I did it the first time I successfully made it.  It vexes me to no end.

I am determined to master this deceptively simple recipe.  It's obvious that it can be done as evidenced here.  Maybe I'll try again tomorrow, if The Husband's voodoo continues to bring on the rain.

August 18, 2019

Bake and learn...

We are having some of my favorite people over for dinner tonight.  So, of course, yesterday morning found me mulling over what dessert to make - because we all know that's why they are coming...not for whatever scraps The Husband will manage to pull together.... ;-)

Eventually, I had it narrowed down to either a coconut cake (one of the children consistently asks if I have made this every time they come over, so it's safe to say it's his favorite) or a peach cobbler.

The coconut cake I have made before, obviously.  The peach cobbler?  Never.  I have not attempted a cobbler in any shape or form before at all.

Then, me being me, I decided that both desserts would not be too over the top because I can send some of each home with our friends and some home with Man-Child, should he decide to grace us with his presence today.  And whatever is left over The Husband and I can take to work to be devoured.  Plus, I've been trying to break out of my comfort zones when it comes to baking, thus the cobbler.

This time around, I decided to make the coconut cake as a sheet cake rather than a layered one.  I prefer the layered type but it can get messy.  I figured the sheet cake would contain the mess.

Here's the modified recipe I use for the coconut cake (original recipe found here).

Ingredients (Printable recipe here)

White cake (either homemade or boxed is fine)
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk*
1 14 oz can of cream of coconut*
1 16 oz package whipped topping, thawed*
1 8 oz package of flaked coconut

Prepare and bake white cake according to recipe/boxed mix directions.  Remove cake from the oven.  While still hot, use a long fork to poke holes all over the top.

Mix cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk; pour over the still hot cake.  Let cake cool completely, frost with whipped topping and garnish with the flaked coconut.

*If you decide to go with a sheet cake instead of layers, you can probably half all of these ingredients.  Of course, this did not occur to me until I had used a majority of the cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk mixture.  So I fully expect this cake to be tooth-achingly sweet.  Something, I am sure, that won't bother the children!



For the peach cobbler, I went with a recipe that I'd found in the paper years and years ago - based on how yellowed the page was...it was simple and straightforward.  So, of course, I completely botched the first batch up!  This is also why I should really focus on one recipe at a time, particularly when making something new; oh well, live and learn.  Or in this case, bake and learn.

Fruit Cobbler (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients

1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
3/4 cup of milk
2 cups of fruit - fresh, canned or frozen (sweetened to taste)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a medium or large Pyrex baking dish.

Stir sugar and flour together in a bowl.  Stir in milk.  Pour over melted butter.  Do not stir.  Pour the fruit on top.  Bake for one hour.

Seems almost too easy, doesn't it?  First tip - when given the option of a medium or large Pyrex dish; opt for the medium.  Trust me.  Second tip - wear your reading glasses and pay actual attention to the fact that it says pour over melted butter.  How do I have the knowledge to offer this second tip?  Because in hindsight, I only put a 1/4 cup of milk into the flour and sugar mixture as I ended up spooning the mixture over the butter.  But I pressed on.  And utterly failed.

The baking dish was too large so the result was an ultra thin, semi-burned mixture.  So while it tasted okay, it was completely unacceptable.  The entire dish was tossed into the trash and the baking dish is still soaking in hopes that I can salvage it.

Of course, I was undeterred and tried again.  I have a feeling that this time I've nailed it.


The plan is to warm it and serve it with vanilla ice cream - yum!

This morning found me up extra early and what happens when I have too much time on my hands?  Well, I created this post and currently there are two loaves of no-knead bread rising, if that tells you anything...

August 10, 2019

I'm a multi-tasking genius...until I'm not.

As today dawned overcast and not too hot (yet), I decided this would be the perfect morning to attack the two, neglected beds that run along the back of the house.  And considering they are both in the shade in the morning, I determined that this absolutely needed to be done.  Particularly, since the last two weekends were spent out of town and nothing had been done.

I informed The Husband of my plan as he was walking out the door - why he hates for me to work in the yard is beyond me; possibly because he's afraid he may come home to find me laid out in yard with heat stroke.  At any rate, when he tried to talk me out of it I explained that I only meant to spend a couple of hours on it and call it a day.

Famous last words.

So he left, shaking his head and muttering under his breath, while I started the Roomba so at least the vacuuming would be done while I busy out in the yard.  Look at me...a multi-tasking genius!

As it often happens when I'm working in the yard, I lose all track of time and the task that I thought would take only a small amount of time turns out to be bigger task than I had first anticipated.

All in all, a good majority of the beds weren't too terribly bad considering I haven't looked at them or touched them since we moved in.  Until...

I do NOT have a pointy head - that's the
phone's shadow - it took me far too long
to figure that out!

I reached the end of this bed, where whatever these bushes are vexed me to no end.  Why?  Because, apparently, if these bushes aren't kept pruned it sends out runners.  Runners with very large and very deep roots.  And I wonder why my elbow is throbbing - possibly removing said runners?

In the midst of removing runners, I heard something in the house and assumed it was The Husband.  But when I looked around the corner, his car was not in the driveway.  I shrugged it off and went back to yanking and pruning.

Eventually, I needed a break.  I grabbed some water and headed for the back porch.  As I was sitting there, I heard movement in the house again.  I stood up and looked in the window - nothing.  And then I heard it again.  I couldn't figure out how someone had gotten into the house because I closed the garage door knowing I would not have it in full view while working.

I grabbed my phone, ready to hit 911 and opened the back door with my heart in my throat, fully prepared to run if I saw someone and what did I see?  The stupid Roomba STILL doing its business a full three and half hours after I started it.  I had completely forgot about my multi-tasking genius.  Why the thing was still going actually offended me, the floors weren't THAT dirty.

After about four hours - two more than I had intended - The Husband came home (probably because he had called and I didn't hear the phone) to make sure I was still alive.

There is still more to be done - but not weeding.  The mondo (?) grass needs dividing, the day lilies not only need dividing, but I need to find something to replace them as I am so over them.  They start out okay and I don't hate them but around this time of the summer they start looking so ratty that I loathe them.  There is still mulch to be purchased and applied.

On the plus side?  Not many blackberry shoots were out today (knock wood).  But I did find some lamb's ear popping up on the farthest point in the yard from where I removed the original ones. *sigh*

If it's not blackberry shoots, it's lamb's ear, or runners, or morning glories.  In other words, yard work is never done.  Kinda like housework and laundry.


July 19, 2019

The newest scam on the block...

Here's the deal...if my phone rings and I don't recognize the number (well actually, it's more of a scenario of, if I don't see a name I know) I won't answer it.  Shocking, I know.  This actually used to drive Man-Child utterly insane.  He insisted that I *should* answer it because, "What if it was an emergency?!"  I informed him that if it was an emergency they would leave a message.

And guess what?  Nine times out of ten, they never left a message.

He now understands why I won't answer the phone after he was inundated with over twenty or more calls in one day.  Listen to your mother, children, she may actually be on to something after all, despite the fact that you think she doesn't know a darn thing and is living in the dark ages.

So today when the phone rang - as usual, I hit Ignore and went about my business.  Only to be alerted a few seconds later that I had a voicemail.  Considering this isn't usually how this goes down, I listened to the voicemail.

Now, to be honest, I don't think I would have fallen for it - but just the day before I had heard about the latest scam on the radio - because, seriously?  The Social Security Administration is going to CANCEL my number because of suspicious activity - I don't think so.  And I certainly don't think they would call me to tell me about; mainly because how would they even know where to call me?  It's not like the SSA and I are in constant contact.  Heck, we don't even follow each other on Twitter!

At any rate, they called me again and left another voicemail, from a different phone number - of course.

When I mentioned this to The Husband, his eyebrows shot up in alarm.  I told him that it was a scam and how I knew it was one.  I then told him that he needed to tell his mother - although my mother-in-law is pretty savvy, this one might unnerve her considering she's living on Social Security. 

So here's your mission - we all have at least one or more people in our lives who might/could fall victim to this scam - or others - so pass on this information to those people in your life.